Monday, February 24, 2014

Oil and Water Part 1

This week, we began a new series called “Oil and Water.” In this series, we will be learning how to identify law living versus grace living and avoiding trying to live by a mixture of the two.  If we live by law, we expect curse to come if we don’t follow things just right (or blame a failure to live perfectly for bad stuff that comes our way).  This is not what grace is about. Just like oil and water, grace and law do not mix.  At first, we spent some time answering the question, “if the law is so bad, why did God bring it in the first place.” It may seem like we bash the law, but, as the apostle Paul said, the law is pure and holy. The law itself is not the problem. On this side of the cross, if we use it for the wrong purpose, it brings death. The law is good, but it cannot justify us or make us righteous. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can do that!

We can find all the way back in Genesis 5 that God’s ultimate plan was never the law, but redemption by His Son. Now, it is not clearly there on the page, but it is there if we will look for it. You see, we can often read lists of genealogies in the Bible and not know why it was so important for them to be there. First of all, they help us establish the timeline and the authenticity of the people spoken of. It is not just a list of stories, but an ongoing account of man.  But here in Genesis 5, where we have a lineage going from Adam to Noah, we can actually find a lot more if we examine all of the names of those mentioned in their original Hebrew. Some of these names are direct Hebrew root words and some are made up of multiple words – as is the case with proper names.

 Adam= Man

Seth = Appointed

Enosh = Mortal

Kenan = Sorrow

Mahalalel = The Blessed God

Jared = Shall Come Down

Enoch = Teaching

Methuselah = His Death Shall Bring

Lamech = The Despairing

Noah = Rest or Comfort


Put it together and you would get (my words added in parenthesis): Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow. The blessed God shall come down teaching (and) His death shall bring the despairing comfort and rest.

 Wow! Some have claimed that the Hebrew rabbis had conspired together and wrote the Old Testament to say what they wanted it to say. I can’t believe for a minute that some ancient rabbis conspired to hide the Gospel of Jesus in Genesis 5!

There are many interesting things about the people in this lineage. One that is striking is that Enoch was the first “prophet.” He prophesied by God that destruction would come to the earth when his child died (Methuselah). Of course, Methuselah’s name meant “his death shall bring.” What is so indicative of the nature of God is that, in His mercy, Methuselah became the longest person to live at 969 years. God’s mercy lasted longer than anyone on earth has ever lived. That is good news for you and I!

If Jesus was the plan from the beginning, then why didn’t God send Him right after the fall in the Garden, or instead of the flood of Noah’s day, or instead of the law? God had a plan and, until it was complete, we were not ready for Jesus to come. He couldn’t have done the complete work He did until these other things happened.

In Noah’s day, God physically destroyed the earth because all of man’s thoughts and intents had become evil. Keep in mind that there was no law at that time. There wasn’t anything that defined sin. So, was it unfair for Him to destroy the earth? It was actually an act of mercy. You see, apart from law we can be right before God, but sin still destroys everything in its path. God had to stop the spread of sin’s destruction until a better solution was ready.

Fast forward to Moses’ day. Why doesn’t God send Jesus instead of the law? Once again, it was not yet time. Man was not ready. The law came to show us what it takes to be holy before God through works. In Exodus 19:8, after Moses’ first conversation with God on Mt. Sinai, Moses is to present the idea of law to the people. The people respond by saying “we will do” all that He asks.  On the surface, we may not read much into that response. But, when we look at the Hebrew, we find a little more information. The Hebrew word for the phrase, “we will do,” was ASAH. This word was used in Genesis 1 during creation. When God spoke to nothing to create something, the word was BARA. But when He spoke to something and tell it to produce something else, the word was ASAH.

In effect, what the Israelites were saying is, we can make our own way.  To understand this response better, we should look back over the scriptures leading up to this statement. In Exodus 14, they grumbled against God because it looked like the Egyptians were going to capture them and take them back to Egypt. God DID NOT rebuke them for this (remember, there was no law yet) but delivered them by parting the Red Sea.  In Exodus 16, they grumbled against God because they were thirsty and could not find water. Again, God did not rebuke them and provided water through Moses striking a rock. There is a similar situation regarding eating in Exodus 17, and God’s response was the same – no rebuke, but He still met the need.


