Restore People, Part 1

Isaiah 65:1-9
Broadcast Featured Image

Pastor Colin tackles a surprisingly comforting truth: even those who don’t seek or even acknowledge God are not overlooked by Him. Contrary to what some might think, God actively reaches out to the indifferent, the non-believers, and the secular hearts in our world.

With a deep dive into Isaiah chapter 65, we explore the nature of God’s compassion towards both those who ignore Him and those who claim to follow Him yet live in ways that do not honour Him. Pastor Colin reveals how the Bible differentiates between genuine faith and forms of religion that might actually provoke God.

As we open our Bibles and hearts, let’s prepare to discover the powerful and persistent love of God who always takes the first step towards us. So grab your Bible, find Isaiah 65, and let’s delve into another enriching lesson on how God seeks to restore people to Himself.

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There are many people in the world who completely ignore me. They don’t ask for me, they don’t

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seek me, they don’t call on my name, they don’t have faith, they don’t pray, they don’t

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expect me to do anything in their lives. These people are not interested in me, you might

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expect God to say, and therefore I am not interested in them.

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That’s when you think you don’t know the God of the Bible yet.

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Welcome to Open The Bible with Pastor Colin Smith. I’m David Pick, I’m glad you’re with

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us today. So Colin, if God doesn’t say that about people who don’t know or care about

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Him, what does He say?

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Well, we’re coming today to one of the most wonderful truths in the Bible in my mind and

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heart. If God simply waited for people to come to Him, how many people would actually

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get there? Heaven would be empty if simply passively waited to say, now who’s going

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to believe? Who’s going to do this? And stood back in a hands off kind of a way, nobody

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would come. The lost sheep can’t find their way back to the shepherd. It has to be the

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Good Shepherd that goes and lays hold of the lost sheep and brings the lost sheep back.

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And then Isaiah chapter 65, which is where we’ve come today, there’s this marvelous

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statement from God in which He says He reveals Himself to people who are not looking for

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He reaches out to people who are not seekers, and He says, Here I am, here I am. He makes

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himself known. And he begins to work. This is our God. He always goes first. We’re always

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responding to Him. Of course, we have the idea that somehow He’s responding to us. That’s

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never the case. He sent His Son. He moved first. He sends His spirit, His Spirit works

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first. And then out of that, we find somehow we’re being drawn. And every Christian knows

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that this is at the root of our own experience. I thought that I was seeking after God. And

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then I discovered that God first had been seeking after me. Well, that’s the love of

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God towards us. That’s an amazing truth for us to understand.

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So if you can, open your Bible at Isaiah, chapter 65. As we begin our message, Restore

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People, here’s Colin.

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We’re returning to a series for those who may have come new over these last weeks, entitled

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Restore My Soul, in which we’re looking at the wonderful ways in which God breaks into

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people’s lives to restore broken lives and to change broken hearts. And we’ve seen that

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in the later chapters of Isaiah, the prophet describes how it is that God actually does

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this. When God sets to work in a person’s life, He begins by restoring faith. He restores

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joy, He restores repentance, which means turning away from things that offend God and turning

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to embrace things that honor God. He restores compassion, He restores hope, and He begins

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to teach us how to pray. Now the title that we have this weekend is

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Restore A People. And I want us to see as you open the Bible at Isaiah 65 that there

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are really two groups of people and God is equally concerned about both. If you have

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your Bible open at Isaiah chapter 65 in verse 1, you’ll see there what I’m going to call

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the first group who are really secular people who do not know God. Notice what Isaiah says

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in verse 1. God says, I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me. So here’s people

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who are not asking for God. I was found by those who did not seek me. Here’s people who

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are not looking for God. To a nation that did not call on my name, so that is people

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who are not given to prayer, I said, God said, here am I, here am I.

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So, God is describing here secular people, folks who have full and busy lives, but they

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are not particularly looking for God, they don’t really have a place for God, they are

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not searching after him, they are not even thinking about him doing anything in their

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lives. They haven’t been praying, to use Isaias words, they did not seek him, they did not

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ask for him, and they did not call out to him. Now you know folks like that.

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I know folks like that. Folks who may respect your faith, but they’re really not interested.

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Their lives are full, they would say I don’t have the time to seek after God, or they may

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say I have no inclination, I have no interest in seeking after God. Now it may be among us

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this weekend too that that actually describes some of us. The truth is that folks come to church

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for different reasons. You may be here because of your parents, you may be here because of

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your friends, you may be here for one of a dozen different reasons.

