Saturday, December 26, 2015

God Remembers Noah

Gen 8:20  Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Gen 8:21  And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.
Gen 8:22  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease."

One of the blessings of studying through the account of Noah is the different ways he and the ark teach about Jesus and his work of redemption.  The account above refers to when Noah walks out of the ark after all living things have been destroyed.  I think the inference is that in the back of Noah’s mind was the nagging question as to what would stop the Lord from sending another flood to destroy sinful man.  Noah knew that the sin in his heart had survived the flood and so in a sense, nothing had changed inwardly.

And this is the very first question the Lord deals with and it comes right after Noah had made a blood sacrifice to the Lord and it says that the sacrifice pleased God. The Lord promises to never curse the earth with a flood that destroys all life as he did in the days of Noah.

I think this is fitting as it continues to teach of Christ.  There are many Christians who are confused and ask similar questions today.  They have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; they have been saved from the wrath of God against sin but they have not been taught what that means to their future and their assurance.  Part of this is because their pastors refuse to accept what the Bible says about the eternal election unto salvation that the Bible clearly teaches.  One such verse is Act 13:48  And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.  From eternity God has appointed some for eternal life.  There is never any indication that he has appointed them to believe and then fall away; to have life and then to go back into death.  Such an idea takes election out of the hands of a sovereign God and make man’s will the determining factor.  But election is precisely  God determining to save some of fallen man lest all men perish.

Another reason that many suffer with the idea that even though they are believers they can be taken away from Christ is that they simply won’t accept the promises of God in this matter.  Let me list a couple of passages that parallel the account in Gen. 8:20-22.

Jud 1:24  Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy. 
Php 1:6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Joh 10:28  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Joh 10:29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

The study of the atoning work of Christ is deep and complex in many ways and good men have debated it for 2000 years.  But we need to be sure to not make complex what the Bible has clearly stated.  The above verses make it clear that our salvation is in the Lord’s hand and not ours.  We can’t sin away grace because it is a gift not merited to begin with.  Jude said that Jesus is able to keep us blameless until presented before the presence of God.  If he is able to do this, why does he let some supposedly lose their salvation when he could have stopped it? 

The worse thing about believing you can be separated from Christ is not the lack of peace and stability it brings in the lives of those who believe it but the worse thing is what is says about our Lord and his love for us.  It is to infer that he is a liar,

Rom 8:33  Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
Rom 8:34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Rom 8:35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Rom 8:36  As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
Rom 8:37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Rom 8:38  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
Rom 8:39  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

If God says no one can bring a charge against me if I am in Christ then I will hang my salvation on the peg of his promise and not on my ability to cling to Christ.

Friday, December 11, 2015

How Strong is Our Endurance?

Gen 5:22  Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Gen 6:9  These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 

Early on in Genesis we are introduced to two men who are said to walk with God.  One of the things I was struck with was the length of time in which they walked with God.  Enoch lived another three hundred years after this was said of him.  It was said of Noah before he started building the ark and it is generally assumed it took him 120 years to complete it and then he lived another 350 years after the flood.

What I find interesting is that when we compare the length of our lives to theirs we live a very few years.  We only have to endure an extremely short amount of time of trials compared to what some of these men had to go through.  For 120 years Noah worked on a boat that made no sense to the people around him and there can be little doubt that he was ridiculed in some way for it.  It was a difficult task and many days he had to have wondered was this really necessary.  He faced all the challenges from within and without that we face today, yet he endured being faithful to the Lord for centuries.

We moderns, though, seem to fall apart at the least thing and have great difficulty patiently enduring trials without complaints, despair, depression, giving up and just general lack of contentment.  This is not to say that there aren’t many examples all around us of faithful endurance, but sometimes our inability to deal with difficulty says a lot about the strength of our faith. 

We go through difficulty that might last for a few weeks or a few months or even for many years and yet we will never have to endure for centuries.  But often it seems that one of our first reactions is why in the world would the Lord cause this to happen and we seem to think we are entitled to have trials pass quickly.  We immediately start praying that the Lord would remove the affliction long before we get to the point of praying that he would give us patience.  I have been impressed with these two men because they were faithful for centuries and I have asked the Lord to give me the same type of faith (patience) to endure for the short time of life I have on earth.

What I don’t want to do is at the first sign of problems just get depressed, sit at home and do nothing.  If I love the Lord and I love the church I will fight to the death to honor him and protect the church.  This takes an endurance that only comes from the Lord.  But we are not without examples in the Scriptures.

Paul said after at most three decades of suffering, 2Ti 4:6  For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 2Ti 4:7  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2Ti 4:8  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.  I hope that I have the faith to say the same thing after a few months of trials and that I don’t collapse early on.  At the heart of faithfulness is walking with God as we see with Enoch and Noah.  We must make our lives about him and pursue him in his Word or we will not have the faith to endure dark days.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Christ Or Not; Nothing Else Matters

Gen 6:14  Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. Gen 6:17  For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. Gen 6:18  But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you.  Gen 8:13  In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.  Gen 8:18  So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him.

I put together a few verses from the account of Noah to emphasize a point I want to make.  We read that it was covered inside and out with pitch which is significant in biblical theology.  This word is the same word as mercy-seat which “covered” the ark or box found in the temple; ark means box.  The pitch made sure absolutely no water or judgment could get into the souls being saved.  In both cases then, the ark was the place where God’s wrath was turned away from the guilty.  While seen vaguely in Noah’s ark, it is elaborated on some in the Ark of the Covenant where we see that the wrath of God is turned back through the blood sacrifice of a substitute being sprinkled before God and thus reconciliation and peace is made.

Finally, the NT word for Propitiation is the same word for covering in the OT to which we have referred.  These words carry with them the idea of putting off or appeasing or satisfying something.  The blood of Christ did not just divert God’s wrath away for a time, but as he became sin for us, he actually bore the wrath of a holy God and satisfied fully the justice of God so no wrath remains on those that are united with him; they weren’t in the ark bailing out water because it was seeping through and getting them wet.  All judgment was borne by Christ and we will never face sin’s judgment!  Christ paid the price that all sin deserved so that by coming to him we can be justified.  We have been put in a position in which God has nothing against us.  But things get better than that.

Remember that Noah found grace in God’s sight.  Not only are our sins removed in Jesus Christ but his righteousness is imputed unto us.  Had only our guilt been removed God would at best been neutral toward us.  But by looking at us as he does his Son we now are in his favor.  He isn’t being held back so that he can’t exercise his wrath, he has no wrath toward us.  In fact, he loves as he does his Son and gives us the same inheritance.  He brings us to glory and lavishes his grace upon us. 

This points to a key doctrinal difference between clear biblical teaching and that of the Roman Catholics and other Arminian groups.  They see Christ as turning back some of God’s judgment but that it keeps seeping through when we sin.  So we have to keep bailing out the water and if we miss some before we die we have to face God’s judgment.

