Saturday, December 22, 2018

An Inconsistency of Arminianism

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.
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.

Growing up in Fundamental Arminianism we didn’t hear very much about the sovereignty of God and especially so when it came to our salvation.  When speaking about that subject we didn’t hear about God’s sovereignty at all.  We were taught much about how each of us has a free will and it is up to choose whether we will believe in Jesus.  In Arminian thought all men have a sovereign, autonomous free will that even God can’t control if we won’t let him.  So our eternal destiny is determined, not by the will of God but by our will. 

Of course, we know that the Bible teaches that all men have a will only it is depraved, at odds with God, and so unable to do any good thing before God.  What many fail to realize is that there is a difference between a sovereign, autonomous free will (which only God can have) and a creaturely freewill that must be subservient to the eternal decrees of the only true Sovereign, God Almighty; notice it is not some mighty but all mighty! 

But let me just focus on one teaching of Arminianism that shows the inconsistency of this theology.  As a rule they make it clear that God cannot overcome our will or our will wouldn’t be free, so everyone must have a choice as to whether they want to believe or not.  But oddly enough, when it comes to losing one’s salvation they are perfectly fine with God forcing our will.

Often I would hear the idea of “Once saved, always saved” and “Eternal Security”.  They would use verses like those quoted above to teach that one cannot lose their salvation.  Some even go so far as to say that all Baptist are “Calvinists” because we believe you cannot lose your salvation.  By this they mean they believe the last point of the TULIP, Perseverance of the saints.  But, of course, this is a corruption of this doctrine.  They are saying that all this means is that God won’t let us lose our salvation but deny that he does this in part by transforming us so that we won’t walk away from the faith.  So the idea is that no matter how we live God won’t let us be lost even if we could care less about being saved anymore.

I have heard “Eternal Security” illustrated as a lobster in a pot of boiling water.  Once we are saved God closes the lid down and we can’t get out whether we want to or not.  One immediate problem with this is that no real saint wants to walk away from the Lord but when your theology doesn’t need a transformation of the will in order to be saved then your will isn’t changed to begin with.  So if you choose to be saved, the next day you might choose to walk away.  Fortunately, they are saying, that God won’t let you.

But the most striking inconsistency with this illustration as well as the whole concept of “Once saved, always saved” is that they are saying that it is perfectly okay for God to keep us from ever walking away from him but it is absolutely unacceptable for him to change our will so we will believe in him to begin with.  So it is okay for God to sovereignly keep us from rejecting Christ but he cannot sovereignly bring us to the point of receiving Christ.  It seems that they are picking and choosing when it is okay for God to be sovereign or be God.  And this is the whole problem with Arminianism; it puts man’s “free will” above God’s sovereign will and only one kind of will can be truly free and that is a sovereign will.

The Bible teaches our salvation is a result of the eternal plan and decree of God, not man’s will.  God can’t decree to keep a people saved unless he first chooses to save a people; otherwise how does he even know if anyone will choose to get saved to begin with?  So I ask, why is it okay for God to override our will (And I realize this is a totally unbiblical way to express it, but I am using the Arminian’s way of describing this) and keep us saved but he can only wait and see if we will choose him? 

Part of the problem with this unbiblical theology is that Calvinists know and the Bible clearly teaches that God doesn’t merely force our will but he makes us willing and there is a huge difference between the two. 

But at the end of the day even the lost can only do what the sovereign God ordains and yet they are at the same time doing exactly what they want to do and so are held accountable.  I leave you will these texts to confirm this:

Psa 33:10  The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. Psa 33:11  The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
Dan 4:35  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?"
Pro 21:1  The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
Pro 16:9  The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Psa 105:25  He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.
Finally, the passage that should end all debate, Act 4:26  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'—Act 4:27  for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, Act 4:28  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Will any doubt that Herod, Pilate, and the Jews all willingly crucified Jesus and that they were judged because of it?  This is the greatest sin ever committed and yet they were doing and could only do what God had ordained they do from all eternity.  It is not our job to understand how this can be true but it is certainly our duty to submit to this truth and live our lives in light of it.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Spiritual Nearsightedness and Dementia

2Pe 1:5  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 2Pe 1:6  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 2Pe 1:7  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 2Pe 1:8  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Pe 1:9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

In this section of 2 Peter, the Apostle is giving us some good spiritual meat as to how to be fruitful and effective in the Christian life.  If the qualities of vss. 5-7 are working in us, we will bear fruit in the Kingdom of God, vs. 8.  In vs. 9 he comes at it from a negative viewpoint.  If these qualities aren’t in us we are demonstrating spiritual weakness.  He illustrates this by using two physical weaknesses, nearsightedness and forgetfulness or we might say spiritual dementia. 

Spiritual nearsightedness happens when we focus on this life with no thought to eternity.  We live for the here and now but fail to lay up gold, silver and precious stones in Heaven.  It is myopia in which we can only see what is in front of our face and forget that the Lord is coming soon for us and this world will be left behind.  It could also be applied to idolatry in which we are focused on some object and fail to see the big picture which is that this life is to be all about serving the Lord.  So it is to be too busy living life or too busy loving this world that we are not focused on the Lord.

Spiritual forgetfulness fails to remember something that is vital for effective Christian living.  In the first case we don’t see what is coming; in the second case we are not keeping something in our minds that is needed to serve the Lord.  Vs. 9 explains that what we have forgotten is the Gospel; that we are sinners saved by the cross of Christ. 

