Saturday, October 13, 2018

181014 The Advantage of a Bible-based Upbringing

 Romans 3:1-4 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”
When Paul raises the question of the advantage a Jew might have he confronts us with the same question. What advantage is there in being raised in an average American household? The answer to that question is very important. Today in the United States of America about half of the households were not influenced by the Bible. Barna Research has conducted its annual state of the Bible survey. In it they found several interesting facts about how American families are impacted by the Bible. Interestingly enough, a little over half of Americans are “Bible users”.
“Bible users” are defined as people who engage with the Bible on their own. Among the other findings in the survey, two-thirds of Americans express Bible curiosity. More than half of those who use the Bible monthly report that reading the Bible has resulted in a self-perceived willingness to engage in their faith and to show more loving behavior towards others. 58% of Americans believe that the Bible has transformed their life. This news should be encouraging to us all.
As we look at the third chapter of Romans, we must keep in mind that it describes the condition of the Jews that Paul had to deal with. The Jews imagined themselves to be clothed with a righteousness that was actually nonexistent. They were duped by a misleading religious confidence. So Paul stripped away their layers of delusion. They believed that because they possessed the Word of God they were safe. They saw themselves as guides to the blind, correctors of the foolish, teachers of the immature.
Remembering the words of Moses…
Paul’s question confronts the Jews. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 32:45-47. And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
The people of God in all ages share a common heritage and consequent responsibility. The Jews of the first century had the responsibility of teaching their children the words of God handed down to them. The word of God was not empty it was filled with life. Resting in the word of God would allow them to live long in the place God put them. They had not received a set of suggestions!
The Jews had received the living Word. Let’s look to Moses’ words found in Deuteronomy 4:7-8.  For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
Just before he departed the scene Moses spoke to the people about how God had changed them from a class of slaves into a great nation by being near them. Unlike the false gods, the God of the Jews was near them and his ears were open to their pleas. The God of the Jews gave them (and us) a written word. The law God set before them gave them righteous direction.  Unlike other nations, the Jews possessed the living words of God not the mumbo jumbo of the false religions.
It is very important that God’s people rehearse the living words lest they forget all that God had done for them. The instructions given by Moses apply to us today. Our children need to hear the stories of God’s faithfulness to his people. We should take time in our family moments to discuss the Bible. The stories told in the Bible should be part of the memory of our children.
 The Bible tells us what God is like. Let’s turn to Jeremiah 9:23-24. Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
It would literally take days in order for me to give a comprehensive list of the attributes of God. Jeremiah, who was living out the last days of the independent nation of Judah, understood the necessity of knowing about God. One of mankind’s greatest problems is focusing on human achievements. So Jeremiah gives us God’s word on the subject. The wise man should not boast in his wisdom. The strongman should not boast in his strength. The rich man should not boast in his riches. What these representative men should do is boast in the Lord.
We are not just to know God or know about God we should desire to understand God. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer recorded in John chapter 17 we find these words, “this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Peter, in his second letter, asked that grace and peace be multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord. In fact, Peter said God has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3)
During those last few days on earth, Philip asked Jesus, “show us the Father?” In Jesus’ reply, he answered the question with a question, “have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me?” (John 14:8-9). The only safe information we have about God is found in God’s book, the Bible! We should read it in its entirety in order to really know God. We should read the Gospels with a view to understanding who God is because the Gospels tell us about Jesus and Jesus said that those who saw him saw the Father! Do you want to know God? Study His book and especially study Jesus! The Bible not only tells us about God…
The Bible tells us what man is like. Let’s go back to the beginning and read Genesis 1:26-27. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — said, “Let us make man in our image,” therefore any understanding of what man is like requires us first to know what God is like. Adam was created like God so that he could represent God on earth. Beginning with the concept of the likeness to God we can move forward in our understanding.
When the creator of the universe wanted something “in his image,” something more like himself than all the rest of creation, He made us. Even though sin has seriously affected our God-likeness all humans still reflect the image of God. This has serious consequences concerning how we treat other people. Everyone who has ever lived on this earth is an image-bearer! If we would take that into consideration whenever we are confronted by a person we find difficult to deal with life would be easier for both of us!