The last verses above were quoted to show how the account fits the type so well.  On the other side of the ark’s salvation they stepped over onto dry ground.  Before they were allowed to leave the ark all the water had to recede; all the wrath of God had to be satisfied before Noah and his family could leave the ark.  Christ has saved us perfectly and there is no sin that can ever be held against us and someday we will stand on a new earth where all sin has been destroyed. 

This is what it means to be safe in union with Christ.  As such, the ark is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as everyone who was in the ark was saved and everyone not on the ark was lost, so everyone who, in the obedience of faith, has put himself under the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ will be saved from God’s future judgment; everyone who is outside of Christ will be lost. It doesn’t depend on one person being better or worse than another person. There were probably some nice people who didn’t get on board the ark. There are some wonderful people who have never trusted in Christ for salvation; but being wonderful towards other men is not being righteous before a holy God. It all depends on whether you are “on board” or not, covered from God’s judgment by the means He has ordained.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Weapons of Christian Warfare

2Co 10:3  For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.
2Co 10:4  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2Co 10:5  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

I consider the above passage along with a similar text in Eph. 6 as being of the utmost importance for Christians to understand if they are to battle sin effectively.  Our passage says that our weapons are not fleshly but spiritual and have to do with the mind and ideas.  While it is intimated in 2 Cor. 10 that our enemies are spiritual, Eph. 6 says it plainly that our weapons are spiritual because the enemies are spiritual, Eph 6:12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

In a nutshell 2 Cor. 10 is telling us that our real battle with sin lies in how we think about God and his Word.  The strongholds in vs. 4 aren’t actual physical forts but erroneous thinking and being deceived; thinking that is dangerous because it is against the knowledge of God.  The positive way of saying this is seen in the latter part of verse 5.  Incorrect and sinful thinking accepts human wisdom over the revelation of God.  Godly thinking has only one grid that all thoughts must pass through, does it fall under the will of Christ; will it serve his cause, does it fall in line with what he has said or will it undermine truth? 

The objective of our warfare is to change how people think and so it begins with us.  Too often Christians have tried to clean up people’s lives but because they are so weak in the faith all they accomplish is to make the “converts” look outwardly like them.  But their ideas of God and service are so defective that they are unable to do battle when the trials come.  They cannot have strong relationships because their love for Christ isn’t driving them; they still love themselves and live for themselves and can’t figure out why attending church or not drinking, or not smoking doesn’t fix their problems.  Their hearts and their minds (in the Bible they are the same thing) have not been transformed by truth. 

When Christians do this they turn their attention on things of the flesh as if somehow that will change the heart.  An even more extreme example of trying to fight this spiritual battle with weapons of the flesh would be when some in the name of Christ have actually taken up conventional weapons like swords or guns and tried to force people into a spiritual kingdom.  Nothing could do more damage to Christ’s kingdom than that.

It also, then, forces us to acknowledge that those who tempt us or persecute us are not our enemies as such.  This is how we can love our enemies.  They are held captive by sin and Satan and need the gospel.  While they can hurt the body and fight against Christ; pain and suffering are not our enemies; listening to their siren call of pleasing the flesh is our enemy.

For instance, many have used torture or physical intimidation to try and cause saints to deny their faith.  We might ask isn’t that physical enemies and it would seem the way to combat it is to get away from the pain or danger?  Not necessarily.  What happens when you cannot get away from such things?  The real problem isn’t the pain or discomfort; it is the lie that they are trying to get you to buy into which is that momentary relief is more important than honoring the Lord!  It is the same lie that brought down Adam and Eve and everyone since then.  And this holds true whether you are being attacked with poor health, lack of a steady income, relationship problems, etc.  The spiritual enemy’s attack is to get inside your mind and make you think that the most important thing is to get rid of discomfort, to exalt your pride and your wants and your needs above serving the Lord. 

So the only effective weapon against sin is a strong love for the Lord that causes us to reject the lie of the flesh and the Devil that there are things that are more important than serving the Lord with all your heart.  It is to live in light of eternity and not live to please the flesh for a few years on earth.  The battle against sin is first and foremost a battle of the heart and mind.

When Paul was arrested by the light of God on the road to Damascus, his first words after finding out that it was Jesus was, “What shall I do Lord”.  If this isn’t our mantra, the fundamental truism that we constantly come back to when making decisions then we haven’t been delivered from these spiritual forces no matter what our theology might be or how well we think we keep the outward laws.  May God help us to recognize our real enemy and to also recognize our most important defense and weapon; a transformed heart saturated in the Word.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Building Our Own Arks

Heb 11:5  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
Heb 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Jud 1:14  It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,
Jud 1:15  to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
2Pe 2:5  if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.

We read in the above passages that Enoch and Noah were men of faith and their faith had an effect on how they lived and spoke.  The references in Hebrews speak to their lifestyle while the ones in 2 Peter and Jude speak to the words they proclaimed to the world around them.  So both of these men offer some insight as to what it is to walk with God and live by faith.

Another similarity is that both men’s “preaching” was concerned about the coming judgment of God upon the wicked.  What I find interesting as well is both men lived in light of coming judgment and by this their faith was commended or proven.  While they both are said to have spoken actual words to the lost around them, I think, if we try to make some practical application for ourselves, the preaching that they did and that we are to do isn’t just words but works.

We see this most clearly in Hebrews remarks about Noah in verse 7.  There it says that Noah had been given the word of God of coming judgment, in this case the world wide flood.  It then says that he began to construct the ark; in other words, he lived in light of the Word of God and future events; “yet unseen”, the Bible says.  It goes on to say that “by this” he condemned the world. 

It wasn’t just whatever he might have said to those who wanted to know what he was doing but his very act of constructing the ark was also how he “proclaimed” to the lost that judgment was coming.  Enoch teaches the same lesson as he is described as “walking with God”.  Both men lived in light of God’s revelation to them and their lives condemned those around them who lived only in the here and now. 

I believe in this sense we all have been called to be preachers of righteousness, not just in proclaiming truth but living in light of it.  Too many times our lives end up being an example of “do as I say, not as I do”.  But the Bible never gives Christians that option.  Yes, we will never be as consistent as we would wish; but Paul tells us to walk worthy of our calling, Eph_4:1  I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.  Actually he exhorts us to do this three times in his epistles. 

I think we all know that in a very real sense it is how we live that says more about our faith than what we say.  While we are to be patient with each other’s sins and faults, we know that the world never will be patient with hypocrisy and they shouldn’t be.  We never have an excuse to live as if there is no coming day in which we will stand before the Lord.  Enoch and Noah were sinners just like we are but walking by faith is to live in a consistent way that shows you believe what God has revealed to us in his Word.  

