Monthly Archives: October 2014

All Or Nothing

ALL OR NOTHING

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again with a yoke of slavery.

“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4.

Imagine how foolish it would be for a slave whose ransom has been paid and freedom bought by a benefactor, to insist on paying the ransom price again, even though he has been a slave all his life and has never earned a cent. How silly to think that way and yet this was what the Galatians had been deceived into thinking. Although Jesus had paid their debt, they thought they still owed God something. They had to be circumcised to make sure that they were okay with Him.

Paul reminded them that Jesus was passionate about setting them free. That’s the reason why He came. Sin and Satan had enslaved them. This was never God’s purpose. He intended for people to be His sons and daughters in His family, created in His image to live in the joy and freedom of a loving relationship with Him.

The first human pair was ensnared by the devil’s deception which brought the whole world into slavery to sin. God gave the law to show His people just how enslaved they were. They were trapped into disobedience and rebellion by the requirements of the law. When God said, “Don’t!” their sin nature rose up in defiance and said, “We will!” That’s what sin does. How can we ever live in harmony with God when our very nature is against Him?

The problem is that sin brings the penalty of death, not only physical death but, far worse, spiritual death. We were all born dead to God. For most people God is a phantom figure whom they hate, fear and from whom they flee by ignoring Him and pretending He doesn’t exist. The problem is that God created us with an inner awareness that we were made for Him and that we are accountable to Him. However hard we try, we cannot escape that.

So what did men do?  They made up their own gods to try to appease their conscience. Religion is man’s attempt to get to God their own way; like Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “I did it my way.” But it does not work because every religion is a lie, even religion that believes in the one true God but tries to get to Him by people’s own efforts is a lie.

Atheists insist that there is no God and yet they use the very word “God” in their vocabulary. If He does not exist, where does the idea of God come from? Who made it up? Agnostics say that if there is a God, we cannot know Him? Who told them that? Evolutionists have concocted an unbelievably ridiculous story, against all the evidence of a super-intelligent Designer, that the entire universe just happened by chance, and that it took millions of years to happen.  Only fools believe that rubbish.

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” Psalm 14:1.

As soon as a person acknowledges that God exists, he also has to acknowledge that he is answerable to God for the way he lives. People don’t like that because they know that they are guilty of going against their own conscience and the awareness of God which He put inside them as a witness to His existence.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” John 3:19, 20.

It is impossible to free us from these false notions and the consequences of believing them. Jesus came to set us from our guilt, our sin and our slavery to deceptions. He did it all by dying in our place on the cross. Why would we think we should and why would we want to add anything to what He did?

As soon as we do that, we cancel out His free gift. Paul said when we do this, we have fallen away from grace.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Time To Read The Will

TIME TO READ THE WILL

“At that time, the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.’ Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman.” Galatians 4:29-31.

When a family member dies, the surviving members can’t wait for the reading of the will, especially if the deceased was a wealthy father or grandfather. “Who gets what?” they want to know. God also made a will, and when the testator died, His heirs inherited His estate. Paul declared that, because we are God’s sons and daughters through faith in Jesus, we are His heirs and co-heirs with His Son.

How here’s a twist in the tale. Jesus is God. Because He died we, God’s children, all receive our inheritance but, because He lives and He is God’s Son, He is also God’s heir and we are co-heirs with Him.

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son whom He appointed heir of all things and through whom also He made the universe.”  Hebrews 1:1-2.

God appointed Jesus to be heir of “all things”, that is, all things.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

“And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:15-20.

Paul was talking about Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. In His humanity and because of His perfection as God’s Son who came to earth in the flesh and lived and died as a human being, He earned the right to the position and authority God gave Him – the highest name, the highest place and the highest authority in heaven and on earth (Philippians 2:6-11). He inherited “all things”.

Because of God’s mercy, He reconciled us to Himself through Jesus, restored us to our position as sons and daughters and placed us “in Christ”. Because of that, we share everything He has and owns because we are co-heirs with Him.

What do we share with Jesus?

1. Just as we share our human father’s nature – the sin nature of Adam – so, in Christ, we share our heavenly Father’s nature.

“Through these (His own glory and goodness) He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:4.

2. We share in the “all things” which are Jesus’ inheritance.

“He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also along with Him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32.

That means that, as God’s children, we have access to everything we need here in this earthly life, to live godly lives.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3.

How do we access these resources? Through faith in His promises.

“We do not want you to be lazy, but to imitate those who, through faith and patience, inherit what has been promised.” Hebrews 6:12.

