Monthly Archives: March 2021

A LINE IN THE SAND

A LINE IN THE SAND

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:1-4.

Paul did not let the grass grow under his feet. As ridiculous as the counter-arguments may sound, he anticipated and responded to each one before they were even thought of.

If the sinfulness of man resulted in the revelation of God’s grace, and the greater the sin, the greater the grace, why not just go on sinning so that God’s grace may be even more evident? What a crazy argument! It’s like saying, “Let me live as recklessly as I can and do as much damage to myself as I can so that the skill of the doctor who attends to me can be made known!”

We would never reason like that when it comes to our own physical bodies and yet there are people who actually think that it’s okay to carry on sinning because God will forgive them. Like the Israelites of old, who happily disobeyed God’s commands because they offered sacrifices for their sin, there are people who think that God’s forgiveness is the reason for carrying on with their old sinful lifestyle.

This way of thinking completely misses the reason the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. His broken body and shed blood dealt with the guilt of our past, paying our debt and striking all our sins from the record. However, there is much more to it than that. Sin is not only debited to our account, it also pollutes us, making us unclean, like the leper who was excluded from society because he was infectious and his putrefying sores made him look unsightly and smell offensive

We know that a decaying body produces a terrible stench. Can you imagine how bad a dead spirit must smell? And we were dead in our trespasses and sins before God, through the Holy Spirit, raised us up in Christ, washed us clean through His blood and made us sweet-smelling and acceptable to the Father. Why would we even think of living in sin again and smelling like a pig-sty all over again?

Imagine your little daughter playing in the mud just before she is due to attend a birthday party. You pick her up, put her in the bath and wash her from top to toe. Then you rub her dry, powder her and dress her in her party finery. Would she want to go back into the mud just so that she could be bathed again? Of course not!

Jesus’ sacrifice not only remedied the past – it also transforms our present. When He died on the cross, since we are now “in Him”, we also died with Him. We made a public declaration of our identity with Him through our baptism, symbolised by our going down into a watery “grave” and rising with Him to a new life. There is nothing magical about baptism itself; the physical act of being dunked under the water does nothing to us physically, but it is a powerful witness and declaration of what has happened in the spirit and faith in its purpose transforms us on the inside.

Something happens in the spirit realm when we declare, through a public action that we have died with Christ and been raised to a new life. It is a kind of “cut-off” point between our past and present. It speaks to the people who witness it as well as to the unseen realm of angels, good and evil, that we have become new creatures in Christ. It is a declaration of war against those who hate God, both people and devils but, at the same time it brings all the power of heaven to our assistance.

We now have a new Master, a new identity and a new destiny, based on the gift of Jesus Christ’s righteousness which has been credited to us through God’s grace. Would we not then, in keeping with who we now are, embrace the grace of God to live up to our new identity? Our baptism, identifying us as children of God and followers of Jesus, is like drawing a line in the sand.

On which side of the line do you stand?

Acknowledgement

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

A RIVER OF CONSEQUENCES

A RIVER OF CONSEQUENCES

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5.

It has happened. We have been justified. It is a cut-and-dried fact!

Not only that, but justification releases a river of consequences. The first one is peace with God. The war is over. God and man have been reconciled. God and we have “smoked the peace pipe” and there is no longer any reason for Him to be at odds with us. The solid ground of peace with God is that the reason for the war has been removed. Where once the broken law was the issue, it no longer exists. Jesus has satisfied God’s holy standards by living a perfect life and then doing away with the law as a standard of judgment by setting up a new law that encapsulates the old perfectly.

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:23

Jesus has become God’s standard of judgment and, because we are now “in Him” through faith in Him, we wear His righteousness as a covering for our sin. Justification, and the peace with God which follows, is our legal standing before Him. We can approach Him without fear, look Him in the face and receive His smile of approval because there is nothing left to condemn or separate us from Him.

Through Jesus, we have been given access into God’s grace – all His resources of love, strength and enabling that we need to live our lives in and for Him. We have a standing in grace – we are surrounded with His favour as David experienced:

“Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with favour as with a shield.” Psalm 5:12.

Another consequence flows from justification – the hope of the glory of God. What does this mean? When Adam sinned, the whole human race was plunged into darkness – selfish and self-centred living that brought chaos and conflict into the world because everyone was looking out for number one. Jesus died in our place, not only to deal with our sin but with our sinfulness as well. That means that, through the power of the Holy Spirit we are being and will be restored to God’s original intention, to be replicas of Him in our nature and behaviour.

