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Sunday, 29 June 2014


Rev. Brent Russett
By Rev. Brent Russett
Pastor of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:   

PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, June 29th, 2014:

Learning Authenticity’
            Good morning. And welcome to good news in the morning. My name is Brent Russett. I am the Senior Pastor at Sunnyside Wesleyan Church. It is my pleasure to look at some of life’s challenges, and then bring you some good news in the morning.

            This program is sponsored by Good News Christian Ministries. If you want to look us up on the internet, or to re-listen to this program you can find us at

            Lately I have been spending some time in the book of Isaiah and I want to invite you into this journey with me.

            Isaiah has been called the St. Paul of the Old Testament, and the book has been called the “Mt. Everest” of the Old Testament because of the grandeur of its scope. But not all of the book is easy reading because sometimes God is frustrated with his people. Yet it is my hope that as we spend some time in Isaiah that you will catch a fresh view of God’s grace and love and see God’s heart in a new way.

            Let me tell you a little about Isaiah. Isaiah, lived in the era or the prophets Amos and Hosea and Jonah and Micah – all prophets and all wrote books that are included in the Old Testament – all these guys overlapped the ministry of Isaiah.

            Isaiah was a scholar, an academic, a writer by trade. His job was to chronicle the exploits of the kings.

2 Chronicles 26:22 (NIV)
22 The other events of Uzziah’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.

2 Chronicles 32:32 (NIV) Says he did the same thing for king Hezekiah.

            I find it interesting that if Isaiah had two identities. One was a journaler for the kings of Israel – that was his secular employment if you would. His other identity was that of a prophet. A prophet is one who sometimes foretells the future. More often they speak the truth of God into the current situation. A prophet is someone who speaks for God.

            It seems to me that if you are a Christian you also own those two identities. We have our roles, our employment, and then the Bible calls us ambassadors for Christ. We also bring the truth of God into current situation.

            So in his role of prophet Isaiah starts his book.

Isaiah 1:2–3 (NLT)
Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth!
This is what the Lord says:
“The children I raised and cared for
have rebelled against me.
Even an ox knows its owner,
and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—
but Israel doesn’t know its master.
My people don’t recognize my care for them.”

            God invites all of creation to listen into what he has to say.  God says to Israel, I raised you as my children, I cared for you and you have rebelled against me. Even animals know their master, but you don’t recognize me. My people really don’t get it – I care for them but they have failed to see me.

            Now hear is a pointer if you are going to read the book of Isaiah. Pay attention to the quotation marks. You will see at the end of verse 3 closed quotation marks. Because God has spoken.

            But what you need to know about Isaiah is that he is a preacher. He does what I  do when I am preaching. He takes the word of God and declares it – then he expands on it.

            So you have the direct revelation from God, and then the indirect revelation through Isaiah.

            So now Isaiah starts to preach

Isaiah 1:4–6 (NLT)
Oh, what a sinful nation they are—
loaded down with a burden of guilt.
They are evil people,
corrupt children who have rejected the Lord.
They have despised the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.
Why do you continue to invite punishment?
Must you rebel forever?
Your head is injured,
and your heart is sick.
You are battered from head to foot—
covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds—
without any soothing ointments or bandages.

            As we are going to see in few moments, the people who Isaiah was talking about were a very religious people. They were continuing to practice their religion all the while they were rebelling against God.

            You can be religious and rebellious all at the same time. You can submit to the habits and practices of religion while at the same time defy the authority of God himself.

            Isaiah uses some metaphors to describe what has happened because of their rebellion. Their head is injured and their heart is sick and their bodies are battered.

            That is a pretty good description of someone who is in rebellion.

            Rebellion in Christian terms is, you know what God wants and you fail to do it, or you do something else.

            Now I want to nuance this for a moment. There are many churches, who will tell you what they want and what God wants are the same thing. I am wary of authoritarian – “I have a plan for your life” kind of churches. At the same time community matters. Discerning what God wants together matters. It is not just between you and God, it is the community of God pursuing God together that helps us determine what God wants.

            Rebellion is when we know what God wants, and then we live in defiance of that.
            Isaiah says what happens is that our head is injured. Whenever we live in rebellion, we tend to rationalize our actions. Our thinking becomes distorted, because we have to find a way to make defying God Ok.

            Then our hearts our sick. Rebellion is a poison that enters our hearts and we get sick. It shows up on so many ways. You can call it a leanness of soul. You can call it a failure to thrive. When we experience this we tend to try to distract ourselves from ourselves. We continue to live while our hearts continue to die.

            A sick soul can make a sick body, or a stressed body, or a fat body, or an unhealthy body.

1 Samuel 15:23
            Says that Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft.

            There is often a direct correlation between rebellion and spiritual warfare. When we live in rebellion, we give the enemy of our souls the right to attack us. If you are living with someone who is in rebellion, pray for them and pray for yourself. Pray that God will have mercy on them and protect you. 

            Now Isaiah then lays out what has happened to the people of God because of their rebellion

Isaiah 1:7 (NLT)
Your country lies in ruins,
and your towns are burned.
Foreigners plunder your fields before your eyes
and destroy everything they see.

            Scholars differ in which attack Isaiah is describing. But things are not going well for Israel.

            There are some people who take passages like this and apply it to Canada. We as a country have our fair share of evils. But the sad thing about our country is that we really are not in rebellion. Many people who are doing what is wrong by God’s standards, actually believe that they are doing right. We are beyond rebellion to godlessness.

            If we want to make a direct application – and that is often dangerous – it is better to compare Israel to the church. Even then I don’t think it is a one to one comparison.

            But look at what God says, Isaiah stops preaching and starts quoting God again.

