Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hymn of the Week - Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?

Here's an old hymn that doesn't get sung much any more, but I heard the church bells in our town playing this the other day and it brought back some of the words for meditation. 

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.

How happy are the saints above,
Who once went sorrowing here!
But now they taste unmingled love,
And joy without a tear.

The consecrated cross I’ll bear
Till death shall set me free;
And then go home my crown to wear,
For there’s a crown for me.

Upon the crystal pavement down
At Jesus’ piercèd feet,
Joyful I’ll cast my golden crown
And His dear Name repeat.

O precious cross! O glorious crown!
O resurrection day!
When Christ the Lord from Heav’n comes down
And bears my soul away.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What does God Require of Me - Part 3

In this short series, I'm looking at some of the things that God requires of us. As I've said, sometimes we make it way too complicated.

The prophet Micah gives us this summary in chapter 6 and verse 8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?"

First, God wants us to do justly. That means to do justice, to do what is right. It means to treat people correctly and fairly. It means we shouldn't be trying to cheat others out of what they are due. It means that our lives should be righteous. We should play fair in all we do.

Second, God wants us to love mercy. That is because God is merciful. Mercy is granting people kindness when they deserve something else. It is the fulfillment of Jesus' command to love our enemies and to treat people well when they have treated us badly. This is not an easy requirement, but it is what God expects of us.

Finally, God wants us to walk humbly with him. That means to follow him and  have fellowship with him continually as we take each step through our lives. It means that we need to be humble under his mighty hand recognizing that he is God and we are not.

These three basic things are so crucial to living a life that is rewarding and satisfying. They are not easy, but it is worth our effort to take the steps necessary to make them a central part of our lives.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Church, the Body of Christ - Literally

Here's a short Bible study I used to teach on Wednesday night. If you want it in downloadable, printable pdf form, you can find it here.

The Church is the Body of Christ, Literally
Ephesians 5:28-32

1. Ephesians 5:31 is a quote from __________________

2. What had just happened prior to verse 24?

3. Adam described Eve as ________ of his _________ and _________ of his _________.

4. For this reason a man shall leave his mother and father and be joined as one flesh to his wife.

5. Ephesians 5:32 says that this is a mystery related to Christ and the _____________.

6. Ephesians 5:30 uses the same words that Adam used. We are members of his body, of his ________
and of his ___________.

7. As Eve was brought out of Adam while he slept, the church is a new creation resulting from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

8. Ephesians 2:15 God is creating in Christ one ______ ________.

9. We are:
A _____ creation 2 Corinthians 5:17
Born _________ by an incorruptible 1 Peter 1:23
Given a ______ heart Ezekiel 36:26
Made __________ of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4
One ____________ with Christ 1 Corinthians 6:17
Given the _________ of Christ 1 Corinthians 2:16
Baptized into the body by the _________ 1 Corinthians 12:13
The body of Christ and members ____________ 1 Corinthians 12:27
Members of one _____________ Romans 12:5

10. His body the church is the __________ of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:23

11. The goal is to grow into the ___________ (or complete or mature) man unto the _____________ of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13. The man referred to here is not each individual man becoming like Christ, but the one new man, the church, which God is creating.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Walk by the Spirit - A Puritan Devotional

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  Galatians 5:16
These words present the way of conquering sin.  It is the one great strategy against the powers of darkness if we would strangle the brats of night and hell as they seek to give birth.  It crushes the egg before it can hatch the serpent.  The best expedient in the world to avoid fulfilling the lust of the flesh is to walk in the Spirit.  To walk in the Spirit is to fulfill the counsel and advice of the Spirit.  Every renewed soul is a stage in which the Spirit and the flesh combat in hand-to-hand warfare: light against darkness, life versus death, heaven against hell, and good versus evil.  God takes your side, O Christian!  The Spirit of the Lord is with you if you do not sin and grieve him away.  Follow his leading.  Be prompt and ready to follow his promptings. Marching under this banner you shall become invincible.  Believers following the Almighty go forward conquering and to conquer.  ‘My soul clings to you’, said David; ‘your right hand upholds me’ (Ps 63:8).  As if he had said: ‘Go, lead on, my God.  I will follow as close as I can.  I will not allow any distance between us, but I will pursue your footsteps, step by step, leaning upon your everlasting arms that are underneath me, as you lead me by the hand.’  Lot almost perished in Sodom for lingering before God hastened him away (Gen 19:16).  If you resist the Holy Spirit, you grieve him, and thus are alone in the battle.  Open all your sails to every breath and gale of God’s good Spirit.  Welcome every suggestion.  Reverence every command.  Cherish every gentle persuasion of this blessed exhorter.  Let every inspiration find you as the seal does the wax, or as the spark does the tinder.  Step into the pool when you angel stirs the water.  Keep in touch with the moving of the Spirit, and all will be well.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 81, published by Banner of Truth Trust

