Saturday, July 30, 2016

160731 The God Who Speaks to Us

Hebrews 1:1-4 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 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, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
This passage speaks of the “many ways” that God has spoken to mankind. In the very beginning, after God had placed man in the Garden, we are told that God spoke to them. God gave them instruction about how to live and what to do to protect their relationship with Him. For many generations God communicated with mankind with the voice. He spoke directly to Abraham and the Patriarchs and later to Moses. We cannot begin to know all of the ways God spoke.
However we can be very pleased that our God does speak! The gods created by the world cannot hear, see or speak. The psalmist speaks of the idols of the nations that are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them so do all who trust in them. (Psalm 135:15-18)
When I read that passage I think of the current Islamic world. The Muslims are very offended if anyone portrays Allah or the prophet Mohammed in any way at all. If they believe their god has been offended they take to the streets in demonstration or in acts of terror. Their god is not able to defend himself. I am reminded of the conflict between Jehovah God and Baal during the lifetime of Elijah. The story is told in 1 Kings 18. Elijah challenged King Ahab to bring together all of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. A large number of the people of Israel gathered there for the contest. The prophets of Baal were told to build an altar and prepare a sacrifice on it but do not light the fire under it. Then they were told to call on their god to light the fire. They spent the entire day crying out to their false god to no effect. At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice Elijah erected an altar, had a trench dug around the altar, placed wood on the altar along with the sacrificial animal and had it all soaked in water! With a simple prayer Elijah called on Jehovah God and fire fell from heaven and consumed the altar and the sacrifice and the wood and the stones as well as the dust on the ground and the water in the trench.
That’s the kind of God we serve! He does hear us when we speak and He speaks when we need to hear Him! God’s method of speaking to mankind has developed over the ages. After having verbally communicated with mankind for centuries…
God gave a written word in the wilderness. Moses reminded people of Israel that God himself wrote to them. The record is found in Deuteronomy 4:13. And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.
These are the earliest written words of God. This begins God’s Bible! It is sad today to see what has happened in the past 50 years in this country. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled, again and again, that these commandments cannot be displayed on public property. What a bunch of hypocrites!
If you go to the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., as you walk up the steps to the building you can see a row of statues of the lawgivers of the world
carved into the pediment. Each one of them is facing one man in the middle who is facing forward with a full frontal view. That statue is Moses, and he is holding the Ten Commandments! As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom you will see that the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on them. As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see on the wall right above where the Supreme Court judges sit there is a display of the Ten Commandments. There are Bible verses etched in stone all over the federal buildings and monuments in Washington D. C.!
The Ten Commandments was the beginning…
Then Moses wrote law. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 31:9.  Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel.
I believe that the book which Moses wrote was probably Deuteronomy and maybe most of the first five books of the Old Testament. That book was deposited by the side of the Ark of the Covenant as a witness to the people. After Moses had died
Joshua continued to add to it. We turn to Joshua 24:25-27.  So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.”
Further additions were made to the book of God’s words. As we can see in the very next generation Joshua added to the written Word.
As time went by…
God continued to give His words. We find an example in Isaiah 30:8. And now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever.
God had commanded Isaiah to write words from God to serve as direction for them in their day-to-day lives. The very large section of the Old Testament called the major and minor prophets, along with the books of history and poetry, were written by men but they were considered to be God’s own words. They are absolutely authoritative and absolutely true. If we disobey them, or disbelieve them, we commit a serious sin that calls for judgment from God. Even when the people of Israel were carried away in captivity God continued to provide for them a written Word. Let’s look at…
Jeremiah 30:1-3 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.”
Several benefits come from writing down God’s words. First, there’s a much more accurate preservation of the Word for future generations. Second, the written Word permits careful study and discussion. Third, the written Word is much more accessible to people than when they are preserved only by memory and oral repetition.
God continued to have His Word written by prophets…
Until finally He stopped speaking. Israel was told that a time would come when God would not speak to His people in Amos 8:11-12.  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
We are told when Amos wrote his book that it was during the days of Uzziah the King of Judah and Jeroboam the son of Joash the king of Israel. Amos adds that it was two years before the earthquake. Which is of little use to us. However, he was one of the earliest written prophets. God had revealed to him that there would come a time when a “Word” famine would come upon the people. It would not be a famine of food and water it would be a famine of hearing the words of Jehovah! That famine would come in the days following the prophet Malachi. Amos’ prophecy was some 200 years before Malachi and after Malachi’s vision some 400 years would pass before there would be another prophet. And that prophet would be John the Baptizer. And then…
God’s word came alive in our Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes the Bible refers to the Son of God as “the Word of God”. In Revelation John sees the risen Lord Jesus in heaven and says, “The name by which he is called is the Word of God.”