3.The outcome of appropriating God’s promises for power to live a godly life and the resources to do so, is eternal life.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Romans 6:22.

The will has been read. The inheritance is ours. It’s time to possess what we already own.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Children Of Promise

CHILDREN OF PROMISE

“Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

“For it is written: ‘Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child: shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.’

“Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.” Galatians 4:25-28.

What is that all about? Paul was comparing the two mothers of Abraham’s sons with two covenants: the covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and the covenant with Abraham, and two cities, Jerusalem which is in Israel and the heavenly Jerusalem which is above.

What was he trying to explain? He was trying to show his Galatian converts, firstly, that Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, produced a son by natural means and that her son was a slave like herself. Hagar corresponds to the physical Jerusalem in Israel which represents the natural descendants of Abraham, the Jews, who are slaves because they try to gain acceptance with God by keeping the covenant of law which was given at Mount Sinai, and could only expose sin, not deal with it.

Secondly, Isaac was born supernaturally through God’s promise. Sarah, the mother of Isaac, represents the Jerusalem which is above, the heavenly city of God which stands for the people of God who are Abraham’s descendants by faith in Christ. They are the spiritual offspring of Abraham because they receive God’s gift of righteousness by faith just as Abraham did. They are the children of promise.

Children of promise are free. They do not have to earn God’s favour or labour for their place in the family. Unlike slaves who do not belong to the family, who live in the fear of punishment if they do not conform and who have no inheritance because their master is not their father, the children of promise are sons and daughters of God. They have the right to live in the family; they have the Father’s nature and access to His resources because they are born of God.

“…To all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children not born of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12, 13.

Paul was desperately earnest in his desire to show these ignorant Gentile believers that observing the law as a means of gaining acceptance with God was a backward step. He came at it from every possible angle and used every possible argument to convince them of the truth that Jesus is the completion of the law for them as well as for the Jew. They were sons of God, not slaves. Their obedience as sons came from another motivation, not fear but love and trust in God as a perfect heavenly Father.

The Jews were ensnared by their religious traditions.  They refused to recognise Jesus as their Messiah and to put their faith in Him instead of in their futile observance of the law. They refused to believe and accept the truth. “Do you really want to be like them?” Paul wanted to know.

We may not literally do what they were doing, but what about other religious taboos that we adopt as requirements for being Jesus’ disciples? These are all externals which have no place in our simple faith-walk with Jesus. Does it matter what we eat, what we wear, on what day we rest, whether we lie, sit or stand when we pray, whether we do or do not use musical instruments in public worship, and so on. None of these things enhance or detract from our union with Jesus unless they are acts of deliberate disobedience.

Jesus said, “Follow me; learn from me,” and what do we learn? Jesus was free from the burden of all these irrelevancies to love and obey the Father and to show the world what the Father is really like. He wants us free as well. Religion does not set us free. Jesus does, as we follow Him.

We are only the true children of Abraham and children of promise when we put our faith in Jesus and not in our self-effort, for acceptance with God.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Born Free!

BORN FREE!

“Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. The one covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves. This is Hagar.” Galatians 4:21-24.

Who was Hagar? She was the Egyptian slave of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Paul used the rather obscure argument about the mothers of Abraham’s two sons to explain why believers in Jesus are not slaves but sons.

God promised Abraham a son through whom He would make him into a great nation and bless the world through him. In order for Abraham and Sarah to know that their son would be a miracle child, God caused Sarah to be barren until the time came for her to conceive Isaac. Because of their impatience, Sarah urged Abraham to “help” God by resorting to the common custom of a husband producing a child through a slave woman. The baby born would become the child of the barren wife.

But this was not what God planned. Instead of Sarah adopting Ishmael, the child became a source of irritation between her and her slave. Ishmael was the son born of the flesh in more ways than one. He was the result of human scheming; he was the natural outcome of human intercourse; he was not conceived in response to a divine promise; rather, he was Abraham’s way of trying to force God’s hand; and his descendants have been enemies of the children of God down the centuries.

Isaac, on the other hand, would never have been born outside of divine intervention. Everything was against Sarah having a child. She was both old and barren. Only God could reawaken her dead systems and make them function again, and function efficiently to enable her to conceive, carry a baby to term and go through the rigors of childbirth unscathed and without the intervention of 21st century medical skills. Isaac was a God-child from beginning to end.

