God vs. Sin (Part One)

October 4, 2019 at 9:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

We may define sin as the breaking of God’s law. Sin first showed up in God’s universe when Lucifer, in his pride, rebelled against God, inducing one third of the Heavenly host to join him. Sin appears for the first time in the earth very early in the Bible, as the same Lucifer, now Satan, in the form of a serpent, tempted Eve to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, and she in turn brought sin to Adam. He sinned too.

The word “sin” first occurs in Genesis 4:7: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” It plays a key role in the story of the Bible, and because it is our chief identification apart from Christ, and because it is the cause of the curse upon this world, including death, disease, misery, and the exhibition of God’s wrath against His creatures, it is a serious foe, opposing the glory of God, and one with which God must deal.

One little sin caused God to cast His entire “very good” universe into moral darkness and decay. That’s one example of how “bad” sin really is. Another example also comes early on in the Bible:

And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;

Genesis 18:20

Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.

Genesis 19:24-28

Because God is just, He can not simply ignore sin, and, although we know He forgives sins, there must be some basis other than pure mercy for God to deal with sin in mercy while remaining just.

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.

Proverbs 17:15

This is the great dilemma. God could “set aside” sin, in a manner of speaking, for a time, but His just and righteous wrath could not be done away with, only stored up.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Acts 17:30-31

The “winking” described Acts 17:30 is not a cutesy type of approval. It’s not an inside joke whereby God acknowledges that “boys will be boys” or that “sinners will be sinners, so what am I gonna do?” What it describes is a sort of judicial “overlooking” for the time being with the understanding that what is currently being allowed WILL be dealth with at the proper time.

When my oldest daughter was still learning to walk, my wife and I took her grocery shopping with us, and, one time, she wandered down the wine aisle without us noticing it while we were having a discussion. Before we knew it, she had hooked her finger into the glass ring on the neck of a huge jug of wine, lifted it from a bottom shelf, and begun precariously toddling toward us. Sure enough, before we could reach her, the jug slipped from her finger and smashed on the floor, sending dark red wine and shards of glass flowing in a rapidly expanding ring. Panicked over the thought that I had let my one-year-old break a bottle of wine, compounded by the embarassment that someone might think my wife and I were near the wine aisle because we were there to purchase wine (we weren’t!), my temptation was to “wink at” this accident – to overlook it and leave quietly, trusting some store employee to discover it and clean it up on his/her own. Thankfully, even back in those days, I had enough integrity to report the spill to the store manager and offer to pay for the damage. This is perhaps not that great of an analogy for what the Bible describes when it talks about God allowing the sins of his Old Testament people to be “passed over” until the day of Christ’s atonement, but it does give some idea of the meaning behind the idea of God “winking at the time of ignorance,” before we move on to some of the specific ways that God does deal with sin, which we will look at in Part Two.

Did God Have to Go Down and See?

September 27, 2019 at 10:24 am | Posted in Q&A | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Question: My question is about Genesis 18:20-21: “And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” If God knows everything, and if He is omnipresent, why did He have to “go down and see” Sodom and Gomorrah?

Answer: First of all, we need to determine if these verses are setting forth a clear precept about the nature of God. Since Genesis 18 is a section of the Bible that is written in the genre of historical narrative, rather than a sermon on the attributes of God, we must balance it against other Bible verses, especially those that speak directly about the question of what God knows in a general way.

For example, Job 37:16 says, “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?” Not only is the Book of Job considered wisdom literature, but here God Himself is addressing the question of His own knowledge directly. To be perfect in knowledge is to be complete – to lack no knowledge whatsoever.

Another example is Psalm 139:1-4: “O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.” Psalm 139 is specifically about how God knows all our thoughts, “ways,” behavior, actions, and even our words before we say them.

So, if we apply this to Sodom, God knew more than the general condition of Sodom. He knew everything that each individual was doing and thinking and saying – and why they were doing it! Psalm 147 is perhaps the most explicit precept concerning God’s omniscience: “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5). This means that God possessed all knowledge about Sodom from all eternity, but it also raises the question: Why is He making it sound in Genesis 18 like He’s not omniscient?

The answer is that God often uses anthropomorphism to describe His actions: anthropos = man; morph = form. Anthropomorphism means “man-form.” It is when the Bible describes God as a character in the narrative using human terms that help us understand His point of view. In Genesis 18 it helps us to understand how seriously God took the sin of Sodom, and how much He immanently (not just transcendently) cares about the events of this world. It also records God’s way of letting Abraham understand His thinking, since these statements are part of an actual dialogue between the Lord and Abraham.

