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Sermon #5 Isaiah Series
Title: Contemptible Religion
Text: Isaiah 1:10-18
Subject: God’s Contempt for Man’s Religion
Date: Sunday Evening — June 5, 2016
Readings: Cody Henson and Mark Daniel
Nothing in all the world is so evil, vile, and contemptible in the sight of God as self-righteous, legal, works religion. God hates sin, all sin. — “The wages of sin is death.” — But some sins are greater and more offensive to God than others (Matthew 23:23-38). Murder is a horrible crime against God and man. Adultery is a vile, loathsome thing. Homosexuality is perverse, obnoxious moral degeneracy. It is a sad commentary on our society that the laws of our land and the philosophy of the age defend the rights of base homosexuals and the slaughter of unborn babies in the name of morality! But murder, adultery, and homosexuality are not the most contemptible things in the world in the sight of God.
Proposition: The most contemptible thing in the world in God’s sight is self-righteous, legal, works religion.
I realize that I use the words “legal, self-righteous, works religion” a good bit. And some of you may be uncertain about my meanings. Let me be unmistakably clear. Legal, self-righteous, works religion is any form of religion which teaches, implies, or leads men to believe that a man’s acceptance with God depends upon, is determined by, or is conditioned in any way upon man. Those who teach that . . .
Š Salvation begins with an act of man’s free will.
Š Justification depends upon man’s obedience.
Š Sanctification depends upon man’s obedience.
Š Our fellowship with God depends upon our personal obedience to the law.
Š Preservation in grace depends upon personal holiness.
Š Reward in heaven depends upon our good works — practice, legal, self-righteous, works religion.
And their religion is utterly contemptible in the sight of God. The title of my message tonight Contemptible Religion. My text is Isaiah 1:10-18. — Contemptible Religion — (Isaiah 1:10-18). The LORD God, the holy, righteous, just, and true LORD God here gives us his view of the religion men everywhere love and practice.
(Isaiah 1:10-18) “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. (11) To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (12) When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? (13) Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. (15) And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. (16) Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; (17) Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (18) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Divisions: God is here speaking to men, fallen, depraved, sinful men, but exceedingly devout, religious men. As we go through these verses, let me give you an outline to follow.
1. (v. 10) — God’s Means of Communication.
2. (vv. 11-15) — God’s Message of Contempt.
3. (vv. 16-17) — God’s Method of Conviction.
4. (v. 18) — God’s Mercy and Compassion.
1st — I want you to see God’s means of communication (v. 10).
(Isaiah 1:10) “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.”
Here is God speaking to men. But he does not speak to men directly. He is speaking through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah. It is always that way. Today, men mock, belittle, and deride the preaching of the gospel. But they do so to the ruin of their own souls. If you ever hear from God, you will hear from him through the voice of a man. These people heard Isaiah’s voice. But the words they heard were God’s words. The message was God’s message.
Because Isaiah spoke from a heart filled with love for the souls of men and the glory of God, he used great plainness of speech, so that the people to whom he spoke might know exactly who he was speaking to and exactly what he was saying. He was not content merely to tell the truth. He was determined to make those who heard him understand the truth.
The prophet of God plainly exposed the sinfulness of all who heard his voice. — He called the rulers of Judea Sodomites and compared the inhabitants of the land to the “people of Gomorrah.” Remember, Isaiah preached in the king’s court! He knew nothing of diplomacy. He is telling the most outwardly religious people in the world that God almighty looks upon them and their religion and their good works with the same contempt with which he looks upon a band of Sodomites!
Will we ever hear what God declares? — The best works of the best, most orthodox, most devoted people in the world apart from the merits of Christ, are no more worthy of God’s approval and acceptance than the loathsome, perverse practices of homosexuality.
Š No man by nature has any personal righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).
Š No man, saved or unsaved, has the ability to produce righteousness (Jeremiah 13:23).
Illustration: “The iniquity of the holy things” (Exodus 28:38).
(Exodus 28:36-38) “And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. (37) And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. (38) And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.”
Our tears need to be wept over. Our repentance needs to be repented of. Our holiness needs to be bathed in the blood of Christ. We have nothing to offer God but sin. Sin is what we are. Sin is what we think. Sin is what we feel. Sin is what we speak. Sin is what we do.