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What does God want from me - Part 2

In this short series, I'm looking at the basics of the Christian life. What does God want from us? So often we are looking for the secrets to the Christian life. By secrets I mean those topics such as "5 steps to a brighter future" or "10 steps to successful living". As I've lived the Christian life for over 50 years, it seems to me that the basics are still the basics. We covered two of them last week: 1) Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength; and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

Today I'm thinking more in the line of spiritual disciplines that keep our relationship with God strong and our Christian life vital. What are those basic things?  I think we can boil them down to 1) Reading and studying the Scriptures; 2) Memorizing the Scriptures; 3) Meditating on them; 4) Praying; and 5) Gathering together with other believers for worship, prayer and teaching.

I'm not going to go into each of these right now because I think that most Christians who read this will know what I'm talking about. But some self-examination is probably in order. Look at each of the five things I listed in the previous paragraph and ask yourself these questions: 1) Do I involve myself regularly in this activity? and 2) What steps can I take today to fix any weakness I discovered in question 1?

Let's take the steps we need to take to be the faithful men God wants us to be.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

I’ve often been intrigued by the questions people ask and what we can learn from them. Michael Card, in one of his songs, uses the phrase “questions often tell us more than answers ever do.” I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that one can learn a lot from questions. 

I’ve noticed that the Bible contains a lot of questions. God, people and even Satan ask questions. Sometimes it’s to find out answers and sometimes it’s to provoke thinking.
From time to time in this blog I’m going to probe some of the things we can learn by looking at the questions that are asked.

Today’s question is found in Deuteronomy 3:24 and is asked by Moses, “O Lord God, you have begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like your works and your mighty deeds?”

Moses had led the people of God out of Egypt and through the wilderness right up to the border of the promised land. At one point along the journey, Moses had disobeyed the Lord when he was told to speak to a rock to produce water out of it but instead he hit it twice with his staff. For this infraction, God forbade him from entering the promised land.

What I’m interested in today is the question Moses asked. Moses had seen countless miracles at the hand of God. He had seen the Red Sea split open so that they could walk through. He had seen the Lord supply food in the wilderness. He had seen the peoples’ shoes not wear out, etc. When Moses asked the question he said, “You have begun to show your servant your greatness and mighty hand.” In other words with all of these miracles, Moses was convinced that this was only the beginning. God had just begun to show what he could do.

Based on that observation Moses asked the main part of his question, “What god is there in heaven on earth who can do anything like your works and your mighty deeds?” The answer is “none”. There are no other gods who can do these things. That is why, in the Ten Commandments, God tells us that “you shall have no other gods before me.” It is not as though God is on an equal par with other gods and simply wants an unfair advantage over them. That is something we as human beings would do. God tells us not to be proud and lifted up against our fellow human beings. But with God there are no fellow gods. He is the only God and therefore has the right to be jealous and angry when we substitute something that is not a god into the place of worship that rightfully belongs to God alone.
There is no other god like the God of the Bible. No other man-made god or imagined God has done or could do all that The God has done.

You may have read some of my postings about truth in recent days. The Bible is claiming that the God it describes is the one and only true and living God. There is none other. God often does things we don’t understand, as in this story of Moses not being permitted into the promised land after all those years of faithfulness. But as much as we may not understand or even like it, we don’t get to choose the God that exists. If I may say it reverently, we are “stuck” with the God that is actually there. He is the one we are called upon to serve and worship.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:13

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Does God Want From Me - Part 1

Sometimes we make the Christian life too hard. Sometimes we are looking for answers or secrets to living life when what God wants from us is pretty straight forward.

In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus tells us some of what God expects: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

While this is simple to understand, it's not that easy to do. I admit that. Loving God involves our whole being. It involves our whole mind, all of our strength. It involves our soul which is our psychological being and it involves our heart which is our emotional being. Loving God is at the heart of what he wants from us. How far short of this simply-stated command do we come? How much do we even try?