Another reason for the statement that God would “go down to see” Sodom and Gomorrah is to let us know that this was a type of Theophany (or perhaps even Christophany): an instance where God appeared to humans in bodily form. God wanted to have a personal visit with Abraham, who was called “the friend of God.” This establishes the trust the God had placed in Abraham’s faithfulness, which will be a key later in the Genesis narrative to understanding the Lord’s testing of him with Isaac.

Big Words of the Christian Life: Omnipotence (Part 1)

March 16, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

If you’ve ever seriously studied your way through Jesus’s model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), by the time you finished the part about being delivered from evil you may have felt a little overwhelmed. To say that there is “a lot to” this short prayer is a massive understatement. However, hopefully you didn’t stop until you reached the very end. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever” is a statement, in and of itself, that contains a wealth of information about God. Recently, as I prayed my way through it, I was struck by the placement of the word “power” in between God’s kingdom and God’s glory. If we think about the awesome power of God, we are reminded of the attribute of God that we call “omnipotence,” and if we study the implications of this attribute we can see that:

1. God’s power is limitless.

Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

Genesis 18:14

Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:

Jeremiah 32:17

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

Mark 10:27

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:37

“Omnipotence” comes from two words: omni, meaning “all,” and potent, meaning “power.” The omni applies to other attributes of God too: “omnipresence,” meaning that God is everywhere all the time at once; “omnscience,” meaning that God knows everything; and “omnibenevolence” meaning that God (and what He does) is always good. We use the idea of “potency” when we think of someone with great authority, and, hence, the power to carry out his will: a “potentate.” We think of it antonymously when we talk about someone who lacks the power to do something: “impotent.” And we even use it to describe health supplements when we somewhat hyperbolically refer to “high-potency” vitamins. To say that God is omnipotent is to say that He’s all-powerful. And He is!

There is nothing that goes beyond His ability. He has the ability to bring forth everything from nothing. He has the ability to carry out His will in the minutest details. He has the freedom – the truest freedom – to choose what He will do, apart from any intrusive or coercive influences, and to do it either by Himself as the primary cause, or through His agency in utilizing as many secondary or intervening causes as He wishes.

It is one thing for even the most powerful human being to come up with an idea for a project, plan the project, labor intensively on the project, and see it through to a hopefully successful, possibly even “perfect,” conclusion. But it is a whole other matter and realm of power to simply speak the words, “Let there be light,” and see a whole universe of matter spring into existence. We can talk about God’s omnipotence, and attempt to define it, and perhaps understand a small measure of it, but to truly comprehend a being with truly UNLIMITED power is beyond our grasp.

That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

I Timothy 6:14-16

Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.

Revelation 11:17

To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

Isaiah 40:25-26

2. God’s power is logical.

It is important to remember that, when we make a statement like, “God can do anything,” that we are prepared for skeptics to try to use basic logic to create nonsensical contradictions. “Can God make an object so immovable that He Himself cannot move it?” “Can God make a square circle?” “Can God make Himself cease to exist?” “Can God Himself commit the sins which His Word says He cannot do?”

It is tempting, when addressing these types of challenges (which are essentially just word-plays rather than legitimate questions), to respond with the argument that “logic” itself is a thing outside of God, and that even God can’t perform a true logical contradiction, nor can His power be exercised in logically “impossible” ways. That might be a valid response, but I think it overlooks the bigger picture that, to the extent logic can be considered a “thing,” it is something that arises from the nature of God Himself, as the Creator of all principles, rules, and precepts that exist, “natural” or otherwise, and that, while it might be possible in some way that we do not understand for God to overcome a logical contradiction, He does not in fact do so.

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Hebrews 6:17-18

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

James 1:3

Next time we will see that God’s power is also laudable and looming.

A Not-So-Amazing Marriage

May 24, 2013 at 9:51 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Peter | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

An important though often overlooked principle in Christian marriage is the concept of “fear.” It is a concept addressed in I Peter Chapter 3, which also highlights some of the duties of Christian marriage.

