When Jesus began His public ministry, He went into the synagogue in His hometown of
Nazareth. He was handed the Scriptures. He turned to the Book of Isaiah and read this portion to
"The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath
anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent
me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the
acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to
comfort all that mourn;" (Isaiah 61:1-2a)
After reading it, Jesus closed the book and said:
"This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (see Luke 4:16-21)
Jesus closed the book after the reading, but Isaiah's prophecy doesn't stop there. Let's read
"... and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that
mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty
for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the
spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." (Isaiah 61:2b-3)
The glorious "good tidings" that we proclaim to you today is God's glorious message to man.
In a world filled with so much misery, strife, and trouble, it's good to hear some good news for a
Message for the Meek
Reading the newspapers or watching the news on TV gives a sad commentary upon men's
existence. Oh, how ready we are for some good news! The Gospel is good news but who is it for?
In reading from Isaiah, Jesus declared, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath
anointed me to preach good tidings" - the Gospel - "unto the meek."
The Gospel is for the meek, those who are conscious of their inadequacies and needs and are
reaching out for help. The best way to understand the word "meek" is to separate it: me...ek.
When I realize how "eeky" I am, I know what meek is all about. The Gospel is for those who
recognize their need for something more, who are dissatisfied with their current status, who desire
a better life.
Many people today are very satisfied with their lives. They're satisfied with their possessions
and situations. The Gospel isn't for them. Other people today are extremely proud of themselves.
The Gospel isn't for them, either.
The Gospel Message
What does the Gospel do? First, it is meant "to bind up the brokenhearted." We've seen
Valentine's Day cards that show broken hearts. Sometimes the heart is broken through the middle
and sometimes it is totally fractured. Our hearts often break because of unreciprocated love. We
have a deep love for another, but it's not received and accepted. This causes our hearts to break.
I wonder how many times God's heart is broken over us.
Our hearts often break over our own failures and weaknesses. We promise ourselves that
we'll do certain things, but we don't seem to be capable of achieving them. So, we experience
heartbreak over our inadequacies. Our desire to be what we apparently can't be and to achieve
what apparently is beyond our capacity causes personal heartbreak.
The Gospel has come to bind up the brokenhearted, to let us know that we can be what God
would have us to be. The good news is that we can achieve, attain, and experience a love that
flows and flows and doesn't quit.
The second thing that the Gospel does is "to proclaim liberty to the captives." Paul spoke of those who had fallen in the snares of the devil and had been taken captive against their will (2 Timothy 2:26 KJV). Many people today have fallen into the snare of the devil and have been taken captive by the devil against their own will. In another passage Paul referred to those "who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15).
We often use the term "free moral agent," but's it's almost a misnomer. To say that man is a free moral agent when he cannot help but to do things he does is a contradiction. If some compelling force is driving you to do things even when you don't want to do them, you're not free. You're a captive.
Sin often comes to you with a sugar-coated covering. You taste
it and "Wow!" - you plunge right in. After the sugar is gone,
you taste the bitter portion and try to spit it out. But now
it's lodged in your throat and you can't get rid of it. If
you're controlled by a cigarette habit or if you've got to have a
drink, don't tell me you're a free moral agent. You're a captive
- and the bitterness is just pouring into your system.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has come to set free those who are
captive. He can break every snare and deliver men from all the
bondage of corruption that has held them in its power.
The third thing the Gospel does is "the opening of the prison to
them that are bound". Today the Gospel will open the prison that
you find yourself in.
When we were in Ecuador, the missionaries told us that if we get
involved in a car accident, even if it's not our fault, the best
thing to do is to go immediately to the airport and catch the
next plane out of the country. When you're involved in an
accident down there, guilty or innocent, you'll land in jail.
You have to stay in jail until you can prove you are innocent,
but you may not get a court date for five years. And in Ecuador
they don't feed the prisoners. Someone on the outside has to
feed you or you'll starve to death. And that's one of the nicer
things about the jails.
I've heard about the Mexican jails. If you get thrown in, your
influence in the United States doesn't mean anything to the
judge. The say the best thing is to stay out, because once your
in, you're really in. I don't know how true that is, but I don't
want to experiment to find out.
Let's say you're in jail in Mexico. You've tried every way to
get out. You've written to the Mexican government, the American
consulate, the UN. You've done everything, and you've finally
concluded that you're not going to get out. So now you want to
escape. Someone comes along and says, "I have a friend who can
get you out."
"How can your friend get me out? Man, I've tried everything."
"What makes you so sure."
"He's freed thousands of others."
"Really, what do I have to do?"
"Just trust him."
"But how's he going to do it?"
"I don't know. He has his own ways. But I know he can."
"But if I don't know how he does it, I'm not sure I want to trust
"It's your choice, friend. Either rot in jail or take a chance."
