11th April 2010

Post with 18 notes

The Book of Romans Chapter 2: part 2

In the last study we did on Romans Chapter 2 we talked about judging others and how only God is the judge, he is the only one with the right to judge.  This week we will be talking how we deserve God’s wrath and judgment, but he gives us grace. Lord Jesus I pray you will speak to us through your word and give us truth, understanding and wisdom, send your Holy Spirit upon us to teach us Father God, in Jesus name, amen.  (Read Romans 2:5-11)

            Starting off in verse, (Romans 2:5 “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”) So Paul is writing to the Church in Rome and he has just finished addressing people judging others and self righteousness in the Church, he tells them that because of their stubborn and unrepentant hearts, the only thing that they are doing is storing up wrath from God upon themselves on the Day of Judgment and wrath.  Well what can avoid the wrath of God? How can we not store up wrath for ourselves on the Day of Judgment? God wants us to have a soft and repentant heart; he wants us broken, humble and sorrowful over our sin. (Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”) The Greek word used here for “poor” is “ptochos” (toe-hahs) meaning; to be reduced to beggary or to beg. So to be poor in spirit means to recognize that we are in need of God’s help, to the point of begging for help even.

            The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, or the kingdom of heaven belongs to the spiritual bankrupt, those who know they can’t do it. Like the tax collector in (Luke 18), he knew that he was a sinner. He was humble and broken before God, poor in spirit, spiritually bankrupt, he knew that he had nothing to offer God. He knew that he couldn’t do anything to pay God back for the evil he had done; he was just humbly before God asking for forgiveness and mercy. (Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”) (2Chronicles 7:14 “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”) God wants us to humble ourselves and come to him and ask for forgiveness and he will forgive us. If we place ourselves high and are prideful and refuse to turn from our sin, God doesn’t want to hear us.

            So in order to enter the kingdom of heaven we must humble ourselves and be poor in spirit. How do we do that? Or maybe some of us don’t think we need to be humble, maybe some of us don’t think that we are all that bad, or maybe we think we can do it on our own and don’t need to bother God with it. Well the truth is, we have no way of doing it on our own, and we need to be humbled because we are not good in any way, shape or form. (Ecclesiastes 7:20-22 “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”) So we know in our heart that we have cursed other people, that we have hated other people. Jesus tells us that we have murdered in our heart when we hate and curse other people. There is no one righteous person who does not sin on earth.  (Psalm 5:9 “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.”) Our mouths only spew out disgusting filth towards others and God. At the very core of our being we are evil, sinful and destructive.  (Psalm 14:2-3 “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”) All of us have turned away from God; none of us on our own will seek him or understand him. We have all become corrupt and broken. None of us do well, not a single one of us. (Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”)

            This world we live in is obviously messed up. Look around us there is poverty, greed, war, murder, rape, and the ironic thing is its all our fault and we think we can fix it. There are thousands of self help books, I don’t think there is anything more ironic then that. The broken sinful people that have ruined the world think they can fix the world and not only the world but their own minds and hearts. We do not have anything inside ourselves to fix our selves. We are radically broken and depraved and God is the only one who can heal us. (2Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”) God is the one who heals and makes new. Some people say, “Well I just don’t think it’s true that no one is good and no one seeks God. I think God will let everyone into heaven.” Well guess what? It doesn’t matter what you think! What you think does not change the truth! (Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”) And some people say, “Well I’m not perfect and I have sinned, but I am still a good person in my heart and I do good things. God will surly let me into heaven.” Well let me tell you something, you are not good, even in your heart, and you have not and will not do anything in God’s eyes worth letting you into heaven for.  (Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”) The Hebrew word used here for “sick” is “ ‘anash “ (ah-nash) it means; to be incurably sick or ill, or desperately wicked. Our heart is deceitful and wicked, it is not good. This is who we are at our very core, desperately evil and incurably sick, unable to heal ourselves on our own.  All our “good” things are just as bad. (Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”) The Hebrew for polluted rags meaning used menstrual rags. These are what our best deeds as guilty people amount to before the Lord.

            The world we live in is wicked and evil. No one seeks God and we have all turned away and followed our own evil desires. (2 Timothy 3:2-4 “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”) Does this not describe the world we live in today? And it is getting worse and worse every day. Don’t believe that the world is broken and sinful? Dr. John R. W. starts in one of his book and says this; many of the happenings of civilized society would not exist if it were not for human sin. Ravi Zacharias says this in one of his sermons about human sin and societies brokenness; Promises are not enough, we need a contract. Doors are not enough, we have to lock and bolt them. The payment of fairs is not enough, we have to issue the tickets which are punched, inspected and collected. Law and order are not enough; we need the police to enforce them. All these things and many others to which we have grown accustom that we have taken them for granted are due to our sin. We cannot trust each other we need protection from one another, it is a sorry state of affairs.  

(Romans 7:18 “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”) So we should fully understand that we have no reason to think we are good. We should know that we have sinned against a holy God. It should be obvious that all of humanity is desperately broken, evil, wicked and cannot fix its self. Our hearts are hard and wicked on their own and in order to enter the kingdom of heaven the must be broken and humble.

            (Romans 2:6-8 “He will render to each one according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking  and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”) We will be judged fairly and given what we have earned. Is verse 7 teaching that it is by our good deeds that we will be saved and contradicting what Paul said in chapter 1:16-17? Not at all, we know that our good deeds are filthy rags before the Lord and we are saved by grace alone. When we truly encounter God and he transforms our hearts and minds, we want to please him and do his will.  Our good works are a grateful response to God’s mercy towards us. They do not gain us grace and acceptance by God, only what Christ did on the cross is sufficient to save us. We do have to understand though, that just saying we believe in God or saying we are a Christian is not enough. True belief Changes us, it causes us to behave differently when we believe something. (James 2:14 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”) If I walk around here saying I’m a Christian but I’m down at the bar getting wasted and buying drugs every night, then it’s safe to say that I’m not too serious about being a Christian. (Matthew 7:16-18 “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”) We will be able to tell if someone is a Christian by the way they live their life. Just like we can tell if someone really is a skateboarder by how they act and what they do. We can sniff out a poser in a second. Same thing goes with Christianity; we will know who is a Christian by how they live their life. Does that mean they will be perfect? No. But once we are transformed by God we have a longing to do his will and a hatred for our sin. We will still stumble and sin, but we will move on towards righteousness.

            (James 2:17 “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”) If we truly believe it will be evident and followed by how we live and what we do. If I have faith that if I’m driving on a edgy road next to a cliff that when I jerk my steering wheel to the side towards the cliff that I will drive off of it and die, then I’m not going to jerk my steering wheel around but drive carefully. We have faith that when we stick our hand into open flames we will get burned, therefore our lives line up with that and we don’t stick our hands into flames. If we truly love God we will do what he commands (John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”)  If we love God and have faith in him, our lives will conform to that truth.

            (James 2:18-19 “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”)  Verse 18, it can often go both ways; there are a lot of morally “good” people out there who claim to believe in God yet their lives don’t match up and verse 19 shows us that believe in God alone means nothing for salvation. James is speaking here to people who confuse intellectually agreement with true faith. He says look at the demons! Even the demons believe in God, but they don’t obey him do they? No they don’t. Jesus tells us to keep his commandments if we really love him, we can know and understand who Jesus is or believe that he is God without having faith in him that causes us to humble ourselves, bow our knee or obey him.

            (Romans 2:9-10 “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.”) Everyone will get exactly what they deserve on judgment day. God is just and fair. (Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”) Paul is not talking about Karma here. He is not implying that if we are good in this short and momentary life that only good things will happen to you. He is looking at everything from eternity’s point of view. As Christians we know that we are called to sow good, loving, truths from God into the world, but we also know that in not what we will reap from this world. (2Corinthians 4:17 “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,”) It’s a natural law that we will reap what we sow. If we sow apple seeds into the ground we don’t expect a pumpkin to pop up there. Same goes with our spiritual life, if we sow to please our own desires, we will reap a harvest of sorrow and evil, if we sow to please God, we will reap everlasting life.

            (Romans 2:11 “For God shows no partiality.”) God is just and fair. He judges fairly according to our deeds. (Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.”) God has such awesome power and justice that no one can stand before him without his mercy. So if God judges fairly and justly according to our deeds, and we know from earlier in the study that we are sinful and evil and wicked, then that means we are all doomed right? But God has poured out his justice and wrath for us on his son Jesus on the cross so now all we have to do is be poor in spirit and humbly ask him to forgive us and he will because he paid for all our sin on the cross.

(Ephesians 2:1-10 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”)

Jesus has come to gather the weak and the sick and the poor and the broken hearted and the over worked and the un-churched and the thieves and the wounded. He has come to us to heal us and give us rest from this world even though we did not deserve it. He is on our side, he loves us, he is for us and not against us.

(Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”)

(Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”) He wants to sit and dine at the table with the wounded and the poor…. do we hear his knock?

               

3rd April 2010

Post with 14 notes

The Cross of Christ : (Mark 15:1-39)

            This week since it is Good Friday we will be looking at the cross of Jesus Christ. Why is it important? What happened on it? How does it affect us? God, I pray that you will reveal your word to us, give us wisdom and understanding, open our eyes and change our hearts, amen.

                First of all, I’d like to just give us a little background of what is going on before the text we are going to be reading. Jesus lived a life as a peaceful construction worker for 30 years, was then baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist after which he went into full blown ministry for 3 years, healing the sick and diseased, driving out demons, raising the dead, and performing many other miracles. We are going to be picking it up in the late night, early morning after the Passover feast.  Jesus had been up all night praying in the garden of Gethsemane, where he was arrested by the Jewish high priests and then falsely accused and falsely found guilty of blasphemy in a very illegal trail that should never have been allowed. According to the Jewish law, no one could be found guilty and put to death without the agreement of two or three witnesses. Although all the witnesses against Jesus didn’t even agree with each-other, he was found guilty of blasphemy because he said he was the son of God, which would make him the messiah or God in the flesh. He was beaten at the trail numerous times, abandoned by all his followers in the Garden of Gethsemane. To say the least, Jesus was already exhausted and stressed beyond belief. This is where we will pick up in verse 1.

