Evangelist Serving in Houston—Bringing Hope after Hurricane Harvey
Our Lord continues to build his church through the ministry of men whom he calls and endues with special gifts for teaching, ruling, and serving…While it is the calling of every believer to confess Christ before men, and while God gives particular gifts and calling to some to minister the Word, and while every minister of the Word must evangelize in the fulfillment of his calling, there are some who are particularly called by Christ and his church as evangelists. OPC Book of Church Order
Evangelist Nick Lammé, now installed to serve in the Houston area, serves families and singles affected by Hurricane Harvey. Take a look at the whole story.
After a man takes his public vows, an exhortation—often called a charge—spells out to him some of the aspects of fulfilling his vows, to carry out the responsibilities before him. The Presbytery carries out the installation service. I had the privilege to give the charge.
Here are some of my notes from last night, an exhortation to Lammé at Cornerstone OPC in Houston, Texas. We look at Isaiah 61.
Hurricane Harvey has reminded us all that the creation groans.
Perhaps we all remember Romans 8:20-22, we read “…the creation was subjected to God's curse. [and the same] creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. [the Apostle Paul says] ….. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
The August 2017 hurricane brought to us vividly, painfully the results of sin in the world. Some here tonight know personally the physical, emotional, and spiritual groaning resulting from Harvey. All groaning should be traced back to the Garden scene, with our first parents, and where they, Adam and Eve, fell into sin. Note Genesis 3:17-18, where the Lord speaks to Adam, “…you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you…” (New Living Translation—the picturesque and poignant words, “…the ground is cursed…your life will struggle to scratch a living from it.”)
Israel will groan in Egypt. See Exodus 2, when Jacob’s sons and families have swelled in Egypt; and the Pharaoh has stirred tyranny: “…the Israelites groaned in their slavery and their cry went up to God.”
And right here in the Book of Isaiah, earlier we have these words that pick up the themes groaning and churning, regarding sin in the world. There’s Isaiah 24:4-8: “The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. The new wine fails, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourine ceases, the noise of the jubilant ends, the joy of the harp ceases.”
Nick, you have now walked the streets enough here in Houston; and you’ve have knocked on doors; and you’ve have made visits; and you’ve have held some hospitality ministries. And you know the mourning, the languishing of our fellow Houstonians.
I draw your attention to Isaiah 61. Israel knows of the the Servant of the LORD. Who is this servant? We can go back… and we can see the backdrop. Listen to these passages.
Isaiah 42:1-3 [Here is One, the LORD says] “… in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench…”
Our attention turns to the Servant of Isaiah 52 & 53… Isaiah 52:13 “My Servant shall deal prudently…” Isaiah 52:15 has it… “…Kings shall shut their mouths at Him…”
Listen to Isaiah 53:3-6 “He is [the One] despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
There’s Isaiah 50:4-7: “The Lord GOD has given Me The tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned. The Lord GOD has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.”
And now we come to Isaiah 61.
Isaiah 61:1-3 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes…”
Do you remember that when Jesus is ministering in Luke 4, and he enters the synagogue to read our Isaiah 61 passage—and that in fact he reads from the scroll—he speaks of fulfillment?
The fulfillment of Isaiah 61 is key. Jesus read the passage and sat down. He said, “This Scripture is fulfilled today in your hearing.”
The Servant of the Lord is our Master, King, Savior and Lord.
He comes to convey his compassion, and more!
Just as Israel—in her sin and groaning—has been carried off into exile to Babylon, and we see this mixture of sorrow and hope from the political and spiritual backdrop in Isaiah chapters 40-66, so the people of God in Jesus’ day need restoration, relief, deliverance, and newness. They know bondage to sin and the resultant groaning. Our Lord and King, Jesus, you see, quotes from that passage, but he applies it not to Israel’s 70 years in Babylon and being brought back from captivity, but to people of his own time.
As PCA writer and evangelist Al Baker relays it, “Jesus…proclaims the favorable year of the Lord. This is a reference to the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10) in which, in the fiftieth year, a man’s property was returned to him. Some, in the previous forty-nine years, had sold their property to cover various debts or other hardships. In the Year of Jubilee the land was to be returned to the original owners. It, of course, was a time when those who could never repay their debts, had them forgiven. Jesus is proclaiming that those in debt to His Father due to their sin, who owed the Holy One a debt they could never repay, were forgiven and their inheritance restored. What a beautiful image of God’s amazing grace of forgiveness to sinners.”
Why elaborate on this context, Nick?
