Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
I am in real trouble when it comes to choosing just part of Isaiah 55! Much of it has been set to music, and I can’t read it without that music flowing through my heart and mind. The truth in this chapter is worthy of a lifetime of meditation! The invitation expressed here displays God’s heart marvelously, so much so that we tend to feel it’s too good to be true. However, it is amazingly, gloriously true! These two verses express not only the depth of God’s mercy, but also the need for repentance. These days – and actually throughout history – some people have misread God’s grace and mercy to mean that they can “come to Him” and still keep living however they were before. That’s a lie from the pit of hell. Jesus’ message, at its most fundamental, is expressed in the first chapter of Mark. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) The invitation is to repent and believe, not just believe and receive. When we believe we do receive, but if we don’t repent, we haven’t really believed. Isaiah makes it clear that repentance means leaving things behind, both actions and the thoughts that underlie them. We can’t pick up the good stuff God has for us without putting down the bad stuff we’ve been carrying. There are things of which we want to be free, but we have to let go of them to gain our freedom. Monkeys can be caught by putting something they want into a jar with a narrow mouth, and then firmly anchoring the jar to something. The monkey will put its hand in to grasp what they want, but their fist is too big to come back through the mouth of the jar, and they are caught. We have to let go to be free.
This is something I have experienced myself, and as a pastor I see it in others all the time. Japanese often want to “follow Christ” without letting go of the religious traditions of their ancestors. Some groups have compromised with that, but that can be a slippery slope indeed. I am to keep proclaiming, “come,” but not fail to say, “forsake”. It is only those who have repented who can receive God’s full salvation and walk as His disciples, His agents. I too am tempted by numbers, to cut corners to get more people into the building, but doing so wouldn’t actually save anyone and would totally destroy my ministry. I am not to allow the traditions of men to be barriers to people coming to Christ, but I must never stray from the grace and holiness of God.
Father, thank You for this reminder. You know who has come most recently to “be saved” without wanting to let go of the lies of the devil. I ask Your grace and mercy for them, and especially the courage to let go. They have gone far in their pursuit of a lie, and it will take a clear act of Your Holy Spirit to enable them to renounce that, but nothing is impossible for You. I ask You to guide my interactions with them, and with everyone, so that Your invitation may go out undistorted, bringing many to light and life, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!