Category Archives: Gospel

The Purpose of Life

This is my first blog post in a while. I am recovering from surgery. But there are a few things on my mind.

In the past few days, Christianity has been equated to virginal, tattoo-free and debt free women pursuing godly men…

ugh.

There has been a lot said, but here are a few thoughts of mine in no particular order:

  • The purpose of life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. This means women as well. Your purpose is not to please or to “get a man” but to serve the Lord Jesus, whether single, married or divorced.
  • If you are a single young woman (or man, for that matter) do not make it your goal to attract a member of the opposite sex. Make it your goal to be a faithful servant of Jesus. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Everything else flows from there. Let love be without hypocrisy.
  • If you are a man or a woman, your only comfort in life and in death is that you belong to your savior, Jesus Christ, who holds you in his hands and will never let you go. Your comfort will be found only there, whether it is God’s will that you marry or that you remain single.
  • There is a profound and crucial difference between “virginity” and “purity”. They are not the same. We are to flee sexual immorality, but your purity has nothing to do with your “virginity”. A woman who has gotten married is no longer a virgin, but she is still pure in Christ. A woman who is raped or molested has not lost her purity, and anyone who says otherwise is a fool and we should have nothing to do with them.
  • Virginity is a statement of physicality, a scientific fact as to the sexual history of a man or woman. It has nothing to do with purity. Purity is also called “holiness” in the scripture, and is found only in Christ. If you are in Christ, the perfect Lamb of God who was without blemish or spot, then you are pure. If you are not, you are polluted in sin and alienated from the promise, whether you are a virgin or not. We should never, ever confuse virginity and purity.
  • Romans 13:8 has nothing to do with taking out a student loan, or a car loan, or any other kind of loan. The point Paul is making is not an economic one, it is one of love. A loving person is a person who pays all of their obligations, especially obligations of honor, love and taxes (in the context). You can pay off your loan, but you will never be free of the obligation to love. That’s the point. Not whether you should carry student loan debt. Sheesh.
  • If you do take out a loan, pay it off according to the terms. That’s another application of Romans 13:8, but it is not the primary point.
  • What glorifies God above all else is when we all, men and women and children, use our gifts to the best of our ability for the advantage and welfare of our neighbors, wherever we may be. Since men and women have different gifts, they way that they serve will look differently. This is honoring to God, as 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us.
  • Being made in the image of God means to reflect God’s attributes to a watching world.
  • There is a cycle of bondage taught to us in the book of Galatians. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap the corruption of the flesh. To apply this today, if we think that remaining a virgin, not getting a tattoo and not going to college will make us pure, we are sowing to the flesh. If this is what purity involves, then Christ is not necessary. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption. It is not surprising, then, that these teachers who teach these types of things are also filled with immorality of every kind, cruelty, abuse, pornography, incest, pedophilia. Paul said that this is exactly what the flesh produces. We should not be shocked when another exposure takes place. When we see churches sowing to the flesh, by teaching holiness by works, we should expect immorality of every kind.
  • So look at this cycle: a man preaches that women must never get tattoos, never go to college, never wear a skirt above the knee or expose her collarbone or she will not be pure and won’t get a man. Then, because he is an abuser and knows nothing of Christ, he molests her. And then he tells her that she isn’t pure because she is no longer a virgin.
  • Does this sound like Christianity to you? It is a horrible caricature, a twisted imitation, and a cruel and heartless lie of the devil. Cast them out, and be holy in Christ.
  • Whatever we do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God, and quit seeking to please the abusers of this world, the evil Pharisees who seek to keep us in bondage. Cast them out.
  • Our trust is in Christ alone. Trusting in “purity systems” of any kind are a denial of the gospel, and ministers of death. Only the gospel will give us the life that we seek.

Thanks for putting up with my scattered thoughts. I hope you find them edifying.

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Filed under Gospel, Marriage, Men and women

The Pence Rule and Wisdom

This topic keeps coming up. Again, I want to stress this. I do not at all care, nor have any issue whatsoever with what Mr. Pence does. As a high powered politician, he might have many reasons not to eat with a woman alone.

My greatest concern is with false teaching. As Christians, we all want strong marriages. As Christians we despise sexual immorality, and seek to flee from it. For these reasons, false teaching sounds appealing and it is hard to put a finger on what is wrong with it. It isn’t that it is completely wrong. It’s that it is almost right, which in many ways is far worse. Almost right is more deadly than completely wrong.

For example, here is a post today from Beautiful Christian Life: Why the Pence Rule Shows Wisdom. These five reasons listed are purported to be Biblical. But are they?

Lets look at them:

1. It helps men and women to avoid sexual temptation.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:13)

I don’t see the connection. If a man meeting with a woman alone leads to sexual temptation, then there is a serious problem with the heart. It is the heart that must be addressed.

I think that this is often an excuse. A pastor gets caught in adultery. The facts are that he selected his victim, singled her out, met with her, groomed her, and then seduced her. When he is caught, he says, “I made some poor decision.” Which sounds far better than, “I’m a predator and got caught.”

But let’s not be foolish. A pastor committing adultery is a predator, not someone who made poor decisions concerning the Mike Pence rule.

Quit giving predators this excuse.

If your commitment to righteousness is so thin that being alone with the opposite sex puts you in danger, then you need to examine your heart, rather than add a rule.

I am afraid that this reason simple adds pride and will-worship to the gospel, making it of none-effect.

2. It seeks to honor the marital union.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Heb. 13:4)

I would say that a far better way to honor the marital union would be to love, honor and respect your spouse. It is absolutely true that a man who honors his marriage will never allow another to cause his wife pain. But, again, I fear this is an excuse.

I knew a man whose wife was jealous of him, for just cause – as it turns out. He spent many hours dining alone in romantic restaurants with another woman. His issue wasn’t that he violated the Pence rule. His issue was that he was committing adultery. Let’s call it what it is.

So, yes, absolutely go home and love, honor and respect your spouses. But don’t think that adding a man-made rule is the same thing as honoring your wife or husband.

I would suggest that we let scripture define what it means to honor your spouse, rather than a rule imposed from on high.