                (Mark 15:1 “And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole Council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate.”) The Sanhedrin (or the Jewish Council) did not have the right to execute a person convicted of a capital crime; only the Roman authorities could execute someone. Pilate the Roman governor was temporarily in Jerusalem to “keep peace” during the huge Passover celebrations, so the Jews brought Jesus to Pilate hopping they could prove to Pilate that Jesus had committed a capital crime against Rome so that he would execute Jesus. (Mark 15:2 “And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”) We see that as the Jewish authorities brought Jesus to the Roman governor, they no longer accused him of blasphemy – a religious crime that Pilate would have cared nothing about – but rather they accuse him of calling himself “The King of the Jews.” This would have been seen as challenging the Emperor Caesar’s rule, and in the eyes of Rome this was a very serious offense worthy of death.  (Mark 15:3-5 “And the chief priests accused him of many things.  And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.”  But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.”) When Jesus did not open his mouth when he was falsely accused fulfilled one of the ancient prophesies in Isaiah about the coming messiah (Isaiah 53:7 “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”)  If you do not believe in God or the Bible you need to think clearly here and pay attention. This prophesy in Isaiah was written in 700BC, almost a thousand years before Jesus. Yet we see him fulfilling it right here. You will see a lot more of this as we go on, but keep in mind when we see things like this the Bible isn’t just some book anymore, because immediately we see the supernatural.  But just imagine this, Jesus is on trail and all these people are trying to bring false accusations against him that will ultimately lead to his death. Yet he didn’t open his mouth. Why? Because he was not afraid of what was happening to him. He is in control. He knows no one can do anything to him that he wouldn’t be able to stop them from doing. (John 10:17-18 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”) Jesus was in control of when or if he died. Therefore did not have to defend himself against the false charges.

                Moving on to the next verse, (Mark 15:6 “Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked.”) Many non-religious, secular or atheistic sources say that the practice of releasing prisoners at Passover never happened. But Pilate may have instituted the act of releasing prisoners as a way of winning favor with the masses. Little evidence exists of the practice of releasing prisoners a Passover, however much more evidence exists for Romans governors releasing prisoners to appease unruly crowds, which is definitely what this trail had turn into. A huge mob of people had gathered in Pilates courts. (Mark 15:7-9 “And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas.  And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them.  And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”) After verse 5, Pilate had sent Jesus over to King Herod to judge him. Basically in an attempt to get this whole Jesus mess out of his hair. We see what Pilate says to the crowd after Jesus returns from King Herod’s court in (Luke 23:13-16 “Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.  Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”)  Pilate wanted to release him. Have Jesus punished to try and please the Jewish leaders, and then releases him. 

                (Mark 15:10-11 “For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.”) The Chief priests did not want the crowd to choose Jesus and have him released, for the whole reason they brought Jesus there was to have him killed. So they stirred up the crowd to have Barabbas released instead. (Mark 15: 12-14 “And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.”) Pilate tries one last time to protest that Jesus has been accused of nothing worthy of death. The ancient scriptures that spoke about the messiah said that he would be perfect, and there was no wrong in him deserving of death. (Psalm 30:20 “Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good”) (Isaiah 53:9 “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”) Again, both of these scriptures were written a thousand years before Jesus came saying that the messiah would be falsely accused of wrong doing.

                (Mark 15:15 “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”) Scourging was the punishment Pilate mentioned in earlier in Luke 23. Scourging itself could often times lead to death. The condemned person who was to be scourged was tied to a post and then beaten with a leather whip called a flagrum. It consisted of many strands of leather embedded with pieces of bone, metal, or rock. This beating would leave the entire back stripped of skin, exposing a bloody mess of muscle and bone. During these Roman beatings, there was no limit to how many times the condemned person could be whipped with the flagrum. Extreme blood loss occurred from the beating as the whip tore through skin into muscle, tendons, and fatty tissue, the blood vessels that supply all those tissues were also damaged, so a great deal of blood was lost from this type of injury. These beating were so severe that often times victims ribs and organs where actually ripped straight out of their body. (Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”) Hebrew word for stripes means “wounds”. Also when people were scourged it was called “getting stripes”.  So again, Isaiah wrote this in 700BC, and now in 30AD Jesus is fulfilling this prophecy.  So just how severely was Jesus beaten during this? (Isaiah 50:6 “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.”)

(Isaiah 52:14 “As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—“) He was beaten so bad that he didn’t even look like a human being anymore. Again Jesus fulfilled both of these ancient prophecies.

                (Mark 15:16-19 “And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him.”) The whole battalion of the Roman fortress was called out to see this criminal, Jesus. He had become a criminal against Rome. The soldiers mocked him as king of the Jews by giving him a crown, staff and a scarlet cloak. The Books of John and Mark say it was a purple cloak, while Matthew says it was a scarlet one. The dyes and colors were not as defined as they are today and one person may see a violet-red cloak and call it scarlet while another calls it purple. The thorns in the crown they bashed onto his head were much longer than just a rose bushes thorns, they were up to 2 inches in length.  There is a huge blood and nerve supply in our scalps, thorns being shoved into his scalp would have caused enormous pain and also more blood loss. This was not a small injury, and this was added on top of the vicious beating he had received from the scourging. But what do the crown of thorns and the robe really represent?        

                (Genesis 3:17-18 “And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.”) (Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”)  The scarlet robe and the crown of thorns represent Jesus’ taking the sins of the world upon his body. The Bible describes sin by the color scarlet, and thorns appeared after the fall of man as a sign of the curse. (Galatians 3:13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—“)He took upon himself our sin and our curse.

                (Mark 15:20-23 “And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”) Jesus was so exhausted he couldn’t even carry his own cross anymore, so the soldiers had a passerby carry it with him. Wine mixed with the spice myrrh was intended to have a mildly numbing effect and help dull the pain. But Jesus did not take it. He took on the full pain of sin. (Mark 15:24 “And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.”) Crucifixion was invented by the Persians, but perfected by the Romans. It was so vile and so shameful and so painful to be crucified that only the lowest in Roman society were crucified. Roman citizens were never crucified except if they were traitors to the Roman Empire. When someone was crucified, the nails were driven through the wrists between the radius and the ulna and onto the cross bar. The nails punctured the median nerve which would have caused tremendous amounts of pain; some say the equivalent of hot oil poured over your whole arm into your neck. The victim had to pull up on the nail in the wrists to breath because of the nail that was driven into the center of both of the feet. So in order to breathe you went from excruciating pain to excruciating pain every time you took a breath.  Psalm 22 prophesies about the crucifixion of the messiah. It was written hundreds of years before crucifixion was even invented. (Psalm 22:16-18 “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet — I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”)

                (Mark 15: 25-27 “And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.”) In Isaiah 53:12 it prophesied that the messiah would be crucified with 2 thieves. (Luke 23:39-43 “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”) Jesus wants us just as we are. This criminal on the cross did not have time to change who he was, go get baptized, read his scrolls, go to temple, or get baptized. All he got to do was die. He came to Christ as he was, knowing he was wrong with repentance, and Jesus told him he would be with him in heaven. 

                (Mark 15:29-30 “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”) Jesus told the Jews and his disciples that if they destroyed the temple he would rebuild it in 3 days in John 2:19. The temple had taken 46 years to build, but Jesus was speaking about his own body being raised from the grave 3 days after he died. (Mark 15:31-34 “So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) Jesus again pointing back to the first verse in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When Jesus took on the full weight of the world’s sin, all of our guilt and shame from our sin was laid on him all at once. Because of all of the world’s sin being laid on Jesus at that moment, the divine relationship between Jesus and the Father were somehow broken. Jesus was utterly alone in his last hours. So why did Jesus put himself through all of this? Because he knew the ending, he knew the joy that was to come from setting us free from our sin. (Hebrews 12:2 “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”) (Philippians 2:8-11 “And being found in human from, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father.”) We can either choose to bow and confess now, or we will later. Either way we will confess and bow our knees to Jesus.

                (Mark 15:35-39 “And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.”  And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”) The curtain in the temple was between the holy place and the most holy place where the spirit of God dwelled. No one was allowed past it except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement where the priest sacrificed a blemish-less lamb for the sins of Israel.  The curtain being torn in two by the earthquake that happened when Jesus died (Matthew 27:51) signifies the separation of God from the people being removed. We now have direct access to God the father through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We no longer need a priest to go in on our behalf. Jesus is now our mediator between us and God the father because Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He rose again to life!! He lives today!!! He rose 3 days later just as he and the scriptures said he would. (1Timothy 2:5-6 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,”)

            Jesus Christ bore our sin on the cross to set us free. To give us life, to make us whole.

(Romans 3:23-24 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”)

(Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”)

 (John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”)

 (Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”)

(Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”)

(Romans 10:9 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”)

(Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”)

(Revelation 21:4-5 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”)

27th March 2010

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The Book of Romans Chapter 2: part 1

“Dear friend, do not become a fault-finder, it is as bad a trade as a pick-pocket’s. Till you can do better, hold your tongue! Did you ever know a man or woman whom God blessed that was perfect? If God were to work by perfect instruments, the instruments would earn a part of the glory.”— Charles Spurgeon

                This week we are going to be starting Chapter 2 of Romans. I pray that God would give us wisdom and knowledge and insight into his holy word as we begin to go deeper into it.

                We saw as we finished chapter 1 that Paul gave us a huge list of sins that people where committing as they turned away and God gave them over to a depraved mind and heart. But we are going to see something as we start off in verse one, that Paul anticipates something. He anticipates all the people that will be sitting back after reading all these long lists of sins that will be saying to themselves, “Glad I’m not a sinner like them.” He is anticipating self righteous people that judge others. Let’s see how the Holy Spirit writing through Paul handles this situation.

                Picking it up in verse 1, (Romans 2:1 “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”) We have no right to judge someone else, because we too do the very same things. Yes not all of us are murderers or rapists, but in our hearts we are just as wicked. And regardless we all have some kind of sin in our life, and how does God see sin? He sees it as sin; it’s all offensive to him and all worthy of separation from him for eternity in hell. So we shouldn’t sit around judging other people for their sin when we are just as wicked. Jesus tells us this in (Matthew 7:3 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?) Then we see him say to us in verse 5 (5”You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”) We need to stop looking around at everyone else and saying, “Wow they really need to change this, and they really need to stop doing this.” And look at our own lives that are filled with sin. How can we who are sinful look around at others and judge them? Paul is telling us we are just judging ourselves when we do that because we are just as wicked.

