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Audience of One
Brett Anderson ©2005

Isaiah 53

"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgement he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

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Okay, for those of you who don't know me as well, my gym history is something like this. I have received two of those free gym passes regular gym members get from time to time - once for three weeks and the other time for a week I think. Both times I went along with good intentions and determination and spent a decent amount of time at the gym using the running and the cycling machines (pretty much the two things you don't have to go to a gym to do!) and that was that.

My Argus Cycle Tour history (106km cycling race in March in South Africa which I've done 13 times) is on average two cycles a year - last year I got a bit excited and went on a few training rides with my dad and sister but the year before that I think I touched my bike twice in the whole year before leading up to the race - a cycle of 5km and a cycle to the Baptist church which was two blocks from my house.

I play club hockey and at the moment (Summer League) we don't practice at all - just pitch up for the match - and during the heavy winter season we do a whole one practice a week.

In terms of swimming, those who know me know I'm not really a beach person and I maybe swim twice a year cos I'm a bit of a wuss and not fond of cold water.

So that's a bit of my fitness kind of background.

Well, let me tell you that since coming to Stellenbosch I'm a changed man - in the first 4 days of being here I swam 7 times (there's a pool where I stay of decent size) and at 6:15 Friday morning I was in the gym (yip, doing the cycling and the running but I'll move on to other stuff in time!) and then again on Monday and will be tomorrow hopefully.

Anyways, when I read the Isaiah 53 passage last week I thought, "That's me!" - words and phrases like 'stricken', 'smitten', 'pierced', 'crushed' and 'led like a lamb to the slaughter' - "That's my gym experience!" and so that's where Sunday's sermon and this thort came from.

The title of the message was "Not the What? but the Why? and the Who?" [in terms of spiritual disciplines and living the life]

vs 5 "pierced for our transgressions" "crushed for our iniquities"

Why do we go to gym? Because we enjoy the pain? [I really hope not or I'm outta there!]

I think if we get caught up with the WHAT? of the story: Jesus was pierced... crushed... betrayed... denied... crucified... forsaken... killed...

...then there is a danger of us missing the point. Now who of you saw 'The Passion of the Christ?' That movie really focused on the pain and suffering that Jesus went through and I think that really helped a lot of us to realise again what it is all about. Often it becomes too easy to say, 'Jesus died for my sins' and it's become like a catch phrase for us and we lose the real meaning (physical, emotional, spiritual) of what it meant to Jesus.

So I'm not saying that we should not be aware of the WHAT? - I think it is important that we remember the WHAT? BUT the big question, that we should give more focus to, is the WHY?

Why do we put ourselves through the turmoil of gym? For the end result! Why was Jesus 'pierced' and 'crushed?' For OUR transgressions and OUR iniquities.

"For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life." [John 3:16]

The end of the Isaiah passage illustrates some of the reason as well:

"Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

Why do we do gym? So we can look good, and be healthy. Why did Jesus die? So we can look good before God (be spotless of our sin and presentable to Him whereas before, being a holy and just God, He would have been unable to look on us and accept us as we were, filled with sin.) and be in a place of health (Jesus died to bring about restoration and healing)

In terms of spiritual disciplines and living the life:

Firstly just a quick interlude to share something about me. A lot of people who know me a little or who have observed me over the past few years might think that I hate tradition. But I really don't. I love tradition. What I do hate is tradition for tradition's sake. If we are doing something that we have always done because there is a good reason for doing so, then I am all for it. But so often we get caught up in doing stuff (in church, in our personal lives) and don't even know the reason behind it. I think it is always important to keep on asking/thinking about why we do the stuff we do.

When it comes to spiritual disciplines: things like prayer, quiet times, fasting, reading the Bible - in themselves I would say they are meaningless - they are the WHAT?

For example I think that prayer is meaningless (sits back nervously and waits for the explosions to cease) - let me give you an example though - when I was in primary school and I think for a while at high school we used to once a week at assembly recite or sing 'The Lord's prayer' found in Matthew 6. For 90% of those people and maybe even 100% some of the time, it meant nothing - it was just a tradition that was done - hardly anyone focused on what we were saying and most people probably couldn't even tell you what it was about. So for the most part the prayer (as a thing stated or sung) was meaningless. BUT, within that context, every time a person genuinely said or sung that prayer from their heart's and meant the words to God then it became a real prayer - it became connection to God and it became meaningful. So the words, style or sound of the prayer were not important but it was the heart behind it that made it meaningful or not.

