The Rock of Our Salvation

The Rock of Our Salvation

from sermon series
“Learning from Isaiah”

by Pastor Dave Strem

Used by permission

Look at Satan.  Before he became Satan, God’s primary adversary, he was the greatest of God’s created creatures.  His name was Lucifer, which means bright and shining Morning Star.  He had honor and glory beyond any other created being.  But there was one thing he did not have.  He did not have the glory that was reserved only for God.  Instead of being satisfied with the righteous order of things, he attempted to set himself on equal ground with God Himself.  “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning!  You have been thrown down to earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world.  For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars.  I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north.  I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14). Satan is our example of what God hates about sin.

What condemns us in the sight of God?  Is it our many sins, acts of doing wrong?  As we look at the world around us, is it the lying, cheating, violence, or rampant sexuality that gets us in trouble?  These behaviors, and behaviors like them (Galatians 5:19-21), do result in negative and destructive consequences, but are they the reason God condemns us?  I want you to understand that our disposition toward sin involves more than the commission of individual sins.

Satan opposed God’s created order, God’s will.  God is Who He is!  Unlike any other!  He is the great “I Am.”  When Moses asked God for His name, the Lord said, “I Am, the One Who always is.”  Lucifer became Satan when he replaced the great “I Am” with himself.  He became his own “I am.”  He usurped God’s right to his heart.  He became his own authority.

We do the same thing.  We are little “I-am’s” who have made deliberate and emphatic declarations of independence from God.  This involves more than committing individual sins; it involves siding with Satan against God’s holy right to rule His universe, to rule our lives.  That is what the sin nature is all about.  We are born little, screaming “I am’s.”  But God comes to us and says, “Put yourself in proper perspective.  How can you, the puny “I am” that you are, think yourself to be above the great “I AM?”  Come and sit under My umbrella of strength and mercy.  I have paid the penalty for your rebellion.  Come to Me and I will give you rest.  Come to Me and I will restore our relationship.”

Restoration involves three steps, or phases—reconciliation, regeneration, and realignment.  Reconciliation means becoming friends again.  Regeneration involves establishing a heartbeat in our relationship with Him.  Realignment involves ordering our lives around Him as our personal cornerstone.  Isaiah 8, 26, and 28 help us to understand these three phases of restoration. 

Reconciliation involves a change of attitude toward God.  An attitude change from independence and self-sufficiency, and even opposition, to an attachment based on affection and friendship.  Jesus told His disciples in John 15 that they were His friends.  “You are my friends if you obey me.  I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants.  Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”  Imagine, the Son of God, who provoked the angels in Isaiah 6 to cover their eyes because of His glory calls His disciples “friends.”  A secular king does not share much information or time with his subjects.  To walk into the presence of a king in Esther’s day without an invitation could get one killed (Esther 4:11).  And to call the common person “friend” was unthinkable.  Yet, the King of Kings calls His disciples “friends.” 

Notice, Jesus said a criteria of friendship is a certain openness that is willing to share personal information with each other, information that centers on the intentions and behaviors closest to their hearts.  A reading of Isaiah 8 finds verses 11-14, a passage about trusting God, surrounded by verses where God is revealing future events that those who have a heart toward Him might learn to trust Him despite the uncertainty.  God cares about His people.  He wants their hearts to be calm and peaceful so He gives them something to trust Him for, a place where their hearts and minds can rest.  The Lord is a strong rock worthy of our trust!  “Do not think like everyone else does.  Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind closed doors will be the end of you.  Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty.  He alone is the Holy One.  If you fear him, you need fear nothing else.  He will keep you safe” (Isaiah 8:11-14a).

Regeneration is being made alive to God.  Our spiritual heart starts beating again.  Isaiah 26:8 describes a heart that is alive toward God: “Lord, we love to obey your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.”  He is the eternal Rock (v. 4) worthy of our trust and affection.  He will not let us down.  The proud will be humbled but the righteous will have their paths made smooth and straight (v. 7).  Those who are spiritually alive receive (vs. 12, 19) the kindness of God and turn it into peace, joy, and righteousness.  The wicked trample it and multiple their unrighteousness.  “Your kindness to the wicked does not make them do good.  They keep doing wrong and take no notice of the Lord’s majesty (v. 10).”  The spiritually alive value God’s mercy and kindness and do not habitually abuse it, as the wicked do.  