                It’s easy to think you are better than someone, it really is. When our lives seem to be all neat and tidy, it then becomes easy to think we did it on our own and we are better than other people. (Galatians 6:3 “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”) We are truly nothing just a vapor that appears on this earth for a little while then is gone. Yet we think that we are better than others. It’s even easy as a Christian to start to think that because of our Bible reading, or church attendance or prayer life that we are better than other people and God loves us more. (Luke 18:10-14 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed  thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”) The Pharisee thought because of his religious lifestyle and offerings that he was in right standing with God, and better than the tax collector. But the tax collector knew he was a sinner and was broken hearted over it and was humbly repenting before God that is why he went home justified. (Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”)

                 I think it’s even easier to judge someone else when you get in a group and gain up on one person who is doing something wrong, especially when you’re not the one who has been caught.

(Read John 8:1-11) First of all the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus by seeing if he would reject the law of Moses. So the Pharisees got hold of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery (having sex with a man that wasn’t her husband) and drug her out into the street to stone her. They were ready to kill this woman because of her sin, they were ready to judge and condemn this woman, but when Jesus told those that are without sin to throw the first stone, it caused all the Pharisees to examine their own life and maybe even place themselves in that woman’s shoes. He probably made them remember all the sins they had committed earlier that day or that week. He made them realize they too are wicked and sinful. We are all evil inside. I know that not a single one of us would look too good if we were drug out into the middle of town square so everyone could see our shame and sin. What if all the stuff we did last night or last week was revealed to our whole school or work. I don’t think any of us would look to good.

                So if we are not to judge others, then how can we help each other when someone is living in sin? (Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”) We don’t come running in on someone pointing the finger at them. We don’t talk down to them and push them away. We are to gently, lovingly and patiently pray with them, walk with them and bear their burden along side of them, knowing that our God of grace will guide them through.

                Let’s move on, (Romans 2:2 “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.”) So all those things, all those sins that Paul mentioned in Chapter 1:26-32, he is now telling us that God is the judge of those who sin, not us. It is not our place to judge them because we are not perfect, we are not without sin. But God is holy, just, perfect, and without sin. Therefore he can judge those who sin.  I think this idea flows directly into a question I get so often, “If God is so loving and good, then why does he allow evil in the world, all the wars and rape and murder and hatred? How Could God be a loving God when all this stuff happens?God has given us his commandments, and they are, to love him more than anything, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, to not murder, to not steal, to not commit adultery, and all of the 600 some odd other laws and commandments. God doesn’t want us practicing these evils, he even commands us not to. But because we as humans are able to choose, people go against what God wants for us and choose to break those commandments. (Deuteronomy 30:15-18 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.”) So we see that God has “set before” us the choice between doing his will which leads us to life, or going against it which leads to death. God is not the one coming down and rapping and killing and stealing, he does not want us doing that. People are the ones choosing to do that.

                But I think that it can give us great rest and relief, knowing that we are not the judge, but God is. We can take heart and take rest in the fact that everyone will stand before God and have to give an account of what they did with the life God gave them, and God will judge them justly and accordingly. We don’t have to worry about it. Every person that does not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior will stand before God with all their sin and will have to answer as to why they turned against God and murdered, rapped, lied, stole or committed any other sin. We are not in the position to judge someone, but God is. And he is just and holy and will judge people rightly and justly.

                Moving on to verse 3, (Romans 2:3 “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?”) So what is Paul doing here? He has set us up. Paul is bringing his previous 2 statements in collision with one another by asking us this question. In verse 1; we see that if we judge others we are guilty, and in verse 2 we see that he judges the guilty.  So we now see that we will be rightly, fairly, and justly judged according to our evil deeds of sin. (Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”) Death is what we earn for our rebellion and sin against God. We deserve it and it is justly and rightly given to us by a perfect and holy God. 2nd part of that verse says, (“, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”) So God judges us fairly by putting us to death for our sin, but then judges us unfairly by giving us a free gift of eternal life and salvation from our sin in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross to those who choose to receive it. His kindness and love is shown in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He made a way out for us to escape his just and holy wrath for our sin. See when someone does wrong against us we want justice. But when we have wronged others we want mercy from them, and God gives us that mercy in Jesus Christ.

                Verse 4, (Romans 2:4 “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”) When Paul wrote this he probably aimed “Do you presume” at the Jews who thought that their covenant relationship with God would shield them from final judgment. After all, they had often experienced his kindness, forbearance and patience. They thought such blessing showed they were in right standing with God, and had no need to trust in Christ. Many Christians do the same thing. They think that because they grew up in a Christian family, or because they go to Church, or Bible study, or youth group, that they are saved and are fine and don’t really need to live their life for God, but that they can just do whatever they want and sin as much as they want and God will still forgive them. I often hear this one from people as well, “If God is love and merciful and forgiving, then I can continue to live however I want and do whatever I want and he will forgive me. If he is really a forgiving merciful God of love, he wouldn’t send me to hell.” This is presuming on the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience.  To presume upon something means to “take for granted” or “take liberties.” So we too can take for granted God’s kindness and patience and forbearance by assuming he will just be ok with us doing whatever we want and sinning. Forbearance means to “refrain” or “to control one’s self.” God has had to restrain himself and control himself from pouring out his wrath and anger on us. We sinned against him and deserved to have his judgment put upon us. His wrath and anger was our wage, it is what we earned for our sin. But God in his kindness died on the cross as Jesus for our sins. God in his patience restrained himself from pouring out his wrath on us then we took advantage of it and took it for granted! Look at what Jesus told the woman in adultery, “go, and from now on sin no more.” He doesn’t tell us to just abuse his love and sin as much as we want and he will forgive us. He tells us to turn away from sin and repent, come to him and he will give us (John 10:10 “….life and have it abundantly.”)

                So just as the Jews that Paul was writing to presumed that God’s patience and kindness meant that they were in right standing with God, so we also take for granted God’s kindness not seeing that God’s blessing and kindness and patience should cause us to turn away from sin. (James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”) Every single sunset, every piece of good food, every good night’s sleep, every good friendship, every kiss, every good laugh, every cool breeze, every sip of cool clean water is all sent from God meaning to lead us away from our sins and to him. (Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”) God’s love is so deep for us that we cannot even understand it. While we were still spitting in his face he died for us.  On the cross as they were mocking him Jesus said, (Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”) He loved us until the end, and he still love us and calls everyone to come to him and live! The day of salvation is today, do you know Jesus Christ?

20th March 2010

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Is the Bible reliable? “Follow me”

This week I’d like to take a break from our series on Romans and talk about something a little different.  I’d like to give us some ammo for when people bring ridiculous claims about Christianity to us. Tonight we are going to look at the reliability of the Bible. Can we trust it? Is it an accurate piece of historical documentation?

When we look at the New Testament we realize that it was written by those who either knew Jesus personally, or were under the direction of those who did.  They wrote what they saw.  They wrote about the resurrection of Christ.  They recorded His miracles and His sayings.  If Jesus was really a historical person, he can only be one of 3 options. He was either a liar and really wasn’t God, or he was a lunatic and just thought he was God, or he was in fact who he said he was, God in the flesh come to save mankind from themselves. So if the Bible is a true historical document, it comes down to whether or not you believe what it says about Christ.  Do you? Let’s take a closer look at the Bible and see if we can trust what it says as a historical document.

                One of the most common attacks non believers will bring against Christianity is that the Bible has been re-written by man through-out the ages, or that it has been altered and Changed by man. The original writings of the Bible have been lost. But before they were lost, they were copied.  These copies were incredibly accurate, very meticulous, and very precise.  They took great care when copying the original manuscripts.  This copying method is so exact, and so precise, that the New Testament alone is considered to be 99.5% textually pure. This means that of the 6000 Greek copies (the New Testament was written in Greek), and the additional 21,000 copies in other languages, there is only one half of 1% difference.  Of this very slight number, the great majority of the differences are easily corrected by comparing them to other copies that don’t have the “typos” or by simply reading the context.  You should know that copying mistakes occur in such ways as word repetition, spelling, or single words left out due to the copyist missing something when moving his eyes from one line to another.  The differences are very minor.  Nothing affects doctrinal truth and the words and deeds of Christ are superbly and reliably transmitted to us.

                The science of studying ancient literature and its accuracy of transmission to is called historicity.  The Bible is so exceedingly accurate in its passing down from the originals to the present copies, that if you compare it to any other ancient writing, the Bible is light years ahead in terms of number of manuscripts and accuracy.  If the Bible were to be discredited as being an unreliable document, then it would be necessary to discard the writings of Homer, Plato, and Aristotle as also unreliable since they are far less well preserved than the Bible. Let’s take a look in comparison,

Author

Date
Written

Earliest Copy

Approximate Time Span between original & copy

Number of Copies

Accuracy of Copies

Plato

427-347 B.C.

900 A.D.

1200 yrs

7

——

Aristotle

384-322 B.C.

1100 A.D.

1400 yrs

49

——

Homer (Iliad)

900 B.C.

400 B.C.

500 yrs

643

95%

New
Testament

1st Cent. A.D. (50-100 A.D.

2nd Cent. A.D.
(c. 130 A.D. f.)

less than 100 years

5600

99.5%

               

The Bible has survived over 3,000 years of attempts to destroy it, discredit it, and be-little it. Yet it survives while civilization and man himself comes and goes like a breath of wind. (Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”) The Bible affirms genetic locks on species in, (Genesis 1:25 “And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the live stock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”) Only in the last 100 years has DNA research verified the genetic locks on species. Each species can only genetically reproduce its own species.  (Psalm 102:25-26 “Of old you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe and they will pass away.”) That was written in approximately 1000BC. The process of universal decay is called “Entropy,” it is described in physics as the “second law of thermodynamics.” These laws were not discovered until the 1800’s, meaning science was thousands of years behind God’s word. (Jeremiah 33:22 “As the host of heaven cannot be numbered…”) This was written around 630BC.  With the invention of the telescope in 1608 scientists realized that the number of stars was unfathomable and were indeed in the countless millions as the Bible declared. Ancient mythology and religions tried to speculate where or on what the earth rested. The Hindus believed that the earth rested upon pillars of elephants or turtles. It was even scientific fact that the earth was flat for centuries. (Job 16:7 “..and he hangs the earth on nothing.”) Dating at around 1600 BC, Job is the oldest book known to man. (Isaiah 40:22 “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, “) This was written in 700BC. The Hebrew word for circle indicates a spherical shape. This Biblical statement of fact was made 300 years prior to Aristotle even suggesting that the earth might be a sphere, not to mention how many thousands of years the Bible pre dates people proving the earth as a sphere. Psalm 18:15, Jonah 2:16, Job 38:16 all speak of “mountains and valleys of the sea.” All of them written in 1500BC or older. These statements were all made thousands of years before scientists discovered or catalogued the existence of underwater valleys and mountains.

