Restore People, Part 2

Isaiah 65:1-9
Broadcast Featured Image

We delve into the curious concept that religious places, including evangelical churches, can be spaces where people inadvertently hide from God. Pastor Colin goes on to explain how even amid ritual and routine, God recognises those who are concealing themselves within the congregation.

We take an insightful journey through Isaiah Chapter 65, where six forms of offensive religion to God are outlined. These include hypocritical, personalised, ritualistic, dark, rebellious, and arrogant religions. Each one is uniquely addressed through the teachings of both the Old Testament and the words of Jesus as he spoke against the Pharisees and Sadducees in the New Testament.

The surprising revelation, however, lies in God’s persistent grace. Despite provocation and steadfast avoidance, God extends His hands to guide and save the lost. Pastor Colin emphasises the role of Jesus in this redemptive process—His birth, life, and crucifixion are central to understanding God’s unwavering commitment to seeking and saving those lost in the mire of faulty religion and disbelief.

If today’s message has moved you and you’re considering a relationship with God or have lingering questions about faith, Pastor Colin encourages reaching out to a local church community or engaging with Christian friends and family for support. And remember, grace is always extended to those who seek it.

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Religion, even an evangelical church can be a safe place, it seems, for hiding from God.

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And God knows those who are hiding from him in church.

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Welcome to Open the Bible with Pastor Colin Smith. I’m David Pick. I’m glad you could

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be with us today and you would think, Colin, that the Church would be one of the last places

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you’d find people hiding from God. So how do people do that?

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The fact is that we do, that that is one of the most common ways of hiding from God, and

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perhaps the reason why it’s one of the most common ways is that it’s easy to get the idea

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that if we are in some kind of religious service or religious routine or organisation, that

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God will thereby be pleased with us. That gets us off the hook from actually ever having

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to come seriously to terms with the claims that he’s laying on our lives. It’s fascinating

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to me. In the Old Testament particularly, anyone who had the idea that God was interested

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in religion and that He was pleased by it would be making a big mistake. To obey is

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better than sacrifice. One of the great themes early on in Isaiah you have God speaking about

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how tired He is of all this trampling through the courts and all these people showing up

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for religious services and yet at the heart of it there isn’t justice, there isn’t

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humility, and so forth and so on. So it’s very easy to get into a routine of saying

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well I’m a church person God must be pleased with me. Well the Bible would indicate that

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that’s a very, very, dangerous assumption.

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And just looking in the New Testament you can see how Jesus criticised and went after

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the religious people of the day the Pharisees and Sadducees.

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He’s praying away and he thinks that everything’s right because he’s praying but

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his whole prayer is an expression actually of his continued rebellion against God because

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it’s all about himself and here’s this other person who comes and he’d be despised

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by everyone else but he’s genuinely been humbled and Christ says, well now he’s

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the one who’s going to go home forgiven not the other man who was in the temple every day

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So our message today continues with the title restore people so I hope you’ll

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be able to join us in your Bible at Isaiah and Chapter 65. Here’s Colin.

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What kind of religion offends God?

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And I want you to see that that’s precisely what God is speaking about through the

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prophet Isaiah right here in this chapter.

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Ready? Here we go, six forms of religion that are offensive to God.

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Isaiah Chapter 65. Number one, I’m going to call it hypocritical religion and I’m

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looking at verse two, where God speaks about obstinate people who walk in ways

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not good. So here are religious folks, you may have met some of them.

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They talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk. That’s number one,

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a hypocritical religion.

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Here’s a second form of religion that is offensive to God, I’ve called it

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personalized religion.

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I’m still looking at verse two, where God describes people who, in their religion he says,

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are following their own imaginations.

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Notice that phrase in verse two. Following your own imaginations means

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

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you’re in. In other words, following your own imaginations is really remaking God

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in your own image, it is just assuming that God is a kind of projection of your

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own preferences, your own prejudices, and your own desires. And God says, when

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people basically imagine me to be a projection of themselves – which, of

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course, is the worst idolatry – God says that offends me, it continually provokes

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me. Notice that word in verse two – to my face. Here’s number three. I’m going to call

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it ritualistic religion. Look at verse three, where God speaks about a religion

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that is about offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of

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brick. Now this is all about ritual. You might expect that God would be very

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impressed with people who are always offering sacrifices and always burning

