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.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Is Your Boss a Tool for the Lord

Gen 3:17  And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; Gen 3:18  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. Gen 3:19  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Isa 53:11  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

One of the curses sin brought on man is that everything becomes more difficult.  It might be the difficulty of maintaining loving relationships such as in marriage as God told Eve in Gen. 3:16, To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."  Or it might be the difficulty of trying to make a living and feeding your family as in verses 17-19 above. 

So it seems that the sweat of labor reminds us that work will be difficult and unending all of our days and it will also not be as fulfilling as it should.  Sin causes everything temporal to never reach its desired end or pleasure.  Life just will not be what it was meant to be. 

Yet the truth that makes life bearable is that Jesus has defeated every aspect that sin has brought upon us.  It is no accident that the Gospels record Jesus’s work on the cross in such a way that we can clearly see him taking the effects of sin upon himself so that we can be freed.  He bore a crown of thorns as he became cursed for us; he was stripped naked as he bore our shame so that we can be clothed in his righteousness.  We even see him sweating profusely as he begins his work in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

The difference with his sweat and labor from ours was that what he was trying to accomplish was completed fully.  Unlike our labors that never find satisfaction and perfection and in this life, never finding rest for these labors, his brought complete satisfaction and accomplishment in defeating sin and redeeming his church and once he said, “It is finished”, he rested from his labor for it was perfect.  We see his satisfying work in Isa. 53:11 above, Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  And nothing says a work was done right the first time like not having to do it again, Heb 10:12  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

Not only have our sins been completely paid for so they can never be held against us but Christ’s work now gives our work on earth the satisfaction it could never have otherwise.  The lost will labor and pursue pleasure all his days only to never find the fulfillment that he is looking for and then he will leave it all behind and suffer total loss, Mat 25:29  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Mat 25:30  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But we have the opportunity by the grace of God to do all things for his glory and in so doing we are given meaning and reward for even the most mundane jobs and the same holds true in suffering patiently for the Lord’s sake.  Now there is no excuse for any saint to not find life fulfilling and rewarding because our work for the Lord brings great satisfaction and ultimate reward.  Christians have the promise that it will be worth it all, that our lives are not worthless but have great value, great reward and that perfect rest is coming. 

I will close with what I think is a practical example.  You might have a boss who is incompetent or who is mean and unfair and doesn’t treat you according to the work you do or might not pay you a fair wage, etc.  For many this brings frustration and discontent and they might wonder what is the point of working.  But Christ’s work of redemption changes everything.  That mean boss is actually a means by which you can gain great reward if you bear it patiently, if you love even him, if you continue to exhibit Christ to your co-workers.  If we returned kind for kind, we just end up frustrated.  But if we use every opportunity as a tool to glorify the Lord, then we can look at such people in a whole new light. 

Col 3:22  Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Col 3:23  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Col 3:24  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Col 3:25  For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Engaging the World

Mat 28:18  And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Mat 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Mat 28:20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Luk 6:27  "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luk 6:28  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Eph 4:28  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

One of the things the above verses have in common is that they all command us to actively engage others.  When Paul tells us to aspire to live quietly and mind our own affairs in 1 Thess. 4:11-12 he isn’t telling us to go off into monasteries or communes and not engage the lost; to try and isolate ourselves from sin and wait for the Lord to come back and rescue us.  Such verses are telling us to be good citizens, don’t cause trouble and work so that you aren’t dependent on others.  Let me quote these verses in their entirety, 1Th 4:11  and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 1Th 4:12  so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 

This isn’t my point in this article but it might be worth pointing out that it is not the Lord’s will for his people to live off charity and welfare as a rule of thumb.  These things can be helpful and there are times when we all need help but it is to be our goal to take care of ourselves as the Lord allows and not assume that somebody else owes me what they have worked hard for.  I say this because as our country turns more and more socialist Christians can get caught up in the idea that people don’t have to be held accountable to work and do their share to support the economy.  Our goal should be to enable people to work, not see how many can be dependent on the government.  But we will press on.

The point I want to make in the above verses is that we have been called to engage this world, to live among the lost and not just mind our own business so we don’t have to get involved in people’s lives and problems.  As the verse in Eph. 4 says, it is not enough that we don’t steal but that we work to have money to help others.  Here we see a contrast to the 10 Commandments that basically tell us what not to do but under the New Covenant we cannot stop there but must love and do good; we cannot just “not do harm”.  We are not to just not commit adultery but love our wives as ourselves, we don’t just not murder, we love and help, don’t just want peace but pursue peace, etc. 

So we are told in Matthew 28, for instance, that the church is not to just mind its own business, worship in your heart, keep to yourself, but we instead are to go to those who don’t want to hear and lay the claims of Christ on them in the preaching of the Gospel. 

Why this matters especially today is because Christians are being told to keep their religion to themselves.  We are free to believe what we want but if it is out of step with today’s morality then we must keep silent.  There are many Christians that are happy to oblige them and there are many in the church that are also saying that we must fall into step with the social mores of the day regardless of what the Bible says.

But the problem with this is that Matthew 28 commands the church to proclaim the Word of God to the lost whether they want to hear it or not.  The call today to keep our religion to ourselves is just another attempt by Satan to keep us from telling this world about the cross of Jesus Christ.  It is an attack on Christianity itself which cannot be silent and to do so is to blatantly disobey the Lord.  The church propagates itself not by running from the world but by attacking it with the Gospel.  This is historic and biblical Christianity and we dare not be diverted from it.  We are to go into all the world, not hide from the world.  May God give us the strength in these uncertain days to be faithful to him and not fear the culture around us because it will soon be gone but the Word of God abides forever.