No. 50. >> Sometimes people seem to make the Old Testament a book of laws with little good news in it. Yet, Isaiah 55:6 through 9 speaks in quite different terms. Can we hear words of grace in this text? >>DR. DANIEL L. GARD: That is a consistent problem among Christians. And even among Lutherans. I'll bet if you were to survey members of the congregation about what they thought were the emphasis of the Old Testament and the New Testament, a lot of folks would probably identify the Old Testament as primarily law and the New Testament primarily as Gospel. Well, in fact, that's not quite the case. Since both the Old Testament and the New Testament each contain strong elements of law as well as strong elements of pure beautiful Gospel. Part of our task as pastors is in helping people to see two-thirds of the Bible, that is the Old Testament. As actually speaking of God's grace and love. Along with the law that the Old Testament presents, just as we do with the New, along with the law presented there, we also see the Gospel. This particular text Isaiah 55:6 through 9 I think is a good example. Let me, again, read that text for you: Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him. And to our God, for he will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways. And my thoughts than your thoughts. It's really throughout the history of the Christian Church that there's been a great struggle that's centered on the maintaining of the correct understanding of God's grace. Today's Christian community I think has even more are reason to be concerned about this than ever before. With all of the pop psychology once expressed as: I'm okay; you're okay. Like the alternative title: I'm okay; you're so-so. To the humanistic leanings of our educational systems. In fact, all systems outside the church. To the really self righteousness of many Christians. Perhaps best exemplified by those in the media ministries. Comparing that to the biblical teaching of grace. And we see that that biblical teaching of grace is assaulted on every direction. There's never been a greater need for the Gospel. And for the church to proclaim grace in all of its purity. This is one biblical doctrine that we dare not ever surrender one inch. We are saved in no way by our own efforts. Whether that is defined as works or cooperation with God or our own, quote-unqoute, coming to Jesus. Grace is God's attitude towards us based upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Eternal life is ours. By grace alone. And we are called to live by that grace. Now, the Old Testament Isaiah -- Old Testament prophet Isaiah spoke words of God's grace to the people of his time. Those words still ring out today in the church's proclamation of Jesus Christ. Words like: Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Those words are glorious, gracious invitation. They call us in the words of the New Testament to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Because they are God's words. They are powerful. And convey to us the power to hear and to obey. When God calls us, remember, his call includes the power to fulfill what that call demands. Just as we saw earlier it did with Lazarus, the dead man, whom God called to life again. The power was not his. Rather, it belonged to Jesus. The one who spoke to him. And it became Lazarus' life through the Word of Jesus. That invitation of grace, to seek the Lord and to call upon him, is an invitation that is extended to all people of all time. Including wherever you or I might be with an opportunity to speak those words again. Now, the time will come where each of us simply must die. We're all mortal. No longer will that invitation be heard by those who have died. Those who live until the time of Jesus' return will find on that day that the day of invitation has ended. And the Judgement Day has occurred. That's tomorrow, though. Every person we see who has breath in his or her body is an object of this invitation. And we are to speak these words to those who live. Today. This moment. Whenever today or this moment might be, the gracious invitation of God is to be spoken. It's a call that is given for sinners. You see, this invitation that Isaiah speaks of is for those who know that they are sinners. Christ said he didn't come to save the righteous. But he came to save sinners. I had one person tell me that: I'm not sure that the stuff you're telling me about Jesus applies to me. Because frankly, I'm a very bad sinner. I said: Then you are the one for whom it applies. You are the one for whom Jesus died of the if you think you're righteous, then you've excluded yourself. Your righteousness can never come from yourself. Jesus came to save sinners. And that's what Isaiah says. Let the wicked forsake his ways. And the unrighteous man his thoughts. Those who think that they deserve eternal life will not have it. Only those who bow before the law of God and see in themselves what they really are will find it. You know, I get up in the morning. And I would like to think I look like old Robert Redford or somebody else. Then I turn and I look in the mirror. And the reality strikes me again. That's not what I am. Same way I would like to think I'm a pretty righteous good person. Until I look in the law of God. And then in that mirror, I see what I really am. And that's the purpose of the law, is to drive us to a realization that we are wicked. We are the unrighteous man. But that's a good thing. Because in recognizing that, then we're also driven now away from ourselves and contemplation of what we think we ought to look like to the contemplation of who Jesus is. And what he has done to redeem us. That's what grace is all about, you see. God doesn't wait for us to seek him out. Rather, he comes to us with words of pardon. Again, Isaiah concerning this unrighteous man who has abandoned his thoughts, this wicked man who has forsaken his way. Then Isaiah says: Let him return to the Lord. That he may have mercy on him. And to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. God promises mercy and abundant forgiveness. There's a storehouse of righteousness which is not our own but which God bestows on us. It is the righteousness of Christ. It's the blood shed by the Savior of all people. Who has borne the sin of the world on the cross of Calvary. It is the pardon which is offered to sinners by the faith in the crucified and the eternally living resurrected Jesus. That is our task as preachers with Isaiah. Is that God may help us not only to see our own salvation, but also to proclaim that salvation to others as being God's salvation from beginning to end. No human being is worthy of it. If we were, it would no longer be grace, a free gift. But it would be a reward. Someone must stand in the midst of the religious world's false teaching, in the secular world's man-centered doctrine and proclaim with Isaiah that God's thoughts are far above our own. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so God's ways are higher than ours. That's not an option for the church. But the very reason for our being. To be born again of the water and the Spirit is more than a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is a daily repenting and restoration at the foot of the cross. My wife has on our refrigerator door a little magnet that says: Every time you wash your face, remember your baptism. Our human ways lead us to contemplate all but that. But yet, the voice of Isaiah, the voice of the prophet, the voice of God now speaking through his modern prophets, through the preachers of his church, lead us back to that water of baptism. Where God's ways are found. Ways that are higher than us. And far above that of which we are capable. As God speaks his Word of peace daily to our hearts, let us, also, then speak that same Word loudly and clearly to all the world. That they, too, may know that though God's ways are higher than ours, yet his ways call us to himself. Let the unrighteous man forsake his righteousness and return to the Lord.