The reason this is important is that when we walk through life without the gospel in our “RAM”, in our working and usable memory, we forget who we are; we are unable to properly identify ourselves.  This happens all the time with both the lost and Christians.  We identify ourselves primarily as men or women, Americans or some ethnic group.  We can also do it by seeing ourselves by what we do for a living, a doctor, union worker, teacher, etc.  We are seeing a particularly destructive form of it when people identify themselves by their sexual choices or their gender preferences, etc. 

The problem with each one of these is that very often we allow our life, thoughts and actions, to be guided by these identifications rather than the fact that we are children of God first and foremost and that is to guide us in every aspect of our lives.  To some extent there are other lesser identities that we must deal with.  As an American I have certain laws to obey and taxes to pay.  I cannot function properly if I live as if I am a citizen of another country.  When I get up in the morning I must keep in mind that I am a pastor and I have to get ready to preach the Word this coming Sunday.  If I forget who I am in that sense then I will fail to fulfill my responsibilities as a pastor. 

But before all these other things I must get up in the morning and remember that I have been saved from the darkness of sin and live in light of who I am.  And who I am is a redeemed sinner whose primary job in life is to bring honor to the Lord in all I do.  Forget this and I will fail as a human being in every area of life.

Those that attempt to identify themselves by who they have sex with or by being any gender that they would like doubly fail in this matter.  They are choosing to identify in a way that God has specifically told them they are not to.  He has given us plain parameters as to how to function sexually and it is rebellion to go outside those commands.  He has made us either male or female and pretending to be one that you are not, not only causes confusion and the inability to live a God-honoring life, but it is also rebellion to the natural order that he has established and it will bring his judgment sooner or later.

Fortunately God has given his saints two things to help us in our natural conditions of spiritual nearsightedness and dementia.  He gives us new sight and new glasses.  He regenerates us by the Holy Spirit and gives us light so we can understand the truth.  And he gives us some eyeglasses if you will.  We have the Word of God through which we can evaluate life.  When we look at life through the truth of his Word, we are able to understand who we are and live our lives as they were meant to be lived.  David seems to sum it up well in Ps. 119:97-105:

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Loving as We are Loved

Rom 5:6  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Rom 5:7  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—Rom 5:8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The passage above lays out God’s love as few others do.  It states the two-fold aspect of his love and in so doing helps define what our love for each other should look like.

First of all in verse 6 we see that God loves in a way that gives and helps those who have nothing to offer him.  When he saved us we had nothing to offer him and that includes any work or response that would aid in our salvation.  While we were still weak he died for us”.  Our salvation is not a cooperation between God and sinners but such that glorifies his strong arm alone, 1Co 1:28  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 1Co 1:29  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  These verses aren’t saying that there are some people who are strong enough to take care of themselves for there are none righteous, no not one; but God generally chooses the ones who are comparatively weak to grow his kingdom just to demonstrate to Satan and this world that there is absolutely nothing they can do to stop the Lord from establishing his kingdom.  So God loves those who have nothing to offer him.

Then secondly he goes even further by loving those that are in rebellion to him.  So they aren’t just helpless but engaged in warfare against him and he saves them anyway!  In verse 6 they are described as ungodly, so they are living lives that dishonor the Lord and they do not live in gratitude for what he has done for them but instead live as if life is just about them and their pleasure.  So verse 8 says that when God died for us we were sinners; we had transgressed his law and stood as condemned criminals and he paid for our sins in his body on the tree.  So God loves his enemies as well.  To those who are both unable and unwilling to come to him, he goes to them.  In both cases God alone is able to meet our need; he is both able and willing to save.  

What an example to us of how to love one another.  If we only love those who are attractive to us, that have something to offer us or if we only love those that like us and are nice to us, then we have not loved as we have been loved.  Once we get hold of this our marriages will be better and our churches will be more enjoyable; when we start loving others, not for what they can do for you but what you can do for them all to the glory of God and in thanksgiving to him.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Are We Justified By Faith?

Rom 4:2  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
Rom 4:3  For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."
Rom 4:4  Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
Rom 4:5  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

When it comes to understanding the above passage one’s theology makes all the difference.  On the surface it seems pretty clear that we are not saved by any work we can do through faith.  Since this is the main point then it cannot be teaching us that faith is a work that we can do in order to be saved.  Yet there are a vast number or Christians who believe this very thing. 

This is mostly seen in the concept that God has provided a means of salvation and all that is needed to finish the job is for us to agree with it by faith.  But if all men are born with the ability to believe then how is this not a work?  Does not the very term ability necessitate something we have to aid in our salvation? 

The idea is that since none are righteous and can obey God’s Law then he has lowered the bar just low enough so that everyone has the ability to get in.  Faith becomes the one thing that we all can “do”.  But this is still a work and the above passage is saying that this is not an option.

Our theology helps here as we know that the Bible teaches that salvation is a work of God in which he enables us to believe thus faith is not a work but a means by which the Lord justifies us in such a way that we cannot boast that we did anything, even believe, in order to be saved.  Yes, we trusted in the work of Christ but only because God regenerated us and gave us the power to do so.

Another reason we know that faith is not the one thing that God will accept in order to save us is because faith does not equal our transgressions.  The Muslim god for instance will forgive sin if certain prayers are made.  But in essence this is to forgive sin without it ever being paid for.  Prayers don’t make up for transgressing a Holy God nor does believing.  Sin must be paid for which is why Jesus had to die.