We find ourselves in the prison of our own lust and sin. The
good news comes that there's One who can deliver us, set us free,
open the doors of the prison and liberate us. But we've got to
put our trust in Him completely. We've got to commit ourselves
totally into His hands, trusting that He can do what He has
promised. We can be assured that He's already delivered
thousands out of that same jail. He has set multitudes free from
the bondage of sin.
He can set you free today from your prison, if you'll give Him a
There is an urgency in this Gospel of Jesus Christ. "...To
proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Though the Lord is
offering you this freedom today, His offer is subject to
withdrawal at any time. You see, Jesus Christ is under no
obligation to save you at all. He doesn't owe you anything. His
offer comes to you strictly because He is so good and loving that
He hates to see you in a mess, So He offers to set you free.
However, this offer will be withdrawn - just when, we don't know.
God told Noah, "My spirit shall not always strive with man"
(Genesis 6:3 KJV). If you reject His offer today, you can't be
sure whether the offer will be good tomorrow. "Behold, now is
the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2
Corinthians 6:2 KJV). "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found,
call ye upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6 KJV). "Remember
now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days
come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no
pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1 KJV).
We proclaim to you "the acceptable year of the Lord." "Now is
the accepted time." Now is the time for you to receive this
glorious Gospel. Now is the time for you to be set free.
There is coming a "day of vengeance of our God" (Isaiah 61:2).
His offer will then be withdrawn and men shall experience nothing
but what they justly deserve for their sins: the "day of
vengeance of our God."
The Gospel Power
What will the Gospel do for you? Isaiah 61:3 (KJV) reads "... to
give unto them beauty for ashes..." I love the "power" of the
Gospel! I've seen the effects of the Gospel, and I've seen it
bring out the beauty for ashes. Some people are burned-out,
wasted, and destroyed. I've seen the Spirit of God take those
burned-out lives and remake, remold, and reshape them into new
and beautiful men and women.
I think of Mike MacIntosh, the pastor of our church in San Diego.
When Mike first came to church, he was totally burned-out. He
had taken so much acid and speed that he thought a bag was over
his head and a .45 pistol was going off inside his brain. He
would hear the explosion over and over.
As I watched this handsome but totally burned-out young man, I
wondered if he would ever recover from the damage done to his
brain cells. I saw God take those ashes and begin to work with
them - mold, shape, and change. I saw God restore Mike's wife
and children. I saw God restore all that he had lost through his
Today, I see that beautiful young man standing before a glorious
congregation in San Diego, with the glow of Jesus on his face and
the love of Christ radiating from his life. I realize the power
of the Gospel gives "beauty for ashes."
"The oil of joy for mourning ..." (Isaiah 61:3 KJV). Many people today find themselves in deep depression and sorrow of heart, grieved not only over themselves and their inadequacies, failures, and inabilities to cope, but with all of society. Our glorious Gospel gives the "the oil of joy for mourning." It will lift your life from depression, sorrow, despair, and despondency to joy and hope.
The Gospel will also give you "... the garment of praise for the
spirit of heaviness ..." (Isaiah 6:3 KJV). Jesus said, "Come
unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy leaden..." (Matthew
11:28 KJV). If the burden you're carrying is heavier than you
can bear, if you feel pressed down by life and by your
circumstances, our glorious Gospel will fill your heart and life
with praises unto God. How glorious to see people who once
wallowed in the dejection and hopelessness of this world now walk
with a spring in their steps, a smile on their faces, and the
garment of praise covering their lives. That's the effect of
this glorious Gospel.
The Gospel Glory
What is the purpose of the Gospel? That we "might be called
trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might
be glorified" (Isaiah 61.3 KJV). God has done His work so that
we might glorify Him. "To God be the glory, great things He hath
done." As we see lives changed - men and women set free and
remade through the power of Jesus Christ, born again by the
Spirit of God - we give glory to God for His work. These
hopeless lives are now "trees of righteousness, the planting of
the Lord." The changes are God's work wrought in them, and there
is no other explanation for it.
So often a man who has fought against alcoholism has been
defeated by it. His life is burned out, and he's an outcast.
You see him in the street in his pitiful condition. He has cried
out for help. His family has tried to help him. But finally
everyone has given up, and we call him a bum. As the power of
the Gospel touches the ashes of his life and begins to turn him
around, it changes and set him free. The Gospel liberates him
from that prison and makes of him a glorious person, beautiful to
behold, a tower of strength within the community.
Only the Gospel can do that, and only God can be glorified for
it. That's the purpose of the Gospel.
The Gospel Truth
You ask, "Just what is the Gospel, the good news?" Just this:
Though you have failed and sinned, God loves you. God loves you
so much that He sent His Son to set you free from your prison.
If you'll put your trust completely in Him, He'll free you today,
change your life, and make you what God wants you to be.
We have a glorious Gospel, but there's only one difficulty. To
be effective it has to be applied. A fellow once asked a
minister, "If your Gospel is so great, why isn't everyone a
Christian?" The pastor responded, "If soap is so good, why isn't
everyone clean?" Does the fact of dirty people testify against
the value of soap? No,. It works, but you have to apply it.