The Davidic Covenant

I. Introduction

We’re going to get into 2 Samuel 7 today and discuss God’s covenant with David and the building of His temple, but we’re going to lay some groundwork first and describe what a covenant is and how many they are in the bible.

First, while the properties of a covenant sound like a promise, an agreement, a contract, a covenant has far more significance. A promise is a declaration from one person that he or she will or will not do something. You can say, “I promise to do something,” and you can even say, “I promise to do something if.” Promises should be ironclad. In reality, they’re not. I’m sure everyone in this room has had a promise given to them and then be incredibly disappointed when that promise was broken. I’m equally sure, if we’re going to be honest, everyone in the room has also given a promise that they didn’t keep. We tend not to remember those because we have an excuse, but a promise is a promise.

You know what irritates me in the movies? Some guy is rushing off to war or fighting an impossible battle or called on to do something incredibly dangerous and life threatening. Something like, “Here, your job is to take this giant tongue depressor and make Godzilla say ‘aaaah’ by running into his mouth.” And his girlfriend says, “Please don’t go!” And he responds, “I promise I’ll come back.” Either that is a promise that is completely out of his control and he has no business saying that, or it’s a movie spoiler because now we know he’s going to survive.

Then there is the agreement. If you do this, then I’ll do that. “Can you pick up the kids after school? I’ll make dinner if you do.” “You can borrow my car if you fill it with gas.” It’s two sided, requires something from both people.

Then there’s the contract, a legal contract. Your apartment lease, your mortgage, your student loan, your car payment. Even your phone bill. This is like an agreement, but if the agreement fails, there are repercussions spelled out in advance. “You agree to pay the following amount for your car every month by the 5th of the month. If it is not paid by the 5th, then a 10% penalty applies. If it is not paid by the 10th, we will repossess your children.” That sort of thing.

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Covenant encompasses many of the characteristics of a promise, agreement, and a contract, but it goes further. In the bible, a covenant is a spiritual agreement and has the following characteristics –

  1. A covenant is pure and righteous
  2. A covenant considers the benefit of the other person instead of one’s self
  3. A covenant is based on love
  4. A covenant is permanent

A contract is an agreement; a covenant is a pledge. A contract can be broken, a covenant cannot. You sign a contract, you seal a covenant.

Marriage should be covenants. That’s how the Lord intended them, as a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. We treat them like legal contracts, though. But I think that’s a completely different bible study.

So the bible itself is a covenant document. It is how God has chosen to reveal to us His plan to redeem us and give us eternal life. Within the bible, there are seven major covenants. Each covenant can be either conditional or unconditional; it can be specific to a single nation or it can be general. Conditional covenants are based on certain obligations and prerequisites; if the requirements are not fulfilled, the covenant is broken. Unconditional covenants are kept regardless of one party’s fidelity or infidelity.

II. Seven Covenants

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A) Adam (The Adamic Covenant), symbolized by the ground of the earth. This covenant comes in two parts –

  1. Edenic (innocence), Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17. The Edenic Covenant is general in nature and outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was the party of the first part; newly created man was the party of the second part. It regulated man’s dominion of the earth and presented a simple test of obedience. The penalty was death and condemnation for Adam and his descendants.
  2. Adamic (grace), Genesis 3:13-19. The Adamic covenant includes the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve. Satan’s tool, the serpent was cursed, women’s status was altered, the earth was cursed, spiritual and physical death resulted. But it wasn’t all bad, it also included the first promise of a future redeemer that would crush the head of Satan.

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B) Noahic Covenant, Genesis 8-9, symbolized by the rainbow. This covenant is between God and Noah specifically, and also with humanity in general. After the Flood, God promised humanity that He would never again destroy all life on earth with a Flood (see Genesis chapter 9). God gave the rainbow as the sign of the covenant, a promise that the entire earth would never again flood and a reminder that God can and will judge sin. It has nothing with the LGTBQ movement, they’ve corrupted a covenant symbol from God for their own selfish pleasures.

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C) Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, symbolized by the stars. In this covenant, God promised Abraham. that He would make Abraham’s name great, that Abraham would have numerous descendants, and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations. God also made promises regarding the land of Israel. God also promised that the families of the world will be blessed through the physical line of Abraham, which is a reference to the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham.

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D) Palestinian (Deuteronomic) Covenant, Deuteronomy 30:1-10, symbolized by the Sabbath. This unconditional covenant noted God’s promise to scatter Israel if they disobeyed God, then to restore them at a later time to their land. This covenant has been fulfilled twice, with the Babylonian Captivity and subsequent rebuilding of Jerusalem under Cyrus the Great; and with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, followed by the reinstatement of the nation of Israel in 1948.

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E) Mosaic Covenant, Deuteronomy 11, symbolized by the Two Tablet of the Law. This conditional covenant, specifically for the Old Testament Jews, promised the Israelites a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. It consisted of the Ten Commandments, social judgements, and religious ordinances. Over 600 commands, 300 positive, 300 negative. Much of the Old Testament chronicles the fulfillment of this cycle of judgment for sin and later blessing when God’s people repented and returned to God.

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F) Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7, which coincidentally are our bible study verses for today, symbolized by Jerusalem. This unconditional covenant, found in 2 Samuel 7:8-16, promised to bless David’s family line and assured an everlasting kingdom. God promised unconditionally to put a son of David on the throne, but only the righteous son would reign for eternity. While David’s son Solomon ruled over Israel, he failed to keep God’s commands. Only David’s descendant Jesus was the true and faithful Son deserving of the everlasting throne of David.

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G) The New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-34, symbolized by the Passover Cup and Bread. The covenant of unconditional blessing based upon the finished redemption of Christ. It secures blessing for the church, it flows from the Abrahamic covenant, and secures all covenant blessings to converted Israel, including those of the Abrahamic, Palestinian, and Davidic covenants, and all who comes to God’s Only Son through faith. This covenant is unconditional, final and irreversible.

Seven Covenants. Seven is God’s number of perfection. We can either rest, like He did, or back up to #6 and spend some more time on the Davidic covenant. Since I already put these slides together, I say let’s look at the Davidic covenant in some more detail.

III. Davidic Covenant

The establishment of the house of David is an integral part of God’s master plan to fulfill the promise made in Genesis to defeat the enemy and crush the head of the serpent. So far, God has brought His people out of Egypt and has given them a good land. He has driven out their enemies, making His presence known by winning battles the Israelites couldn’t win on their own.

But because of their sinfulness in the days of the Judges, God was angered and delivered them into the hands of their enemies in fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant. When Israel repented, Psalm 78 tells us that God came to their rescue. God set His servant David as the shepherd of Israel, and as the Servant King on the throne.

The Davidic Covenant represents one of the most significant moments in God’s plan for the people of God. Psalm 78:67-72, makes it clear that the placement of David on the throne was a major milestone in God’s plans for redemption and was essential to the establishment of God’s rule in Israel.

He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves.
He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

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The succession of the Davidic kings under the Old Covenant was a preillustration of the unbroken eternal reign of the Lord Jesus, who, even now, reigns at the right hand in heaven. So let’s take a look at the Davidic Covenant, its explanation and its meaning for us today. We’ll begin with 2 Samuel 7:1-3,

IV. The Davidic Covenant’s Explanation

Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”

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The Davidic Covenant took place between King David and God, when King David made plans to build God a house of cedar. The kingdom of Israel was at rest from their enemies, and David pours the thoughts of his heart out to his faithful prophet Nathan. He says, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” David sensed the incongruity of living in an impressive palace while the Ark of God was still in a tent. I mean, if David was in a palace of cedar, then surely God’s ark ought to be in a palace! David’s humility and his love for the Lord moved him with the desire to bring about a change and he shared that desire with Nathan, his friend, his prophet. And Nathan, perceiving the king’s sincere motivation, gave his blessing on the project. Nathan said, “go and do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
In verses 4-7, we see the Lord’s gracious response.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

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The same night that David shared this with Nathan and Nathan instructed him, “Go and do it, the Lord is with you,” the Lord came to Nathan and instructed him to put a question to David. God said, “Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD,’ Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in?”

Now, look at how good and wise our sovereign Lord is in the way He sends these words to David. God gives these words to David from the mouth of Nathan and not from another prophet, so that the reputation of Nathan would not be impugned. I mean, what would it have been like, if God had sent another prophet to tell this to David. It would have appeared that Nathan had spoken falsely. But God is good, and He allows Nathan to be the one to deliver this news. Just think how perplexing it would have been to David to have had Nathan tell him one thing during the day, then another prophet shows up and says not to do it. The Lord’s wisdom and kindness are seen in the way that He delivers this message to David. David is not confused, and Nathan’s reputation is not damaged.
In fact, we later find out from the lips of David’s son, Solomon, that the Lord told David that He was pleased with what David wanted to do. 1 Kings 8:18-19,

But the LORD said to my father David, “Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart.”

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Solomon tells us that the Lord told David that He was pleased with the desires of his heart. Then, in 2 Samuel 7:6, the Lord reminds David of an important spiritual truth. He says,

“For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle.”

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Stop for a moment and think how profound those words are. First, they point to God’s willingness to identify with His people. If His people must travel in the wilderness in tents, God is going to be there with them. The sovereign God of Israel is not removed from His people, He is near to His people, and He even shares in their humiliations. Is this not a foretaste of Christ’s tabernacling with His people? And yet, you see it here in the sovereign God of Israel.

Secondly, these words emphasize God’s continual presence with His people. He is not distant or unconcerned. He is near. He is in the midst of His people. And our glorious Lord Jesus Christ would one day show forth beyond all human expectation, the extent of God’s commitment to be with His people, as John tells us in John 1:14, that

“He was made flesh and He dwelt, He tabernacled among us.”

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In 2 Samuel 7:8-11 the covenant which God inaugurates with David is explained and established.

Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

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The Lord surpasses Himself in blessing David. He reminds David that it was He who chose him and made him ruler, telling him in verse 8, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.”

God has been with David, He has given him victory over His enemies. God is the one who has made David great, He is the one who will continue to make David great. The Lord reminds him in verse 9,

“And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.”

Furthermore, God says in verse 11 that He will establish His people in their own land, and He will give them rest from their enemies. And ultimately, that the Lord Himself will build David a house.

“From the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.”

Notice that Nathan tells David “God will make you a house.” There is an intentional play on words the Hebrew language. David begun this passage by saying that he wanted to build a house for the Lord. Of course, by that, he meant a temple. In Hebrew, the word for house (bayith), can also mean palace. Interestingly, the word for temple and house is the same word for dynasty in Hebrew. And so there is a play on words going on here. David says “Lord, I want to build you a house,” meaning a temple, “because it is not right for me to be in a house,” meaning a palace, “and You dwell in a tent.” And God replies, “David, you will build Me a house?” meaning a temple. “No. I will build you a house,” meaning a dynasty.

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On one hand, you had a king building a house of cedar for God; good intentions and well-meaning heart. On the other hand, you have the Creator of the Universe wanting to build a house for you that is not limited to time or geography. Which one has a bigger vision? From the time that God saw David in the pasture tending sheep as the youngest of 8 boys, God saw beyond the pasture. God saw a dynasty, a lineage, a bloodline that would change history for all time.

The Lord was not speaking of building David a house of cedar. He was speaking of building David a dynasty. That is something Saul wanted but did not get.

Saul wanted Jonathan to sit on the throne and God told Saul that Jonathan would not sit on the throne of Israel. But now God is saying to David, “David, your sons will sit on the throne of Israel.” So, the Lord says, “You will not build Me a house, a temple, but I will build you a house, a dynasty.” He would establish David and his seed after him, as the monarchs of the people of God.

V. The Davidic Covenant’s Establishment

2 Samuel 7:12-17

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

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With these words we have the formal inauguration of God’s covenant with David, though the word “covenant” is not found here. Other passages explicitly state that this was a covenant inauguration. For instance, in Psalm 89:3-4,

I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to David, My servant, your seed will I establish forever and build up your throne to all generations.

