Friday, January 27, 2012

Why Do We Have Genesis?

A few months back I decided to get on a read-your-Bible-in-a-year plan. Frankly, I feel a little sheepish about the fact that I haven't ever read the Bible cover-to-cover. I was able to digest Tom Clancy's latest 800+ page offering in about a week over Christmas, yet I've left pages of God-written content untouched. (BTW, I'd say that Clancy did a better job with this year's novel than the last.) I searched for, and found, a website that offered a chronological reading plan - this makes sense to me: let Biblically-recorded history unfold itself in its proper sequence. For example, after finishing Genesis 10 you jump over to Job before continuing through the rest of Genesis. When reading about the kings of Israel you read related chunks from Kings, Chronicles, Psalms and the prophets all at the same time. As I said, makes sense to me that way.

Progress has been slow so far, mostly because I find it impossible to speed read anything in the Bible. This isn't fiction, this isn't even a mere history book, it is a God-given account of Himself and His dealings with mankind. That warrants serious attention and thought. It is also, quite simply, fascinating reading. The anti-diluvian (pre-flood) world is a very foreign place to me; I find myself immersed in a context that bears little resemblance to what I know. I wound up with a lot of notes, exclamation points, and unfinished thoughts.

Rather than paste all of that in this space, I want to reflect for a moment on why we have Genesis in the first place. Some folks I've talked to in the past believe that Genesis is a collection of Jewish myths and folklore: something along the lines of Greek mythology or King Arthur. This is a polite way of saying, "Nice stores, but I really don't see what they have to do with me." This argument has some merit, but I seriously wonder if these folks have read the entire thing. We aren't talking about a loosely connected collection of fables (no offense, Aesop), but a single story arc with a common theme centered around a single character. That character isn't Adam, Noah, or even Abraham, but God Himself. God shows up on the first page as he methodically and incomprehensibly creates the universe out of nothing. However, this God does not disappear behind the proverbial curtain - He continues His engagement with His creation on a most personal level. This God enters into the lives of men and forms relationship with them.

Others have proposed that Genesis (and other books in Scripture) cannot be trusted as it has passed through the hands of so many editors. To that I would say that they did a pretty poor job of editing. Seriously, why would Jews who hold Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in such high esteem leave in so many denigrating accounts of them? How about we skip the parts where Abraham continually fails to understand what God is promising to Him? Or Isaac's poor choice in wives? Or Jacob's deception? Or Joseph's trickery? These people could easily qualify for day-time talk shows, and the dirty laundry is left out to dry by the editors.

This ties us back to the queston of why we have Genesis and why it contains so many messy details. I submit that this is because we are meant to understand both God and man better. God is presented as all powerful, in control, and yet personally interested and graciously involved in the lives of men. Man, on the other hand, is shown to be rebellious, self-interested and foolish. This extreme contrast highlights the goodness of God: He not only tolerates man's continued existence, but seeks out a specific people and shows them unfathomable blessings. That the recipients are so utterly unworthy of such favor is precisely the point. None of these people are chosen on the basis of their own qualities, it would seem quite the opposite: they are brought into covenant relationship with God in spite of their wretched "qualities."

This is the nature of God's graciousness. He loves the unlovable. He justifies the ungodly. He reaches down into the masses of God-defying humans, and lifts out ones that He has unilaterally selected to receive His highest blessing. He does not paint over their filth and criminal activity, rather He transfers the deserved judgment to His own Son, Jesus - the God-man that willingly paid the death penalty on their behalf. And, yes, strange though it seems to our one-way linearity, this atonement works backwards in time as well as forwards. As the Christ Himself said, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day - he saw it and was glad." Abraham was an idol-worshipping pagan that was born and raised closer to Tehran than Jerusalem. He and his descendants entered into a permanent covenant with God purely at God's own discretion: the covenant was not one bit dependent on Abraham - he could not make it, and he could not break it. When the promise was made by God Abraham simply took God at His word and was granted right-standing before God.

In Genesis we see God bestow mercy, blessing - even love - on corrupt humanity. This is a good thing for us to contemplate.

Christ Jesus, You came into the world to save sinners, and I as guilty as the rest. There is now no condemnation for me - I am now found in You, my immoral and decayed heart completely regenerated, and filled with gratitude and worship for You.

For more on the arrangement between God and Abraham (and us), read Romans 4.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where is C.S. Lewis?