Can this world see us building our arks?  Can they see us putting together lives that speak of the truth of God’s Word?  This is how our faith is commended as having pleased God like these two great men of faith.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Biblical Math

2Co 8:1  We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2Co 8:2  for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 2Co 8:3  For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord. 2Co 8:4  begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints--

In normal math when the same numbers are added together they get the same sum every time and if one or both of the numbers change the sum is different.  In biblical math that doesn’t always work.  In the above case the Macedonians were under sever affliction which was resulting in extreme poverty.  But the text tells us these two things along with a third added up in a wealth of generosity.  That might make us shake our heads in confusion unless we are familiar with what the grace of God does in the life of a saint of God.

The normal way of thinking is that I will be generous once all of my needs are taken care of and if I have any disposable income left over I will consider giving it to someone in need.  But this was not how these Macedonians were thinking.  When Paul told them of the physical needs of the church in Jerusalem they begged to be able to help them out when they were perhaps no better off than those in Jerusalem. 

They were poor but they were also full of the joy of the Lord.  They knew that their sins were forgiven and that all things were theirs in Christ and an eternal inheritance awaited them and so whatever they could do to help the Lord’s work and the Lord’s people was of the utmost importance to them.  Knowing that our heavenly Father is taking care of us frees us from undue anxiety for temporal things and allows us to live by faith.  A weak faith will cause us to spend our time questioning God’s provisions for us and complaining and being dissatisfied.  We will hardly look to the needs of others if we think God is not taking care of us.  I think this is at the heart of Jesus’s words, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

They were living in the joy of knowing Christ and so looking outward to be able to minister to others.  So while in the Macedonians persecution plus poverty plus joy added up to love and generosity; biblically the addends can be changed and yet the sum remains the same.  God doesn’t call everyone to suffer poverty yet all Christians are to be generous.  In this case the lack of persecution plus worldly riches plus joy still adds up to love and generosity.  Riches and poverty tend to make us hoarders and selfishness can be seen in those with much and in those with little.  Grace teaches us to turn loose of temporal things for the sake of Christ.

Of course the constant is that Christ has secured all our needs and given us great joy so that as Paul says, Php 4:12  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. Php 4:13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  He was freed from worry about himself so that he could do whatever God wanted him to do.  It is no accident that he later says, Php 4:19  And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 

It should be our prayer that no matter what the Lord adds or subtracts from our lives, they always add up to the same thing; consistent, loving, God-honoring living.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 Sovereign Grace Baptist Bible Conference

We had a great conference this year.  The subject material was all family oriented but each message is practical for any age and situation.  Below are the links for each message.  All messages are by Don Theobald

The Marriage Bed

A Message For Grandparents

Children Obey Your Parents

What is Marriage?

Raising Your Children

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Separating From the World

2Co 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 2Co 6:17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 2Co 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

2 Cor. 6:14-18 is one of the great passages on Christian separation in the Bible.  I find the last part quoted above to be especially interesting as he quotes from the OT and uses Israel as an illustration of Christian separation.  This has caused no small amount of confusion in the church when it comes to how we conduct ourselves in the world. 

In verse 16 he reminds us of how the Tabernacle was always in the middle of the camp.  Since this was where the Lord’s presence was manifested it becomes a type of how the Holy Spirit dwells within God’s people today but in the individual, not outwardly in a nation.  Israel’s biggest failure was to let the surrounding nations tempt them to worship their gods.  This in turn caused them to live for themselves and become just as ungodly as everyone else. The false gods that lured them always had two things in common, gross sexual immorality and trusting in them for physical needs.  Their spirit is alive and well today.  The primary way they were to separate from the nations was not so much in location but in influence.

As he moves on into verse 17 he adds to not touch any unclean thing and in so doing they will be accepted by the Lord.  This is where we really have to be careful in how to apply this.  Clearly Israel was to go away from the Gentiles and live by themselves within the boundaries of Canaan.  It has always been a temptation for many saints to read the OT and try to work out their faith by trying to live under the OC conditions.  I was recently reading of a statement made by an early New England preacher of the 1600s that made no bones about the fact that he believed the church was to live under the same covenant as the Jews did and follow the same laws.  But they lived physically as a type of how we are to live spiritually because they were a physical people, we are a spiritual people.

The context that I believe Paul is referring to is that they were to keep themselves pure and not be contaminated by the paganism of the Gentiles.  The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had missed this point by thinking that by not handling something with their hands they were keeping themselves pure; by not touching Gentiles they were being clean.  But sin doesn’t enter us by touching something with our body.  It comes into us by believing a lie.  Adam and Eve let sin into their hearts before they ever touched a piece of fruit by listening to the lies of Satan.

Israel was never told to have nothing to do with Gentiles; they were to be a light unto the Gentiles.  But they used the Law to put distance between themselves and the Gentiles and to see themselves as better than the Gentiles and so missed the gospel.  Many today look at the lost as just sinful people that will only contaminate their holiness and that as Christians they are clean and respectable and so they should have nothing to do with the lost or at least stay as far away from them as possible.  But this only leads us away from the people we are to minister to, not away from the worldliness. 

Jesus understood this when he prayed for our sanctification in Joh 17:15  I do not sk that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. Joh 17:16  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Joh 17:17  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. Joh 17:18  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. Joh 17:19  And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.  Unlike Israel of old, he doesn’t tell us to separate ourselves from lost people per se but keep ourselves from the influence of the evil one.  

In short, the unclean things that we are to keep separated from are not so much lost people but anything that stops you from worship, service and having a clear conscience.  Don’t touch anything that takes your heart away from the Lord.  And so in 7:1 we find out that we have the same promises when we give our heart fully to Christ, 2Co 7:1  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Is Divorce the Greatest Sin in Marriage?

2Co 7:3  I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

Paul’s use of the above verse is not concerning marriage but Christian love in general especially when it comes to the church’s love and commitment to Paul and his towards them.  It is an astounding statement of love.  As I was meditating on Christian love and commitment I naturally started applying it to the marriage relationship. 

True love is a commitment to the ultimate good of its object and so Christians should be committed to death when it comes to marriage.  When divorce is always on the table it will be difficult to take the time and make the effort to work through the problems that marriage will bring.  This is why living together without marriage is setting the relationship up for failure; it makes it easy to walk away instead of working through problems.  A spouse who knows that their partner is committed to them for life and will put forth the effort to learn how to live with them in love will find it much easier to respond in kind.  How many marriages would thrive if there is commitment to live and to die together? 