The only way any man can obtain righteousness is by the righteousness of Christ by faith (Romans 9:29-33).
(Romans 9:29-10:4) “And as Esaias said before, Except the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. (30) What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. (31) But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (1) Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (2) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.”
If you would escape the wrath of God, “hear the word of the LORD” and “give ear unto the law of our God.” — God help you to pay attention to me now. Do not hear the words of men or give ear to the religious doctrines, customs, and traditions of this world. If you do, if you follow the popular, accepted, approved religion of this world, you will lose your immortal soul.
“Hear the word of the LORD” — What does it say? What is the message of God’s Holy Word? Hear it — “Salvation is of the LORD.” —— “Give ear unto the law of our God.”
Š Hear the law of God as given by Moses. What does it say? — “Salvation is of the LORD.”
Š Hear the law of God revealed in the gospel (1 John 3:23). What does it say? — “Salvation is of the LORD.”
The law and the gospel are not opposed to one another. The law and the gospel are both a part of God’s revelation of himself in Holy Scripture. The law shows us that it is impossible for man to save himself. The gospel shows us that God in Christ can save the chief of sinners. Both declare, “Salvation is of the LORD.” Both show us how God can and must be “a just God and a Savior.”
Do not despise the preaching of the gospel. You neglect it to the peril of your own soul. This is God’s means of communication. If he ever speaks salvation to your soul, it will be by the voice of a gospel preacher (Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 1:21-23; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25).
(Romans 10:17) “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:21-23) “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.”
(James 1:18) “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
(1 Peter 1:23-25) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. (24) For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: (25) But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
2nd — I want us to hear God’s message of contempt (vv. 11- 15). I cannot stress this point enough. I keep hammering away at this thing, hoping that someone will hear me and pay attention. God holds the religion of this world, legal, free will, self-righteous, works religion, in utter, absolute contempt!
(Isaiah 1:11-15) “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (12) When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? (13) Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. (15) And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
Š Remember, these people were Jews, the lineal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Š They were orthodox in their creed, but not in their hearts. — Their creed, to put it in modern terms, was thoroughly Calvinistic. But their hearts were thoroughly Arminian.
Š Their outward form of religion was precisely as God had ordained it. — They came to the place God had appointed, with the sacrifices God had appointed, at the time God had appointed. But there was one fatal mistake. — These men and women vainly and foolishly imagined that their religious devotion, ceremonies, sacrifices, prayers, and sabbath keeping were meritorious with God. They did not say so in word. But they inwardly entertained the hope that God would accept them because of what they did. They built their confidence upon the works of their own hands! And for that God was angry. God refused to hear their prayers, receive their sacrifices, or accept their services.
They brought sacrifices to God and burned them upon the altar. — But they trusted the sacrifices they brought to God rather than Christ, the Lamb of God, whom those sacrifices were meant to represent (v. 11).
(Isaiah 1:11) “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.”
Š The Lambs — Christ (John 1:29).
Š The Altar — Christ our Altar (Hebrews 13:10).
Š The Mercy Seat — Christ our Propitiation (Romans 3:24-26).
Because they trusted their own works and refused to trust the blood and righteousness of Christ, God refused both them and their sacrifices (v. 12).
(Isaiah 1:12) “When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?”
All their gifts and services to God were vain oblations (v. 13), because they imagined that their gifts and services made them righteous. — They thought their own obedience was meritorious. Therefore, they would not and could not trust the merits of Christ’s obedience (Romans 5:19). As long as you imagine that anything in you, or done by you, is acceptable to God, you cannot and will not trust Christ.
Their incense, the symbol of Christ’s intercession, was an abomination (v. 13), because they saw no need of a mediator to make intercession for them. — Thank God, Christ is a great High Priest, who makes intercession for transgressors according to the will of God. But you will never trust him to intercede for you until you know that you cannot approach God without him.
Their new moons, feasts kept on the first day of the month, were obnoxious (v. 13), because they never ate Christ’s flesh and drank his blood by faith (John 6:51-56).
(John 6:51-56) “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (52) The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (53) Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (54) Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (55) For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (56) He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”
They meticulously kept their solemn feasts. But they never fed upon the Bread of Life!
Their sabbath days were sacrilege (v. 13) because they found no rest in Christ our Sabbath (Hebrews 4:9-11).