Genesis 1:16 speaks of two “great lights,” the greater, the sun, to rule the day, and the lesser, the moon, to rule the night. The Hebrew words for greater – “gadowl” (gah-dole)—and lesser—“qatan” (kah-tan)—refer to the size of the object, not the amount of light they give off. We know now, that the sun is over a million times bigger than the moon. But when Genesis was written in 1500BC, the “truth” of the day was that the moon was larger than the sun, because that is how it appears to the naked eye.  God’s first words in the Bible are found in, (Genesis 1:3 “let there be light.”) We now know through Quantum Mechanics, that everything is held together at their smallest level by photons of electro-magnetic energy, or LIGHT. So when God spoke light, he may have used it to create everything.

(Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood,”) This was written in 1500BC. It wasn’t until 1616 when physician William Harvey, who was the founder of modern physiology, discovered that blood circulation is the key factor in maintaining physical life.  This is very interesting that without blood our physical bodies cannot live, because without blood our souls cannot live either. (John 6:53-58 “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”) Now through the blood of Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven. He paid the price for our sins, dying on the cross and rising again three days later. (Romans 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now be justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”) Jesus’ perfect life and blood satisfied the just and holy wrath of God against us who have sinned against him. (Hebrews 9:22 “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”) The old Levitical law required animal blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Without blood, sins cannot be forgiven. Jesus came so he could be the ultimate sacrifice for sins once and for all by shedding his blood and dying on the cross.  So through his blood and death we have true life, as the prophet Isaiah said, (Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgression; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”) Jesus came to give us life, life that we did not and do not deserve. He came to give us life to the fullest (John 10:10). So what are we going to do? Are we going to come to the throne of grace and receive the perfect sacrifice for our sins done by Jesus Christ on the cross? Or will we run from God, and chase after the unsatisfying pleasures of the world? Since we know the Bible is a reliable historical document, then what are we going to do about who it says Jesus is…..?

14th March 2010

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The book of Romans Chapter 1: part 5

“Whenever God pleases, he overcomes your resistance against him. He can make Christ look so compelling that our resistance is broken, and we freely come to him and receive him and believe him.” – John Piper

                This week I hope and pray that everyone who hears these words would come to know their sin, and that there is a God who loves them. We will be going through Romans 1:28-32 this week (read). God may you open all our hearts and minds and ears, and may your message become wisdom and power to us, amen.

                Last week we looked into sin a little more heavily. Talked about how God will allow us to get entangled in our sin once we push him away over and over, when we resist his will and when we resist his love and plan for us. This week we will look at some of the consequences of God giving us over to our sin. Let’s pick it up in verse 28. (Romans 1:28 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”) We see the same term as we saw last week, that God gave them over, the Greek word “paradidomi”, meaning that God allowed their minds to become debased or lowered in dignity. And because their minds had been allowed to become lower in dignity, morally corrupted, they did what ought not to be done as we will see Paul describe more in verse 29.

                (Romans 1:29 “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and maliciousness. They are gossips,”) you know, I have a lot of people tell me that they are a good person, good at heart maybe. Heck, even as Christians sometimes I think it’s easy to fall into thinking we are good, or at least maybe think that we are better than other people. First of all, like we talked about last week when we looked at (James 2:10) we know that if we have broken even one of God’s laws we are guilty of breaking all of them because God see’s a person who has sinned as a sinner. Doesn’t matter what the sin is, if we have sinned once, we are sinners, and we cannot be with God, because we have followed along side with Satan in rebelling against God, and we will go to hell which was created for Satan and all who rebelled with him (Matthew 25:41). So for all of us here who think we are good people, and we all do at times, I am going to attempt to unpack for us a little bit more what Paul is really saying, that we are by no means good people, even at heart. So let’s look at some of the side effects of God allowing our minds to become debased and corrupt from us pushing him away.

                “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness,” word for filled, “pleroo” (play-rah-ooh) in the Greek, meaning “filled to the brim”. So they are filled to the brim with unrighteousness, Greek word “adikia” (ah-di-kia) which can mean unrighteousness at heart or in deed. We are filled to the brim with unrighteous thoughts and deeds.  One of which Paul tells us is evil. What is evil? In the English language it means morally wrong or wicked, harmful, sin, or injurious. So we could say it is anything that it is morally wrong or wicked, or causes harm or pain is evil. Let’s look at what Jesus shows us about evil, (Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard it said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”) So Jesus is taking it a step further, telling us, you have heard it said that those who murder will be judged, but I say to you, anyone who is angry with his brother has murdered him in his heart already and is likewise liable for judgment.  You see our unrighteousness is in our hearts just as much as it is in our deeds.  So if you have ever been really angry with someone, maybe beaten someone up, or even just wanted to (even if they may have deserved it), then you have murdered that person in your heart breaking God’s commandment to not murder and in turn sinning. So if we have broken that commandment (I know I have) then we are sinners and cannot dwell with God. We might say, “Well what if someone throws the first punch or someone treats me horrible.”Jesus shows us how to handle someone who is has hated us first. (Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”) He is showing us to let God be the judge, not us.

                Moving on, “evil, covetousness,” so covetousness is the next thing Paul shows us we have become filled with. Coveting is essentially greed, excessive desire for something someone else has.  It is basically an overwhelming lust for something that isn’t yours, to the point of people murdering each other for things, or stealing from one another.

                This brings us to the next word in that verse, “malice”, “kakia” (kah-key-ah) in the Greek meaning, unashamed wickedness, a desire to do wrong and injure. Again the desire to, it starts in the heart. And then “They are full of envy” which is the discontent over another’s advantages or possessions. A lot like coveting or greed. (Proverbs 14:30 “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”)  That this intense greed and desire for things other people have and we don’t rots us from the core out. There is no peace in a person’s heart that is filled with envy. Maybe that is someone here, maybe you can’t just sit back and be satisfied with what you have, and your whole mind and life and soul is consumed by wanting what others have. This kind of person is not at peace, not content with what has been given to them as we see in Paul in (Philippians 4:11-12 “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”)  No matter what Paul had or where he was, poor and hungry, or rich and well fed, he knew how to be content in all things. How? He shows us in verse 13, (Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”) He had a solid rock in his life, something that was and is never changing, God. Christ tells us in (2Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”) Find a promise like that somewhere else, I dare you. When we are weak and full of doubt, he is our strength, he is our constant provider.

                Moving on with more side effects of our minds being given over to sin, “murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.Murder we addressed in evil. One of the commandments of God is to not murder, but we know that even hating someone in our heart is to murder them. Strife, is quarrels, disputes arguments, Paul tells Christians to not get wrapped up in senseless arguments and strife in (2Timothy 2:23-24). Deceit means to lie. This seems like such a small issue to us, each of us probably tells at least a few little white lies every day. But we see that it is not a small issue to God. He tell us in (Exodus 20:16) not to give false testimony, in other words, not to lie. We see liars will not be let into heaven, (Revelation 21:27, Revelation22:15) but they will be cast into the lake of fire, hell (Revelation 21:8). So this is a problem right? I mean I know that I am guilty of lying, but why does God see lying as such a big deal? Again all sin is atrocious to God.  All sin is a rejection and resistance of God and his will. Next word, maliciousness, we already covered maliciousness as an unashamed wickedness and a desire to do wrong.  Next part, “They are gossips,” gossip is yet another one of those that I am quite sure many of us know well. The Greek word is “psithyristes” (piss- thew-rey-stace) meaning “secret slanderer”. What is so bad about getting all the latest gossip about so and so at school or work? Well when we are talking about someone when they are not there, what tends to be said? Mostly good things, or can we agree that a lot of the time what is said we would never say if they were still in the room? And it all stems from sin in our life, greed, or envy which can lead to us slandering the person and saying some hateful things, which is murdering them in our hearts. We are full of hate and jealousy.  

                (Romans 1:30 “slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,”) slanderers we covered in gossips, we have becomes haters of God, who is love (1John 4:8), insolent which means uplifted with pride, heaping insulting language upon others. We have become haughty or arrogant, boastful which in the Greek is “alazon” (alah-zone) and the meaning is “an empty pretender.” It’s funny that we as human beings boast or take pride in anything about ourselves. We are calloused with evil and hatred; we kill each other, ruin the planet, think only of ourselves and turn against the God who loves us. (Psalm 144:3-4 “O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”) We are dust, just a whisper in time, but yet God is mindful of us. (James 4:14 “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”)  We are inventors of evil it reads, we produce, think up, originate new ways of committing evil against one another and against the God who made us. (Proverbs 24:2) tells us that our hearts devise and come up with evils. We have become disobedient to parents; I think we all know this one here.  The root issue here I think is just the issue of obeying authority in general, (Romans 13:1-2) tells us that all authority is put in place by God, governments, bosses, parents, police, or anyone in authority, so we are to submit to them as though submitting to God. (1Timothy 2:1-2) tells us to pray for those in authoritative positions that they might lead us well and know how God wants them to lead us. We are to honor our parents, it is one of the commandments of God (Exodus 20:12) (Colossians 3:20), in fact it is the only commandment that has a promise attached to it. That if we honor our father and mother, our days will be long. Well what if our parents or our government is unjust? (Mark 10:42, 45 “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. – 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”) That even God himself, who could have come down with all the angles and would have been worthy to have been served by us, didn’t exercise that right he had over us. But he lowered himself and came down and served us. That should drastically humble us.

                (Romans 1:31-32 “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”)  We know God’s righteous decree, we have a conscious, we know right from wrong.  We can prove that our conscious is more than just a product of some prime evil evolutionary theory. Dr. J. P. Moreland who has degrees in chemistry, philosophy and theology has experimented data on this topic.  He found that he could electrically stimulate the brains of epilepsy patients and found he could cause them to move their arms and legs turn their heads or eyes, talk or swallow. The patient would always respond saying, “I didn’t do that. You did.” In other words the Patient thought of himself as having an existence separate from his body. Dr. Moreland said in an interview about the testing “No matter how much we probed the cerebral cortex, there is no place where electrical stimulation will cause a patient to believe or to decide. That’s because those functions originate in the conscious self, not the brain. This suggests the self is more than just a machine that reacts to stimuli as it receives them.” Our self, who we are, has nothing to do with our body itself.

