Saturday, June 27, 2015

150628 God’s Plans for Us

Jeremiah 29:10-11 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jehovah God gave the promise found here to the nation of Israel. There are many people who would say that Christians, under the new covenant, have no right to claim this promise! On the other hand, many Christians claim this promise for themselves without understanding why they can do that. I would like for us to explore the promises of God in a Christian context. Jeremiah lived in a time when Israel had been carried away into captivity and, during his life, Jerusalem was besieged and finally brought down. The promise of God found in this passage first refers to Israel and secondarily it refers to us.
The people of God were made captive to other nations over a period of several years. All told at least seventy years was spent in captivity. I believe that there were no less than three captivities each one of them lasting about seventy years and overlapping each other. Jeremiah lived through the last of these great defeats. Jeremiah had spoken very clearly about what was happening to them. God gave him the responsibility of telling his people that they would be carried away for a period of seventy years. And then…
Israel was promised restoration. Turn with me to Jeremiah 27:22. “… They shall be carried to Babylon and remain there until the day when I visit them, declares the Lord. Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.”
God is promising here to bring back to Jerusalem all the treasures taken to Babylon. The people would return at the right time and bring with them all the things that were taken away.
Very few of the people who would return would have been born in Israel. In fact most of the people who are restored to the land were born in Babylon. It was the responsibility of the generation that had been carried away to teach their children and grandchildren about Jerusalem and the Temple.
When the law was given to Moses the people were warned about the result of rebellion against God. There is no doubt that eventually their rebellion would lead them to being scattered. There also is no doubt that God intended to use that captivity to mature them in their service to him. Babylon made them sick of idols and idol worship. After the captivity there is very little mention of idolatry in Israel. The captivity of Israel was not something that took God by surprise.
This was always part of God’s plan. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 30:1-4. “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.…”
We can see from this passage that God knew he would have to drive them out of the land for a period of reeducation. God did not say to them “if these things come upon you” he said “when” they happen then his people would begin to take his words and think on them and return to him. After they returned to the Lord and learned to again obey his voice then he will gladly restore their fortunes, have mercy on them, and gather them together and return them to Jerusalem. No matter where they have been removed to God will bring them back. He made this promise in the days of Moses — hundreds of years before it happened.
This promise falls under Christ’s authority. Turn with me to the upper room where Jesus and his disciples gathered for the last Passover and see what Jesus proclaimed. Luke 22:20 And likewise (He took) the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Jesus is pointing out to them that the last Passover he would observe on earth represented “the new covenant”! The new covenant is promised in Jeremiah 31:31 and Jesus says that it was sealed with his blood. Jesus’ death on the cross was in no way a defeat! His broken body and shed blood was a great victory over Satan and the evil empire. In fact, none of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”! The rulers of this age never understood what it was all about, maybe, until it was too late. (1 Corinthians 2:8-9). The cross and Jesus’ death on it was all a part of God’s plan from the very beginning. You see…
Jesus came to secure all the blessings in the book. Turn with me to 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.
The blessing of Abraham is believing God. As a result of Abraham’s faith God promised that all the nations would be blessed through Abraham. That all-inclusive blessing is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham believed God and began the process that will lead, ultimately, to the establishment of an eternal kingdom when Christ returns. Those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham. Being sons of Abraham reaches our connection back far beyond all the other promises of Scripture. If we have Abraham’s blessings then we have all the blessings found in the book. Jesus came to secure all those blessings…
And to give us the ability. Turn with me to Philippians 4:13. This passage of Scripture is often quoted out of its context. Let’s read it and then see what it really means. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Christ is the one who strengthens us and we often use this passage of Scripture to justify all kinds of victories that we need, want or have achieved! It is true that anything God wants us to do he will enable us to do. Paul is specifically talking about being content because he knows Christ will take care of him. God gives us the ability to do what he wants done. Jesus came to enable us and equip us to serve him. The occasion that caused Paul to write “I can do all things” was the arrival of a financial gift to meet his needs. Not only are we given the ability to do what we need we are also given another “ability” — responsibility! Jesus enables us…