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

I Peter 3:1-7 (emphasis added)

Verse 6 seems contradictory at first blush. What does it mean to not be afraid with any amazement? Apparently I am not alone in finding this phrase hard to grasp. I couldn’t find any real consistency among well-known Bible commentators, but the key seems to be in looking at the lives of Sarah and Abraham. The Greek word translated “amazement” has a connotation of birds fluttering away in startled terror, and it is clear from the Genesis account that Sarah was not the type to run away from a scary situation.

In Genesis 18 the Lord and two angels show up at Abraham’s tent unannounced in the hot part of the day.

And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.

Genesis 18:6

Sarah may have been afraid because of Abraham’s frantic instructions, but she was not afraid “with any amazement.”

And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

Genesis 18:7-9

Notice that Sarah was in a tent, not in a palace, not in a mansion, not even in a house, but obediently, faithfully dwelling with her husband, Abraham, in a tent. Were there times when Sarah was afraid of the tent-and-altar, place-to-place, lifestyle of her husband? Probably so – but “not with any amazement.”

And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

Genesis 18:10-11

Was she afraid when she heard this startling news? Maybe. Maybe even skeptical. But “not afraid with any amazement.”

Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

Genesis 18:12

Sarah called her husband her “lord,” an expression of respect and reverence, even though her response indicates that she wondered which was more unlikely: a woman of her age being fertile, or a man of Abraham’s age being able to impregnate her!

And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

Genesis 18:13-15

The Bible specifically tells us she was afraid, although we know from I Peter 3 that it was a fear without “amazement.” She was not punished for her laughter, nor even scolded, because God understands the difference between “fear” and “fear with amazement.” Sarah was courageous and confident in the face of her fear. In fact, fear is the sine qua non of courage. Satan would like us to hear God’s seemingly-incredible promises and respond with a “fright, flight, or fight” response. In other words, he would like us to reject God’s call upon our lives by giving in to terrified paralysis, running away, or obstinate refusal and rebellion. Sarah was shocked, but she stood her ground.

And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Genesis 18:16-19

The Lord said “I know Abraham and I know that his children and his household – including his wife – will keep the way of the Lord.” Sarah was trustworthy, and she was not “amazed into unfaithfulness” by fearful circumstances.

Let us husbands be bold – not fearful – to lead in faith, trusting God’s Word. Wives, do not expect to avoid fearful circumstances, but determine to stand at your husband’s side come what may. It is fearful to trust a man because men are fallen sinners, but you should not be afraid with any amazement to throw yourself on the faithfulness of God.

The Slave (His Obligations)

December 17, 2012 at 11:26 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, John, Outcasts of Ministry | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Last time we saw that:

1. The owner of a slave determines his usefulness.
2. The overseer of a slave determines his usefulness.

Now we will see that:

3. The obligations of a slave determine his usefulness.

As a disobedient, runaway slave, Onesimus incurred a debt, or an obligation, he could not pay. But after he was saved, when he became a servant to Christ, the Apostle Paul taught him that he must live up to his obligations. Onesimus owed a debt to Philemon – either for stealing or running away in violation of his legal bondage. Paul wrote to Philemon and basically told him that he did not want to impose upon him as a brother in Christ. Paul had ministered to Philemon and they both served the same Lord, so it would not have been out of line for Paul to simply ask Philemon to forgive Onesimus for Paul’s sake, and let him stay with Paul. But that’s not what Paul did. He sent Onesimus back, and told Philemon, “He may not be able to pay what he owes you, but…”

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

Philemon vv. 18-19

We have all been in Onesimus’s situation. We all owed a sin debt we could never repay. Isn’t that a wonderful picture of what the Lord did for us on the Cross? And the promise and security we have as believers? “Put that on my account,” says Christ to the Father. “I’ve already paid it all.”

Onesimus was useless as an earthly slave because he owed a debt he could never pay back. But as a servant of Jesus Christ, he had someone to stand in his place, in love, and say, “Charge it to my account.”

When the Lord Jesus spoke to His Disciples, He said,

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

John 15:14-15

A servant has to obey. Obedience is not really his choice. We might say that’s a big difference – a servant has to obey, but a friend doesn’t. However, it’s different when you’re a friend of the king. See, the king’s friends have a special relationship with the king. The king’s friends are his servants, but they have reached the level of friendship as well, because they have already shown they can be trusted to obey. With whom does a king share his secrets? His closest friends. When the king says, “Jump,” his servants ask, “How high?” But his friends don’t ask “how high,” because when the king says “jump,” his friends are already two feet in the air.