                God has written his laws into our being, our conscious self. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may heart it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.) God’s decree is in our hearts, yet we not only sin against him, but approve of sinning against him. (Read Romans 1:28-32). This is our God, a God who even though we have turned away from him and have become altogether wicked, loves us and died for us in the person of Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”) (Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”) (Colossians 2:13-14 “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside nailing it to the cross.”) The only thing we have to boast in is what Jesus Christ did for us. (Galatians 6:14 “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ..”) Let’s just get serious for a second, do you know Christ? There is turmoil in this world, addiction and depression and hatred and sadness and despair, hopelessness is what the world has to offer us. People are dying every day, have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ so he could give you life?

6th March 2010

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The Book of Romans Chapter 1: part 4

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -1John 4:7-8

                 This week we will be going over some touchy subjects. We will talk about things politically incorrect to talk about. We will go over things that will offend some of you.  But I cannot waver on or exclude parts of God’s word. I pray that God would give us grace and truth as we look through his scriptures amen.

                Last week we talked about how sin hardens our hearts and separates us from God. Let’s look at verse 23 of Romans chapter 1. (Romans 1:23 “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”) Back in the time this was written and prior, people would make idols of their gods for worship. They would build them out of wood, stone, gold, and other metals. Roman families commonly kept representations of individual “house gods” in their homes.  Mediterranean and Near Eastern pagan religion worshipped idols in the forms of beasts, or in the likeness of mixed beast/human deities such as the ancient gods of Egypt.  We might laugh at this because it seems so foreign and silly to us to worship a bronze wolf, or a half man half lizard idol.  But our modern day idols are a little bit different but just as silly. Our idols can be people, money, possessions, ourselves or a number of other things. We will go more into that a little later.

                Moving on in verse 24, (Romans 1:24 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,”) so Paul is telling us that because of the sin that they have committed in serving of false idols over the true living God, God has given them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. Now what does this really mean?  The word Paul uses for “gave them up” in Greek is ‘paradidomi(para-didoh-me), meaning to “permit, or allow”. So God has allowed them to continue in the lusts of their hearts. Which we know from verse 23 is the exchange of the glory of God for created things and is therefore, sin. So essentially what has happened is this; God has revealed himself without a doubt in creation (as we learned last week v.19-20) and shown us that he as a plan for us, (Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”)  But when we say to God, “I don’t care, I don’t want you I just want your stuff.” And just continually push him away and push him out of our minds day in and day out, it seems that eventually God steps back and says, “Fine, have it your way. My way leads to life and welfare, but you may have you way if you so choose.”  When we consistently choose our sin over God, he will pull away and allow the sin in our lives to run its full course, which ultimately is death. (Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death,”) In the act of pushing God away and desiring false gods and our ways over his, we are in essence, pushing away life, and grabbing hold of death.

                Next verse, (Romans 1:25 “because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”) Let’s just look at that first part again. “because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…” Paul has mentioned the issue of truth again, just as he did last week. Well what is the truth of God?  The word used in the Greek here for the word truth is “alethia(aye-lay-thay-uh). It means “Objectively; what is true in any matter under consideration.” So if truth is therefore un-bias or prejudice, what he is saying is that they exchanged the un-bias reality or truth of God for a lie. The truth of God he is speaking of we know is the gospel of Jesus, the good news that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that Jesus came and lived a perfect life and died on the cross in place of us for our sin, his blood then covering over all sin forever for those who put their faith in him.  Jesus himself says in (John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”) So we know that the father is in heaven and no one comes to heaven, where the father is, except through Jesus. Jesus did not say I am a way. He said he is the way. There is a trend going on among this generation (as I’m sure it has in many generations prior), a trend of people saying and thinking that you can just believe whatever you want, and you will go to heaven, if you believe in heaven, basically all roads lead to Rome. That everyone has their own way there and it does not matter what you call “god” it’s all the same, simply a matter of opinion.  This would be fine and all if it wasn’t for the fact that all these religions all have clashing ideas of who god is. It has become taboo to talk about people’s beliefs, especially to say they are wrong, but not everyone’s truth can be true. This way of thinking only works in once instance, like saying “black is the best color.” Or “rainy days are better than sunny days.” Those are personal truths, not absolute truths. The belief that everyone’s truth is true for them is called “relativism”. Relativism teaches that it doesn’t matter what you believe is true, if it is true for you, then it is true. In relativism, all points of view are equally valid and all truth is relative to the individual.  If this were true, then it would seem that this is the only truth relativism asserts or holds to.  But, the problem is that in reality, relativism isn’t true for the following basic reason.  If what is true for me is that relativism is false, then is it true that relativism is false?  1) If you say no, then what is true for me is not true and relativism is self destructs and is therefore false.  2) If you say yes that relativism is not true for me, then relativism is false.  Relativism seems to defy the very nature of truth; namely, that truth is not self-contradictory. Truth is not error.  The point I have tried to get across to so many people and they just totally miss it is this; that the teachings in the bible are either true, they really happened and will happen, or they are false, they don’t really happen. It is black and white, night and day, there is no in between. This is either real or this isn’t. And if it is true, then there should be evidence in science, history, literature, and testimony as we have in Christianity. There is a verse that comes to mind in (Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”) As we talked about last week, God’s truth is clear and simple. Satan is the author and father of lies and confusion.

                So they/we have exchanged this truth about God for a lie, for something other than what the truth of God is. And because of this God has given them/us up to the impurity of worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  “Creature” translates from the Greek word “ktisis(kitee-sis) meaning “anything that has been created.” So this brings us back to v.23 about the worship of idols. Again it sounds silly and we would never think that we worship idols today but let’s look at this for a second. Why is that after Michael Jackson died, that’s all we heard about for almost a month? We worship celebrities, we have whole shows on television dedicated to just gossiping about celebrities lives.  Whole magazines filled with pictures of them going to the store, and eating food. People waiting in line for hours, sometimes over night just to buy the new movie or CD, grown men crying during football games and running and jumping and screaming. When their team loses they mope for weeks afterward. Same with skateboarding, the newest magazine comes out and 20 guys crowd around it and are just awe struck, the new iphone, the new this, the new that. All of this energy and emotion was given to us by God for God, who is the most glorious being in existence. A being so amazing, so beautiful, that the best gift he can give us would be to stand in the center of the room and have everyone adore him and enjoy him, a being who has breathed his life into us and said live!  But we have poured all this emotion, time, and energy into God’s creation which never satisfies, rather than God who is always satisfying. Not that there is anything wrong with enjoying creation, God has created all things for his glory, and calls us to do all things to enjoy him through it, just not just creation.

                Moving on to verse 26 and 27, (Romans 1:26-27 “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”) I know this is a touchy and politically incorrect subject, but I must address it as the truth of God, just like all the scriptures. Sin is not up for debate, sin is sin. God will judge us for our sin, and thankfully he alone. We know from the Old Testament that homosexuality is a sin. It is not part of God’s plan for sex or marriage as we see in Genesis 1 and 2. Sex is not about us, it’s about God he created it he gets to decide how it is, not us. That’s why rape is a sin, that’s not God’s plan for sex, but for Man and Woman to enjoy God through the act of sex within the boundaries of becoming one flesh through marriage. All sin is just as bad as any other sin. Human beings see sin in terms of what’s worse or better. “Little sins” like lying or stealing a piece of gum at bottom, then rapists and murders at the top maybe. When really God sees all sin as the same, it’s all of mockery of his name. (James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”) Basically saying, if you sin, you’re a sinner and no longer able to dwell with God, if you have broken one part of the law you may as well have broken all of the law. People have told me, “If you are going to say homosexuality is a sin based on the Old Testament laws then you must still uphold all the Old Testament laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.” The Old Testament laws are categorized in three groups: the civil, the priestly, and the moral.  The civil laws must be understood in the context of a theocracy.  Though the Jewish nation in the Old Testament was often headed by a king, it was a theocratic system with the Scriptures as a guide to the nation.  Those laws that fall under this category are not applicable today because we are not under a theocracy. Since Jesus fulfilled the priestly laws by his sacrifice on the cross, they are no longer necessary to be followed. The moral laws, on the other hand, are not abolished, because the moral laws are based upon the character of God.  Since God’s holy character does not change, the moral laws do not change either.  Therefore, the moral laws are still in effect. In the New Testament we do not see a reestablishment of the civil or priestly laws.  But we do see a reestablishment of the moral law.  This is why we see New Testament condemnation of homosexuality as a sin.

                Again all sin is sin, and in my eyes it doesn’t really matter if someone was born homosexual or not. I was born with the sin that is in me, the desire to lust after women and hurt others when I am angry, no different and doesn’t really matter if they were born that way or not. All sin still separates us from God. From a homosexual person to the guy who has sex before marriage to a liar to a murderer, God see’s it all as sin worthy of condemnation in hell, separated from our perfect and holy God because he cannot dwell with in-perfection or sin. That is why Jesus came and his perfect life and sacrifice where given to us, so we could be with God. We will all still struggle with sin even as Christians, but there is a difference between struggling with sin (any sin doesn’t matter what it is) and embracing sin. Romans 7 talks about our struggle with sin (Romans 7:18-19 “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”) That is struggling with sin.  For us to say, “Well I’m just going to keep sinning because God will forgive me.” The bible clearly says that God will not forgive you. (Hebrews 10:26-27 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries of God.”) If you think this way and deliberately willfully keep on sinning after hearing the truth of God, I don’t believe you have ever had encounter with Jesus, you have never genuinely embraced the gospel in a way that has resulted in a life of faith, obedience, and the bearing of fruit. Yes God will forgive us of our sin, but that doesn’t mean we keep on sinning, if we keep on sinning because of God’s grace, then we see that God won’t forgive those that continue to deliberately sin after hearing the knowledge of truth (Paul addresses this issue in Romans 6:1-2).