3. It recognizes the battle within all Christians between the flesh and the Spirit.

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Rom. 7:22-23)

Paul’s whole point in this passage is that the battle is fought and won with the gospel (Romans 8:1), not the law. If the law of Moses is of no effect in the battle against the flesh, how on earth can the law of Pence do that which the law of Moses cannot do?

Who will deliver us from this body of death? Only the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for me and rose the third day! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

By all means, if it is wise in your job to protect yourself then do so. But please do not pretend that the law can deliver us from the bondage of the flesh. Not even Moses could do that.

4. It shows respect for one’s family by keeping boundaries.

Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. (Prov. 11:29)

I love that verse. It has nothing to do with the subject under consideration. A man troubles his family with pride, arrogance, abuse, adultery, pornography, tyranny, abdication, abandonment, hatred, violence – and on, and on, and on.

A man who does those things certainly doesn’t care about what people think when he goes to a bar with whomever he wants. But the problem is not the Pence rule. The problem is that the troubler of the family is a child of the devil.

He needs converted, not another rule to thumb his nose at. Are there not enough laws in the Bible about honoring your family without adding another one? If he keeps none of the ones there, how can adding another one change anything.

5. It strives to bring glory to God.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)

Again, a great verse. I love it. It has nothing to do with the Pence rule. In fact, this one bugs me the most. It equates being alone with a woman with sexual immorality.

Really? If this one is true, then Jesus himself sinned when he was alone with the woman at the well, and the woman taken in adultery.

By all means, flee sexual immorality. But have a little bit more respect for our sisters in Christ. You may have a lot of reasons not to meet alone with a woman, either in church or at work. But if your reason is that you are afraid that you might commit adultery with her, then you are an adulterer, and perhaps a predator. You don’t need the Pence rule. You need to be born again. Let’s quit minimizing sexual immorality by equating it with meeting with a woman. It’s degrading to you and to your sisters in Christ.

We need far more than sound bites and twisted scripture. We need the Spirit of God poured out on our hearts. We need wisdom, which only comes from God (Proverbs 2).

Wisdom does not come from the law. The ability to keep the law of God comes from the wisdom of the heart, which is a gift of God. It only comes through the gospel; never through the law.

The difference between almost right and right is the difference between the gospel and another gospel. I fear, whenever we speak of the Pence rule, we aren’t speaking about the gospel anymore. We are adding the law into grace, and pretending that having begun in the spirit, we are now made perfect by the flesh.

It’s time we stopped.

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Filed under Gospel, Love, Marriage, Pastoral ministry

Meditation on the Passion

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.
2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.
3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.
6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
(Jn. 18:1-6 KJV)

The night that Jesus was betrayed, he was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. He is about to be arrested, mocked, spat on, scourged and crucified.

It will be a time of tremendous trial for the disciples, who are still expecting the Messiah to establish a kingdom in Jerusalem. Luke tells us they were expecting the one who would redeem Israel. But the redemption that Christ would bring would not be what they were expecting.

It would appear that the Messiah, the prince, the heir to David’s throne, the Son of God, is about to be overwhelmed, overpowered,  and overthrown. It would appear as if Jesus the Son of God would be weak and defeated in death.

The disciples are about to watch him dragged away bound. But before this happens, Jesus gives a glimpse into what is really going on.

Judas appears with a “band of soldiers”. This is a Roman cohort of around 600 men. Overkill, perhaps? But they have heard the stories about how Jesus works miracles, so they don’t want to take chances. “He’s really strong, so we are going to need a whole bunch of soldiers!”

Jesus asks them, “Whom do you seek?”

They answer, “Jesus of Nazareth”.

In our English versions, he responds, “I am he”, which sounds harmless enough. But in the Greek he answers “Ego eimi”, which is translated “I am.”

It is the same phrase that God spoke to Moses when Moses asked his name. “I am”. The name Jehovah is a form of that word. Jesus is answering the question, “Are you Jesus of Nazareth?” But he is showing us that he is far, far more than simply “Jesus of Nazareth”.

He is the eternal God, the maker of heaven and earth. The one who at no time ever sleeps, ever slumbers, ever loses control. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the eternal One, of infinite power, might, wisdom.

And when he speaks the name “I am” the entire cohort of soldiers falls flat on their faces before Almighty God.

At no time will Jesus every be weak, out of control, or overpowered. He gave himself. He himself said,

17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (Jn. 10:17-18 KJV)

This is worth thinking on.

When a man is being hurt, it is an instinctual reaction to pull away, to avoid the hitting or spitting. Jesus, of infinite power, did not have to be tied in place for the scourging. He did not have to be nailed to the cross to keep him in place. At any point, he could have stopped the whole thing with merely a word. He showed us that power in the garden. 600 soldiers would not have been enough had not Jesus given himself for our sins. One word, and they all fall flat.

But he remained obedient to the Father, even to death. It pleased the Lord to bruise him. He gave his back to the whip and his face to spitting.

The one who stumbled under the cross on his way to Golgotha is the very same one who gave the law from Sinai, who spoke to Moses from the bush, who destroyed the firstborn of Egypt.

His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. What the world views as weakness was nothing other than the strength of almighty God, tearing down the strongholds of sin and misery and shame.

And Jesus of Nazareth is still the one, true eternal God. He is still on the throne, reigning over all things. And he still is conquering. His sword comes from his mouth and his word still defeats the world. Take courage! His strength is made perfect in weakness.

What God considers strong is not the same as what the world thinks as strong. The greatest act of strength the world has ever seen was the suffering servant – arrested, scourged, ridiculed, crucified – and through those sufferings Satan is bound, and his kingdom is plundered.

Satan’s kingdom is still plundered the same way: through the word of Christ.

So beloved people of God,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
(Col. 3:16 KJV)

It is hard for us to believe that this word – sung, spoken, taught, preached – has the power over sin and shame and misery. But again, God’s ways are not our ways.

When the devil attacks, attack back with the word of Christ. Watch the armies of the enemy fall backwards to the ground.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:1 KJV)

Take just a minute today to think about it. Run it through your mind. Picture the Son of God at the moment of his arrest. But right before, he speaks, “I AM.”

This is whom we worship. And when we worship the Lamb who is the Lion of Judah, what do we have to fear?

