Saturday, December 8, 2018

181209 Glory, Grace and Truth


John 1:14-18 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
I have always thought of John as being the disciple closest to Jesus. John was present when Jesus was baptized. John was one of the first disciples to be chosen by Jesus. When Jesus met with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration John was present along with Peter and James. What a magnificent evidence of the bond between Jesus and his leading men! John was present when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. There are many other examples of John’s importance. He certainly was qualified to write this most spiritual gospel. With that in mind let’s look at part of what he said.
First, let’s imagine we are in John’s study looking over his shoulder. He has a Gospel written by Mark, one written by his fellow Apostle Matthew and another carefully researched and composed by Doctor Luke. He is pleased with the documents before him but there are several things missing.
John takes up his pen dips it into the ink and begins to write, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The beginning”, for John, was not with the Virgin Mary or her husband, Joseph, in Nazareth. The beginning was many centuries earlier. It was a time before any thing was made. The fullness of deity existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His message of the incarnation was not a Baby in a Manger but instead a triune God who determined to become flesh and live among men and John was one of them.
Many years later he wrote about the time when…
John saw his glory. Look with me to 1 John 1:1-2. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. John begins with, “That”, and it refers to the incarnate Word -- Jesus. Not only did he see the glory of God in Jesus Christ he listened to him with his own ears, saw him with his own eyes, touched him with his hands! And, assuming that John is the disciple “whom Jesus loved” in his Gospel, he may have been one of a few people who actually heard the heartbeat of Jesus (John 13:25). John, with his friends, had an amazing gift! God had revealed himself in the eternal life (John 14:6) that had always existed with the Father.
Let’s look at Luke’s account for one of the times that they actually saw the glory of God in Jesus Christ! Luke 9:28-31. Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Jesus took his closest men with him when he went up on the mountain to meet with Moses, who represented the Law, and Elijah who represented the prophets. These men witnessed the change in Jesus that was similar to the change Moses experienced when he was on the mountain with God. Moses would have been very familiar with that manifestation of God’s glory. When he appeared with Jesus on the mountain he came from that glory in heaven. The brilliant white light, in both cases, was the glory of God! As we go into the Christmas season we should desire to see that glory for ourselves rather than all the commercial hubbub.
In fact, Jesus is God’s glory. Let’s look at the description of Jesus in Hebrews 1:3.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
The word translated here as “radiance” could as easily be translated “reflection”. Jesus was the reflection of God’s glory. Wherever he went as a man he was continuously manifesting the Father’s glory. As a man, he was here to sit upon David’s throne. As God he was here to show us the Father. He gave up none of his divine power when he came to the earth as a man. As we celebrate Mary’s baby at Christmas we need to remember that that Baby yet holds the universe together. We also need to remember that he wasn’t just born in a stable he was also beaten and nailed to a cross to pay the price for our sin. When he came to earth kings and priests did not welcome him…
The shepherds were witnesses. Let’s look at Luke 2:9. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
That Angel made the announcement to the shepherds and as he did so the glory of God surrounded them. 13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
It must’ve been a magnificent experience. Those shepherds saw what worship really is about! The angel made the announcement — probably Gabriel — and having done so the heavenly choir filled the air with glory and worshiped God. The glory of God had been…
Lost by Adam. Let’s look at Romans 3:23. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
This is a very familiar passage. We turn to it often when asking a person about their salvation. All have sinned! We emphasize that! But we often fail to expand on the idea that when Adam fell we also fell in him. Every one born as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve fall short of the glory of God. Adam and Eve, before they sinned, were clothed in God’s glory! When they took the forbidden fruit immediately the glory of God was taken from them and they were ashamed. They were ashamed because now they were naked since the glory had departed from them. Mankinds only hope is that the glory can be…
Restored by grace. Let’s turn to another familiar passage Ephesians 2:8-10. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Remember what John wrote. The glory of God in the Son was shown in his being full of grace and truth. The glory of God is restored in the grace of God. We are saved by grace… How do we understand what this means? Someone defined grace as — God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense! You see? We have no ability to save ourselves! If we are left in the condition that Adam’s and Eve’s sin placed us we could not be to the glory of God. We are born in desperate need of salvation that we cannot provide for our selves. And yet our primary purpose on earth is to bring glory to God.