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You will also find similar wording in Psalm 132. The covenant promises a number of blessings to David:

  1. First, his own flesh and blood will occupy the throne. “And when thy days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and I will set up thy seed after thee which shall proceed out of your body, I will establish his kingdom.” This is no small promise, given the political instability of the near east kingdoms of David’s time, or for today for that matter.
  2. Secondly, David’s heir will fulfill David’s desire by building a house for God. “He shall build a house for My name.”
  3. David’s heir will stand in unique relationship to God. God will be his father, and he will be His son. Nathan proclaims this amazing word, “I will be his father and he will shall be My son.” Now, we who live under the New Covenant and have the privilege of addressing God as our Father, may not be too startled by that statement, but to the Hebrew ear, it would have been unbelievable. Nowhere else in the Old Testament is an individual so clearly designated a son of God. And yet that is the blessing of David’s covenant.
  4. Fourth, David’s heir may experience punishment for sins, but he will not be cast off like Saul. Look at that second phrase in verse 14, “when he commits inequity, I will correct him with the rod of men and strokes of the sons of man.” On the surface, that looks very negative. However, in the context of Saul having been cut off, that is actually a very positive thing. God is saying, “If he stumbles, and he will, I will not cut him off like Saul. I will discipline him, but I will not cut him off.” This of course, proved important in the days of Solomon’s disobedience as well as for many of the kings of Judah.
  5. Fifth and finally, God makes the astonishing promise that David’s kingdom will last forever in verse 16. “Your house, your kingdom will be established forever before Me. Your throne will be established forever.” David’s dynasty is without parallel in the ancient near east in length of duration. His house ruled Judah for over four hundred years, far longer than any of the ruling families in the Northern kingdom.
    The promise was not that the lineage of David would reign for a long time, but that it would reign forever. That leads the prophets of the Old Testament to say that this Davidic promise would only be fulfilled in the Messiah. That, of course, is exactly how the New Testament interprets it. This reign is ultimately fulfilled in the reign of the son of David, Jesus Christ and His eternal messianic rule. The succession of the Davidic kings under the Old Covenant was a type. It was a shadowy figure. A pre-illustration of the unbroken eternal reign of the Lord Jesus, who, even now, reigns at the right hand in heaven. This promise finds its ultimate fulfillment in the reign of Christ.

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VI. The Davidic Covenant’s Meaning Today

The mission of the church today is to submit ourselves to the Son of David who now rules invisibly from heaven until He puts every enemy under His feet. And, our mission is to announce the good news to people in every neighborhood and every nation that they can be happy subjects of Christ’s kingdom forever if they transfer their allegiance from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of Christ.

To put it another way, personal holiness means learning the attitudes and customs of a new kingdom: the kingdom of Christ. And personal evangelism means telling people that the rightful king of the world against whom they have rebelled is willing to grant amnesty to all who return and live under His rule. Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the eternal King of the world will come from heaven and establish a reign of joy and righteousness and peace over all his loyal subjects forever and ever. And until He comes, the worldwide mission of the church is to extend complete, free, universal amnesty to people from every nation.

Here is a parable from our Lord recorded in Luke 19:11-27 –

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While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’ The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’

Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”

Jesus compares Himself to a nobleman who has gone to a distant country to receive a kingdom and then return. The distant country represents heaven, and after receiving the kingdom of Heaven, the nobleman will return. Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, will not sit upon the throne of David until His second coming to earth.

Israel was not prepared to receive the Messiah when He came to earth the first time. Will we be prepared when He comes to earth the second time and establishes His Kingdom? Isaiah 55:1-3 says,

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

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The very mercy and faithfulness that guarantees David an eternal kingdom will guarantee you all the joy and righteousness and peace of that kingdom. It is a promise made by God. God is saying to you this morning: “if you will come to me empty-handed and hungry, willing to receive what I give, then I will write for myself in your presence a job description and bind myself with an oath to treat you forever with the same mercy and faithfulness that I have demonstrated in my covenant with David.”

Hear the call of the Lord Jesus Himself in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:16,

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.
Come to the Son of David, come to the King of Kings, and He will sign with His own blood your personal copy of the job description He has written for Himself- to be God to you. And He will give it to you as an eternal covenant, never to turn away from doing you good.

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The choice is yours. What will you do with God’s covenant promise?

To God be the glory. Amen.

Step Out in Faith

 

Introduction

 

Moses is dead.

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I hope this didn’t come as a shock to you.  It’s been in the news for almost 3500 years.

Moses was preceded in death by his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were given the following promise in Genesis 13:14-17 –

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.  I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.  Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”

The Lord will give Abram the Promised Land, but it came with a caveat.  Genesis 15:13-16.

God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.  But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.  As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.  Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”

If you’re reading your bible chronologically, Jacob’s brothers threw him in a well, he was taken to Egypt where he became Pharaoh’s Vice President, and eventually Jacob’s brothers and their father Isaac relocated to Egypt because of a great famine.  And they liked the neighborhood so much, they stayed in Egypt for 400 years, fulfilling the first part of this prophecy.

But it turned out to be a trap.

Slide5.JPGPharaoh enslaved the Israelites living there. Then the people cried out and the Lord heard their calls, and the Lord raised up Moses to free His people.  In Exodus 3:7-9, God tells Moses it’s time to complete this prophecy,

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.  So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.  Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.

Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

The Lord then freed them from Pharaoh.  The Israelites left Egypt after Passover, crossed the Red Sea, collected the Ten Commandments, they did not pass God, and the Lord brought the Israelites into a covenant relationship unto himself.  But then the Israelites created idol worship in the form of a golden calf because they are a stiff-necked people.  To once again purify His people, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years while the old, rebellious generation died off.  Including Moses.

The year is approximately 1400 B.C., maybe 1370 B.C.  Moses has just passed away at the ripe old age of 120 years old and buried at the top of Mount Nebo in Moab.

And then I went down the rabbit trail.  Sometimes I get so caught up in interesting information that has nothing to do with the lesson, and I learned a great deal about Moses.  Which isn’t important to today’s lesson because…

Moses is dead.

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But in the past when I’ve gone down the rabbit trail, some of you have told me you like coming with me in case we catch a rabbit, so I’m going to share a view things I learned about Moses.  First, Moses is dead.

We know that because of Deuteronomy 34:5-7,

So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.  And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day.  Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.

Before he died, there were some odd facts –

  • Moses probably stuttered.  Exodus 4:10, Moses said, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
  • Moses led the Exodus when he was 80 years old.  I’m doing the MS150 at the age of 58 and it doesn’t seem like such an accomplishment when I think of how old Moses was.
  • Moses was scared of snakes.  In Exodus 4:3, the Lord tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turned into a snake and Moses ran away.
  • Moses had leprosy for probably 3 seconds in Exodus 4:6. The Lord gave it, and the Lord took it away.
  • During the Exodus, Moses’ wife and sons were not with him.  He sent them to live with his father-in-law.  His wife and sons returned to him after the Exodus at the base of Mount Sinai, Exodus 18:7.
  • Most Renaissance statues of Moses depict him with horns like a bull.  Here is Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.  This is because of a terrible translation of the original Hebrew.  Exodus 34:29 says when Moses came down from Mount Sinai his face shown, like with rays from the sun.  But the Latin translation from the Hebrew used a word that could also mean “horned,” as if on a bull.  So for centuries, Moses was shown with horns.

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So these are the interesting things about Moses before he died.  But then after the death of Moses – because, after all, Moses is dead – came these odd facts –

  • Michael the archangel and the Satan fought over the body of Moses.  Really.  Jude 1:9, “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”Slide17.JPG
  • Moses was resurrected before Christ.  In the Old Testament, we know that Elijah was taken up to heaven, bypassing death.  And we know that Moses died, according to Deuteronomy 34 which we just read a few moments ago.  All other old testament righteous Jews went to paradise or “Abraham’s bosom” and they wait for the second coming of Jesus, but Moses was resurrected and appeared with Elijah before Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17:2-3.  There was a whole ‘nother rabbit hole of the differences between sheol, hades, hell, heaven, and the lake of fire that I also went down at this point but if we want to finish before the Methodists, I’m going to have to wrap this part up.Slide18.JPG
  • One last thing, I think there’s still one more task for Moses.  In Revelation 11, there are two witnesses that prophecy of the tribulation.  Most scholars believe these are again Elijah and Moses because of the miracles they perform in Revelation and that the last chapter of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:4-6, mentions Elijah and Moses together in the end times.  And I did not go down the Revelation rabbit hole because I’ve peeked down that hole and it’s a very long, long, long rabbit hole.Slide20.JPGSlide19.JPG

So after finishing these 3 rabbit holes of Moses, Hades vs Hell, and the book of Revelation, where were we?  Oh yes.

Moses is dead.

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In the book of Joshua we see a new generation of Israelites, poised at the edge of the Jordan River, preparing to cross into their new beginning and take possession of the land. The Promise is about to be fulfilled.  But who would lead them?  Somebody new must take the place of Moses to lead the people to the Promised Land.  There was one young politician that was a possibility, named Bernie Sanders, but since he was only in his 20’s at this time, he was considered too young and inexperienced.

 

Joshua

 

So who led them into the Promised Land?  I’ll give you a hint.  We’re studying the book of Joshua, so the new leader is… Joshua.  Joshua is first introduced to us as Moses’ assistant in Exodus, and in Joshua 1 we see he is now the leader of the people, and the Lord now speaks to Joshua in the opening verses of Joshua 1:1-4:

Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.  Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.  From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.

And the Lord gives Joshua specific instructions for taking possession of their new land in the next 3 verses, Joshua 1:5-7:

No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

God had kept His promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.  Abraham’s children may have numbered in the millions already, and they were on the brink of entering the Promised Land.  And now, the Lord will use Joshua to lead the Israelites to take possession of the land.  The Lord affirms that the time is now for Joshua to step out in faith, to step into His new purpose, and to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

To take the first step toward this new beginning, Joshua believed the Word of God.  Joshua trusted the promises of God.  And Joshua’s belief determined his behavior. He was ready for the next step, to step out in faith across the River Jordan.

Let’s have a short show and tell about the River Jordan.

Slide24.JPGIts Hebrew names is נְהַר הַיַּרְדֵּן‎ Nahar ha-Yarden; the river runs 156 miles north to south through the Sea of Galilee and ends in the Dead Sea.  Despite the old song that says the river is deep, the river is wide, the Jordan River is neither; the river is about 30 feet across and six feet deep.

Here’s a before and after picture when Diane and I went to Israel.  This is before being baptized in the River Jordan…

…And this is after being baptized.  Now, both of us had already been baptized earlier in our Christian life, but neither of us wanted to pass up the opportunity to get baptized in the same water that Jesus did.

Apparently there are no baptisms allowed except in designated areas, so be forewarned.

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So up until this time, the Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness, led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, eating manna day in and day out. The time had come for them to step out in faith, step into the purpose and promise of God, and take the land that He promised them.  It was time to cross the River Jordan.  But are they ready for their next step?

 

Set Our Eyes on Him

 

The first step for Joshua and the people were to make sure their eyes were set upon the Lord.  Joshua 3:1-4,

Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed.  At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp;  and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.  However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”

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Joshua rose early – maybe not as early as I do.  I like to say that I don’t mind waking up at 4:20am, but it comes so early in the morning.  Anyway, Joshua rose early and ordered the camp to move alongside the Jordan River and camp there for three days.

As the tribes of Israel traveled through the wilderness, each tribe had an assigned place and an assigned order in the march. Since they had never come this way before, Joshua tells the people they would follow the Lord.  The Lord will lead the way and guide them.  The people were to remain 2,000 cubits behind, which is just over ½ mile.  In metric units, that’s about 400 centipedes.  Joshua wanted them to stay back so everybody could see the ark.  If they crowded too close, only a few in the front could see it.

In Exodus 25, God provides instructions for building the ark of the covenant and verse 22 explains God’s presence:

There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.

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To the Israelites, the ark symbolizes God’s presence.  God tells the priests to carry the ark and lead the people.  God is saying, “I am with you.”  God is letting them know that if they focused on Him, He would carry them into the Promised Land.

 

Set Ourselves Apart

 

Joshua 3:5-6,

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”  And Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over ahead of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went ahead of the people.

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This was both an order and a promise.  Some of God’s promises are unconditional; they require only that we believe them.  Other promises are conditional; certain conditions must be satisfied before the promise is met.

Joshua was making sure the Israelites’ hearts were ready for the next step through consecration.  This was a process of bathing and changing clothes.  It was symbolic of getting prepared for a new beginning.  Before setting out on the Lord’s direction, the people had to be prepared.

Joshua understood that following the Lord successfully required preparation, a recognition that God is holy and lives should be properly prepared for the work ahead.  This would allow the Israelites to prepare for a new life with the Lord.

 

Step Out in Faith

 

Joshua 3:7-8,

Now the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.  You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’”

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It was the responsibility of the priests to carry the ark of the covenant and go before the people as they marched.  But there was still an obstacle in front of them – the River Jordan, which was wide and deep.  After freeing the people from Pharaoh and giving them the Ten Commandments and proving manna in the wilderness, does God still provide miracles?

Joshua 3:9-13,

Then Joshua said to the sons of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God.”  Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.  Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you into the Jordan.  Now then, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man for each tribe.  It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap.”

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Living faith always leads to action, and action always requires a first step. Joshua reminds the people that they serve a living God who is able to do abundantly more than they can even imagine.

 

Step Into the Promise

 

Joshua 3:14-17,

So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off.  So the people crossed opposite Jericho.  And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.

Most of the year, the Jordan River was about thirty feet wide, but during flood season, the river could overflow its banks and expand to about a mile wide.  For three days, the Israelites camped beside the river, watching the impassable waters, hearing the rush of the river all hours of the day and night, not knowing how they were going to cross.  It was a tremendous obstacle.

But God’s plan was simple.  God said, “Set your eyes on me.  Consecrate yourselves.  And trust Me.”  As the priests led the way by stepping out in faith into the waters, the Lord responded with a miracle, stopping the flow of water.  With each step, the water rose up, many miles away.  Commentators say Zarethan was 30 miles upstream.  God made a wide path for His two million Promised Land people to take their next step.

We see in verse 15 that the feet of the priests were “dipped in the edge of the water” until they were standing on dry ground in the middle of the river. It was the smallest of steps, but it was enough to begin a mighty miracle. Through the obedient feet of the priests, stepping out in faith and into His promise, the way was opened for them all to move forward.

 

What Does It Mean?

 

The Israelites crossed the River Jordan and camped at Gilgal where they erected a stone memorial to commemorate God’s deliverance of the Promised Land.  After instructing the people to focus on the Lord and consecrate themselves for a new beginning, Joshua instructed the Levite priests to pick up the ark of the covenant and step into the River Jordan.  When they did, like the parting of the Red Sea, the water stopped and allowed the people to cross.

So what does it all mean?  Can we learn faith and obedience from Joshua?

First, we should focus our eyes on what the Lord wants from us.  In the familiar story from Matthew 14, Jesus walks on the water.  Peter is a lot like all of us, I believe.  We, too want to be like Christ.  So Peter calls out to Jesus and says, “Let me walk on the water, too!”  And he does.  But then he takes his eyes off Jesus and immediately begins to sink.

The world tells us that we should be rich.  Or powerful.  Or successful or beautiful or funny or outgoing or anything.  This is not the word of the Lord, and it distracts us from Him.  And we help the world by filling our minds with junk.  Xfinity and Netflix, Youtube and Hulu and Disney and a thousand other distractions.  When our eyes are on the world, they are not on Christ.  And when our eyes are on Christ, they are not on the world.

Then, like the Israelites, we prepare ourselves for our New Beginning.  We consecrate ourselves.  But most of us, me included, spend way too much time holding on to our old life.  We have a new beginning in Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Yet when we walk outside of the church doors, I bet our neighbors and coworkers see more of our old life than our new life.  I have already entered into eternity with Christ Jesus, yet I’m still dragging around my earthly possessions, still gossiping about others, expressing indignation and unforgiveness over the slightest infraction.  Who am I?  Am I still in the world?  Or have I consecrated myself for the One who purchased me with His blood?

Prepare ourselves by filling us with the Word every day and putting on the whole armor of God.  Be prepared for the day that God has given us.

Once I’m focused on the Lord’s will and dedicated myself to His purposes, it’s time for me to step out in faith.  An important observation about our study of Joshua 3 is that the water didn’t first stop, and then the people crossed.  Oh no, they had to step into the water first, then the water stopped.  God is capable of every miracle imaginable, but he wants us to trust Him.  Step into the water, and trust God that He will act.

It is time for us to get our feet wet.  Many of us are still sitting by our River Jordan, watching the river flow by and waiting for some sort of sign it’s time to step up.  But God will never show us the way if we’re not going anywhere.

So until we are willing to step out in faith and step into the purpose and promise God has for us, our new beginning won’t be in the here and now, this very minute, our present.  Our new beginning will only be in our future. It’s a waste of this very minute of time, this very breath that the good Lord gave us.

But if we focus on the Lord, remove earthly distractions, and take that first step in faith, God will stop the river, He will part the sea, He will move the mountains, He will slay the giants, and He still the storms.

If only there was some song that captured the essence of stepping into the River Jordan in faith…

Step out in faith, sanctified and focused, and see the miracles God will do.

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If only there was a song that captured stepping into the River Jordan in faith…

Are we in? Focus, Get Prepared, and Dive in. And All God’s people said…

To God be the glory. Amen.

Deliverance for the Future

 

  • Introduction

Let’s start with our key scripture for today, Exodus 12:13 –

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

In today’s scripture, the Lord will do something so miraculous, so memorable, that the people of Israel could not help but pass it along to their children and their children’s children.  God did something so amazing we remember it today.

In many ways, our memories define us.  I crunched some numbers – that’s what I do, I’m an engineer – and I discovered it’s my birthday today.  I am exactly 21,275 days old today.  Thank you, thank you.  If you forgot to being me a present, you can leave cash in the offering plate over there at the end of class.

But how many days do I remember?  I’ve had so many good, blessed days, but they all blur together.  But momentous changes in my life, those I remember.  First day at my first engineering job in 1982.  Getting on my knee to ask my wife to marry me.  The day I asked for a divorce and confessed to God that I was a failure without Him.  Giving my life to Christ in Singapore in 1998.  Getting on me knee to ask my wife to forgive and to re-marry me.

Memories.  Light the corners of my mind.  Misty watercolor memories of the way we were.  Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind.  Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were.

Stop it.  Now I’m going to have that stuck in my head.

Now in Exodus 12, the Israelites are preparing for a life-changing day, a generation-changing day.  There would be simultaneous rejoicing and devastation, feasting and mourning, joy and sorrow, and forgiveness and judgment.

Israel needed divine intervention to free them from the trap of slavery that they could not free themselves from.  Have you ever found yourself trapped by something?  A struggle that you cannot free yourself from?  I remember Baby Jessica in October 1987, trapped 22’ underground in that abandoned water well in Midland, Texas.  The nation was glued to their televisions for three days as rescue workers and mining experts worked to save her.  I remember more recently in June 2018 those boys in Thailand trapped in a cave for 18 days when the monsoon rains came and flooded the entrance.  These are physical traps, but traps can be emotional, they can be financial, they can be spiritual.

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So, with so many traps keeping us in bondage, it’s no wonder we need deliverance just like the Israelites.  But God delivers us from life’s traps.  It’s a theme repeated throughout history, God delivers His people, and He still delivers you and me.  And 3500 years ago, the Israelites were trapped, in slavery, unable to free themselves from their bondage, and in need of a savior.

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God has been delivering to the Egyptians one plague after another.  The word “plague” comes from a Latin word that meant to strike, to give a mighty blow or a wound.  The blows were mighty indeed – so far there had been 9 plagues the Lord sent against Pharaoh to free His people, and each time Pharaoh promised to free the Israelites but then hardened his heart.  Those plagues were frogs, gnats, darkness, um, halitosis, I think.  Really bad movies. I forget the whole list.  Actually, there was a purpose for each plague, each plague sending a message to the Egyptians that Jehovah God was more powerful than every god the Egyptians had.

In our Scripture today, we arrive at the life-changing day: the Passover.  Passover was the day that the Israelites were freed from bondage to the Egyptians.  It would serve as an Independence Day for the Israelites, changing the course of their history.  In fact, this day was so monumental that God ordered that the Passover would start their calendar year.  It was symbolic of the fresh start and fresh life that God was granting to the people of Israel (Exodus 12:1-2).

The Passover was the last of the Ten Plagues that God sent to the Egyptians. The purpose of the plagues was to display God’s authority.  The tenth plague was by far the deadliest and most devastating. God would sweep over the land of Egypt, visiting every home and taking the life of every firstborn male—unless the house was covered by the blood of an innocent lamb.

Now, God sends the 10th and final plague.  Let’s see how He prepares His people.

  • Exodus 12:1-5, New Beginning

Exodus 12:1-5 –

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.  If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.”

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God is creating a new beginning for His people to commemorate His deliverance.  This new beginning is the first month of the first year of a brand new calendar.  To remember this occasion, the head of each household will select a year-old, unblemished and perfect lamb to sacrifice on the tenth day of the month and slaughter it on the fourteenth day. The purpose of the lamb was to serve as a substitute. Instead of their first-born son passing away, the lamb would die in his place.

This was not the first time a lamb was sacrificed as a substitute for God’s people.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were literally covered by the sacrifice of an animal. It stood in their place and covered their nakedness. And on Mount Moriah, God provided a lamb as a substitute just as Abraham was about to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.

However, God made it clear that not just any male lamb would do. He provided specific qualifications for this substitute: the lamb was to be one year old.  It was to be free from blemish or defect. These details are important.  The age of the lamb mattered because, at one year, a lamb is at the peak of its life in strength and energy.  And the perfection of the lamb mattered because it was a representation of the quality of its life.  We will see later in Deuteronomy 17:1 that a blemished animal was an abomination to God. In order to offer a perfect substitute, the Israelites were expected to find a perfect sacrifice.

Impending judgment hung over the head of all those residing in Egypt that evening. Death was on the doorstep of every house in Egypt. As the sun rolled beneath the horizon, all were in danger.  But God had provided His people a way to spare themselves and their households from the fate that all deserved. The Israelites had the opportunity to take God at His word and exercise their faith in Him.  They could find a substitute that would stand in the impending death in place of their firstborn sons.  Behind the cover of a young, perfect lamb, they would be shielded from the wrath of God and instead receive the mercy of God.

Just like you and me today.  When we are behind the cover of the lamb, we are shielded from the wrath of God and instead receive mercy.  How did Jesus meet this criteria?  I’m glad you asked.  1 Peter 1:18-19 says –

knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

And John the Baptist proclaimed in John 1:29b the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with these words –

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Let’s not overlook the significance of the blood covering.  Leviticus 17:11 says,

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” 

Blood is life.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that our advanced society still requires blood donations and haven’t developed artificial blood.  They’ve developed some stuff that can help refill the circulatory system in case of blood loss, but they haven’t developed red blood cells to carry oxygen, white blood cells for fighting diseases, plasma with proteins, platelets to stop blood loss, and so on.  Blood is life.

And 1 John 1 :7 says,

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 

Slide12.JPGIt is the blood of Jesus that saves us and gives us eternal life.  For the Israelites, it was only the covering of blood over the door that would save them and deliver them from their bondage.  For us, it is only the covering of the blood of Jesus that saves us from our sins and delivers us from our eternal punishment.

The sacrifice of the innocent to pay for the sins of the guilty.  The lamb was innocent of any wrongdoing.  Just as Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing.  It is we who do wrong.  Romans 3:23 says that all of us, you and me, have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  And Romans 6:23 says that the punishment for our sins is death, but God’s gift to us is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  This concept of atonement begins here in Exodus 12, continues through Isaiah 53:5 that says that our redeemer was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  And all the way through the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness, by his wounds we have been healed.”

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Any other method of trying to provide for our own deliverance will fail.  We do not have the ability to save ourselves any more than the Israelites could save themselves from Pharaoh.  If we try, we will find we are sinners and must pay for our sins with eternal death.  Jesus, the son of God, paid that price on our behalf that we may live in Him.

And when we accept this sacrifice, we become new creations.  God delivers us from our eternal punishment, and we become adopted children of God.  2 Corinthians 5:17 –

” Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

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God delivers us.

  • Exodus 12:6-11, Urgent Attitude

Once we have accepted Jesus, our lives take on a certain urgency.  Exodus 12:6-11 –

Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.  That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.  Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts.  Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.  This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.  Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

Like the instructions regarding the sacrificial animal and its blood, God gave the Israelites detailed instructions about the meal that would follow the Passover.  They were to eat unleavened bread.  This bread did not contain yeast, and they were not permitted time for the bread to rise. God wanted them to eat the meal with a belt on their waists and shoes on their feet so that they could leave in a hurry. It was a reminder to the people of Israel that they were to be ready to follow God. They could be called to make their exodus out of Egypt at any moment.

The symbolism of the yeast was also symbolic of what the people were to leave behind, to leave out of their lives.  To the Israelites, it represented the old traps of life, the bondage to Egypt.  To us, it represent sin.  God tells His people to make bread without yeast, unleavened bread, and later in Exodus 12:19 God says that whoever eats anything with yeast in it during this Passover will be cut off from Israel.  These are not baking instructions.  Jesus says in Matthew 16:11-12,

“How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?  But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 

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And 1 Corinthians 5:6-8,

“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 

So it’s definitely not a baking recipe, it’s a warning that a little sin will spread throughout the whole body.  We cannot underestimate the significance of sin in our lives and how offensive sin is to a most Holy God.  The smallest amount of sin in our lives will cause us to fry in the presence of Jehovah unless we are covered by the sacrificial, Passover blood.

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This dinner was true farm-to-table.  The Israelites roasted their lamb, made fresh bread, and accompanied the meal with bitter herbs that were also symbolic.  The bitter herbs were a reminder to them of their bitter enslavement in Egypt.  The herbs were also symbolic of the bitterness of sin.   In The Doctrine of Repentance, Puritan pastor and theologian Thomas Watson, said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

This highly symbolic Passover meal would endure for generations. Every year, when the Israelites would eat this meal, the smells and tastes would bring them back to the night that changed the history of their nation. They would recall the sacrificial lamb. They would be reminded of the bitterness of sin and slavery. They would remember the attitude of hastiness that they were to show when God called them. Ultimately, the Passover Meal would serve as a reminder of the deliverance they could experience.  It prompted them to maintain an attitude of sacrifice, a readiness to obey God, and a regard for sin as bitter.

And 1500 years later, Jesus added an extra layer of symbolism during the last Passover meal.  Jesus and His disciples gathered in the upper room, and they shared the Passover meal the night before His death.  They ate the lamb, and they ate unleavened bread.  They ate the bitter herbs. It was on that night and at that dinner that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.

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He took the unleavened bread, and He broke the bread as a symbol of His body that was going to be broken on the cross.  He took a cup of wine, and He explained to His friends that His blood was going to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  And then, with haste, Jesus got up from the table because God was calling Him to be obedient, even unto death.  He was going to become our Passover Lamb, and He would taste the bitterness of sin for all sinners.

The Passover is rich with symbols, from the lamb to the blood to the meal that followed.  Each element was carefully designated by God to represent a large truth.  But God had an even bigger plan in mind than freedom from the Egyptians when He provided instructions to the Israelites.  The Passover serves as a signpost that points toward something even greater for God’s people.

  • Exodus 12:12-13, Divine Mercy

If God’s people did as they were instructed and made their sacrifice in haste, the they were saved from the wrath of God.  Verse 12-13 –

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am the LORD.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”

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And so begins the 10th plague, the death of every firstborn.  Who was judged this night?  Egyptians were pantheists, believing that everything in the world was part of a god or goddess.  And they were polytheists, worshiping many gods that were all around them.  Each god or goddess was involved in a different part of their lives.

God is very deliberate in His wrath, demonstrating his power over all of nature.  God says, “I am the Lord.”  He stands apart, holy.  All other gods are demons.  Each of the first 9 plagues demonstrated God’s sovereignty over a popular Egyptian god to demonstrate that He alone is God.  And now the 10th plague over all male firstborns including animals demonstrate that no one is god but God alone.

Death is a powerful and painful lesson.  It gets our attention like nothing else in this world.  And it’s unavoidable.  It is God’s final recourse in showing His power to liberate His people and God’s supremacy over Pharaoh’s little gods.  When Pharaoh refused, thousands perished.  When Israel believed, thousands lived.  And today, every person’s fate hinges on either believing or not believing the one true and living God in heaven.    And God used the ultimate death, His son Jesus, to save us.

Who needed mercy that night?  Everyone did.  Who received mercy that night?  Only those covered by the blood were granted divine mercy.

Romans 2:5 is addressed to those who have not accepted the blood covering of Jesus.

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” 

Still today, everyone needs mercy.  But only those who accept that Jesus Christ is Lord and is true messiah receive it.  This is God’s plan to the end of time; in Revelation 7:9, there is a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  In Revelation 7:14, we are told who these people are and the distinguishing mark of the believer.

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

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God has had a plan from the beginning to deliver us from our sins that deserve His wrath.   His judgment is perfect; that’s why we should fear Him.  But His mercy is perfect; that’s why we should love Him.  He first loved us and provided a way to deliver us from our sins that trap us in bondage.  We are free in Christ.

  • Exodus 12:14, Precious Memory

These lessons must be continually learned from one generation to the next.  Anything not carefully remembered is easily forgotten, so we must carefully prepare our lives and celebrations in a way that the next generation will also come to know the saving blood of Jesus.  Exodus 12:14 –

This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance.

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The Passover saved the Israelites who heeded God’s instructions. It was a “mighty blow,” the tenth and final plague that delivered them from the grip of Pharaoh.  As God’s judgment swept across the land, killing the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, the Israelites were safely covered from God’s wrath by the blood of a perfect sacrifice.  The next morning, the Egyptians wailed in distress while the Israelites tasted God’s freedom and goodness.  God had displayed His authority, identified His people, and upheld them among their oppressors.

Passover serves to remind us today of the ultimate deliverance that God has in mind for all of His people. In 1st Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Passover in Exodus is a shadow of what was to come.  And, that what was demonstrated on the cross was the substance.  1 Corinthians 5:7b,

For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

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Jesus was in the prime of His life when He was sacrificed. He was a full-grown and vibrant man who was unblemished in that He never sinned and had no fault.  Every element of the Passover pointed to the Gospel, including God’s instruction to paint the blood of the lamb across doorposts. God would later instruct His people to identify themselves and exercise their faith by painting Jesus’ blood across their hearts.

In Messiah in the Passover, Dr. Rich Freeman describes the Passover as a signpost:

“Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the fulfillment of Passover. Like the first Passover lambs sacrificed to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt, Jesus’ death on the cross redeems us from slavery to sin … And just as the first Passover was very personal and the Israelites personally applied the blood of the lambs to the doors of their houses, we too, by faith, need to personally apply the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, to the doors of our hearts.”

The past picture of the Passover points to the future plan of God in Jesus Christ.

  • Conclusion

Although the Passover occurred thousands of years ago, Passover still points to our ultimate deliverance through Jesus Christ.  In Exodus, the Passover lamb saved the Israelites, an event that led them on their journey to the Promised Land. Today, Jesus saves us and leads us toward the promised land of Heaven.

Are you trapped?  There is deliverance in Christ Jesus.  Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb whose blood was poured out on the cross for us. We can trust in Jesus as the perfect, unblemished Lamb of God that stands in our place.

We are invited by God to escape judgment and find mercy through the blood of Jesus.  It is His desire that we flee the bitter bonds of sin.  We can experience deliverance from our past – and deliverance from all of the things that will ensnare us in the future – through the Lamb.

When we apply the blood of Jesus to our lives, we escape God’s judgment.  God will “pass over” us, and we will be spared eternal death.  Instead of receiving what we deserve, we will be given the gift of eternal life.  One day, we will arrive in Heaven, the land flowing with milk and honey, and all of God’s people will sing, “Worthy is the Lamb!” (Revelation 5:12).

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To God be the glory.

Grace on the Ark

  • Introduction

Genesis 9:11 –

Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

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In Genesis 6, we are told that creation was in dire need of a “reset.”  As we learned last week in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve introduced sin into this world, and since then it has spread across all of humanity.  Romans 5:12 says –

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

We see this in Genesis 4 with the first murder, as Cain kills Abel.  Eight generations later, we see Lamech kill a man and even boast about it.  Then we get to chapter 6:1-4 and we read that the sons of God were marrying the daughters of men which some have interpreted as the intermarriage of fallen angels with humanity.  Whatever *that* was, it was a detestable thing that broke the heart of God.

Genesis 6:5-7 –

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Did the Father truly regret making people in His own image? Did God make a mistake in His creation?  No, God’s pain is not sorrow over His mistake; His pain is sorrow over our mistake.  Sin is not only offensive to God because it robs Him of the glory that He is due, but it also robs us of the joy that He designed for us.  Because of this, in one fierce storm, the likes of which will never be seen again, God blotted out nearly all the life on this earth.  Nearly, but not all.  Because of His great mercy and grace, God preserved a remnant through one faithful servant, Noah.  As we study the story of the flood today, we will see that God’s grace was extravagant, even in the midst of His righteous and terrifying judgment.

  • Build an Ark, Genesis 6

Genesis 6:13-19 –

Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.  Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.  This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.  You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.  Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.  But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.  And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

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Noah is introduced in Genesis as a man that found favor in God’s eyes. The Lord informed him of His plan to flood all of creation because of humanity’s sin.  However, God also tells Noah that he and his family will be spared through the construction of an enormous ark.  Noah is given a baffling instruction to build this enormous sea vessel in the middle of the desert.

I’ve received some strange requests in my life.  Usually they come from my wife as I’m driving past the grocery store.  “Can you pick up some basil, orange juice, and broccoli?”  I have no idea what she’s making for dinner.

I’ve also heard some strange requests from God in my life.  When I was earnestly seeking Him for the first time at the ripe old age of 38, God sent me to Singapore.  I’m sure there was someplace closer where I could find Him.

But Noah’s request was much stranger.  The Lord asked Noah to build a boat longer than a football field, including both end zones, and four stories tall.  Noah’s neighbors must have thought he’d lost his mind.

Noah is appointed ship-maker, captain, and zookeeper all at once.  He is told that at the appointed time, God will lead two of every kind of creature into this boat to ensure the future repopulation of the earth.  But the ark was so large that even with all those animals, there was still room to fit more people.  All the while Noah was building, Noah was also preaching for others to be saved.

  • God Offers Grace Before Judgement, Genesis 7

In 2 Peter 2:5, Peter says Noah was a “herald of righteousness.”  All the while Noah spent in construction of the ark, Noah also proclaimed God’s righteous plan to his neighbors.  Noah surely explained that God was angry and that He was going to pour out His wrath through a worldwide flood.  Noah must have pointed to the massive ark under construction as God’s visible offer of salvation.  But only the eight people in Noah’s family boarded the boat as passengers. No one believed his story.  No one repented.  No one asked to be on that boat with him before the storm.

You know, this story of Noah continues today.  Every day, people ignore a  Noah in their life and the salvation of the ark.  God sends “Noahs” all the time.  Sometimes they are friends, family members, or colleagues.  Other times they are preachers or missionaries. They all are used by God as His “heralds,” proclaiming the hellfire and brimstone to come, but they also point to an ark as a means of salvation.

What is our ark?  Where is our salvation?  Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord and in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death and resurrection, we can be protected from the wrath of God that is to come.  We are offered a new life filled with hope, just like Noah.

Noah’s friends and neighbors were given plenty time to think about Noah’s message and accept his offer.  But eventually the window of opportunity closed, and the floodwaters came.  And today?  2 Peter 3 tells us the world we know will eventually end in fire when that window of opportunity closes.  When will that be?  2 Peter 3:8-9 says,

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Peter says Jesus has not returned yet because He is giving us additional time to get on “our ark.”  For most of us, we don’t have 1000 years.  Statistics say I have less than 40 years left.  But many ignore the messengers and the message of the salvation found in Jesus.  The story of Noah reminds us that the window of opportunity will eventually come to a close.  Genesis 7:11-16,

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.  The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.  On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark, they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, all sorts of birds.  So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life.  Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the Lord closed it behind him.

After years of construction, God fulfilled His promise.  The floodwaters came for 40 days and 40 nights.  But the water did not just come from the “top-down,” it came from the “bottom-up” as the “fountains of the great deep.  The earth began to gush with water and the earth began to accumulate water at a rate never seen before or since.  Water topped even the highest of the mountains and there was no salvation available apart from the ark.  People on the outside quickly learned that even the patience of God has a limit.

