Saturday, December 28, 2013

131229 Knowing God and Known by God

Paul is deeply concerned for the Galatian believers. He came to Galatia as he traveled perhaps on his second missionary journey. He was struggling with where he should minister. And though it seems strange to our ears he was prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching in the province of Asia. God was moving him on towards Europe and did not want him lingering in Asia. At that time he passed through Phrygia and Galatia and from there he passed, with his friends, into what is now Greece. On his next journey he went through Galatia strengthening the disciples. Apparently, after he departed ,some men came from Judea telling the Gentile believers that they must observe Jewish law if they are to be Christians. He has become aware of that and has written this letter to turn them back to the gospel of grace.
Paul has assured the Galatians that God has made them part of his family after having sent his son, "in the fullness of time", so that people from all races and nationalities might be able to say, "Abba, Father". Now, Paul moves on to explain the freedom they have received in coming to know God and be known by God. Listen while I read…
Galatians 4:8-11 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
This passage of Scripture is not specific to the Galatians. It speaks to all of us no matter where we came from or what our background is.
Before we came to Christ we did not know God.
People everywhere know about God. But that is not same as knowing God or being known by God. In fact people have to be taught not to believe in Him. Even that does not work as proved by the growth of Christianity in China and in the former Soviet republics.
God is not known by human wisdom. People can be taught about God and can know about Him through education but that's not the same as knowing God. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
It was God's plan from the very beginning that man should have a more intimate relationship with Him than simply knowing about Him. The relationship between God and Adam and Eve reflects God's intention toward man. He walked and talked with them in the cool of the day. He involved them in the management of creation. Adam was to tend the garden and was even included in the process of naming the animals. God expects us to be a part of the management of the world we live in. God knew Adam and Eve personally and they knew Him personally as well. We talk to God through prayer and hear from Him, primarily through the Bible. Sometimes we sense God speaking to us in our mind and perhaps even we hear a voice. The world calls this foolishness but Paul calls it the power of God and the wisdom of God. Each generation must come to know the Lord on their own you see…
God has no grandchildren. Few groups of people have known God as well as the people of Israel did after the Exodus. They followed him out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea on dry land and and were provided with food, water and health. Though they had been slaves with no military training they conquer their enemies along the way and, under Joshua's leadership, they occupied the land of Canaan. However, something strange happened. Listen while I read from Judges 2:6-10 When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
The people of Israel has been specifically instructed by God, through Moses, to remember all the things that had transpired and teach them to their children generation after generation. They did not do this. As the older generation died off the next generation was not taught to know the Lord. They entered into a cycle by falling away from God, being punished, usually by an outside invader, realizing their need for the Lord and repentance. Then God would send a deliverer in the form of a judge who would lead them during his lifetime. They would fall away again and repeat the cycle. God has no grandchildren! He only has children who come to him in each generation. The evidence for the existence of God is that for all these thousands of years mankind has known that he exists and have groped for him. When man was created God put eternity in his heart. That sense of God's existence is not enough…
God has to show Himself. Atheist work really hard at keeping their faith. It is a faith you know because there is no evidence for it. But it is not like Christian faith because that is based on empirical evidence. God has shown himself! Remember what Paul said in Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
The psalmist said that the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Mankind was not left without a witness. The creation itself speaks of the creator. All that surrounds us did not come out of nothing without God. Nothing does not create something! Yet, God spoke it into being and that was out of nothing. There may have been a big bang I don't know but there certainly was a sound of the angels singing together and the voice of God speaking all things into existence.
We live in an age when the truth is being suppressed dramatically. Everywhere we turn efforts are being made to blot out all references to God. However, the opposition appears only to be to the God of heaven — the God of the Christians is frightening to the men who by their unrighteousness suppress truth. They are without excuse because all that they need to know about God's existence is plainly shown to them. The god of this world, Satan, has pulled the veil over their eyes, or minds, bringing them in bondage to the creation which is worshiped and served rather than the Creator. All of us are guilty…
We were in bondage to false gods. Certainly the false gods of our age are clearly listed in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. Listen well I read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The same kind of list is found in Romans chapter 1 where God speaks of mankind worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.
An Idol is…
Whatever comes before God in our life.