The Israelite people had gotten to a place that, despite miracle after miracle happening before their eyes, they felt God was not taking very good care of them. I believe they thought that keeping whatever list of commands He was going to give would OBLIGATE Him to treat them better. They would be treated based on what they deserved!  Boy, were they in for a surprise! God had been dealing with them by grace (apart from law), but as soon as law came things changed. Now, God rebuked them when they sinned. We should all be happy we do not get what we deserve.   Sometimes, if we live in law, we try to use following a list of laws to say “now God you must…”, but we only use that for the positive things and forget all the negative things that means we deserve when we fall short.  Any time we fall short of God’s best for us (don’t eat right, smoke, etc.), we are sinning.  This becomes extremely difficult.  The law shows us just what it takes to be holy and righteous before God by works. It shows us that it is impossible.  This is what God needed man to understand before Jesus came. We had to get to the place that we knew we could not do it, that we needed a savior!  Romans 7 sums all this up.  The law showed us what was right and wrong, and also showed us that we could not do it on our own.  We knew we needed a Savior because of the law.

Romans 5 shows us the answer.  Now, Jesus has made us righteous. We must receive that righteousness apart from the law. Only then will we be empowered by His grace to begin to more closely resemble the law’s righteous picture. Christ in us, the only one who could fulfill the law, is what gives us the strength to, day by day, more closely resemble that righteous picture.



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Monday, February 17, 2014

Be Like Abe Part 6

This week, we finished the “Be Like Abe” series. We FINALLY got to the point of what it was that Abraham believed that God credited to him as righteousness. Before we got there, we looked at some of the things Abraham had done that, by the law, would have disqualified him.  Romans 4:13-15 tells us that where there is no law there is no transgression. Abraham lived before there was law to define transgressions. His mistakes still caused problems, as sin always does, but his mistakes did not change his right standing before God or his ability to be blessed by God.


In Genesis 12:1, God tells Abraham to leave his family and go to the land He would show him. Then, three verses later, we find that he takes his nephew Lot along. This decision causes a lot more trouble than God ever intended, but it did not change Abraham’s standing with God or the blessing he would receive.  Then, later in the same chapter, in verses 10-20, we find that Abraham, in fear for his own life, lied to Pharaoh about his wife. He says that she is his sister. If she were known to be his wife, he thinks they could kill him to take her. Keep in mind that she was 65 years old at this time, but so beautiful that a ruler would want her. Abraham turned his wife over to Pharaoh, and in return gets blessed with herds and servants.  God causes a disease to come onto Pharaoh and his household that keeps Sarah (Sarai the time) from being touched. Long story short, Pharaoh gave Abraham his wife back and sends him on his way blessed. Can you imagine what Sarah had to say to Abraham when they were reunited?

We also looked at Genesis 16 and found that Abraham went along with the suggestion of his wife who believed that she could not conceive a child as God had promised. She suggested Abraham lie with her maidservant Hagar. Abraham did not refuse. Out of this action cane the child, Ishmael. This decision is probably one of the greatest mistakes made my any man since Adam eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden—its repercussions are still felt today.

Then, in chapter 20, Abraham tells the same lie about Sarah being his sister (for the same purpose of saving his own life) to another ruler, Abimelech. God causes a similar thing to happen to Abimelech as He had to Pharaoh, so that he would be incapable of touching Sarah (who is now almost 75 years old and apparently still great looking).

In all of these things, we do not find a single time where God rebukes Abraham. Wow. That might be hard to believe, but I challenge you to read the stories yourself. You will not find God rebuking Abraham. Is this because God was okay with these actions? No! But, there was no law to define the trespass, so there was no penalty for the trespass – from God anyway. Again, each of these actions produced problems for Abraham that were not God’s plan.  They had repercussions but not in terms of Abraham’s relationship and standing with God.

