JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE ENOUGH

We’ve been doing a study through Genesis lately and I have been amazed. Abraham truly is the father of the faith. He really didn’t have anything to go by other than hearing and believing God’s voice. He didn’t have anyone to disciple him or show him the way he had to move step by step in faith getting to know God along the way.

When you get to the New Testament you discover the Apostle Paul harkens back to Abraham on many occasions to make his argument about what the New Covenant is all about. For instance in Romans 4 he points us to Abraham to show us how he was declared righteous by simply believing God. He then goes on to explain how Abraham was actually declared righteous before he was circumcised which means he’s the father of all who believe whether they were Jew or Gentile. He tells us circumcision was actually a seal of the righteousness of faith not the reason for it.

You see Abraham lived way before the Law was ever given therefore Paul uses him as an example. The Law was only given as a temporary keeper until the real keeper came along namely Jesus. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).

The whole point of the Galatians letter was because those churches had been infiltrated with Judaizers, a group of Jews, who moved in telling them they had to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses. Paul vehemently opposed them with some pretty harsh language. He said, “If anyone preaches another gospel let them be cursed!” He then asked the Galatians “who has bewitched you?” It was as if the Judaizers had put a spell on the Galatians by pushing the Law on them. Paul was not going to stand for it for one minute!

Just as in Romans 4, Paul in chapter 3 &4 of the Galatians letter points them back to Abraham. He reminds them Abraham was reckoned righteous by his believing God and not by his circumcision. He then does a brilliant job of explaining how the Promise God had given to Abraham wasn’t cancelled out by the giving of the Law with Moses. The Law in fact was given to lead us to Christ not add to Him.

What has occurred to me is there are significant portions of the New Testament dedicated to teaching believers to keep their eyes on Jesus. It seems we all live with the ever present threat of drifting back to our pre-Christ lifestyle. The book of Hebrews for instance admonishes the Jews to not go back to the Law. I suppose it’s not too difficult to imagine their dilemma. Their whole history was filled with stories of Moses, the commandments, the Temple, priests, sacrifices, etc. Now they’re being told to turn away from all of that and turn to Jesus. For some it was tough to let go.

On the other hand the Gentiles or pagans had their own past to deal with. Most of them came from backgrounds filled with idols, fleshly living or both. Once they came to Christ they had to be told not to return to their idols or heathen lifestyle’s. On top of that there was the added element of some of the Jewish religious leaders trying to convert them to Judaism.

Ultimately the answer is rather simple. Keep your eyes on Jesus! Whether Jewish or Gentile the answer is the same. “Turn your eyes on Jesus!” Make the final decision He is enough. The Law, idols, etc. cannot add anything to Jesus and in fact if we attempt to add anything to Him we will find ourselves turning from Him entirely. This is what Paul meant when he told the Galatians “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law (or anything else for that matter); you have fallen from grace.” You see falling from grace means you are looking somewhere besides the finished work of Christ for your salvation. I don’t think it would be too much to say God has done all He’s going to do for us in His Son Jesus Christ!

Louie

Advertisements

BY THE HEARING WITH FAITH

Our Sunday school class has been studying Galatians lately and today we were in chapter 3. The chapter starts out pretty strong with Paul asking them “who has bewitched you?” Apparently the Judaizers, who came in telling them they had to be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses, had them all types of confused.

Paul, on a past visit, had preached the gospel to them, and miraculous things started to happen among them through God’s Spirit, but now they seemed to be wavering a bit, actually being tempted to put themselves under the Law of Moses. So Paul asked them “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” He then went on to ask, “does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”

The next thing Paul does is to point the reader back in time to Abraham the father of the faith. He says, “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” You see Abraham simply heard God and believed Him that’s it! Abraham is Paul’s go to man when it comes to illustrating a life lived by faith and rightfully so. After all, God gave Abraham a promise and he simply believed. Abraham had no Bible, sacrificial system, temple to worship in, history of believers in his family, and there didn’t appear to be any priest or preacher he could consult. He simply heard God and believed Him. Amazing!

