The Benefits Package of Salvation - Isaiah 54
Copyright August 14 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
Today, one of the most important questions we ask when looking for a new job, “What are the benefits that come with the job?” With skyrocketing health care costs, the uncertain nature of Social Security and the need for vacation for renewal and restoration, the benefits of a job may be a much bigger factor in your decision than even the salary or hours.
In Isaiah 53 we learned about the suffering Messiah. That Messiah would reach beyond Israel to the entire world. He died to set us free. But what does it mean to know His salvation? What is this freedom that we have because of Christ? If you will, what is the benefit package of following Him? Is this just something that is in the future (Heaven) or are their present elements to this salvation? Isaiah 54, I believe, describes some immediate benefits and blessings of salvation. It begins in verses 1-3 of Isaiah 54.
1 “Sing, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem,
you who have never been in labor.
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband,”
says the Lord.
2 “Enlarge your house; build an addition.
Spread out your home, and spare no expense!
3 For you will soon be bursting at the seams.
Your descendants will occupy other nations
and resettle the ruined cities.
1. The Blessing of An Expanded and Enriched Life
In this chapter Jerusalem (Zion) is pictured as a woman who is childless and alone because of the exile of the people. To be childless was to be without support. Childlessness was seen as being deprived a blessing. What God was going to do in Israel was the equivalent of the blessing of a childless person who learns, after all the years of trying to have a baby, that they are pregnant.
Also, the woman (Israel) is to put an addition on the home because they were going to need it because through the Messiah, they were now going to be bursting at the seams. This is a reference, I believe, to you and me. He is talking about how salvation is going to extend well beyond Israel because of Jesus. That is why this verse is a favorite of missionary organizations.
In addition to the household of God expanding to those outside of Israel, I believe our own personal lives expand when we become followers of Christ. Let’s look at some of the ways this happens.
Our earthly spiritual family enlarges. Because of Jesus, we now have a familial relationship with people all over the world. People from all races and backgrounds can come together and immediately feel a connection because of Christ. If you have ever been at a large gathering of believers, it is remarkable how connected you immediately feel. There are no debates about theology, there is no discussion about which church is better. We are drawn together simply by Christ. He is the One who makes us one. When we divide, it is because we forget this fact, and begin to build our own little kingdoms. When we keep our eyes on Him that unity is profound. It does not see race, gender, income level or educational background. All it sees is what we hold in common in Jesus.
Our life is more anchored than it ever was before. Before we met Christ we looked to our jobs, our family, our education, social standing, or income as the things that gave stability and meaning in our lives. When we trust Christ, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) We have a new direction for our lives. We are no longer anchored (or find our identity) by our status or our circumstances; we find our stability and purpose in the One who never changes because He cannot be improved upon. That means, no matter what storm we may face, our anchor, Christ, will hold. We have a different foundation than we used to have.
For the first time, we will truly see other people. Life is no longer only about us, but about Him. In other words, in Christ, we can see beyond ourselves. In Philippians 2 Paul said we should “consider others better than ourselves and to do nothing out of selfish ambition.” (Philippians 2:3,4) Jesus tells us to “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) It doesn’t take much to realize that we live in a world that is very selfish. We see what we want, what we need, and we want others to see that as well. There is a real sense in which we act like the world revolves around us. Here’s a reality check: the world does NOT revolve around us! No matter how self-absorbed you are, you cannot and will not find what you are looking for in the world around us.
As we come to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to live inside of us, we suddenly start to see other people as we never did before. We see them as children of God. We now see they have infinite inherent value. Because of that, we see their richness and treasure; we also see their hurts and struggles, their gifts and potential.
We have a more abundant life. In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, and verse 10, Jesus said, “I have come so you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” This is not the way most people look at faith. Too often people look at Christianity and see rules and people who they think are stuck up. They believe, if they follow Christ, they will end up losing out. Life will no longer be fun. You will have to spend all your time praying and singing songs you don’t know with people you don’t really like. But that is not true! The real prison is the life we live now . . . the treadmill to meaninglessness. When we put our hope and trust in Him, the prison door springs open and we find a life that has more dimension and joy than anything we have experienced before.
In Philippians 4:13 the Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In 4:19 He wrote, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” We are taught He will give us the words to say; He will use us as He sees fit; He will equip with unique gifts to further His cause in the world. Instead of just happiness, we will know joy. Instead of a good life, we will know what it is to have a contented life.
This is how the gospel “enlarges our house.” We move from the daily “grind” to a “daily adventure.” We trade our stress for trust. We stop living with regret over our past sin and look forward to a future glory that is given to us as a gift. We need to remind ourselves often of the blessing of the gospel. But this is not all, the text continues,
4 “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.
Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.
You will no longer remember the shame of your youth
and the sorrows of widowhood.
5 For your Creator will be your husband;
the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
the God of all the earth.
6 For the Lord has called you back from your grief—
as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”
says your God.
7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will take you back.
8 In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.
But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 “Just as I swore in the time of Noah
that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,
so now I swear
that I will never again be angry and punish you.
10 For the mountains may move
and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
2. We will know the Blessing of Forgiveness
The second thing God says the Messiah makes possible is forgiveness. He told them they no longer needed to live in shame. They were no longer a “woman without a husband” because God was her husband! (A woman without a husband in those days had few means to suppoeer herself). The Lord called Israel back from their time of grief and sadness and He says, “I will have compassion on you.”