I came across an article that takes a concise, fascinating look at the theology of C.S. Lewis. I appreciated the brief biography at the beginning: it is easy to see how the mish-mash of his pre-Christian philosophies certainly left their mark on his Christian thinking. The article ends with the author making a compelling comparison between Lewis and the Church at Corinth. http://www.faithalone.org/journal/2000i/townsend2000e.htm

The article is obviously aimed at the old question of whether Lewis was an evangelical Christian, but this inevitably draws us into the greater question of what constitutes an evangelical in the first place. For that I recommend a life-long study of and obedience to the Scriptures, and perhaps listening to Don Carson’s lectures on the subject at http://pjtibayan.wordpress.com/2006/10/17/d-a-carson-audio-sermonslectures/.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are You Trusting God?

I recently heard a friend use the phrase, "I am trusting God for a matter." The matter involved expense, and I was immediately interested to find out what "trusting God" meant in this context. I was raised in an abberant movement which considered faith as being something God could not resist. If I prayed for something and believed strongly enough that God would provide it, God would have little choice but to do so.

Too many times we hear folks presuming upon God’s provision, as though they somehow had Him over a barrel. While we have boldness to approach God’s throne in times of need, our confidence is not in getting the thing we want as much as it is in getting the audience itself. This is supreme privilege, and the extent of it is the ability to make known our needs, to cast upon Him our cares. How God responds is for God to decide, and He keeps His own counsel. However, we can rejoice that He hears our prayers and always has our long term good in mind as He lovingly unfolds things around us.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Are you a son of God?

(Romans 8:12-39)

Who are God’s Children?

It is often said that all of us are God’s children. President Obama recently said as much at a prayer breakfast, and many people say the same: all humanity are children of God. Is this true? Well, in a sense yes: in the sense that God created us in His likeness. Paul says this in Acts 17:28-29 when talking to the Greeks on Mars Hill – he was trying to explain that the true God could not possibly be like their gold, silver and stone idols, if we are in any way like Him. However, the Bible is clear that the only people that can call God Father are those that believe in His Son, Jesus. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name," (John 1:12)

The fact is that there is only one natural-born son of God: Jesus. God was His Father in every sense of the Word: remember that God, not Joseph, was Jesus’ biological Father. "The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)
We on the other hand are natural-born enemies of God (5:10; Col 1:21). To become children of God, to be able to call Him “Father”, we must be adopted: "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”" (Romans 8:15)

Adoption in the time of Paul’s writing looked a little different than it does today. It was finalized with a very formal ceremony which included 7 witnesses. The adopted child lost all rights – and all debts – associated with his old family, and inherited all the rights of a legitimate son of the adopting father. He was every bit as much a child of this father as were his new siblings. In fact, if he became the oldest son in the new family then he gained the superior privileges that went along with that. If, when the father died, anyone questioned the adopted son’s share in the inheritance, one of the witnesses would be called in to verify that the adoption was valid. In our case, that witness is the Holy Spirit: "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God," (Romans 8:16)

So God is my Father…
So now I am a son of God. His loving choice of me was settled before time began - "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will," (Ephesians 1:5), and has big implications for me here and now.
We are accustomed to calling God “Father” – perhaps too accustomed. I know that I address God as “heavenly Father” quite often in my prayers, but I don’t often stop and think about what that means. Paul didn’t take it for granted: of his 13 letters, 13 of them begin by referring to God as Father. Jesus Himself taught us to address God as “our Father.” God is not just my sovereign Lord, but my Father. Think about that for a moment. You and I have the God of the entire universe for a Father! I’ve tried to think about what this means for me, especially in the context of Romans 8. What does it mean for me to have God as my Father?

Provision

As a child of the Most High God I have a Father that provides for my physical needs, who gives

me my “daily bread.” The following verse leaves little doubt as to this: "Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26)

This does not mean that the children of God do not sometimes suffer poverty and hunger, rather it means that we need not worry about such things. We will have precisely what we need, although sometimes what we need is hardship; there are plenty of examples of this both in Scripture and Christian history.