You see the Apostle Paul is telling the Galatians, and we who live by faith, that is exactly what we’re called to do. We don’t live according to a set of laws or traditions but by the promise of God. In fact anyone attempting to live according to Law is charged with observing every bit of it. The life lived according to the Law actually ends in a curse because none of us are capable of perfect obedience. The good news is Jesus Christ became the curse for us by hanging on a tree so that we could be made righteous.

I think God has always wanted people who would simply hear Him and do what He says. The Law was only given as a keeper, or schoolmaster, until Christ came. Now that Christ has come we are no longer under the authority of the schoolmaster in fact it has actually served it’s purpose because it’s whole reason for existing was because of transgressions until the way of faith in Christ was opened. Now that Christ has come, we place our faith in Him and live according to the promises of God, not a set of laws.

Many don’t understand our true predicament as fallen people. According to the scriptures we aren’t simply bad people who need to be good, we’re actually dead people who need to be enlivened. In fact that’s what Christ came here to do. He didn’t come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people live. With that in mind we can agree with Paul when he said, “If a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.” The truth is “we are all shut up under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Don’t you love the simple yet wise plan of God? Jesus is the seed of Abraham and through Him all nations truly are blessed.

Louie

DEPENDING ON GOD

“I went to church on the outside, and even read my Bible, but it was only after coming to jail that I started depending on God. While I was on the outside I depended only on myself.” This is what one man said to the group last night in Bible study.

With all the talk in Christian circles about how we should read our Bible’s more, go to church every-time the doors are open, pray more, give more, witness more etc. It all still comes down to one thing. Are we depending on God?

We have been making our way through Romans and last night we were in chapter 4. This chapter is all about Abraham and what we can learn about being justified, or made righteous, with God from what we glean from his life. The Bible tells us “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness.” It wasn’t anything Abraham did himself it was all about God giving Abraham a promise and Abraham believing Him.

God’s promise to Abraham was that he would have an heir and not just any heir but an heir by which the whole world would be blessed. For those that know the story you know that Abraham, and Sarah his wife, attempted to help God out at first by coming up with a plan that involved Abraham and Sarah’s handmaiden, Hagar. Seeing how Abraham and Sarah were so old, Sarah suggested that maybe the way God would fulfill His promise would be through the union of Abraham and Hagar. Well, this of course didn’t turn out so well because while it did in fact produce a son, Ishmael, he wasn’t the one God had promised.

Without retelling the whole story here let me just say what God was promising Abraham involved something that was absolutely impossible apart from God himself performing it. You see Abraham and Sarah were well passed child-bearing years and yet God was going to give them a son. The scripture tells us Abraham “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken…” In other words even though Abraham couldn’t see how in the world he and Sarah could have a child, he simply believed God. We are told  Abraham “being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”

It seems God simply wants us to believe Him and yet more times than not it requires us to get backed into a corner before we will. As we talked about faith, and how God is the God of the impossible, I had the guys turn to Psalm 139. As we read through the Psalm we stopped for a moment to let verse 5 soak in. It says, “You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me” (NIV). Wow! God wants us to believe Him; because He wants what is best for us, so much so He will even back us into a corner so we might finally look to Him. This is what God wants from us and exactly what these men in the jail are discovering and it lights up my spirit to hear them tell of how they are trusting God now like never before.

I realize many think this is what is commonly known as jailhouse religion but for me it is God speaking. While many want to discredit the people in jail saying, “just wait till they get out again, then we’ll see if it was real or not.” All I can say to them is okay. When it comes right down to it most of us are foxhole conversions in one way or the other aren’t we? I mean for me it was addiction for you it may be a lost job, a sick loved one, a death in the family or any number of things. The truth is the gospel is a message for the desperate and if you haven’t found yourself desperate yet more than likely you aren’t ready to receive Christ. Just as this man said, even though he went to church and read his Bible, he never really depended on God until he was locked-up and hemmed in by God.

