Isaiah 26:1-4 ESV
“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
The strong city is not a physical city with physical walls, but it is a spiritual city with salvation as its walls and bulwarks (defenses). This could only be the body of Christ, a holy nation. We, as believers in Jesus Christ are the salt of the earth and we are the light of the world, a city on a hill not able to be hidden. And we are only strong in the grace and in the strength of the Lord as we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and we submit to his will.
Collectively we are called the church, but that term “church” has come to mean something else. It has come to be associated with institutions of men, with church denominations, with physical buildings, some with steeples on top, and with corporations under the state via the 501c3 tax exempt status (USA). It has also come to be associated with gatherings of people of the world mixed in with professing Christians, and so it isn’t the pure body of Christ. It is a mixture of the world and a blend of worldliness and religion.
And Jesus is not the head of these human institutions. Men are. And these institutions of men called “church” are being run just like businesses, and they are marketing “the church” to the world via appealing to the felt needs of the people of the world and their fleshly appetites. And they are also diluting the gospel to make it more acceptable to the world and to human flesh, and the Holy Spirit has been kicked out of most in favor of marketing books which are telling the people how to conduct “church.”
And these “churches,” i.e. these businesses which are being marketed to the world via worldly means and methods are not opening their doors that the righteous nation (God’s holy nation, his true church) that keeps faith may enter in, but they are opening their doors so that the world may enter in. And so they are altering “church” and the gospel so that the world will want to enter into their gatherings and will feel comfortable and at home there.
Now, when this talks about the righteous nation entering the doors into this strong city, this is not teaching “works-based salvation.” It is not teaching that we are saved by our own good works. But we do not enter into true salvation with our Lord Jesus unless we humble ourselves, and we surrender our lives to Christ, and we die with Christ to sin, and we are raised with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Yes, God does this. We can’t save ourselves. But we have to yield to his work in our lives. And we have to submit to his Lordship.
We must forsake our lives of sin and willingly yield control of our lives over to the Lord to follow him in his ways and in his truth. He does his work in and through us but only as we partner with him and as we cooperate with his work of grace, and only as we walk in obedience to his commands, in his power and strength. We have to be those who keep the faith that God provides. And our minds need to be stayed on our Lord and on putting our trust fully in him, and on obeying him and following him wherever he leads us. Our minds are to be fixed on things above, not on things on the earth.
Isaiah 26:7-9 ESV
“The path of the righteous is level;
you make level the way of the righteous.
In the path of your judgments,
O Lord, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.”
The righteous are not those who merely make a profession of Christ as Savior and/or who verbally confess him as “Lord.” They are not those who are merely righteous as a status based on faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, we are made righteous via our faith in Jesus Christ, but that faith comes from God, and Jesus is the author of our faith, and he is the perfecter of our faith, so that faith is going to be of God in every respect, and it will submit to God and to his will and purposes for our lives.
And the Scriptures teach that the righteous are those who are living righteously, who make righteousness their practice, but not their own righteousness, but the righteousness of God. We are righteous who live righteously, in other words. We are righteous who have died with Christ to sin and who have been raised with Christ to newness of life in him and who are now no longer in slavery to sin but who are now slaves to God and to his righteousness, who are now walking according to the Spirit, by the Spirit.
And that is why our path (our way) is level (upright). It is because we are living righteously, not just claiming God’s righteousness over our lives. And the Lord makes upright the way of the righteous, who are living the Christian life and who are walking in the ways of the Lord and who are doing what God requires, though not necessarily with absolute perfection, but certainly in practice, as a matter of life course. And this reminds me of this passage in Titus 2:11-14:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
And those who are truly righteous in the sight of God will desire the Lord, and they will yearn for the Lord, even in the night, and their spirits will earnestly seek after the Lord. And this is because God truly is living within them, by his Spirit, and so they have the mind of God, of his Spirit living within them, and the Spirit is putting within them the desire for God and for his holiness and righteousness, and for his word, and for obedience to his commands.
So, if that doesn’t describe you, but instead you are longing and thirsting after the things of this world and the desires of the flesh and sinful pleasures and for ways to get out of obeying the Lord, the Scriptures teach that you are not in true relationship with God and that you will die in your sins, and you will not have eternal life with God. For no true follower of God will believe that God is okay with him sinning in practice or that God does not expect obedience of him. Such thinking as that is of Satan, not of God.
Isaiah 26:9-11 ESV
“For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
If favor is shown to the wicked,
he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
and does not see the majesty of the Lord.
O Lord, your hand is lifted up,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people and be ashamed.”
I believe this passage of Scripture says a lot about the present condition of our world and of the church at large here in America (or what is falsely being called “church”). For what is largely being taught as the gospel here makes no requirements for the forsaking of sin, for obedience to Christ, and for honoring Christ as Lord of our lives. It calls that “works-based salvation.” They teach a diluted gospel which teaches a human faith as all you need to have heaven guaranteed you. But you need God-given faith.
And God-given faith is going to lead you to die to sin and live to righteousness in the power of God. And God-given faith is going to lead you to no longer live for yourself but for Jesus who gave his life up for you. And it is going to lead you to humble yourself, to turn from your sins, to obey the Lord, to walk in his ways, and to do what he commands. For this is what it means to be righteous, by God’s Spirit.
Now many people are not following the true gospel of Jesus Christ but they are following after the diluted gospel which leaves the adherent still in bondage to sin, still walking in sin in disobedience to the Lord, with no hope of salvation or of eternal life with God but while falsely promising them both. And so they aren’t learning righteousness. They are learning how to get buy with as little as possible in hopes that heaven will be their eternal destiny.
And so, in order for the Lord to teach them true righteousness, sometimes he has to visit them in judgment to get their attention. I believe personally that God is judging his adulterous church right now for turning his church into a marketplace and for diluting his gospel and for teaching lies in his name. And I believe that is why America, in particular, is going through the trials she is going through right now, and I believe it has to get worse before many will bow the knee to Jesus and will truly repent of their sins.
So, the prayer here is that the Lord would show his zeal for his people. And his zeal is that his people would live righteously, that they would forsake their sins, that they would obey him, and that they would love him and their fellow humans. And it is that God the Father would protect his children from the evil one, because they are still living in this world. And that he would watch over the righteous who are being hated by the world and by the worldly church, too. And it is that we would all be sanctified by the word of truth, which is the gospel.
I Pray for Them
An Original Work / June 4, 2013
Based off John 17
“Glorify Your Son, that Your Son
May glorify our God in heav’n.
Father, You granted Him all power
And all authority over men,
That He might give eternal life
To all those whom now
You have given Him.”
“This now then is eternal life:
That they may know You,
Father, and Your Son;
That they may know the only true God,
And Jesus Christ whom the Father sent.
I have brought You the glory by
Finishing the work that You’ve given Me.”
“I have shown You to those whom
You gave to Me out of the world;
They were Yours. You gave them to Me
And they have obeyed Your words
And they accepted them. They knew
That I came from You, and they believed
With certainty, I was sent.”
“Holy Father, I pray for them by the
Power of Your name: Protect them,
So that they may be one as we are,
For they are still living in this world.
I have given them Your word;
Because of Your word, the world
Has hated them.”
“I pray they may have the full measure of
My joy now living within them.
Father, I pray You sanctify them
By Your word; truly Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I send them to tell the world to repent.”