The second command that Jesus gave in this passage is to love our neighbor the same way we love ourselves. We fall way short on that one too. But the challenge today is that when we're trying to figure out what we should be doing for God or to please God, let's simply go back to these two commandments and work on them. Let's focus on God and what he has done for us, be thankful for everything he gives us and make the effort to love him with our whole being. And then let's take the time to consider our neighbor and what his or her needs might be and try to meet those the same way we would try to meet our own.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:12

Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

The Scripture tells us that Christians have died with Christ and they are now "in the Spirit". Because of this we don't owe the flesh or the natural self anything. The flesh may try and try to make us think it dominates, but we owe it nothing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hymn of the Week - I Will Praise Him

I Will Praise Him by Margaret J. Harris

When I saw the cleansing fountain
Open wide for all my sin,
I obeyed the Spirit’s wooing,
When He said, “Wilt thou be clean?”

I will praise Him! I will praise Him!
Praise the Lamb for sinners slain;
Give Him glory, all ye people,
For His blood can wash away each stain.

Though the way seems straight and narrow,
All I claimed was swept away;
My ambitions, plans and wishes,
At my feet in ashes lay.


Then God’s fire upon the altar
Of my heart was set aflame;
I shall never cease to praise Him
Glory, glory to His Name!


Blessèd be the Name of Jesus!
I’m so glad He took me in;
He’s forgiven my transgressions,
He has cleansed my heart from sin.


Glory, glory to the Father!
Glory, glory to the Son!
Glory, glory to the Spirit!
Glory to the Three in One!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How Marriage Pictures Christ

Watchman Nee, in his book The Normal Christian Life, got me thinking about an interesting topic. In Ephesians 5, Paul is writing about marriage. In verse 31 he quotes from Genesis 2:24 which says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." In the next verse he says an amazing thing. He says that this is a mysterious thing but that he is speaking about Christ and the church.

So the amazing thing is not so much that a man and his wife become one flesh, but Christ and his church become one flesh. Watchman Nee points out that this is one of the few, or perhaps the only time when Christ is viewed as fulfilling a pre-fall event. When Eve was created, God put Adam to sleep and from him he created his wife. Adam said, "This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh."

Jesus also, in his death and burial slept in a sense. He actually had died, but sometimes in Scripture death is referred to as sleep. Out of that death and subsequent resurrection and ascension, the church was born. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:30 "For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones." He uses similar terminology that Adam had used -- "flesh" and "bones".

Jesus uses a different metaphor in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." Our life and effectiveness are determined by how much of his life is at work in us.

Jesus, through his death, resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of his spirit has multiplied himself over and over in the church. Christians are part of Christ and he continues to live and move and be active in the world through us.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

What is truth? Pilate asked Jesus this question as recorded in John 18:38. Jesus had just said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to me.”

For some reason, truth is a difficult concept in today’s world. It’s not only difficult because there is so much lying going on at every level, but it’s difficult because people don’t know what it means and they don’t basically care to live by its implications.
Pilate asked the question. What does our Webster dictionary say? Truth is “the state of being the case: fact; the body of real things, events, and facts.” Another definition given is that truth is “the property of being in accord with fact or reality.”

A statement or proposition that is true is one that describes things the way they actually are. If someone says, “It is snowing outside,” that statement is open to verification. One can look out the window and see if it is snowing and therefore “prove” whether the statement was true. Sometimes a statement needs to have modifiers on it. A child may say it is snowing outside and you look out and see that it is 70 degrees and the flowers are in bloom and the sun is shining. When you say, “What are you talking about?” the child may say, “It is snowing – in Antarctica; and that’s outside, isn’t it?” I think most of us know what the idea of truth is.

Where things get difficult is when we are discussing issues related to the Bible, God, and religious things. We Christians believe that when the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, it is making a true statement. Someone else can come along and say that they believe that is a false statement. This sets the stage for solid discussion and debate. 

However, what is happening today is that many people do not believe in truth as a concept. If I say I believe that there is a God and someone else says they believe there is no God, many people believe that we are both right! If I need a god, then for me there is a god. And if the other person doesn’t feel that need, then he can do without god. When the idea of truth is lost, the ability to have a thorough going discussion ceases. 

So we need to make it clear to people what we are saying. When I say there is a God, I’m saying that God exists, just like when I say there is a sun I’m saying the sun exists. We can’t see God like we can see the sun, but nevertheless I’m saying that he exists. My statement is either a true or false statement. If I believe with all my heart that there is a God and if he doesn’t actually exist, all the believing in the world is not going to create him! But the reverse is also true. If the God spoken of in the Bible actually exists, then all of the hoping and believing that he isn’t there won’t make him disappear. 