Now you might be thinking, “Well there you have it.  Faith doesn’t equal our sin; Jesus also had to die for them.  But Paul tells us in Galatians that if we add anything to Christ we miss the gospel entirely.  In Galatians they were adding circumcision; in the case of the Church of Christ they add baptism; in the case of most Arminianism they add “faith”.  The idea is that God has done everything needed for salvation except one thing is left for us to “add to Christ’s work”.  That is we must add our faith to it.  In the end it boils down to a work that we can do that the lost will not do. 

Because of this it is good and necessary to understand that we are justified not on the basis of faith but through faith.  We are saved by grace, through faith.  Our salvation is all a gift of God but he enables us to believe when he gives us the new birth as the mechanism in which he justifies us.  We can take no credit.  I will leave you with these verses which I believe say the same thing, Php 1:29  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.  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.  2Ti 2:25  correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Steadfast in the Everyday Things

Rom 5:3  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, Rom 5:4  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, Rom 5:5  and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I recently preached on being steadfast.  Biblically the idea is to remain under a trial in a faithful, Christ-honoring way.  Often when we think of enduring trials we think of the big ones like persecution or when the doctor tells us we have terminal cancer, etc.  And while these are certainly times in which we are to be steadfast and endure to the end; it is perhaps just as important, if not more so, that we are careful to be Christlike and faithful in the everyday trials and disappointments of life since these are by far what we will encounter most often.

I think it is a good sign that we are maturing in Christ when we are able to handle the everyday disappointments and dull routines of life in a way that we are able to maintain our joy, peace and love while underneath them.  One instance that crossed my mind was what we term as mid-life crisis.  As a rule we have these because life isn’t turning out the way we expected or wanted.  Often this is seen because our spouse isn’t fulfilling our needs the way we want them to be fulfilled.  So we look for something or someone to take their place.  Of course, this is not being steadfast by being content with Christ but it is to live life primarily in a selfish mindset. 

I wonder how many men have had a “midlife crisis” because they came to the realization that they are not fulfilling their wives needs?  Probably the answer is no one ever!  We are way too selfish to think in such a way it seems. It just shows why we find it difficult to hold up when things don’t go our way; because we only are concerned for our way and not Christ and certainly not our neighbor’s and family’s good.  We reduce life to our little world and with nothing greater to live for how on earth can we endure with joy and contentment?

Another reason why it is so important to be steadfast in the everyday routines of life is that this gives us unlimited opportunities to honor the Lord and gain reward.  The times of persecution and life-changing trials are limited for all of us but faithfulness when people are short with you and unfair, when you are stuck in traffic or have to deal with a boss who shows favoritism, etc. happens so often that these are by far the most abundant ways to show this world how much you love Christ. 

If we miss this- that we must be steadfast in the little things- then we will excuse our bad temper and ill-treatment of our loved ones; if we think trials are only the big things and don’t realize that most of our trials are the everyday pain, disappointments, dealing with the ungodly pride in your life when those around you don’t bow to your every whim, then we will be defeated before we even get started.  We can please our Lord every day hundreds of times by placing our hope in him and being full of joy when the elderly lady won’t move out of the way on the road and we praise God that we can drive a car instead of blessing her out because she is going to make us 30 seconds later than we would have been.  Don’t downplay the little things or we will be unprepared for the bigger things and probably explains why we don’t do well at either many times.

I want to get better at being satisfied and joyful while those without Christ grow more and more bitter and sour.  It is sad when we see the same rage and bitterness in our society infiltrating the church influencing how we interact with each other.  I want to have the same attitude that those early Christians did who suffered much more than I ever will; Heb 10:32  But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, Heb 10:33  sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. Heb 10:34  For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Heb 10:35  Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Heb 10:36  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  Heb 10:37  For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay.

Notice that they didn’t just miserably endure pain and disappointment; they did so joyfully and compassionately.  They didn’t use their problems to stop them ministering to others and so they had great reward waiting for them because Christ is just about to come back for all of us either at death or his Second Coming and so compared to eternity, our reward is just around the corner.  Let’s take heart and serve while it is day!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Uselessness of Scheming

Gen 12:11  When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, "I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, Gen 12:12  and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Gen 12:13  Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake."

The account of Abram going to Egypt during the famine and lying about Sarah being his sister and not his wife teaches us of what happens when we start to rely on our wisdom to live life rather than obeying what God says in his Word.  This is seen in several ways in this passage such as Abram leaving Bethel which is called the House of God.  It was the place where Abram made an altar and worshipped God and while there he called upon the Lord which basically means he was seeking to know God’s will; he was listening to and following the Lord.

But he leaves the place of fellowship with God and starts scheming on his own.  He is not recorded as making another altar or speaking to the Lord until 13:4 where he returns to Bethel and starts to call upon the name of the Lord again.  So I think we can assume that  in between these two periods we are seeing Abram as he is living according to his own wisdom. 

As I was studying this account a thought occurred to me as to why such a course of action will fail every time.  By course of action I mean trying to take care of problems by human reason without first being guided by God’s revelation to us.  We might say that Abram was scheming.  He developed a rather elaborate ruse that he thought would feed his family, save his life and technically he was not lying since Sarah was his half-sister.  Scheming is certainly something I can identify with.  I often make careful, if not elaborate, plans when faced with problems.  On the surface there is not necessarily anything wrong with this as God has given us capacities of reason along with experience to figure out how to overcome problems in life.  Surely this is the mother of invention for instance.

The problem comes when we don’t allow ourselves to be first guided by what God has said in his Word and we aren’t seeking his help in prayer.  And so we scheme using our own wisdom but without a very important ingredient which makes all the difference.  Abram’s scheme might have worked except that Pharaoh didn’t play along.  And this is where all of our plans are doomed for failure if we act apart from the will of God.  Abram couldn’t control Pharaoh’s mind, will and actions but the Sovereign God of all can! 