God generously gave years for people to heed Noah’s warnings, but the day came where His warnings were over.  Instead of hearing about God’s wrath, people began to witness it for themselves.  And God’s last word to them was not in the form of a sentence. It came through the form of divine action: He shut the door of the ark.

First, God shut the door to protect those who were inside.  God had promised Noah and his family salvation through the ark.  God personally sealing the door was a powerful message to Noah that God was present and in control.  Likewise, God follows through with His promise of salvation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:13-14

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

When we step into our ark, by grace and through faith in Jesus Christ, God likewise seals us with the presence of His Holy Spirit.  God is with us in the future storms of this life and that our salvation is safe and secure. Nothing can break through and rob us of the salvation that we have accepted from Him through faith.  Our salvation is in good hands.

Secondly, God shut the door because time was up.  Jesus says in Matthew 24:38 that just days before the flood, people were eating, drinking, marrying, and celebrating.  Despite the forewarnings, they were caught completely off guard by the raging storm.  Maybe they ran to that boat in desperation when they saw the waters begin to rise.  But they could not enter the ark because God’s grace had a time limit. They now believed Noah’s warnings, but it was simply too late.  Faith is the key to opening up the door to salvation.  Hebrews 11:6a says

And without faith it is impossible to please God.

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When we die or when Christ returns (whichever comes first), there is no longer room for faith because even the ungodly will see the wrath of God firsthand.  The door to our own ark, salvation, will close.

So, God shuts the door and the rain came.  For 40 days and 40 nights, the heavens are opened and creation experienced a torrential downpour.  Finally after 40 days, God closed the heavens but water continued to rise for 150 days.  As the water finally started to peak, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.  On that mountain, Noah’s family had to wait seven more months for the water to recede fully.  In total, they spent a little over a year on that ark together.

  • A Fresh Start, Genesis 8:15-22

Genesis 8 begins with the floodwaters receding and Noah seeing if it was safe to exit the ark.  Then in verse 15, God gives the all-clear signal –

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.  Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

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When God created the heavens and the earth, God’s command to both the animals and then later to man and woman was to multiply and be fruitful.  We can see here that God still desires the best for us, despite our sinful nature.  He still wants us the be fruitful and multiply.  Why did God pick Noah?  Out of the vast sea of humanity that lived during that time, why Noah?  I think one of Noah’s first actions after leaving the ark demonstrated why God loved him.  Noah built an altar to the Lord in verse 20 –

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.  The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

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Don’t get confused where this sacrifice came from – we remember the story from our childhood that the animals were brought aboard the ark two by two.  But if you back up to the beginning of chapter 7, you’ll see that for some animals, more than a single pair were brought on board.  For “clean” animals, those that have a split hoof or chew the cud such as cattle, deer, goats and sheep, there were actually 7 pairs of animals brought on board.

So Noah’s gratitude and admirations of God’s greatness led him to offer a sacrifice.  A sacrifice, by definition, should cost us something.  Noah too what little he had, and with only 7 of each clean animal that was worthy of sacrifice, Noah risked extinction by sacrificing some of the animals.

But costly sacrifice is pleasing to God.  It’s not the amount; large quantities don’t please God.  Remember Jesus at the temple, watching wealthy people bringing their tithes, when a widow brings two pennies, all she had, to give?  God wants our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength.  The bible also says (Romans 12:1) that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice, that giving of our resources is a sacrifice (Philippians 4:18), and that we should give the sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15).

God doesn’t need our sacrifices.  God isn’t greedy, God doesn’t want to just take stuff from us.  But God sacrificed Himself to us at great cost (Ephesians 5:2, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 10:12), and He wants us to be conformed in the image of Jesus Christ who made the ultimate sacrifice.  He wants us to learn to give sacrificially.  He wants us to learn to give away that which we cannot keep.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:2, we should be like Jesus in this regard:

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

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We have an example in David, a man after God’s own heart, who said in 2 Samuel 24:24 that he would never make offerings to God that which costs him nothing.  The burnt offerings of Noah risked what little he had after the flood, and the sacrifice pleased the Lord.

  • The Covering of Blood, Genesis 9:4-6

Then in the beginning of Genesis 9, God makes some changes to man’s relationship with nature.  In Genesis 9:1-3,

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.  The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.  Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

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Up to this point in time, I presume, we were all vegetarians and lived in peace with all animals.  And animals will now live in fear of us.  It reminds me of the days in the future when animals will all live in peace again.  In Isaiah 11, one of the Messianic Prophecies, we read that when Jesus again rules, the wolf will live with the lamb in peace.

But God has a restriction; the animals may be eaten, but not the blood of the animals.  In the blood is life, and lifeblood is important to man and God.  The same restrictions are given in more detail later in Leviticus 17 and Deuteronomy 12.

The importance of blood to the Lord is shown by how often the word is used in the bible.   In the New King James version, it is used 424 times in 357 separate verses (in the New King James Version).  That blood represents life can be shown in the following passages –

      • Blood was the sign of mercy for Israel at the first Passover (Exodus 12:13)
      • Blood sealed God’s covenant with Israel (Exodus 24:8)
      • Blood sanctified the altar (Exodus 29:12)
      • Blood set aside the priests (Exodus 29:20)
      • Blood made atonement for God’s people (Exodus 30:10)
      • Blood sealed the new covenant (Matthew 26:28)
      • Blood justifies us (Romans 5:9)
      • Blood brings redemption (Ephesians 1:7)
      • Blood brings peace with God (Colossians 1:20)
      • Blood cleanses us (Hebrews 9:14 and 1 John 1:7)
      • Blood gives entrance to God’s holy place (Hebrews 10:19)
      • Blood sanctifies us (Hebrews 13:12)
      • Blood enables us to overcome Satan (Revelation 12:11)

The covering of innocent blood has been given to those who accept the ultimate sacrifice and blood atonement of Christ Jesus.

  • The Covenant, Genesis 9:8-17

After Noah’s altar and sacrifice, God creates a covenant with Noah.  Genesis 9:8-11,

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature on earth.  I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

 God established a covenant with mankind (Noah and all of his descendants), and even with the animals.  God promised He would never again destroy all life with a flood or cover the earth with a flood to eradicate evil.  However, we are approaching what Matthew called “the Days of Noah,” Matthew 24:36-39,

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

When we reach the “days of Noah,” and God’s patience reaches its perfection, then God will again destroy earth – but by fire, not by flood (2 Peter 3:3-7) –

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”  But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Then in Genesis 9:12-17, God provides a sign of His covenant:

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Every time we see a rainbow, we should remember the faithfulness of God and every one of His promises.  He even says His covenant of peace with us is just as sure as His covenant with Noah and all generations.  Isaiah 54:9-10,

For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

The other mentions of a rainbow in the Bible are set in the context of God’s enthroned glory.  Rainbows are mentioned in Ezekiel 1:28, Revelation 4:3, and Revelation 10:1.  It is amazing to see God, in His glory, setting so close to Himself a reminder of His promise to man.

What exactly, is a covenant, and why is a covenant important?  For people, we think of a covenant as a contract.  It is an agreement between two people and involves promises for both people involved in the contract.

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The concept of a covenant between God and His people is one of the central themes of the Bible.  In the biblical sense, a covenant implies much more than a contract or a simple agreement between two parties.  The word for “covenant” comes from a Hebrew word that means “to cut” or “to bind”.

It is remarkable that God is holy, omniscient, and omnipotent, but He consents to enter into covenant with man, who is feeble, sinful, and flawed.

  • Conclusion

The covenant with Noah was sealed with a rainbow, a reminder that God would never again flood the earth and destroy every living thing.  Many centuries later, the New Covenant was sealed with blood, a reminder that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that you and I could live.  Noah had a fresh start – the evil that surrounded him, that taunted him while he built the ark was gone.  Noah’s heart for the Lord led him to worship and praise.

But you and I have that same fresh start.  Like the evil men that surrounded Noah, we too, were once surrounded, unable to escape.  Like the flood that destroyed the evil, we are baptized into Christ and our sins are washed away. And every day is a fresh start, a new sunrise, a new beginning with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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A rainbow is a sign of God’s forgiveness, but then again, so are we.  We are a sign of God’s forgiveness and grace.  Forgive one another as God forgives us.  Extend grace to one another as God has given us grace.  Love one another as God loves us.  Arise and greet the new day every day and approach it with confidence, knowing that we are symbols of God’s grace and mercy to this fallen world.

Accept the new beginning and the promise that is in Christ Jesus.

To God be the glory.

Jesus is the Reason

 

Introduction

Our Chronological bible study is nearly complete. When we were reading the Old Testament, we read history. When we began reading the New Testament, we began understanding everything Jesus did for us, but there’s so much packed into each week, it’s not possible to completely address everything we read this week in the book of Hebrews, one of the most complex books in the bible to understand. Today we will only cover the first 4 verses of Hebrews, although even that is a breakneck speed. One could spend many weeks just studying these verse that answer the question, “Who is Jesus? And why is He better?”

We have spent 11-1/2 months reading through the bible chronologically, understanding the purposes of God’s plan to give us free choice and also save us from ourselves.   Throughout the Old Testament, God established a sacrificial system with a temple, a high priest that acted as an intermediary, and an unblemished lamb to take the punishment of a wicked people.   All because God loves us.

And when that system turned into pharisaical rules and regulations, God intervened. It was always God’s plan at the right time to send a high priest forever, an unblemished lamb forever, and the temple of the holy spirit to dwell in man, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. A messiah, a savior, who would change everything. And as we approach Christmas, we see these promises being fulfilled –

Isaiah 7:14 –

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 –

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice, From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Micah 5:2 –

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me, The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

God’s people had been told there would be a Messiah and after 400 years of silence, the silence was broken. An angel spoke to Zacharias in the temple telling him that he and his wife Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist.   An angel spoke to Mary telling her that she would give birth to Jesus, by the Holy Spirit.   An angel spoke to Joseph telling him about Jesus. Matthew 1:20 –

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

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The Angels broke the silence of 400 years with the announcement that Jesus was coming. And that is our anticipation this year and every year as Christmas nears – Jesus is coming!

We don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but we do know they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.   Hebrews has over 40 Old Testament quotes, quotes that would have been sacred to any Jew in the first century.   The author makes the case that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, Jesus Christ is the final authority of all things in heaven and on earth, Jesus Christ is our High Priest forever, and Jesus Christ is the final sacrifice. The book of Hebrews systematically compares Jesus to the prophets of old, the priests, the sacrifices, and even the angels; and without hesitation, Jesus is superior to all.

And at Christmas time, the lyrics to this familiar song illustrate the amazing savior we have described in the book of Hebrews –

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

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So let us study the awesomeness and majesty of the baby born in Bethlehem in just the first four verses of Hebrews 1:1-4 –

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,   having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Chronological Bible, December 17th, p.1555

The first four verses of Hebrews connects what we have been studying now for 51 weeks. There is an acknowledgment of how God spoke in the lives and writings of the prophets in the Old Testament. The foundation had been laid in each of the Eras of the Old Testament from the days of Adam and Eve, through David and Solomon, through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Nehemiah, and all the way through John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus.

These past couple of months we studied the Gospels and the Epistles, we looked at the life of Jesus. We saw the ministry of Jesus through healings, miracles, sermons, and parables.   And then we saw the establishment of the church and how Paul wanted to make sure that all, even those in the uttermost parts of the world, would know Jesus Christ.

But today, the author of Hebrews wants us to understand the fullness and authority of Jesus Christ. Creator, Prophet, Priest, and King – Jesus Christ is superior to every prophet and servant of God in all the sacred pages of the Scriptures. This is the theme throughout the book of Hebrews. Jesus may have begun His human life as a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, yet He is the Heir of all things, the brightness of His glory, the express Image of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power; knowing He was destined to become the purification for our sins.

Let’s uncover eight truths in these first 4 verses. I tell you in advance that there are 8 so you can take notes and number them, and also when we get to around 7 we know the end approaches and we can get to lunch before the Methodists do.

Heir of All Things (v2)

So, to fully appreciate Jesus, the author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the heir to all things. What is an heir?