In addition to this, we have complete spiritual provision. We have the spiritual armor that we need to fight sin, we have the Holy Spirit Himself within us to sanctify us, we have the gifts and abilities to accomplish all that God puts in front of us, in fact, “we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.” God is the kind of Father who provides for our most important needs – the needs of our soul: "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”" (Luke 11:11-13)

Growth
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;" (Romans 8:28-29)

What good is God working towards in my life? Prosperity? Success? Personal achievement? Popularity? These verses show the big picture is none of these things. When God is at work in my life it is always with a view to me becoming more like Jesus. If you’re a little disappointed about this it is only because you don’t know what’s good for you. All these earthly goals fall way short of being “summorphos” (morphed) into Christ-likeness. You and I have a LONG way to go in this morphing, and it is the best and highest thing we can hope for. It certainly is God’s highest goal for us. So when does this happen – when am I to become Christ-like? Well, it happens in the past, present and future – just like our salvation.

  • When we were saved-justified, we became righteous in the eyes of God. We also became new creations, infused with spiritual life, rightful children and heirs of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, ambassadors of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
  • Now, as members of God's family, we are being saved-sanctified. "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2) "But we... are being transformed into [Christ's]image from glory to glory." (2 Corinthians 3:18) Something about us is changing as we are "being renewed... according to the image of the One who created us" (Colossians 3:10)
  • Finally, we will be saved-glorified, and "we know that when He appears, we will be like Him." (1 John 3:2) In the day of the full revelation of Christ to the world, we will be made fully like him. Fully conformed to his likeness. "Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Corinthians 15:49) Romans 8:23 says that we wait "eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." To the Philippians Paul wrote that Christ "will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory" (Philippians 3:21) and that "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) When Christ returns for His children, His children will be transformed fully into His likeness. The process will be incredibly complete and we will be perfect!


Love

How can God prove to us the “deep love with which He loves us”? Well, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Don’t doubt for a moment that your Father loves you. "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God." (1 Jn 3:1) This is not the emotionless outworking of a logical plan by a God that doesn’t really want to get involved personally. This is love. Read this excerpt from Psalm 103, and see how God feels about His children:

  • "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness… He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." (Psalm 103:8-14)

People who say that the God of the Old Testament is an angry God aren’t reading much of the Old Testament. When God formally introduced Himself to Moses, he said of Himself, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”" (Exodus 34:6-7) Let’s not run to the opposite extreme and look upon God’s love as weakness – Moses certainly didn’t: "Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.” His love is fierce, selective, uncompromising, and permanent. However, He is a loving God – love may the most significant attribute of God’s perfect character. These are not the words of an impersonal, uninvolved God, "My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled." (Hosea 11:8) Paul described Him as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort," (2 Corinthians 1:3)

When God sets His love on a person it is always undeserved, and it is always forever. Nothing can overturn the outworking of His love toward us – the chain of events described in v30 will be unbroken: "These whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." Nothing can interfere with this because “God is for us” (v31), He has already paid an unthinkable price for us (v32), and He has seen to the hard part already – our justification (v33). Furthermore, Christ not only died for us, but He intercedes for us to this today (v34 – see more on that here). Yes, “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As the song goes, “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure…”


Sons of the Devil

Before we finish, we must also consider a natural consequence of God’s elective love: not all believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and therefore not all are His children. But whose children are they then? Look at the Pharisees: they claimed that God was their Father, yet they lied about Christ and even sought to murder Him. Jesus said to them, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” (John 8:44) There are only two options here: if not a child of God you are a child of Satan: "The children of God and the children of the devil are obvious." (1 Jn 3:10)

So what kind of father is the Devil? Does he love his own? Does he care for them as a compassionate, understanding father? Look back to his first interaction with man, in Eden. His true character was revealed here: he lied to Adam and Eve, he twisted God’s words, and he brought about mankind’s corruption and death. He lies to this day, telling us that God doesn’t really mind sin – that He understands after all, or perhaps that God doesn’t exist – “Go ahead and do what you want, nothing bad will happen!”

Being a child of Satan does not mean you are a member of some devil-worshipping cult. It simply means you are in the majority. It is said in Revelation that he “deceives the whole world.” His children are immersed in a world of his distortions, no more aware of them than a fish is of being wet. He is the kind of father that, when asked for a fish, would gleefully give his child a snake, and when asked for an egg would happily provide a scorpion. His gifts to his children are sinful pride, deceit, lying, self-absorption, self-worship, and self-gratification. The fruit of his “gifts” are depravity, dishonor, degradation, and eternal damnation. This father is our enemy, and he overpowers man all too easily. “Armed with cruel hate – on earth is not his equal.”

Sons of God

"By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:10)
Let me put it plainly: if you are not a child of God you are a child of the devil. You need adoption! Christ has overcome Satan, offers pardon for your sins against God, eternal protection for your soul, and adoption into the family of a truly loving Father. Are you a son of God?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

40 Years Old


Today I celebrate the completion of my fortieth year outside the womb. With tongues firmly planted in their cheeks, everyone wants to know how it feels to suddenly become old. I’ve been thinking about that this morning, and a few things come to mind.

I am 40 years old. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was a teenager, but now I am 40. In a world of averages, it might be said that I’ve reached the half way point. 40 years is a long time for me – it is the span of my days on this earth so far. I’ve split that time between two different continents, have seen many things – good and bad, have formed my own family, and have experienced the grace of God beyond measure. However, when I consider God; ageless, timeless, pre-existant, infinite and immortal, I quickly see that I am a vapor, a mere breath upon the wind. Like a flower of the field – here today, but gone without a trace tomorrow. In the scope of human history, I am unknown, and my faint trace on this world will be quickly forgotten. In God alone, the Creator of all that exists, do I find eternity. I am swallowed up in His glory, with the chief aim being not my own legacy, but His. In this there is fulfillment, in knowing Him can I boast. I am a friend of God Most High, my name is written in His Book of Life. He remembers me – He even hears my voice when I pray to Him. All of this privilege and honor is mine only because of the eternal plan of God, and the merits of Christ Jesus. I earned nothing but a quick and painful exit from His world, yet He has shown great patience and mercy toward me, pardoning me for all my offenses – yes, even taking upon Himself the penalty for them all. Furthermore, He has exalted me, granting me a place in His royal family, as a son, fully reconciled to God. So the next 40 years will speed by and will barely register a tick against the clock of created time, yet I will then enter into an existence that far exceeds this one, where time without end will be spent in the presence of the One whose days cannot be measured, and Who’s astonishing power sustains all things – even time itself.

It could also be said that I’ve reached the halfway point of my adult usefulness, if that normally runs from 20 to 60 years of age. Yet, I do not look back and see 20 years of usefulness. I have lacked focus and godly ambition. My divided heart has entertained so many lesser notions, dreams, and pleasures that it has had too little room left for its Lord. Thankfully, in the last few years there has been a growing sense of wonder and admiration for Christ, and an increasing hunger and thirst for Him. Like David in Psalm 63, I begin to own Him as my God – God not merely of the universe but of Alan Richardson. More and more He owns my allegiance, my love, my strength. I pray daily for an ever- deepening desire, a stronger fervor for Christ. Daily I lay before Him all that I have and say, “I would hold on to nothing that would keep me from You. Nothing is too precious. All in this life that is truly good was given by You, and You may take it away as needed… only let me be wholly Yours.” As the lands of my heart are gradually surrendered to His absolute and loving reign, I know that He shall make me fit for His purposes. If I am indeed half-way done, then I pray that the second half is filled with such usefulness, that “zeal for His house would consume me,” uniting my heart, granting it single-mindedness, and accomplishing His will through me. I dearly want to invest wisely the Master’s talents so that at the end of life’s second half I would hear Him say to me, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were trusted with little, now I will trust you with more. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

As I consider the 40 years God has given to me so far, my heart swells with joyful gratitude. I am nothing special, like a generic clay vessel, but He has filled me with the treasures of divine love, eternal life, and super-abounding grace. Time and again I’ve shown myself unworthy of His affection, and yet His love simply refuses to be removed from me. Truly He is more faithful than I am faithless. I cannot number the blessings I have received from His hand, and I know He is not done with me yet.

So, at the ripe old age of 40, I join with Mary and say, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy. " (Luke 1:46-49)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What is Truth?

If you read John's account of the life of Christ, you find he uses some words very frequently. For example, "light" and "life" appear throughout his writings. Another keyword for John is "truth." He introduces the term early in the first chapter when he refers to Christ as, "The true light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." Here John combines truth and light, which helps us understand his use of "light" when referring to Christ. To turn a light on in a dark room is to show things as they really are. You can see the door, as well as many obstacles that might be misidentified - or even tripped over - on your way to the door. To shed light on on a subject is to bring correct understanding and dispel wrong assumptions. Depending on the situation, it could mean the difference between life and death.

The room that Jesus enlightens is the mind of man. To every man that will ever live Christ has explained God - indeed, has revealed Himself to be God. To those who receive Him as such, He gives the right to become children of God.

"So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”" (John 8:31-32) Jesus' words are themselves truth.