                So homosexuality is just like any other sin, just as bad. But it’s not ok for anyone who has received the knowledge of the truth of God, to go on sinning, living in sin, embracing sin no matter what sin it is. This means that we as Christians should not condemn any non-believers, regardless of what sin that are living in, drug addict, porn addict, rapist, murderer, full of hate, prideful, greedy, homosexuality, lust, whatever it is. It is the love of Christ that leads us to repentance, not someone condemning us. What causes us to repent and turn from our sin is this;  when we see how filthy and undeserving we are in our sin and yet, in spite of this, God because of his great love for us, he has paid the price for our sin while we were still sinning against him, (Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”) I want to close with this, (1John 4:7-12 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John%204:7-12&version=ESV) We see what true love is, that while we were in our sin bowing down to the idols in our life, God sent his son to die for our sin on the cross, so that we might step from death into life.  Just as Jesus said in (Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive other their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”) So we are not to judge or condemn others, no matter what they are doing, but share the love and forgiveness and mercy with them that is found in Christ. Point them away from their sin and show them that life is found abundantly in Jesus Christ, savoir of mankind. †

27th February 2010

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The Book of Romans Chapter 1: part 3

“Your trouble is within. As long as the problem is not solved, nothing will avail. You must be made new within or you can never see the kingdom of God.” –Rev. C. Harinck

                This week we are going to be talking a lot more in depth about sin. What sin is and how it affects us. Obviously sin isn’t just breaking God’s laws, as we talk about every week it is the state of our heart that exists from the moment we breathe air, that we desire God’s creation, rather than the all satisfying God who created it. We want nothing to do with the God that created us and loves us, and all of us have turned away from this God and broken his laws that where set in place for our own good (Deut. 10:13).  I will be pointing out and covering what this week’s text says about sin as we go through it. God may you help us understand and show us truth, amen.

                Let’s pick it up in verse 18, (“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,” –Romans 1:18). It seems here that the text is saying that humanity’s godlessness and wickedness has caused us to be separated from God and causes us to push away, suppress, restrain, the truth of God. “..who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” So our sin seems to cause a hardening of our hearts towards God. If you’re a Christian you know this firsthand. You know on our “good” days we feel that we can pray and feel close to God, but when we are in our sin, in that moment it’s so hard to come to God, all we want to do is push him away, suppress his truth.  Our sin separates us from God. God is holy and just and perfect and cannot dwell with sin, he must punish it because he is just. So because of our sin we cannot be with God. That is why sin hardens our hearts and blinds our eyes towards God. (1Corinthians 1:18 “for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing..”) Just like Saul of Tarsus who was a known murderer and persecutor of Christians in the early years of Christianity. The message of what Jesus had done on the cross was foolishness to him, and as he carried along in his sin murdering thousands of Christians his heart only became harder and his eyes more blind.  It wasn’t until Jesus appeared to him and he saw who God really was that he was able to repent and turn away from his sin. He then went on to write most of the New Testament.  So we see we have a big problem here, our sin separates us from God, and hardens our hearts to his truth. Even once we are brought back to God through what Jesus did on the cross as Christians, sin still hardens our hearts, calluses them.

                Let’s move on, (Romans 1:19-20 “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”)  God is not far from us, he is all around us. God’s truth is clear and simple. I hear people all the time talking about these religions and philosophies that are so high-minded sounding, “deep” and “intellectual”, when really they are just complicated non-sense. Only one way can be true, truth is not relative. My hand is my hand that is true, it is not a foot.  If you don’t believe in God, as I once did, and you want proof, it’s all around us. God has revealed himself in what he has made as verse 19 tells us. The stars, the sky, the mountains, the animals, our bodies, are all proof of a creator. They could not have created themselves. I mean come on; all you have to do is open your eyes. As John Piper said recently, you see a swimming pool then you see the ocean. You see the pool and say this is a man pool, and then you look at the ocean and say, that is a God pool. (Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”) The protein in our bodies that acts as the glue for everything in our bodies is called “laminin”. (Colossians 1:17 “..and in him all things hold together.”)  And guess what this protein “laminin” that holds our bodies together looks like? It is shaped like a perfect cross, type it in on Google and look at the images of it. I mean does it get any clearer? DNA is proof of a God, and disproves evolution. DNA is information, so non information, or organic material, cannot create information. Go look all this up. I’m not a scientist, or a philosopher, so I’ll leave all the rest for them, but I did feel I had to cover both a bit since the text brought it up. Do the research yourself, look up all these other religions, look up what our body is made of, and how it’s put together, it points to a creator.  So Paul is saying to us here, that God has revealed himself in creation so that we are without excuse. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;”). Again one of the reasons I covered some of the scientific and philosophical sides of Christianity is because our faith in Christ is not a blind faith, or some far off distant hope. We talked in the 2nd part of our study on Romans chapter 1 about faith, and that Paul used the word “pistis” for faith. This is a Greek word meaning strong tangible, knowable truth, not just some unsure hope for the future. This is a hope and a faith we can stand on, be sure of. Keep in mind, there is no amount of “evidence” I can give you, or reasoning I can do with you to cause you to believe. It all boils down to you and God, you have to seek after him and ask him to reveal himself to you, put your trust in him and he will give you faith you can rely on. He will open your eyes and bridge the gap sin has caused between us and him. The bible says if you seek God with all your heart he will be known to you (Jeremiah 29:11-14). I know this first hand as do many others. But you have to seek God. I can’t do that for you. I can tell you the way to go and help explain who God is and what he has done in my life, but the rest is up to you.

                Verse 21, (Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”)  So Paul is writing here saying that they knew God. That somewhere in their hearts and minds since they have seen creation, they know that there is a God. So if they, if we know that in our hearts from logical observation of creation that there must be a God, then why do we neither glorify him as God nor give thanks to him? What has gone wrong? The problem sin, again it separates us from God. It darkens our minds, clouds our vision, get’s our hunger on temporary and unsatisfying things, rather than God who is all satisfying and everlasting.  Like an everlasting gobstopper, except those don’t last forever and God is a lot more satisfying. We have sinned and our foolish hearts have been darkened. We have suppressed the truth of God by our wickedness, by turning our backs on the God who loves us and created us, and running to his creation rather than glorifying him.  It causes our vision of God to become blurry even though it’s completely obvious and we are without excuse.  Next verse, (Romans 1:22 “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”) Before I came to Christ I thought I knew it all, I was prideful and thought that God didn’t exist and I was far wiser than everyone else. I thought that religion was the downfall of the world and without it the world would be a lot better place. Sin had darkened my heart and mind, I was blind. I claimed to be wise, even though in truth I was just a fool. The proof of God was all around me, yet because of my sin I could not see it. I did not glorify God even though deep down I knew there had to be a point to of all of this, there had to be someone or something out there. There had to be a point to this world and why I was here. All these verses we are covering are telling us we know there has to be a God and that in our hearts we know deep down that we were made for a reason. Don’t believe me? Then why do we all sometimes lay awake a nights wondering why we are here, wondering if there is more? Why do all philosophers try to figure out what our purpose here is? Why do we get scared every time we think about the possibility we might be alone in the universe? Because just like (Ecclesiastes 3:11) says, eternity is written into our hearts. We know there is more. We know there is a God. 

                But people also tend to take this route, I know I do, we might say, “Well if proof of God is all around us and we can come to know God and learn about him, then I should be able to know everything about him and get every question I have about him answered and not have a doubt in my mind about who God is.” But God is huge, massive, vast, powerful, awe inspiring, and we could never know everything about him. Why would you want to worship a God you can know everything about? A God you can fit into a box is nothing to be proud of or worshipped. (1Corinthians 2:16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”) There is nothing God does not already know. There is nothing God does not already own. He is holding all things together remember? Then why do we try to look at God from our human perspective? We claim to be wise and claim to know how the world works and claim to know about some God or God’s we say might not even exist. Yet we only become more and more foolish, and farther away from the truth.

                I keep going on about how sin has separated us from God and since we are in our sin we cannot see God and our minds, hearts, and eyes have been darkened and we have become foolish. How then can we become un-foolish? How can our hearts, eyes and minds have light flood into them and become wise?  (1Corinthians 2:14 “The man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”)  So if we do not have the spirit of God within us we cannot know the things of the spirit or be taught by him, because it is foolishness to us. We therefore cannot understand it.  Jesus tells us in (John 3:3 “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”) So what does born again mean? How can we become born again that we might see the kingdom of God?  Well we know that our sin has separated us from God, so God made a way in the Old Testament for his people to draw near to him again and be forgiven of their sins by the sacrifice and blood of perfect blemish less animals. Not because God somehow got pleasure from the blood of animals, but to show his people that their sin was costly and offensive to him without having to kill his people. So because the wages of sin is death, God sent Jesus to come (just as the Old Testament said he would) to save us from the death that we earned from our sin. He lived a perfect life, and died on the cross for our sin, being the ultimate sacrifice for sins once and for all, raising again 3 days later. Before he died on the cross he tells us this, (John 14:16-17 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. “) and (John 14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”) So if we confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe that he rose from the dead in our hearts we will be saved (Romans 10:9). We must confess our sin to him and ask him to forgive us because he paid the price for our sin in his blood, washing over all our sins forever. He will send his holy spirit to dwell within us, making us new as the bible tells us, (2Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come!)  We are then born again, our old lives are gone and our new life has come.  We are now a fresh, the word “kainos” (kay-nahs) in the Greek, building or creature, a new fresh creation.  God no longer see’s us with all our sin, we are no longer separated from him and judged upon the evil we have done in our life, but we judged on the perfect life Jesus has given to us. Good people don’t go to heaven because according to the bible good people do not exist. We have all sinned and turned away from God, and all our righteous deeds are considered filthy rags compared to the holiness of God. There is no amount of good you can do to pay God back or earn your way to heaven. It’s only by accepting his free gift of salvation, losing your old, life letting the spirit of God make you new, by what Jesus did on the cross that we can go to heaven. It’s not Jesus saved me so now I’m going to be good to pay him back. That is called religion, God doesn’t want that, he wants a relationship with us. It’s this, Jesus has saved me, given me his holy spirit and has made me new, I no longer want to live the way I once did, I don’t even get pleasure from my sin any longer, I am a fresh new creation. Christ makes us alive! He gives us his life, and his perfect record becomes ours. Through Christ what was once foolishness concerning God becomes power and truth and wisdom! The problem is within, Christ changes us from the inside out, renews us. Jesus Christ did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live. He came to make those who were once dead to God to become alive to God.