But how does this happen? Strangely enough, the very hardships we experience, which we so often use to accuse God of not loving us, or of punishing us for something we have done wrong (which cannot be because God has already punished Jesus for all sin, ours and everyone else’s), are God’s way of knocking off the rough edges so that we begin to understand and share in the hardships of others instead of being self-absorbed and self-centred.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? …They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7; 9-11.

Three more consequences flow from our training to reflect God’s glory: perseverance, character, hope. Have you ever noticed how God’s children who have suffered much have been mellowed by it and are full of hope for their future in the life to come? Paul says, “Revel in it! There are indescribably great things up ahead.”

These consequences go full circle – they begin with God’s great love for us and they work in us until God’s love is poured through us to touch the lives of others who, in turn, follow the same pattern, over and over again and on and on. Justified; peace; grace; perseverance; character; hope; love, and it all flows out of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Acknowledgement

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

JUST AS…SO ALSO

JUST AS…SO ALSO

“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so also, through the obedience of the one man, the many will be made righteous. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But, where sin increased, grace increased all the more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:18-21.

Amazing, isn’t it, how precise God’s action was to undo at the cross what Adam did in the garden!

But, before anyone gets the idea from the above passage, that Paul was advocating universal salvation, that is that everyone is automatically saved because of the cross, we need to look carefully at what Paul said. Adam’s one act of disobedience brought sin and death on all people because Adam represented the human race. Every human being, past, present and future came from Adam. We are all “in Adam”. Therefore, we were all born with Adam’s nature, with a natural enmity towards God and a bent towards sin.

Jesus Christ died in the place of all human beings, past, present and future, to free us from the punishment for sin, but only those who are “in Christ” actually receive the gift of eternal life. Everyone has been forgiven but not everyone has received forgiveness.  Everyone has been invited to access God’s forgiveness and the gift of righteousness and eternal life, but only those who receive His gift by faith and participate in His life are actually “in Christ”.

Paul was both comparing and contrasting what Jesus did with what Adam did to reveal the extent of God’s mercy over His judgment. Adam disobeyed one instruction which was enough to separate him from God and bring death upon the whole human race. From that one act of disobedience flowed a stream of rebellion which turned the world into a jungle of sin and death.

After a lifetime of submission to the Father, Jesus’ life culminated in one act of obedience which brought mercy to all who believe in Him. He reconciled us to the Father and provided the potential for us to be restored to the His image.

God separated and called one nation, Israel, through Abraham, to be His own people and gave them His law to show them how to live so that the surrounding nations would have a glimpse of the one true God. The law was intended to teach them what sin is so that they, in their inability to keep the law, would experience God’s forgiveness through the blood of an animal sacrificed in their place.

The entire sacrificial system was to be a visual aid of what God had already done through His Son from before the foundation of the world. “So,” Paul said, “God gave the law to increase sin.” But why? Surely. He wanted them to obey Him, not to sin? Yes, that was His intention, but the law could not produce obedience – it could only reveal the extent of their guilt. They had to realise how deep their sin was in order to understand and appreciate the greatness of God’s grace.

It is impossible, through any amount of effort, to produce perfect righteousness because everything we do is stained with sin. Even our best efforts have our filthy fingerprints all over them. So, God did away with our trying as a basis of acceptance with Him. “That was useless,” He said. “I have a better way. My Son did a perfect job of living in obedience to me. All you need to do is accept the gift and put yourself under His authority and I will accept His obedience as though it were yours.”

But there is more. Just as we received Jesus’ righteousness as a gift to save us from God’s wrath, so we accept His righteousness in our everyday living. Many believers come unstuck here. Once we are “in Christ” we think that we have to maintain our acceptance with God through hard work. We keep trying to be good enough. God says, “Stop it!” We’re okay, just as we are. All He wants us to do is to keep trusting and following Jesus. He will recreate us into the image of His Son through the Holy Spirit in us.

Acknowledgement

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

A PLAN GONE AWRY

A PLAN GONE AWRY

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned – to be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one who is to come.” Romans 5:12-14.

The Bible is an amazing book! Here is Paul, explaining something that happened some four thousand plus years before, and it all makes sense.

The evolutionists tell us that the universe came into being through a big bang. Eventually, over billions of years, life forms evolved and became what they are today. From the beginning, it seems, death was a part of life, but there is no explanation as to why creatures die, and how the earth and everything in it can be evolving upwards and at the same time running down. There is incontrovertible evidence that the earth is slowly deteriorating and cannot last forever, just as stars eventually burn out.

On the other hand, the Bible tells us exactly what happened and why, and what will happen in the end. The universe did not just “happen” – it had a Designer, a Creator and a purpose. God was both Designer and Creator, and His purpose was to create something that would show off His glory and give Him pleasure. How else could the universe function as a unit, be interdependent and be so majestic and splendid that man cannot fathom the depths of its wonders?