The Bible makes some very strong claims that any thinking person should investigate thoroughly because the Bible claims to be the truth. Jesus said, “I have come into the world that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
What Jesus said is either true or false. If it is true, every thinking person who values truth should listen to what Jesus says and give it a good, solid, fair hearing. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. He also said, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
People all around are hungering for life and freedom. Jesus claims to provide both. Do you believe him? Is he telling the truth? Pilate didn’t care. He went on to other things, and that’s what most people do.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Implications of Being in Christ - Part 6

Last time we looked at our death to the world and its religious system. Today we examine the implications of our death to the world's temptations and lusts.

Colossians 3:3-5 tells us that since we died with Christ we are to put to death our members that are on the earth. What does he mean by this? He goes on to explain what those are. He lists such things as fornication, evil passions, covetousness and the like. These are the things that are not to have a place in our lives. Our death with Christ is a powerful truth that helps bring into our behavior the facts that are already true of us. We have died with Christ and since that is true, we are to look at those behaviors as though they were targeting a dead man. They are empty and ineffective.

The apostle John tells us that the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life are not of the Father, but are based in the world. This world system is contrary to God and an enemy of him. John says that if the love of the world in us, then the love of the Father is not.

Dying with Christ means that we should no longer live according to the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1, 2) Peter says that we should arm ourselves with this knowledge. The person who has suffered to the point of death no longer lives for the passions of the world. These two things are contrary to the other. You can't have both the lusts of men and the will of God at the same time. It's one or the other. And the person who recognizes his spiritual death will follow the will of God. The truth that God wants us to understand is that because we are in Christ, when he died, we died with him so that Paul tells us in the book of Romans that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed so that we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)

But how does this work? How can my death with Christ give me any power to have victory over sin? This leads us to the discussion for next time. When we died with Christ we died to sin. We'll look more at this next time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Implications of Being in Christ - Part 5

Here's what we have learned so far in this series of what it means to be in Christ.

1. We have learned that when we trust Christ as Savior, we are placed into Christ by the Holy Spirit. Our body and spirit are then part of Christ. He is in us; we are in Him.

2. He has become our Federal Head which means He represents us. Just as assuredly as Adam made us sinners, Jesus makes us righteous. His perfect obedience is counted as our obedience.

3. We died with Him to the law. The law no longer has jurisdiction over us because its demands have been met both by the death of Christ to pay the required death penalty and by the life of Christ that He lived on our behalf.

Today we want to consider the fact that when we died with Christ, we died to the world and its system. Some passages of Scripture you might consider as you read this are: Galatians 6:14; Colossians 2:18-23; Colossians 3:2-3; 1 John 2:15-17

In Galatians 6:14 Paul says that the world has been crucified to him and he to the world. There are two aspects of this world system that we want to consider. The first is the world's religious system of self-improvement and the second is the world's system of desire and temptation.

First then the world's system of religious self-improvement. In Colossians 2:20, Paul tells his readers that they have died to the basic principles of the world. What does he mean by this? Well, the first thing he wonders is why they are still subjecting themselves to religious regulations. By this he means regulations that stem from human design. Jesus said something similar in Matthew 5:19. he said that we should not teach the commandments of men as though they were God's instruction.

Why do we create our own regulations for religious purposes? I think there are a couple of reasons. One is so that we are capable of keeping them. The commandments of God are difficult. He goes way deep into the inner man and asks for not only outward obedience but for proper internal motivations. He says that hatred is murder and lusting is adultery. Who can keep those kind of commandments and still stand? So we create our own because we think God certainly could not require such difficult things of us. We lower the standards to our level, to a series of behaviors and habits that are pretty easy to accomplish if one puts ones mind to it.

The second reason we create our own religious observances is because we believe that making it to heaven is a product of our behavior. Instead of accepting the free gift of eternal life based on the merit of Christ, we try to make check lists so that hopefully God will see how well we have done and let us into his kingdom. The problem is that the checklists are ours and not his.

Paul tells the Colossians in 2:23 that these things all have the appearance of wisdom. But the problem is that they do nothing to solve the real problems. They do nothing to put restraint on our old human nature. They are part of a self-imposed religion, not the God ordained religion.