What army can overthrow this one? What power could remove us from his hand? What have we to fear.

Let the word dwell in you, and do not be afraid. It is his good pleasure to give us the kingdom.

Everything is going exactly as he planned it. How can it not? He said, “I AM” and 600 troops fell down flat, and that was BEFORE he rose from the dead and was exalted to the right hand of God.

What then can take us from his hand? Who can stop his kingdom?

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way.

THIS is whom we worship. Blessed are all they who put their trust in him (Psalm 2) .

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Filed under Faith, Gospel, Hope, Passion

Does God Like Me?

8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (Jam 3:8-9)

How many of us have been attacked by the tongue? How many live at home with a reviler and are subjected to the lash of ugly words?

You’re fat.

You’re stupid.

No one even likes you.

You are worthless.

If it wasn’t for me, no one would even tolerate you.

There are millions who were raised by cruel and harsh men and women who have never known a kind word; who have never known what it is to be accepted or loved.

And there are also millions who scoff and say, “It’s only words. I just get angry sometimes…” To you, I have just one thing to say: Please read carefully Matthew 5:22 and meditate on how you use words. You are in danger of hell. If you have ever called one of God’s children ugly, fat, stupid, worthless, unlovable – who shall deliver you from the wrath to come? It is a dangerous thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Your words do not come from God. They are lit on fire from hell.

These are not the words that we have learned from Christ Jesus. He taught us to use words of truth and grace, seasoned with salt, edifying to the hearer.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Eph 4:29)

There are so many ways to tear people down with words. One of the most insidious is to never revile out loud, but just simply let your victim know that they really aren’t very likeable. Perhaps they are weird. Perhaps they do things differently. Perhaps they think a little…not like you. This is the classic passive-aggressive bully. God hates it.

This one is close to my heart, because I am…let’s face it…weird. I cannot small talk for anything. I have no idea what is going on in any sporting event. I say weird things at weird times. I don’t have a clue what “guys do”.  At my bachelor party, two of my friends picked me up from work and said, “This is YOUR NIGHT. You can do whatever you want!” I sat on their couch and stared at them for two hours until they let me go home.

I’m weird. There is no situation where I am not awkward, no conversation that I can’t stop by saying something very weird.

And most of my life, I was absolutely convinced that most people would be far happier if I just went home. So I usually did.

It occurred to me the other day that I have a hard time believing that anyone likes me. And then it occurred to me that I carry this belief to God himself. Does God actually like me?

It is an interesting question. I think that question is particularly difficult for those who have been attacked with the tongue. How can anyone like me? Does God like me? Does it matter?

It isn’t the same as “Does God love me”. We know that God does love us. He loves us with perfect, infinite, unchanging love in Jesus Christ, his beloved Son. We also know that nothing separates us from his love.

But does he like me?

I’ve heard of parents who say to their kids, “I love you, but I don’t like you very much.”

I’ve heard husbands say that about their wives. “I love her, but I sure don’t like her at times.”

And our greatest fear is that God just barely tolerates us. He loves us in Christ, but really just wishes we would go away. Can you think of anything more shameful than hearing God say, “I love you, but I sure don’t like you much.”

Do you see what I am getting at? I’m trying to make the doctrine of God’s love practical, and looking at what it actually means. What does it mean to love someone that you don’t really like? I guess I just don’t get that.

Does God think I’m weird? Does he think that church would be better if I didn’t show up? Does he roll his eyes and sigh when I cry out to him yet again?

Yes,  I know that God hates sin and calls me to repent. I also know that he has cleansed me from sin. I know that he does not tolerate sin. I’m not talking about sin. I’m talking about the fact that I really like colored socks and don’t know what to say to strangers I’ve just met. I’m talking about the kind of clothes that I wear and the kind of music I like. I wear waistcoats and hats and say weird things.

Does God like me? I am not speaking about the independence of God. I know that God does not need his creatures, including me, for anything. I do not add to his blessedness, for in him are all the perfections of holiness. I add nothing to God. I get that.

But does God like me?

Here’s why I believe this question is important. We were created to be social, in fellowship. We were created to be loved and have friends, to walk with God, to speak with him in the cool of the day. We were created to live in harmony with one another. We were created to be accepted and to love and be loved and to belong. To know and to be known.

And we still have that memory of Eden. We still have the need to belong. My heart still cries out to belong, to fit in, to be acceptable. The human heart cannot abide being outcast. No one can live thinking that everyone wishes they would go away, that everyone just thinks they are stupid, fat, smelly, ugly and weird. We cannot live thinking that we are totally unacceptable. This is the insidious nature of abuse. It tears down and destroys what the heart longs for the most. The words of a spouse can hurt and destroy and kill far more than any weapon imaginable. To be unacceptable, banished from love, and undesirable is intolerable to an image-bearer of God.

So the question is very important. Does God like me?

If God does not like me, then I must seek acceptance elsewhere. The stupidest, most shameful things I have ever done I did to try to be accepted. I sought the approval of men, and failed all the way around. I still blush when I think of it.

But if I do not seek the approval of men, whose approval do I seek, if God does not like me?

Do you see what I am getting at?

What do I do to be accepted? I am loved because of Jesus Christ, but does God accept me? Does God like me? Do I need to wear more acceptable, “god-like” clothing? Use more Christian-like phrases? Do I need to change my personality to something more acceptable to God?

Once again, I am not talking about sin. I know I need to confess and flee from sin. I am asking what I need to do for God to like me. Does God like me? Am I likeable?

And when I asked that question, scripture after scripture after scripture came to my mind and I felt free at last.

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Eph 1:5-6)

God chose ME because he wanted to, and he made me accepted in the beloved. God DOES like me, and I am accepted by him!

As for my body and my face,

14 I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.
16 Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written… (Psalm 139:14-16)

He put together my frame, my form, my face. He gave me my hair and my eyes. he gave me this belly and these feet. He doesn’t think of me as defiled, ugly, unclean, untouchable, for he made me. He gave me these parts, and behold they are very good.

Get thee behind me, Satan! God gave me this face and said it was very good! How dare you insult the frame that God gave to me! I’m not dirty and untouchable and unlovable!

As for my gifts and personalities,

18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now there are many members, but one body. (1Cor. 12:18-20)

(Read the whole chapter!) See how God has chosen ME and has given me the gifts that he gave me. He gave me those gifts on purpose. He knew what he was doing. He gave me my weird personality, he gave me my strange quirks. In fact, it is because I am different that I am valuable to the body of Christ, according to this text. If we were all an eye, who would do the hearing?

Look around your church, look at your fellow believers. God gave each of them their gifts, their looks, their abilities, their perspectives, their cultural and social background. And he did it ON PURPOSE.

It is his good pleasure to give you all the kingdom.

Does God like us?

17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (Zeph. 3:17)

And here,

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psa 100:3)

Our God, thrice holy, infinite and almighty, the creator and sustainer of the earth made ME, and made me on purpose. He gave me my personality, my background, my gifts. he gave me the body that I have, and even the flaws are counted – like how many hairs fall.

And he said it was very good. He redeemed me in Christ, and calls me to put off the old man with the fears and the doubts. He told me not to be a man-pleaser, but to seek to please him.

Because of the work of the Lord Jesus, and because I belong to him by faith, I am accepted by God. And because I am loved, God has given me his spirit, and given me gifts.

And when I am kind, when I use my gifts to his glory, when I rest in him, when I trust in him, when I cry out to him, he accepts me. He delights in ME.

ME!

I am not just barely tolerated by God, but accepted in the beloved. He loves ME, and, yes, if I may say so, he likes me.

And so let’s all put aside our doubts and our fears and run this race together, shall we? Let’s quit trying to lift ourselves up by tearing one another down. Let’s quit trying to one-up each other, bragging and boasting about our accomplishments. Let’s quit worrying about whether anyone else likes us or not. If God is for us, who can possibly be against us?

Be kind, courageous and faithful, for your God is with you!

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Filed under Gospel, Hope, Love, Words

Trust

4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: (Isa 26:4)

We have a natural tendency to attempt to add our own works to our salvation. We like to think that there HAS to be something that we contribute to justification.

Popular theologians will sometimes separate initial justification from final justification, trying to preserve the reformation doctrine of sola fide and at the same time bring human effort back into the final judgment. This shows how strong the pull is to revert back to our natural religion.

Our natural religion says that we aren’t as bad as God says we are. That we are at bottom pretty good people who just made a few mistakes along the way. Natural religion also views God as a harsh judge to others, but far more lenient with US and those just like us. The first priest of the natural religion was Cain.

But the Bible doesn’t allow us to fudge on the holiness of God. God as a just judge should rightly cause us to tremble in terror, because we are on the wrong side of that justice, and we all know it.

But Christian doctrine is as opposed to natural religion as east is from west, as oil from water. Christian doctrine places God’s acceptance of us in the righteousness of another – Jesus Christ. It is only His righteousness that can stand before the judgment throne. God does not now and never will accept “good intentions” in the place of perfect righteousness.

Not even a game show host will accept “I was just going to say that” in the place of the correct answer. How much less will a perfect, holy God accept “I was just going to do that” instead of perfect righteousness?

But God has provided that perfect righteousness. It is found in only one place. He sent forth his Son, made of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were born under the law (Galatians 4:45).

And here is an important implication of this doctrine, which will affect everything that you do:

We are called to trust in the Lord with all of our heart. We have no other place to stand. Doctors fail, with a 100% failure rate – eventually. Politicians never bring change. Horses won’t save us. Princes won’t save us. Knowledge and science won’t bring peace to our souls or stave off death.

The wisdom of the world changes every few years. The opinions of men cannot even settle what kinds of foods are healthy and what are not, how much less can they tell us how to be accepted by the Holy One of Israel?

Men and women, above all, battle a ferocious enemy whose weapons are fear, shame and guilt. He drives humanity to extreme cruelty, extreme despair, extreme illness, extreme mistrust and hatred.

And this enemy is far, far too powerful for us. Where will we turn for salvation? Where will we stand when all around is sinking sand? Where will we find rest? Who will take away our distress?

And here is the kicker: You cannot trust anyone if you are not fully persuaded that they are actually on your side.

Israel mistakenly believed that Assyria was on their side. It cost them their lives and their inheritance. Judah falsely trusted Babylon and Jerusalem was destroyed. Syria, Babylon, Assyria were on their own side, and looked out for their own interests.

How much more damaging is trust in a God who isn’t actually on our side? Can anything be more terrifying than this pronouncement from God?

4 Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.
5 And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
6 And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.
(Jer 21:4-6)

And these are the words spoken to Israel. How can you trust in the Lord if the Lord Himself is against you?

And here is the problem with all schemes that seek to put even one little work back into the plan of salvation. If I have to prove to God that my faith is genuine, if I have to add one little thing to the perfect work of Christ, if I have to love or desire God as a condition for my salvation – then how on earth am I supposed to trust him? What if I didn’t do enough? What if the law still thunders its curse at me?

What if I fail? What if the water I give isn’t cold enough, or my longing for the face of God is too sporadic and changing, what if my love isn’t worthy of the beauty of the object of my love?

What if my sacrifice isn’t enough? What if my submission isn’t enough?

Did I miss something?

And then I realize that I am not actually SURE that God is on my side, because a holy God cannot dwell with sinful man and the more I examine myself, the more I see just how corrupt I am.

So how can I trust God to do me good if God’s view of me depends upon me – even a little bit.I don’t even like me all that much, how can God?

This is why trust in God is always based on only one thing: the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no fault found there. There is no failure or mistake, lapse in the perfect Son of God made flesh for us and for our salvation.

I can completely and absolutely and without reservation commit my salvation, my health, my livelihood, my retirement, my daily bread, and the forgiveness of sins into the hands of the one who did not even spare his own son for me and for my salvation. THAT is trust. Even my prayers are made in the name of Jesus, for apart from that name, God isn’t actually on my side and I have no reason to trust that he will hear me.

Because of Jesus our righteousness is perfect, complete and finished – now and forever. And since this is true, we can boldly say,

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Rom 8:31-39 KJV)

If our salvation isn’t actually finished and certain, then how can we possibly say this and where will our souls find rest?