Let’s look at that very familiar passage in John 1:14. 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.
It is clear that John is speaking about Jesus. These verses, Revelation 19:13; John 1:1 and John 1:14 are the only instances where the Bible refers to God the Son as “the Word” or “the Word of God.” Though this is not very common usage it is clear that God intends us to understand that Jesus, God the Son, among the members of the Trinity is especially the communicator of God to us and of expressing the will of God for us.
Jesus is the living Word and as such is the Word of God to man. The drought of the written “Word” ends as Jesus ascends into heaven leaving behind a few hundred believers who wanted to tell the story so the whole world could hear. So we can say that…
With the coming of Jesus, the written word resumed. We can look at Luke 1:1-4. Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Luke is a good example of how God communicates His Word. Luke does not say that God spoke to him and he wrote the words down. He does say that he followed all these things closely and desire to write an orderly account. He did this so that someone called “Theophilus” could have certainty about what he had been taught. Many times, throughout the Bible, the prophet or poet said that God instructed them with the exact words to use. However, much of the Bible is accumulated by research. At the same time, that research becomes the infallible Word of God by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peter explained this in his second letter. “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
Here Peter is talking about the Old Testament writings but the same principle carries over into the New Testament. Peter linked the writings of Paul to “Scripture”! The Greek word for Scripture here is used fifty-one times in the New Testament and every time it refers to the Old Testament. Many times men wrote, guided by the Holy Spirit, and what they wrote became the Bible.
Luke was not present when the things in his Gospel occurred. However, he was present through most of the Book of Acts. If you’re interested in knowing when he arrived on the scene simply look for the pronoun “we” rather than “they” when speaking of the group of people traveling with Paul. I see the transition occurring in Acts 16:6-10. From that point forward in the Book of Acts Luke is telling what he saw. Prior to that he is recording what others told him. Writing it down was guided by the Holy Spirit. There are many ways that God guided each of the writers. The Bible speaks of dreams, of visions, of hearing the Lord’s voice, or standing in the council of the Lord. Matthew, Mark and John were all written by men who were present much of the time when what they recorded happened.
It is not really important that we know exactly how the Holy Spirit guided the writing of the Bible. It is important that we believe what was written and obey it. All the words of Scripture are God’s words. In order to know the will of God…
We must depend on the written word. Paul explained the process in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
When God’s Holy Spirit led men to gather these books into one book that book became the Bible. The Bible claims to be the words of God and as such deserves to be seriously considered. Our assurance grows as we read the Bible and the Holy Spirit speaks to us in and through the words of the Bible. This move of the Spirit in our lives give us confidence that we can trust this book.
Jesus had said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Paul affirmed that his writings are a command of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37). And Peter claimed that also when he said, “our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him… which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16) Today the only word from God we can be sure of is the written word. Don’t be led astray by anyone who claims to speak with equal authority to the Bible. No “prophet ”, or so-called “church”, has a direct line to God apart from Scripture. The word of God will lead us to believe in the Word of God.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

160724 The God Who Lives Among Us

Hebrews 2:14-18 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
God, who is everywhere present, strengthened His relationship with mankind by coming to earth to be born as a human. God had planned before the creation of the universe to create and redeem mankind. The Gospel of John tells us that the Word was with God in the beginning and that the Word was God. Jesus is God in human flesh! In the Gospel of Luke we are told that Jesus once said, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) In order to accomplish that purpose He was born as a man, was perfectly obedient to God the Father, obedient even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
Before His birth on earth, the human race had existed for thousands of years. During that time Adam was the representative head of the human race. I quote,
“Adam, our first representative sinned — and God counted us guilty. But Christ the representative of all who believe in him, obeyed God perfectly — and God counted us righteous. That is simply the way in which God set up the human race to work. God regards the human race as an organic whole, a unity, represented by Adam as its head. And God thinks of the new race of Christians, those who are redeemed by Christ, as an organic whole, a unity represented by Christ as head of his people.” (Grudem’s Systematic Theology pages 495-496)
Now we see that…
He came as the new head of a Christian race. Let me read for you Romans 5:17-19. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
God came to earth in the Son and displaced our representative head — Adam! Because we are born descendants of Adam we are born separated from God. Our nature includes a disposition to sin. All mankind are by nature children of wrath. Part of the responsibility of parents is to teach their children to do right. During our early years the selfishness bred into us has to be brought under control. The expectations of family and society as well as the conviction of human conscience and the restraints of civil law help to make us socially acceptable.