Another example of this is the story in Luke 21:1-4 with Jesus observing the offering at the temple. The rich guy throws in a whole bunch of money and the poor old lady throws in two coins. The meaning behind this story was that it was not so much the WHAT? (how much money was given) as the WHY? (the rich man gave of his excess, the lady gave everything she had, demonstrating her faith in God and His priority in her life - the sacrifice of offering that she gave!) We can be distracted by looking at the WHAT? in different parts of church or the Christian life when we should be focusing on the WHY?

Back to the gym - my motivation for doing situps is not so that after a year at the gym I can be a good 'sittupper' - my motivation for lifting weights (which I'll get to one day soon) is not so that I become good at lifting weights... No, the focus of gyming is to gain strength or muscle or attract girls or whatever (lifting weights and situps are just the means.)

With spiritual disciplines it's the same - the purpose of me praying lots is not so one day I'll become a good pray'er... No! It's to build my relationship with God. The purpose of the disciplines is never the discipline but the relationship behind the discipline, that doing the discipline will hopefully strengthen or build up.

Some people seem to be so scared of legalism when it comes to spiritual disciplines or the encouraging of them (people might feel guilty or pressured) that they go to the opposite extreme and don't mention them or teach them at all. I don't want you to get the impression that I'm saying 'Don't do spiritual disciplines!' You MUST do them. They're important. In fact, they're essential! BUT what I am saying is don't get caught in doing spiritual disciplines for the sake of spiritual disciplines - the focus and endpoint must always be relationship. [Sometimes though, relationship does require doing things we don't always enjoy all the time or find easy so sometimes effort and perseverance is required.)

Once again, focus is not on the WHAT? but the WHY?

In terms of living the life, being sold out for Jesus, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 gives some teaching:

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.."

Again, not the WHAT? but the WHY? Without love as a motivation, any actions we do mean nothing. Christianity must be about being real and genuine - living out of the overflow of the love that God has poured into our lives - rather than just doing stuff we feel we 'must do' because it's right.

The one warning I can give you at this point is that if you start to live like that you may find that it starts to get a little messy. But that is often a sign that you are doing it right, cos just look at the life of Jesus: Jesus and the Samaritan; Jesus and the prostitute; Jesus and the sinners and drunkards he was accused of partying with; Jesus spitting on the blind man's eyes to bring healing; and then Jesus crucified on the cross (surely God could have designed a less messy way for man to be saved?)

And that is the kind of churches we need to be building - ones that aren't afraid to be a little messy - be welcoming to the homeless, inviting to the homosexual, loving of the sinners (while not compromising on the intolerance of the sin!)

From my observations I think that for the most part religion is pretty and ordered and neat. Relationships on the other hand, if they're real, tend towards being messy, hard work, uncomfortable at times... that's the Kingdom of God that we are all meant to be a part of creating!

Lastly, (maybe this is a thort you should print out to get maximum effect cos it is rather long) it is Not the WHAT? but the WHO?

In terms of spiritual disciplines, Matthew 6:1-4, 5-8, 16-18 discuss giving, prayer and fasting and how when you do them you should not be doing them to be noticed, but rather in secret knowing that your Father in heaven sees what you are doing and will reward you (altho that should not be the motivation!) - and then the story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector praying in the temple where the tax collector falls on his face before God and cries 'Have mercy on me a sinner' while the pious holier-than-thou Pharisee prays something like 'Thank you God that I am not like that sinful man.'

No the WHAT? but the WHO?

In terms of living the life, the question is there as well - Who is your target audience? Who are you living in front of? The world, who gives you notice and attention while you're still performing (as illustrated in the story of the prodigal son where the moment his money runs out, so do his friends) or God? Matthew 6:20 reminds us that if you are trying to impress men, you have already got your reward and that we should be working towards treasure in heaven which lasts.

Live for the audience of One!

And so, in summation - in terms of spiritual disciplines and living as a Christian:

[1] Not the WHAT? but the WHY? [2] Not the WHAT? but the WHO?

We all get different talents, opportunities, spheres of influence in life... it is not so much what or how much you get as what you do with what you've been given. We are called to be FAITHFUL!

I encourage you to take a look at your motivations and audience in life and to be always living to be Faithful In Serving Him [FISH]