The point is that we are to consider ourselves to have died with Christ and that makes us dead to all of the competing systems of religious performance that would attempt to make us look good before one another in pride or to make us look good before God. We should reject any attempt to put ourselves under such man-made systems. Rather, we need to come to God His way. He tells us that the debt has been paid and salvation is being offered as a gift. To those who accept his offer, God provides complete forgiveness, the crediting of righteousness to our record and an eternal position as an heir of God and joint-heir of Christ.

Next time we'll consider the other aspect of the world system to which we have died and that is the system of temptation and lusts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Some Suggestions for Controlling the Technology in Your Life

Technological gadgets continue to multiply and pose some challenges for Christians. Recently I wrote a series of articles discussing these challenges. The purpose of this article is to list them briefly and then to provide what are for me practical guidelines for keeping these gadgets under control. These are suggestions I hope you find helpful as you try to keep the gadgets from controlling your life.

The challenges and dangers can be put into these categories as far as I can tell: Distraction, Reduction of in-depth reading and thinking, Idolatry, Relationships, and Moral challenges.

Here is a brief summary of my suggestions for bringing our gadgets under control.

1. Have a few set times a day when you check email, Facebook or Twitter and don't look at them in between.

2. Perhaps set Sunday as a technology-free day.

3. When you are not doing essential work on a computer, leave the machine closed or logged off. That way you won't be tempted to look for messages while you are involved in other responsibilities. Don't look at your cell phone unless it rings for receiving a call. Ignore texts and email alerts until the appointed time.

4. Train your mind in deeper thinking by regularly a) reading your Bible, b) memorizing and meditating on Scripture, c) praying, d) reading a good book.

5. As parents, make sure your children and teens have technology-free times. All cell phones should be off and charging by a specific time each evening. Teens need 9.5 hours of sleep per night for proper brain development.

6. Be alert to mindless browsing. If you're just bouncing around the web or Facebook posts, it's time to put it away and find something profitable to do.

7. Be careful about idolatry. What has more pull – your Bible or Facebook?

8. Beware of covetousness (Luke 12:15). Do the events in other peoples' lives on Facebook seem more exciting or meaningful than yours? Does the stuff other people seem to have that they talk about seem better than your stuff? Do others seem to go to more interesting places? Maybe it's time for a Facebook break.

9. Beware of boasting. Do you find satisfaction in making sure others know all about your exciting life? Do you want them to be just a little bit impressed? … or jealous?

10. Don't check your phone or text when you are a) conversing with someone in person, b) eating together with others, c) in church, d) in class, e) together in a group such as the family together in the living room.

11. Parents teach your children good phone etiquette and be a good example yourself.

12. Stay away from sexually suggestive sites. If you're having trouble, get with someone trustworthy and keep each other accountable.

13. Parents, make sure you know what your children are doing online. Computers should be out in the open. This may sound old fashioned and out of date, but I don't think any teen should have unfettered internet access on his phone.

14. Parents -- children and teens should not have televisions in their bedrooms.

The goal as Christians is to use our technology for the glory of God. There are many wonderful and helpful uses to our gadgets, but there are also some dangers that even secular sociologists and psychologists are starting to recognize. We need to be aware and be alert and not allow ourselves or our children to fall into the traps. We need to learn and then teach our children how to read well, think deeply, build solid relationships, live for the glory of God and then use our technology to help us accomplish these goals.

I've combined all of the blog postings on this topic into one PDF file. If you're interested, you can download it here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:11

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Hymn of the Week -- Now Why This Fear

Verse 1
Now why this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for us?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Now canceled at the cross?

Jesus, all my trust is in Your blood
Jesus, You’ve rescued us
Through Your great love

Verse 2
Complete atonement You have made
And by Your death have fully paid
The debt Your people owed
No wrath remains for us to face
We’re sheltered by Your saving grace
And sprinkled with Your blood

How sweet the sound of saving grace
How sweet the sound of saving grace
Christ died for me

Verse 3
Be still my soul and know this peace
The merits of your great high priest
Have bought your liberty
Rely then on His precious blood
Don’t fear your banishment from God
Since Jesus sets you free

Music, and alt. and additional words by Doug Plank, original verses by Augustus Toplady (1772)
© 2011 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

This is another in a series on questions found in the Bible. It’s amazing what we can learn from questions. Today’s question comes from Deuteronomy 4:34, “Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

The context of this question is that the Lord’s people, Israel, have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and are about to enter the Promised Land. Before they enter, Moses is reviewing all of the incredible things that God has done and is warning them about the dangers of disobedience. The purpose of this question is to get the people to think about the fact that it is an amazing thing that God would take one nation, Israel, out of the middle of another nation, Egypt.