One of my favorite preachers/writers is John Piper. He is well-known for his interpretation of the first question in the Westminster Shorter Confession of Faith. The question is: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Piper’s response is: “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”
Let me quote Wayne Grudem: The fact that God created us for his own glory determines the correct answer to the question, “What is our purpose in life?” Our purpose must be to fulfill the reason that God created us: to glorify him. When we are speaking with respect to God himself, that is a good summary of our purpose. But when we think of our own interests, we make the happy discovery that we are to enjoy God and take delight in him and in our relationship to him. Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). David tells God, “In your presence there is fulness of joy in your right hand are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11). He longs to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, “to behold the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4), and Asaph cries out, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever”. (Ps. 73:25–26)
Fullness of joy is found in knowing God and delighting in the excellence of his character. To be in his presence, to enjoy fellowship with him, is a greater blessing than anything that can be imagined.
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God …
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” (Ps. 84:1–2, 10)
Therefore, the normal heart attitude of a Christian is rejoicing in the Lord and in the lessons of the life he gives us (Rom. 5:2–3; Phil. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16–18; James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6, 8; et al.). (Grudem’s Systematic Theology, page 441)
I commend to you the practice of rejoicing in the Lord. He is after all the happy God! Let me quote John Piper again.
“This is the gospel: “the gospel of the glory of the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:10-11) That’s a quote from the Bible! It is good news that God is gloriously happy.
No one would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God. If God is unhappy, then the goal of the gospel is not a happy goal, and that means it would be no gospel at all.
But, in fact, Jesus invites us to spend eternity with a happy God when he says, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). Jesus lived and died that his joy — God’s joy — might be in us and our joy might be full (John 15:11; 17:13). Therefore, the gospel is “the gospel of the glory of the happy God.”
The happiness of God is first and foremost a happiness in his Son. Thus when we share in the happiness of God, we share in the very pleasure that the Father has in the Son.” (DesiringGod.org)
Our appropriation of the joy of our master is a matter…
Depending on faith. Let’s look at Romans 4:16. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
Jesus Christ came into the world as the Word of God. He came as the Word who was with God and was God. There is no thing that we can do to allow us to enter into the glory of God. Instead, our relationship to God depends not on works that we have done but by faith so that it can rest on grace. Our receiving God’s grace can only be achieved by faith! When we do place our faith in him it will be…
Leading to truth. John 14:5:6 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John said that he had seen, heard and touched the word of life! The consequences of that encounter allows us to have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ with the intention that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:1, 3).
Christmas should be a time of joy! Yet for many it is a time of sadness. Jesus came into the world so that we can have his joy complete in us. Jesus came to the earth with the glory of God that had been lost by Adam. Jesus becomes for us a new head of a new race. Jesus himself is the way, and the truth, and the life. The glory of God is manifest in the grace of God and explained in the truth of God. Jesus is no longer a baby in a manger. Neither is he a man on a cross! He is the risen Lord, the Son of the Happy God! And by his grace, through faith, we appropriate that happiness!
The Christmas season reminds us of the birth of the Messiah. It is one of the most popular holidays around the world even among those who are not Christians. A first century Jew, like the shepherds, would have been startled to think of the Messiah as being a baby. In the angel’s announcement this Messiah is referred to as “the Lord”! That word would typically be used only for God himself. Jesus manifested the glory of God. He was born in David’s hometown — Bethlehem! The Jews might’ve expected that he would be born, or would arrive at, Jerusalem. They would’ve also expected that he should be announced in the courts of power for his day. Instead he was introduced to shepherds tending their flocks. Has he been introduced to you? Today could be your day for meeting Jesus our Lord and Messiah!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

181125 Freedom in Christ


Romans 7:1- 5 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
Before Christ came into the world humans were bound by the law. I am not talking about the Old Testament law alone. Before any law was presented in the Bible there was always a moral law that everyone understood. In this illustration, Paul uses marriage to show how we relate to law. When he wrote this he was living as a Jew under Roman law. In that world, a woman was bound to her husband for life. The only way she could be free was for her husband to die. Death is necessary for there to be freedom from the bondage of the law. In Paul’s example, the woman is the believer and the law is the husband. The law cannot die — it is eternal! In order to be free, the woman dies to the law and is set free. This is a difficult concept but it is God’s not ours.