Louie

 

UNTIL…

The story of Israel, and their desert wanderings, takes up the bulk of what we call the Old Testament. God gave Abraham a promise saying, “I will make you a great nation…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). Oddly enough Abraham believed God!

Of course Abraham’s family multiplied into what we know as “Israel”, and even after Abraham died the promise was passed down through subsequent generations. The good news is God is eternal and his promise didn’t die with Abraham. In the letter to the Galatians Paul clarifies for us what the promise to Abraham and his family was really all about. He said, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is , Christ” (Galatians 3:16).

So we now know the promise God gave to Abraham is fulfilled in Christ. This is why all of us whether Jew or Gentile can be blessed because in Christ we are all one and now are “Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). Now let’s look at what took place between the time the promise was given and when it was fulfilled in Christ.

As the nation of Israel grew in size the need for leaders came about. God appointed judges to rule over Israel until judge Samuel grew old and his sons didn’t walk in his ways. The people of Israel were unsatisfied with how Samuel’s sons did things so they came to Samuel requesting the appointment of a king “like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). Right away Samuel knew this wasn’t what God wanted, so he inquired of the Lord.

God’s response to Samuel was, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). You see God’s plan was for Him to be their king and for them to be His people. Israel was meant to be a light to all the other nations (Isaiah 49:6) in order to point them to God. Can you imagine a nation filled with citizens depending upon God rather than a human king? Other nations would come to Israel and ask, “How does this nation work?” “How can a whole nation of people live together in peace without a human governmental structure to regulate them?” It’s just like God to work with us where we are. Even though He wanted to be Israel’s king, He let them have what they asked for because they, like we, have to discover our inability to run things for ourselves.

If we now jump into the New Covenant for a minute and look at the Church we can see similarities between it and Israel. God gave the church “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” Look at why He gave them though. He gave them “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature (perfect) man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Did you catch that? The reason God gave these gifted offices to the church was to equip the saints for the work and then there’s that little word “Until.” The word until implies there will come a time when those offices will no longer be necessary, right?

At some point, the body of Christ is to grow up into the fullness God intended all along and like Israel the church is to be a light to the rest of the world. The world will look at the church and say, “How does such a diverse group of people live in such unity?” “What is it that makes them so different?” In other words the church, while it is a body, is meant to help each part of the body do its part. Once you discover you are a hand or foot you simply listen to the Head, which is Christ, and do what He says.

The way I see it the church is struggling with their task just as Israel did. Israel told Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die” (Exodus 20:19). In the church many have adopted this same attitude and they want their pastor to be their go between. They don’t want to speak to, or hear from, God themselves they want someone in between them to do it. This is okay at first; but at some point we are called to grow up and develop a relationship with God, through His Spirit, for ourselves. Remember it is “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13).

Louie

 

WHAT ABRAHAM BELIEVED

Google Images

What exactly does it mean when the Bible tells us “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness?” What specifically did Abraham believe and how can simply “believing” make one righteous?

When Abraham was an old man God promised him a son, and Abraham believed. Even though Abraham was old, and his wife Sarah’s womb was barren, the Bible says Abraham hoped against hope that it was so. This is faith in God because there was absolutely no human way this child could happen without a miracle which is exactly what God is all about.

When the word “believe” is used I think sometimes we don’t really understand what it means. There is the sense that to believe means you hear someone says something and you believe it to be true. Then there is the kind of believing that completely alters your walk in life. This is the kind of believing Abraham had. He heard God tell him he would have a son and be the Father of many nations and he simply believed. He didn’t have any logical reasons he just put his trust and faith in the one that gave him the promise. He started to see himself as God saw him even though outwardly it may not have looked like it was true. He started walking in faith that it was true, because God told him and not because it looked or felt that way in the natural.