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But there are many folks who gather even in church, who have no real expectation that

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God will do anything in their lives. And that may be the truth about you. You are

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glad to be here, but you are not really anticipating God doing anything in your

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life. You’re not particularly been asking or seeking, or even looking for God to

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touch you today. Now, in Isaiah’s time, back in the Old Testament,

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this first group could be broadly described as the Gentiles, the folks who

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do not know God, the secular folks. Remember, in the Old Testament, God had

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made himself known to Moses, and God in particular was was working with one

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nation of people, that is the nation of Israel. The other nations largely outside

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of what could be discerned from creation did not know him. They did not have the

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Commandments, they did not have the covenant that God made with Israel, and

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because the other nations, the Gentiles, did not know him, they did not seek him,

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they did not call on him either. So this is the first group of people, and we may

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easily be able to identify them today. We may identify with them, as I say

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ourselves, largely secular people who don’t know God, and across our country

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and across the world there are millions of people who would gladly identify with

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that description. They would use that description of themselves, secular people

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don’t know or are not interested in God. Now, what do you think God might have to

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say to these folks? See, think about it, what would God have to say to secular

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folks who have no time for him, no interest in him, no faith towards him,

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never pray? See, you might expect that God would say to this group of people, well,

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there are many people in the world who completely ignore me. They don’t ask for

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me, they don’t seek me, they don’t call on my name, they don’t have faith, they

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don’t pray, they don’t expect me to do anything in their lives. These people are

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not interested in me. You might expect God to say, and therefore, I am not

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interested in them, if that’s what you think, you don’t know the God of the Bible

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yet. Look at what the amazing God of the bible says to secular people who

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don’t know him and aren’t interested in him. Look at what he says, verse one.

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I revealed myself to those who didn’t ask for me. I was found by those who didn’t

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seek me. To the nation that did not call on my name I said here am I, here am I.

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Now, I want us to take in how wonderful this is and for it to lift us to worship

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because the first thing that we’re learning about this amazing God of the

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Bible is that he is the God who seeks out people who don’t know him. He reveals

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He puts himself on the radar screen of folks who aren’t even looking for

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him. He turns up in the lives of people who never even asked for him and he says

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here am I to people who don’t even know who he is. Now, here’s what that means for

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us and it’s a very wonderful thing. You may not have been interested in God, that

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doesn’t mean that God is not interested in you, you may not have reached out to

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God, that does not mean that God is not reaching out to you. For people who did

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not pray, God shows up. That’s what Isaiah is saying for folks who are not looking,

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they come to know him, so you may have come here today and honestly you were

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not looking for God to do anything in your life at all, but God says you’re

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exactly the kind person I’m seeking. You are exactly the kind of person

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I am reaching out to. You’re exactly the kind of person I want to show up with

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and say here I am so that you will know me and so that you will find me. That’s

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what God is saying here. I revealed myself. Try and take it in to those who

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didn’t ask. I was found by those who didn’t seek to

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a nation that did not call on my name. It was to them that I said here am I, here

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am I. Now that’s the first group of people and it gives us the first window

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into the heart of God. To secular people who don’t know him, this is the marvelous

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God of the Bible who does not turn away from them but rather turns towards and

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seeks so that we who did not know him might come to know him. Not because we

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him. But because he finds us. Now there’s a second group of people and

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please look with me at verse 2. God is speaking here through the prophet Isaiah

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and he says, All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people who

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walk in ways not good.’ Now it’s important for understanding this part of the

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Bible to know that the people Isaiah is referring to in verse 2, are a different

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group from those who are being addressed by God in verse 1 and the reason that we

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know that very clearly is because in the New Testament the apostle Paul quotes

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these two versus from the beginning of Isaiah chapter 50 is 65 and the apostle

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Paul tells us that these two verses refer to two different groups of people

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you can check this out for yourself if you want in Romans chapter 10 and verses

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20 and 21 where you see this direct quote of verse 1 in verse 2 from Isaiah

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65 Paul says Isaiah boldly says I was found by those who did not seek me I

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revealed myself to those who did not ask of me and he relates that specifically

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to the Gentiles in the context there in Romans and chapter 10 but then he says

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this he says concerning Israel Isaiah says all day long

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verse 2 I have held out my hands to a disobedient and to an obstinate people

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so on the basis of the Apostle Paul’s statement in the New Testament we know

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quite clearly that verse 1 is directed to the Gentiles the secular people who

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do not know God but verse 2 concerning Israel Paul says verse 2 is all about

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Israel the religious people who claim to know God and of course remembering that

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God had made this covenant with his people Israel in the Old Testament I