It might be money or property. It might be sports where people come out to worship by the thousands in the stadiums around the world. Our Idol might be a so-called "superstar" or some other national hero. It might be nature itself or one or more of the animals in the creation. Whatever we give our time and energy to becomes an Idol if it is not subject to our relationship with God. We need to guard ourselves that we not put anything ahead of God in our lives. Some people, for all practical purposes, worship their children! Some worship husband or wife. Anything can become an Idol…
Even church may become an Idol. In the days of Jeremiah the prophet the people were faithfully serving God in the temple. However, at the same time, they oppressed the strangers in their midst as well as the orphans and widows. They thought that so long as they worshiped on the right day, and in the right way, they would be alright. Well Jeremiah had some words for them from God. Jeremiah 7:3-4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’
God called on them to repent and change their ways so they could be accepted by Him. It mattered not that they worshiped at the temple that Solomon had built. And it doesn't matter today. We may worship on the right day and we may worship in what the contemporary church says is the right way. However, if we do not keep God upfront in our worship even "church" can be an Idol the keeps us from God. We must remember that…
Our God is a jealous God. God made it very clear to the people of Israel in the wilderness that he would not tolerate his people worshiping idols. Listen while I read from Deuteronomy 5:9-10 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Repeatedly, God says that He is jealous. In modern English the word "jealous" is most often used in a negative sense. However, it is not known that way in the Bible. Paul told the Corinthians that he felt a "divine jealousy" for them. He meant by that he was earnestly protective of them. He was deeply committed to seeking their welfare and upholding their honor. God's jealousy is like that. Except that He upholds His honor while seeking our best interest and welfare.
The Bible tells us that those who love God and keep the Commandments are the ones who know Him and are known by Him. There once was a time when we did not know God in the sense that we trusted him for our salvation. We knew about God because all people are born with an innate sense of the existence of God. All that knowledge does is make us guilty in not seeking Him out.
Couple of days ago, on the Fox news network program "The Five", one of the co-hosts, Bob Beckel, said that he was convinced of the existence of God by all the evidence around him. He also publicly said that he was a Christian. Bob said that if he was right there will be a marvelous afterlife but if he is wrong and there really is nothing after life it wouldn't make any difference. However, if an unbeliever is wrong then at death he faces separation from God in hell forever. Knowing about God is natural to mankind. Not only have we come to know him…
But now we, like they, are known by God!
Along with the Galatians, and all other believers throughout history, we are known by God. Not only do we know God but we have an intimate relationship with God. Our God is "Abba Father" to us. We, like Abraham, have received God's grace through faith and are born into the family of God. Abraham had a special relationship with God. Since we are his children by faith we are encouraged by the fact that…
The father of the faithful was a friend of God. For a person to be called God's friend is a great honor! Abraham's faith extended beyond knowing about God listen to James 2:21-23 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
It's important for us to recognize that God really does entering into a personal relationship with His people. God's relationship with Abraham was so intense that when God set out to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah He stopped to tell Abraham about it. Not only did God tell Abraham what He was about to do He also allowed Abraham to negotiate with Him concerning the coming destruction of the cities. (Genesis 18)
Long before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, Abraham believed God. He heard God speak and believed what he said. By that act of faith he became the father of the faithful throughout history. Again and again, throughout the Bible, God — sometimes through an angel – calls people by name and shows that he has an intimate personal relationship with them. There are special relationships in the Bible. For instance…
Moses was personally known by God. Moses met with God on the mountaintop and also in the tent of meeting. God allowed Moses to negotiate with Him in the same way that Abraham did,. We are told that God spoke to Moses as a man would to his friend.
At one point, Moses expressed a great deal of concern over whether or not God would go with them as they traveled toward the promised land. Listen to God's words in Exodus 33:17. And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”
"I know you by name"! That is a pretty powerful statement when we realize that it is God speaking. Of course, God knows everyone's name. But this is a special relationship God is talking about.
Jesus said that if we would acknowledge Him before men, on earth, He would acknowledge us before the Father in heaven. It should be amazing to us even to think that our name is mentioned in heaven. We are called by God and our name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. That is a wonderful thought! Jesus also said that He calls His sheep by name and they know His voice and they follow Him.
How do we come to be known by God? Listen while I read 1 Corinthians 8:3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
Remember this is a very special relationship we are talking about. It would seem to me that no one was ever closer to God than Paul the Apostle. Yet he said he made it his goal in life to know Christ the Lord. Jesus himself said, "And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." And Jesus also said that if we loved Him we would keep His commandments.
