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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sin = Death, Period!

Here we have one of the most misunderstood, misapplied, and misused Scriptural truth that is used to ignore facts, justify lives that are being lived contrary to what God's Will would mandate, 'water-down' the most basic of Biblical teachings, and all of this is not even the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

First, let's do what I usually do, let's go back to the beginning.  I'm not talking about the beginning when God said, 'Let there be light.' (see Genesis 1:3    NKJV).  I'm talking about one of the first teachings of Christ in which I feel He was laying the groundwork for the purpose He came to serve before our Lord God in Heaven.

12 'When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.'  (Matthew 9:12-13    NKJV; see also Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32    NKJV)

We have a number of things going on here that we have to have a clear understanding of in order for the gift of Grace, with the resultant Salvation, to have any meaning and/or value to us at all.  First, there can be no doubt at all that Jesus is making it very obvious that so far as He and the Father are concerned, sin is a terminal illness.  Second, the reference here to sacrifice is clearly meant to establish a distinction between Spiritual Mercy and the  ritualistic sacrifice necessary to Old Testament worship.  Third, and last, Christ wasn't interested in 'unlearning' anybody the facts concerning their status before God.  The point to be understood here is that before any of us could accept the shed blood of Christ as atonement for sin, we each have to have clarity in regards to not only our position before God, but also our position without God. 

'For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.'  (Mark 8:38    NKJV)

These words of the apostle Mark as he recorded the life of Jesus have to be understood to be a very direct and powerful warning as to what will happen, not what maybe will happen, but what will happen in regards to man's position before God, should any person decide to allow public opinion or peer pressure or anything at all to come between themselves and God.  I'm sure that everyone reading my ramblings today has at one time or another has witnessed someone who is a professed Christian not stay true to that position before God at a time when it wasn't 'fashionable' or 'politically correct' to do so.  Maybe you yourself was that person who found yourself feeling ashamed of standing up and declaring that Jesus was the Lord of your life.  Maybe you didn't want to be teased or ridiculed.  I [literally] thank God every day for having a Son who didn't mind being teased and ridiculed and beaten and tortured and then killed, for you and I alike. 

Now, to get back on track here, and yes, I have wandered a bit (like that's never happened before, right?), let's get a clear understanding of just exactly what it is that both separates man from God, and is utterly repulsive to God. 

'But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.'  (Isaiah 59:2    NKJV)

There you have it, plainly spoken in easy language to understand.  What I want everyone to make note of here is that while these words by the prophet make it clear that mans iniquities and sins have brought the Lord God to not only turn His face from mankind, but to also refuse to hear anything man has to say, there is something that these words do not say.  I'm talking about some specific things that a lot of people, and church doctrines, wrongfully attribute to God that are not only not in this particular Scripture, but are not in His Word anywhere.  Take another look, and then dig down deep in your frontal or sidal or backal lobes, or anywhere else in your brain where there might be some tidbit of information lodged that points a finger at anything else that would separate man from God.  I'll give everybody a hint:  Cause and Effect.  This particular issue actually goes all the way back to when man got crosswise with God there in the Garden of Eden.  Here's another hint in the form of a question:  What was it that man did to violate the Covenant that God had established with man?  I'll tell you right now that it was not specifically eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Okay, it's time to wrap this thing up, so let's look at our last Scripture, which should give everyone the answers to all of the questions I've asked today.

'For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.'  (II Corinthians 5:21    NKJV)

a sin is a sin is a sin is a sin... period. I'm sure that some of those who read this post will accuse me of oversimplifying things today, and you want to know something?  I'm okay with that, because if everyone will just think about it for just a sec, it'll become pretty obvious that God kept things pretty simple.  He said things like, 'Thou shalt have no other God before Me.' (Exodus 20:3    NKJV)  Even in His declaration of love for mankind who've made it pretty clear at times that they couldn't care less how He felt, He still kept it pretty simple, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.'  (John 3:16    NKJV)

Okay then, I'm done for the day.  This bit of rambling wasn't so bad now was it?  Be the way, I know that I haven't mentioned it in awhile, but, 'Yeah, I'm a Believer!'

Be assured that you are all in my prayers!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Perfect Rest by Perfect Redemption!

I've often made the statement that we have a God of second chances.  Let's look at just a few of the 'second' chances He gave the first of mankind as a complete entity, followed by His chosen people the Children of Israel, and lastly mankind as a whole once more. 

'Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.'  (Genesis 2:1-3    NKJV)

What is sometimes not understood, in regards to the Creator declaring a day of rest, was that the reason for the day of rest was in reality far more important than which day of the week it actually took place.  God took six days to create all that He created.  As a celebration of the completion of His work, which He found was good, He declared the day that followed the end of His work to be a day of rest. That day [of rest] came to be called the Sabbath, and that is, as we all know, Saturday on our calendars today.  Just so we understand that the Sabbath was indeed important to God, we need to pay close attention to v. 3 of our Scriptures up above.  God never intended that man was to see the Sabbath as a day off from work, with the only thing being different about the Sabbath and any other day of the week being that on the seventh day of the week man didn't have to work.  God intended for man to have a different view of the Sabbath day, and that is why He 'blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,' to emphasize it's importance.  While it can be pointed out that every day before the Lord is a blessed day, we have to keep in mind that He 'blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,' way before He declared man to be a holy people of His own.  Even with this in mind, the fact that in addition to blessing the seventh day, He also 'sanctified it' as His own is a point to be well noted.   We know that to sanctify something is to 'set it apart' so that it is seen to not be common with any other.  The seventh day of the week, Saturday, was set apart by God as a special day not to be considered as 'just another day.'  As we mentioned earlier, this was an act by the Lord God of all before He had declared His position in regards to identifying any certain people as His own. 

Now lets just jump ahead just a bit to when that situation changed.  At this point in time, there had been some major changes in the live of man.  The fall from grace by man by an act of disobedience had resulted in man no longer living on the 'easy street' God had placed him in originally that we know as the Garden of Eden. In between that incident and the giving of what is commonly called 'the Law', God had formally declared the people of the Hebrew nation to be His Chosen People.  After that momentous occasion, there had been several instances of God's Chosen turning their backs completely on Him, with the results each time that the whole of the Children of Israel suffered loss and affliction in some pretty heavy-duty ways.  But through it all, God was always consistent in all things He desired for His people and demanded from them, including His position in regards to the seventh day.

8 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.'  (Exodus 20:8-11    NKJV)

There you have it, plain simple language with no need of convoluted interpretation or prophetic discernment.  Remember that this instruction took place as a part of the Ten Commandments, so it's pretty obvious that this was of major importance to God. If you'll look closely at the last part of v. 11 here you'll see that once again God stressed the importance of this day to Himself with the affirmation that He 'blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.'  Now we don't need to let the word 'hallowed' throw us for a loop and cause us any undue anxiety.  This part of v.11 from the book of Exodus doesn't tell us that God did something new in regards to the Sabbath, apart from blessing and sanctifying it.  To 'hallow' something is to sanctify or consecrate it, same concept just a different word.  Maybe God was simply trying to let people know that He is a very literate Creator. 

I've probably got everyone wondering just how the Sabbath being sanctified by God has anything to do with 'Perfect Rest by Perfect Redemption', and I'll be the first to admit that the question is a good one.  So, let me ramble just a bit longer and we'll tie it all together.

8 'You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— 9 for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you.'  (Deuteronomy 12:8-9    NKJV)

Just so we're all on the same page here, yes, I know that these words of God recorded by Moses were in fact giving instruction as to how pagan places of worship and pagan articles of worship from lands and peoples conquered by the Children of Israel were to be disposed of.  But, if we look close and combine our scrutiny with the words of Christ to the Pharisees after they had once again tried, and failed, to trap Him by His own words and actions, we'll find that the spoken words of Moses to the people serve as a description of what was not acceptable before God followed by the words of Christ in describing what provides evidence that what is desirable to the Lord is near at hand to the New Testament Believer. 

22 'Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?  24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.  25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.'  (Matthew 12:22-28    NKJV) 

This whole bit of Scripture is basically summed up with the last verse.  What Christ was trying His best to make clear to these Jewish leaders was that before something, whether it be Beelzebub or the Spirit of God, could have any kind of authority over anything or anyone, from demons to any of mankind, first that entity had to be well established by their presence.  It is not necessary for the demons or us humans to acknowledge the authority of the Spirit of God, which is directly opposite of the fact that before any demon can have any kind of authority over man, that power has to be given to the demon by the man.  This is evidenced by the words of James to all of the twelve tribes who were scattered, or dispersed, to all points of the known civilized world.

'Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.'  (James 4:7    NKJV)