6th February 2010

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The Book of Romans Chapter 1: part 2

“A silent servant-hood that never speaks the gospel contradicts love.”-John Piper

                Last week we looked in depth about the gospel and what it is in the New and Old Testaments. What it meant to be set apart for the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to enjoy true life we must serve God.  Let’s jump right into it starting in verse 7. (Romans 1:7 “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints :) When we hear that word “saint” I think often at times we get intimidated.  We think of a very holy and perfect person who would never do anything wrong right? Well the Greek word Paul is using here is “hagios” (Ha-gi’-ahs), it means –most holy thing, or saint. So of course we are going to think of some non-existent perfect person when we hear this word “saint”.  But we see Paul saying here, “to all in Rome, called to be saints.” So to everyone that would read this would be called to be a saint. How is this so? I’m sure if Paul were to walk into our school or work and say “you are all called to be saints!” I’m sure right away we could think of a few people where we would be like, “not that guy….” Or “I could never be a saint. You don’t know how bad I am Paul; you don’t know what I have done.” But being a saint has nothing to do with how good we are, contrary to misconceptions, it’s only by what Jesus did on the cross that we can be saints! Once we accept the free gift of God, our account and our righteousness becomes Jesus perfect account and righteousness. We do not have any good on our own, so it’s only by what Jesus did on the cross that we are seen as good; we bank on him not on us. Ephesians says (Ephesians 2:8-9 “That it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one may boast.”) I could talk about just this verse for a month straight but let’s move on.

                (Read the rest of verse 7-13 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%201:7-13&version=NIV ) So Paul is writing to the Church in Rome, we know from the text he loves this church and has heard great things about it. We also see that he has been trying to visit this church and has been unsuccessful, but has continued, with God as his witness, in exhaustive prayer for them. I’d love to go more into that but we simply don’t have the time. Moving on to verses 14-15, (Romans 1:14-15 “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.”)  Let’s go back to verse 14. When I was looking through the Greek translation and meanings of this verse something stood out to me.  When Paul said “I am obligated..” the word used there for “obligated” is “opheiletes” (ah-fay-lay-tays). When I was looking through its meanings I saw it can mean a debtor, obligated, held or bound to some duty, but one jumped out at me especially; {B) one who has not yet made amends to whom he has injured.}. Say you really hurt someone you really love or do something to someone you regret doing and it feels horrible inside of you. You know that feeling when you haven’t confessed to it yet or said you are sorry and things are not better yet, that wrought inside of your stomach and heart, it’s killing you all you want to is just shout it out and just tell them, just get it off your chest!? You will do anything for that person to hear you out and talk to you and make amends with you right?  Paul is saying he feels this way about the Greeks and non-Greeks, the wise and foolish. He says that this is why he is so eager to preach the gospel in Rome in verse 15. He feels this way about all people, he wants to share the gospel of Christ with them, this truth and love and forgiveness that he has so freely been given, because of that he now feels a massive tug and pull on his heart to share with others.  So much so that he feels like he owes them something, or is wronging them simply by not telling them this gospel, this good news.  He even says this in (1Corinthians 9:16 “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.”). Again he feels compelled to preach, a necessity to preach, because he feels he owes this to all people since he, not of himself, has been freely saved.

                We as Christians, as followers of Christ, should feel this same compulsion, necessity and obligation to preach the gospel. We have been given a free gift to be saved from death. What do we have to be ashamed of? Who to be scared of? We come bringing GOOD NEWS, gospel, not bad news! We hold in our hearts and mind the truth of God that is for salvation. We must share and spread this good news to all people. We must pray for this same hunger and obligation that Paul had, for he even said, (Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. “) So this is no longer our life, this is Christ living through us to share his victory over sin and death for us, with all people. We must allow Jesus to tell people about his saving grace through us. If we don’t allow God to do that and say that we love people, we deceive ourselves. Watching people die and holding the cure in your hands is not love.  It’s like that quote we started with, “A silent servant-hood that never speaks the gospel contradicts love.” A lot of Christians will say, “Well I don’t need to share the gospel all the time, I will show the love of Jesus through how I live, love, and serve others, and through that, people will see Jesus in me and come to know him.” Yes, we should live in such a way that people see Christ’s love in us, in how we love each-other, how we love non-believers; how we take care of the things we have been given ECT. ECT. And yes sometimes that will draw people to us and ask us what it is about us that makes us so different, giving us an opportunity to share the gospel with them. But doubtfully is some-one is going to see our lives and go, “Wow, I need Jesus. I don’t even know why but I need him, I think I’m going to go home and read a bible and give my life to Jesus.” 

But back to the point, a silent servant, someone who just stays to them-selves in their own little weird Christian community, and never speaks the gospel for whatever reason, contradicts the love he claims to know. If we knew that people around us were dying of thirst, and we had an unlimited amount of water somewhere close by, but didn’t tell anyone would that be love? To just let them die of thirst in front of our eyes? No, of course that isn’t love. But yet I’m sure we can think of off of the top of our heads at least 10 people we know and claim to love that don’t know Jesus and are dead in their sin that if they stood before God right now would be found guilty of sin and sent to hell. Yet we don’t share this good news with them. That Jesus came as a man and died for them on the cross, being the ultimate sacrifice for sin once and for all, making a fair and equal way for all people to be saved. Since we can’t be good enough to earn our way to heaven, God sent his son Jesus to do it for us. He took our place and died for our sin, rising again 3 days later conquering the power of death and sin in the lives of those who put their faith in him. This is the power of God, to save a bunch of people who didn’t deserve it, yet we sit here waiting to go home to heaven to be with God and don’t bother to share with anyone around us where we are going and that they too can go with us, that they are able to go the same way that we are going there, by surrendering and accepting God’s free gift of salvation in the life and work of Jesus Christ.

Again this all ties right into the beginning about being called saints, this word intimidates us, but we have to see that all that is taking place is this; Jesus lived a perfect sinless life and died for our sin, and now we can choose to bank on what he did, because what he has done, has been freely given to us, and that God no longer see’s those who receive his free gift with all their sin and garbage, he only see’s the holy and perfect sacrificed life of his son Jesus. When we see it that way, it makes sense that we can be called a “saint” or “most holy thing”. All that Jesus had and is and was has been laid on those who believe. We are his heirs. He just steps in front of us so God see’s him and his perfection, not us and our sin. (John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”)

Moving on, verse 16, (Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the gentile.”) There are 2 points I want to cover here. Point 1; right on topic, Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes:” As we were just talking about, we have nothing to be ashamed of; this is the truth that can be shared with everyone for salvation. It is life! There is nothing to fear or be ashamed of. If we fear people mocking us, persecuting us, or killing us here is what God tells us to think about that, (Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,”).  We are to count it joy, because this world is not our home, we are bringing good news. This is why he tells us not to be ashamed of him or what he has done for us and the rest of the world, (Mark 8:38 “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his father’s glory with the holy angels.”). God’s transforming, saving, and all satisfying love is nothing to be ashamed of Christians.

Point number 2; going back to last week and the gospel and how it is revealed in the Old Testament and the New. Jesus was the promised Christ the prophecies of the Old Testament spoke of. He fulfilled all of the ancient prophecies just as they said. He was sent to be the salvation for the Jews, sent to redeem and save God’s people of Israel. We learned last week that salvation was also opened up also for the rest of the world through Jesus. Let’s look at the account where the very first time salvation and the kingdom of God and truth was opened up to the Gentile (non Jewish) world.  (Read Matthew 15:21-28 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2015:21-28&version=NIV ) We should have this same faith to come before the almighty savior and beg to be healed! She was a Canaanite woman, a Gentile, for her to come before a Jewish rabbi like that was unheard of, especially since she was a woman. Women were not allowed to speak to men unless they were first addressed. So again we see the love of Jesus breaking down all social, racial and sexist barriers.

On to verse 17, last verse for this week. (Romans 1:17 “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith”) Paul is showing us that in this gospel he has revealed to us, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is freely given to us by faith from the first moment we believe until the last moment when we die, that we will live by faith and faith alone that we are redeemed solely by what Jesus did on the cross, and that alone. This word “faith” here we see, the word Paul used for it in the original Greek manuscript is “pistis” (piss-tiss), see this word means {1) conviction of truth of anything} this is a very strong and empowering word of being shown truth from God. Not blind faith, faith with reason {a) a character of one who can be relied on.} This faith he is talking about isn’t just some far off distant hope, but a faith we can know, touch and rely on. Just like the faith you all exercised when you sat down on the chair or couch or bed to listen to this message. You put all your faith in the hope that when you sat down, the chair that was under your butt would hold you up and support you, not collapse in some pitiful heap with you laying defeated atop it. This is the same faith the Jesus gives us, a faith that we see being worked out in our lives and we can rely on, that we can know.  (2Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”) This is a supernatural work of God that renews us, not some far off distant hope, but a powerful, reliable, faith that has and will transform anyone that puts their full weight on and in Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.    

30th January 2010

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The Book of Romans Chapter 1: part 1

The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful “adjustment” to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.-Aw Tozer

                The book of Romans was written in approximately in A.D. 57 to the mostly Gentile Church in Rome by the apostle Paul. That means it’s a book for all of us unless you’re a Jew. Written just so we can understand who Jesus is and what he has done. May God speak to us and teach us as we look into his scripture.

                (Romans 1:1 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—“ )  Let’s stop right there, already there are a couple words right there that should jump out at us.  Those words “called” and “set apart” jump out immediately. So what do they even mean? What is he saying? The word “called” in the Greek is “Kletos” (Klay-tas), here it means to be divinely selected or appointed.  That other word there is “set apart”. What does that mean?  The Greek used there for “set apart” is “aphorizo” (ah-fa-re-zo); it means to mark off from others with boundaries, to limit, to separate.  So he is saying he has been chosen by God to be an apostle, “apostolos” (a-pa-sto-las), “a messenger”, and set apart, separated, boundaries around him from others, for the gospel of God.

                So now we see what the words mean, but what does that look like? What does it look like to be set apart for the gospel, to be separate for the gospel of God? I think we can look to the life of the apostle Paul and see what that means. (Acts 20:24 “However I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”) Paul considered his life, all his thoughts, wants, desires, ideas, pleasures, everything as worth nothing to him if only he could finish the task the Lord had sent him to do, which we see as in Romans 1:1 is to testify the gospel of God. He is set apart for it, he is separate for it. He doesn’t have in mind the same things the world does, he doesn’t view valuable and worthwhile the same things the world does. It’s all worthless to him compared to proclaiming the gospel. (Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”) The word used there in the Greek for “to live” is “zao” (za-oh), it means to enjoy true life. So Paul is saying for me to enjoy true life is to have Christ, to enjoy true life is to be set apart for the gospel, putting all my hope faith and joy in Christ and Christ alone, even If it means suffering for or even dying because of this gospel, for to me, to die is gain, it is profit to me. How could he say that? What is different about Paul? What did he have that was causing him to operate this way? He was set apart to be a messenger of Christ. His focus was not on this world and its concerns but on God and his concerns.  We see Paul saying in, (Philippians 3:7 “But whatever was to my profit I now consider a loss for the sake of Christ.”) So to Paul all the things he once cherished as worthwhile and profitable he now counts as loss, as damage, for the sake of Christ. What is wrong with Paul? What is so great about Christ and serving Jesus and being set apart for him? Why is Paul working so tirelessly and counting it joy to work and suffer to be set apart for this gospel of God?  To answer that we need to find out exactly what this gospel he speaks of in verse 1 is.