Isaiah 1:10–15 (NLT)
10 Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.”
Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
In case you missed it that is a pretty good insult. Isaiah just slams them. Now he starts to quote God.

11 “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.

            Let me condense what God said. He said, I don’t get any pleasure from your sacrifices, your gifts are meaningless and your incense and offerings disgust me. I can’t stand your celebrations, and I won’t listen to your prayers.

            I can just hear what some of you are thinking right now. Thanks Pastor, a really uplifting passage of scripture you are bringing to us today.

            We will get to a better part in a few moments. But I actually think that this is very helpful, because it exposes God’s heart. I like how the NLT translates verse 13

Isaiah 1:13 (NLT)
13 ….
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.

            Your religious meetings are false. They are not authentic. I know a lot of you here value authenticity. I want you to know that God does too.

            Remember the story that Jesus told
Luke 18:10–14 (NLT)
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer*: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

            God values authenticity. In a few moments I am going to talk tabout worship – but let’s take a moment to listen to some worship music. This is one of my favorite hymns.

MUSIC – Be Thou my Vision – Worship events  4:49

            God values authenticity. I know that some of you go to church. Depending on which church you go to you will sing hymns or worship choruses, or like the church I pastor, we sing a combination of both.

            Most songs that we sing are corporate prayers. Singing together is one of the best ways of praying together. Sometimes we are singing together, praying together, and we pray some pretty lofty prayers.

            We just heard one of those prayers.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
            When I am singing/ praying songs like that, There are days when I pray that it feels really authentic. There are other days when I pray that, and quite frankly I know I have a divided heart.

            What is our scripture telling us that God values? Authenticity. What happens when we sing songs like this on days when we know our heart is not there. Here is what I don’t want God saying to you, or to us – your worship is false.

            So how do you respond when we gather together and you know your heart is not expressing what the church is singing.

            Well you can have a few responses. You can be just like the people Isaiah was talking to saying your worship is sinful and false. You can blithely mouth the words where you worship God with your lips but your heart is far from him.  That is not a response I would recommend. God finds that kind of worship burdensome.

            You can shut up and not sing – and only sing the parts of songs that express where you are at. So I can sing Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God almighty – because I believe that to be true. But I won’t sing I love you lord, with all of my heart. Because I know that isn’t true.

            That is a better response than the first response, but that is still not the best response, when our community prayers are expressing a spiritual life that I am not currently walking in.

            The best response is the authentic response. The best response is one of engagement. This is where you say, Lord you know my heart, and you know I am not there. The words say I will seek you with all of my heart – but I know the reality is that I am not seeking you. But Lord I sing this as a prayer – a prayer for the reality that I want in my life. It is not there, but Lord I am willing to be willing for this to be there. This is an aspirational prayer. This is what I aspire to be. This is what I want, even though I am not living it now.

            Now my friends, if you are in a place in your life where you have a divided heart, but you will come to God and say this is not what is, but this is what I would like to be. That is both authentic and powerful. That is prayer. That is worship. That is the kind of stuff God loves.

            That is a very good response. The best response though, is repentance.

            But as you know our spiritual life isn’t all about what we do at church. It is about how we live our lives.

Isaiah 1:16–17 (NLT)
16 Wash yourselves and be clean!
Get your sins out of my sight.
Give up your evil ways.
17 Learn to do good.
Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.

            God says to his people stop doing what you know is wrong and learn to what is right. That is the definition of repentance. Stop what you are doing wrong – then he says learn to do good.

            I like these set of verses. I have found that it is hard to stop doing something, without replacing the action you want to stop with another action.  But often the good we want to do is something that has to be learned.

            You may also notice that all the things that God calls us to do in this particular passage is externally focused. This isn’t some betterment scheme. This isn’t all about you. Be authentic, turn away from you sin and rebellion. Learn to good especially to those in need.

            In a few hours some of you will be headed off to church. I want to urge you to be authentic with God. God values authenticity.

            There are many of you who don’t go to church for various reasons. I want you to know that God values authenticity from you. There are some of you who doubt God, - I want you to know that God can handle your doubts. There are some of you who are angry with God, I want you to know that God can handle your anger. There are some of you who feel like a failure and wonder if God would ever want you. I want you to know that God sent his son Jesus to show you how much he loves you.

            God wants to invite you to become part of his family. Give Jesus your life, invite him into your life, and choose to follow after him. He cares for you.

Let us pray together..

Lord Jesus, I want to thank you for Isaiah and for this passage of scripture that shows us your heart. You don’t like hypocrisy, but you love authenticity. And, Lord, I’m asking for people who are listening right now, that they would be able to walk towards you in authenticity, to acknowledge where they’re at in their spiritual life, and that they would take one step towards you.
For those who haven’t received you into their lives, I pray that you would just allow them to invite you in and place their faith and trust in you.
For people who haven't received you into their life and are not walking in authenticity right now, I pray, Lord, that you will grant them the ability to move forward, in repentance, and come to you just as they are, acknowledge that and move forward.
I pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

            Thank you for your words of encouragement, and for keeping us in your prayers. Keeping this program on the air continues to be a work of faith. If you can help with that, please make out a cheque payable to Good News Christian Ministries, Box 184 , Rideau Ferry , On. K0G 1W0. Or you can give online by going to

May you know   Jesus Christ personally and profoundly.  May the Holy Spirit reside deep within your heart .  And may the heavenly Father surround you with His constant and abiding and accompanying love

Come Now is the Time to Worship – Brian Doreksen – 4:38 Album  - You Shine.

- Rev. Brent Russett
Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:

To listen to the above broadcast, click on the following link: