Saturday, August 31, 2019

190901 Bearing the Pain

Romans 9:6-8 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
This is the most difficult part of the letter of Paul to the Romans. Chapter 8 ends on a gloriously high note. To be a follower of Christ is to be more than a conqueror. Nothing can bring us down. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are able to look forward to Christ’s ultimate victory over earthly suffering. Now Paul brings us to the difficult teaching on election. I am not talking about voting for a government official. I am talking about God’s choosing his people. Let’s look through Romans 9 and see what it has to tell us.
Paul’s pain drove him to seek an understanding of why Israel might not be entirely saved. We need to know that…
Election is beyond our understanding. Let’s look at Isaiah 55:6-9. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God is beyond us! The biblical teaching on election is something that we cannot fully wrap our minds around. We live in an age that is centered on man, not God. The doctrine of election is essential to our understanding of who God is and how he relates to us. This is not some new idea that just came on the scene in the last hundred years or so. Let me name a few teachers who have held strongly to this doctrine. Augustine (AD 354-430), Tyndale (AD 1494-1436), Wycliffe (AD 1330-1384), hymn writers Isaac Watts (AD 1674-1748) and John Newton (AD 1425-1807), evangelist George Whitefield (AD 1714-1770), Jonathan Edwards (AD 1703-1758), William Carey (AD 1761-1804), the list goes on and on throughout history.
They all recognized that God’s thoughts are beyond our thoughts. God’s ways are beyond our ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth God is higher than we are. Now, let’s look at the truth that is taught in Romans chapter 9 concerning the doctrine of election. First, let’s see who really is…
Abraham’s offspring. Let’s look at Galatians 4:22-23 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.
We know from our study of Scripture that Isaac was not the only son of Abraham but he was the unique son of Abraham. 13 years before Isaac was born Abraham fathered Ishmael. However, the heir of God’s promise to Abraham was Isaac. By the way, just to be transparent Abraham also had other children. After Sarah died he took another wife (Genesis 25:1). None of those other children are ever included in the promise given to Abraham. You see, what really counts is children born of the Spirit…
Not the children of the flesh. Let’s look back at Romans 9:9-13 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Children of the promise depend on God’s faithfulness and not a person’s physical descent from Abraham. God did not fail to complete his promise. Paul uses the birth of Isaac followed by Rebekah and the twins she bore to Isaac. This was to establish the fact that God’s purpose of election flowed through specific individuals who are descendants of Abraham by faith. Natural descent, even descent from Isaac does not guarantee God’s favor or choice. Both Jacob and Esau were natural descendants.
But only Jacob was chosen to carry the promise. Jacob became the heir because of God’s sovereign choice and not by any works of any individual.
According to the Bible — and that must be our standard — election is an act of God before the creation in which he chose some people to be saved, not on account of any goodness he sees in them but only because of his sovereign pleasure. Wherever we turn in Scripture we will see the teaching of God’s sovereign grace repeated again and again. We do not have time to begin to quote every example but we do need to touch on a few things. One thing we need to do is answer the question…
What does “God hates” mean? First let’s look at Malachi 1:2-3a. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated.” Malachi poses the question to God, “How have you loved us?” And God gives the answer: of the twins born to Isaac God loved Jacob but hated Esau. This is not to say that God hated in the way we use the word today. In comparison with his choice of Jacob and the nation of Israel, he loved Esau less. We can look at the words of Jesus to find a comparison.
Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. I do not believe that Jesus intended we should hate our family in the usual sense of the word. I believe Jesus means that we are to love him so much that love for family is relative hatred by comparison. I believe both these passages simply state that we are to be like God in our love relationships. All other loves are to be less — measurably less than love for him. Now, what can we say about how God loves? First…
God loves sinners. Let’s look at John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” In the past, this was probably the best-known verse of Scripture. I’m not sure it is today but we will look at it as an example of how God loves. The world that God so loved is the totality of fallen mankind. Now let’s look at… 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. And…
John 3:36 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.
No question, God loves sinners meaning he loves all of us. He came to the earth in Jesus to seek and to save that which is lost. Yes, he knows the end from the beginning and that means he knows everyone who will come to him. When Paul said that he could wish that he were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers. It is not possible that Paul, or anyone, would be able to save anyone else by sacrificing himself.
Possibly the largest opposition to the idea of predestination, or election…
Is God unfair? We go back to Romans 9:14-18. What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Throughout the Bible, we find statements like this. In Deuteronomy 32:4 God states that his work is perfect and all his ways are just. Isaiah 64:8 assures us that God is the potter and we are the clay. One thing for certain the clay does not talk back to the potter. God shapes us and when we are broken he gathers the pieces and puts us back together again. We need to remember that…
God had a plan from the beginning. Let’s read on Romans 9:22-24. What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
God has been patient throughout the centuries. All men everywhere are born separated from God. God does not choose anyone to be condemned. God does choose many to have eternal life. Going back to Jacob and Esau let me share a quote from Donald Gray Barnhouse.
The Bible nowhere announces the predestination of the lost. It would seem that Calvin and others have drawn an inference in purely human logic. They would hold that the choice of Jacob implies the reprobation of Esau. Both of these brothers were born in sin; they both had the nature of Adam. They both grew up in sin. They both were children of wrath, disobedient by nature. If there had been any merit in these two sons, God would have been unjust in not rewarding that merit. The choice of one deserving man over another deserving man would have been favoritism. When we see that the two were equally undeserving, the whole picture becomes different. Everything that is said in the entire Bible about the nature of fallen man may be said—must be said—about both Jacob and Esau. God determined, for causes that are to be found in Himself and have not been revealed to us, to show favor to Jacob.
Paul concludes this section by quoting from Hosea to show how the people of Israel broke their covenant. Even with that, God is patient at the right time God demonstrated his eternal plan — the failure of the Jews led to the inclusion of the Gentiles. God has not failed he has fulfilled his purpose. It is all by faith. Romans chapter 9 concludes with an illustration of man’s responsibility. We are unable to work our way to salvation. Neither should we hold back letting God do all the work. Instead. we are to stand on the rock and not stumble over it. We are to believe in the Lord Jesus in order to be saved (Acts 16:31) because to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Have you really trusted Jesus? Have you believed him? Are you resting in him?

