Saturday, October 13, 2018

181014 The Advantage of a Bible-based Upbringing

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

181007 The Consequences of Unbelief

Romans 1:18-25 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Unbelief is a difficult subject because it is difficult to define the word itself. A person might believe in many things related to God and yet persist in unbelief toward salvation. It is possible for a person to believe that God exists — that is called deism — without believing that God cares about us. The writer of Hebrews says we “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. It is possible to believe that Jesus existed on earth and yet reject him as God. That is unbelief! Everyone who rejects the authority of God is bound in unbelief. Paul, who was a strict Pharisee, said that he acted ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13). What are the consequences? We will look at some of them.
First, we must remember that…
God has wrath. Let’s look at Colossians 3:5-6. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
There are many people who claim the name “Christian” who want to reject the concept of the wrath of God. It may be a surprise to all of us, and certainly to some of us, how many times the Bible talks about the wrath of God! God loves all that is right and good and everything that conforms to his moral character. His wrath is directed against sin. God intensely hates all sin!
Jesus spoke of “the wrath of God” in John 3:36. Don’t be fooled by those confused teachers who claim that “wrath” with regards to God is only an Old Testament concept. They are deceived and they will work to deceive many others. The Old Testament does not only teach God’s wrath but also demonstrates it. In order to demonstrate his goodness, God must show us he will not tolerate sin. For those who do not want God to express wrath, I would strongly suggest that you do not read the book of Romans. We have to live our lives by what the book says not by what we “feel” should be true. To say that God has wrath is not to say that he has lost his temper. The word that is used here for wrath is translated from a Greek word which signifies a settled, abiding condition. Therefore it is effectively controlled by God.
Many teachers seek to get rid of the concept by saying that God is commonly presented as a God of love. That is absolutely true! God is a God of love and as such he will not allow those he loves to continue where they began.
Mankind is born separated from God. When our ancestors, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God they took us down with them! We cannot escape the fact that we are sons and daughters of the original rebels. As such, we inherit everything they earned and accumulated in the garden. God does not cause us to be lost in trespasses and sins! Instead, we are born in that condition. God does offer an escape from that condition! This is an escape that involves his grace being released in our lives because of our faith in him. When we consider the fact that God’s aspect towards all people is wrath we must remember that God also provided propitiation through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Jesus, had no sin of his own so he could pay the sin debt for us. Jesus’ substitutionary death turned aside God’s wrath and turned his view of us into favor. You see…
Wrath is parallel to righteousness. Let’s turn to Galatians 5:18-24. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
When we look at Romans 1:17-18 we see that verse 17 contains the phrase “a righteousness from God is revealed” and the opening of verse 18 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed.” We see that God’s wrath is the flipside of the righteousness of God. God’s wrath is directed against godlessness. And all of us were born into the godless human race.
In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, found in the Gospel of John chapter 3, Jesus said that he did not come into the world to condemn the world because the world was already condemned! Jesus came into the world so that the world might be saved through him. Belief in Jesus makes a person free from condemnation and therefore no longer subject to the wrath of God. When I say belief I do not mean believe that he existed. “Belief” is more than that. “Belief” is to be subject to Jesus in every respect. We must confess that “Jesus is Lord”! In order to be received into his kingdom. When we do this we should reflect a life of obedience to God’s commands.
In Galatians chapter 5 we see clearly the works of the flesh — sin — in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit. The wrath of God should, justly, be released against the works of the flesh. The list that we have here is a part of the human nature being manifest in the world today. When a person is born again the spirit comes to live in him, or her, applying Christ’s work on the cross as a propitiation against God’s wrath. “Propitiation” refers to a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God against sin and turns God’s wrath into favor.  The reason God put forward Jesus as a sacrifice for our sin is to show God’s righteousness as opposed to our unrighteousness. Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior the Spirit enables us to avoid the curse of the law since we are no longer subject to unbelief.