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think that’s a a good way to describe the second group of people they are

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religious people who claim to know God now many of us belong to the second

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group I was brought up in a Christian family many of us were brought up with

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one brand of religion or another for some of us this was a positive

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experience you look back on what you learned and you thank God for it for

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others of us honestly it was a very negative experience you were perhaps

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brought up with a form of religion in which honestly you did not find any real

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connection with God it seemed to be essentially a burden

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and it seemed to be empty and at some point in your life frankly you were glad

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to get free from it now I want you to notice what God says to religious people

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who claim to know him verse two all day long I have held out my hands to an

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obstinate people this is interesting God’s not particularly impressed with

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his own people here he calls them obstinate who walk in ways that are not

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good pursuing their own imaginations of people who continually provoke me to my

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very face you see you read that you think oh he must be talking about the

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secular people who don’t know him you know the ones who provoke him to his

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face but he is not speaking about the secular people who don’t know him

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according to the Apostle Paul verse 2 God is speaking here about the religious

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people who claim to know him now that is telling us something incredibly

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important that will be liberating for some of us today

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God is telling us that religion is a mixed bag it’s a hodge-podge of good and

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of evil of light and of darkness and if you found some of it to be bad rest

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assured God has too I think that’s liberating we live in a world in which

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there’s a kind of secular assumption that goes on that all religion because

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it must be sincere is therefore a marvelous thing and therefore must be

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pleasing and honoring to God not if you read the God of the Bible in the Old

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Testament now according to him what is going on among some of the religious

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people who claim to know him look at the words of verse 2 with me please

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actually provokes him to his very face so let’s get this clear in our minds

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when we’re thinking about religion according to God himself it is a mixed

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bag some of it honors him but isaiah 65 in verse 2 God himself says some of it

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provokes him and in fact he goes even further if you look down to verse 5 here

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as God speaks to religion that is provocative to him the end of verse 5

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the Lord speaks of some religious people being smoke in my nostrils a fire that

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keeps burning that’s what God thinks of some religion now it clearly smoke in my

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nostrils a fire that keeps burning and it couldn’t be much stronger than that

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could it there is some religion that God does not like that’s putting it very

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very mildly there is some religion that honors God and there is some religion

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that actually provokes God we’re going to pause here but we’ll come back in

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just a moment and look at this kind of religion which the Bible tells has God

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doesn’t like in even that he finds offensive so I hope you’ll stay with us

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for that you’re listening to open the Bible with pastor Colin Smith and our

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message today restore people and it’s part of our series restore my soul and

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if you’ve missed any of the series or if you want to go back and listen again you

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can do that by coming online to our website open the bible org UK or you can

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find us as a podcast on your favorite podcast site just search for open the

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Bible UK or follow the link again on our website back to the message now we’re in

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Isaiah and chapter 65 here’s Colin what kind of religion offends God I want you

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to see that that’s precisely what God is speaking about through the Prophet Isaiah

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right here in this chapter see how do you know what’s good and honoring to God

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in religion and how do you distinguish it from what provokes him and what is

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bad well the only way you’re going to be able to do that is through the Bible and

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Isaiah chapter sixty-five is one of the best clearest passages I think to

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describe religion that provokes God so if you have your Bible open still I want

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to show you from this passage six forms of religion that are offensive to God

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that provoke him that are like smoke in his nostrils ready here we go six forms

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of religion that are offensive to God Isaiah chapter 65 number one I’m going

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to call it hypocritical religion and I’m looking at verse 2 where God speaks

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about abstinent people who walk in ways not good so here are religious folks you

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may have met some of them they talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk they

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claim to know God but verse 2 they do not do what is good and God says just so

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you know that provokes me that offends me now I’ve spoken to folks many times

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who have been offended by folks who claim to know God who top the top but

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don’t walk the walk and sometimes they speak as if they were the only ones who

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had ever been offended by such a thing listen if you’ve been offended by a

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person who claims to know God and talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk you

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agree with god on this issue and God agrees with you he says it offends me it

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provokes me it’s like smoke in my nostrils God is provoked by the double

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standard of claiming to know him and walking now notice that word by the way

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walking implies a continuity doesn’t it walking following a pattern of life that

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is not good that provokes me god says that’s

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hypothetical religion here’s a second form of religion that is offensive to

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God I’ve called it personalized religion I’m still looking at verse 2 where God

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describes people who in their religion he says are following their own

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imaginations notice that phrase in verse 2 now following your own imaginations

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means you just assume that God is for whatever you’re for and that he’s in