The Lord told Israel in these verses that He would remove the “shame of their youth” and the “reproach of widowhood.” He uses both the words, “shame” and “disgrace.” I suspect we all live with some regret in life. There are lots of things we have done we wish we could do over. That is why some people have a real hard time with the idea of being “saved.” They know they don’t deserve anything. We all have parts of our life we would rather no one else ever learned about. It is hard for us to believe God can and would forgive us. We can’t seem to forgive ourselves.
When we put our faith in Christ as our Savior and only hope of forgiveness and new life, God grants us forgiveness based on the work of Christ. Our sin is paid for in full. In Romans 3 we read, what I hope, are familiar words,
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.
The Bible uses the word “justification” to describe what happens when we trust Christ. To be justified is a legal term, it means to be declared “not guilty.” This is only possible because Jesus “atoned” for (or paid for) our sin by His death as the Son of God on our behalf.
Practically, these theological terms mean? First, we no longer need to live in fear of our past. We don’t have to fear being exposed. We don’t need to fear that our past has disqualified us from Heaven. We no longer must hide. We can be vulnerable to each other. When we trust and follow Christ, our past is forgiven! No one can hold anything from our past over our heads to manipulate us. We don’t have to be afraid we have done something “too bad” to be part of God’s family.
Second, rather than prideful boasting, we are filled with humble gratitude. When we understand the true nature of the gospel, there is nothing to be smug about. We have NOTHING to contribute to our own salvation other than our sin. It is fully and completely a gift from God. That reality puts an end to all boasting.
Third, we know the blessings promised to God’s people belong to us. We are now “grafted in” as the people of God. The promises of shelter, healing, provision, life, joy, peace, understanding, and security, are now ours. We have become part of the people of God. I think the Bible is clear that God is not finished with Israel but the idea of “the chosen ones of God” now extends beyond Israel to all who will turn to Christ as their rescuer and King.
Fourth, we can be confident of where we will spend eternity. Our Lord has paid for ALL our sin. Jesus said, “everyone who believes in me will live, even though they die.” The resurrection of Jesus is one of the best attested facts of history. When we declare that we “know where we are going when we die,” it is not an arrogant statement. We are not saying we know we are going to Heaven because we are good enough, or better than other people. We know we are going to Heaven by the grace and promise of God. Our confidence is not in us, but in Him!
There is one more group of blessings.
11 “O storm-battered city,
troubled and desolate!
I will rebuild you with precious jewels
and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.
12 I will make your towers of sparkling rubies,
your gates of shining gems,
and your walls of precious stones.
13 I will teach all your children,
and they will enjoy great peace.
14 You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.
Your enemies will stay far away.
You will live in peace,
and terror will not come near.
15 If any nation comes to fight you,
it is not because I sent them.
Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.
3. The Blessing of Renewal (11-15)
I’m calling this the blessing of renewal. The Lord says His people who benefit from the Messiah (which includes us) will enjoy the benefits of a rebuilt city with jewels. (Is this referring to the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation? Or is it using “city” as a metaphor for our current lives?) The Lord says He will instruct our children, and they will live in peace. They will be secure under a just and fair government. To a people who had faced war all their lives, this sure sounded good. It sounds pretty good to me as well.
We don’t have to wait until the return of Christ to enjoy these benefits. In 2 Cor 5:17 we read,
anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
The process of renewal begins as soon as we entrust ourselves to Christ. In that moment, we become different people because now we have God’s Spirit living within us! We catch a glimpse of God in a way that is more real than anything else we have ever experienced. That one glimpse transforms us. We see, for the first time, what is holding us back and we are motivated to live a life that honors Him. And the more clearly we see Him (as we read the Bible and listen to and follow the Holy Spirit), the more motivated we become to pursue God’s holiness in the way we live our lives.
As a Doctor tells us the truth about what needs to change for us to be healthy, so the Holy Spirit reveals the areas of our lives that are holding us back so we can ruthlessly root out those things.
The Holy Spirit also develops within us godly character traits. We are told the fruit of the Spirit (or the effect the Holy Spirit has on our lives), are the character traits of,
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The Holy Spirit will gradually build these character traits in our lives. He will help us become more and more like Jesus.
Finally, the Holy Spirit will lead us to ways to serve in the building of God’s Kingdom. He does this by giving us new abilities to serve Him. These are called spiritual gifts. You can read examples in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4 and in 1 Peter 4. God equips us to do things for His Kingdom we could not do before.
We need to stop limiting what God can do in and through us. We are sometimes guilty of thinking, “we live in a small town; what can WE do?” We must not limit what God may do to use us to change the lives of friends and neighbors! We have seen God impact the lives of people around the world through our little church. Well over a million visits to our sermon archive, 1200 and counting subscribers to our YouTube channel, and on any given day we have no idea who is listening to messages on the radio in Central Illinois and Iowa. What He does through the church He also does through us individually. DO NOT LIMIT what God can do through you!
My intention is to encourage you to open your eyes to just how incredibly wonderful it is to serve the Lord! How many of these benefits are you leaving unclaimed? Don’t sell the power of His transforming grace short! Following Him is the most exciting adventure we can have.
God wants us to begin living as residents of His Kingdom right now! It doesn’t matter what is happening in the world around us. God wants to make the quality of our lives as rich as He intended them to be. He wants us to know Him and walk with Him.
Christians should be the most jubilant people on the earth because of the gift of God. God offers us an “out of this world” benefit package. We should be the most compassionate because we understand the desperate state of those who are lost in their sin. We should be telling everyone about our good fortune. I know that you know all this . . . I just thought it would be good to remind you,