“Heir” suggests both dignity and dominion, with the added implication of legal title.   All things will fall under His authority. Christ is the heir of all things precisely because God has only one Son and one Heir.   Christians are also called adopted children and therefore heirs of God, but only because we are clothed in Christ Jesus with whom alone God is well pleased.

When Jesus is described as the ‘Heir of all things,’ it means that everything is His. He is the ultimate authority over all things and the rightful owner of all things. You look up in the sky at night and see the moon and stars; they belong to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things. You look at the beautiful Christmas trees that are decorated with lights this time of the year; they belong to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things.   Everything belongs to Jesus; He is the Heir of all things. Because of Jesus’ obedience – even to death on a cross – Philippians 2:9-10 says

God has exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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Jesus did not just bring us the message of His Father. Jesus *is* the message.

Through Whom Also He Made the Worlds (v2)

John begins his gospel with this truth in John 1:1 –

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.   In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (Chronological Bible, September 24th, p.1272).

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Jesus was part of the creation process with God, the Father. Everything that was made, was made through Him. John wanted us to know that Jesus was not just the Son of God but was Creator with God.

The Greek word for worlds in Hebrew 1:2 is interesting, it’s “aiōn” which encompasses not just the material world but also the ages, the history. Jesus is the creator of all time, matter, and space.   Jesus Christ is not a created being, as Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others claim. Jesus is the Creator, the Creator of everything.

And then John tells us the truth of Christmas, John 1:14 –

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Chronological Bible, September 24th, p.1272).

The Creator became a baby in Bethlehem as Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us in the manger.   John even mentions that “we beheld His glory” which leads us to the next truth.

Being the Brightness of His glory (v3)

the Son is “the radiance of His [God’s] glory.” The Greek word apaugasma , translated “radiance,” refers to what shines out from the source of light. Jesus Christ revealed the glory of God in a veiled way during His incarnation. Peter, James, and John saw that radiance revealed more directly on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2).

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

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But Jesus isn’t just the sun peaking out from behind some clouds. He is the blazing, magnificent revelation of God Himself.

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The Express Image of His Person (v3)

The Son is the exact representation of God. The Greek word for “representation” is “character”, from which we get the English word, well, “character.” Greek writers used it to describe the emperor’s picture on Roman coins. The image on the coins was precisely the image on the engraving tool, an exact duplication.

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And although no one has seen God, Jesus Christ let people know exactly what the nature of God is like. Jesus put it this way in John 14:8-9a –

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

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Upholding All Things by the Word of His Power (v3)

The Son “upholds all things by the word of His power.” The idea is not so much that Jesus upholds the universe as a dead weight, similar to Atlas shouldering the world.

Slide22.JPGRather, Jesus carries all things forward on their appointed course.   Colossians 1:15-17 says

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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The Word of Jesus Christ has tremendous power and authority. It is the greatest force in the universe.

By Himself Purification for Our Sins (v3)

The Son “made purification of sins” as no one else could. He did so by His own sacrifice on the Cross, and by His work as the ultimate priest. The Greek word katharismos , translated “purification,” means both removal and cleansing. The word for “sin,” hamartia , occurs in Hebrews 25 times, more than any other book except Romans.

Hebrews doesn’t say much about individual sins, and doesn’t contain any list. The fundamental sin for Hebrews is unfaithfulness or neglect toward God which is our rebellion against God.

Though we celebrate His birth at Christmas, we cannot forget why He was born. He was born to die.   He died to live again and so that we may live with Him.

Sat Down at the Right Hand of Majesty on High (v3)

Goodness, I feel we are rushing through this, and we’re barely into our second verse. But in case you’re counting, this is number 7.   Take that, Methodists.

Number seven, the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” when He returned to heaven after His ascension. Today, He is at the place of honor and authority in relation to God the Father, ruling over the church and the angelic host in heaven. The Lord Jesus completed what He came here to do; now, He rules heaven and church while we wait for His second coming.

Better Than Angels (v4)

The previous seven truths lead to this ultimate truth. Jesus is better than angels. It sounds almost anticlimactic. But it is significant because so often people will elevate angels even above Jesus.

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Angels served as messengers who would come to deliver a message from God to His people.   However, Jesus does so much more.   He is not simply a messenger that brought a message from God to His people. Jesus is the message. Jesus is not simply a message of salvation and redemption. He is salvation and redemption.

The writer of Hebrews is declaring that Jesus is “so much better” than the angels. Jesus is beyond compare. All other prophets have come and said, “Thus sayeth the LORD to you.”   But only Jesus could say, “I AM the LORD who has come to you.”

This is why Jesus is better than angels. Angels did not become flesh to understand our situations. Angels cannot empathize with us or know our weaknesses. And angels did not die for our sin. Jesus, however, did all of these things.

And I see this at every Christmas, the celebration of Santa Claus and reindeer and snowmen and Christmas ornaments.   But Santa Claus is not the reason for the season. Jesus is the reason for the season.

Jesus is better.   And this is what the whole book of Hebrews proclaims – our infinite need being met in the infinite love of God to us in Jesus Christ. Whatever else one may exalt, Jesus is better. Way better. The name of Jesus is above every name.

Philippians 2:9-11 –

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
   and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father.

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Conclusion

Hebrews 1 points to the full deity of Jesus Christ –

      1. Heir of all things (v.2)
      2. Through whom also He made the worlds (v.2)
      3. Being the brightness of His glory (v.3)
      4. The Express Image of His person (v.3)
      5. Upholding all things by the word of His power (v.3)
      6. By Himself Purification for our sins (v.3)
      7. Sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high (v.3)
      8. Better than the angels. (v.4)

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The original Jewish audience, faced with the temptation to abandon discipleship of Jesus for return to Judaism, received a strong reminder of His deity at the very beginning of Hebrews 1. Jesus is Creator, Prophet, Priest, and King.

Jesus is our Reason for the Season. Jesus is Better.

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To God be the glory.   Amen.

Kingdom Warfare

 

Introduction

 

I wondered when we were going to get to study this. Armor of God class? Today we are going to study the Armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-18. So let’s read our scripture first and try to imagine it being read in Tony’s encouraging voice because no doubt at the end of class we will be blessed to hear Tony say these words again. Ephesians 6:10-18 –

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.   Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.   Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

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So let’s start with the scary truth – we are in battle with evil. Our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a hungry lion, looking for someone to devour. And the truly scary part is that the devil is very successful. He is the Father of Sin and owns this world and this culture and most – not some, not a few – but most people are deluded by the beauty of evil and the pleasures of sin. Narrow is the gate which leads to life, but wide is the path that leads to destruction.   That means most will not find their way to salvation despite the evidence of God’s love being abundant in creation.

Wiersbe’s commentary of Ephesians had this quote –

“Sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground, and that he faces an enemy who is much stronger than he is – apart from the Lord.”

Slide4.JPGYour task and my task is to be Christ’s ambassador, showing His light of salvation so that all who are called may be saved. But the devil isn’t going down without a fight, and he has had thousands of years of practice and deception, so we must be prepared.

 

The Enemy

 

The first strategy in our battle is to understand the enemy. Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and philosopher who lived 2000 years ago and wrote a famous document called Art of War, and I think this is his most famous line –

是故勝兵先勝而後求戰,敗兵先戰而後求勝。

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

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If we are to win against our common enemy, first we must understand who our enemy is. In the book of Ephesians, Paul describes the enemy like this –

      • The Prince of the power of the air (2:2)
      • The spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (2:2)
      • A schemer (6:11)
      • Not flesh and blood (6:12)
      • Principalities (6:12)
      • Powers (6:12)
      • Rulers of the darkness of this age (6:12)
      • Spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (6:12)
      • Uses fiery darts (6:16)

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Notice though, who is not our enemy: people.   And that is the biggest baddest mistake of well-meaning Christians, to go to battle against people. When we make people our enemy, we are actually helping our enemy win. We can look back at the study of Jonah, who rebelled against the Lord when commanded to go to Nineveh. We all remember the fish in the story, but it’s the last two chapters that give the story of Jonah meaning. Jonah had been sent to a wicked people, and was resentful against God for not destroying them. God’s response is that the wicked people of Nineveh were God’s wayward children and he wanted Jonah to teach them about His love. That’s why John 3:16 is so powerful –

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Not for a few, not for some, not even for many. God loves the people of this world and there is no celebration in heaven greater than when a sinner turns to repentance. The enemy isn’t people, no matter what horrible accusation or insult comes out of their mouth. That’s the devil working through this world. That’s why it’s so important for us to remember to “hate the sin, love the sinner.”

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So when we go into battle against the prince of the power of the air and the rulers of the darkness of this age, what is our battle plan? First, we need to be equipped for the battle, and that begins with Paul’s description of the battle armor worn by a Roman soldier –

 

The Armor – Belt of Truth

 

Ephesians 6:14a,

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth ((Ephesians 6:14a, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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In the first century, a soldier would wear a belt that would hold his sword. The belt would also hold his chest plate in place and allow for him to tuck his robes above his knees so that he could engage in battle. Without a belt, the rest of the attire could not function. The belt held everything together. Paul makes a comparison between the belt of a soldier and truth.

The truth of God holds everything together. Without it, we cannot hope to prevail in battle.   If we are going to fight this spiritual battle against the devil and the forces of evil, we must have truth to win.

The devil is the enemy of truth, but he’s devious about it and twists the truth to make it sound believable. Remember his first deception in the Garden of Eden? Genesis 3:1,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

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That wasn’t God’s command, God told Adam and Eve they could eat from any tree, except one, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The devil twists the truth.

Sometimes he even quotes the truth, daring us to misapply it. When Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and the devil tempted him, the devil quoted scripture to Jesus. But it was a misapplication, a distorted truth. Matthew 4:5-7,

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

   and they will lift you up in their hands,

   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

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In John’s Gospel, Jesus gives us great insight into the character of Satan. Jesus tells us that the devil does not “hold to the truth, for there is no truth in him.   When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

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The devil wants us to believe lies about ourselves and of this world. The devil wants us to believe lies about God. The devil whispers lies into our hearts and minds and attempts to lead us away from God. We Christians must arm themselves with the belt of truth so that we can engage in the battles against the lies of Satan.

Truth is more than feelings. Truth is even more than facts. Truth is reality from God’s point of view.   We need an objective standard of reality for the world we live in as well.   Thankfully, God has provided that objective standard in the truth of His Word. Every day you and I must engage in God’s Word of Truth so that we can differentiate between lies and reality. We must put on the Belt of Truth first to properly equip us for spiritual battle.

 

The Armor – Breastplate of Righteousness

 

Ephesians 6:14b,

having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14b, Chronological Bible p. 1532

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Soldiers would place a breastplate over their bodies to help protect their vital organs during battle. The breastplate would cover them from their collarbone to their lower abdomen, guarding their heart, lungs, and intestines. With their breastplate on, they could enter the battle with confidence knowing they were protected.

After the fall, Adam and Eve were aware of their nakedness and clothed themselves with leaves.   They attempted to protect themselves with clothing of their own making. God, however, replaced their clumsy attempt to cover themselves with clothing of His own making.

When we clothe ourselves in unrighteous, legalistic, or worldly truth, the self-righteous person is doomed to certain defeat by the enemy. But God clothes believers with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.

The Breastplate of Righteousness represents the external righteousness of Jesus Christ placed on us. Jesus’ righteousness protects us, and it guards us against the blows of the devil for eternity. But the Breastplate of Righteousness also represents the internal righteousness of a godly life.

Our greatest protection and ally in the Christian life against the schemes of the devil is to pursue a righteous life. Satan, who is our Accuser, cannot accuse us of sins we do not commit. He cannot condemn a consecrated life. Integrity and righteousness in the Christian life protect us from the everyday assaults of the devil and helps us to engage the spiritual battle with confidence. When we live righteously, we can know that we are covered and protected. An obedient Christian is an effective Christian.

 

The Armor – Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

 

Ephesians 6:15,

and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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The Roman shoes were tied, ready to go, ready to fight. They had short nails that would help give the soldier traction to make sure they were not slipping in battle. Paul tells the Church at Ephesus if they want to stand firmly in battle, they need to put on the shoes of the gospel. But notice it is the gospel of peace.