Just prior to this question, God told them to consider “whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live?” God did an amazing thing for the people of Israel and God wants the people to realize that.

In our day we have become somewhat arrogant thinking that ancient peoples were simply superstitious and gullible. I think that the kinds of discussion and reasoning that takes place in the Bible proves that that is a false assumption. In these questions God is asking the people to ask themselves whether anything like this has ever happened before. He is asking them to take a step back and really look at what has happened to them and consider what unique events they have participated in.

For me this strengthens my faith in the truth and accuracy of what has been recorded in the Bible for our learning.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Implications of Being in Christ - Part 4

We've been looking at the implications of being in Christ. Anyone who has truly trusted Christ for salvation has been placed into Christ. Jesus Christ then becomes that person's representative and the decisions Jesus has made become the decisions of all of his people.

Last time we learned that when Christ died on the cross, those who are in Christ died with him there. One of the implications of that is that we are therefore dead to the law. I referred you to several references of Scripture that show that this is what the Bible is teaching. We are in the process now of looking at the implications of our death to the law.

The fourth implication is that I am free to serve God with my whole heart by faith because the law has been removed as the means of growing in my Christian life. The bondage of fear in serving is removed. God has taken it upon Himself to do the sanctifying.

When we find ourselves slipping, most of us appeal to law again to get us on the right track. What do I mean by that? We give ourselves more rules to follow. We vow to be more disciplined, to read our Bibles x amount of minutes a day, to pray more, etc. But these things do not work because we are basically trying to talk our sinful nature into doing spiritual things. What we need to do is to accept by faith the fact that the old nature died with Christ. It may not feel like it, but it is the truth.

In the Old Testament, God gave promises as to what he would do under a new covenant that he would introduce. The old covenant had proved its point which is that no one can keep it. The laws and way of life under the old covenant showed that even a superficial keeping of it was impossible and that God's standards were so much higher that an entirely different approach was needed.

Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Let me summarize these passages this way. God is promising that in the new arrangement with people he is going to do a thorough regenerating work. He is going to remove the heart of stone, he is going to cleanse from all filthiness and forgive every sin and transgression. In addition, he is going to put within his people a new heart and a new spirit. In addition he is going to give them his Spirit. With these new resources his law will be written on their hearts and minds so that they don't need an external commandment written on tablets of stone or parchment or paper. He will cause his people to walk in his statutes and they will keep his commandments. It will be an internal change that will provide the internal motivation to do the right thing.

This is why being dead to the law will not produce anarchy. The question is, has this happened to you?
Here are some additional passages of Scripture you may want to study: 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Galatians 3:3;Philippians 1:6; Colossians 2:20-23; Hebrews 2:14, 15

The fifth implication of being dead to the law is that it allows me to live in the Spirit, bearing Spiritual fruit for God. In Romans 7 he compares all of this to marriage. If a woman is married to a man, she cannot legally marry another, but if the first husband dies, she is free to marry the other man. In the same way, having died in Christ, the law over us is canceled and we are free from its bondage and we are free to be married to God, as it were. We can bear God's “children”, namely the fruits of his character such as love, joy and peace. The thing to realize here is that bearing fruit is a natural result of our union with Christ and God's work in our lives.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Implications of Being in Christ - Part 3

This is the third in a series of articles on the implications of what it means to be “in Christ”. If you haven't read the first two articles, you should probably do that before coninuing.

Here is a summary of what we've learned so far:

1. When we trust Christ as Savior, we are placed into Christ by the Holy Spirit. Our body and spirit are then part of Christ. He is in us; we are in Him.

2. He has become our Federal Head which means He represents us. Just as assuredly as Adam made us sinners, Jesus makes us righteous. His perfect obedience is counted as our obedience.

Because we are in Him, His death is counted as our death. We died with Him!

Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;

When we died with Christ, we died to the law, the world's system, sin, and in a sense, ourselves.
We'll cover each of these in succeeding articles, but for now let's begin with the Bible's teaching that as a Christian I have died to the law. First of all I will show you where the Bible teaches this and then we will discuss the implications.

Romans 7:3, 6: Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

The implications of this truth are far-reaching and life-changing. The first implication is that no charges can ever be brought against you if you are in Christ. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 8:33, Paul asks the question, “Who can bring any charges against God's elect?” The implied answer is no one because of all the Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection.

