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?