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

190825 Demons at Work- New Testament

Matthew 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Him
For about 400 years, the period of time between the prophet Malachi and Jesus’ birth, there was no word of power from God. Even John the Baptist did not exercise the same kind of power that Jesus did. John was sent ahead of Jesus to open the door. It was said of John that “he did no sign, but everything that John said about this man (Jesus) was true.” (John 10:41) The people were amazed by Jesus’ authority. Such power over demons as had never been seen before.
How did Jesus come to have such power? In Matthew’s account, just before our text, (Matthew 3:13-17) Jesus had presented himself to John the Baptist in order to be baptized. John, recognizing who he was, immediately said that he should be baptized by Jesus rather than the other way around. John had told the people that the one coming after him, among other things, would baptize them with the Holy Spirit. It is very likely that John is referring to that Spirit baptism that he would need.
Jesus’ baptism and subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit to rest on him was the beginning of his ministry. It would seem that the Holy Spirit comes to give us the power to serve. Indeed, the coming of the Holy Spirit is usually related to spiritually happy conditions.
Rather than the Spirit leading Jesus into a special ministry…
Jesus was led by the Spirit into temptation. Let’s look at Mark 1:12-13. The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
According to Mark, the Spirit “drove him out into the wilderness”. Jesus was there for 40 days. During that time he was being tempted by Satan! We only have a short excerpt of the temptations Jesus faced. He was tempted to take a shortcut avoiding the hard path of obedience and suffering. Just as Adam and Eve were tempted to disobey God in order to be like God! Jesus was not just “like God” he knew that he already was God! Jesus’ temptation was more difficult than that of Adam and Eve. During the time of their temptation they were aware of the presence of God in their lives. Jesus had no human companionship in his temptations. Adam and Eve had an abundance of food to draw upon. Jesus understood that the father expects him to eat nothing during those 40 days. At the end of that period of time Jesus would have been very near to death. He was able to resist the devil by quoting Scripture showing God’s will for his life. As a result of his spiritual strength…
The devil left him but would return. Now let’s look at Luke 4:13. And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Failure was not going to be accepted by Satan. However, he did use up all the ammunition he had. The devil, along with his angels/demons, stayed very close to Jesus during the next three years of his life. I am sure that all the angels/demons sent to oppose Jesus were the evil overlords of the demonic world. Every encounter Jesus had with the every-day vanilla-flavored demons resulted in their despair at having to confront the son of God!
The demonic forces made every effort to bring Jesus down. Along the way, they tried many things. Along with their allies in the religious world they attacked Jesus again and again. I’m tempted to say that they attacked him every day but the Bible doesn’t tell us that. So I will leave it, that they attacked him often. We need to be careful not to claim anything that is not upheld in Scripture! We do know that…
The Pharisees tried to link Jesus to demons. Look at Mark 3:22. And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”
In several of his encounters with the religious rulers of the day he was accused of being possessed by Satan.
This event in the life of Jesus led to one of the most famous quotes from the Bible that most people do not recognize as being from the Bible. That quote was “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25 KJV). Of course, it was quoted by Abraham Lincoln in what is called his “House Divided Speech”.
The demons did not want to be identified with Jesus! They understood immediately that he was — and is — their greatest enemy. There is no question…
Demons recognized him. Let’s look at James 2:19. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
James, I believe, is the half-brother of Jesus and one of Mary’s natural children. He points out for us the obvious fact that the demons recognized Jesus as God and the gospel writers confirmed that concept. The demons not only recognized him and trembled in fear in his presence they often questioned him as to why he was tormenting them. Let’s take one account from the gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 8:29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
The demonic forces not only recognized and feared Jesus they also understood that there was coming a time when they would face judgment. We know, more about that time than they did. In Revelation chapter 20 verses 7-10, we see the promise that Satan and his followers will be cast into the lake of fire and then tormented day and night forever and ever. We know the end of the story and the believers in Jesus are going to be victorious when every knee will bow to him and every tongue will confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, we recognize that they had a very legitimate reason to tremble in fear. The demons not only recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God…