Realignment involves aligning our hearts and lives around God.  Merrill Unger helps us understand what a cornerstone is.  “The stone at the corner of two walls and uniting them; specifically, the stone built into one corner of the foundation of an edifice as the actual or nominal starting point of a building.” God is at the core of all that we are and do.  He is our compass for living in this world and the next.  God said in Isaiah 28:16: “Look!  I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem.  It is firm, a tested and precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.  Whoever believes need never run away again.”  Who or what is this cornerstone He is referring to.  Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:4-6.  “Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple.  He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him.  And now God is building you, as living stones, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ.  As the Scriptures express it, ‘I am placing a stone in Jerusalem, a chosen cornerstone, and anyone who believes in him will never be disappointed.’”  Isaiah is speaking about Jesus Christ.  Trust Him and you shall live.  Reject Him and you will remain spiritually dead.  It is Christ who we look toward to align our hearts and lives.  As we look to Him our hearts and lives are straightened and crookedness is removed. 

Our goal is not to live and die and get to heaven.  Heaven is not a reward.  Heaven is a place God has prepared for all who are restored to Him–those who love and honor Him.  Our goal is to excel with Him in life.  Each of us strives for personal, spiritual independence.  We go through life trying to patch up our own dents, trying to add special fuel additives and think that our lives look healthy and fine.  We add trinkets to the outside, flaming decals to cover up the mess that’s on the inside.  It is better to team up with the chief engineer and follow His plan for your life.  To gain his expertise.  Romans 9:30 says it clearly, “The Gentiles have obtained salvation, have obtained righteousness, by faith, but Israel who pursued the law of righteousness, has not attained it.”  Why?  They did not pursue it by faith.  They pursued heaven as if it were a reward.  The Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus because they sought to please God and enter heaven on their own merit.  They sought to crash the gates of heaven with their righteousness deeds, which, ironically, were not righteous at all.  Jesus tells them (John 8:42-47) what God thinks of their lifestyle.  “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God.  I am not here on my own, but he sent me.  Why can’t you understand what I am saying?  It is because you are unable to do so!  For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does…. Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God.  Since you don’t, it proves you aren’t God’s children.”  All who try to enter heaven on their own merit will hear those same words!

When you look at who Jesus had the best relationship with, it was those who were thrashed by life.  It was these who readily came to Him for restoration.  The prostitute, the tax collector, the ones who admitted they couldn’t get it together on their own.  The disposition of heart that says I put myself under your authority is what God is seeking from us.  If you are not a prostitute, or something similar, it does not mean you cannot become close to God.  Those who have sunk to the bottom of human depravity know that they cannot be righteous on their own.  An open heart can know that without becoming a prostitute, drug dealer, or murderer.  Honest self-examination and correct appraisal of God’s character and power should drive us to our knees in repentance no matter who we are or what we have done.

One of the rules of automotive restoration is that if you’re going to use it, it’s going to get damaged.  If it’s going to be on the road, it’s bound to get messed up.  God wants us on the road.  He did not build us to be trailer queens, hauled around from show to show to show off.  He built us to run, to drive, to carry, to transport, to facilitate.  Yes, you can be restored to God but negative stuff still creeps in.  There are chips of metal that get into the oil that will destroy your engine if they are not removed.  Timing occasionally needs to be reset.  No Christian can remain righteous and true to God without spiritual maintenance.  Sometimes you need to change some things to get back in line.  Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians is instructive.  “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine.  Test yourselves.  If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you, it means you have failed the test.  I hope you recognize that we have passed the test and are approved by god.  We pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.  We pray this, not to show that our ministry to you has been successful, but because we want you to do right even if we seem to have failed.  Our responsibility is never to oppose the truth, but to stand for the truth at all times.  We are glad to be weak, if you are really strong.  What we pray for is your restoration to maturity” (2 Corinthians 13:5-9).

God is the Rock of our salvation and spiritual strength.  But His strength can only help us if we rely on Him, if we trust Him.  This same Rock who can strengthen the meek and humble will oppose and crush the proud.  “Their large cities will be deserted as overgrown thickets.  They will become like the cities of the Amorites abandoned when the Israelites came here so long ago.  Why?  Because you have turned from the God who can save you—the Rock who can hide you.  You may plant the finest imported grapevines, and they may grow so well that they blossom on the very morning you plant them, but you will never pick any grapes from them.  Your only harvest will be a load of grief and incurable pain…. This is the just reward of those who plunder and destroy the people of God” (Isaiah 17:9-14).

The choice is yours.  The Rock can either be your solid and trustworthy foundation for living or it will be that which crushes you.  If you try to storm the gates of heaven in your own righteousness you will be crushed under the infinite holiness of God Almighty!  You will cover yourself before His holiness as the angels did in Isaiah 6.  Your mouth will be stopped and you will have no case to present on your behalf (Romans 3:19).  My prayer for you is that you experience God’s strength on your behalf as a forgiven child of God.  May you not be counted among those who are crushed under the mighty hand of God!  Repent and be restored and you shall live!  

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