Because of the sin of Adam death overshadows the whole human race at birth and remains over us throughout our life. The penalty on our sin nature is to die physically and, being dead spiritually, to separate us from God forever. Jesus came to change that situation…
He came to pay the penalty for our sin. Let me read Romans 3:21-26. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ brought the righteousness of God into our lives by faith. The law and the prophets pointed ahead to the coming Son of God. All mankind are subject to death, physical and spiritual, because of the representative acts of our first ancestor Adam. Without some serious action on the part of God all mankind was subject to God’s wrath. That big word “propitiation” means, “a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God against sin and thereby turns God’s wrath into favor.” If Christ had not come to pay the penalty for our sins, God could not be shown to be righteous. You see, he had passed over sins of the past and had not punished them therefore, he could be charged with unrighteousness. God had stored up the punishment due to previous sins and then, in perfect righteousness, He imposed that penalty onto Jesus on the cross. This proves that God is righteous and that He is the justifier of all who put their faith in the Lord Jesus. In order for this to be done…
It was necessary that He become a man. On the road to Emmaus Jesus had engaged in conversation with two disciples walking away from Jerusalem on the night after His resurrection. During that conversation he spoke of the necessity of the humanity of the Christ. Let’s look at Luke 24:25-26. And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
The tone that Luke places on Jesus’ words seems to indicate a certain level of disappointment. These were people who knew the words of the prophets and yet did not understand what the prophets had to say about the Christ. It was absolutely essential for the Christ to be born, live a perfect life, and die on the cross for our sins. Before Jesus came…
Mankind needed a mediator. Job expressed his frustration in Job 9:32-33. For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. 33 There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.
Job could see the hand of God in all the things that had happened to him. But he could not understand why! He desperately needed a mediator! Job wanted someone to stand between him and God. In the dark days represented by the book of Job and much of the Old Testament the “arbiter” or “ombudsman” could not be found. In the years after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the apostle Paul could see what Job could only hope for. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:5.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Our mediator came to earth. The Bible tells us that God cannot look upon sin and, in order to relate to mankind on a personal basis, required a way to remove our sin. It was necessary for Jesus to be fully man in order to pay the penalty of our sin. Only an infinite God could bear the full penalty of all the sins of those who would believe in Him. No human being could ever pay the price. And at the same time, only one who was fully God could take that position between God and man as a mediator. Jesus came to earth to be the representative head of the Christian race and to be the mediator between God and man but also He came…
To rule over the creation. Let’s look at Hebrews 2:7-9. You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Jesus came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase authority over everything. We can rejoice in the fact that God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Somehow, God has given us a share in Jesus’ authority. When he returns to earth we will see that authority come to its completion. In the meantime we are able to fight spiritual battles — and win them — because of the work that Christ has done for us. Among the last words of Jesus on earth are found in Matthew 28:18. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Jesus recognized that all authority had been given to Him and if we go ahead with what He said we can see that our disciple making is based on Jesus’ authority. We can be very grateful that…
He is able to identify with us. Let’s look at Hebrews 4:15-16. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus’ came to earth as God and man. As a result He is able to identify with us in every way. He has been tempted in every way that we have. It should give us great comfort to know that everything we experience He has experienced already! We know that we can come to the throne of grace with our prayers and He will be sympathetic to what we are going through.
He identifies with us allowing us to identify with Him because He paid the price for our sins and has begun to work in our lives to help us grow to maturity in Christ. Jesus is the God who lives among us even today and as a result…
Jesus is our example. Let’s look at 1 John 2:6.  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
How can we walk in the same way He did? Jesus himself said, “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) Earlier Jesus had said, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the father doing.” The implication is that we can do what He did the way He did it. Just as He relied upon the Father we are to rely on Him. He is our example and we should in every possible way seek to be like Him. We should strive to be holy (Hebrews 12:14); and abstain from immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3). We are to purify ourselves as He is pure (1 John 3:3). We are to make every effort to add positive character traits to our life (2 Peter 1:5). In every possible way we are to build up patterns of holiness in our lives. When we follow our example…
We will be like Him. Let’s turn to 1 John 3:2-3. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
We shall be like Him when he appears. Often people have taken this passage to mean we will have the same kind of physical appearance Jesus has. Yes, we will have a resurrection body like His when He returns but we also should seek to be like Him in character and attitude. There are no shortcuts to growing into His image. We need to follow the time-honored means of Bible reading, meditation, prayer, worship, witnessing, Christian Fellowship and self-discipline
Jesus did not give up his identity as God when he was born in human flesh. Neither did He give up his humanity when he ascended into heaven. It is hard to wrap the mind around the idea that Jesus, God in human flesh, not only became human but remains human forever. After His resurrection His body showed the scars of the nail prints in His hands and the spear in His side. (John 20:25-27) When Stephen saw Jesus he recognized Him easily. Jesus will continue forever as Prophet, Priest, and King. His divine nature was permanently united to His human nature. Jesus lives forever as both the Son of God and the man born of Mary. Therefore He is able to settle our sin debt. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Today may be your day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.