I’m reminded of Peter in Matthew 14. The disciples are in a boat, buffeted by winds, when Jesus begins to walk across the water toward them, and the disciples are scared. They think He’s a ghost. Then Peter says in verse 28-31 –

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

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The peace that the gospel offers is not peaceful circumstances throughout all of life.   The peace of the gospel is, that when the storms of life come, you are still walking on His Word. Peace is not the absence of chaos. Peace is assurance in the midst of chaos.

The gospel is good news because it is the gospel of peace. It offers us true peace with God, providing reconciliation for our sins. It offers true peace with our self, transforming us into the image of Jesus.   The gospel gives us true peace with others, providing an example of sacrificial love through Jesus Christ.

The peace of God are the shoes that hold us firmly in place during spiritual battle.

 

The Armor – Shield of Faith

 

Ephesians 6:16 –

above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Ephesians 6:16, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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A Roman soldier’s shield was large. It would cover their bodies from shin to shoulder. It was wooden but covered in leather so that it was fireproof. The soldier would hold it out in front of him to protect him from spears, swords, and flaming arrows. He could interlock his shield with the shield of other soldiers and form a wall that was virtually impenetrable.

Have you ever watched old black and white Western movies? There is often a scene where the Indians repeatedly ride around the circled wagons of the cowboys. Then, one Indian would dip his arrow in oil and light it. He would shoot his flaming arrow at the wagons. The flaming arrow would not be meant to kill the cowboys.   It was meant to distract the cowboys because you cannot fight fire and fight Indians at the same time.

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Satan will try to shoot arrows of distraction in our lives with the purpose of distracting us from the real battle. We are to take up the shield of faith and protect ourselves from these fiery arrows.   Satan will shoot arrows of distraction to move our attention away from the fight and toward the fire.

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The Apostle Paul instructs us to carry the shield of faith so that we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the devil. When we focus on the object of our faith instead of the distractions to our faith, we can effectively engage in spiritual warfare.

Throughout scripture, faith is always measured by action. Faith is not measured by good intentions, chills that run down our back in worship service, or feelings. Faith is accounted for by action, moving us in the direction that God has called us to go.

If you look at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 you will notice a pattern of faith. It goes like this: the person is named, a declaration of their faith is stated, and a display of their faith through action is explained.

  • Noah → Trusted God → Built an ark.
  • Abraham → Trusted God → Left home to another land.
  • The People of Israel → Trusted God → Went through the Red Sea on dry ground.

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When we utilize the shield of faith we can trust God, extinguish the distractions, and move in action to what God has called us to do. This is a prerequisite to winning our spiritual battles.

 

The Armor – Helmet of Salvation

 

Ephesians 6:17a,

And take the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17a, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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Soldiers marching out onto the battlefield would first place a helmet on their heads. It was absurd for anyone to engage in combat without a helmet. The Apostle Paul tells the church at Ephesus to put on the helmet of salvation. It was their salvation that served as a guard for the Ephesian church. Their salvation was their standing before God.

The spiritual battle is won on the battlefield of the mind. If Satan can infiltrate our minds and cause us to think wrongly about God, he can convince us to disobey God. He did it with Adam and Eve in the Garden. He twisted their thoughts about God and tempted them to sin. God commands us to put on the helmet of salvation to guard our minds with the reality that we have been saved by Christ.   Right thinking leads to right living.   If we protect the way we think, by filtering it through our salvation, then we will protect what we love. If we protect what we love, ultimately, we will protect what we worship.

Believers must take errant and suspicious thoughts captive and operate out of a renewed mind.   Consider 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 –

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Or consider Romans 12:2 –

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

But too often we fill our minds with trash – movies and television shoes that promote evil or sexual immorality. Garbage in, garbage out. We should fill our minds instead with the goodness of His love.

 

The Armor – Sword of the Spirit

 

Ephesians 6:17b,

and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (Ephesians 6:17b, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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This is the only offensive piece of weapon to use in spiritual warfare. Paul says to take the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. In Greek, there are three different words for “Word.”

1) Graphe – which means the writing compiled, as in a book.

2) Logos – an announcement or written narrative or treatise, the topic that is inside the book.

3) Rhema – specific statements or sentences in a book.

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Paul uses the third word Rhema for the word of God. He is urging the Ephesian church to memorize and apply specific statements from scripture to help them successfully fight their spiritual battles.

When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, He used rhema- specific statements from God’s Word to defeat the devil. Satan would tempt Him and Jesus would reply with scripture. And if Jesus relies on specific statements from scripture in order to defeat the devil’s temptation, how much more do we, being mere mortals, need to memorize and apply specific statements from God’s Word in spiritual warfare?

Paul knew the power that came from the scriptures. He knew that the Sword of the Spirit is Hebrews 4:12 –

…living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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Unlike a physical sword that grows dull after it is used, the more we use the Sword of the Spirit the sharper it becomes and the deeper it pierces. When we interact with specific statements of scripture applying and memorizing them, they bring life and heal us while simultaneously defeating temptation and Satan’s schemes.

 

The Armor – Cloak of Zeal

 

There’s one more piece to the Roman’s soldier’s wardrobe. Paul doesn’t mention it, but centuries earlier, Isaiah mentions in in Isaiah 59:17 –

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,

   and the helmet of salvation on his head;

he put on the garments of vengeance

   and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

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Isaiah is referring to the Lord’s passion to send a savior to save sinners from His wrath, and the Lord wrapped Himself in zeal.

The Roman soldier used his cloak for many things – it was somewhat waterproof against the rain, warmth against the cold, even used for bedding at night. The comfort of his cloak made him a better soldier during the battles.

A cloak of zeal will make us better spiritual warriors. The Lord was passionate enough to save sinners that the Lord sent His only son to die for us. Can we, then, muster enough zeal to be good warriors?

As adopted children of God, we should adopt the same zeal for His Good News that Jesus did when He willingly went to the cross for us. I have always been struck by this passage in Revelation 3:14-16,

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

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Jesus is telling the church that spreading the good news of salvation should fire us up, give us a passion to save others with the same passion Jesus had to save us. He didn’t save us just to be nice. He saved us to saved others. Are we so comfortable in our salvation that we will let others perish? Or will we get zealous for the Lord and spread the news that Jesus died for their sins so they could be saved from a fiery eternal death?

Jesus thinks our lackadaisicalness – that was a hard word to write, much less pronounce – he thinks our lackadaisicalness when He gave His very life is so despicable that He will spit us out of His mouth. Let us have zeal and passion for His word by adding the cloak of zeal to our spiritual armor.

 

Conclusion

 

We engage in spiritual activities every day; therefore, we need to clothe ourselves with the appropriate spiritual attire. Every day we live, we enter into a spiritual battle against the devil and the supernatural forces at work around us. We must put on the full armor of God to stand in the fight.

Remember king David as a boy when he first stood against Goliath? David, too, was well-armed, and as he stood against Goliath, David knew that victory was already his. Why? David’s weapon was the sling, and it was not the first time he had picked up a sling.   David had guarded his father’s sheep for years against lions and bears. He knew how to use the armor given to Him by God because he practiced using it.

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Every piece of armor is important, and the good news is that the battle has already been won.   Colossians 2:13-15,

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Stand and resist the devil, and he will flee. Every morning, put on the whole armor of God and prepare for the spiritual battles of the day, wielding the spiritual armor given to us by Christ Jesus so that we may be victorious in Him and give Him all the glory.

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To God be the glory.   Amen.

Kingdom Liberty

Introduction

 

We’ve been progressing through the Chronological Bible this year. We spent a long time in the Old Testament and I feel like we just arrived in the New Testament, and there are only 6 weeks left to wrap up our one-year journey.

The Old Testament had many rules, and until this year it never struck me how much man deserved all those rules. The rules God put in place were to prevent man from self-destructing. In the Garden of Eden, there was only one rule.   Of course, we broke it. There was no need for Ten Commandments when we couldn’t follow One Commandment.

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Soon after, Cain slew Abel. Abel didn’t last very long. He was first mentioned in Genesis 4:2 and by verse 8 he was gone. He only lasted 6 verses. The sanctity of life through the ages is clear in our studies, and God said that Abel’s blood called out to Him from the ground.

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So God gave us more rules to protect us. The Ten Commandments included, “Thou shalt not murder.” And then ten commandments grew into hundreds of rules and laws as we read in the book of Leviticus.

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And then came the New Testament. And many feel that the New Testament rules on top of all the Old Testament rules are overwhelming.

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I used to think that #1 rule for Christians was to attend church every week. You know what I learned after I started going to church every week? The church meets throughout the week, too. Many churches have bible study on Wednesday nights. If you want to be a good Christian, you must go to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday. Sometimes there are bible studies on Tuesdays and Thursdays.   Friday nights often have church sponsored socials, those are mandatory, and don’t forget Saturday evening service.

There never seems to be anything scheduled on Mondays, though. Weird.

And different churches have different rules, so if you want to be saved, you must follow all the rules. If you go to a Pentecostal church, you must speak in tongues. If you go to a Baptist church, no dancing or drinking is allowed. And if you go to a Catholic Church, you can drink and dance but you can’t speak in tongues. It’s complicated, being a devout Christian.

 

Paul & Peter, Gentile & Jew

 

We are in Galatians 2 and we are going to focus on verse 11 following. Paul is in Jerusalem and writing to the church of Galatia and he’s dealing with the “Judaizers”. These were former Jews who claimed now to be Christians, and these Jews wanted the gentiles that converted from Paganism to Christianity to also submit to Jewish law. After all, there are a lot of rules if you want to be a Christian. These Jews were essentially proclaiming a “Jesus Plus Moses” doctrine. Yes, believe in Christ, plus do all these things Moses taught.

I’m going to read verses 11-13 from The Living Bible. Paul is telling the Galatians about a discussion Paul had with Peter at Antioch:

But when Peter came to Antioch I had to oppose him publicly, speaking strongly against what he was doing, for it was very wrong. For when he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians who don’t bother with circumcision and the many other Jewish laws. But afterwards, when some Jewish friends of James came, he wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore because he was afraid of what these Jewish legalists, who insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation, would say; and then all the other Jewish Christians and even Barnabas became hypocrites too, following Peter’s example, though they certainly knew better.

These “Judaizers,” these “Jesus plus Moses” Jews in the Christian Church were so persuasive that the apostle Peter changed his behavior, then Barnabas, then apparently many others in the church. There are rules for being a Christian, you know. Apparently even who you eat with will determine your salvation!

Paul both confronts Peter and identifies with Pater. After all, they are both Jews by birth and for their entire lives followed Jewish Law. They heard Jesus admonish the Pharisees for all their strict rules and regulations that not even the Pharisees could follow. And both Paul and Peter know that, even if they could follow the Law perfectly – which they could not, nobody can – obedience to the Law would not save them from their sins. Here is Paul’s message to Peter in verses 14-15 –

When I saw what was happening and that they weren’t being honest about what they really believed and weren’t following the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Though you are a Jew by birth, you have long since discarded the Jewish laws; so why, all of a sudden, are you trying to make these Gentiles obey them? You and I are Jews by birth, not mere Gentile sinners, and yet we Jewish Christians know very well that we cannot become right with God by obeying our Jewish laws but only by faith in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.”

Paul calls Peter a hypocrite because Peter feared men more than he feared God. In the first century the Greek word for hypocrite, “hypokritḗs” was used to describe an actor’s mask. Off stage he was one person, but when he stepped on stage to be seen by others, he would put on a mask and be another person.

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The word for hypocrisy reaches back even further, though, to 400BC. Hippocrates was one of the most influential men in medical history. Doctors today who practice medicine swear in by the Hippocratic Oath.   Hippocrates is famous for practicing medicine in the ancient world under what is now known as the tree of Hippocrates in Kos, Greece.

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The tree is massive, with branches that reach far out. All around the tree there is scaffolding used to uphold its branches.   On the outside we see the structure of the tree but here is the strange thing: the tree is hollow. On the inside, there is no substance. The tree appears healthy, but underneath the surface there is nothing.

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Slide11.JPGThe Apostle Paul is telling us, that those who are hypocritical may have an outward appearance of godliness but inwardly they have hollow faith. They have the structural appearance of being healthy, but they lack the substance.