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whatever you’re in in other words following your own imaginations is

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really remaking God in your own image it is just assuming that God is a kind of

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projection of your own preferences your own prejudices and your own desires and

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God says when people basically imagine me to be a projection of themselves

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which of course is the worst idolatry God says that offends me it continually

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provokes me notice that word in verse 2 to my face

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here’s number 3 i’m gonna call it ritualistic religion look at verse 3

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where God speaks about a religion that is about offering sacrifices in gardens

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and burning incense on altars of brick now this is all about ritual

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you might expect that God would be very impressed with people who are always

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offering sacrifices and always burning incense but rituals don’t change lives

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and a religion that is simply about rituals is ultimately empty, and God

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says that’s the kind of thing that provokes me, provokes me to my face the

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idea that that what I’m about is simply a bunch of people going through a bunch

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of rituals over and over and over and over and over again That offends me God

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says. Number four I’m going to call dark religion and it expresses itself in many

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forms but I want you to notice verse 4 that pinpoints it very clearly. God

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speaks about those who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping

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secret vigil now there is a brand of religion that is very dark and is

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intensely interested in the dead and in contacting the spirits of dead people

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who are no longer with us have you noticed by the way just looking at the

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TV schedules the dramatic upsurge of interest in darkened forms of religion

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that engage in various ventures that are related to trying to contact

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communicate with the spirits of the dead and in the scripture the God of the

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Bible prohibits that absolutely and it’s right here in Isaiah and chapter 65 and

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verse 4 and God says that whole world offends me

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so don’t go near it and don’t watch television about it either we’ve been

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looking at six forms of religion that are offensive to God and will continue

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next time when we’ll hear about how God deals with people who claim to know him

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you’re listening to Open the Bible with pastor Colin Smith and the series called

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Restore My Soul and this message was restored people it’s 9 heart cries for

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revival and if you’ve missed any of the series

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don’t forget you can come online to our website open the Bible dot org dot UK

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and there you can listen to any of the previously broadcast messages you can

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also find us as a podcast if that’s a better way for you to keep up with

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pastor Colin’s teaching and those are available on all your regular

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podcasting sites by searching for Open the Bible UK. Open the Bible

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is only able to remain on the air and on the internet but because of the

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financial support of our listeners people just like you and if that’s

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something you’d like to do then we have an offer for you this month. For the

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whole of this month if you were able to set up a new donation to the work of

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Open the Bible in the amount of five pounds per month or more we’d love to

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say thank you by sending you a copy of CH Spurgeon’s book

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Encouragement for the Depressed. Colin can you give an example of Spurgeon’s

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encouragement?

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Well the first part of this book is based on Zechariah chapter 4 and verse

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10 who has despised the day of small things when the temple was rebuilt after

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the exile people who remember the old temple that was very grand looked at the

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foundations and they said, is this it? You know it just looks so small. And I

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think that speaks to us today that many who really labor in serving the Lord

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have the question is this all that’s really coming from it? Is this the extent

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of what we shall see God doing in our lifetime?

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Do not despise the day of small things. Well

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Spurgeon takes that verse and applies it to the discouragements that we often

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feel when we look at our own lives and think that things are small. You know, I

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only have a little knowledge, I’m not as bright as other people, my faith

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seems very small and to that Spurgeon says do not mourn that your faith is

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small. Thank God that you have any faith at all. I love that. Thank God that you

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have this gift, it’s the most marvelous gift. He says, if you believe in Jesus

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though your faith be small as a mustard seed it will save you and over time it

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will grow. So I find that Spurgeon’s writing is just nourishing to my soul.

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When I feel down I often go to Spurgeon because I find that he picks me up and I

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think that that’s what folks will find as they read this wonderful little book.

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Well the book is called Encouragement for the Depressed, it’s by C. H. Spurgeon

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and it’s our thank-you gift to you for being able to support the work of Open

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the Bible Financially this month in the amount of £5 per month or more.

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Full details or to give online come to our website www.openthebible.org.uk

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For Open the Bible and pastor Colin Smith I’m David Pick and I hope you’ll be able to

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join us again next time on Open the Bible

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Religion is a mixed bag, some of it actually provokes God, discover why next

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time on Open the Bible

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Colin Smith

Trustee / Founder and Teaching Pastor

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near – So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on X formerly Twitter.

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Sermons on Isaiah What if your heart cried out to God? What if all our hearts cried out for revival? The church and the world would never be the same. In these sermons on Isaiah, you’ll discover nine heart-cries for revival. Each one is an expression of God’s heart for His people. As they become

Colin Smith

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