God's Plan for Purity

Steve Viars December 13, 2008 Isaiah 7:14

 

- This morning I’d like to begin by asking you a question…

- How easy is it for you to trust what God’s Word says about holiness?...

- that is possible for you, regardless of your past, to live a life that is growing in personal purity…

- and that it is best for you to live a life that is growing in personal purity?...

- clearly that is the message of Scripture…

- Jesus Christ - Matthew 5:8 - Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

- Peter - 1 Peter 1:15 - but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

- James - James 3:17 - But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

- Paul - 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 - For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Ephesians 5:27 -  that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

- so there’s no question about what God thinks about this…but I’m asking…how easy is it for you to believe it?...

1. For example, when you compare this to the message of our culture….

- which mocks those who try to remain pure…

- or which promotes this endless cesspool of filth and godlessness and immoral behavior through its music and art and films….

- how many popular people in our culture could you name who are all about keeping their marriage vows for life…or practicing chastity in singleness…or speaking in a way that is righteous and holy…or promoting thoughts that turn your affections to heaven where Christ is seated at the right hand of God…

- there is significant pressure to disbelieve what God says about the possibility, and the advisability of you trying to grow in purity…

2. Then bring in the messages of your family, or your friends, or your acquaintances?...

- is holiness and purity the preferred emphasis?...

- in many extended families, for every person you could name who actually remained faithful in marriage, you could list several who didn’t…

- you may have friends or co-workers who think that purity is for chumps…

- only a fool would try to avoid temptation – why not give in quickly and enjoy it to its fullest?...

3. Then there are the repetitive themes of your own heart…

- you’ve already failed in the past – it’s too late to try now…

- you know you’re going to give in…so why fight it…

- and why would you want to when the temptations so delicious?...

- see, in a variety of different ways for a variety of different reasons, it is challenging to trust in what God’s Word says about purity…

- that’s where the message of Christmas comes in…

- because the Scripture is quite clear that the events surrounding the birth of Christ were all part of God’s wonderful plan…

- and as you study those prophecies of the coming Messiah, you can learn a lot about the way God thinks and the characteristics He values…

- that’s why last week we looked at…

December 7 – Genesis 3 – God’s Plan for Redemption…

- even in the context of mankind’s original sin, God explained to satan, Adam, and to Eve…in the protoevangelion (first gospel) - Genesis 3:15 - And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.

- In other words, man’s redemption has always been part of God’s plan…because grace, love, and mercy are essential aspects of His character…

December 14 – Isaiah 7 – God’s Plan for Purity.

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Isaiah chapter 7…page 491 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…and also to Matthew chapter 1, which is on page 1 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- I realize that some who are here today may be in church for the very first time, or perhaps you’ve just started coming…

- and I also realize that as soon as I ask you to turn to a place in the Bible that contains the words of an OT prophet, you might think – I know I’m not going to understand any of this, or I knew church would be irrelevant to the problems and questions I have…

- let me ask you to hold on tightly for a moment…

- it’s true that there are some names and events in this text that we may not have time to fully explain if you don’t have a bit of understanding of Old Testament history…

- but I promise you that we will move through that part as quickly as possible, and that we will summarize the key issues so you can have a working knowledge of what’s going on here, and so that you’re prepared to think about how all of this applies to the way you’re living today…

- now before we read from Isaiah – let me just mention a couple of details historically…

- if you have studied this book before, you know that we are near what is probably the most famous chapter in the book – Isaiah chapter 6 – which is Isaiah’s great vision of God…

- and what was the central attribute of God that was on display in that chapter?...God’s holiness, or his purity…

- and you may remember that Isaiah’s response to that fresh understanding of God was to say – woe is me – I’m a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…

- and then God sends an angel to pick up a hot coal and touch it on Isaiah’s lips, signifying the fact that he can be forgiven and purified…

- and then God says, who shall I send, and who will go for me?...

- and Isaiah, now in his forgiven and purified state says – “Here am I, send me”…

- the rest of the chapter is rather sad – because God tells Isaiah that when he goes to speak to the children of Israel, for the most part they will not believe God’s Word – they won’t trust it because of the hardness of their hearts and the sinfulness of their lives…

- chapters 7 – 39 could be summarized with the question to the nation of Israel – who are you going to trust, the God of heaven or the secular nations around you?...

- where are you going to go for your truth, for your protection, for your security, for your hope?