The second implication is that the power of sin in our lives has been broken. The reason for this is because the law gives sin its power. If you remove the law, the power of sin is also broken. Romans 7:5, 6 state it this way, “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”

Notice what he is saying here. We have a sin nature within us and those sinful passions are aroused by the law. Think about what happens when you tell your kids that they can't have one of the freshly baked cookies on the counter. That command causes them to want one of those cookies.

In 1 Corinthians 15:56, Pauls says it this way, “The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law.”

Some of you are concerned with the thought of being dead to the law. The first thought is that if others hear this, they might just start living any way they want without regard to right or wrong. You're pretty sure that you won't do that, but what if others misunderstand the freedom that comes with being dead to the law? We'll get into the answer to this in other articles, but for now the short answer is that God gives a Christian his Holy Spirit which works out the requirements of the law from within. We'll look at this further in the coming days.

The third result of this truth is that the pressure to be proud and to judge is removed. If my sins are so great that I must have Christ to pay their penalty and then receive from him his perfect righteousness, and if I become dead to the law so that it's power over me has been removed, then I won't be seeking to place under the power of law. I will be seeking their release as well.

We'll examine the fourth and fifth implications of this great truth next time.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Where were you when God made the earth?

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Job 38:4

God is an eternal God, and he knows all things as present.  In God’s mind, all things are one point, not a succession of things.  God’s knowledge does not depend upon the revolutions of time.  His knowledge is outside of years and days.  He comprehends the past and the future as one.  He considers all things of eternity as one simple knowledge. God’s knowledge is co-eternal with him.  He is the first and the last, the beginning and the ending. Compared to God, all creation is reduced to nothing.  The variety and changes in the world make no new objects in the mind of God.  He does not know one thing now and another later.  Though there is a succession of events as they are brought to pass, there is no succession in the mind of God.  God knows what shall happen and the order that it will be brought upon the stage of the world.  If God is eternal, how bold and foolish it is for a mortal to question his counsels and actions.  How can we who are so weak creatures that we cannot understand yesterday, presume to measure the motions of eternity by our scanty intellects?  We are not able to foresee an unexpected accident that falls to blast a well-laid plan.  If we cannot understand the motions of the sea or the nature of light, how shall we dare to censure the actions of an eternal God that is so infinitely beyond our reach?  The counsels of a boundless being are not to be scanned by the brain of a silly worm that breathes but a few minutes in the world.  How can eternity be judged by a creature of time?  Whenever, therefore, any unworthy notion of the counsels and works of God is suggested to us by Satan or our own corrupt hearts, let us look backward to God’s eternal existence and our own short duration, and silence ourselves as did Job.

Taken from "Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings" edited by Richard Rushing,  Banner of Truth Trust, 2010, Page 72.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

I thought it would be interesting to see what we could learn from questions asked in the Bible and so here is another installment.
Our question for today comes from Genesis 3:1. The serpent (Satan) asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
The purpose of this question is to put doubt in Eve’s mind as to whether God had really told her that. We find that when Eve answered the question, she told the serpent that God had told them not to eat of the tree neither touch it. Now if you go back and check on what God actually said, it was that they should not eat of the tree. He said nothing about touching it. So she either hadn’t been paying close attention to what God had said or she purposely wanted the command to sound more strict than God had originally made it.
Another purpose for Satan’s asking the question was to raise doubts about God’s motives for giving the command in the first place. In fact the serpent goes on to say, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Here Satan is telling an outright lie and impugning God’s character and motives. Jesus tells us that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
As a result of this temptation, Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, [and] she took of its fruit and ate.”

I think what we can learn from this is to be on the alert for Satan’s lying questions. They come in many forms, but ultimate cause us to question God’s goodness and grace in providing commands and standards for us to follow. God provides for our good by giving us boundaries. Satan and his world system on the other hand are out to lure us using techniques similar to what Satan used against Eve. Just as Eve saw that the tree was good, and a delight to the eyes, and available to make one wise, we are warned not to love the world because if we do, “the love of the Father is not in [us]. For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:15-17)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:4-5

Romans 8:4-5 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

There's a very important principle in this verse that tells us what it means to live according to the Spirit. It all depends on where we set our minds. We can either set our minds on the flesh and earthly things, or we can set our mind on spiritual and heavenly things. Now this doesn't mean sitting around and contemplating heaven. It means setting our minds on things that have their origin in heaven. Things such as love, joy, and peace are associated with the Spirit. Things such as jealousy, covetousness and hatred are the kind of things that are fleshly or earthly. So God is promising us that the law can only be fulfilled in us as we yield ourselves to spiritual things and place our mind there.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Hymn of the Week -- I Sing the Mighty Power of God