We also looked at Romans 4. We must remember that, if we are in Christ and we receive His righteousness by faith, we also are no longer under law. Sin still produces unnecessary pain and trouble, but it does not have the power to cut us off from God or His blessing. Don’t misunderstand this message. Sin is not the way to blessing, but sin, or lack thereof, is not the determining factor that determines whether we receive blessing.

In verses 18-21, we see that the thing that Abraham believed that was credited as righteousness was that he was “full persuaded that God would do what He had promised.” That is what we have to do – believe that when God says something, He will do it. Most important is for us to believe that, when He says we have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus, He means it. Live your life like you truly believe you are righteous apart from works.  Then I firmly believe that grace will do its work in you, and you will slowly become transformed into His image. Sin’s power will break, and it will fade in your life. Living by law can never do that. All it will do is force us you to look holy and not be holy. Grace will change you at the heart level.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Be Like Abe Part 5

This week, we continued the “Be Like Abe” series. We looked at two ideas related to this topic of grace. First, we looked at the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit as we receive the message of God’s grace.  In Galatians 1:11-17, Paul talks about how it was not any man, including the apostles who walked with Jesus, who gave him the message of the gospel of grace that he preached. It was the Spirit of God Himself who gave it to him. Paul, after receiving Jesus on the road to Damascus, spent as many as 17 years back and forth to Arabia to study his new-found faith in the one he had been persecuting.
 The power of the Holy Spirit will lead you to the truth of God’s righteousness by faith, as opposed to righteousness by works. This is a difficult concept for us to truly receive and live by. The Holy Spirit is also the source of God’s signs and wonders – the things that will draw men toward God.
In Mark 2:1-12, we read a story that perfectly illustrates both of these points. Jesus was teaching in a home. The home was so full that no one else could fit. Do you think so many would be drawn to hear a then still unknown teacher, if all he was teaching was the same law teaching that they regularly heard in the synagogues? In addition, the parallel passage in Luke 5 says that the Spirit to heal was there – that is signs and wonders. Even though people did not yet know WHO Jesus was, they were drawn by that healing spirit in Him (and that same spirit dwells in each of us!).  Because of the crowd, a paralytic man there to be healed had to have four friends take him up to the roof of the house, cut a hole in the roof, and lower him down to where Jesus was. Jesus sees the man and tells him that his sins are forgiven.
 The Pharisees (read “the law”) were there thinking that Jesus was a blasphemer for implying He could forgive sin. Jesus, by the power of the Spirit (again the same Spirit who dwells in you!), knows what they are thinking and calls them on it. After arguing with them and shutting them down, He goes back to the paralytic and tells Him to take up his mat at walk away.  Did you see what happened? The law was there to try and disqualify the man from receiving what Jesus said was his. The enemy likes to use the law to either disqualify you or disqualify the healer when you stand for a miracle. Don’t let the law steal your miracle!
Next, we moved on to Romans 4 to clarify our examination of what it was that Abraham believed that caused God to credit his faith to him as righteousness. I believe we will get to the actual answer next Sunday, but I wanted to draw our attention to a couple points Paul makes in this chapter.  He quotes King David in verses 7-8. This is referencing Psalm 32:1-2. David says that blessed are they whose sins are forgiven, and blessed is the man whose sins God never holds against him.  I wondered why he changes pronouns there. Why is it first “they” and then “the man?” There are many who believe they are forgiven and will be received by Christ in eternity, but there are very few who ever get the revelation that He is NEVER holding their sin against them – and that includes NOW. You see, it is not just that we WILL be clothed in His righteousness when we enter heaven, but we are righteous NOW because of what Jesus did!
Many in the early church had a very difficult time receiving Gentiles into the faith without the requirement of circumcision. Even the apostle Peter was a proponent of this qualification.  Paul reminds that Abraham was declared righteous and blessed BEFORE he was ever circumcised. Before Abraham had DONE anything, God declared him righteous – not by what he did, but because of what he believed.
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