Jesus exercised authority over them. Let’s look back to Mark 1:24-25. What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”  In this case. only one demon is involved. I realize the man, under demonic influence, used the plural “us” implying that there may be more than one demon present. Jesus, however, ordered “him” be silent. The singular pronoun that Jesus used takes precedent over the plural pronoun the demon used. I expect that the demon referred to himself and his host. Jesus certainly had the authority to silence the demon and release the man from bondage. Later, the people brought a great crowd to Jesus. All who were sick or oppressed by demons. This caused such a commotion that everybody in town came to watch Jesus heal the sick and cast out the demons. In this case Jesus would not allow the demons to speak. Let’s read…
 VV 32-34 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
This passage confirms for us the activity of demons in relation to sickness. However, not every case of sickness is demonic in its origin! He healed people with “various diseases” and also “cast out many demons”. Mark recognizes that these are two separate categories of ministry. It is rather sad today that some honest Christian people believe that all illness is demonic. Others, equally honest Christians, reject the idea of demons. There is no reason to give up the concept of demonic activity. At the same time “demon possession” is an unfortunate term. In the Greek New Testament, which is the original language, people are identified as “having a demon” or being under “demonic activity”.
The term “demon possession” is not a good translation. It seems to suggest that a person’s will is completely dominated by demons. The better translation would be “under demonic influence”. We have a clear example…
Satan himself entered Judas. Let’s look at Luke 22:3-4. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them.
Judas became Satan’s host body. In his case it was not demons but Satan himself who entered him. We don’t have time to consider everything possible related to Judas. There are a couple of things we should consider. John tells us that Judas was in charge of the money and was a thief! John also tells us that the devil had put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus.
Jesus said, “Not all of you are clean.” John adds, “For he knew who was to betray him.” When Jesus was being questioned by Pontius Pilate, he said, “he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11) This apparently refers to Judas. Pilate had authority over Jesus and was wrong in allowing an obviously innocent man be put to death. However, Judas’ sin was far greater due to the greater knowledge and malice connected with that sin.
There is a stronger statement by Jesus. “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:70-71
When it came time to choose a replacement for Judas he was described as having “turned aside to go to his own place.” (Acts 1:22) Apparently, that place did not turn out to be paradise. What a tragedy! To spend three or more years walking with Jesus only to be separated eternally from him. The thief on the cross, so far as we know, only knew him a few hours and Jesus said to him “today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
We need to remember that these humans were not the primary forces behind Jesus’ crucifixion. Judas went to the Pharisees and betrayed Jesus. The Pharisees delivered Jesus to the Romans who beat him almost to death and then nailed him to a cross so he would die. In the middle of it all Pontius Pilate could have heeded his wife’s advice and had nothing to do with Jesus. They were all guilty at one level or another. But the truth is we are the ones who are guilty of Jesus’ death.
He died on the cross as “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) At the same time, Satan believed he was deciding Jesus’ fate. The apostle Paul is very clear as to who ultimately crucified Jesus. And he recognized that…
The demonic overlords were mistaken. Let’s 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.
I can imagine the rejoicing among the demons who had so trembled before Jesus. They had won! Their tormentor had died! Jesus, hanging on the cross surrounded by evil forces — spiritual and physical — cried out “It is finished.” And he released his spirit. The demons must have believed they had won but instead they had facilitated the final sacrifice for our sins. Had they realized that this sacrifice was a substitute for all of us, and all who would come to faith in him throughout the ages, they would never have allowed it to happen. If they could have prevented it.
The end of the book had not been written yet. It was dictated, or visualized, to John the apostle on the Isle of Patmos. There John would see the forces of evil gathered at the end and cast into a lake of fire. John would also see a great crowd, too many to count, gathered around the throne in heaven praising God. The very thing that Satan desired for himself will be given to Jesus. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father! If you have not yet confessed Jesus as your Lord this would be a good day to do so.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.