There are two instructions and a promise at work here, but it is kind of an odd setup in that the instructions are not what I would call 'stand alone' instructions.  By that I mean that if we follow the first instruction to 'submit to God.', then the second to 'Resist the devil' will follow as a natural event.  This brings us back to verse twenty-five in chapter twelve of Matthew up above in which the apostle
recorded the words of Christ, to read, 'But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.'  Let's break this down to make sure we all get it before we move on.  If a person chose to not submit to God, then it would be extremely hard to resist the devil.  What's even more disturbing for a great many people to hear, and they will have to acknowledge this fact on a certain day to come, is that if a person has not submitted to God, then it does them absolutely no good at all to resist the devil, even if they are able to do so.  Now let's get back to our instructions and promise.  By submitting to [the will of] God, we are resisting the devil, because it is the firmly established will of God for all of mankind to resist the devil.  Then we come to the promise, and in my mind this is one of the most powerful promises made by God to mankind in that if this promise were not found to be true, then the Throne of Grace would be just another lie in a whole shadow-land of deceit.  If we submit to God, it follows that we are actively resisting the devil, and if we resist the devil, then he has no choice but to flee.  That little four letter word is what makes this promise so powerful, and the definition for that word according to The Oxford Dictionary (1996) is, 1. a) run away. b) seek safety by fleeing 2. tr. run away from; leave abruptly; shun. 3. intr. vanish; cease; pass away.  When I plug any one of these meanings into our verse in James, and substitute it for the word flee, it sure seems to me as if the devil has no choice in the matter.  Do you see now why I feel that this little [promise] verse is one of the most powerful in Scripture?  And here is the best part of it all, the power behind this verse is all yours.  If you are a Born Again, Spirit Filled, Redeemed by The Blood Christian, then the power to force the devil to flee from you is all yours!  We've already seen how we get that power, by submitting ourselves to God [alone].  This brings us back to Matthew 12:28 and the promise spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ, that the mere fact that He was casting our demons by the [authority of] the Spirit of God was evidence that the Kingdom of God was no longer something to be talked about, it was the here and the now.  The 'here and the now' I'm talking about isn't just for those Pharisees in front of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, it's also about you and me, right now!  While the evidence that the Kingdom of God was upon those long ago Pharisees was that Jesus was casting out demons by the [authority of the] Spirit of God, so we today have much more in the way of proof that the time of the Kingdom of God is now.  Remember that the Holy Spirit had not yet descended to man at the time of the events described in  Matthew 12:28, so the work of the Holy Spirit was strictly through and by Jesus Christ.  But now, in today's time, the authority and sovereignty of God is more than available to every New Testament Believer through the work of the Holy Spirit within each of us.  With all that we've gone over, be assured that we've almost gone full-circle to where all of this ties in with the 'Perfect Rest by Perfect Redemption!' thing.  We're almost there, just hold on just a little bit longer!

20' Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.'  (Luke 17:20-21    NKJV)

I can promise you one thing, and that is that this answer from Jesus was not what the Pharisees expected or wanted to hear.  By the same token though, each person who comes to the Throne of Grace has the last part of this Scripture, 'For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.' as a promise from God.  Just so that we understand the facts concerning the Kingdom of God I'm going to take a little side trip here, but I promise it won't be long.

Back in Genesis, Scripture says that God made man in His [their] own image.

26 'Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.'  (Genesis 1:26-27  NKJV) 

We know that God wasn't talking about a physical image because God doesn't have a physical image (see John 4:24), and this cannot be confused with the time that God the Son walked the earth as Man.  As a preemptive strike, I'm going to throw some Scripture out here in support of the fact that in spite of man's sin of disobedience there in the Garden of Eden, man still has the Spiritual image of God.

11 'For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.'  (Titus 2:11-14    NKJV)

This epistle, or letter, was written by Paul to his emissary Titus, who was overseeing the [Early] Church in Corinth, and the part of Paul's letter we have here is written as an assurance of several things.  First, that God has made grace available to every single person.  It's important to understand this because just as we saw earlier in Matthew 12:28, the fact that the presence of the Spirit of God is evidence of the presence of the Kingdom of God, and equally important the availability of God, so the presence of the 'the grace of God that brings salvation' is also evidence of the presence of the Kingdom and availability of God, and being that it 'has appeared to all men.'  is more than ample to put to rest any thinking gone wrong that would limit the presence of the Kingdom of God to just those early members of the church built without hands.  The second point to be taken from this letter to Titus is the promise made by God that this 'grace of God...' is one of the several means by which man is guided and prompted by the Holy Spirit, and for this to have any value to a person we have to keep in mind that each of us has been created in His own [Spiritual] image, (see John 16:7-8).  This second point here is joined by necessity to the ultimate purpose of my rambling about today, that being the Scriptural truth that it's only by the New Testament Believers perfect redemption by the shed blood of Christ and the promises kept from God that Christians are able to enter into His perfect rest, which is found in  the Kingdom of God which is within each and every person who has come to the Throne of Grace for Salvation.  The author of Hebrews makes it pretty clear that entering into His rest is both something that all Christians have the choice of doing in our times today, and also that we will be under the ever watchful scrutiny of our Lord God Himself.

11 'Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.'  (Hebrews 4:11-13    NKJV)

To make a very important point clear, we have to be sure that we know that our ability to enter His rest is not based on our being worthy of that privilege.  We're only given the opportunity to be declared righteous before the Lord because of the obedience of Another.

14 'Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.'  (Hebrews 4:14-16    NKJV)

Okay then, there we have it, the bottom line is that yes, we as Christians do have the invitation to enter into His rest while still here in this world gone bad.  And yes, that invitation to enter into His rest is only available by the shed blood of Christ.  And again, yes, His rest for us in today's time is within the Kingdom of God, which is within each of us.  Keep in mind the parable of the Bridegroom.  Since we, the church [built without hands] don't know exactly when our Bridegroom will return for us, we have to make sure that we're firmly lodged within His rest at all times, (see Hebrews 4:11-13).

Be Blessed before the Lord!