But there is a kind of twisted side to this that I have seen of late.  Sometimes it seems that the commitment is not to love your spouse to the end or not to love the Lord until the end but to stay married to the end.  Paul is saying above that he is committed to love to death, not to force his leadership over them until death.  If we have entered marriage committed to the fact that divorce is the ultimate sin then we might also be setting ourselves up for failure.  There is nothing more pathetic than for a couple to say that they don’t believe in divorce and so just endure each other in “obedience” to the Lord.  A commitment that doesn’t put the Lord and others first from the heart is just a miserable relationship.  Maybe too often we think we are honoring the Lord by staying legally married but we really dishonor him because we make little effort to lavish love on each other and have a good marriage and instead just “stay married”. 

I am certainly not advocating divorce apart from the biblical parameters, but the idea that all God cares about is not divorcing or separating but that it is okay to have an ungodly, unloving relationship is ludicrous.  I have seen too many men (and I have struggled with this myself) who think the key to a happy marriage is that their wives submit to them in everything.  But they don’t hold themselves to the same standard.  The key to a happy marriage is not for a woman to just do as she is told but to love your wife as Christ loved you.  For a Christian to say that divorcing me or leaving me is wrong but don’t expect me to do the right thing is just hypocritical. 

If we make staying together no matter how miserable the marriage is the ultimate goal, then we can be tempted to not work on being a loving spouse.  To be an unloving, harsh husband and father that brings misery and an unfulfilled life on your wife and family is every bit as sinful as divorce.  

Again, I am not saying that it is okay to divorce someone because they don’t love well, but husbands and wives must be held accountable to make their spouse want to stay married to them and not hold to the idea that divorce is wrong whether I change or not.  The greatest sin we can commit is to not love others as Christ has loved us.  Divorce is result of the failure to love like this in one way or another.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Men, What Does Your Marriage Say About You?

1Co 11:7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.

I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between a husband and wife and their roles in marriage lately.  And one of the verses that interests me is the one quoted above and in particular how is the woman the glory of man.  What follows is just some observations and is not being stated as a dogmatic interpretation; this is something that I look forward to studying further.  By the way, I don’t think Paul is referring to the fact that women are the fairer sex when he makes this statement even though that is true.

I guess the first question to be answered is how is man the glory of God and that will more or less answer the main question.  Paul does not say that woman is the image of man for both genders are created in the image of God.  And another thing that must be remembered is that the context is the roles of genders and specifically that the man is to be the head or leader of the woman.  So in part “she is his glory” must refer to the fact that she is under his authority.  But I think there is more implied at least in the whole of Scripture on this subject.  In fact, I hope to show that being under his authority is at the heart of this.

Man and, in a sense mankind, is the glory of God in that all that he is and does is because of God’s provisions, care and wisdom.  So as we serve him in his world and with those things he gives us, we reflect his wisdom, love and care.  This is seen also in the idea of being conformed into the image of Christ.  The more we look like God, the more we are going to display his attributes.

I think there is a sense in which this holds true in the marriage relationship.  Since man is the head of the home and for that matter, men are to be the leaders in the church; part of their leadership is to create a healthy, spiritual atmosphere in the home, and this will hold true in the church, that enables his wife and children and himself to have a proper relationship with the Lord.  They are to provide not only material needs but spiritual, emotional and psychological support so that their total persons, inward and outward are to be healthy.  Our goal as a husband and a father is to create a home with the help of our wives so that all might flourish firstly and most importantly spiritually.

I remember a college professor saying that if he wants to know what kind of husband a man is he looks at his wife.  Does she seem to be a joyful, content woman who is using her gifts?  Does she take care of herself; does she seem to have healthy self-esteem?  Or does she act like she is being kept down?  Is it obvious that her husband keeps his thumb on her and wants her to focus all his attention on himself so her gifts are being wasted on him alone?   

We must be careful of making snap judgments and we can’t infallibly figure everyone out; but I think it is an astute observation that will hold true in one way or another.  I have known women who are clearly unhappy in their marriage because their husbands expect them to be their servants and have all the influence over them and “protect” them by keeping them squirreled away in their homes as much as possible.  They haven’t made the home a place to serve the Lord but themselves and to that end everything must be done their way or all Hell will break loose. 

What I am simply saying is that a godly husband should want to display his wife because he has through his leadership helped her develop herself to be a godly woman.  It is to his glory if by his provision and influence he has helped her by the grace of God grow into someone who is thriving in service to the Lord both at home and at church and everyone else.   The question we husbands must ask ourselves from time to time is whether our wife and children are flourishing and being all they can be for Christ or are they supposed to serve only you.  It won’t take long before it becomes obvious to all what kind of home environment your headship is creating.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

The First Marriage

Gen 2:18  Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Gen 2:19  Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. Gen 2:20  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

We have in Gen. 2 a closer look at the creation of man on day six of the creation week.  God has already made the animals and sexual counterparts for each one but here we see that when Adam was formed from the ground he did not wake up and find a woman lying next to him.  In fact, this whole section makes it crystal clear that man is not another animal and that his sexuality and relationship with his mate is on a completely higher level than that of the animals.

It might look like verses 19-20 are out of place but actually this is integral to the whole section.  It is interesting that in the context of Adam needing a companion that he is prepared for this by naming the animals.  What the Lord is doing is teaching Adam to appreciate his wife, to see her as a wonderful gift from God.  Clearly God took an interest in Adam naming the animals and it wasn’t just a matter of him arbitrarily naming them.  There was a point in all this.  Adam was being asked to study the animals as they went by, noting their differences, similarities, nature and relationships and name them accordingly.  I spent many enjoyable hours with my dog, playing, hunting and sharing affection, but the fellowship never rose above that of a dog; we never talked; well, I did but he just looked at me. We learn at the conclusion of this exercise that Adam could not find a suitable companion for himself.  He is left wondering where is his counterpart; his completion.

Obviously, the reason was that while animals had bodies with many similarities, they did not possess the soul and spirit that Adam did; they were not created in the image of God.  This is what Adam realizes after he studies the animals, he needed someone like himself.  Here is yet another proof to discredit evolution.  We acknowledge similarities with other species on earth, but none were found like Adam.  Certainly he could not have recently evolved from them or his body and mind would be essentially that of the ape or whatever humanoid he would have evolved from.  His parents and siblings and others would have been present and it would seem strange that he couldn’t find much in common with them.  But that he didn’t makes it clear that Adam was no evolutionists. After he examined the animals; he knows he did not arise from any of these animals.  He realizes that he was of a vastly different sort; at this time he was the only human on earth.  There is sadness in Adam here as he realizes for the first time that he is alone on the earth.

Why didn’t God make Adam and Eve at the same time?  To emphasize the importance and uniqueness of this relationship.  We don’t just hook up with whoever is interesting and convenient like the animals do.  God teaches us that we complement each other and are built especially suited to fulfill each other’s needs.  So the Lord brings her to Adam and her alone and her for the rest of his life.  He joins them in marriage; they aren’t left to hook up like animals.