You can see an example of this in the case of Abraham, who the Bible calls “a friend of God.” In Genesis 18, two angels and the Lord came to visit Abraham in his tent in the heat of the day. He was nearly 100 years old, but for about 15 verses Abraham went into hyper-drive. Not only did he get busy ministering to his guests, but he encouraged everybody else to do the same. After a while, the two angels leave, and the Lord stays behind to share His secrets with Abraham – in other words, to talk with His friend.

We can also see David’s close friends (II Samuel 23:13-17) hear him sighing for a drink of water, upon which they risk their lives to go get it from a special well.

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.

Psalm 25:14

One day in Heaven we’ll have face-to-face fellowship with the Lord, but I’m glad I don’t have to wait to have true fellowship with Him. I can be a trusted friend, and a useful servant now. But I have to remember that God is the owner of my life, not me. I need to be accountable to my overseers – to remember to be loyal to those God has placed in authority over me. Finally, I need to remember that I could never pay the debt for my sins. Christ Jesus had those charged to His account. But I do need to respond in love and live up to the obligations He has graciously entrusted to me.

A runaway slave in ancient times was an outcast. In modern society slavery is no longer legal, but a servant of God, although he might be an outcast in the world, can be a friend of God and a child of God. God the Father will in no wise cast out His children.

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37

Getting the Puffiness Out of Your Marriage

June 22, 2012 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 18 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

Vaunting myself is high-handed pride. The word “vaunting” is from the same origin as the word “vanity:” something which looks substantial, but is really lacking in substance. Vanity is emptiness masquerading as fullness. Vaunting is attempting to disguise this emptiness with loud boasting.

Being “puffed up” is filling myself with vanity, but it differs from “vaunting.” Vaunting involves trying to fool other people. When I am “puffed up” I am making no special attempt to fool anyone but myself. In other words, vaunting makes me feel good because it makes you think I’m something I’m not. Puffing up makes me feel good because it makes me think I’m something I’m not.

Here are some tests to see if you are vaunting yourself or puffing yourself up in your marriage:

Test One tests to see if you are vaunting yourself: Do you long for a lot of attention from your spouse?

It is not necessarily a bad thing to want attention from your spouse, but if these are some of your techniques for this attention-seeking, then you are guilty of vaunting yourself: You get attention from your spouse by being: (a) dramatic; (b) desperate; (c) demanding.

Test Two tests to see if you are puffed up: Are you envious or critical?

In the previous lessons I discussed envy. Envy secretly feels smug when your spouse is sad and it secretly sulks when your spouse is happy. A telling sign as to whether you are subconsciously falling into this pattern is that you are quick to put a damp cloth on your spouse’s success. I doubt that the children’s story of “The Three Little Pigs” was intended to have anything to do with Christian marriage, but I like to use the Big Bad Wolf to illustrate this point.

http://reinventingtheeventhorizon.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/big-bad-wolf-1011-big_bad_wolf_k949.gif

Remember, he both huffed and puffed. He huffed (vaunted himself) in order to scare the three little pigs. Then he puffed in order to reassure himself that he really was big and bad.

Test Three: Is it hard for you to admit you are wrong?

This question will tell you if you are thinking more highly of yourself than you ought.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Romans 12:3

Most people in my generation remember the television program “Happy Days.” One of the main characters, Fonzie, had a real problem with this. Occasionally (very occasionally) he would be forced to admit that he had made a mistake, and he would try to say, “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong.” Only, he would nearly turn apoplectic straining to get past the “s” in “sorry” or the “wr” in “wrong,” because it just isn’t cool to be wrong, and Fonzie was nothing if not cool (at least in the weltanschauung of “Happy Days”).

https://i0.wp.com/api.ning.com/files/6Pq9*17yGX0QsOhRN79hXW0m8d3HJE8XJxgVe96BgO2SVAWBCagV0RQJGEPzrteHezq3CLJn*yy4mXGh6Fno1A489xml9Wki/FonzieWrong.jpg

Here are some indicators that you may be suffering from “Fonzieitis,” and that would cause you to have to answer “yes” to Test Three:

a. When you realize you might be wrong and your spouse might be right, you “blame-shift” onto your spouse, asserting or implying that if you are wrong, it is his or her fault that you are wrong.
b. When confronted with the possibility of being wrong you try to change the subject.
c. You “rationalize” (make an excuse about how you were really “mistaken” and not really “wrong”).