And this is why using his wisdom will always work and why trying to live on our own wisdom can never work.  We cannot control anything other than ourselves and we can’t do that very well.  The success of every plan we make ultimately depends on whether people, events, weather, machines, animals, etc. will cooperate and we have no real control over any of those things.  But God controls all things after the counsel of his eternal decrees so every plan he has determined must come to pass.

Apparently it was God’s will for Abram to weather the famine in Canaan, not Egypt.  He could feed Abram and his flocks as easily during a famine as he could any in the most fertile valley on Earth.  Simply put he is sovereign and we are not.  Abram’s first sin was to assume God couldn’t take care of him and needed his help.  His next sin was to try on his own.

Often we can’t even control our own thoughts and bodies for our own good let alone anyone or anything else.   Let’s leave the “scheming” to the Lord and let us trust his wisdom because we have been promised that it will all work good for us in the end, Rom 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Friday, October 12, 2018

One Way the Gospel Conforms Us to Christ

2Pe 1:3  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 2Pe 1:4  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 

The above passage reminds us that all saints have all the power they need to serve the Lord by the indwelling Spirit and they have all the information they need in the Bible overall and in the promises of what they have in Christ Jesus in particular.  There is a lot of things that we could say about this subject but allow me to give some examples of how the truth of God's Word and the application of the Gospel can be used in all that pertains to life and godliness.

On the one hand when we sin it exposes that our love for the Lord is not as it should be.  On the other hand it also shows that we are not living in light of the truths of the Word.  So if I find it difficult to be nice and speak kindly to others then I need to ask what is wrong with my understanding of the gospel that makes me think I can act like this?  If I find it difficult to trust in God and not my bank account and give like I should, what have I forgotten about the goodness and power of God that makes me think I have to put this world before the Kingdom of God?  If I am being tempted to live for pleasure or power and success more than living to show forth Christ to others and deny self, where have I been deluded by sin so that I think this will end well for me?  So as soon as I lose sight of the gospel I will become barren or ineffective.

Sin deceives us and Satan is the father of lies.  His job is to get us to think wrongly.  We tend to think of Satan attacking us through overt temptations, and he certainly does this; but I believe primarily he tries to get us to think wrongly about the truth, to believe our sinful hearts and the world around us rather than God.  Once this happens we will easily fall to temptation.  So above all it is imperative that we know God's Word and that we believe and trust it so that it directs our thinking.

The Holy Spirit's work isn't so much to help us understand the Bible.  It is for the most part understandable.  Even many lost people understand what it is saying.  The difference is that they don't believe what it says.  The Holy Spirit helps us see the wisdom and to trust it above our deceitful hearts.  If we are regenerated then we are able to rest on these precious promises and live in light of eternity and not for the moment.

Once we understand this we begin to see the importance of Bible study and being under the ministry of the local church.  It isn't difficult to recognize someone who does not hold God's Word as very important in their lives and it would be a good exercise for each of us to determine if we are students of the Word.  If we are not, then the Holy Spirit has little to work with in conforming us to the image of Christ.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Indicatives and Imperatives

Php 3:12  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 
Gal_5:1  For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Col 3:1  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Col 3:2  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Col 3:3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

The subject of indicatives and imperatives and their use in the Bible might be familiar with us but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of them from time to time.  Simply put, an indicative is a statement of truth, the reality of something that already is.  An imperative is a command to do something or in this case to act on the indicative statement.  The above passages give examples of this.  Since God has done something for us and in us then act on this.  In the Philippians verse the indicative follows the imperative in the verse but Paul is saying I press on because of what Christ has already done.  Paul doesn’t teach us to behave out of duty but always by being what we already are in Christ.

This is important because all false religions and especially false Christian cults get the Bible’s order backwards.  The Bible teaches us that God has first acted; he has done something for us and effected a change in us (This is the truth) and this is to affect the way we live (That is the command). All false religions which are basically religions of good works to earn acceptance from God or through human effort attain Nirvana or some sort of happiness get the order wrong.  They give a command and then say that this will bring about the desired effect.  So do something that pleases God and he will do something for you.  Whereas the Bible teaches that God has done something for us so we are to live in light of that truth out of thankfulness and love.

So we cannot downplay what is going on here.  The most obvious example in Scripture is the book of Romans.  In the first 11 chapters there is not a command given to us; there are no imperative statements.  Paul spends the first half of the book explaining what God has done in saving us and who we are as a result.  It isn’t until we get to chapter 12 that we get our first imperative command to act on the truths of chapters 1-11.  Rom 12:1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Rom 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is important not just because if you get the order wrongly you will end up trying to work your way to merit God’s favor, but it can also save a Christian from a legalistic, miserable life.  For many Christians there is the idea that if I behave God will bless me (meaning: give me goodies or not do something bad to me) and if I do wrong then God is going to punish me somehow or if I sin badly enough he will even let me fall from grace entirely.  And so they live in a system of works anyway, not grace.  It’s the idea that God is ready to give us stuff or take it away all depending on how well we obey the rules.  This is miserable because none of us can live up to such an arrangement and it puts us at the center of our lives; life is about reward and punishment, not being satisfied and fulfilled in God for who he is and what he has done for me.

When Joel Osteen tells us if we will live a certain way and God will give us successful lives he is actually placing us under a miserable system in which we are doomed to fail.  Or when a preacher tells us we better not sin or God is going to hammer us with some awful thing so we better behave, he isn’t preaching grace but works.  He is saying to live rightly but for the wrong reason.

