Saturday, September 24, 2016

160925 Jesus, Our Peace

Ephesians 2:14-18 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Without a doubt the world we live in needs peace! All across the world, not just here in the US, radical Islam is killing non-Muslims because they are not Muslims. Then some of the media try to tell us that Islam is a religion of “peace”! That may be but the peace they speak of is the peace of the cemetery. When Paul writes to the Ephesians he wants them to understand that Jesus is Our Peace.
In the process of being Our Peace, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, broke down the dividing wall — not just of separation — but of hostility! That hostility is clearly seen in the way non-Jews were treated. In order to get Peter to witness to the Romans in the household of Cornelius God had to give Peter a vision of many unclean things that he was commanded to eat (Acts 10:9-16). Peter’s reply was very strong, “By no means, Lord”. I submit to you that it is totally wrong to say to God, “No!” And at the same time say, “Lord”. That’s what Peter did. He was so legalistic that he would not eat anything common or unclean. However, this was an example of what he was about to be asked to do. As soon as he had seen the vision repeated three times, for emphasis, there came a knock at the door. Three men — Gentiles — were looking for him. Prior to having seen the vision Peter would not have invited them in nor the next day go with them. There was indeed a dividing wall of hostility between the Jews and the non-Jews. Jesus came into the world to put an end to such a division. In Christ there are no divisions that are acceptable.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit bring unity. Let’s look at Acts 2:44-47 and see what happened following the day of Pentecost. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This passage of Scripture has wrongly been used to justify some kind of communism. They did combine their assets to strengthen the church in caring for the needy. But from a later example (Acts 5:1-4) we see that property remained in the hands of the original owners until it was sold and then the money belonged to the owners until they gave it to the apostles. As the Holy Spirit moved on the hearts of these new believers they found themselves in love with each other just as they were in love with their God. They found that…
Jesus demolishes hostility. Look with me to Hebrews 12:1-3. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
No one has faced more hostility than Jesus. He was hated by Jew and Gentile alike. He endured the cross and rejected the shame that went with it. He took our sins into his own body and nailed them to that cross to be held against us no more. Jesus is our example for rejecting hostility.
God’s grace makes us free from the Law. Look with me to Romans 8:2. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. The Old Testament law, rules and regulations, were always the basis of the dividing wall of hostility towards all non-Jews. That law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When the law was fulfilled a change came in man’s relationships. The law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death. And as such has brought about radical changes. These were necessary changes as we see in Hebrews 7:11-12. Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.
Jesus became our High Priest and He did not come from the tribe of Levi. The priesthood of the Old Testament was based on Moses and Aaron and their brothers, the Levites. When Jesus became our High Priest He came from the tribe of Judah. No priest had ever come from Judah until Jesus made it so. In order for the old law of hostility to be set aside there needed to be a change in the priesthood. And when there is a change in the priesthood there is a change in the law as well. We now live under the law of the Spirit of life rather than the law of sin and death. Praise God for the freedom we receive. This freedom from hostility — this peace of Christ Jesus — is given to all believers equally. It is very clear that God intended unity of the type the world had never seen. Spiritually…
God brings all believers into the one Body. Look with me at 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
In one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. Race or social standing matters not. Every believer is equal to every other believer, spiritually! We all have different roles to play and we all have different responsibilities. Other than that we are all equal and should be at peace with each other. Jesus came to earth, born of a woman, lived a perfect life fulfilling the old law completely. If that were all that He did we would have no hope. Jesus also took our sins into his own body and nailed them to the cross. We can see that…
The cross of Christ changed everything. Look at 1 Corinthians 2:7-8. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The rulers of this age that Paul mentions are not human. The humans are simply the front men for the true rulers. Later in the book of Ephesians, Paul would tell us that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12. The rulers of this age, if they had understood the power they were releasing, would never have crucified Christ.
The movie, “The Passion” has a very graphic scene following Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The person who represents “Satan” is seen coming to the realization that Jesus has broken the power that death holds over mankind and he collapses into a quivering heap screaming in anguish. The knowledge of what would happen through the resurrection of Christ was always blocked from Satan. He just did not know what he was about to release by having his front men bring Jesus to trial and execution. Paul clearly points this out to us, if Satan had understood he would never have allowed Jesus to be crucified. Through His death, burial and resurrection Jesus broke the power of canceled sin transferring us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son. With that transfer we are saved.
There is never been a greater example of the middle wall of hostility than the things that are occurring in the Middle East today through the evil of the Islamic State. On a daily basis Christians are called on to give their life for Christ in that troubled regions of the world. God will bring about vengeance in His time and His way.
Another example of the wall of hostility is unfolding in our own country. Over the past several years race relationships in this country have deteriorated to the point of open hostility. In August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  brought an important message to America. Let me quote part of his, “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
“I have a dream today!”
When I think of the peaceful protests led by Dr. King I am amazed by the riots over the past several years that have illustrated the deteriorating race relations in America. I am disgusted by the politicians who play on race divisions in order to be elected or to push forward their agenda.
