With Tony Horsfall
Friday 11 August
After graduating from London School of Theology, Tony served as a missionary and as a pastor before heading up a missions training programme at Bawtry Hall. Since 2004, he has had his own ministry, Charis Training and has a passion to see people grow in their relationship with God. As an author his books include Rhythms of Grace, Working from a place of Rest, Deep calls to Deep and most recently, Grief Notes. Tony loves nothing better than to lead people on retreat, taking quality time to be with God. Here the New Horizon Media team brings you a summary of what he had to say during the morning Bible Teaching at #NH2023.
Ben’s prayer referencing Jeremiah chapter 1 reminds me very much of my own coming into the world. I’m the youngest of five born to a mining family in Yorkshire. My two older brothers at 14 and 12 had no idea that our mother was pregnant with me. They were playing outside when someone said, “Your mum has had a baby, it’s a boy.” They said, “She has not.” So they ran home. When my oldest brother saw me he ran straight upstairs and wouldn’t come down until next day. When he finally appeared, hungry, my mum asked, “Shall we keep him?” He replied, “I supposed so.” That was my welcome to the world.
Jilly and I have been so enjoyed being here this week. We have received so much. Thank you for your kindness to us and your encouragement. We will take back with us many fond memories of our week in Northern Ireland.
We come to the climax of our week. On Monday we thought about The Anointed Servant – Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world. Then we thought about Good News to the Poor, that welcome and invitation to come to Him with all our brokenness and pain. Then we thought about the Year of God’s Favour – the application of God’s good news to our lives and that great exchange (beauty for ashes). Yesterday we were looking at the Oaks of Righteousness – the people we become when we allow the work of God in our lives. Notice that it is plural (oaks), we only find our true calling in harmony with tothers.
The climax comes in two verses right at the end of Isaiah chapter 61 and they read very much like a Psalm. It has that sense of delight in God. (NB The biography of George Mueller was called “Delighted in God” – he found great joy in who God is and His relationship with God. That was the first thing he did every moring.)
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.Isaiah 61: 10 -11
The power of testimony
Who is the speaker? It is a representative figure of all those who have benefitted from the ministry of the anointed servant. It is a testimony of what God has done in people’s lives. Testimony is a powerful thing. If you have a relationship with God, then you have a story to tell. The one thing we can all do is tell other people our story.
Ps 107:1-3 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.
We are His witnesses – 43:10, 12, 44:8 The greatest witness is that of our own life and the greatest story is that of what God has done in us and for us.
Samaritan woman – testifying to the whole village
Saul of Tarsus – the road to Damascus
Each one of us can use our testimony. Write it out. Make it into a song. Declare the glory of God. It will do good to you to testify. It will do good to others and encourage other believers. It will do good to non believers – the power of God to change lives.
Your own Magnificat (v10)
In a sense we can sing our own Magnificat because that it is what this is. “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”
We can all sing our own version of that. We have come from prison to praise, from mourning to dancing. Therefore, we can delight in God and find joy in who He is. The essence of worship is to delight ourselves in God. To blow a kiss of love to Him for all His goodness to us.
Notice he is talking about his soul – his inner being. In your soul you are self-conscious and in your spirit, you are God conscious. You are a soul and you live in a body and the love of God can so fill you that it is expressed in your body. The focus on God, not circumstances – who He is and what He has done.
There are two reasons why he rejoices – a wedding and a garden.
Reason 1 A wedding
Jilly and I have been married for just over a year. We were married in our church but because our church is not licensed, we had to go to the registry office the day before for the legal part of the ceremony. But when it came to signing the register, I realised that I had forgotten to bring my glasses. Jilly had to help me find the right place to sign and I could not read anything. So you could say I was married by faith and not by sight!
We are clothed in the righteousness of God. When we look into Isaiah 53, it describes the death of Jesus in great detail, hundreds of years before it took place and explains the reason for His death.
Through the cross (Isaiah 53):
By substitution – He was pierced for our transgressions… and by His wounds we are healed… (v5-6). Hallelujah what a Saviour. That substitution when He took my place and carried my sin.
By imputation (v11) – by knowing Him, my righteous servant will make righteous many. By knowing Him we are justified according to the law, we are declared righteous in His sight. In Romans 4:4 Paul explains it like this: You earn your wages but through God, His righteousness is “credited” to us – it is given as a gift. Blessed are those who transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are not counted against us. We are clothed with His righteousness.
That is the picture that is behind these words.
All dressed up
These are the things that God has given to us through Jesus.
The garments of salvation – forgiveness, acceptance, adoption. Isaiah 1:18, 39:17, 43:25, 44:22. Whatever the intensity of your sin, it will be washed away and you will be made clean. The filthy rags of my wretchedness have been removed and I’m being given a new set of salvation garments. He takes our sins away and removes them from us as far as the east is from the west.
The robe of righteousness – no condemnation, boldness, joy. Isaiah 1:26, 45:8, 46:13, 51:5, Philippians 3:8-9. Paul talks about the righteousness that is given to us. It is not my own goodness but that which is through faith in Christ. It is the righteousness comes from God on the basis of faith. He clothes us so we can stand with confidence before God. When God looks at you, He only ever sees you as you are in Christ. Because of that, you are blameless as far as the law is concerned and perfectly acceptable in His sight. It is hard to think of that. I have been given the complete righteousness of Jesus.
It is one thing to have new clothes but you have to get dressed up. You need to wear these clothes.