And calls us to responsibility. Look at Philippians 4:18-19. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Another promise is found in this passage. “God will supply” does not mean that we are to sit around and wait on God to pour into our hands the things we need. In fact, it teaches the exact opposite when it is taken in its context. The Philippians had taken a love offering and sent it to Paul to meet his needs while he was held in prison. Paul wanted to assure them that he was content with, or without, their gift. He was not being rude, he was telling them that there was a positive result from their willingness to give. To say that God will supply every need is based on the fact that the Philippians had given and therefore would have needs that might, or might not, have been met by what they sent to Paul. They had given and now God had promised, through Paul, that he would give to them according to their need. This concept is supported in the Scriptures in many places. In fact, this teaching is supported in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in the words of Jesus himself. In the Old Testament we are told, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no need.” (Malachi 3:10) In the New Testament we find that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.… And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. And further on, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way,” (2 Corinthians 9:6-11) And, in the words of Jesus, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. (Luke 6:38)
Over and over again we are taught that God intends to bless his people in order to make them able to be a blessing to others. Never did God intend that we are to receive blessings from him only to spend them on ourselves! That is a very immature attitude! We have been called to be responsible for all that God has given to us. Having come to faith in Christ…
We are to grow up to Christ. Turn with me to Ephesians 4:15-16. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Just before these verses we are told that God gave gifts to the church in the form of leaders. He speaks of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers who are to equip the saints. All God’s people are to be involved in ministry for the purpose of growing the body of Christ. Our leaders should cause us to “grow up” spiritually! Having come to faith in Christ we are not to remain spiritual children. That’s exactly what Satan wants us to be.
God has plans for us! His plans are for our good to give us a future and a hope. There may be times in our lives when we feel that we are passing through a wilderness or being carried into spiritual captivity. The God that we serve is well aware of these things happening in our lives and has a plan that includes them. Long before we came into the world God had a plan for our lives. He completed the price in Christ on the cross where he died in our place. The death of Jesus gave him authority under the new covenant to secure for us all of the blessings in the Bible. In Christ’s victory we have the ability to serve and to give. Let’s grow up together!
In a few days we will observe Independence Day! We need to let the Scriptures define for us what our freedom is about. In the light of current events it is very easy to be extremely negative about the future of our country. In the days ahead you will hear lots of doom and gloom. We need to remember that God has plans for us and we will not always know what they are. We will always know that he is able to do anything that needs to be done. The people of God are now, and always have been, blessed by God. A large part of that blessing is salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. A large responsibility is given to us as well. We are to speak the truth but always remember that it must be spoken in love. The choices and decisions of human government will never override the fact that God is in charge. So put your faith in God by proclaiming Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father. Let today be your day of commitment to Christ.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

150621 God Created Man

Genesis 4:25-26 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.
We live in a time of transition. Old ways seem to be constantly under attack. Some people today object to using the term “man” to refer to the human race in general. It is claimed that such use is not being sensitive to women. Those who object would prefer that we only use “gender-neutral” words. However we need to remember that the practice of using the term “man” to refer to male human beings, and the human race in general, is a practice that originated with God himself. If it’s good enough for Jehovah God it should be good enough for us. Well, today is “Father’s Day” and men are obviously singled out because physically a woman cannot become a father. Sadly, today many women have to fill the father role since there is no man in the family. In the beginning God established a family that soon became dysfunctional. Through the generations God has continued to use families.
As we think about the way society is organized it would seem that civil government should have been established early on. The evidence tells us instead that the family was God’s choice for social structure. In the beginning he created man in his own image and placed him in the Garden of Eden. As time went by man was allowed to look on all the created order and see that the animals were male and female. I believe Adam saw procreation occur and that he understood how the animals complemented each other.  Adam did not have a partner to share his life.
God caused Adam to pass into a deep sleep and took out of his side some part of him that he then made into a woman. He brought her to Adam. The Bible tells us what Adam said. “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.” Over the years I’ve come to believe that this might not be exactly the first words he used. They are simply the words that are recorded for us. I believe before he said this poetic statement he first said, “Wow!” Then, as time went by, Adam and Eve fell into sin by rebelling against God’s command and were cast out of the garden and began to scratch a living out of the ground.
In the normal course of events Eve conceived and Cain was born. Then a little later, Eve conceived again and Abel was born. The two grew up together and a great animosity rose between them. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but did not accept Cain’s. Then, in jealousy, Cain killed Abel and was driven away from Adam and Eve. Later, Eve conceived again and Seth was born.
