Sunday, June 30, 2013

Isaiah 61-62 The Spirit of Transformation

Isa 61:1-6 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,  and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated;  they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.  Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.  And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 

Isa 62:1-5 For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. 

The Holy Spirit is given to believers for a specific purpose--to transform individuals and societies. In these two passages, the focus is on transformation. Isaiah 61:1-2 was quoted by the Lord Jesus at the inauguration of His ministry recorded in Luke 4:18-19, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Whether interpreted literally or spiritually, the goal of the Spirit's anointing is for only one thing: to transform lives. The Spirit's anointing is for us to "preach good news to the poor", a reference to people who are in need, people who do not know Christ outside the church's walls. The people within the church are already rich because they are "blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). So, the poor can only be a reference to people without Christ.

What is the "good news" (gospel)? It can be defined as TRANSFORMATION--from brokenness to wholeness ("bind up the brokenhearted"); from bondage to freedom ("proclaim freedom for the captives"); from darkness to light ("release from darkness for the prisoners"); from disgrace to favour ("year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengenace"); from affliction to comfort ("comfort all who mourn"); from ugliness to beauty ("a crown of beauty"); from despair to honour ("instead of a spirit of despair...for the display of his splendor"). In short, the Gospel is a Message to transform lives!

I'm convinced that many churches are quenching (and maybe also grieving) the Holy Spirit when they take no interest in preaching the Gospel (evangelism) to those who need hear it with the goal of transforming their lives. In so many churches that I visit, the focus of preaching is to the rich in order to make them more comfortable and happy, rather than to the poor in order to bring healing to their broken lives, freedom to overcome their bondage to sinful addictions and demonic powers, to bring light to those still in spiritual darkness, favour to those who feel disenfranchised, comfort to those who are afflicted and hope to those in despair. When God's people are no longer doing the things for which the Spirit has been given, we slowly lose the power of the Spirit and Christianity become blasé.

No only is the Spirit given for personal transformation, it is also given for societal transformation: "They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.  And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast." Those who are loudly proclaiming that religious values should be kept private and personal and not be allowed to spill into the public domain don't understand the power or purpose of the Spirit of God. He is the Spirit of transformation and will not be confined to weekends and within the walls of the churches. This ministry of transformation will overflow into the workplaces, into the civic, business, and governmental institutions. Transformed individuals transform societies.

Perhaps the reason why even Christians subscribe to such secular outlook is because they themselves have not experienced the power of the Spirit in transforming their own lives. It's time for us to start living out the purpose for which we are people of the Spirit: transformation of individuals, families and societies (outside the church's walls).

And finally, when a society is transformed, it get spilled into the world: nations will "see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name" (62:2). Such a transformed society will be "a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God." And all these start with acknowledging the anointing of the Spirit is God's power of transformation.

Let's release the Spirit of transformation in our congregations by focusing our ministry outwardly to the poor, not inwardly to the rich! When we focus our ministry on the poor, the anointing increases and miracles of transformation take place and Christianity becomes exciting.

Father, how we have hindered Your Spirit from His ministry of transformation through ignorance and arrogance . May You deliver us from our own spiritual poverty, bondage and blindness so that we can be agents of transformation in others and in our society. Amen.

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