Wear it like a turban, informing your mind – Romans 12:2 First of all the adorning of the head as a priest that wears a turban. That reminds me of a story from my childhood. One day a travelling salesmen came to the village and he was a Sikh wearing a turban and nobody had ever seen someone like that. In the pub later that night, someone said, “You know what he had a turbine on his head!” This is about covering our mind and letting the truths of God dominate our thinking. The mind is a battleground. We have to guard our mind from the condemnation and accusations of the evil one.
Adorn yourself with the promises and declarations of scripture, like jewels – Romans 10:10. We hold onto the promises. When the scripture says He removes our transgressions from you and when Satan condemns me and reminds me of my past sin, I can say “No God has removed that from me, and He remembers it no more.” Condemnation is like a virus. The attack of the enemy tell you that you are useless, that you will never be forgiven, that God has no time for you… these are lies. The word of God in my mind and written on my heart can refute these lies.
The Father dresses His son with the signs of freedom, the freedom of the children of God. He does not want any of them to be hired hands or servants. He wants them to wear the robe of honour, the ring of inheritance, and the footwear of prestige. It is like an investiture by which God’s year of favour is inaugurated.Henry Nouwen
Remember we spoke about the year of His favour. He wants us to wear these new clothes. To walk tall and know who we are. We are forgiven, cleansed and robed in His righteousness. If you are full of doubts and fears, your ability and effectiveness will be limited. We need to rise up.
Reason 2 A garden
A garden that is productive and fruitful. Here is the picture of the gardener, the seed and the soil. God is the great gardener. He makes things happen. He is the sovereign Lord. Then the seed is the life of God imparted to us. So in some ways the righteousness we just talked about is external – like wearing clothes. But the seed is planted in us and that is internal.
There is a great verse in 1 Peter when it talks about the seed. This letter is written to baptismal candidates (new believers) just before they got baptized. You have been born again… at that moment the life of God is imparted to you and the seed of God is sown in your heart, He imparts His nature to us.
The soil is the context in which that seed can grow – think about the parable of the Sower (or the parable of the soil). How we receive and respond to the word of God is crucial in how that seed can grow in our hearts. If we do not receive and nurture the word of God, then it will grow and it will establish righteousness within you.
These are the ones I look upon with favour – those who tremble at my word… If my heart is like the stony ground it will not produce fruit but if my heart is good soil, then righteousness will grow.
God puts His life inside of me (writes it on my heart) by impartation. That is the essence of the new covenant. It would no longer be a matter of external obedience.
Jeremiah 31: 33 “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people… they will all know me…” God gives us the desire and the power to do what He is asking us to do.
I’m clothed in the righteousness of God but now Christ is in me the hope of glory and that righteousness is in me.
Not only is He in my life but He is my life. Colossians 1:29
God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up. These are words of life. This is the activity of the Holy Spirit within it.
A Life of Service
That righteousness that has come to dwell within us expresses itself in acts of righteousness because justice is on God’s agenda. If you are born again of God’s spirit and His life is within you, then you will loved justice. But sometimes we are very reluctant to take up this mantel of servants because we think that sometimes God will ask too much of us. But God hates robbery. He will never cheat you or take advantage of you. If you offer yourself to God for service, you need not fear that you will lose out. You will only gain by giving your life completely to God. It is one of the things that people will fear.
When I sell my books, there is one book that is always a bit slower than the others to sell. My slowest seller is a book on servant ministry. There is that reluctance for us to take up the mantel of servanthood. Jesus said, “I came not to be served but to serve.”
If a person has grasped the meaning of God’s grace in his heart, he will do justice.
If he doesn’t live justly, then he may say with his lips that he is grateful for God’s grace, but in his heart, he is far from Him. If he doesn’t care about the poor, it reveals that at best he doesn’t understand the grace he has experienced, and at worst he has not really encountered the saving mercy of God. Grace should make you just.– Tim Keller
Here’s the punchline. Grace should make us just. Our heart should be that of a servant as Jesus was.
A life of praise
Praise as a way of life (thanksgiving, gratitude). A good positive, optimistic attitude to life. Being an encourager not a discourager.
Praise does not rule out lament, they are intimately connected because they express a passionate relationship with a passionate God. Sometimes that is the song we need to sing but we also need to sing songs of praise because He has turned our mourning into dancing.
It springs up – the living water, John 7:37 – out of our innermost being will flow rivers of living water.
And so we become people who love to worship, celebrate. We love to worship extravagantly. We shouldn’t be afraid to open our hearts to God and let that joy flow. Your soul is bursting within you. I want to ask you something – the rugby world cup is coming up. Some of you are really looking forward to it because Ireland has a good chance. Imagine that Ireland win the rugby world cup – how will people feel? They will be dancing in the street. They will hug one another. That is right. It would be something to celebrate. Friends we have so much to celebrate. Let’s not be half hearted in the praise we bring. Jesus said, “Even the stones will cry out…” How much more those who have been redeemed.
How do we respond?
Have we made the identification? – have your recognised that the anointed servant is Jesus and He is calling you, inviting you to come “just as you are”. If I am needy, He bids me come.
Have we heard the proclamation? – this is good news for the poor. If you are hurting and broken, this message is for you.
Have we received the application? – have you allowed him to bind up your wounds and open the prison doors in your life? Receive it.
Are we experiencing the transformation? – are you open to His work in your life – giving you a big wide vision of the people of the world.
Are responding with celebration? – when the climax of all that you have received, then your heart is overflowing with goodness and thankfulness.
My soul does magnify the Lord and my soul rejoices in God my Saviour.
Oh Lord, Truly our cup overflows. Thank you for all that we are receiving from you – healing us, setting us free, meeting us in our tears and brokenness and comforting us. We give you all the glory and thanks and praise. Be greatly exalted in our midst we pray. Amen