(Hebrews 4:9-11) “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. (10) For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. (11) Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
Their solemn assemblies for worship were assemblies of iniquity which God hated, was weary of, and refused to accept (vv. 13-14) because they were assemblies of empty, legal, self-righteous religion.
(Isaiah 1:13-14) “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.”
Even their prayers were an abomination to God (v. 15), because the hands they spread in prayer were full of blood. — Hear the Word of God. If you spread your hands out to God in prayer, but have no heart faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you attempt to approach God upon the ground of your own merit, without faith in Christ, your hands are full of blood. God will not hear you. Your hands are full of the blood of Christ. Your willful unbelief screams out “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And his blood is upon your hands.
Now hear what God is teaching us in this passage. — Religion without Christ is worse than useless. It is damning to the souls of men.
Illustration: Joab (I Kings 2:28-34)
(1 Kings 2:28-34) “Then tidings came to Joab: for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. (29) And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. (30) And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me. (31) And the king said unto him, Do as he hath said, and fall upon him, and bury him; that thou mayest take away the innocent blood, which Joab shed, from me, and from the house of my father. (32) And the LORD shall return his blood upon his own head, who fell upon two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword, my father David not knowing thereof, to wit, Abner the son of Ner, captain of the host of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, captain of the host of Judah. (33) Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed forever: but upon David, and upon his seed, and upon his house, and upon his throne, shall there be peace forever from the LORD. (34) So Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell upon him, and slew him: and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness.”
Our most costly sacrifices, and most devoted services, and most meticulous observances of moral, religious duty can never atone for sin or obtain God’s favor. Our only hope of acceptance with God is the blood and righteousness of Christ (I Corinthians 1:30-31).
(1 Corinthians 1:30-31) “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
3rd — We are given an example of God’s method of conviction (vv. 16-17).
(Isaiah 1:16-17) “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; (17) Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
In these two verses, God is not telling us that if we will stop doing evil and begin doing good, then he will be merciful to us. He is showing us the utter impossibility of self-salvation. When God says, “Be ye holy,” he is not saying “Be as holy as you can.” He is saying, “If you would be accepted of me you must be perfectly holy, as I am holy.” He intends by such statements to show us two things.
1. “By the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified” (Romans 3:19-226).
(Romans 3:19-26) “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (20) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (21) But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; (22) Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (24) Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (25) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
2. If we would be saved we must be saved by the merits of a substitute — The Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthian 5:17-21).
(2 Corinthians 5:17-21) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
If you would be accepted of God, if you would have eternal acceptance with him, there are four things you must do.
1. You must purge all sin from your own heart and nature. — You must give yourself a holy nature. — “Wash you, make you clean.”
2. You must put all your past sins out of God’s sight. — “Put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes.”
3. You must “cease to do evil.”
4. You must “learn to do well.” — To love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.
Go ahead and try. — These are the things for which God holds you responsible. But you have no ability to perform them.
Our only hope of salvation and eternal acceptance with God is that someone may do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. — Blessed be God! There is One who can! The Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God can …
Š Make you clean by the regeneration of his Spirit. — Imparted righteousness (John 3:9-10) — “Christ in you.” — “Partakers of the Divine Nature.”
(1 John 3:9-10) “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (10) In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
Š Put away your sin by his blood atonement (Isaiah 43:24-25).
(Isaiah 43:24-25) “Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. (25) I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
Š Cause you to cease to do evil by the power of his grace (1 Peter 4:1-2).
(1 Peter 4:1-2” “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; (2) That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.”
Š Cause you to do well by the imputation of his righteousness (Romans 5:19).
4th — I want you to know God’s mercy and compassion toward helpless sinners (v. 18).
(Isaiah 1:18) “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Here is the LORD God himself entreating guilty sinners, like you and me, even those who have been guilty of the base crimes of legal, self-righteous, works religion to come to him by faith in Christ and obtain full pardon for all our sins.
Š “Come now!”
Š “Let us reason together!”
God reasons with you on the basis of his covenant grace, his Son’s obedience, his gospel promises, and your desperate need. We must reason with God on the same ground. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and your scarlet red sins shall be as white as the wool of the spotless Lamb of God, as white as the newly fallen snow.