Gen 2:23  Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Gen 2:24  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Gen 2:25  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.  

Like I said earlier God didn’t make Adam and Eve at the same time so they would just go at it like all the animals.  The Lord brings her to him and has a little ceremony if you will.  He explains some things to them.  Yes, here is a gift for you; this beautiful woman is for you for fulfillment and companionship but there are some rules.  You are not animals but your relationship with each other carries some responsibilities and if you aren’t ready for them then don’t ruin someone’s life by marrying them.  Verse 23 reveals that when Adam sees her he doesn’t just coldly name her woman.  One literal translations put is like this, "At last! This is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh.”   They say that in the Hebrew it has the idea of finally; this is what I have been looking for!  So what does he do?  He finishes his work of naming everything by giving her a name as well. 

Both together are man.  Adam upon seeing her breaks out in celebration of their essential similarity and union.  Here is the Lord our Creator establishing the institution of marriage, one man, and one woman together for life; because she completes man.  They were made to complement each other.  All we have to do is look at ourselves to see that a man was not made to be with another man and the same for women both physically and emotionally.  

When people are ignorant or reject the first three chapters of Genesis, they are ignorant or reject who they are.  They have no idea where they came from, how they are to live or where they are headed but from the earliest chapters of the Bible these things are carefully and systematically laid out for us so that no one will have an excuse for not using their sexuality properly or anything else in life for that matter.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Love Lost!

Eph 5:1  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Eph 5:2  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph 5:3  But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

We have all heard the “politically correct” slogan that is popular right now, “Love Wins”.  I understand when lost people use this slogan but when so called Christians use it we know that the confusion in this country morally and in many so called churches is at an all-time high.

The fact of the matter is that love has not won because what is being called love today is actually hate as defined by the Lord.  God is love and he has clearly defined love in his Word and it begins with loving him as he has loved us.  What we do not hear at all in the media is anything about loving God.  The godless in the world are trying to force a redefinition of the concept of love on us and it completely leaves out his definition.  

In the above passage, for example, God says that we are to imitate him and to love as he has loved which means you cannot walk in sexual immorality and no serious, rational person would suggest that homosexuality is anything but immoral from a biblical stand point.  So when someone says love has won, they mean their desire to live apart from God’s Word has won politically.  Love has not won, perversion has won.  Marriage hasn’t won; it has been profaned, redefined and made irrelevant.  All this talk of marriage when only a tiny fraction of homosexuals have any desire to be with only one person anyway.  This isn’t about marriage; it is about making sexual perversion seem to be normal.

The most loving thing a Christian can do is to warn the lost of the wrath to come and that salvation is possible through repentance and faith in Christ.  If we allow the lost to define what sin is then we remove the teeth of the gospel.  Christ has told us that the gospel offends and the world will hate us.  Why is it that so many Christians seem to go out of their way to not offend?  If we don’t have a gospel of deliverance from sin then we have nothing to offer the world.  Christ ministered to the prostitutes and sinners by preaching repentance and faith, not by being buddies and encouraging them to remain in their sins.

Notice what Paul says in 1Co 6:9  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 1Co 6:10  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1Co 6:11  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There is no such thing as a “gay” Christian any more than there is a murdering Christian, a child-molesting Christian, a stealing Christian, a hating Christian, etc.  We still have sinful desires in this life but we hate them and we repent from them and turn away from committing such things.  What would we think of someone who said, “I am a Christian but I also love to steal.  I was born with this desire and so God made me this way and so don’t judge me, celebrate my thieving ways”?  No, stealing is committing hatred towards those you steal from and God commands you to stop.  Just like sexual perversion is committing sin against those that participate and God commands such people to stop, repent and turn to him. 

Love has not won, America has lost big time.  The world has told Christians they are no longer allowed to offend which is just Satan’s way of trying to shut the gospel up.  If there is a silver lining to all this it is that it is going to become easier to tell false professors from the real ones.  We better quit trying to not offend and start speaking clearly what the Lord demands or we lose our relevancy in this world.  It is time for American Christians to join their brothers and sisters from every generation and embrace suffering for the sake of Christ because it isn’t coming, it is here.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Ambitions Do We Have?

2Co 5:9  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2Co 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

The word translated “aim” or “labor” (KJV) literally means to love honor.  It is used for the idea of ambition, the goals ones has in life.  Paul isn’t speaking of being at home or away on a trip but the context is whether imperfectly in this body or perfectly in the Lord’s presence he only has one goal; pleasing God. 

The word “ambition” generally has a bad connotation in Christianity because it usually is used to speak of someone who is consumed with a goal he has set for himself that has little to do with God and everything to do with doing what he wants to do.  The term “blind ambition” speaks to someone who is so consumed with his goal that he can’t see the negative effects it is having on his life.  Blind ambition that sets its goals on temporal things will always lead to compromise in convictions and character.  But Paul uses this word many times in a good way and it isn’t difficult to see this in the above verses.  Our first duty and highest goal is to glorify the Lord.  From this we understand that every other goal or pursuit in life must be subservient to that one.  This is easy to say but it is also easy to get twisted in our thinking.

Clearly everyone has goals in life that aren’t overtly spiritual, such as a man looking for a job so he can have a family.  In fact, both the job and the family are both worthy goals.  But all such goals must be subservient to the ultimate goal to serve the Lord or they immediately become idols regardless of their legitimacy. 

As in the example above, a man might set his aim in life in a certain career and say that it is to support his family and the church.  These are things that we to do in life and both are important for our wellbeing physically, emotionally and spiritually.  But if said career keeps him from having a proper relationship with his wife and family and keeps him away from church and from ministering to both groups then any attempt to justify it by saying it is for God’s glory is just vain talk.  Clearly his ambition is neither his family nor the Lord but himself.

I can’t number the men that I have known through the years that have justified working on Sundays and long hours in which they are unable to have a proper relationship with their wives and children and in which they are basically strangers to the other members of the church by saying, “Well, I have to support my family, or the job requires it or I have committed myself to this company and I can’t let them down, I don’t want to be a quitter.” 

Well what about your commitment to Christ, his Body and your family?  What is the point of this job if you all you can do is feed and clothe your family but the relationship falls apart?  My answer would be that it is time to quit your job and find one that fits into your goal of seeking the kingdom of God first and his righteousness.  If it means you have to live in a meager house and drive an older car so what.  Some might say but I went to school for this or this is what I want to do in life.  Well, we can’t always have what we want in this life that is part of taking up our cross and following Christ.  If being “fulfilled” in a career is the most important thing and worth giving up everything else then I don’t know what Jesus meant when he said to take up your cross and follow me.  At the end of the day what are your goals in life?  If it is about the Lord’s work your decisions will be made based on what serves him and your spiritual life and your family’s spiritual life the best.  What good is it to live in a mansion on earth but have no room in Heaven for eternity?