Come to Jesus who is able to clothe you perfectly. His garments cover your nakedness and shame. His blood makes you acceptable to God as his dear child. His righteousness has you covered forever. Only when you know this can you actually trust God, and love and joy and peace flow from there.

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Filed under Faith, Gospel, justification, Trust

A Greater King

I’ve been thinking lately about a challenging passage in the Bible. I think that too often, we read the stories of the Old Testament as quaint fables of old, or stories of another people and another time and we wonder what it has to do with us today.

But those stories are written records of God’s redemptive history. The written accounts of the Old Testament are given to us by God to teach us how God has prepared the world for his Redeemer, who would save his people from their sins.

The disturbing account that I have been meditating on is found in 2 Samuel 24, and the parallel account is in 1 Chronicles 21.

If you haven’t read these accounts lately, or if you have never read these accounts, please do so before you read my comments. I’m just a guy trying to point you to Christ. The Word of God gives life to the dead. So read it. I’ll wait….

OK. The first thing that you see is that 2 Samuel says that the Lord was angry with David and stirred him up to number his army. Then you see that 1 Chronicles says that Satan incited David. This brings us to a deep subject that cannot really be exhausted in one blog, but the fact is this. Satan does nothing apart from God’s decree. It is God who is sovereign over every event that comes to pass, even the temptations of the devil.

Now, that being said, it seems very odd to us that God would be angry with David and allow Satan to tempt him to sin, especially since God knows that this chain of events will end with the death of 70,000 men in Israel. This doesn’t seem to fit our notions of God.

But very briefly, in this short blog, I want you to see something about God.

God is holy and cannot dwell with sinful man. David was a sinner. He was proud, lustful, bloodthirsty, fearful. He was a real sinner with real sins. In fact, not only was David a sinner, but every person alive in Israel was a sinner and deserving of the eternal wrath of God. Not one of those who died in the plague was treated unjustly by God.

Which brings us to the next point. Because Israel was sinful, God gave them a king and a priest. David was the king, and Zadok was the priest. David protected them from their enemies and ruled over them as the representative of God. In fact, the earthly kingdom of David on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem was so closely related to the Kingdom of God that the term “Zion” was used interchangeable for the Church in the Psalms. God ruled and met with his people on Mt. Zion, through the priesthood, and through the line of David. David also was given a promise: that his seed would reign forever and ever, and of his kingdom there would be no end.

But David was a sinner – as we established. He caved to the temptation of the devil and turned his trust onto his troops and his prosperity, rather than to the Lord God of Israel. And God is holy, and cannot abide with sin.

God said very clearly, “The soul that sins shall die.” And God cannot lie. What happens when those who are mediating between God and man are themselves sinners? What happens is that everyone dies. Not only the mediator, but also those who are represented by the mediator. How can a mediator save anyone if he himself is a sinner?

This is what we learn about God in this difficult passage. It is difficult because it shows us a God that doesn’t fit with our notions of what God should be like.

But the story doesn’t end there. If the story ended there, none of us would be alive.

Jerusalem was the newly conquered capital of David. David took it from the hands of the Jebusites and established his kingdom there. Now the angel of death is passing through Jerusalem with the sword of God’s wrath unsheathed and destroying. But then God commands the angel to stop. In the air above the threshing floor of a Jebusite named Ornan, the angel waits the command of God with his sword raised, prepared to destroy.

And God commands David to offer a sacrifice right there. When the sacrifice is offered, the angel puts up the sword. Get this point: God accepted a substitute for the death penalty decreed upon man.

Of course, this substitute could only be temporary, for the blood of bulls and goats could never atone for sin in the eyes of God. But that blood pointed to something far greater…

David understood the message from God and purchased the land from Ornan. David had been preparing to build a permanent temple for the worship of the Lord. But the law had clearly stated that the location for that temple would be revealed by God himself. No one could just decide for himself on a good location. It is only God who sets the terms for sinful man.

And David got the message. That plot of land became the site of the Temple of Solomon, where God met with his people, where the sacrifices were offered and accepted. But the priests were still sinful. The king was still sinful.

People kept dying. God’s wrath kept being unleashed because of the sin and idolatry of the people and the mediators. Eventually the line of David was offering human sacrifice outside the gates of Jerusalem and worshiping the gods of the Canaanites right in the very Temple of Solomon! God is just and holy, and Jerusalem would eventually be destroyed, God’s presence would depart, and the king would be imprisoned in Babylon.

What happens when the mediator is sinful? We are still in our sins and the sword of the angel is still raised.

And this all points to something even greater. The time would come when the angels would appear again, this time to shepherds outside of Jerusalem. But this time their swords would be sheathed, and they would be singing, “Peace on earth.” God provided the terms of peace.

This baby born wouldn’t be a sinful mediator. He would be the spotless lamb of God. This baby wouldn’t cave to the temptation of the devil, but would hold faithfully to God’s word without failure.

And the day would come when the perfect and sinless lamb of God would take the sword of God’s wrath upon himself.

When the mediator isn’t a sinner, the world is saved. When the mediator isn’t a sinner, the kingdom of God thrives and prospers. When the mediator isn’t a sinner, he can be offered to God as the perfect substitute for sin and the sword of God can be sheathed forever.

The Heidelberg Catechism puts it like this:

What kind of mediator and redeemer then must we seek?

One who is true and righteous man, but also more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.

There is only one who fits THAT bill. There are a lot of men and a lot of women. But there was only ONE who could be called righteous before the judgment throne of God. Only one who never caved to Satan. Only one who was born without the corruption of Adam. And we are celebrating that birth this week.

And this same one is also true God. Everything you can say about God you can say about the baby in the manger. He is omnipotent, simple, everywhere present, eternal, infinite in power and majesty, upholding the universe by his decree. How one person can be omniscient and sovereign and have to learn how to walk and read is a mystery that we cannot explain. But we confess it and sing it and remember that his name is Wonderful.

Why then would we exchange the only mediator between God and man with a sinful creature? Why do we look to husbands or wives or kings or presidents or pastors or popes to act as the bridge between God and man? There is only ONE mediator.

David was anointed by Samuel, appointed by God, given a kingdom. God placed his name and his blessing on David’s kingdom. God blessed Israel for David’s sake. God blessed his people and loved his people and prospered his people for David’s sake.