When Seth was born he replaced Able. Look again at Verse 25. And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”
It is sad to imagine that Adam and Eve, our first parents, had to deal with one son killing another and then going away so they were left with an empty nest. 130 years later the third son was born and Eve saw him as filling the empty nest. Once again, they were not just a couple, they were a family. Another hundred and five years passed before Seth’s son, Enosh, was born. Apparently the…
New generations awakened a need. Verse 26 tells us,To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.
I have always wondered about that statement, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.” I’m not so sure that it means that man had not called on the name of the Lord before that I believe instead it means that this new baby, and others that might have been birthed in the second and third generation caused these parents to wonder what to do. They knew what happened to the second-generation! They knew Cain had killed Abel and was driven out of the presence of God. Now, they had to wonder “How do we prevent this from happening again?” They did not have a parenting class to attend! Young couples today often think they are on their own in raising children but these early generations were definitely on their own. As time went by…
When mankind grew more evil God saved a family! Turn with me to Genesis 6:11-12. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. Hundreds of years have passed and man had turned away from God and became “corrupt” and violent. However there was one family that was not part of this corrupt violent society. It was the family of Noah! Noah walked with God and had three sons and all four men had wives. Rather than destroy all life on earth, which is what could have happened, God chose to deliver this one godly family. Let’s look at Verse 18. God said, But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
For the second time, God narrowed the covenant relationship to one man and his offspring. Yes, Noah had found favor in the eyes of the Lord! This resulted in there being human life on earth. But very quickly their descendants began to, once again, rebel against God. So God confused their languages and scattered them across the face of the earth. As government began to be established and human society was better organized…
God continued to work through families. Turn with me to Genesis 12:1-3. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Once again, there seems to have been very few, perhaps only one man, that God chose, who continued faith on earth. The Bible tells us that Abraham “believed God” and it was counted to him as righteousness. He didn’t just believe in God — he “believed God”! And then…
At the right time God the Son came in a family. Turn with me to the New Testament account found in Galatians 4:4-7. 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.
“When the fullness of time had come,” seems to be saying “at the right time” Jesus came into the world. We certainly don’t have time to go over all of the factors that fit into “the right time”. Suffice it to say that there was one government scattered across the whole Mediterranean basin for ease of travel. There was a common language used by most people for ease of communication. And there were Jewish settlements all over the Mediterranean basin making the Bible available for the new missionaries that would follow Jesus.
God did not just appear on earth in human flesh he came into a young woman named Mary and was conceived as a human child. It is amazing to me that this was always God’s plan!
We do know from other places in the Bible that all of this was well thought out by God before the creation of the world. Adam’s rebellion was no surprise to him and the continued struggles of the human family were well known to God before he created man!
God had, and has, millions upon millions of angels to worship and obey him. Even with that he created man in his own image. God is absolutely sufficient in himself. He did not create us because he was lonely or because he needed fellowship with other persons — God did not need us for any reason!
Nevertheless, God created us for his own glory. God speaks of his sons and daughters from the ends of the earth as those “whom I created for my glory” (Isaiah 43:7; Ephesians 1:11-12) “therefore, we are to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p440
These truths teach us that our lives are meaningful! We were created to glorify God and are important, for his own purposes, to God himself.
So, at the right time God not only “sent his Son” but he also determined to redeem a people for himself! God came to set us free from our bondage to our flesh and with that freedom allow us to be adopted as sons into his family. All of history unfolded…
In order for us to come into God’s family. Turn with me to John 1:12-13. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
After thousands of years of developing history God intervened in the chaos of human life to live among his own people. John tells us that he came to his own place and his own people did not accept him. Not only did they not accept him they determined to crucify him. And when they did this they were doing the will of the Father! 700 years before Christ Isaiah tells us that when the Messiah came he would bear our griefs and be stricken by God so that he could bring us peace and healing. “The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And also “it was the will of the Lord to crush him;” (Isaiah 53:4-10)
God has always honored families and when he brought Jesus into the world he not only brought him into a family but also, through him, he brought us into his family!
I praise God that we have been allowed to be a part of his family. He extends an invitation to all who will listen to come and join with us. The family was God’s first unit of society. The story of mankind, beginning in the Garden of Eden, is a story of family relationships. We must work at the establishment of solid families. Families need to be led by godly men and should be havens of strength and peace. I praise God for the men who have been brought into this congregation. Now is the time for men to stand and be counted. The best blessing that could come to our families on Father’s Day is for the fathers to “Man Up”! Have you been received into God’s family? This can be the day your life is made complete.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.