Aletheia, the Greek word for truth, means reality; the unveiled reality lying at the basis of and agreeing with an appearance; the manifested, the veritable essence of matter. (Zodhiates)

Jesus' words reflect the reality which we are otherwise blind to. They turn on the lights and free us from a life of groping around in a world filled with guesses, speculation and empty wisdom. Without this light, without this truth, we are slaves to our sins, and cannot find our way to God. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6) God's words are truth, and by them alone is man correctly informed, saved and sanctified. (17:17)

When questioned by the Roman governor, a man that held in his hands the authority to free or condemn his prisoner, Jesus told him simply, "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”" (John 18:37) Jesus states plainly that He knows truth, and that He came to give it to the world. How does Pontius Pilate respond to this? Does He respond as Peter did, "You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69) No. Pilate is convinced that such truth simply does not exist. With Truth Incarnate - the God of the universe - standing before Him, he equivocates. He punts. He refuses to recognize the light which is now pressing against his mind. Unwilling to believe what is true, he remains in darkness, groping for excuses. As with the rest of fallen humanity he suppresses the truth - clinging to the comforts of darkness, unwilling to give it up and acknowledge what his consience contends is actually right.

"What is truth?" he asks. The way John writes this is actually has Pilate saying it repeatedly, as if he is trying to convince Jesus that there can be no such truth. "Come on, Jesus, that's a bit unrealistic, don't you think? A bit arrogant. After all, many people believe that they know truth, and that's just fine for them, but it just goes to show that there is no one, single truth out there. Such a concept just doesn't exist - you just have to go with what feels right for you, and respect everyone else's right to do the same."

Why? Why doesn't Pilate get it?

Sometimes a Christian will tell someone the truth about Jesus in the hope that the listener will accept the truth and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the only hope of escape from sin, death and hell. Often the Christian doesn't get what he's hoping for, and the listener walks away unconvinced. What went wrong? Surely, if what they're saying is right, and they convey it in a reasonable, genuine and passionate manner, the unbeliever will be persuaded, right? Not so. Look at Pilate: he has his Creator standing right in front of Him, and he trumps God's truth claim with old fashioned relativism, "There's lots of truths - which means there's no truth," a weak excuse.

The question is begging for an answer: why doesn't Pilate see it? Why don't people today see it and believe!?

Jesus answers the question once and for all, "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate didn't believe because He was not "of the truth." To be of the truth is to believe and understand the truth. However, this presents another question: if you can't believe unless you are a believer, then how do you become a believer in the first place? Apparently, you don't become "of the truth" by understanding the truth - quite the opposite, you understand the truth because you are first of the truth. But how? How do you then become "of the truth" so as to believe the truth?

Back in chapter 10, Jesus told the unbelieving Pharisees, "You do not believe because you are not of My sheep." By sheep, He meant those who believed in Him. You don't believe in me because you are unbelievers. This isn't double-talk. "My sheep hear My voice" - that is they believe I am God - "And I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." How is it then that a person becomes "of the truth", becomes "one of His sheep?"

Jesus goes on to explain, “My Father, who has given them (the sheep) to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand." (John 10:26-29) There it is. That's what was missing with Pilate. The reason for his rejection of Christ's truth claim wasn't because his reasoning was better; it certainly wasn't because Christ couldn't explain things clearly. It was simply because God had not given Pilate to Christ.

John goes out of his way time and time again to make plain to us that "No one can come to Me (Christ) unless it has been granted him from the Father.”" (John 6:65)

Back where we started, in Chapter 1, John states that the whole world - including God's chosen people the Jews - has rejected Christ Jesus. They didn't know Him, they didn't receive Him. John goes on to say that, "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12) So, how is it that those who normally suppress the truth, that prefer to cling to lethal comforts, will suddenly and inexplicably turn to the light? How is it that those who reject God suddenly receive eternal life? The next statement clears this up once and for all, "Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." As Paul also writes, "By God's doing you are in Christ Jesus... so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:30,29) God has to do something in a person for them to to see true light, to understand true truth. Man must believe Christ is God and the only way to God, or he will die in his sins. At the moment it is granted Him to do so, he must - he will - believe. No one will ever be able to take any credit for their decision to become a believer in Jesus. On our own, "We did not know Him."