If your goal in life is a career, don’t be surprised when your marriage fails, your children are a disappointment (they turn out like you), you think church is a waste of time because it isn’t making you money and one day you might hear, “Depart from me I never knew you”!  Paul’s aim was to please Christ.  If this is our aim we will bring our lives under control to that end, not the selfish ends of our own desires. 

You cannot express a greater love to your wife and family than to lead them to Christ and help to build them up in the faith and this even before you provide for their physical needs.  If we can have a great career and have financial success in this life and use it to further Christ in our life and that of our family then praise the Lord.  But if it is our highest goal it is simple idolatry.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Powerful Intercessor

Exo 17:9  So Moses said to Joshua, "Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." Exo 17:10  So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Exo 17:11  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. Exo 17:12  But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. Exo 17:13  And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Here we have another great account of God’s deliverance of Israel while in the Wilderness.  Let me make just a couple of points.  Perhaps the most obvious thing we see here is that there is a connection between the seen and the unseen.  When I first went through this in my church I had a young teenager tell me that he was interested in what I was going to say about this account because there didn’t seem to him to be any connection between the outcome of Joshua’s battle and Moses holding his hands up in the air.

Once we think about what all this represents we can start to appreciate the typology.  The rod represents the presence and power of God, raising one’s hands is a standard position of prayer and Moses was their intercessor.  And so the connection is that our power lies not so much in our abilities but in the Lord who gives us abilities.  We can fight and struggle with all our might in this life but at the end of the day the Lord’s will is done and he is our strength.  And he has ordained that through prayer he will give us the help we need but if we presume on him and don’t make the effort to pray then he will not work for us.

Yet while this is true we are also commanded to fight, to struggle, to put forth the effort so that we can demonstrate that the Lord matters to us.  We are put here not to sit back and just pray and let the Lord do it all but to take up our cross and follow Christ.  To pray and not work is also presumption.  The other side of this is that we are not to just live life as if there is no unseen God; as if life is all about us and what we can do.  Prayer shows that we are not only dependent upon the Lord but that the life we are living is all about him to begin with. 

It is quite possible for people to overcome problems who don’t pray and who are not saved.  They do this through the will and power of God whether they acknowledge it or not.  But the Christian doesn’t live that way.  When we overcome, it is to be done in such a way that acknowledges that it is the grace and power of God that has given us help.  If Moses had not gone up on the hill as their intercessor they would have assumed that it was their power that had gotten them the victory.  But this passage reminds us that there is a spiritual world that determines what the outcome on earth will be and prayer is the connection we have to the spiritual realm. 

One final point to make is that as long as we can look up by faith and see that there is One who sits on the throne interceding for us then we know how all this is going to end.  What is particularly important is to remember that there is One who intercedes for us who is greater than Moses.  His hands never tire, he needs no help.  The victory is his and nothing else needs to be done.  This encourages us in prayer because Jesus has already dealt the death blow to Satan and sin and reigns on the highest throne.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Living By Faith and Not By Sight

2Co 5:6  So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 2Co 5:7  for we walk by faith, not by sight.  2Co 5:8  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  2Co 5:9  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Here is one of those verses that are often quoted out of context and misapplied with all sorts of unfortunate consequences.  Paul is speaking of the fact that right now we live in a temporal body and that at death or the Lord’s coming we will receive our new and improved body.  Right now we are physically apart from Christ but some day we will be with him forever, vs. 8.  Right in the middle of all this we have verse 7.  What does Paul mean when he says, “We walk by faith and not by sight” in this context?

First of all he isn’t just throwing out an unrelated truth.  This is an indicative statement; it is a statement of fact, not an imperative statement in which he is telling us to do something.  He isn’t saying we are to live by faith and not by sight but that we are presently living by faith and not by sight.  He is simply saying that at this point we don’t see Christ with our eyes or the glories of Heaven but we are assured of them by faith in the revelation of the Word and so we live in the reality that they exist and we will someday enjoy them.  “Sight” refers to Heaven, not the world around us.

What he is not saying is that walking by faith is to ignore or minimized the physical things around us.  Growing up it was not unusual for the leaders of our church to declare that they believe that it is God’s will for them to engage in some big project for which the church did not have the money.  But by taking this verse out of context they had the idea that if they have decided something was God’s will they could “step out in faith” and begin to build and the God would supply the funds that for the moment were “out of sight”.  So they were walking by faith and not by sight or the fact that they couldn’t afford to build at the present. 

Paul’s use at first might sound similar but I believe is very different.  Because he knew that a glorified body awaited him, he was willing to obey the Lord even though it would mean that his body was going to suffer horribly in the effort.  A lot of it comes down to one’s definition of faith.  If faith is believing God’s Word then living by faith is to obey his Word regardless of the circumstances because one day we will stand before God and give an accounting.  If faith is reduced to just believing that God is powerful enough to supply your needs no matter how misguided they are then that is a whole other matter.  Faith believes all of what the Bible says about God it isn’t just trusting him.

This definition of faith is quite mystical.  It causes one to ignore the laws that God has set up to govern our lives and expects God to suspend them at our convenience.  It assumes that God will suspend the rules that everyone else must live by for Christians with enough faith.  We expect people to get a job and live within their means, but when we want something we can buy it or attempt it and then pray that God will clean up the mess we make.  But the Bible says the Christian life is a whole lot more than just trusting that God will help us.

In college many a young married man decided he was called to preach and would move his family to school with no job, no prospects and no real forethought but assumed that since he was “obeying” God, God would supply his needs.  This usually meant that either they would eventually have to leave school or that they would depend on other people to support them because someone couldn’t stand to see his children go hungry so at their own expense they would give them money.

Is God able to suspend the natural laws or perform miracles to help us?  Yes, and he does that from time to time.  But is that the essence of living by faith; to presume upon God because we think we can ignore the way life and reality work because God is able to deliver us?  I would say no.  Remember, biblical faith is not believing real hard that God can do something or what you want you can have if you believe hard enough.  Biblical faith is believing that the Word of God is true and living accordingly; “Faith without works is dead”!

All living by faith means here is that we will do what Paul did; we will live by what the Bible says even though we don’t yet see it all come to pass yet.  Even though everything in this world tells us that there is no God we live in such a way because we know there is a God and he has revealed himself in the Bible.  We live in hope not by sight right now because God is not in our sight yet.  We know that day is coming but we don’t have it yet but we live like Paul did because we know this world’s days are numbered. 

Stepping out in faith is to do what the Bible says even when the world and the circumstances say not to.  It is not deciding what the Lord’s will is in some mystical way when common sense would indicate otherwise but doing it anyway and hoping for the best.  This is tempting God and even Jesus refused to jump off the pinnacle of the Temple just so the Father could come to his rescue.