I Sing the Mighty Power of God -- by Isaac Watts

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Importance of Being in Christ - Part 2

In the previous article we observed that a person who has truly trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ has been placed into Christ and is said to be “In Him”. This brings us to one of the most important concepts from the New Testament that we need to understand and that is the meaning and importance of Federal Headship. Adam and Christ are each the head and representative of a people. Adam is the representative of those who are in him and Jesus Christ is the representative of those who are in him.

In the book of Hebrews, the writer relates a story from Genesis 18. This story involves Abraham and a priest named Melchizedek. Here's the short version of the story. Melchizedek blesses Abraham and Abraham gives Melchizedek ten percent of all he owns. It's important for you to know one other piece of information and that is that one of Abraham's great grand-sons, Levi, was designated as a priest for Israel. He and his children after him were to serve in that role. Now here's the important detail that will help us understand the way Federal Headship works. In Hebrews 7:4-10 the writer tells us that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek because he was in Abraham when Abraham paid the tithes. In other words, Abraham paid tithes on behalf of Levi because Levi was in him even though he had not yet been born.

So the basic idea is that it is possible for a head or representative to make a decision or take an action that is then attributed to those who are “in him”.

This is exactly what happened when Adam sinned. Look at Romans 5:12 – 21

Verse 13: Before the law, sin was in the world, but it was not imputed when there is no law.
What does not imputed mean? It means that sin was not counted against people when there is no law. And at that time there was no law in force. For example, there was no law against lying, but people still lied.

Verse 14: Nevertheless – Even though sin was not imputed, death reigned.
This tells us that somehow sin's penalty was still on these people, even though sin was not imputed.  People were telling lies, but those sins did not count against them and yet they died. Why?

The answer is that Adam's sin counted for the people who are in him. Romans 5:18 tells us that through one man's offense, death came to all men.

So we can say it this way: Truth #1 – Adam's sin was imputed to him and all of his descendents who were in him. Because all of us were in Adam at the time he sinned, his sin was counted against all of us. So even when there was no law for those early people, they were still guilty of sinning because Adam had voted as their representative to sin against God.

That doesn't seem just or fair, but here's where it starts to get interesting. In verse 14 we learn that Adam was a type of him who was to come. Who is that? Jesus Christ. Adam was a type or a picture or an example of Jesus Christ. Just as Adam was the representative or head of a group of people, Jesus Christ is the representative or head of a group of people – but not all the same people.

Let's go on. Verses 15 and 16 tell us that the free gift is not like the offense and it is not like the results Adam had. Notice the difference. The offense of Adam brought death and condemnation to many. On the other hand, grace and the gift that came from grace brought justification to many. Through the righteousness of one man, Jesus Christ justification of life came to all men. He summarizes it all in verse 19 of Romans 5, “For by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience, many were made righteous.” Paul writes about the same topic in 1 Corinthians 15:22 where he says that in Adam all die, but in Christ all shall be made alive. That means that all those who are in Adam are condemned because of Adam's sin, but all of those who are in Christ will live because of Jesus' righteousness.

Truth #2 – Christ's righteousness is imputed to all who are in him. In the same way that everyone who is in Adam had his sin imputed to him, so also everyone who is in Christ has His righteousness imputed to Him. Notice that neither one of these acts of imputation by our head has anything to do with our actual behavior either righteous or unrighteous.

So we see that what is going on here is more profound that what we usually think. We usually think about our sins as the cause of God's judgment against us, and that is true. But it is a deeper problem than that. Adam brought the whole human race under the judgment and condemnation of God. He represented us in that decision and consequently we all face judgment.

But the good news is that in that same way, Jesus came and lived a perfect life in a human body and died on the cross as punishment for our sins. And so it is not simply a matter of being forgiven. What has happened is that if we have trusted in Christ, we have been placed into Christ. Since we are in Christ, his perfect obedience to God counts as our perfect obedience. His righteousness counts as our righteousness. And so even if we think of ourselves as always falling short and not measuring up, God does not see it that way. He sees us as perfectly righteous because of what our head and representative has done.

To see more of this series, look for Importance of Being in Christ in the title or put that phrase into the search box on the blog.