Walking by the Spirit enables us to no longer be subject to sin. Jesus provided shelter from the wrath of God through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Yet we recognize that…
God’s wrath has a specific target. Let’s look at Romans 2:8-11. But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
God is absolutely impartial in his judgment. The self-seeking ones who refuse to obey the truth are subject to his wrath. Believers will give an account of their lives before the throne of grace. Unbelievers will face a record of their lives before the judgment throne. In both cases, we are investing in an account that will one day pay its principal and interest. Either the wrath of God or the grace of God. God has a full record on both accounts. Attempting to reduce God’s wrath by claiming to descend from a fine Christian family — “My grandpa was such a godly man” — or — “I’m a church member” will not work. These excuses will never meet God’s standard. It doesn’t matter what level of society you come from it matters only whether you have full faith in Jesus Christ. “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.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Those who know me well remember that I always add verse 10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” I always include that verse to avoid the idea that we have no good works to do. Now let’s get back to the subject of belief vs unbelief…
Unbelief suppresses the truth. Let’s go to Psalm 19:1-3. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
The psalmist could clearly see not only that God exists but the universe around him proclaims God’s handiwork. We live today in a society that increasingly denies the existence of God and attempts to explain everything as “chance”. Beginning with the concept of the “Big Bang” and going on to the accidental rise of life on the earth after several billion years of development from a tiny speck to the massive universe we see around us.
Creation is one great truth that unbelievers try to end. When the Bible says that wicked men suppress the truth it uses a word that carries the idea of holding something down. Someone suggested that the word “suppression” is like the little boy who smuggled his dog into his room to spend the night. When he heard his parents coming, he put the dog in his toy-box and sat on the lid. As he tried to talk to his parents he ignored the repeated thumps of his poor puppy. In Romans, the idea of suppression is continual aggressive striving against the truth. All who are unbelievers are in a constant process of holding down the truth and therefore subject to God’s WRATH!
What are the chances that all of this happening around us was a cosmic accident?
Let me suggest a simple illustration of how ridiculous the idea that all the universe around us happened by chance.
Suppose I put 10 pennies in my pocket numbered from 1 to 10. Suppose I put my hand back in my pocket and pulled out the number 1 penny. The chance that would happen is 1 in 10. Suppose I dropped that penny back in my pocket and pulled out 1 and 2 in order. That chance would be 1 in 100. The chance of repeating the same procedure and coming out with pennies numbered 1, 2 and 3 is 1 in 1000. To do so with all of them — 1 through 10 — would be 1 chance in 10 billion! Just think what the chances are that this magnificent universe around us should happen accidentally. Satan is the author of unbelief and unbelief, throughout society, attempts to suppress belief in God through suppressing belief in his creation.
Unbelief, in trying to eliminate God from society shows us that…
The ultimate expression of unbelief is perversion. Let’s go to Ephesians 4:17-19. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
When we look at Romans chapter 1, verses 19 and 20, we see that everyone who denies God is without excuse. Having suppressed the truth the unbeliever moves on to perversion of the truth. We see that Paul told the Ephesians that unbelievers are darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God. They became callous and gave themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity! Thinking back to Romans chapter 1 we see that God stated three times that he gave them up. Although they knew God they did not honor him as God. Claiming to be wise they became fools! God, observing this, gave them up to the lusts of their hearts. Then, since that did not have the desired effect of bringing them back to him. God gave them up to dishonorable passions. And when that failed to bring them around God gave them up to a debased mind!
Father God, please do not give me up to what I would be without you. Do not let me go — PLEASE!
If a person is not a Christian he, or she, is suppressing the truth about God. Nature all around us proclaims the existence of God! There’s no other explanation than that. Rejection of God is a personal choice. The Bible proclaims the fact that God — a loving and good God — expresses wrath toward those who reject the death of his Son. The unbeliever has his own god self-created and worshiped. If such a person dies without repentance and faith they will go to hell. Jesus said it this way, “Whoever believes in the son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36). I want my friends to go to heaven. But that’s not enough. I should want everyone who bears the image of God to go to heaven. I should pray and witness with that in mind. How about you? Will you join me?
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.