Jesus is ministering in the power of the Spirit—that should get our attention.
The Spirit, who is heavenly and holy, is resting on Jesus, abiding with Him; and it means now is the era of the breakthrough and hope. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,” Jesus applies it to Himself. Israel needs power; she is powerless—she needs sin-destroying power. Israel needs newness for service—restorative newness in relationship to the Lord for service.
Through Israel’s spiritual union—by repentance and faith in Christ—she has resources for such hope!
The Gospel of Luke tells us from his early boyhood days, Jesus was about His Father’s business (Luke 2). And then next, we have three references of the Spirit ministering in and through Jesus: 1) at Christ’s baptism in the Jordan (Luke 3). 2) at His temptation in the desert scenes with the devil (Luke 4), and 3) “He [returns] to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4).
Nick, tonight, we would be foolish about setting you apart for service to the King in the suburbs of Houston, if we were to consider sending you out absent of reinforcement of your life being united to Christ.
With Christ’s coming, with Christ coming in the power of the Spirit, and with the church’s union to her Living Savior, she has confidence that she serves in His power and newness.
In your spiritual union with Christ, in your love for your Savior, and in His love for you; and in your fellowship in that eternal, solid bond with your Savior, you have equipping for service. Christ abides with you. His Spirit is yours.
And now to the point: In Jesus’ ministry, the Lordship of God has broken into this world.
Remember our world languishes and groans; yet He breaks in for hope.
But this breakthrough is no ordinary breakthrough. It is the heavenly, eternal break-through coming into the present era.
The Spirit coming upon the Servant is the Spirit of newness from the world above and beyond!
This is Sinclair Ferguson’s take in his book, The Holy Spirit:
[at His baptism] “The opening of heaven is a characteristically apocalyptic phenomenon, and prepares us for new revelation (cf. Rev. 4:1).”
“Jesus is here being equipped for conflict…” [the temptation with the devil in the wilderness comes next]
“For Jesus…the Spirit is the Spirit of Sonship and assurance… in Gethsemane…[He] to call God, Abba Father! (cf. Rom. 8:15-16). The Spirit thus seals and confirms the bond of love and trust between the Father and the incarnate Son.”
“…the Spirit comes on Christ as the head of the new creation; but that creation will emerge only out of the costly sacrifice as a sin-offering on Calvary…”
“Central to the entire event, however, is the fact of the Spirit’s coming. This is the evidence that ‘the time has come’ (Mk. 1:15). The promised dawn has arrived, the final year of Jubilee (Luke 4:18ff.) which will usher in the kingdom and triumph of God, and during which the Old Testament promises of the coming age will be fulfilled…His triumph [over the devil in the wilderness] demonstrated that ‘the kingdom of God is near’ and that the messianic conflict had begun….He has been anointed to engage in a power-conflict. But in Him the final year of Jubilee has now come; there is freedom (Lk. 4:18-19; cf. Lev. 25:8-55). The result is that His preaching has authority (Lk. 4:32); His word has exorcising and liberating power (Lk. 4:33-37), and his touch heals ‘all’ (Lk. 4:40). Nothing is outside His dominion. The wonders He performs are accomplished in the energy and by the presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt. 12:28). That is why they serve as signs of the coming messianic age in which the Spirit’s power will be fully manifested and all nature will be healed.”
Nick, you go in Christ; you go in Christ’s anointing, in Christ’s service in His Spirit!
Do you remember Matthew 8:28-29? [There are] “demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, ‘What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’”
They knew the time has come. The age of the heavenly break-through—with the Spirit’s ministry—meant chains of sin to be broken and men, women, and children to be liberated through Christ’s triumph. Satan’s doom and the gospel’s transforming power is at hand.
The Father sent Him in the Spirit’s power for transformation with the Word (to bring… to proclaim... to preach... to declare...)
Nick, here are your tools… in your fellowship in that eternal, solid bond with your Savior, in your spiritual union with the New Living Head of the Church, you have equipping for service…
□….To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
□….To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
□….To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD….
In Christ, I exhort you: preach… proclaim… present…don’t hold back from the narrow focus of presenting Jesus Christ to hurting families and households. They must hear of the saving work of Christ. They must hear the narrow message of the gospel, which is the presentation of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for sinners. They need to hear of His substitutionary death or they don’t hear the Gospel. There’s hope. There’s promise. There’s liberty. There’s the legacy of being oaks of righteousness. The groaning is real. Houstonians, who are suffering from Harvey, need you. But they don’t need a friend; no. They need someone to present to them the hope of the Gospel.