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incense. But rituals don’t change lives, and a religion that is simply about

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rituals is ultimately empty. And God says that’s the kind of thing that provokes

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me. 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, and in the Scripture the God of the Bible prohibits

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that absolutely, and it’s right here in Isaiah and chapter 65 and verse 4, and

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God says that whole world offends me, so don’t go near it. Fifth, rebellious

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religion. Notice verse four, here he speaks about religious people who eat

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the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat. Now remember that

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according to the apostle Paul these words are directed to Israel, and in the

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Old Testament God’s people, Israel, were given specific laws that mark their

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special relationship with him. Food laws were included that were appropriate to

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the Old Testament time before our Lord Jesus Christ came. So for a person in Old

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Testament Israel to eat the flesh of pigs, which as is well known were

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prohibited to Old Testament Israel, and the broth of unclean meat. For a Jewish

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person to do that is simply open rebellion against the Old Testament

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commandment of God that had been given at that time. So here’s a person who’s

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saying, you know, whatever God’s commanded, I’m going to do the opposite. And there

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are folks like that and it’s a kind of form of religion, it is I will be my own

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God, I will determine my own way and if God says no, that is the very thing to

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say yes and God says, that offends me. That is like smoke in my nostrils. Here’s

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number six, the last in the list, and perhaps the most subtle and perhaps one

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of which many of us may feel we’re in the most immediate danger, I’m calling it

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arrogant religion, and you see it right there in verse 5, God speaks, last in the

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list, about those who say, keep away. Don’t come near me because I am too sacred

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for you. What a marvelous description of a religious person who is unbearably

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proud. Looks down on other person, I’m holier than you. And God is saying this,

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He says, if your religion makes you proud, if your religion makes you feel morally

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superior to other people that you work beside or live beside or whatever else,

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you need to know that that religion provokes me, defends me. It’s like smoke

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in my nostrils when I see religious people who think that they are better

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than anybody else. Because, of course, the gospel is the opposite effect. It brings

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me to the place of saying, I am a sinner who needs a Savior, Jesus Christ,

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and it cost his blood that I might be forgiven. Isn’t it interesting?

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Look at verse 5 as a whole right there. It’s almost as if the arrogant religion

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is the most offensive of them all. As God goes through this list,

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the folks who say keep away, don’t come near me because I’m too sacred for you,

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such people are smoke in my nostrils. Now, this is profoundly helpful.

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It’s very, very important for us to understand this, especially in a culture

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that thinks that all religion’s good, you know? As long as the person’s sincere

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and so forth and so on.

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The Bible is making it clear to us God directly speaking through the Prophet

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Isaiah tells us that religion is a mixed bag and much of it offends God.

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God is especially offended by religion that is hypocritical, that is talking the

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talk but not walking the walk, personalized, that is a projection

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of our own preferences, prejudices, and desires, ritualistic,

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that is primarily about rights and disciplines that don’t change lives,

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dark, that is seeking communication with the spirits of the dead,

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rebellious, that is pursuing what God has told us to forsake,

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and arrogant which is religion that makes us feel superior to other people.

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God says that stuff provokes me continually to My face.

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Now, I hope that if you’ve been burned by religion

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and you’re still feeling the bruise of that

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you can take this in, and perhaps even today,

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you will say, this is God reaching out to me.

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I’m finding actually that God is looking for something that is true and authentic,

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and it’s that that he wants to draw you into.

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Do you know religion can be a strange place for hiding from God?

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I want to challenge us about that this weekend.

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Is it possible even for some of us, we come to the service,

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we’re glad to be part of the church, and we’re connected to some other people.

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Well, religion, even an evangelical church, can be a safe place, it seems, for hiding from God.

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And God knows those who are hiding from him in church.

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I was thinking about this just remembering it was years ago now, but

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when I was in seminary, one summer we went out for a mission, a whole group of us students,

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we’d been invited by a small church in a small borders town in Scotland. And there were

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just two churches there, one was St. Mark’s, which was the church that had invited us,

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and the other was simply known as the parish. And because the town was fairly small, it was

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possible for us to set and fulfill the objective of visiting, knocking on the door, of every home

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in the town. So, the first morning, off we go in our twos, I remember it so vividly, climbing up a

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fairly steep hill, it’s the borders of Scotland after all, and I decided we’ll start at the top

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end of the hill and work down, rather than the bottom end of the hill and work up. And we got

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to the first house, knocked on the door and we had our line and our pitch kind of ready,

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and i said we’re students and we’re here for a week of mission at the invitation of St. Mark’s

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Church, and we’re here just to talk to people in this town about Jesus Christ. And you know

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what she said to me? She was a very well educated and obviously dignified lady and well to do. And

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she said, Oh, I’m not interested in that. She said, I belong to the parish church.