And David sinned and thousands and thousands died from the sword of the Lord. We need a far greater mediator than that!

When your mediator is a sinner, you are a dead man walking.

As we celebrate the birth of this Mediator, as you read and hear about his birth, when you think about angels and shepherds and wise men, remember this inconvenient truth. The sword of the Lord has been sheathed for a while as the gospel is proclaimed. But that sword will fall. The wrath of God is still coming. How can anyone believe in a good and holy God and not believe in the coming judgment? Of course God is coming in judgment! That sword must fall because God is good and men and women are idolaters, murderers, fornicators, thieves. And the sword will indeed fall.

But before it falls, God has provided a perfect substitute, a perfect king, a perfect priest. He wasn’t sinful and weak. Born in a manger, and yet without sin. Worshiped by shepherds and wise men, wrapped in strips of cloths for a diaper. The creator and sustainer of the universe crying at night for the breast and a burp. And eventually nailed to a cross to take the sword of the wrath of God completely.

When we believe on his name and trust in him alone, the life that he provides is given to us. He who believes on him shall never die. The sword is put away forever in Christ, and there is now no condemnation. His resurrection is a sure pledge of OUR resurrection, because his sacrifice was accepted. And his sacrifice was accepted because in him, God was well-pleased. He was sinless, so that we could live.

Put away trust in men, put away faith in other mediators. Put away your blind faith in pastors, husbands, and kings. When your mediator is a sinner, you are a dead man walking. Rest in him alone. There is only one mediator: Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Filed under Christology, Eternal Subordination, Gospel

Rejoice Always!

There are a lot of people opening up about the abuse that they have suffered.So many must be feeling triggered right now. Holidays are so hard for so many – reminders of betrayal, heartache, loneliness – that we live in a cursed world full of injustice, lust for power, greed. Many are perhaps suffering from illness or ongoing pain. Many have gone to the church for help only to be attacked, shamed and abused in the house of God!

And yet we also see the command of God to rejoice always! How can we do this?

Here is a list of things that we can truly be thankful for, even in the whirlwind of this life in the flesh.

  1. We have been completely washed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus. On particularly rough days, I imagine the meaning of my baptism as I shower. Just as this cool, refreshing, cleansing water is cleaning my body, I really and truly am washed by the blood of Christ. I am clean completely in the eyes of God. He doesn’t see me as I see myself, or as others see me, but as a new creation, fit to enter his presence – clean. He sees me the same way that he sees Jesus – his well-beloved Son.
  2. Because I am in Christ, God loves me with an almighty, infinite, unchanging eternal love. So I can rest in him. Because he is almighty, there is nothing outside of his power. Because he is unchanging, nothing can remove me from his hands.
  3. He sets the lonely into families; he frees the prisoners; he heals the sick; he feeds the hungry. He cares for my broken-down body. He is at work in me and I am fearfully and wonderfully made! His faithfulness is everlasting – unchanging, almighty, infinite.
  4. God is just, and this is a cause for rejoicing! On this earth, justice always comes short. The wicked prosper and the righteous are oppressed. Ahab gets rich and Naboth is stoned and everything seems completely upside-down. There is even great wickedness in the house of God! But God told us there would be. And God told us that he will not forget. He sees it and there will be a reckoning. God’s judgment will be infinite, almighty and unchanging. He will thoroughly clean his threshing floor.
  5. Sometimes we tie ourselves into knots trying to figure out how a just God squares with an evil world. But since 1 and 2 above are true, we can stop trying to figure it all out, and just rest – knowing that God is not fooled, is not swayed by trends and opinions, and already has this sorted. Our job is to wait and hold to Christ. The secret things belong to him.
  6. And the day will come when Jesus will descend with a shout of the archangel and the blast of the trumpet. His people will be gathered together and meet him in the air, and descend triumphantly with him. They will be vindicated before everyone. Every slander will be revealed for what it is, every murderer and reviler exposed, every abuse and every degradation exposed and left without excuse. There won’t be any “mistakes were made” or “besides, I’m gay” or “we were protecting the ministry” or “everybody did it back then”. There will be only perfect justice.
  7. And God’s people, united to Christ by faith, will be vindicated before the world. Every glass of water given freely, every meal shared, every kind word, every prayer – not to prove anything to God, but to reveal God’s people for who THEY are. Slander and reviling and gas-lighting will all be destroyed forever. God knows his own, and his works in his own people will be revealed before the universe.
  8. And there will be no more curse. No more loneliness, no more wickedness and strife, no more illness and pain, no more death, no more lies.
  9. The day will come when we will crush the head of the serpent under our feet and reign over all things forever and ever.
  10. No matter how weak we are on this earth, no matter how many have trodden us underfoot, no matter what we have suffered, we are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ. In him there is no more male and female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, but we are all one in Jesus Christ. We share in his sufferings together. We share in his glory. We will reign with him over all creation forever. How astounding is that??

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Filed under Gospel, Hope, Thankfulness

How does God see me?

The day is going to come when Jesus will come again and we will all stand before his judgment throne. We will be judged on our works.

This means that we have a problem. To illustrate that problem, take out a blank sheet of paper. On this sheet of paper, write down every sin, mistake, error in judgment, and failure that you have ever committed.

Wait.

Before you start, put down Adam’s sin in the very first spot. When you were conceived, you already had this one on your account.

Now, start with the things that keep you up at night. The kind words you should have said. The ugly words that you did say. The lingering looks over the girl walking by you and the horrible things that went through your mind.

The time you really enjoyed that tiny piece of gossip, destroying someone with your hateful tongue. Maybe the time that you were unthankful to God and doubted his goodness. Add your road rage, your hateful words at the customer that is standing in your way. Add your thoughts of rage against your server or cashier for being an idiot and a moron.

And those are just the things you did and didn’t do. What about who you are as a person? Your first thought isn’t about the glory of God; it is about your own glory. Your first love isn’t the love of God, it is a love for yourself. You don’t wish your neighbor to have success, even if it means you don’t. You want to be first. You don’t want to worship the God who is; your first thought is to worship a god that you like better than the one true God.

Maybe you try really, really hard to love God. Maybe you really want to be a better person, so you have learned to reign in your tongue.