                He shows us in; (Romans 1:2-4 “the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”) So what Paul is saying may sound a bit confusing, let me try to put it in our words a bit more. He is saying from verse 1, I have been called by God and set apart to be a messenger of the gospel, that was promised in the Old testament by the prophets thousands of years ago, regarding the Son of God, who was a descendant of David, and who through the holy spirit, was proven to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ. So how did Jesus rising from the dead prove that he was who he said he was the messiah, the Son of God, the Christ? His raising from the dead was foretold in the ancient scriptures, (Psalm 16:10 “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your holy one see decay.”) (Hosea 6:2 “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”) Jesus also promised it from his own mouth, (Luke 24:46 “He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day…”) so the resurrection proves that Jesus is who he and the ancient scriptures claimed him to be. It also makes him reliable, he said he would rise from the dead and he did.

Let’s go on; (Romans 1:5 “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.”) The Jewish faith in the Old Testament teaches that salvation was for the nation of Israel, the Jewish nation, and that was it. That God had chosen Israel to be his chosen nation and salvation was for them alone.  I’ve noticed that many people I’ve talked to have a real problem with the exclusiveness of Christian salvation and that some people will be going to hell. But the foundations of our faith teach that salvation has always been exclusive. It was only for the Jews. But now we read here that Paul and his fellow workers in the gospel have received the message to call all the Gentiles (non Jews) now as well. What changed? It all boils down to this gospel that Paul is working so tirelessly for. That Jesus Christ came just as the Old Testament said he would, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, lived a perfect life in solitude as a humble carpenter for 30 years, was baptized by John the Baptist, the spirit of the Lord descended on him in the form of a dove. He then went into full blown ministry for 3 years healing the sick, blind, mute, deaf, demon possessed, and the dead. Went to Jerusalem where he was delivered into the hands of the Pharisees and Jewish leaders, was brought to Pilot, beaten and flogged beyond recognition, sentenced to be crucified, had his hands and feet pierced and clothes gambled over on the cross just as Palms 22 said he would thousands of years prior, before crucifixion was even invented. He then died, was buried in a rich man’s tomb, in that tomb for 3 days, then rose again on the 3rd day conquering death and sin in his wake.

So the bad news is, that none of us, no one on this earth can be worthy of heaven, you can’t be a good enough person, all of us have gone astray and sinned as Isaiah 53 talks about. That our good deeds are as used menstrual rags before the Lord (Isaiah 64:6) and that (Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin is death…”) so we all deserve death, hell, for our sin, that’s the just punishment. That is what we have earned for our sin. Our wage, our paycheck, is hell, death, separation from God for our sin. But the rest of that verse in (Romans 6:23 “…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”) So it’s only by what Jesus did on the cross, only by his spilled and shed blood on the cross that we might be saved. See the laws and regulations that God gave the Jews in Israel was to shed the blood of animals and make sacrifices in order to cover for their sins, so that they didn’t have to pay for their sin with their own blood and lives.  (Hebrews 9:22 “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”) God wanted Israel to see that their sin was costly to God and must be punished, but was merciful enough to give a way out of death. God then sent Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice for sin, a perfect unblemished life to pay for all sin forever.

So yes salvation has always been exclusive, and still is exclusive in the sense that it is only possible to be saved through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross, no other religions will gain you salvation. (John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes onto the father except through me.”) (Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”) (Romans 10:9 “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”)But see the beautiful thing is now God has opened up salvation to ALL peoples everywhere through what Jesus did on the cross! It’s no longer just for the nation of Israel, but for all peoples! People don’t have to go to hell; Jesus made a way for us not to. God does not send “good” people to hell, because there are no good people, (Romans 3: 10 “There is no one righteous, not even one.”) So we need to see the beauty in this thing that God came down to save us, even though we have gone astray and have earned hell and death.  But (John 10:10 “…I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.”) even though we deserve death.

Let’s continue in verse 6. (Romans 1:6 “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”) Jesus is calling you right now! For it is written, (2 Corinthians 6:2 “I tell you, now is the times of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”) This life is short, we are not promised tomorrow, and Jesus has made a way for all of us to be saved and will’s that none of us should perish. What are you waiting for? Experience true life, LIVE in Christ today!

23rd January 2010

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What Does God want for us? Suffering….

“God displays the greatness of the glory of his grace in the suffering of his son…” –John Piper

 

                Many people think they know what God wants for their lives, or what’s best for them-selves even. Many people think God makes us promises of security and happiness. Let’s look into scripture and see what it says.  

I think any Christian will tell you suffering draws us closer to God than anything else. It’s what the bible teaches. (Romans 8:16-17 “The spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”) See, following Jesus and suffering are not two different ideas; they are one in the same.  God wants us satisfied in him, throughout suffering, trails or hardships. A favorite Piper quote of mine is “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him.” Jesus came and suffered for us, what makes us think if we follow him, that we too, will not suffer. (2Timothy 3:12 “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”) Just like in Romans 8, if we share in his glory, why would we not share in his suffering? (John 15:20 “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master’. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”)  In fact people will think they are doing God a favor by killing and persecuting you if you are a Christian. (John 16:2 “…in fact a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.”) The Jews of the day killed thousands of Christian men, women and children, thinking that they were serving God. Today Muslims kill Christians thinking that they are serving God.

Yes I believe the entire message of Christianity is humility and suffering. Jesus warns us the costs of following him and promises us joy in him through these trails (Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”) Why then are we surprised that we are suffering and going through hard trails? (1Peter 4:12-13 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trail you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”) So it seems that there is joy in this suffering for Christ. But how? How can we possibly have joy and rejoice during these trails? Because we know God, we live in Christ, we trust him and HE is our treasure, not the fleeting pleasures of this world. (1John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”) (Luke 9:15 “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, but loose his very soul in the process.”) This right here is our hope, that we know that the world is passing away and it is no good to chase after the satisfaction in the world, in material treasures, because we know that our king satisfies us and that he will wipe every tear from our eyes.

So we store up our treasures in heaven, in Jesus. We count him our treasure. (Matthew 6:20 “But store up for your-selves treasure in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”) We count Jesus our treasure, our goal, our life. It’s no longer our life, but it was bought at a price. Jesus Christ paid our fine for our sin with his blood and we now belong to him. Then we allow Jesus Christ to live through us and not be our co-pilot, but be our pilot. Through that we can be most satisfied in him, and allow our treasure not to be on this earth. That way when people mock, beat, spit on, and kill us for our hope in Christ, we can count it joy because we know that the glory that is to come will wash away all our tears, and that Christ is PRESENTELY more satisfying.

So if we now have read all these scriptures talking about suffering, sacrifice, and worldly riches being nothing compared to the hope of Christ, then where do we get all this prosperity stuff? These People who think that God only wants to bless us and never go through hard times. Suffering makes people praise Jesus! The prosperity gospel does not make ANYONE praise Jesus. It makes people praise prosperity. People will say, “Of course I’ll have a Jesus who will give me a car!” Who wouldn’t want a Jesus who’ll give me health, a car, a happy marriage, and wealth? These people think that it’s in this short vapor of a life that we find the good life. That being a Christian is full of success and wealth and fun! I see a very different message coming from Paul’s mouth. (1Corinthians 15:19 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”)  Paul is saying, “It’s NOT about this life.”  If Christ is only real to us in this life and we die and it’s all done, no more, gone; then we are to be the most pitied people on planet earth because we missed out on life. We sacrificed and sacrificed and toiled and underwent persecution for nothing! But these prosperity teachers are telling us to have our “Best life now!” What a bunch of CRAP!  We are to be pitied if this is our best life now!! But the bible spoke of these fools. (1Timothy 6:5 “, and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”)

These people will tell you that if your check book isn’t balanced, you get sick, and you have relationship problems, then you’re not living a godly life of total victory. Would they say that to Paul and John when they said this right after being flogged, (Acts 5:41 “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus.”) Their focus was on eternal things, not temporary superficial things. They were less worried about looking respectable and more about being faithful. Or what would they say about what Paul said here in Philippians? (Philippians 3:7-8 “But whatever was to my profit I now consider a loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”) The word for rubbish there in the Greek is skybalon (sku-ba-lon), which means the excrement of animals, dung, things worthless and detestable. So Paul had counted all his knowledge, property and wealth as worthless, less than worthless even.

Then there are some people who say that being a Christian is little less than a title. No true dedication for God, no willingness to go where he calls you and even suffer, no change of heart to leave behind the things of the world and their life, no growing hatred for sin even, but they claim that they belong to Christ. They might say, “I’m a Christian who loves Jesus, but still lives a ‘normal’ life.” They will say, “I can just love Jesus, but I don’t have to preach to people cause that might offend people and I don’t want people not to like me, and I don’t have to go around be all about Jesus all the time and I can still look just like a normal person and not some weird Christian. I can look like the world, smell like the world, do all the very things in the world that God hates, but I’m a saved Christian who loves Jesus.” Which Jesus do you love? Is it the Jesus of the bible? Is it the one who said, (John 12:25 “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”) or (Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”) or (Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”) Jesus is showing us that he is the ultimate treasure, to count the world and its desires as dung in comparison to him. To hate our own lives and everything in it compared to him. To Find ultimate purpose in him, that’s why he said to Peter, (Matthew 16:23 “Then Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”)  So when these people walk around claiming they are Christians, just that they want to live a “normal” life, God is shamed and he is not glorified, he is made to look dull, boring, and not worth any kind of reverence or sacrifice. Even though he paid the biggest price of all for people that were his enemies. (Romans 5:8 “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”) So if you’re walking around saying you’re a Christian but your life offers no proof of that, you need to re-examine your life with Christ, you may not be saved. If we can’t lay down our lives for him and count all our sacrifice joy, then we don’t truly know God or what he has for us.

“Will we join the son in the supreme satisfaction of the glory of grace, in joining him in the Calvary road of suffering?” –John Piper