- that is what is happening in this chapter before us…God tells Isaiah to go speak to King Ahaz, the king of the southern tribes, or Judah…

- and here’s what was happening…Ahaz was a very wicked man…a godless man…and he had a big problem…

- because the king of the northern tribes had teamed up with the king of Syria and they were trying to invade the southern kingdom of Judah…

- and here’s what Ahaz had to decide – should I trust God for my deliverance, or should I make an alliance with the evil nation of Assyria?....

- now, are you ready to do a bit of digging (this won’t hurt – isn’t that what the dentist says just before he turns on the drill)…

- read Isaiah 7:1…(Ahaz) – king of the southern tribes of Judah…

- (read v. 1 -- to “Aram”) – that’s another name for Syria in the Bible…

- read through verse 1

- the point is – the king of the northern tribes teamed up with the king of Syria (or Aram) and tried to invade the southern kingdom – Judah…

- read v. 2

- the point there is – Ahaz and his people are scared to death of what might happen…

- read through v. 4

- who are the “two stubs”…the king of the northern tribes and the king of Syria…

- stub is like the piece of wood that is left after a great fire…but when it’s going out, there’s the ends of these twigs that haven’t yet burned out…

- God is telling Ahaz – trust me, believe in me – don’t be afraid of these other two…they’re like burned out stubs…

- read through v. 9

- that’s the central point so far – “trust”…Ahaz, you have to decide if you’re going to believe what God says about all of this…

- then God gives him an incredible opportunity…

- read verse 10 – 11

- God says, I know this is hard to believe – I know sometimes it is hard to trust me…ask me for a sign…

- amazingly, here’s what Ahaz says next…

- read verse 12

- now you might say – that sounds so spiritual…it’s actually the exact opposite…

- one commentator said…”There are situations in which outward piety and inward unbelief are identical” O. Kaiser.

- so why didn’t this king want a sign from God?...

- here’s why – he had already decided that he wasn’t to trust God…

- believe it or not, he was just going to go out and make an alliance with the king of another wicked nation, the nation of Assyria…and he didn’t want some sign from God messing up the plan he had already formulated…

- in fact, the book of II Kings actually tells us what Ahaz eventually did –

- 2 Kings 16:7-8 - So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me.”Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria.

- so he has an opportunity to trust in his own wisdom, and his own solution…or to trust in the revealed Word of God…and he rejects God…

- do you see why in the previous chapter, when Isaiah was shown a vision of God’s purity that he explained that many of Isaiah’s listeners were so impure and so hard hearted that they would take incredibly foolish steps – like making an alliance with a king who was far less trustworthy than God ever was…

- so what does the Lord do when Ahaz says – no, that’s OK…I don’t need a sign, thank you very much…

- look at verse 13 – God just broaden out the message to the entire nation…

- read 13-14…

- now, time doesn’t allow us to talk about all the applications of that to Ahaz and the people of that day…

- but we know, from the perspective of NT theology, exactly when that prophecy was literally fulfilled…

- read Matthew 1:18-25…

- now I realize that was a lot of Scripture, and I also realize that you may not have gotten every little detail…but you can get the rest of this for sure…

- let’s spend the rest of our time thinking about…3 lessons from the prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth.

I. God Made Significant Promises about the Purity of His Son.

- please look carefully at Isaiah 7:14 for a moment…

A. [God said that] He Himself would do this.

- 7:14 - the Lord Himself…

- the God of the Bible is not some sort of detached, uninterested deity…

- he knew it would be hard for Ahaz and the people of that day to put their trust in Him

- so He was offering to be personally involved in making it easier for them to believe…

B. He is willing to give His people signs.

- 7:14 – will give you a sign

- God never asks us to believe in a vacuum…

- He provides reasons to believe…and until the Scriptures were completed such occasions happened often in the Bible…

- but here’s the focus---here’s what would take their breath away…

C. The Messiah would be born of a virgin.

- 7:14 – Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son…

- now the liberals love to point out that the Hebrew word Almah could also refer to a young woman…as well as referring to a virgin…

- and that’s true – but there wouldn’t be any sign in a young woman conceiving a son…that’s an everyday occurrence…

- also the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT used the word parthenos to translate Almah which is important because the word parthenos can only refer to a virgin, and that particular translation was very prevalent during the days of Christ…

- so there was no question what the translators of the LXX thought Isaiah was talking about…