But you still have sleepless nights, don’t you? You know that when Jesus comes again, all of those thoughts will be revealed to the whole universe so that every mouth will be stopped. There won’t be any more excuses. They weren’t indiscretions; they weren’t inappropriate gestures; they were sins, affronts against almighty God and worth his eternal wrath.

And you can’t do anything about it.

Write them down on your piece of paper. Remember that all of the ones that you missed, or excused, or forgot about, God already has written them down. He will never acquit the guilty.

Now think about Jesus. Look at the law. He kept all of that perfectly. Imagine never once failing to act according to perfect love. Imagine loving God with all of your heart and mind and strength, and never once failing. Never saying a cruel word. Never rejoicing in gossip. Never abusing and defiling, even in his mind.

It’s hard to imagine because we have no experience of it. We don’t know what it is like to NOT be corrupted by sin. But we have the law. We have the proverbs – God’s description of wisdom – a character reference of Jesus, the Wisdom of God made flesh.

Imagine perfect righteousness, spotless holiness, and unflagging wisdom written in a book.

Now you have two ledgers. You have the works that you have done and have failed to do. It’s pretty ugly. And you have the works that Jesus did and the sins that he refused. It is beautiful, wise, holy, without blemish. It is clean.

When Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate declared him innocent. Pilate knew that he had done nothing deserving of death. As the temporal judge, he bore witness to God’s judgment: Jesus committed no sin and had no guile in his mouth. But because of Pilate’s character and the treachery of the Jews, Pilate condemned him to death anyway. But when it came time to write up the charge and nail it to the cross, Pilate had a problem. He didn’t have anything to write.

So he wrote, “The King of the Jews” in order to insult the Jews. He refused to change it.

God says this:

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Col 2:13-15 KJV)

Even though Pilate had nothing to write on Jesus’ cross, God did. He took that ledger that you just filled out. Your sinful nature, every sin that you committed and every deed of righteousness that you failed to do. God even took the ones that you didn’t add, the ones you didn’t know about, the ones you excused and justified – he took them all and nailed THAT to the cross of Christ.

The charges were against YOU. The condemnation fell on Jesus.

“What thou, my Lord, has suffered

Was all for sinners’ gain

Mine, mine was the transgression,

But thine the deadly pain” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)

What happened to the other ledger – the one with Jesus’ perfect righteousness? It’s the book that is opened when I stand before God on the judgment day. Every work that he did, every perfection, every spotless act of beauty and wisdom, is put on MY account.

It isn’t how much I loved God in this life. It is how much Jesus loved God.

It isn’t how much I desired God or lived a life of Christian hedonism. It is HIS perfect righteousness, faith, and obedience, put on my account.

It isn’t how much I persevered or how tightly I held on. It isn’t about the strength of my faith or the purity of my faith. It is about the strength and purity of my savior. With my empty hands, I cling to him. With my filthy heart, I cry out for mercy. With my sin-filled tongue, I call to Him.

His righteousness is mine. My sin and filth were put to death on his cross, and that puts to death the bondage and power of the devil. That great exchange will always lead to a changed life, but the changed life will always fall far, far short of the righteous requirements of God. The only thing that will EVER stand before God is the perfect righteousness, holiness and satisfaction of Christ put on my account.

If only I accept it with a believing heart.

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Filed under Faith, Gospel, Hope, justification, Sin and Grace

Thoughts concerning Slaves and Children

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal 4:4-7 KJV)

A servant, whether a slave or an employee, works for two reasons. Either to earn a wage or to avoid punishment.

But God doesn’t want good employees, or good slaves. He wants sons and daughters. This is why the greatest commandment is:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Mat 22:37 KJV)

This is why righteousness can never come by the law. The law makes fearful slaves, but God desires our hearts.

It is true that a heart that loves God is a heart that keeps the commandments of God, but it is deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to earn a reward – whether it is final righteousness or final justification or any other “wage”. It is also deadly to our comfort to think that we are working to avoid punishment, for Jesus has already taken the cup of God’s wrath and drank the last drop. There is no more condemnation.

Work that flows from hope of reward or fear of punishment is the work of a servant. And God responds to servants this way:

9 “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” (Luk 17:9-10 NAS)

Salvation is not learning to become a good slave, for God would have sons and daughters. Sons and daughters certainly obey and honor their father, but the motive is from a heart of love and gratitude, which is pleasing to the Lord.

Jesus did not come to make us slaves. He came to make us heirs.

And love is only learned from the gospel, received by faith. Love can never be learned from the law.

The apostle James warns of dead faith, which is faith without works. His point is NOT to add works to dead faith, but to repent of dead faith and gain a living faith in the living savior. Living faith always brings forth good works, as a loving son always obeys the father. But we are saved because we are united to Christ by faith, not because we worked hard enough to earn a reward.

The difference between a son and a slave is everything.

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Filed under Gospel, sanctification

“I will give you rest…”

2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Gen 2:2-3 KJV)

The seventh day, God rested. Of course, we finite creatures cannot possibly understand what this means for an infinite God, but it was written for our benefit. God rests, and created man to enter into that rest.’

But man fell, and was driven from the Garden. I am one of the few that take the history of Genesis literally. I can’t explain men and women, their desires, their loves, their hates, their unfulfilled longings any other way. Man was created to enter into God’s holy habitation. But man became unholy, defiled and corrupt, with a memory of what was lost.

But God did not cast them into hell. Instead, he provided a way of salvation. He provided a way of restoration. We call this the covenant of grace, and it was first announced after man’s fall in the Garden of Eden.

The bondage that mankind put themselves in was illustrated perfectly in Israel’s hard bondage in Egypt. They were slaves to Pharaoh and there was nothing that they could do about it. Pharaoh was too strong, and Israel was too weak. So also with all mankind. Sin is too strong and we are too weak.

We commit our way to God and tell ourselves that today we are going to live righteously. And if you understand God’s holy law, you realize that your commitment lasted until your feet hit the floor. We sin because we are born corrupt and twisted, serving ourselves and our own lusts continually. We hate our sins and yet continually return to them. We loathe ourselves at night and make more resolutions. And break them again first thing in the morning. Over and over again. Sin is a harsh and undefeatable task-master.