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And you know, if I’d heard it one set perhaps would have forgotten it. I heard that

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a hundred times that week, at least. It’s possible to get yourself into church world

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and completely miss Jesus Christ.

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And the God of the Bible who seeks people who don’t know him

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is also very concerned to find people who claim to know him.

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back to the message now we’re in Isaiah and chapter 65 here’s Collin.’

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I want us to see this very clearly here. It’s a wonderful thing how God deals

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with this mixed bag of religion because here we’re in the situation where truth

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and falsehood, light and darkness in this world is all mixed up together in

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religion. What is God going to do about it? Well, I want you to see that the same

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God who seeks those who don’t know Him also sorts out those who claim to know

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Him and you’ll see that in verse 8 particularly. This is what the Lord says

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and God uses a very vivid picture to help us understand what He’s going to do

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about the mixed bag of religion. He says,

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So, God says well I do on behalf of my servants I will not destroy them all. So

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God is saying, you know think of religion as a bunch of grapes and some of them

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are bad but some of them are good and what God is saying is that He will sort

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out He will distinguish He will separate and He won’t throw them all away. He will

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sort out the good from the bad God says quite clearly this is what I’m

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going to do about the whole religious world I’m going to sort it out and of

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course our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in the New Testament that God will bring

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all people one day to account that includes secular people who don’t know

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him and religious people who claim to know him and on that day Jesus said

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among the religious people there will be some people who say Lord this is what

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we’ve done for you and they’ll want to come up with a long list of everything

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that they think that they have done for God and to some our Lord says he will

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say depart from me I never knew you so this is another window into the heart of

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God the God of the Bible seeks out those who don’t know him he sorts out those

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who claim to know him the good grapes from the bad now here’s the conclusion

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I’ve drawn from pondering this over these last days you know at the end of

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the day it doesn’t really matter too much whether we start off as secular

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people who don’t know God or religious people who claim to know God either way

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all of us need God’s saving intervention in our lives and Paul takes up that

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again in the New Testament in Romans and chapter 3 and verse 9 he puts it like

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this he says Jews and Gentiles are all alike under sin I think about that Jews

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that is the religious people who claim to know God and Gentiles that is the

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secular people who do not know God and Paul says you know God blasts across

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that distinction between these two groups because all alike are under sin

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and all alike stand in need of one Savior Jesus Christ who has come to do

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what to seek and to save that which was lost.

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Now we took a moment just to look at what God says to those who ignore him

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and those who don’t seek him.

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I want you to see just in these last moments what God says to those who

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provoke him.

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What does God have to say to false religion,

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arrogance, darkness.

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You see again you might expect that God would say you know there are

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some religious people and they claim to know me but actually they give me a bad

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name in the world and so I repudiate them.

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There are some folks who have formed darkened kinds of religion and what is

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light have to do with darkness I have no interest in them.

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I just associate myself with them.

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I want nothing to do with them.

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But that’s not the God of the Bible.

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Look at what he does say in verse 2.

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All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people.

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Think about this.

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God is speaking about those who walk in ways that are not good,

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who follow gods of their own imagination, pursue darkness,

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go into open rebellion, look down on others with intolerable

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pride.

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What does God say?

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He says, well, this is like smoke in my nostrils.

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But all day long I hold out my hands to these obstinate

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people.

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You wouldn’t have expected that, would you?

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Listen until you get to know the amazing God of the Bible.

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See, this is grace.

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God seeks those who ignore him and he saves those who provoke

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him.

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And you say, how does God do that?

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How would he seek people who have no knowledge of him.

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How would he bring them into a knowledge of himself.

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How would he save people who are who have provoked him and

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offended him and like smoke in his nostrils?

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See, that is why Jesus Christ came into the world.

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Isn’t it to seek and to save that which is lost.

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John describes it this way.

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The word became flesh, that is God became Man.