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will (for your pleasure) they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:11. 

But why is there death and decay in the world? Something must have happened to upset God’s plan and throw the entire universe off track. Once again the Bible gives us a sensible explanation. God created human beings in His image to live in harmony with Him, but He also gave them a dangerous gift – the right and freedom to make choices which could lead them off in the wrong direction.

There was already an enemy living on earth – to which he and his followers were banished because they had rebelled against God and tried to take over. God deliberately planned to put man in the middle of enemy territory, to see whether he would love and obey Him in spite of the enemy’s attempts to lure him away.

Why did He do that? He wanted human beings to choose Him in the face of testing, because only then could He prove to the rebel spirits that He was worthy to be loved and trusted. He gave them one test – leave that one tree alone; the fruit of all the other trees are freely available for you to enjoy. God said, ‘You can have them all, except one.’ The enemy said, ‘Why is God so mean to you? Why can’t you have that one as well?’ and they fell for it!

God said, ‘Death!’ The enemy said, ‘God is lying. No death.’ Who was telling the truth? And so, sin came into the world through one man’s disobedience and death through sin, just as God had warned. Although death came through Adam because of his disobedience to one law, the extent of human rebellion was revealed through the whole law given to His people through Moses at Mount Sinai.

God’s law, which was intended to show them how to live God’s way in order to enjoy His favour and blessing, became the reason for judgment because it showed them just how far they were from loving and trusting Him. Adam set the ball rolling and everyone, including those whom God had set apart to be His own people, followed suit. Man’s nature had been so corrupted that it was impossible for him to live in union with God as He intended from the beginning.

Not only human beings, but also the entire universe was corrupted because God had created it to function as a unit, man and all of creation joined together. The creatures turned on each other, killing or being killed, as we see it today. Without God’s intervention, it could only go one way, to ultimate destruction.

Acknowledgement

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

HOW MUCH MORE…

HOW MUCH MORE…

“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:15-17.

And the river of grace flows on and on and on!

One man; one sin, condemnation; death – the tragic story of humanity. It took just one act of disobedience to release a Pandora’s Box of terrible consequences on the whole human race and the universe itself which God created perfect to sustain man’s earthly home. Once out of the box, those consequences could never be retrieved and stuffed back.

However, we not only have to live with those consequences; we also continue to add to them by agreeing with and perpetuating Adam’s rebellion. And so, through one trespass, condemnation and death came on the human race… but into our sorry plight stepped another man…

Paul was quick to explain that what God did to rescue man, not only rescued us from the consequence of sin but also elevated us to a position even greater than we had before the fall. That is so much like God!

Before Adam’s disobedience, the first pair, who were created in His image to share a unity with their Creator, with each other and with the world in which they lived, were the visible expression of the unity in the Godhead. But sin came in, disrupted the unity and brought chaos into the harmony of God’s creation. Not only Adam and Eve were condemned but also the whole human race because each succeeding generation was born with the nature of Adam. And the crux of it all is: we deserved it!

Now here comes the “how much more” bit!

Through the gift of God’s grace (the favour He lavished on us regardless of us), the effects of what Jesus did on the cross flow to all who receive Him and we don’t deserve it. This is the majesty of God’s grace. We deserve nothing but condemnation and death because we have confirmed God’s judgment on us by our own sinfulness. Yet God has provided, not only forgiveness but also much more – righteousness through grace, underserved favour that releases upon us a new status – children of God, and all the privileges and benefits of being God’s kids!

However, Paul said that it’s even more than that. Not only are we God’s sons and daughters, but we are also on the same level as His Son – kings, reigning in life through Him and with Him. What does that mean? Jesus showed us what it means to reign in His earthly sojourn. He was never the victim of anyone or anything. He lived in absolute submission to the Father, and carried out the Father’s will in everything He said and did.

“Reigning in life” is not about lording it over other people; it’s about being in control of ourselves by being in submission to God. Now that takes grace! Our natural bent towards selfishness and self-will is still there, wanting to be in charge but, because the Holy Spirit is now resident inside us, representing Jesus to us and giving us the power to submit to Him, we are able to overcome our natural bent and live under His authority.

As we are being set free from our fears, our inhibitions, our misunderstandings and our unbelief to embrace the truth that Jesus, not us, is Lord, so we are able to say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to Him, more and more. The “old man” is dying and the “new man” is coming alive. Circumstances no longer control or terrify us because He is in charge. His peace guards our hearts and minds; His word fills our thoughts and mouths.

Now that is reigning in life!

Acknowledgement

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