There is an antidote to this manifestation of self-vaunting and puffiness: humility. Humility is not a feeling of worthlessness, but it is a real recognition of our true status in comparison: (1) to God; and (2) to God’s other creatures, including your spouse.

And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:

Genesis 18:27

I am not worthy on my own merit even to be able to communicate with God, and, just like everyone else He has made, I am nothing but animated dust. I should be quick to admit that I am wrong often and badly. This type of humility will help me to be able to pass Tests Four and Five.

Test Four: Do you feel entitled more than you feel grateful?

Test Five: Do you believe deep down that you are better than your spouse?

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 6:5

Humility is a right view of myself in relation to God and a right view of myself in relation to others. It causes me to admit that I am a sinner – even that I come from a sinful race. I am a recipient of God’s grace just like my spouse. I am not “entitled” to anything from God, and I am not better than anyone else, including my spouse.

Next time we will take the next five tests to determine if your marriage is too “puffy.”

Standing before the Throne: Purity

May 18, 2012 at 9:22 am | Posted in The Great White Throne | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We have examined:

I. The Throne’s Possessor
II. The Throne’s Power
Now,
III. The Throne’s Purity

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

Revelation 20:11 (emphasis added)

This is a Throne which is both great and white. It easy to imagine the potential problem for a king who sits on a throne this powerful. We know from recorded history and from our own experience that power tends to corrupt. The famous maxim is that, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” However, here we have a King who sits on a Throne yielding power that is magnified to an extent far beyond what our finite minds can even conceive of when we think “absolute.” Yet this Throne is completely white – completely pure. This King has never sinned. He has never done iniquity. He has never committed any type of wickedness.

… Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Genesis 18:25

Our hearts seize upon this idea that His Throne is pure and that He always does what is right! How horrible would it be to have an all-powerful judge – an all-powerful king – who is the least bit inclined toward wickedness? The thought of God’s pure goodness makes us glad… but it should also make us afraid. For the King who sits on a Throne that is both great and white can not have sinful creatures come before His Throne without judging them by a perfect standard.

Now, you begin to see the problem. The Possessor of the Throne will be your judge and the power of the Throne is great. No one will dare to challenge – or even come close to having the strength to challenge – His right to judge. Not a single soul will be pure enough to pass judgment before this completely pure and white and holy throne.

Have you met the One Who is willing and able to take your place before that Throne and meet God’s perfect standard of righteousness on your behalf? Time is running out. He wants to save you from this terrible judgement. Will you trust Him?

Next time we will see how the Great White Throne exhibits God’s righteousness.

Being At-TENT-ive to God

March 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Lord, there is so much in the Bible that You want us to know, and there is so much we do not yet know. I pray that You would teach us something new each and every day, and that You would reinforce our faith through the revelation of Your Word. In the Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

Genesis 12:1

So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Genesis 12:4

Abram was 75 years old when God called him. God can call you at any age. We must never try to take our spiritual phones off the hook. There’s no retiring from the service of God. Abram responded to the call of God in faith, but how did he “keep” his faith going?

Abram was extremely wealthy. He could have lived in a great home. But by faith he chose to live in a tent.

And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

Genesis 12:8

Abram was not your average tent-dweller.

And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

Genesis 13:5

And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.

Genesis 13:8

Living among those who did not know the One True God, he wanted to have a good testimony. He reminded Lot that they were family, and families should not fight in front of strangers. If you are part of a local church assembly, there is something more important about your church than than the impressiveness of the facilities, the variety of the ministries, the skill of the musicians or singers, even the eloquence of the preaching. Do the people who make up your church know how to love people? Do the people who visit your church see you as family? If you can’t get along with each other, nobody is going to feel welcome coming into the midst. “For we be brethren,” Abram told Lot. The neighbors are watching.

Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

Genesis 13:18 (emphasis added)

Lot got tired of living in tents. He decided to move to the city – and it was the start of his downfall. Abram stayed ready to move at the command of God.

And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

Genesis 18:1 (emphasis added)

And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

Genesis 18:9 (emphasis added)

Abraham kept the faith by staying on the move for God. Next time, we will see two more ideas that helped him keep the faith.

The Top Story in Sodom

March 23, 2010 at 11:53 am | Posted in Genesis | 18 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

Genesis 17:9-12

The covenant concerns Abraham’s seed. God was the Initiator of this covenant, and He also changed the names of Abram and Sarai, by adding “H’s” to their names. I’m no expert in Hebrew, but my understanding is that the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is “H,” and that this letter represents grace.