Peter presented himself as an adopted Gentile to one group and as a Law-keeping Jew to another group. If we are honest, we are all guilty of the same sort of hypocrisy. We present ourselves one way at church but can act another way at work. We sing loud praises to God in Sunday Worship, but as soon as we get in our car after Church and get in Houston traffic, what comes out of our mouth is most certainly not praising God. We read scripture about how to love one another, then we ignore or insult people than annoy us. We believe Jesus loves the whole world, but we refuse to love those who are different than us.

Then Paul tells Peter that the very Jewish Law that Peter is pretending to follow wouldn’t save him anyway. It’s not the Law that saves. Paul says in Galatians 2:16,

“And so we, too, have trusted Jesus Christ, that we might be accepted by God because of faith—and not because we have obeyed the Jewish laws. For no one will ever be saved by obeying them.”

Paul’s argument throughout the book of Galatians can be summarized by this one verse. He tells us repeatedly we are not saved by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, there were false teachers in the church in Galatia with the view that they were justified with God because they both believed in Jesus and kept the Law. They were teaching a “Jesus Plus Moses” doctrine so that their works under the Law would give them salvation.

Paul’s emphasis is that we are not declared righteous by keeping the Law. Our level of righteousness in God’s eyes is not upheld by our good works. Instead, our righteousness in God’s eyes is upheld by Jesus’ work: Jesus’ death on the cross for us.

We do not need to uphold the dietary restrictions that the Old Testament prescribes in order to be declared righteous. We will not be deemed unclean if we wear clothes with mixed fabrics as declared in Leviticus 19:19. And even if you boiled a baby goat in its mother’s milk in the past month or so as prohibited by Exodus 23:19, you are still saved.

Remember, this letter was to the Church, to believers. It is a reminder that we cannot earn our way into God’s presence by being at every Bible Study and small group. We do not earn favor with God because we prayed today. We do not earn favor with God because we memorized three Bible verses this week.   We do not even earn favor with God by listening to Christian radio, although KJIC 90.5 Country Christian Radio comes pretty close.

In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’   Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

This is obviously true, because Jesus said it. “Only the one who does the will of my Father.” So is Jesus saying that works can save us? But then the rest of the verse says that even people doing the will of Jesus will be told to leave because Jesus didn’t know them.

What is the will of the Father? It is for all of His children to place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. He doesn’t ask us to drive out demons.   He just asks us to trust in Jesus. By faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.

Nothing we do, except for our faith, saves us, and even the faith we have has been given to us.   Two verses in Ephesians 2 makes it clear, verses 4-9,

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

By faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone. It’s all about Jesus and it’s never about what we do or don’t do. God made us alive when we were dead. We have nothing to do with raising ourselves to life.

And that’s exactly what Paul is pointing out to Peter in his letter to the Galatians:

You and I are Jews by birth, not mere Gentile sinners, and yet we Jewish Christians know very well that we cannot become right with God by obeying our Jewish laws but only by faith in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.

What does it take to be saved? Faith alone, and that faith has been given to us by God’s grace. We have been freed from the bondage of performance slavery.   Jesus liberated us from believing that religious practices and rites save us. As a Pharisee and member of the straight-edge religious elite of Judaism Paul knew what it was like to struggle with trying to earn God’s approval with his behavior. He found rest in the Gospel that the only thing that makes us righteous is faith in God. Whether you are a son or daughter with good behavior or bad, nevertheless you are still a son or daughter of God.

 

Misconceptions About Salvation

 

There are many misconceptions about what it means to be saved. As Christians, we probably cause that confusion. We might have heard the phrase “Jesus Plus Nothing” but we have such a hard time practicing it. Let’s discuss a few of them.

      • Ask Jesus into your heart.

Do you have to do this to be saved? I read a testimony from an evangelist who had shared the gospel and told his student he would be saved if he invited Jesus into their heart. But later the student was mad when he found out scripture said Jesus was the only way to God. The student was a follower of eastern religions that believed there were many prophets that could point to God, and to cover his bases, he had invited Jesus into his heart along with all the other prophets. This phrase, “ask Jesus into your heart,” is confusing and incomplete.

It’s usually based on this scripture from Revelation 3:19-20 –

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

The key to understanding scripture is location, location, location. In this verse, Jesus isn’t speaking to nonbelievers.   These are not instructions on how to be saved. Jesus is speaking to the church of Laodicea, and He is speaking to followers of Christ who already believe. He is instructing believers how to have a closer relationship with Him.

Likewise from Ephesians 3:16-17,

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

Is this teaching that you must ask Jesus into your heart? Again, Paul is teaching believers here. Christ does indeed dwell in the hearts of believers, but it is a result *of* salvation, not a requirement *for* salvation. “Ask Jesus into your heart” is not anti-biblical, it’s just naturally what happens when you believe. It is the belief, it is the faith through God’s grace, that saves.

      • Be sorry for your sins.

Should we Christians beat ourselves up for all the bad things we did before we became Christian, and to be honest, for all the things we continue to do? Do we have to have regret to be saved? Let’s look at a couple of pieces of scripture. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul says,

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

But again, Paul is talking to believers that sin against the Lord. Such Godly sorrow leads one to turn from sin and leaves no regret. In other words, every Christian has a past. So just leave it there. There’s no reason to drag it around with you everywhere you go.

What about non-Christians? Should they feel sorry in order to be saved? This verse says “Godly sorrow.” How in the world are non-believers supposed to have Godly sorrow when they do not have the Holy Spirit inside them? No, feeling sorry for your sins doesn’t save us. If it did, this corrupted version of John 3:16 would read this way–

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever feels really bad about what they’ve done should not perish, but have everlasting life.

That certainly isn’t right. It’s whosoever *believes* in Him. I am saved by faith alone through Christ alone by grace alone.

      • Give up your sins.

This is probably one of the most difficult misconceptions to explain. We just covered a little while ago that bible studies and church attendance doesn’t save us. But what about repenting of our sins? After all, the bible is full of calls to repentance, isn’t it?

“Repentance” is indeed required for salvation. But I’ve discovered that the definition of “repentance” has been distorted through the years. Sometimes we define it as “turning away from evil and toward God.” Those are indeed things Christians should do, but are they required for salvation?

Well, let’s look at the word translated as “repent,” the Greek word is “metanoeō,” and it is defined as “to change one’s mind, to think differently, to reconsider.”

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In other words, change your mind about Jesus. Change your mind about God. That sort of repentance leads to salvation, a trust in faith through Christ that He died for our sins. The gospel of John mentions the word “believe” 85 times in order to be saved without ever mentioning the word “repent” a single time. The word “repent” does not mean “change your behavior,” though that often follows from changing one’s mind first.

So, is giving up our sins a sign we are a believer? If we are a follower of Christ and we are listening to the Holy Spirit dwelling within, repenting of sins is important for spiritual growth.   In this case, we are repenting, we are changing our mind, we are saying, “I am going to stop arguing with God.   I am going to agree with God about my sins,” and then giving up your sins and winning the spiritual battle over the flesh is what we are called to do. But that is after we are saved, not before. Jesus accepts us for who we are, where we are, in all of our filthy clothes. Thank the Lord we don’t have to clean up our act first before we are saved. Jesus cleans up our act after. Romans 5:6-8,

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We do not have to clean up our act before accepting Christ or to be saved. We are saved through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.

      • Pray a prayer.

All we have to do is say the sinner’s prayer and be saved, right?       After all, Romans 10:13 says,

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Let me put it this way: Can you say a prayer out loud while silently not placing your faith in Jesus? You’re thinking to yourself, I’m saying this but I’m not going to do it. The prayer itself has no power.

But can you place your faith in Jesus silently, without a prayer? Of course you can. There’s nothing wrong with the prayer itself, but it can lead one to a false sense of security that if they prayed correctly, then they are saved.   It is not the prayer that saves, is it the faith behind the prayer. I am saved through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.

      • Give your life to Jesus.

Do you have to give your life to Jesus to be saved?       I can give you one major example of somebody who gave their life to Christ and yet was not saved:       Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Devoting your life to Jesus clearly doesn’t save you.

What does save you?   Acts 16:31,

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

What all of these misconceptions have in common is that they are works of man. And we know that we can never be good enough, to work hard enough, to assure our place in heaven. How would we ever know it’s been enough? No, to be saved, we have to change our mind about who Jesus is, to place our faith in Christ. By faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone. Nothing else.

 

Christ Did It All

 

Let’s turn back to our scripture in Galatians 2 and see what Paul says to Peter next, verse 17-21,

But what if we trust Christ to save us and then find that we are wrong and that we cannot be saved without being circumcised and obeying all the other Jewish laws? Wouldn’t we need to say that faith in Christ had ruined us? God forbid that anyone should dare to think such things about our Lord.   Rather, we are sinners if we start rebuilding the old systems I have been destroying of trying to be saved by keeping Jewish laws, for it was through reading the Scripture that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favor by trying—and failing—to obey the laws. I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not one of those who treats Christ’s death as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping Jewish laws, then there was no need for Christ to die.

What Paul is saying is that we keep trying to add things to Christ in order to be saved.   The Jews were promoting Jesus plus Moses. In effect, they were saying, Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the law, but *we* still have to fulfill the law, too.

That is not trusting in Christ. Paul says that if we could obey the law and be saved, then what was the purpose of Jesus?   What are we putting our trust in?   Our own ability to be good, or the sacrifice of God? Or maybe we’re hedging our bets. Sure, let’s trust in Christ, but to be on the safe side, let’s do all these other things, too. Circumcision, abstain from unclean animals like pork, mixing different types of fabrics in our clothes. Why don’t we obey all of those rules with a “Jesus Plus Moses” attitude?

Perhaps I should ask instead what “Jesus Plus” attitude is still prevalent today. We impose a great many rules for others – not for us, really, rules are for other people. Attending church once, twice, or even three times a week. Or attending church at Christmas and Easter.   Attending bible study. Walking the aisle when giving one’s life to Christ.

Let’s consider baptism. Is it required to be saved? Some Pentecostal churches believe that not only baptism is required, but when you come out of the water, you must speak in tongues. If you don’t speak in tongues, back into the water you go. I suppose this is repeated over and over again like some sort of loving Christian waterboarding.

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Let’s be clear about this distinction: I believe baptism is mandatory for believers. I believe it is a demonstration of our willingness to follow the Lord and it is almost always our first act of obedience… *after* we are saved. It is not a requirement *to* be saved. It is not required for salvation, it *is* required for spiritual growth. If you are Christian and haven’t been baptized, I think it’s time to put aside your resistance, call Jesus Christ your Lord and ask him to lead you to baptism.

But we are not saved by good works. We are saved for good works.

Let’s consider a light bulb. It’s wired up, and when the switch is flipped, it brings light to the room.   If we don’t flip the switch, though, is it still a light bulb? Of course it is. It’s just not a useful lightbulb. And if we have accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us power, and we are asked to shine the light of Christ for others to see. We can refuse and stay dark, but we’re still saved. We’re just not useful.

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But are we saved?   Remember: By faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone. There is nothing we can add to that without taking it away from Christ.

 

The Simplicity of Christ

 

I know first-hand that living as a Christian has challenges. I also know those challenges have purposes ordained by God to train me in His way, to increase my faith and trust in Him, to encourage my spiritual gifts to be developed. There are a great many things I must do to grow as a man of God.

But there’s nothing that I must do to be saved. Christ did that for me, because I could not do it for myself. And my response to His sacrifice is to worship and praise a mighty God that loves me enough to die for me so that I may live.

While there are many challenges to living as a Christian, becoming a Christian is the easiest thing in the world. All we have to do is accept what has been done, and our eternal salvation is secure, firmly held in the palm of His hand, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and no one can snatch us out of His hand. It’s not that some of the work has been done for us, or most of the work has been done for us. All of the work has been done for us. We don’t have to say, “Hey, thanks for picking up dinner, let me pay for the tip.”

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There is simplicity in being in Christ. I know, because the bible says so in 2nd Corinthians 11:3,

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

The story of the bible is not what we do for God. It is what God has done for us.

 

Conclusion

 

It’s not “Jesus Plus Moses.” It’s not “Jesus Plus Church Attendance.” It’s not “Jesus Plus Feeling Guilty.” It’s not “Jesus Plus Anything.”

It’s just Jesus.   By faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone.

That is the simplicity of being in Christ.

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To God be the glory.   Amen.