We in the New Covenant age also are called to simply believe God. Just as God started calling Abraham a father of many nations long before his firstborn child came. We are called holy, blameless, beyond reproach and whole in Christ. There are plenty of people in Christ that do not appear that way at all if we look at them in the natural, but do we believe God or what our intellect and emotions tell us? When we start to see ourselves as God sees us we may start to see God bring those things to fruition in us. Remember Abraham’s God is the same God we serve and “he calls those things which be not as though they were.”

In the book of Galatians we discover the promise God gave to Abraham and his seed is actually talking of Christ. Christ is the seed of Abraham. If we simply believe God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled in Christ and receive him we too will be counted righteous. God can now see us as righteous because we have the righteous one living within us. All of the descriptions of us as righteous, holy, sanctified, redeemed and etc. are only possible “in Christ.” I could never stress enough that we, in of ourselves, can never become righteous before God. It is only through the amazing gift of Christ we can be what God calls us to be.

Abraham’s righteousness is exactly the same as everyone else’s. If anyone is righteous before God it is only because Christ dwells within them. It is that simple. God made a way for Abraham to become the father of many nations by way of a miraculous birth. He does the same in us that believe. Believing in God’s promise essentially means we receive what he promises by faith. We become a partaker of Christ’s righteousness by simply receiving by faith the promised seed of Abraham, who is the one and only Son of God-Jesus Christ.

Written by Louie

BELIEVE GOD

I had a conversation with a man the other day and he described himself as a “devout catholic.” He said, “I wasn’t always a devout catholic, but now I am.” He then proceeded to tell me all sorts of things the Catholics believe and why it is the one true church. He brought up Muslims, Buddhists, Church of Christ, Lutherans and etc. He said all of those beliefs trace back to their founders such as Mohammed, Luther and so on. His Catholic church, on the other hand, can be traced all the way back to Peter, the first Pope, and Jesus himself and that is why he is convinced it is the correct one.

While this guy proceeded to talk and talk about these religious differences in all the worlds’ religions; I became increasingly more and more aware as to why I never identify myself according to denominations and other tags and titles.

Even though there are many, many different religions and schools of thought when it comes to God and the truth, most of them seem to have something in common. They all involve mans attempt to perform in some way to become pleasing to God. That is why I always point to Jesus himself because he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me.” There is absolutely nothing I can do to get to God. Either Jesus (God in the flesh) comes to me or I simply am not going.

While this man talked; I kept thinking of Abraham. Abraham didn’t have a church building, book, priest or any apparent set of rules he was following, and yet God counted him as righteous simply because he believed him. The Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Wow! No religion, ritual or law and yet God said Abraham is righteous!

I don’t mean at all to sound irreverent, but if Abraham can be called righteous and not even be a part of a denomination, religion or even have a priest why can’t we? Don’t get me wrong I love the fellowship of other believers and want to gather with them, but I don’t ever think it is required by God for me to be righteous or even to show others I am a believer. No, I gather with others because it is only natural to want to be around others that are like-minded. There is strength and encouragement in being with others. Plus how could someone ever be of help to others, or active in their gifts, if they don’t gather together? So, in no way am I advocating anyone to not go to church. What I am saying is this man came across as though if you weren’t following his way or beliefs you were wrong. I for one am not counting on any set of rules or tradition to get me in right standing with God; I am looking to Jesus and what he did for me not what I could ever do for him.

Let me end with this thought. In the 1st letter to the Corinthians Paul told them they were acting like mere men, infants in Christ. He then told them they weren’t ready for anything deep or meaty because they couldn’t quite handle it yet. He said there was division and strife among them. He said to them “One of you says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos.” Paul knew as long as they were dividing up into teams they were still immature. This is the equivalent of saying, “I’m a Baptist, or I’m a Catholic, Methodist, Church of Christ, Lutheran” and etc. We are encouraged to grow up into Christ which is the head of the body. I am praying for the day when we, like Abraham, will just simply believe God.

Written by Louie