Circumcision (“cutting around” the seed-multiplying instrument) was the outward show of God’s covenant people. Cutting off from – and setting aside unto – is a physical picture of a spiritual reality. True believers today are to be circumcised in their hearts.

In Genesis 18 the Lord comes to visit Abraham in disguise.

And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

Genesis 18:1

Keep in mind Abraham was 99 years old when this happened. For him, the “heat of the day” probably was especially uncomfortable.

And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,

Genesis 18:2

Abraham was known for tents and altars. He knew that this world was not his home, and he was devoted to God.

And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

Genesis 18:3-8, emphasis added

Note the haste and desire to serve and wait upon the Lord that Abraham displays. He truly was the friend of God. The Lord had come to destroy Sodom. But first He stopped to talk with Abraham, His friend, about it. At least three times in Scripture Abraham is called the “friend of God” (II Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23).

Abraham was the friend of God and Lot was a friend of the world. Newspaper journalists have a technique they use to get a lot of information into the first paragraph of a news story. They focus on the “who, what, when, where, and why.”

“Police report that John Doe was shot last night in Metropolis while trying to rob a bank.”
The who: John Doe
The what: He was shot.
The when: last night
The where: Metropolis
The why: because he tried to rob a bank

I want to use this technique to compare the differences between the friend of God and the friend of the world.

The WHO for Abraham: Abraham talked with the Lord Himself.

And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Genesis 18:16-19

The Lord knew that Abraham would command his household – that he would be a spiritual leader, a spiritual husband, father, and grandfather.

And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

Genesis 18:20-22

The WHO for Lot: The angels went on to Sodom to see Lot, but the Lord didn’t go in to fellowship with Lot in his sin – in his worldliness.

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;

Genesis 19:1

The WHAT for Abraham: The friend of God received the promise of the blessings.

Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

Genesis 18:14

The WHAT for Lot: Lot, the friend of the world, received the warning of condemnation with the world.

For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.

Genesis 19:13

The WHERE: Abraham was in a tent. Lot was in a city.

The WHEN: Abraham was visited in the day. Lot was visited at night.

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;

Genesis 19:1, emphasis added

Abraham, the friend of God, walked in light; Lot, the friend of the world, walked in darkness.

This may surprise you: Lot was a saved man.

And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)

II Peter 2:6-8

The Bible tells us this plainly, because we might have trouble believing it otherwise – especially considering what happened next with Lot:

But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

Genesis 19:4-8

This is often explained away as the extreme “hospitality” required in ancient Eastern nomadic culture when Bible commentators try to help us understand, but we need to take a hard honest look and ask ourselves, “How did Lot get to such a state? How could he offer his own daughters to satisfy the lusts of the world?” And before we get too excited and critical, we must ask ourselves, “Are we offering our daughters to the world?”

I doubt that you would throw your daughter to a mob of Sodomites… but what happens when you send your daughter out into the world unprotected? Many fathers let total strangers come to their home and pick up their daughters. (Maybe a real “strict” father will insist on meeting a young man for five minutes.) Has God commanded you to protect your daughter and defend her honor? Do you trust the world to protect her and protect her honor? How many fathers just “go along” with what everyone else is doing?

Ephesians 6 tells us that when the devil attacks we need to stand. James 4:7 tells us to resist the devil.

When the devil attacks we are to fight. Is there a scarier enemy than the devil? Yet when it comes to a choice between standing and fighting versus running away, the Bible to tells me to stand and fight the devil, not to flee from him. What the Bible tells me to flee from is fornication (I Corinthians 6:18) and youthful lusts (II Timothy 2:22).

I would not let my daughters play with a hand grenade. If I did, somebody should call child protective services on me. But letting my daughters go off with strangers unchaperoned is more dangerous than playing with a hand grenade. I know many Christian parents who pray that God will protect their daughter while she’s out on a date with their approval, and I’m all for praying. But would you pray for me if I asked you to pray that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit so I would have the ability to knock over a liquor store? That would be foolish! You don’t send someone off with an encouragement to sin while telling them that you will pray for them to get away with it!

I know that we don’t live in the culture of the ancient East, and that our society is different. But I’m not answerable to society! I’m a Christian – I’m answerable to God.