Paul tells us that in Christ all the promises are yes and amen.  We already have every good spiritual blessing and position; we are already seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God isn’t going to take that away. We are told to live in light of what he has already done for us.  He has already given us our best possible life in Christ so enjoy it in the pursuit of loving God with all our heart.

I am not denying that there are benefits for living for the Lord and that when we continue in sin God will chasten us to rid us of that sinful pattern.  But in Christ we have been made God’s children. We have peace with him and perfect security.  God isn’t standing over us with a paddle waiting for us to mess up. He is teaching us what a wonderful Father he is and telling us that to find pleasure in anything else will not bring happiness only pain.  In one sense he doesn’t have to punish us when we sin because the fruit of sin is punishment in itself.

So we have been given all sorts of commands on how to live for the Lord, but it isn’t to get a blessing. It is because we have already been blessed that is to motivate us.  One mindset is law; the other is grace.  One rests in God’s work; the other trusts in our works.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough"

Gen 7:17  The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. Gen 7:18  The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. Gen 7:19  And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. Gen 7:20  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. Gen 7:21  And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Gen 7:22  Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.

The biblical flood is a case study in the coming of the Lord and the judgment that will occur at that time.  In fact, one purpose of the flood is to teach us that this day is coming since God has already judged the world once. 

There are also some interesting parallels that emphasize this.  Just as Noah’s flood was historical so will the next general judgment be as well.  Jesus and Peter both referred back to Noah’s flood as an historical event and we learn in Paul’s preaching that God, “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

Next both are universal; that is, no one will escape the judgment of sin.  Either you will suffer for your sins or you will find escape in Jesus who has given himself as an offering for sin.  The text above makes it clear that no land was left for man to climb to so he could avoid death.  In Hebrews 9 we learn that no person will escape standing before the Lord, Heb 9:27  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, Heb 9:28  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Finally, it will be sudden; without warning.  Although God gave ample warning of the coming flood (judgment), one day he shut the door and sent the rain and no one could enter the ark at that point.  1Co 15:51  Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 1Co 15:52  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  We are also told that today is the day of salvation, but once Christ comes back that day is over forever.

The important thing in all this is to see that there was only one means of surviving the flood and that was by entering the Ark which is a type of Jesus Christ who alone was able to turn away God’s wrath against sin in his body on the tree.  As I was thinking about this I thought of how we are told that the water covered the highest mountain.  From the beginning mankind has invented ways to work their way to God.  But the problem is that there is no work good enough, no mountain high enough, that will save us from the guilt of sin. 

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Law was given on a mountain.  A Law that could not save sinners because it demands perfect righteousness so it can only condemn humanity.  Of course this hasn’t stop us from climbing Mt. Sinai anyway thinking that God has set the bar low enough for sinners to merit salvation.  Many have tried to “be good” enough to atone for their sin only to find that when they reach the top God’s holiness is much higher than their feeble efforts and they are consumed; they drown in God’s righteous judgment.  Even Mt. Sinai isn’t high enough.

Only the Ark, only Christ, could bear us up high enough to escape the guilt and penalty of sin and here is just one place where God has revealed his perfect salvation.  God will glorify himself, not by accepting our sin ladened works as a suitable payment for sin but only by offering himself as the perfect Lamb so that he receives all the glory.  As Genesis 22 says so well in a kind of play on words in the KJV, Gen 22:8  And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.  And truly he did two thousand years ago he provided himself as the only ark of safety, the only suitable substitute in his Son, Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Our Spiritual Disabilities

Rom 3:10  as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; Rom 3:11  no one understands; no one seeks for God. Rom 3:12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." Rom 3:13  "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." Rom 3:14  "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." Rom 3:15  "Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Rom 3:16  in their paths are ruin and misery, Rom 3:17  and the way of peace they have not known." Rom 3:18  "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Our world was not made for people with disabilities or real low IQs.  This is why we label them as special needs people and make ramps and devices that will help them get along in a world where one needs good arms, legs, minds, etc. to be able to function at full potential.  God made this world for people who can stand and reach and carry and think through problems and when we lose some of these abilities life becomes more difficult and in many cases impossible without help.  Such deformities and diseases are a result of sin and the curse.  And because sin affects our minds and bodies adversely we do things for those in need so they can get along in life.

As I was thinking about this reality the thought occurred to me that it might do us well to remember that we are all born with disabilities and are “deformed” in a spiritual sense.  We are all born spiritually and morally broken and it is not just our duty but it is imperative that we give ourselves special care by adhering to the Word of God.  It is only as we are recreated in Christ that we can begin to overcome the disabling effects of sin that makes it impossible to live life as the Lord intended. 

Too often we forget this because our sinfulness looks normal when compared to others.  When everyone is blind, crippled and “crazy” then it seems no one is.  Since everyone is born depraved we tend to think that sinning is normal and don’t see it for what it is.  So we think of ourselves as in a better condition than we are because our sin doesn’t look out of place; it looks like we are getting along pretty well in this fallen world because we have forgotten that the real “normal” is to be holy as God is holy. 

But it is easy to prove that all humans are “handicapped” when they come into this world.  Just look at the way we fight and steal and brag and ignore each other; look at all the unrest in society because sin makes it very difficult to love our neighbor as ourself.  The inability for us to find peace and joy and fulfillment only proves that there is a serious defect that we are all born with and this can’t be fixed apart from the Gospel.