Let me explain what I understand to be the message God wants to reveal here. Since the law cannot die to free us it is necessary for us, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to die to that relationship. In this illustration, the law would be the husband and the believer would be the woman. We realize that the woman can’t die and thereby end the power of sin it is necessary that we are declared dead. Every illustration that we might use is going be imperfect. But let’s try this one out.
I once heard the story of a man who was faced with being drafted into the Confederate Army during the Civil War. We'll call him George. George had a wife and children and of course, did not want to go. His neighbor, we'll call Tom, was the same age, was unmarried and had not yet been called up for the draft. Tom came to George and said,I will go in your place. He then went to the county seat with the draft papers in hand and was enlisted in the Army as George. A few months later Tom, now called George, died on the field of battle. His death certificate was sent back to the County seat where he lived. In the course of time, the Army was desperate for soldiers. They sent out patrols looking for men who should have been drafted. They found George plowing a field one day and arrested him as a draft dodger. He was taken to the county seat and put in jail. George asked the judge to look at the death certificates. When he did he found that George was legally dead. The judge sent him home to his family because as far as the law was concerned he had already died.
In a similar manner, our marriage to the law is dissolved because of the work of Christ on the cross. We are free to serve God in the new way of the Spirit. Instead of despair, there is joy! Instead of bondage, there is freedom! Instead of death, there is life! We no longer belong to the law but to Christ.
However…
We can only be released by death. Let’s look at Romans 7:6. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
We have already seen, in the previous chapters in Romans, that Sin came into the world by Adam the first man. Spiritual death was the result of man’s rebellion against God. For those who did not sin in exactly the same manner as Adam, we are told that all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he explained that the law was a schoolmaster, or guardian, to bring us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith.
The law does serve a purpose in our lives…
 The law reveals sin, let’s look at Romans 7:7. What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
It seems that this section of Romans is autobiographical. We can see that Paul’s personal experience could be paralleled to Romans seven. The revealing of sin in his life would have happened about the time of his Bar Mitzvah. Bar Mitzvah is a ceremony bringing a young man to maturity. The meaning is making him a son of the Law. While preparing himself for this Jewish ceremony Saul, later to be named Paul, would have done pretty well until he reached the 10th commandment. Commandment number 10 says “you shall not covet”. As he struggled with this concept he saw that all of the other commandments depend upon the 10th. From that point on in his life, he became conscious of sin. James tells us that the law is a mirror revealing the inner man. What a gift! The law reveals sin and…
Then the law activates sin. Let’s read on Romans 7:8-9. But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
Poor young Saul! Once he realized what covetousness was all he could do would not stop coveting in his life. Other places in Scripture we find this same concept. Romans 5:20 tells us that “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:56 we are told that “The power of sin is the law.” Augustine of Hippo, a North African pastor 1500 years ago described his experience in his story: There was a pear tree near our vineyard, laden with fruit. One stormy night we rascally youths set out to rob it and carry our spoils away. We took off a huge load of pears … not to feast upon ourselves, but to throw them to the pigs, though we ate just enough to have the pleasure of forbidden fruit. They were nice pears, but it was not the pears that my wretched soul coveted, for I had plenty better at home. I picked them simply in order to become a thief. The only feast I got was a feast of iniquity, and that I enjoyed to the full. What was it that I loved in that theft? Was it the pleasure of acting against the law, in order that I, a prisoner under rules, might have a maimed counterfeit of freedom by doing what was forbidden, with a dim similitude of omnipotence? The desire to steal was awakened simply by the prohibition of stealing.
Things have not changed much in the last 1500 years. The law says “don’t covet” and our human nature says “that’s exciting”! The law reveals sin, and the law activates sin…
Next, the law brings about death. We see the consequences in Romans 7:10-11. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Men had searched the Scriptures for thousands of years since the time of Moses and had failed to experience the freedom that was promised. The way Jesus put it to the Pharisees was “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39). When Paul and Silas came to Berea they found “noble-minded” disciples who searched the Scriptures daily to see if Paul’s and Silas’s teachings were true (Acts 17:11). These men learned from Paul how to allow the Scripture to lead them to Christ.