The hostility is not just in race relations. It is seen also in liberal versus conservative. I have never seen our country more divided than it is today. I pray that God will raise up another Dr. King to lead us into the promised land where one day everyone will be judged only by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin or their political position.
We need to remember that Satan can’t do anything without God’s permission and always God uses it for our good when he does give such permission.
When Jesus met with the woman at the well He broke through two of the dividing walls of hostility. He spoke to a woman! Who was a member of the lowest Gentile race — a Samaritan! Not only did He speak to her but He asked her to give Him a drink of water. She was shocked saying, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” She understood that the dividing wall of hostility was there even though it could not be seen physically. Not only was she a Samaritan woman but she was a woman who had been married five times and was now living with a man to whom she was not married.
She immediately wanted to change the subject away from her lifestyle to where to worship God! Jesus then pointed out that…
Access to the Father is through one Spirit. Look with me at John 4:23-24.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
With the coming of John the Baptist, and the public ministry of Jesus, changes began to occur. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the time had come for true worshipers to worship the Father in spirit and truth. Jesus could point out that the time was coming, indeed the time had already come, for true worshipers to forget about where and when they worship and would instead worship in spirit and truth.
Jesus was calling on this woman, and us today, to worship in the realm of spiritual activity. Unless our spirits are worshiping God we are not truly worshiping Him. When we finally see God the way He really is and His creation the way it really is we will find ourselves having a spirit of worship of the highest level. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water and saw the wind cease when He got into the boat they worshiped Him (Matthew 14:33). The peace that passes understanding will grow in our lives as we realize that…
Jesus Himself is the way to salvation. Look with me at Acts 4:12. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The apostles had been arraigned in the local religious court charged with healing a man! They boldly proclaimed that it was “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead — by him this man is standing before you well” (Acts 4:10).
They went on to say that there was no other way to be saved except through Jesus Christ! Today, we need to be just as positive in our proclamation of the gospel. We are born dead in sin and separated from God by our nature and our nurture. The consequence of our spiritual death is eternal death and hell! However, God sent His Son into the world to take our sins into His own body thereby demonstrating God’s love for His creation and His chosen people. So that, “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.” (Romans 10:9). In doing this God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8). There are not many roads to heaven – only one! That One Way is Jesus!
The preaching of the Apostolic Church emphasized the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36). Peace was promised for those who have been justified by faith (Romans 5:1). The early church was encouraged to pursue the things that make for peace as well as the things which build one another up (Romans 14:19). They were taught to live in peace with each other so that the God of love and peace would be with them (2 Corinthians 13:11). They, and we, are encouraged to let the peace of God be with them/us (Philippians 4:7-9). Where do you stand with regard to God’s peace? Have you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ?
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

160918 Saved? For What?

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
When we looked at verses 1-3 we saw some of what we were saved from. We were saved from being subject to this world system and its ruler — Satan. We were saved from being subject to the passions of our flesh. Most importantly — we are saved from the wrath of God. Many people in the worldwide church today would like to set aside any concept of the wrath of God. If God did not hate sin he would either be delighted in sin or not troubled by it. Such a God would not be worthy of our worship. Sin is hateful and is worthy of being hated! Sin ought not to exist.
In order to be sure of our walk with God day to day we need to understand what we’re talking about when we use the word “sin”. A good definition of sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature. Sin includes overt activity such as stealing or lying or committing murder and also includes attitudes — hidden agendas — such as: coveting, anger or lust (Matthew 5:22-28). Paul lists such attitudes as jealousy, anger, and selfishness (Galatians 5:20). Any failure to conform to the moral law of God not only in action but in attitude is sin. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And even though we are by nature children of wrath…
Believers should feel no fear of God’s wrath.
Let’s look at Romans 5:10. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
The transaction on the cross whereby Jesus made atonement for our sins occurred while the human race was under the judgment of sin. “While we were enemies” speaks of a time before we came to faith in Christ. It was for our sake that God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we could become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21 & Galatians 1:4).
Now let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
The believers at Thessalonica repented of their idol worship and turned to the living God. They were able to do this because Jesus, God’s only Son, went to the cross for our sins, was raised from the dead, and now, because we believe in Him, this Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come. We should rejoice in the fact that we have been delivered from God’s wrath! We can see from this that God, who we have sinned against, demonstrates His love for us by paying the debt He did not owe and we could not pay. (2 Corinthians 5:21). This proves that…
 God is indeed “Love”. The first little letter that John wrote is all about the fact that God is love! One passage out of many that show this is 1 John 3:16-18.  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
The only people who should view God as wrathful are those who refuse to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior. Those who have believed in Christ, or better still, believed Christ, should never consider God as anything other than a loving Father! We were born spiritually dead and, apart from Christ Jesus, would remain spiritually dead throughout eternity. We were lost in sin but now we should agree with God that now we are “dead to sin” (Romans 6:11). Now…
We are saved to life. Look with me at Colossians 2:13-14. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Remember, death is ultimate weakness. A person who is dead cannot respond to anything, or take any action. There is not now and never has been Walking Dead! When a person comes to faith in Christ, that faith demonstrates that God has made him alive so that person can then respond to the good news about Jesus. Apart from the life that God gives us we have no spiritual ability to exercise faith.