The truth of the matter is that we are all born with disabilities that will destroy us without the grace of God to intervene.  When we see someone with a life-threatening disability that needs special and decisive action we need to be reminded that this is all of us spiritually and we need to take it even more seriously than physical deformities because our spiritual condition will lead us to Hell unless we are “cured” by the cross of Christ.

As it turns out the Lord has given us helps so that we can overcome our spiritual “disabilities”.  First of all he gives us a new nature at conversion so that we start loving God more than ourselves rather than the disability of loving ourselves more than everything else.  He has given us his Word to teach us how to live properly.  We might compare it somewhat to physical therapy.  It is only by constant use that our bodies can function properly and it is only by being saturated with the Word of God that anyone can get a handle on what life is all about.  In conjunction with the Word is the local church where God has ordained that most of our learning take place.  And then there is the fellowship of the saints where we get strength and support for serving the Lord as well. 

The problem I have found over the years is that our priorities are all out of whack.  When we see someone with a physical need we will do whatever it takes to try and help them overcome their disability.  They stand out from the norm and it is obvious they need help.  But because our spiritual needs aren’t as easy to spot since everyone has the same spiritual disabilities and so we think that sin and its destructive effects are normal, we have little concern for them and we get used to our spiritual “limp” or near-sightedness or weakness. 

But we need to take our spiritual needs with even more seriousness than we do our physical weakness.  Jesus said for us not to fear those that can kill the body but instead fear the one who can destroy your soul as well as your body.  We need to use the graces God gave us to grow strong in Christ and work for eternity and not worry so much about keeping this body alive for a few years.  Even Paul said that bodily exercise only profits a little, 1Ti_4:8  for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 

It might be good for us to stop comparing ourselves to those around us and instead compare ourselves to Christ so that we can see how “deformed” we are and how much help we need so that we might grow in grace.  And we need to realize that we are born with a zero spiritual IQ and grow in the knowledge of Christ so we can live effective and “normal” lives for the Lord.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

"Not By the Will of Man"

Joh 1:11  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. Joh 1:12  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, Joh 1:13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

The Passage above is full of important truth and those that ignore it have developed all sorts of doctrinal errors that have caused damage for Christianity.  Primarily it tells us to whom we owe the new birth.  The first 18 verses of the Gospel of John are a prologue to the book in which John tells us that Jesus is the eternal Word of God, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.  He also is telling us of Jesus’s mission and that the Jews did not receive him.  In verses 12-13 it seems that thinking about the Jews not receiving him makes him think about how it is that anyone does receive Jesus as the Messiah.  And so under the inspiration of the Spirit he makes it crystal clear that Jew and Gentle alike will always reject Jesus unless God intervenes. 

In verse 12 he states that all who receive Jesus are given the right to become sons of God.  In Pauline vernacular we would say that one is saved through faith (receiving) and that one cannot believe until they are regenerated (born again)

And then in vs. 13 he gives us one of the most important truths in the Bible for understanding to whom we owe our salvation.  He goes on to explain that we don’t become born again when we believe, but we must be born from above so that we can believe.  Verse 12 alone sounds like our salvation is just a matter of whether we decide to believe or not, but the Bible never teaches this.  And so verse 13 removes any idea that one is saved by any manmade faith apart from the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. 

He lists three things that have no part in our spiritual birth.  First of all blood; our ethnicity, genealogy or any family connection has no bearing on whether we get saved or not.  Just because my parents are Christians or being a Jew vs. a Gentile has no bearing on the election of grace.  God saves from all people groups, Rev 5:9  And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Secondly, my will did not cause me to be born again.  It is amazing how many people refuse to accept the clear teaching from the Scriptures on this point.  Until God overrides our sinful nature and rebellious will and gives us a new heart, we will never choose him.  Even though Romans 3 says, "None is righteous, no, not one; Rom 3:11  no one understands; no one seeks for God. Rom 3:12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one”, so many must think that they are the exception; that they can understand and choose what is good.  One can never understand the necessity of the sovereignty of God in salvation until they realize that they are dead in sin and under sin’s dominion and so will never believe until enabled by the Holy Spirit.  What could be more clear than, Php 1:29  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.  So by now it should be clear that the new birth has to precede faith or this whole passage makes no sense.

Thirdly, John says not by the will of man.  At first glance this might seem redundant but experience has taught us that there are some that think they can force others into the Kingdom of God or they can bring someone into it without the other’s consent, so this is referring to someone else’s will.  Roman Catholic “missionaries” would be the first to come ashore when the conquistadors or some Catholic conquering force would overtake a new land.   The newly conquered people would be forced to pass before the priest and be “baptized” into the Catholic Church.  It clearly wasn’t the will of the “converted” but the will of the Church but this verse tells us that such forced conversions are still the will of man and does not bring anyone into the Kingdom. 

Another example of this is baptizing babies.  In this case it is obvious that the infant is not exercising faith because the infant has no ideas what is going on, so the adults are doing something to bypass true conversion and forcing salvation on them.  Never mind that there is no instance of this in the Bible, John 1:13 says that one cannot enter the Kingdom of God by the will of another person.  Only the will of God brings about the new birth and the resulting faith in Christ. 

Until the Lord comes back, the fact will always be that there will be different denominations and Christian groups who see things differently and therefore worship separately.  That is fine and no doubt one reason the Lord allows this is because it keeps us searching the Bible and defending the faith.  But I wonder how fewer false Christian sects and cults there would be if just these two verses were taken at face value?  If they would bow the knee to the sovereign God without whose work we would all be lost.  There would certainly be far fewer denominations, sects and cults than we have today.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Power of the Word of God

Isa 55:10  "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, Isa 55:11  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The above passages are familiar to all of us but it is amazing how often we all need to be reminded not only of the power of the Word of God but because of this power we don’t need to interact with the world with their reason and logic.  Instead we can rely on speaking the Word to them whether they believe it or not.