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The God you can’t see became the person that men and women did

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see in Jesus Christ so that God makes himself known to those who

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otherwise would not have a hope in the world of everlasting

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goodness.

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Or a hope in the world of ever finding him.

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No one has ever seen God, but God the one and only has made

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him known.

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So that Jesus says, when you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the

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Father.

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God seeks in the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

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and how does he save people who have provoked Him?

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See, this is not why Jesus only came.

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This is why Jesus died.

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Think about this, brutal men face to face with God in the

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flesh and they struck him on the head and they spat in his

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face, then they nail him to a cross and he says, Father,

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forgive them, They do not know what they are doing. See that’s

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grace. That’s how the amazing God of the Bible seeks and

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saves folks who don’t know him. Aren’t looking for him to do

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anything in their lives. We’ve gotten into a kind of hiding

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from him even in religion. He reaches out to you and me says,

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Picture Jesus on the cross. Now hear these words of God through

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Isaiah again. All day long. I hold out my hands. To this

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obstinate people. That’s the God of the Bible. And when you

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discover who he really is, you will want to know him turn to

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him trust him and follow him. Some important truth today. God

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seeks people who ignore Him and God saves people who provoke

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him and because of that, there is hope for anyone. Maybe as

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you’ve been listening, you feel he’s been calling you into a

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relationship of the kind that we often talk about here on open

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the Bible. You’d like to know more about how to enter into

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that relationship by the saving grace of God and if so, I

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hope you’ll seek out a trusted Christian friend or family

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member or maybe go along to a Christian church fellowship.

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Take time to speak with the folk in the relationship, the

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pastor or some members of that fellowship. Tell them about

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your journey to discover faith for yourself. You’ll find

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they’ll be ready to pray with you to help you make that step

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or if you’re not yet ready to make that step and still have

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questions and we all have questions, there may well be a

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Bible study course or a home group or an alpha program that

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you can join. You’ve been listening to Open the Bible

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with pastor Colin Smith and our message today, Restore People,

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part of our series Restore My Soul. And if you’ve missed any

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of the series or want to go back and listen again, you can

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do that online by coming to our website. That’s openthebible.org.uk

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or by searching out our podcast, which is

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available on all the regular podcasting sites, just search

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for Open the Bible UK. Open the Bible is supported entirely

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by our listeners and if that’s something you’ve been

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00:22:53,099 –> 00:22:57,099

considering doing, then this month we have a great offer for

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00:22:57,099 –> 00:23:00,780

you. If you’re 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,

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we’d love to say thank you by sending you a copy of C.H.

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Spurgeon’s book, Encouragement for the Depressed. Colin, who

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is this book for?

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Well, this book is really for anyone who is discouraged or

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going through a dark time, and I can’t imagine that there’s any

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Christian who doesn’t experience that at some point in life.

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What’s so striking to me about this book is that it’s written

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by a man who was known for his extraordinary faith. I mean,

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the Spirit of God rested on the life and ministry of C.H.

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Spurgeon and yet he knew what it was to go through times of

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extraordinary darkness and even a sense of despair at some

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points. You know, he suffered from small pox, gout,

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rheumatism, inflammation of the kidneys, and his wife was

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bedridden for decades. I mean, this man really knew what it was

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to suffer. And yet he found, in all of this, that he was forced

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closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. I love what he says. He says,

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I’ve learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the

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rock of ages. I love that. Kiss the waves that throw me up

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against the rock of ages. Here’s biblical wisdom from a man of

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faith who knew what it was to really struggle in dark times.

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And I have found his writing to be wonderfully encouraging,

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refreshing, and uplifting. And that’s why I’m really grateful

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that we have the opportunity of getting this book out this

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month. C.H. Spurgeon’s book, Encouragement For the Depressed,

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00:24:38,260 –> 00:24:42,180

is our gift to you. If you are able to set up a new donation to

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the work of Open the Bible this month, in the amount of £5 per

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month or more. Full details and to give online go to our

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website open thebible.org.uk.

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00:24:54,119 –> 00:24:57,719

For Open the Bible and Pastor Colin Smith, I’m David Pick,

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and I hope you’ll join us again next time.

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If you want to elevate your church’s worship, ask about

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00:25:06,900 –> 00:25:11,459

its commitment to mission. Discover why, on Open the Bible,

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next time.

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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.

Linked resources

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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