All mankind is born separated from God. Also, all mankind is born with an awareness of God's existence. But to know about him is not the same as knowing Him in a personal way. Since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death we are born in trouble. Only after we come to faith in Christ do we know God and are really known by God. This is not accomplished by believing about Jesus. This "knowing" comes about when we openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. The Bible tells us that when we do that we are saved. With this salvation comes a new family relationship. We are born again by the will of God and are recognized by Him as his children. Then he knows us by name because we are his children!

It seems strange to our ears to hear that we might come to be known by God. Of course, God knows everyone simply because he knows everything. He knows the heart of every person. When Jesus walked on this earth he knew what was in man's minds and what they would do to Him. To know about God is a very different thing from knowing God. In the same way, God knowing about us, and intimately knowing us, is two different things. In his letter to Laodicea, in Revelation chapter three, our Lord says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, he with me." This passage teaches a personal relationship and it's one that comes from God himself. During his time on earth, Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand." I hope you have come to know him or rather, be known by him. If not, will you come to him today?
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

131222 At the Right Time the Son Was Born!

Galatians 4:1-7 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Timing is much more important than we usually think. We don’t always know what time things should be done but God always does. He had the sovereign right to end the human race when Adam sinned but He didn’t do that because He already had a plan. You see, God was not taken by surprise — He never is! In this letter to the Galatians Paul has been countering the legalists who wanted to bring the believers there under bondage. Paul wants them to see that God wants to free us from slavery rather than bring us into a new kind of slavery. So, in this passage he tells us that God’s plan included sending His Son to redeem us so we could be adopted into the family of God.
We do not know what time of year Jesus was born. It may have been in December but likely was not. You see Angels came to sing to the shepherds in the fields that night. Unless it was an unusually warm December (and it may have been) the shepherds would not have been in the fields after dark. The first century church does not appear to have celebrated Christmas at all. Or, maybe it would be more correct to say that they, like the improved version of Scrooge, kept Christmas every day.
We do know the approximate year of his birth but really that’s all. What Paul tells us here is that it was…
In the fullness of time. Before God created the earth he put into place a plan to send His Son into the world to redeem that which had been lost in the Garden of Eden. Now we see that there were reasons for the time God chose. First of all there was…
A large empire to spread through. At the time of Jesus’ birth the Roman Empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean in the west all the way across Europe and North Africa into what is modern-day Syria and Jordan. This allowed the missionaries to travel without hindrance across the Empire on good Roman roads (some of which are still in use).
There were other large empires in the world but none that would serve as a sending base for missionaries. The outward reaching attitude of the Romans and their close allies provided a base from which the world could be evangelized. This large empire provided…
A common legal system to live under. It was important that the missionaries should be legally protected. Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship to prevent being turned over to the Temple police. He also used his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar. This allowed him to travel to Rome with a military escort paid for by the government.
Wherever the missionaries went, inside the Roman Empire, they had a set of laws that they could understand and use to their advantage. There’s nothing wrong with using the world’s legal system to enhance spreading the gospel. Modern-day missionaries have to learn the legal system of the countries where they go in order to be free to share the good news about Jesus.
In the sharing of the gospel it was very important to have…
A common language to communicate with. Since Rome was in power it would be thought that the common language of the Empire would be Latin. Latin was the language of the legal system but koine Greek was the language of the common people throughout the Empire. Over three hundred years before Christ's birth Alexander came out of Greece with his armies and conquered Persia, Egypt and spread his empire deep into India. As result of his conquests the Greek language became the common language. It held sway across the business world of the Roman Empire. That provided a basis for communicating by letter. It was very important that Paul, and the other missionaries, be able to write letters and send them from place to place in the Empire. Those letters, along with the four Gospels, became our New Testament. When these were added to the Jewish Old Testament our Bible came into being.
Yes, it was the right time, or the fullness of time, when…
God sent His Son. God did not entrust an angel to share the message because it wasn’t just a message that needed to be shared. What had to happen was for the Son of God to take on flesh and blood so that through death he could deliver all those who through fear of death were held in bondage. God sent his son under certain conditions. One of those conditions was that he should be…
Born of a woman. It was very important that Jesus be born human. However, it was even more important that He not have a human father and therefore not inherit the sin nature that we all have. The woman, Mary, who became his mother was a virgin. Listen while I read these two passages of Scripture. Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. And, Luke 1:26-38   In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
This shows us that salvation must come from God not from man. And, the virgin birth allows for the uniting of the fullness of God with the fullness of man. So that Jesus could be God and at the same time the Son of Man. Since he was born without a human father Jesus had no inherited human sin. The line of descent from Adam was partially disrupted by the process God used in bringing Jesus in the world.