The WHY: Abraham chose to be a “Hebrew” – a stranger – a pilgrim passing through this world. Lot and the people of Sodom considered this world to be the end-all – their final home. And they denied the power of God to destroy with fire.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy to turn away from those that have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:” (II Timothy 3:5). The next Sodom will be worldwide. I don’t want my family to see that day. I want my family looking forward to Heaven – not looking back to the world like Lot’s wife.

In the Bible narrative, Lot passes off the scene. Abraham – and as far as we know, the Lord – never got “a Lot out of the world.” Lot argued all the way from Sodom. He had to be literally taken by the hand and dragged out by God’s grace. He wound up getting drunk in a cave and committing incest with his daughters. Only the grace of God can save us from this present world.

A Fake in the Grass

November 5, 2009 at 11:20 am | Posted in Genesis | 38 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Satan can disguise himself, even as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14). A while back there was a trend in pop culture whereby, when a person looked faint and started to keel over, an observer would jokingly say, “Whatever you do, don’t go into the light!” This was making fun of the commonality of so-called “near-death” experiences, where people come back to consciousness saying they saw a bright white light, which they believe represented the “after-life,” and that they felt drawn to it, but decided to “come back” for the sake of their loved ones or whatever. Knowing that Satan can disguise himself as an “angel of light,” maybe the warning not to go into the light is more prescient than most people realize.

In Genesis Chapter 3, Satan chooses to disguise himself as a serpent.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

Genesis 3:1-2

We might wonder whether Eve should have known that serpents can’t talk. Was this her first encounter with a serpent? When my wife makes a bad decision because I’m not with her (which almost never happens), I think about Adam, and say, “If Eve would have stayed close to her husband, he could have told her, ‘That’s not a parrot, let’s get out of here!'”

Seriously though, Satan is a counterfeiter. He has a counterfeit righteousness (Romans 9:30). He has counterfeit ministers (II Corinthians 11:13-16). He has counterfeit believers (II Corinthians 11:26). He has counterfeit churches (Revelation 2:9). He even has counterfeit mysteries (Revelation 2:24).

In Genesis 3:1 he first says, “Hey let’s discuss God’s Words – did He really say that?” He tricked Eve into following his example. Here is what God really said:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:16-17

Here is Eve’s subtle alteration:

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

Genesis 3:2-3

She subtracted from God’s Word. She added to God’s Word. Finally, she changed God’s Word. That’s what will happen every time we allow Satan to deceive us into questioning God’s Word.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

Genesis 3:4

Changes to God’s Word invariably become direct contradictions to God’s Word. Satan questioned God’s Word (Genesis 3:1). He denied God’s Word (Genesis 3:4). He made up his own word (Genesis 3:5).

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

John 8:44

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Romans 1:25

Note the singular in Romans 1:25 – this is A lie and it is THE lie: you shall be like God. The “New Age” movement is not really “new.” It started in the Garden of Eden.

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Genesis 3:24

God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden for their own protection. For them to eat of the Tree of Life after disobediently eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil could have been disastrous.

The categories of sin set forth in I John 2:16 are all present in mankind’s first sin:

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, [the lust of the flesh] and that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Genesis 3:6 (Bracketed phrases added.)

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Genesis 3:7

Even their very first attempt at self-righteousness – as useless as it was – was counteracted by the grace of God’s plan going into motion. I heard an illustration once of a tree being stripped of its leaves by two people. God’s original plan for trees did not include stripping the leaves to make clothes. This stripped tree grows into a Cross. The sinners cower in fear, trying to cover themselves.

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

The sinners are trying to hide from God, which is useless. Aren’t all attempts at self-righteousness really attempts to hide from God that which cannot be hidden?

Now, picture Christ going up on this leafless tree – meant by men to be a symbol of death. He is crucified upon it. He makes an instrument of torture into a bridge of everlasting salvation, so the frightened ones can come to Him and be forgiven.

Notice that God is the One Who comes looking for Adam and Eve – not the other way around.

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

Genesis 3:9

Billy Sunday used to say that sinners can’t find God for the same reason criminals can’t find policemen – they’re not looking for them.

Here we see the first instance of blame-shifting:

And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Genesis 3:10-13

There are three questions in Genesis which many of us need to be asking ourselves:

1. Where are you? (Genesis 3:9)
2. Where is your brother? (Genesis 4:9)
3. Where is your wife? (Genesis 18:9)

Next Page »


Entries and comments feeds.