We should pray for our friends and family members who are unsaved that they will become aware of the sin that so easily controls them. We should pray that God will plant life in them. The Bible calls that “regeneration”. God gives us spiritual life so that we can respond in faith to God’s call to salvation.
When we are saved we are saved from eternal death. At the same time we are enlivened by God so that we can be transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
When God’s effective grace comes into our life we are made new creatures in His kingdom! From death to life is an instant work of God in us! The consequences of this life He has planted in us is a growing in grace throughout the remainder of our time on earth. Being saved to life is a new birth that enables us to begin growing spiritually. Having been saved…
We are saved and seated. Remember the words in Ephesians 2:6. And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in God’s thoughts we are already raised and seated in heaven. We have been given the privilege of ruling and reigning with Jesus. Our new life is pictured in 1 Peter 3:21-22. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Baptism pictures our death, burial, and resurrection to new life in Christ. It also includes much more! We are saved by Jesus’ death on the cross and we are delivered from a lifetime of bondage. Peter tells us that baptism is an appeal to God to exercise the power with which He raised Jesus from the dead.
We are not physically present in heaven right now. Obviously, we remain here on earth in our bodies. The symbolism here is that Jesus Christ has all the spiritual forces subject to Him and if we are in Him — as we surely are — we share in that same authority by spiritually being seated with him.
Recently I had the responsibility of appearing for jury duty. When we came in we were allowed to choose a seat and fill out a small questionnaire. When the judge entered the courtroom we stood out of respect for the law. When the judge was seated we were allowed to be seated as well. Then a group of jurors were chosen to go into the jury box. Those who were finally chosen sat alongside the judge exercising power to determine the fate of the persons at the defense table. In the same way, we join with Jesus (somehow) in the authority he has in contending against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). When Christ comes again and we rise to meet Him in the air we will rule with Him more completely (1 Corinthians 6:2). In the meantime, so far as God is concerned, we are delivered from the wrath of God and seated with Christ in heaven. Now…
We are saved to be displayed. Let’s look back at Ephesians 2:7. So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. In a very real sense we are “show and tell” for God. Throughout the Bible we are taught to believe that God shows Himself to mankind. All of God’s actions in Egypt and the wilderness with His people was so that “you may know that I am the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 29:6). Again and again God demonstrates His presence to people. He doesn’t show off people for their ego He shows off people for His glory. Now let’s look at Titus 3:4-7. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
We are unable to earn favor and our goodness is not sufficient to deliver us. God’s grace means His “unmerited favor”. God does not have to deliver us but He chooses to do so for His own reasons. One of those reasons is to demonstrate His love for us.
The creation is a demonstration of His power and wisdom. The atonement demonstrates His love and justice. Everything in heaven and on earth demonstrates His glory. We are saved in order to demonstrate God’s power over sin and His love for us. We do not deserve life and heaven but God shows us to the world as His people who are called by Him to salvation. Remember…
We are saved by grace. Look with me at Romans 3:22b-25a. 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.
We are saved by God to be declared innocent of our crimes against Him. We cannot be charged again because the debt has been paid by God’s grace. God’s grace is unmerited favor freely given to those who do not deserve mercy. The consequence of God’s grace in our life is “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). We are saved by grace and…
We are saved through faith. Let’s look at 1 Peter 1:3b-5. According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
God’s grace is released in our life by faith. That faith is not something we work up or educate ourselves to. Faith is the ultimate gift of God to a doomed sinner. He has caused us to be born again! He has demonstrated His power through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! He has given us an inheritance that cannot be taken away from us. His grace is protecting our inheritance and His salvation that will be totally known in the end when Christ comes again. In the meantime…
We are saved to serve. Let’s look back at Ephesians 2:10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Many times we use Ephesians 2:8-9 to encourage a person to place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so we will usually emphasize the truth that we are not saved by good works. I have come to believe that this overemphasis on what does not save us causes us to forget the result of our salvation. Let’s look at James 2:17. So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Faith that does not result in obedient service to God is not true faith at all and is dead so far as it might be able to deliver us. We are his workmanship for good works. We are saved to serve!
The consequence of our salvation is a life of service and obedience. Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ that is shown by obedience to Him is evidence that we have eternal life. We are commanded to put to death all that is earthly in us. The list of things we are to put aside look like the “Now Showing” board at the movie theater or, the upcoming features list on the television. Paul, writing to the Colossians, reminded them — just as He would so remind us — “In these you too once walked” (Colossians 3:5-10). We should be encouraged that the word of God tells us there is nothing that cannot be forgiven and corrected by God. Have you received God’s grace and exercised faith to believe in Jesus Christ? Today could be your day of salvation!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.