There is a huge difference between living in obedience to the Word regardless of the consequences and running around doing our own will and expecting the Lord to keep us safe.  That is like a child who runs wild in the yard while his parent makes sure he doesn’t run out in the street.  Are we spiritually mature; able to think through the Word of God and live in its light or are we like children who just want to have fun and not be responsible?

One honors the Lord, the other presumes and dishonors him. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

American Spirituality

This is just a great discourse by Michael Horton on the state of spirituality in America and what it should be biblically.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why Must the Earth Be Old?

Gen 1:26  Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Gen 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Gen 1:28  And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Gen 1:29  And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. Gen 1:30  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. Gen 1:31  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

We have been having an interesting debate over the age of the earth.  I have made a point that I want to explain and expand on in this particular article.  My contention is that an old earth with a universe that is billions of years old rather than the plain meaning of Genesis 1 that God created all things in six literal days only makes sense in an evolutionary framework.  Here is my reasoning:

In a sense the universe was made for man.  God has made man in order to display his glory to him in several ways but primarily through the redemption of sinners.  All this is being played out on the stage of the earth.  The universe and in particular the earth is the platform in which God is carrying out the purposes of redemption. 

As we read through the first chapter of Genesis it is interesting that creation is recounted from the earth’s view point, not even the heavenly.  Philosophically, if not geographically, the earth is the center of the universe.  And it is placed within the galaxy just where it needs to be in order for life to exist as it does and for man to be able to view the universe and see the glory of God in its creation.   In these ways it exists for man’s use; it is his home. 

My question, then, is this; what purpose would God have in creating the earth through a process of billions of years only to house man for a few thousand years?  If its whole purpose is to house man as God works out his redemptive plan in him why did it have to exist for eons of time without any use as God painstakingly, slowly developed it only to be used quickly and then destroyed to make way for a new heavens and earth?  I think any atheistic evolutionist would answer that it took billions of years to form because it all happened by chance naturally; there was no God overseeing it but it happened randomly without purpose or meaning.  We won’t spend any time dealing with the unreasonableness of that, but the point seems to be that if the universe was created then it might as well had been done quickly so that Man could be placed in it and God’s work can begin.  There is no reason for it to exist for eons of time apart from Man and God’s work being accomplished.

The highlighted verse above bears this out.  Man is the pinnacle of creation and when he was made God told him look around I have created a home for you to use as you serve me.  It is yours to have dominion, to subdue and to use for my glory.  Nature exists for Man.  Man was created instantaneously in Adam and Eve and earth and the universe was created just before he was to be his home.  I have yet to hear from any Christian what would be the purpose of developing an earth over billions of years only to be used for a short time.  While I know that if God wanted to do that then that is his prerogative but there is nothing in the Bible to suggest this; certainly God is wise and powerful enough to be able to do so immediately.  And if he did so then it would have to be made at a stage in which it could sustain life which by definition would mean that it was formed at a certain level of maturity or age. 

I might add to this if God will create a new heavens and earth immediately after the destruction of the old order why in the world wouldn’t he have done so with the first order?  Are we going to have to wait billions of years before we will be able to inhabit the new one?  It seems at the heart of the issue is the questioning of the very wisdom and abilities of God.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Six Literal Days of Creation Demonstrate Salvation By Grace!

Exo 20:8  "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exo 20:9  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work…Exo 20:11  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy

Okay, I know that is a strange title but let me explain.  As I am starting to preach through the book of Genesis, I spent a few weeks dealing with Scriptures that in one way or the other cannot be understood if evolution is true.  Along with that we have looked at some that are compromised if we try to make the six days of creation anything other than 24 hour periods.  The text above is one of those examples. 

For instance, it is undeniable that the Lord is establishing a 7 day week for Israel under the Old Covenant.  He uses the creation week as the blueprint for their six day work week where God rested or took a Sabbath after “working” for six days.  There is no way you can make “days” in verse 11 mean eons without suggesting that the Lord is completely misrepresenting the creation week to the Jews.  If they are six eons then this comparison makes no sense and there is nothing in the text that suggests that the days of one week are different than the days of the other. 

Besides this I think there is another reason why we have to understand that the Lord is referring to the creation week as six 24 hour periods in the Exodus text.  The subject here is not so much the 7 day week but the Sabbath and the reason for its observance.  The Lord rested on the seventh day because there was nothing left to create.  He had declared that every aspect of creation was good.  There was nothing left to perfect because it was just as God wanted it from the beginning.

Creation is not continuing to evolve because the Lord did it right from the beginning and he commanded all life to reproduce after its kind.  He established that no species can evolve into something else.  The Sabbath rest of God on day seven did two things; it declared that there was nothing left to be created or changed with creation and it pointed to the future fulfillment of the true rest of God.  This future rest in turn proves that the first creation was done immediately and not through gradual progression.  Let me try to prove this.

We find the writer of Hebrews bringing all this together especially in chapter 4.  He is warning those Jews who were being tempted to add the works of the Law to faith in the finished work of Christ.  As Paul does in Galatians, he says that if you do this you pervert the gospel and cannot be saved.  He points back to those Jews who died in the wilderness and did not enter the Promised Land or the “rest” because they did not have faith, Heb 3:17  And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
Heb 3:18  And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? Heb 3:19  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.  Rest is a good illustration of salvation because God has done a work in the cross that fully accomplished our salvation and through faith we can rest in Christ and stop trying to work our way to heaven which is impossible.

In chapter 4 he brings in the creation rest as an even better example of entering into God’s rest or salvation,  Heb 4:3  For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, "As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest,'" although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. Heb 4:4  For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works."  And here we see him making the point I made earlier that God resting on the creation Sabbath was to show that creation was done once for all and there was nothing left that needed to be finished, although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  And then in vs. 10 we see it again, Heb 4:10  for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

And so my point in all this is not to show salvation through faith alone apart from works.  I imagine anyone reading this blog already understands that.  It is to show that if you buy into God creating the universe over time by a process you are undermining salvation by the finished work of Christ alone!  Christ didn’t begin the process of salvation on the cross and there are any number of steps after this that are necessary for our justification.  When he said, “It is finished” on the cross as he died it was an echo from the creation week when he said it the first time.  There is nothing left to be done!

I would say that if the creation week was a matter of age long time periods, that would fit better into Roman Catholic’s theology.  They believe the cross was only the beginning of our salvation but there are many other things we must add to it in order to be finally saved.  We might say they believe salvation is a process or something that must “evolve” before it is finished.

If our salvation rests fully on the finished work of Christ then creation took place in one week and then it stopped; it was never a process.