A good illustration, Paul! Anyone who thinks he can to satisfy God’s perfection by trying to be perfect, is on his own. But the problem is that he is up against his own perverse nature. Every time he is confronted with God’s requirements, his rebellious sin-nature rises up and resists. That’s what the law does. We are not neutral; we are hostile to God, enemies, hating the light because it exposes who we really are. Before we even attempt the impossible, we are gonged out. What does that make us? Slaves! Enslaved by our own nature and enslaved to sin.

On the other hand, Sarah’s baby came easily. When God said it would happen, it happened, on time and in His time. He made the promise and He kept His promise. Isaac was not a “borrowed” son but her son. Isaac belonged to Abraham and Sarah because God gave him to them. They did not deserve him; God did not give him to them as a reward for anything. God gave him to them because He had a plan and Isaac was part of His plan. Isaac was the beginning of God’s human family, Israel.

Salvation is like that. God gave it to us through Jesus. God has a plan. He wants a family of sons and daughters who are just like Him. Giving them rules to keep did not work but it was part of His plan. It showed His people how stubborn and rebellious their hearts were and that they could only become His true children by grace and through God changing their hearts.  Before He could send Jesus, they had to learn what sin was and that their only hope was through the sacrifice of a perfect Lamb. Jesus became God’s perfect son and His perfect Lamb.

We cannot have the law and faith in Jesus. The real problem is that people, even God’s people, find it difficult to believe that we actually have to do nothing except trust in Jesus to be acceptable to God. Like Abraham and Sarah, we think we have to do something to “help” Him so that He will be pleased with us. Until we get rid of that false notion and throw ourselves completely on His mercy, we will never enjoy the freedom of being God’s beloved sons and daughters, unconditionally loved and fully accepted as members of His family.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Zeal Without Knowledge

ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE

“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in travail in the pains of childbirth until Christ be formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone because I am perplexed about you.” Galatians 4:17-20.

Bull’s eye! Paul hit the nail on the head.

Those who were going behind his back, teaching the new converts that they had to become Jews in order to be Christians had a hidden agenda. They were more concerned about being right so that people would follow them rather than following Jesus. Just like the Pharisees who were constantly in contention with Jesus over the interpretation of the Torah because they wanted to dominate people, so these men were trying to draw new believers to themselves by alienating them from Paul.

We have to ask the question: Was Paul doing what they were doing – attaching people to himself rather than to Jesus? No, a thousand times! It was always his passion to point people to Jesus – hence his fiery contention for the completeness of Jesus’ work on the cross for salvation. He could not bear for a moment to take anyone away from absolute loyalty to Jesus and absolute confidence in His finished work.

“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1b-2.

Paul’s passion for Jesus was so strong that he felt as though he was in labour, travailing for these beloved spiritual babies like a mother about to give birth. He felt the pain in his heart like a woman feels labour pains in her body. What was his passion? That Christ be formed in them. What did that mean?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is ultimately about God’s plan to have a family of sons and daughters who resemble His Son. Jesus came to earth to reveal the Father and to reconcile us to the Father so that we can be restored to Him as His children. Living under rules and regulations defeats His purpose because those who do that are acting like slaves and not like God’s children. They are more concerned about trying to be perfect and win the Father’s approval (and never succeeding) than about relating to the Father in love because they are already His children.

It is a good thing to be zealous, “But,” said Paul, “zeal for the wrong reasons is worse than no zeal at all.” Religion makes people zealous for doing wrong things, even evil things, like murdering those who do not subscribe to their beliefs, even if they murder their own family members. How can ruthlessly killing someone who has the right to choose what to believe, ever be right, just because your god says you must?

Zeal, like sincerity, that is misplaced, is dangerous. Zeal for the one true God demands that we always do the right thing according to God’s nature.  He gave every person the right to choose, whether we choose to do right or wrong and He jealously guards and honours that right even if our choices destroy us. God never uses force or coercion. He tells us the truth and appeals to our minds to think and choose what is true and right.

Everything God does for us and to us is governed by His love for us. He is always nudging us towards Jesus because He is the model of a true and perfect son. When we are joined to Jesus by the Holy Spirit through faith and obedience, He is able to change us from the inside to become like His son so that we can be fashioned into a family of people who are one with Him and with Jesus.

The Holy Spirit in us replaces God’s demand that we obey the rules. He leads us from within if we listen to Him. He is Jesus’ personal representative, always guiding us towards Jesus and into the truth about Him and about ourselves. He is like a mother-figure who tenderly nurtures us, feeds us, teaches and corrects us in order to produce the family likeness in us so that we will wear the family name with honour and integrity.

We are not slaves; we are sons.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.