The law revealed sin and activated it. Then as they studied the word they understood that the law could bring life but only if it was perfectly followed (Leviticus 18:5). That same law, when broken, brings about death. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). As we grow in the Lord the process of sanctification leads us to see how thoroughly sinful we are.
We have learned about the bondage of sin that cannot be broken by keeping the law. Now, we learn that the sin that inhabits us is not made less but is made greater than before it was revealed!
We learn of the existence of sin and…
Now, the law reveals the depth of sin. Let’s read on, Romans 7:12-13. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
The sin that is revealed and activated causes us to recognize how bad it really is. The law is holy and as such is righteous and good. So that sin leads us to death. Satan would like to use our own nature against us. He can lead us aside for a time. A believer who is truly born again will soon catch on to the acts of the enemy. The law, in and of itself, cannot bring us to total victory instead it will bring us to defeat. In that defeat, we will come to see how important it is for us to have a Savior.
Indwelling sin reveals our need for Christ. Let’s read on, Romans 7:14-17. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Paul is not trying to excuse himself, or us, he is simply admitting that sin still dwells in us. He has tried to live up to God’s standards in his own strength. Friends, that cannot be done. If there is any remote possibility that we could save ourselves then Christ died for nothing.
Think with me back to the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus is facing the horrible prospect of becoming sin for us. We must admit that of all the humans that have ever lived on planet earth none are more qualified than Jesus to have their prayers heard. Part of the prayer that he offered in the garden was, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). He wasn’t speaking about the horror of being beaten nearly to death and then nailed to the cross and lifted up from the earth. I believe he was speaking of becoming sin for us. The Bible tells us that, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24) I don’t know that we can ever conceive how horrible it was for Jesus to become sin. He had no sin of his own so that he could take our sin and pay the price. If he had not said “if it be possible” I believe the Father would have taken him from that garden and destroyed the world. But instead, Jesus paid the price and set us free. He did that so that we could be saved. There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. There is no other way of salvation. If there were such a way then Jesus’ prayer would’ve activated it. We cannot deliver ourselves…
Our deliverance is outside our self. Let’s read on, Romans 7:24-25. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Having struggled with the problem of sin in himself Paul now throws up his hands and asked the question, “who can deliver me?” Then he rushes on to the answer, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The only hope we have is found in a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Mike Pompeo, the current Secretary of State, has said that the only hope of the world is The Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing mankind can do to give hope. Our only hope is in God’s Son our Savior.
From the beginning, there was always one plan. God did not find himself wondering what to do when Adam and Eve fell into sin. He already had provision for that! The Bible tells us that God wrote the names of his people in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain before he created the earth.
We died to the law and our old way of living before we were born.
When Jesus died we died with him. Let’s read Romans 6:6. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
When Jesus died we died with him! Oh, I know, we don’t remember that happening. But I know it happened because God said it did. Our old self — old man — was considered to be with Jesus when he died. Now, this is not some imaginary idea it is settled truth given to us by God himself. If God considers it to be true IT’S TRUE! There is a saying that often has been posted in churches it goes like this: God said it; I believe it; that settles it! Sounds like a good thing but it is not true. God said it and that settles it! My believing it is good but not necessary. Remember…
The law condemned us to death with him. Let’s read Galatians 2:19-20. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We died to the law so we could live to Christ. When Jesus was crucified he took us to death as well. The life God is developing in us is the life of Christ. Eternal life is not just an extension of our current earth life it is bringing Christ’s life into our life. The life we now live existed before the creation of the world and will continue forever with God in glory.
We should praise God that we are able to agree with God about our death to sin. We have come to live a new life because everything about our former self died with Christ on the cross. God could not associate with us in our natural condition. The old sinner, our spiritual identity, was executed on the cross and was replaced by a lovely, new, godly Saint. Have you felt God’s call to salvation? Have you responded to that call? Today could be your new birth.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.