Jer 32:17  'Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

God's Strength in Our Weakness

2Co 11:18  Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast….2Co 11:30  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

2Co 12:9  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2Co 12:10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Corinthians are some of the most important for the Christian’s ability to live godly and patiently in this life.  They pretty much sum up the book as Paul is defending himself against the “Super Apostles” who are trying to discredit him as a worthy servant of the Lord.  Their argument is one that we hear today in what we refer to as the “Health and Wealth Gospel”.   

One of their basic arguments is that Paul’s life is so miserable and his preaching is so crude compared to their lives and their gifts of speaking that there is no way he can be in God’s will because the Lord would be blessing him if he was being faithful.  On the other hand, they had their act together; they were slick speakers, had letters of recommendation from the “right” people; they had money, gifts; it is clear that they had the Lord’s blessings and therefore the people should follow them and not Paul.

Paul has defended himself throughout the book but in these two chapters he basically says that the Super Apostles have it exactly backwards.  Notice in the above verse from ch. 11 that he will boast but not in the things they were boasting in but in the very things that they saw as weaknesses.  The false apostles thought that having a life without problems was a sign of God’s blessings and Paul says not so fast; in fact, in most cases the very opposite is true.

We fall into this trap today by referring the good things that happened to us as God’s blessings but the “good” things are always things that pamper the flesh.  And we thank God for his “blessings” at our testimony meetings.  For sure we should be thankful to the Lord when he supplies our needs but when we are only willing to define blessings as good things for our flesh and not also those things that build up my faith and ability to serve the Lord, then we fall into this very trap. 

Paul uses his weakness, his poverty, his inability to speak well, his constant persecution and scars on his body, etc. not as a sign that God is displeased with him but as proof that the Lord is using him.  This is why he sums it all up in chapter 12 with these words, 2Co 12:9  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2Co 12:10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong

When the Lord humbles us by taking away our money or health or just reduces us to a very humbling state, he is giving us the ability to display his glory more clearly than the one who has “it all together” in the flesh can display.  Paul had learned to serve during the good times, Php 4:11  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Php 4:12  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. Php 4:13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  But he was aware that it is when we are the weakest that we have some of the best opportunities to magnify the glory of God in our lives.

The reason this is so fundamental to a Christian’s spiritual health is because it gives us the ability to be patient in trials and afflictions.  Instead of wasting time wondering why God is “punishing you” or complaining and being bitter and jealous of others, we can see our trials as unique opportunities to serve the Lord that ease can’t bring.  Yes, they still hurt and are no fun and we might pray for relief but in the meantime we serve!  In the meantime we are full of the joy of the Lord and so rejoice always because our names are written down in Heaven.

It is clear from 2 Cor. 12:9 that Paul didn’t give up because God didn’t answer his prayers the way he wanted.  And the reason is because God tells him that when he reduces us to weakness, when he humbles us so that others pity us, that he is going to display his glory through us provided, of course, that we are looking for ways to serve and not having a pity party.  

This takes a strong faith but the effect on our lives can’t be overstated.  If we are taking up our cross daily to follow the Lord, then we should expect suffering and not listen to those that tell us that God wants his children to have whatever they want and if we have enough faith he will give it to us.  The question is do we have enough faith to believe what the Lord says in his Word about our present condition and our future hope?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Learning to not be Tools of Satan

2Co 2:5  Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure--not to put it too severely--to all of you. 2Co 2:6  For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 2Co 2:7  so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 2Co 2:8  So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 2Co 2:9  For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 2Co 2:10  Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 2Co 2:11  so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Paul teaches us some needful things about having a forgiving spirit in this section of 2 Corinthians.  Let me mention a few of them.  He is encouraging the church to accept back someone who has sinned and probably has led the charge against Paul in some way.  Paul has forgiven him since this man has had a sorrow that has led to repentance and he is encouraging the rest to also forgive the man.  Evidently some have decided he needs some further punishment.  Like we all tend to do, they would like to hold it over his head for a while longer and use it to lord it over him in some way.  This, after all, is a great way to look more spiritual than the one who has been caught in a sin.  Never mind that the only difference many times is that they have been caught whereas we have not.  We never want to miss the opportunity to look more spiritual than someone else.  Please read that as being facetious. 

The main point he focuses on is that when it comes to our relationships with others, whether in the church or any other place, our first consideration must always be the Lord and how our actions affect his name and work.  We see this in vss. 9-10 where he sees whether they will forgive one who has confessed his sin or not as a test to see whether they will be obedient in all things and in vs. 10 where he reminds them that all this is being done in the presence of the Lord.  It is imperative that we not be guided by our emotions and pride in how we act toward others but instead what would bring honor to the Lord.

Joseph and is an example to us.  Can any of us image being sold into slavery by our own family members?  What was his motivation to forgive?  If he wasn’t a believer chances are his brothers would have been justified in their fear of being executed.  I believe Joseph knew the Lord and understood what no doubt he had been taught by his father about the Messiah coming through the twelve sons and he also knew from his dreams that they were going to serve him someday.  He forgave because he knew that there was a bigger picture to think about that was far more important than even the horrible injustice done to him and to be honest I doubt we think anything is worse than our feelings many times.  Probably, if we thought about it for a moment, we would have to admit that our words and attitude each day have more to do with how we are feeling than how much we are rejoicing in Christ at any given moment.

Joseph is a type of Christ and we learn that Jesus suffered unjustly for the joy that was set before him.  Part of our Christian duty that we do because we love our Savior is to cause ourselves to think biblically even in moments of anger and injustice to ourselves.  Gen 50:20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  This is a look into Joseph’s thought process and should be our goal as well.  What we are not given liberty to do is to think and act out solely on emotions. 

So Christian forgiveness is a great way to show the love of God in our lives.  And one way we do this is formal, real closure.  We forgive as we have been forgiven by not holding it over someone’s head.  John tells us that displaying such love proves our faith in front of this world, Joh 13:34  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Joh 13:35  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."   Jesus said that love is the greatest commandment; therefore to not show love for each other in forgiving one another and putting forth a real effort to have a good relationship with each other must be considered one of the worst of sins.

Forgiveness proves our love because if we love him we will keep his commandments.  Are we willing to do the hard things?  Are we willing to swallow our pride and prove that we love Christ supremely?  Verse 9 reminds us that none of this is optional.  The Corinthians were to prove their love by disciplining and by forgiving and restoring.  Discipline alone might just be a display of our self-righteousness but if we forgive we show that we had the right motives.  If we are sitting there justifying why we won’t repent or forgive then that is sin; we can’t pick and choose when to be obedient. 

Finally, Paul backs up his words with actions that show his motivation in 10-11.  He knows that Christ is watching.  And then he gives one final reason why we must take these things so seriously, because this is one way that Satan can disrupt the Lord’s work.  Notice, this is done not so much by introducing sin in the church in this case but by the unforgiving attitude of those that “didn’t sin”!  When we are controlled by pride and emotions we have been outwitted and have become a tool of Satan.