- of course we also have the confirmation of the gospels of Matthew and Luke so there is no question when we get to that point of the history of God’s Word…

- but please don’t miss the point – God was promising to do a miracle…to conceive of a child without using the normal means of procreation…(and tie that back to the theme of purity or holiness from chapter 6)…

- if a child could be conceived without the normal means of procreation, then a child could be conceived without a sin nature…which explains…the last phrase…

D. The Messiah will be “God with us.”

- 7:14 – and she will call his name “Immanuel”

- see, who needs an unholy alliance with the wicked king of Assyria if the possibility exists of trusting a God who is so wise, and so powerful, that he can devise a way for His own Son to become a man yet without the faintest hint of sinfulness…

- A God who can provide a perfectly pure Messiah is a God who is completely worthy of our trust

- now let’s transfer all of this to the little town of Bethlehem…put yourself in Joseph and Mary’s sandals for a moment…what would that have been like?...

- and the answer is – it was all about trust…and a growing understanding in the importance of purity in the unfolding plan of God…see, not only did God make promises…

II. God Kept Significant Promises about the Purity of His Son.

- and think of it from Joseph’s perspective…

A. Joseph was asked to trust God.

- Matthew 1:20-23 - But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

- and do you know the good news?...Joseph was different than King Ahaz…

- and we know all of the background of His thinking…

- but apparently he was able to connect the dots between the prophecy of the virgin birth, and the importance and value of the purity of the Messiah…because the passage reports…

- Matthew 1:24-25 - And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

- we didn’t read the text from Mary’s perspective, but she too was…

B. Mary was asked to trust God.

- we read about that in the gospel of Luke…

- Luke 1:34-38 - Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God….“For nothing will be impossible with God.”And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

- she too was different than King Ahaz…

- she chose to believe what God had said because she understood the importance of purity…

- by the way, there was never a question in her mind about who was pure and who wasn’t…

- don’t believe those who say that Mary believed that she too was without sin…

- she made that clear in her response to these events after visiting her sister Elizabeth…

- Luke 1:46-50 - And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord,and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.“For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.“And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him.

- those are the words of a person who understands God’s plan for purity…

- ultimately…

C. Christ’s purity is a central focus of our redemption.

- listen to these words from the book of Hebrews…

- Hebrews 7:26-28 - For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.

- see, not only can God make a significant promise about purity, He can keep a significant promise about purity…

- now, where does this leave us?...what are the take aways?...

III. God Invites You to Trust His Plan for Purity in Your Life.

A. Regarding your salvation.

- If you’re following this closely, one of the appropriate conclusions to draw would be that you cannot achieve this kind of purity on your own…

- the message here is not – try to be real good so you can be pure enough to enter heaven…

- if that was possible, why did Jesus have to come?...

- Titus 3:5 - He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

- the only way you can become pure enough to have a relationship with God is by admitting your need and placing your faith and trust in what Jesus Christ did on your behalf…

- and you might say – that’s hard to believe…

- that’s true – but I would say that the more you understand the centrality of perfect purity in the plan and program of God, the more you would understand that trusting God’s way is your only hope…

- Q – has there been a definite time in your life when you’ve done that?

- do you remember what God said to Ahaz?...

Isaiah 7:9 - …If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.

- compare that to these words…

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

- trusting God and taking Him at His Word is the crucial first step in having a relationship with Him…
 

- deal with the number of people who have been baptized this year and who have joined our church…thank the Lord for the way he is drawing people to Himself and purifying them through the finished work of His perfect Son…

- now, that is creating some wonderful challenges for us…[discuss 8 is Great]

- show 8 is Great video

- now, if you do know the Lord…let’s go back to the questions we posed at the beginning?...

How easy is it for you to trust what God’s Word says about holiness?...

- that is possible for you, regardless of your past, to live a life that is growing in personal purity…

- and that it is best for you to live a life that is growing in personal purity?...

B. Regarding your speech.

- James 3:17 - But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

- would that describe the way you speak to others…is it characterized by purity?...

- that’s a significant part of God’s plan – is it a significant part of yours?...

- and if not, is one of the take aways from this Christmas season for you that if purity is this central to God’s plan…it needs to become more central to yours…

C. Regarding your mind.

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

D. Regarding your body.

2 Timothy 2:22 - Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

E. Regarding your works.

Titus 2:11-14 - For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

- Discuss how growing in purity (as Titus 2:15 explains) frees us up to be zealous for good deeds

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video