What advantage did the Jewish nation have? And, what advantage is there in growing up in a home where the Bible is used today? I will use Paul’s initial answer to that question, “Much in every way”! Let’s look at a few of those many advantages strung together in Old Testament quotes first…
The Bible reveals man’s character. Let’s turn to Romans 3:9-12. What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
For anyone who thinks they are somehow worthy Paul assures us none is righteous! Not even one! No one understands! No one seeks God! ALL have turned aside! All have become worthless! No one does good! And then he nails it down with NOT EVEN ONE! Our character is simply stated we have no righteousness of our own and because of that…
The Bible condemns man’s conduct. Let’s read on Romans 3:13-14. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. 14 Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness
Beginning with the open grave which is the throat and moving out to the tongue and then to the lips the speech of those without God is like the door of a tomb. The speech of those without God is often filthy, sometimes deceiving and often as deadly as the cobra’s bite! The conduct of mankind is ungodly in every way.
The Bible condemns our conduct and…
The Bible reveals man’s corruption. Let’s read on Romans 3:15-18. Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known. 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Swift to shed blood. That sentence could describe most of the “entertainment” in our culture. One of the news sources that I watch on TV is Headline News. One of the things that turn me away from it is the advertising concerning CNN! A large part of the programming on CNN is rehashing criminal cases. Swift to shed blood certainly describes most of that programming. The way of peace they have not known!
In his commentary, Romans: righteousness from heaven, R. K. Hughes wrote: “Man’s depravity is seen in his rush to violence. Will Durant wrote in his Lessons From History: “In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.” During World War II it was estimated that it took $225,000 to kill one enemy soldier. I wonder how much is being spent by the major nations today. Man loves violence!” Paul wraps up his Old Testament quotes with, “no fear of God”! The Bible has much to tell us but the most important is…
The Bible tells us how to be saved. This set of scriptures from Romans are often referred to as “The Roman Road”! Let’s begin with Romans 3:23. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, everyone, no matter how socially acceptable, has sinned. This is bad news! When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden they condemned all their unborn children to an existence of death! There have been two men and one woman who existed without sin. The first two, Adam and Eve, had no sin until they rebelled against God. The third person, our Lord Jesus, lived his entire life having no sin of his own so that he could pay the price for our sin on the cross and give us the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Next,
Romans 6:23a For the wages of sin is death, The Good News Translation renders this passage “For sin pays its wage — death;” and this is worse news. I have often heard people say “I don’t deserve this.” When talking about some problem or uncomfortable situation. If I know them well enough to do so I remind them that they may not deserve whatever is bothering them at the moment but the truth is we all deserve death and hell! Everything else is pretty much up from there.
Before we get carried away with the idea that it is all bad news we remember…
Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The greatest demonstration of love that has ever been is the death of Jesus Christ! Jesus went through great agony! He was beaten almost to death, then he was nailed to the cross and lifted up above the earth and left to die. But that wasn’t the greatest agony that he experienced. The greatest agony is Jesus — with no sin of his own — became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) There is good news and we find it summarized in…
Romans 10:9-10 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. A confession, not an admission of guilt, but a proclamation that Jesus is Lord! Confessing Jesus as Lord happens only because the person making the confession believes with all his, or her, being that Jesus took our sin, nailed it to the cross, buried it in the grave, and left it there! And when we believe with all our being and confess Christ as Lord we are saved! This is not some idea that I came up with it is this truth stated in God’s word. Everyone that thus calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). We learn everything we really need from the Bible. We need to read it and believe it because it’s true!
After moving to upstate New York one of the first things that I became aware of was the lack of Bible knowledge. Several times in those first years I met adults who did not own a Bible. They never had and wasn’t sure what the Bible was. Then I began to understand why witnessing here was so difficult. Today, if anything, the problem is more severe! Children would have once been at least exposed to the Bible in the public school. Today, in the public school the Bible is seldom mentioned except as a possible book of myths. Unbelief is very common in a world where the Bible is not respected. About half of the families in America are not influenced by the Bible in any way at all. It is very important that we get the word of God into the hands of people.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

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