I was recently reminded of this when I heard that the ProLife leaders in America who for the most part claim to be Christians also openly state that they refuse to use the Bible or religion as the basis for their arguments against abortion.  The thinking comes down to that since abortionists don’t believe in the truth of the Bible why argue from it because it won’t hold any weight with them.  It is no wonder this society doesn’t take Christianity seriously anymore.

I have to assume that a lot of this type of thinking comes from bad theology that doesn’t realize that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance to his will and revelation.  But what should be strikingly obvious is that this approach to any issue of sinful behavior fails for at least a couple of reasons.

First of all it reduces the abortion issue and all sin to merely behavior modification.  It says that we don’t care if you repent before God and are saved and we don’t care why you quit sinning and we don’t care if God gets any glory in this or even whether he is involved in this at all; we just want you to change your behavior.  But any action not done for the glory of God is still sin.  It is tempting to say, “Well, who cares as long as they stop murdering babies”.  While that is a good thing, it basically says that God has no part in this, just stop for the babies’ sake but who cares how God fits into all of this.  I believe it is a flawed approach. Because of the second reason such argumentations fail.

The Bible is very clear that when dealing with sin and sinners the only reason we are to demand change is because it is all men’s duty to obey God and live for his glory.  Just because they refuse to acknowledge this doesn’t mean we are to argue from other world views other than the one God sets forth in his Word.  Let me give you three different examples from Scriptures that should prove this.

First of all the OT prophets.  They were sent to a people who did not want to hear God’s Word nor did they accept that they had a duty to obey it.  Because of this the prophets were laughed at, persecuted and killed but God told them to speak exactly what he said anyway and not change a word.  Can you image a prophet saying that because the people wouldn’t listen to the word from God that he would try to reason with them as to why it might be better to turn back to the Lord and quit all their sinning which included at times murdering children.  No, because the Lord wasn’t just interested in the people stopping their sinful actions but the whole point was to return to the Lord and start serving him from their hearts.  In fact he several times makes the point that he would not accept the good deeds they did because their hearts were far from him.  There is no hint that the prophets were to change their approach just because the people were offended and scorned the Word of God.

Secondly we have Paul and all the Apostles.  They didn’t go into a city, even pagan ones like Athens and start trying to get people to change their behavior.  When Paul went into Athens, he spoke to men in the epicenter of human reason, logic and wisdom that still influence the way the world thinks.  Yet he plainly told them that there was a God that had claims on them and it was their responsibility to know and serve him.  Act 17:30  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Act 17:31  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."  Many laughed at him but he didn’t change the message.

Finally, we look at Jesus who is the supreme example to the Christian in how to serve God.  The Jewish leaders in his day wouldn’t listen to anything he said but he never changed tactics.  It wasn’t that the Jews weren’t living moral lives on the outside but that is never enough for God.  Jesus told them until they get right with the Lord nothing they did on the outside mattered.  This is why he called them “whitewashed tombs”, Mat_23:27  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.  The reason people sin is important to him.

The ultimate example was when Jesus was tempted by Satan.  If there was ever anyone who did not accept the authority of God’s Word it is Satan.  But the only way Jesus would deal with him was by quoting the Scriptures, not by trying to get him to quit doing evil things.  Even Satan only has one option which is to do right because God demands it; any other reason won’t do. 

Understand that I want abortion to be illegal as much as anyone.  But leave it the ProLife people who are lost to use human reasons to argue their case.  Christians are here to change people hearts through the gospel.  That in turn will change behavior.  In the days of the Prophets society was every bit as evil as it is today and the only thing God told his people to do was to lay the claims of their Creator on them that they might repent and believe. 

Christ commissioned the church to go into all the world and preach the gospel and teach them all that he commands us.  He didn’t say that when the world becomes so secular that it pretends that I don’t exists and doesn’t want to hear the gospel then go ahead and try to get them to just be good people by any line of reasoning that works.  God’s Word will do the job or it won’t get done.  Let me remind all of us of Paul’s words above, “The gospel is the power of God”, not clever arguments.  And Isaiah’s, “It will not return unto me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose”.  We aren’t living by faith if we don’t have confidence in the very thing we are to have faith in.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Arming Ourselves for Battle

1Pe 4:1  Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
1Pe 4:2  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

We live in a fallen world of sin and resulting dangers.  Because of this it is necessary to guard ourselves and families against such things as hunger, thirst, poverty, slander, those who would harm us, disease, etc.  While all these things can be harmful the Bible is clear that our worst danger is sin both within us and without. 

One of the evidences of how sin can destroy us is seen in how we tend to think of physical harm as more dangerous than spiritual dangers.  How many parents will work long hours to make sure that their family has enough to eat and wear and adequate shelter but leave themselves and their children completely open to spiritual attack by not having them under the ministry of the Word of God.  How much money has been spent on alarm systems or guns or some such things in the effort to protect their physical lives and property but little time was spent teaching them of the Gospel with the hope of saving their souls from eternal damnation?  How much effort is spent on encouraging our children that they must go to college and be indoctrinated by the world in order to have a career but not near as much time and energy was spent to indoctrinate them in the Word so that they would be able to defend themselves from the lies of this world?