Jesus was born of a woman and He was…
Born under the law. At the time of his birth, Jesus and his parents were subject to the Law of Moses. This required certain steps for them to take. On the eighth day Jesus would be circumcised and there would be a period of purification. Listen while I read Luke 2:22-24.  And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
The picture that Luke presents for us shows us that Joseph was not a wealthy man. The law first called for a Lamb to be sacrificed along with a pigeon. However, if the family could not afford a Lamb then two turtledoves or two pigeons could be offered. All of this was completed for Jesus so that he would be able…
To redeem his people. Paul has already told us something about this in Galatians 3:13-14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Jesus came into the world to be born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. He did this so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles. Abraham’s blessings came long before the law and depended on faith not good works. So that those who come to faith in Christ become descendants of Abraham breaking the connection to Adam. This was God’s plan from the beginning…
In order that we may be adopted into the family.
No one comes into the kingdom of God as a second-class citizen or anything less than a family member. While we should consider ourselves to be servants of God we must remember at the same time that he has made us his children and this is…
An act of God. Listen while I remind you of the words in John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… Children, not slaves or subjects but members of the family of God.
Christmas should remind us of this act of God. We cannot be saved by our own actions. We require instead that God intervene on our behalf giving us salvation. This is an act of God…
By the work of the Spirit. Listen while I read the words of Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:14-17 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
I remind you that Paul told the Corinthians that it is by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. That body is the body of Christ, the Church of the living God. Jesus came into the world the Son of God and the Son of Man. He completely shared in both natures. While he was on earth he fulfilled the law completing all of it for us. He became for us righteousness, wisdom, sanctification and redemption. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we could be the righteousness of God in Him. All of this is true because of Christmas. The greatest gift of all was the sinless Son of God who could take our sins into his own body, nail them to the cross, bury them in the grave and leave them there so that we could be included in the family. Christmas was the opening shot in a battle to defeat the enemy finally fought out on the cross and in the grave. He does not save us to become angels in heaven someday. Today we are a little lower than the angels. After death we will be higher than the angels. We will never be angels. He saved us for a greater purpose. He did these things…
Making us one of the family. Listen to Romans 9:7-8 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

We are each a part of the family of God. The most common references in the New Testament to believers is to call them brothers and sisters. This shows the family relationship and in past generations continued to be used by the church. In modern times we less often refer to one another as brother or sister. It would be good to restore that use because it reminds us of the relationship that we have to each other, and to God.
While we are on earth we are servants of God. Most Christians recognize that truth but fail to see that we have become a part of God’s family. We are children of God and if we are his children then we are heirs — joint heirs with Jesus! This does not give us the right to look down on any other person. We are not better than others just different from others. No matter the condition of another person we should recognize that except for the grace of God that could be us. There is no sin we could not be guilty of under the right circumstances. Never forget that!
About a hundred and forty years ago Harriet Eugenia Buell wrote a beautiful song that describes our situation. It goes like this:
My Father is rich in houses and lands, He holds the wealth of the world in his hands! Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold, his coffers are full, He has riches untold.
I’m a child of the King, a child of the King: With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.
My Father’s own Son, the Savior of men, once wondered on earth as the poorest of them; but now he is reigning forever on high, and will give me a home in heaven by and by.
I’m a child of the King, a child of the King: With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.
I once was an outcast stranger on earth, a sinner by choice, and an alien by birth; but I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down, an heir to a mansion, a robe, and a crown.
I’m a child of the King, a child of the King: With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.
Looking at all human history in advance allowed God to choose the perfect time for His Son to come into the world. The Roman Empire provided a large field of ministry without borders. The Roman legal system gave the missionaries a consistent set of rules to go by. And, the Greek language had become the language of business and day-to-day activities in the Empire. All of these things worked together to allow a rapid spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the right time. Since then every day is the right time for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Receive the gift of salvation this Christmas if you have not done so before. If you have already received Christ share the gift of salvation this Christmas with someone you know who needs Him.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.