We who believe have "received the love of the truth so as to be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:10) Understanding truth is a gift from God to those whom He has called as His own. Christ is that truth which we believe. He is not merely a messenger, as was Moses through whom God gave the law. "Grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ!" (John 1:17) Jesus embodies truth, personifies truth, "I am the truth." Therefore all His words are true, and we must make them an integral part of our daily lives. His words are left to us in Scripture, and only in Scripture.

Those who do not accept that Jesus is God, that Jesus alone is the way to God and eternal life, that Jesus accomplished this by paying our penalty of death with His own untainted blood - returning from the grave as supreme evidence of all this - to those who have not received this truth, do not delay - do not loose another minute - turn to God while you may still find Him, while there is still hope of salvation. Bend your knee, your heart, your mind, before Christ the Universal Lord now, during the hour of salvation. If you wait for any reason, you will not come at all. You will bend your knee later, as C.S. Lewis puts it, "When the anesthetic fog we call reality lifts and we are left standing face to face with the God that has been there all along." You will acknowledge His soveriegnty then, but you will be condemned, banished from His presence to suffer forever alone. Your sins whisper to you, entice you to remain where you are, to help you continue down the wide, easy path to your destruction. Repent of them! Reject them! Fall before Christ now - He stands ready to save!

"But what if I'm not one of His sheep, what if I'm not of the truth? Then turning to Christ will do me no good?"

I guarantee you this, if you turn to Christ He will not turn you away. Jesus Himself said, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." (John 6:37)

Lord Jesus, more than a giver of truth, you are truth. There is no truth apart from you. You are the only light by which we might see our way to God the Father. To know You is to have eternal life. Shine your light into the unbelieving recesses of this blind world. May many be born of God as I have been, may many be granted the right to become children of God. Let the truth of your word be the deep foundation of my life, that when the torrents burst and the winds slam against me, I will not be shaken.

"The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple." (Psalm 119:130)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Does Jesus Care About Sin?

Early in his ministry (chapter 5 of John's gospel), Jesus heals a sick old man in Jerusalem. At the end of the account, he looks at the man and says, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."

The healing of this man, though quite miraculous, is apparently of secondary importance. It’s the man’s heart that is the greater concern for Jesus. The same could be said of the woman caught in adultery not much later. After turning away her executioners, his only words to her are, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you? I do not condemn you either. From now on sin no more."

Today, much attention is given to Jesus’ treatment of the would-be stoners. Accordingly, these religious leaders are the bad guys of the story, ready to judge the poor, defenseless woman. This is both right and wrong. It is right to say that Jesus vilified the hypocrisy of Israel’s leaders. "Therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men…" (Matthew 23:3-5) It is wrong to paint the woman simply as an unwitting victim, whose actions are of little concern to Jesus.

In both these accounts, Christ is concerned with the sins of ordinary people. “Stop sinning. Sin no more.” God hates all sin. "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong." (Habakkuk 1:13) You’ve been healed, you’ve been spared, but don’t go back to sinning again. Why? The benefits they had received from Jesus were temporal; eternity still hung in the balance.

Today we are likely to hear from unbelievers, “Ahhh, God doesn’t punish sin. Look around you, Alan, people sinning all over, and they’re none the worse for wear. God understands that we’re only human.”

"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these [sins] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 5:6)

From the other side of things, many so-called Christians tell us to stop worrying so much about sin. People need to hear about God’s love, not about their sin. After all, Jesus doesn’t judge people, and we shouldn’t either. These folks are likely to lean on John 8 to help their case. But Jesus did not wink at the woman’s sin. He does not take sin lightly. He misses nothing, but in kindness gives us time to turn to Him in repentance. That is what now is for. If you are disobeying God you are being given the opportunity to repent and be saved from His anger and punishment. "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” But this opportunity must be taken advantage of. “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." (Romans 2:4-5)

Yes, forgiveness from God may be found through Christ - praise Him! - but Jesus will not wink at sin that has not been forgiven. Contrary to our popular picture of Jesus-meek-and-mild, it is He that will judge us. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

The recompense for sin is death. Eternal death and torment. Turn from your sin today. Do not buy into the lie that God is not all that concerned with your actions; that disobeying Him is really not a big deal. Some day your long-suppressed conscience will scream at you, “I TOLD YOU!” But it will be too late, and you will have all eternity to anguish over your refusal to repent and turn to God. Therefore, "Repent and believe in the gospel... seek the Lord while He may be found."



“These things you have done and I kept silence;
You thought that I was just like you;
I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.
Now consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:21-23)