It is easy for us to live like the most important things are temporal and that all we need is a casual understanding of the Bible, an arm’s distance relationship with the Lord as long as we are “saved”. We assume that is good enough.  At the same time we think that no amount of money and energy is enough to keeping our children “safe” from not having everything they want.  It is the danger of living in affluence that causes us to see poverty as a worse evil then living a nominal, powerless Christian life.

Peter in the text above tells us to arm ourselves with a new way of thinking found only in the Bible.  It is to think as Christ did in which he only cared about doing what pleased the Father and if that brought suffering and death then that was okay.  He understood that the worst thing that could happen to him was to not please the Father in everything he did even if it meant he had no place to call his own and lay his head down at night or no bank account, etc. 

Peter then says that if we come to think like this we will cease from sin.  The idea is that sin will no longer dominate us and we will be able to not fall under its power as easily because we no longer see our temporal life as more important than serving the Lord.  We are crucifying ourselves daily, which means we get up in the morning with the understanding that we are here for the Lord, not for ourselves and so we can say no to those things our bodies might want for greater, eternal rewards.  It isn’t that we will no longer sin at all but we will never be able to have victory over sin until we start thinking like this.

It is a little like the guy who is going to be executed at daybreak; he isn’t worrying about the kind of car he is going to buy because there are more pressing matters.  The father who really cares for his children is by far more concerned for their salvation and relationship with God than he is for their physical wellbeing even though that has its place.  The godly father understands that God and his truth are our protection.  One controls the battlefield or the circumstances of our lives and the other controls our mind so that we know how to fight the good fight.

I will close with an example of understanding how our relationship with Christ must be given precedent over our physical well-being.  John Paton was a missionary to the New Hybrids which was a cannibal infested area in the South Pacific.  The first couple of missionaries there were killed and eaten within a few minutes of landing on shore.  When a Mr. Dickson warned him that he would be eaten by cannibals if he went there he said, Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.  He understood that nothing he could have in this life could compare to having Christ in the next life! I read where they packed their belongings in ready-made caskets as their suitcases for the trip to the New Hybrids!  When told he would die if he went ashore, he said, “We died before we ever left England.”  This is arming yourself for great reward.  The world says such thinking is foolish but Jesus said what does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul in the process.

To work for safety and possessions in this life for yourself and families with little effort for securing the next life is the most irresponsible thing you can do for those you say you love.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Beginning of False Religions

Gen 4:3  In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground,
Gen 4:4  and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering,
Gen 4:5  but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
Gen 4:6  The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?
Gen 4:7  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."

The account of Cain and Abel is not just interesting but full of theological lessons.  For one thing it proves that everything God said would happened if Adam sinned did happen as Cain, the firstborn of Adam, shows that he was conceived in the image of his fallen father.  It also shows us the beginning of all false religions as Cain attempts to approach God on his own terms and by his own works.  There are only two religions in the world, works and grace, and Abel comes to God on the basis of another’s work which is grace and Cain comes with the fruit of his own labor which is a religion of works.

As the NT tells us, the spirit of Cain is alive and well today and always has been.  Anyone who teaches us to live for ourselves and not the Lord is merely reflecting Cain’s sinful attitude, 1Jn_3:12  We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous.
Jud_1:11  Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion.

Another way this attitude is seen is in those who tell us that as long as our motives are right then God doesn’t care how we approach or worship him.  There are those that say that Cain was rejected because his heart wasn’t right; God didn’t care about his sacrifice.  But the NT tells us this is wrong, Heb_11:4  By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

Certainly Cain’s heart was not right with God but it was the sacrifice he brought that proved it.  God discarded his vegetable tray for a couple of reasons:

His sacrifice was not just the works of his hands but grown in the ground that was under a curse.  Cain was telling God to accept him for what he has done and the problem was that all the works we do are tainted with our sin.  All our works arise from sinful hearts and cannot be seen as righteous before a holy God.  Yes, he was acknowledging God and that there was a debt to pay but the payment was totally inappropriate because it was mixed with human effort. 

Both Cain and Abel obviously had been told to approach the Lord with the sacrifice of a substitute but Cain wanted to bring something he had done because his heart was full of himself.  So both his heart and therefore his sacrifice were rejected by the Lord.  And this leads to the second reason God had to reject Cain.

His vegetable tray ruined the OT types of Christ.  Every once in a while God makes an object lesson of someone who thinks he could approach God in a way that didn’t point to the finished work of Christ.  Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land because he struck the Rock a second time when God said to merely speak to it.  Christ only had to die for our sins once, peace was made and now we approach the Father through this finished work and we can speak to God because Christ has already been struck by death and gained victory over it.

Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, learned this lesson with their lives.  Instead of burning incense on the golden altar with fire that came from the brazen altar they used a common fire.  The point is that prayers and service must arise from the sacrifice and anything done that is not based on Christ’s work is unacceptable.  Again, God took these types seriously since he was teaching that no one can be justified nor can do any act of worship and service until they have been purified through the blood of Christ.  Like Cain, Nadab and Abihu decided they could serve God any way they wanted.

Cain no doubt brought a beautiful sacrifice to the Lord but it was totally inappropriate not only because it was an act of rebellion towards God’s will but it didn’t rely on God’s work but on his own.  Had Cain first come to the Lord with a lamb and by such faith been justified then it would have been completely appropriate for him to bring his produce as a sacrifice of praise and thankfulness.  But he got the cart before the horse and was rejected.  And such religions do the same thing today when they teach that we can be right before God apart from anything other than faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  And no doubt the churches are full of people putting money in the offering plate thinking that this is earning them brownie points with God instead of getting right with God through the Son and then giving offerings based on what God has done for them in Christ.