Friday, June 17, 2016

Christian Logic

Heb 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, Heb 11:18  of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." Heb 11:19  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back

The account of Abraham rising up early in the morning in obedience to the Lord to offer his son as a sacrifice has to be the quintessential example of faith in the Bible and surely why it is used here in Hebrews 11.  At the heart of his faith and obedience to such a difficult task is simply that he believed God and so he believed what God said about the reality of things and acted accordingly.  This sounds simplistic but I think it is something that we all struggle with more than we might think.

In verse 19 the word for “considered” is an accounting term.  Strong says it literally means to take inventory but there are several ways to use it.  Perhaps we can sum it up by pointing out that Abraham took all that God had said and all that he had done and came to the only biblical, godly conclusion he could have.  This is biblical accounting or math.  It is to believe what God says about our lives and act accordingly. 

As he leaves for Moriah he expects his son to come back with him because God has told him that in Isaac’s offspring all the nations shall be blessed.  So whatever happens, even if he kills his son, he knows that God will have to raise him up from the dead because God doesn’t lie and he hadn’t lied to Abraham for a 100 plus years and so he wasn’t going to start now. 

His faith wasn’t some vague idea of what he thought God should be like but his faith was based on what God had revealed about himself.  He took God’s word seriously and acted accordingly.   The commands and promises of God are what we build our life upon and are what guides us when making decisions and all of the cries of this world to do what they say and not what the Bible says has nothing to do with how a Christian is to think.  The reality of the true God always trumps the logic of the world and the flesh. 

But too often when God leads us to make such a painful sacrifice we assume that God must be erratic, but this had not been Abraham’s experience with God.  His experience had been that everything God had said came true and that God was able to do whatever he had promised and so the wise thing to do was to obey him.  So sure was Abraham of God that he was willing to plunge a knife into Isaac and live with that picture in his mind for the rest of his life because he knew that God would bring him back to life.  So Abraham acts in a way that is consistent with his knowledge of God.  He doesn’t question but waits to see how God would work things out.  No doubt this is what enables him to get up early to obey God.  Too often we would assume God is not being fair; we would make it clear that we will not be full of joy and contentment and will not give all glory to the Lord.  We will sit at home and mope or lash out at our loved ones or be generally unhappy but the question should be will we rise up early to fight the good fight?

Are we willing to do biblical accounting by adding the truth of the Word up with the promises of God in Christ Jesus and live in light of the results?  Even though Abraham fully expected the Lord to raise his son back up, he would never forget seeing the blade cut into his son’s body and his life ebb away.  Yet he accepts this and rises early.  Remember verse 3 says that Abraham split the wood that would burn his son’s body; he didn’t have the servants do it.  How could he have done this without going mad?  He had to know that God would have a resolution to this.  This is the only thing that will keep our minds when God would take away our loved ones or send some other severe trial.  Our God will make all things right.

Part of the idea with this word “consider” is thinking logically about something.  He worked all this out in his mind and his understanding of God.  After all, God is not a liar and his salvation lay in Isaac’s descendant.  Therefore, his son must live again!  He wasn’t working with numbers but it is the same principle. 

Just like 2 plus 2 will always equal 4 so the Lord says that when we obey it will always work out for good.  It means that his ways are the right ways and our ways will always end in failure, Pro 14:12  There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.  This isn’t fuzzy logic, God’s reality doesn’t change, whatsoever a man sows, that will he reap.

Have we learned to think according to God’s principles or do we think this world and our flesh know best?  To be willing to think before we act and react takes discipline.  It is much harder than just living in the flesh and doing what everyone else does but one way glorifies the Lord and the other glorifies our sin and ends in a miserable life and eventual death.  Is this how we think as we journey through this life?  Do we take what we have learned about God and make decisions and react accordingly?  If we react rashly, emotionally erratic, if we are overcome with depression or anger, if we act in any other way than total submission to God, if we do anything other than rise up early in obedience, there is room for growth in our faith and love for God.

If you are saying to yourself, “There is no way I would or even should do what Abraham did, then you don’t have the faith of Abraham and you don’t know the God of Abraham.  When you come to know God as your loving Heavenly Father, who cares for you more than any earthly father ever could, you can give Him everything in your life and know that He will not abuse you, in spite of how circumstances may appear. 

When we see God’s great love for us as seen in His not sparing His own Son, but giving Him up for us all, our response should be, as Isaac Watts put it, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Give yourself and all that is precious to you to the Lord. He will bless you and give you great joy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Praying for the Kingdom of God

Mat 6:10  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Rev 4:8  And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
Rev 4:9  And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
Rev 4:10  the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Rev 4:11  "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

As I was preaching through Revelation 4 Sunday Matthew 6:10 popped into my mind.  John sees in his vision, among other things, Cherubim standing by the throne of God.  Ezekiel sees them in his vision of the throne of God back in Ezekiel chapter 1.  In both cases the prayer that the Lord taught us to pray comes to mind. 

In Ezekiel these living creatures appear to be inside of wheels that turned in every direction.  When the Spirit of the Lord gave a command they flashed away like streaks of lightning without turning.  I take this to mean that their obedience was instantaneous so much so that they didn’t even have to turn around; they just went.

What we find them doing in Revelation is constantly proclaiming the holiness of God along with his eternality and omnipotence in their praise in verse 8.  It appears that every so often at some prearranged signal the elders (who I take to be angels as well) join them in verse 11 and proclaim that the Lord God deserves all praise and honor and power because of his right as the creator of all things.

In Matthew 6 Jesus tells his disciples that the first things they should pray for is the proper respect for the Father’s name and that his will would be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  From Ezekiel and Revelation it would seem that God’s will is being done instantaneously and everything that is being said and done ends up in worship and honor of the Lord. 

To see this as merely praying that the Lord would come back and set up his kingdom on earth I think pretty much misses the mark.  First of all, his kingdom has already been established on earth but I will not take time to develop that thought.  I see his kingdom being established on earth as it is in Heaven in a two-fold way.
First of all in an evangelistic sense.  The world of the lost is not obeying or honoring God at all.  And so one way we see the kingdom advancing is when souls are brought into the kingdom by the preaching of the gospel and all of the sudden where you had rebellion you now have obedience to the will of God.  And so we are to pray that the Lord would use the gospel to convert sinners, subdue their hearts and bring peace and holiness to their lives where before there was conflict and unrighteousness.

But an even more practical way to ask for this kingdom on earth is to ask God to work in our hearts so that our obedience and worship looks more like what John sees in Revelation and less like what we see in the world.  I think the thing that hit me while I was preaching was how unlike the throne room my life really looks.  I do not see the constant worship of God in my heart as I ought; too many times my prayers do not have the glory of God as their focus; too often I make my normal decisions during the day based on what pleases me in the immediate and I don’t stop and consider what would bring the most glory to the Lord nearly as much as I should; too often my obedience is not immediate but only after I make some initial unfortunate remark or display some ungodly attitude. Then I remember that it is not I that am to be served but the Lord and then I obey but not nearly as soon as I should have. 

So while I want the Lord to come back and set up the consummated kingdom soon, I have much more pressing things to pray for.  I need to be burdened for the salvation of the lost so that more and more sinners are saved from Hell’s fires and are transformed into Christ’s image.  But really my first prayer needs to be that my life, my heart, my mind becomes more and more a place that looks like the very throne room of God in Heaven.