Unless God intervenes.

God intervened with Israel in Egypt. He gave them the Passover lamb. They put the blood of the lamb on the door of their houses, and that night the firstborn of Egypt died and Israel was free.

Think of it – they had their first day off in their whole lives. They were free from their taskmasters. And that day, their first day of freedom, marked the first Sabbath. From them on, every seventh day Israel rested.

God told them why in Exodus 31:

13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. (Exo 31:13 KJV)

Israel was given the Sabbath as a sign – that Jehovah is the only one that sanctifies his people. God himself makes us holy and fit for the holy habitation of God. Only then can we enter into God’s rest. Just as God delivered them from Pharaoh, so also God promised that he would deliver them from the bondage of sin. But just as Israel could not deliver themselves from Pharaoh, so also mankind could never deliver themselves from the bondage of sin. But that which is impossible for God is possible for man.

This was also signified in the land of Canaan. Joshua led them around Jericho once for six days and on the seventh, he led them around 7 times. On the seventh time of the seventh day, the walls fell flat and Israel entered their rest.

But those who didn’t believe the promise – the God would give them rest – their bodies fell in the wilderness:

10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

(Psa 95:10-96:1 KJV)

By the time Jesus came into the world, the Jews had changed the meaning of the Sabbath. Instead of the Sabbath pointing to Jehovah sanctifying his people and giving them rest, the Sabbath day became a harsh burden of a thousand different things that could or could not be done. They had 39 categories of work, each with 6 sub-categories – all of which were forbidden. And the different Rabbinical traditions had their own interpretations and their own rules. All were inflexible. All were merciless.

To the Pharisee, the Sabbath meant that if you worked really hard, did the right things, and separated from those horrible sinners then you could perhaps convince God to begrudgingly allow you entrance into Abraham’s bosom.

As long as you didn’t miss anything.

The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees over the Sabbath wasn’t over which works were allowed and which were not allowed. The point was over the meaning of the Sabbath to begin with. The one promised who would give them rest, who would sanctify his people, who would bring his people into his eternal rest,  was standing right in front of them!

How could they have known he was the one promised? Isaiah wrote:

4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: (Isa 35:4-6 KJV)

Israel would know that God had come to their aid when they saw the eyes of the blind opened, the tongue of the dumb loosened, and the lame man walking. And this was exactly what Jesus did. And he did it on the Sabbath day. What was more fitting? The lamb of God sanctifying his people and preparing them for heaven on the very day that was a sign of that reality?

The reason Israel was forbidden to work on that day was so they would always remember the sign. God sanctifies his people. God delivers his people. God saves his people.

We don’t save ourselves; God saves us. What a tremendous promise! To rest on the Sabbath meant that you had to trust God for your daily bread. And if you lifted your eyes upward, you would see that you also were to trust God to fulfill his promise to sanctify his people. God would give us His righteousness if only we accept it with a believing heart.

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;
31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,
(Rom 9:30-32 NAS)

The Pharisees of every age, on the other hand, followed the natural religion. If we are good enough, God will bless us. And they worked hard at it. They slaved for God’s approval. And they despised Jesus for being gracious to those who didn’t work near hard enough for that favor.

“We have worked, and slaved, and done hard labor our whole lives for God’s favor, and you are telling us that this beggar, this sinner, this publican, this “loose woman”, this Gentile, can just waltz right in and God will accept them??”

This is a big study, but a worthwhile one. A modern Pharisee won’t see the point, and will probably get irritated. But here is why I am telling you about the Jewish Sabbath and the conflict between Jesus and the Jews: We still have the same conflict today.

We have experts of every stripe telling us how to sanctify ourselves to make ourselves worthy of God’s favor. We have annual conferences on how to be manly husbands, feminine wives. We spend millions of dollars on books on how to pray, how to gain God’s favor, how to act, how to marry, how to live. We have our celebrity preachers who will tell you, for a cost, about their schemes, and their soundbites and their plans and their programs. Here’s how you must raise your kids. Here is how you must homeschool. Here is what to wear, what to eat, what to watch on TV, what not to watch on TV. Here’s is how to be a good wife. Here is how to be a good husband. Here is how short your skirt must be; here is what kind of blouse you must wear and what material it must be made of.

All for money or power. We have made Christianity so complicated and so full of so many rules and regulations. And every church has their own rules and regulations.

God only gave us Ten Commandments, but we have multiplied statutes to ourselves and ignored the law completely. We kill, maim, slander, rape, assault, and give approval to those who do the same. But we make sure the skirt is the right length, the wrong beverages are avoided, the appropriate demeanor is put on the face.

The message is clear. Grace is free and unmerited, as long as you do all of the right things, act the right way, go to the right conferences, and do what you are supposed to do. And I will tell you what those things are, as long as you fill out this registration form and send your check or money order to the registrar on time. Can we not see the contradiction? Is the righteousness of God freely given, or bought with money and works?

What has happened to the gospel of Jesus Christ? I don’t even recognize it anymore.

Aren’t you tired of it? Aren’t you tired of self-appointed prophets gaining wealth over the backs of the poor and downtrodden? Aren’t you tired of watching your every step, making sure that you are manly enough, feminine enough, righteous enough, a good enough parent, a good enough citizen? Are you weary of the constant vigilance? Don’t you need a Sabbath rest?

Then here is the message of the Sabbath again:

4 Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.” (Isa 35:4 NAS)

To you who have been made afraid, you who have been abused and cast away like garbage, know this: God is gathering a people for himself. He is sanctifying those people and preparing them to enter into His rest. And he will come with vengeance. Egypt, Jericho, Babylon and earthly Jerusalem all fall to the ground.

It is the meek, the oppressed, the poor, that inherit the earth. And nothing unclean will enter in.

And you cannot barge your way through the gates. The only way is through the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

So don’t be afraid. There aren’t a thousand different rules by a thousand different men. There is only one way to salvation, only one way to sanctification.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Act 16:31 KJV)

And

20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
21 “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
(Gal 2:20-21 NAS)

And here:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat 11:28-30 KJV)

If you have not found rest for you souls, you have not yet found Christ. Come to him, I urge you, and rest.

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