What is Truth?

ymunbgrvtefcdThere’s been a lot of news in the past few weeks about truth. Hillary Clinton played loosely with the truth when she claimed to have been named after Sir Hillary Edmund. No one had heard of him until he climbed Mt. Everest in 1953. Hillary was born in 1947. Also, her husband when he was president chastised the nation by pointing his finger at us and saying “I never had relations with that woman”, Monica Lewinsky. It turns out that he had. (Remember he is the one who said “depends on how you define ‘is’”.) It was the late president Richard Nixon who claimed that he never lied about Watergate only to be exposed by the tapes that he made in the oval office. NBC New anchor Brian Williams found himself in hot water when he claimed to have been on a helicopter shot down in Iraq in 2002 only to admit that the story was not true. He was in a helicopter in Iraq but it arrived an hour later than the chopper that was shot down. We seem to live in a society that believes if you lie about something long enough, it becomes true.

When the Lord Jesus was before Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked Him “Are you a king then?”  Jesus answered “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him “What is truth?” (John 18:37, 38) In Pilate we hear the disillusioned voice of our own culture that truth in the ultimate sense may be unknowable or not exist at all. This is sadly how many people live. Your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth. In an age of relativism where there are no ultimate standards, how can we say that Chris Kyle or Brian Williams were wrong?

In his book Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis talks about truth. He says for example why ought I to be unselfish? And your reply would be because it is for the good of society. We respond why should I care what is good for society except when it benefits me personally? If we ask why should I behave decently the answer again would be for the good of society.  I live just for me. Living this way would lead us to total chaos.

Why should I behave decently? Because it honors God. C. S. Lewis said: “This rule of right or wrong, or law of human nature, or whatever you call it, must somehow or other be a real thing—a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves and yet it is not a fact in the ordinary sense, in the same way as our actual behavior is a fact. It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behavior, and yet quite definitely real—a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.”  The Bible shows us that this law (which is embodied in the Ten Commandments) comes from God.

photo 1 (1)In Romans 2:14-15 the apostle Paul said: “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the works of the law written in their hearts, their  conscience  always  bearing   witness,   and  between   themselves  their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.” This is why people are philanthropic and do good to their fellow man because the law of God is written on their hearts. The Tenth Commandment says we shall not bear false witness. This is why we also know it is wrong to lie. As hard as we may try, we are convicted of what we know is wrong.  We can either suppress it and hope we don’t get caught or do the right thing and own up to it.

James Boice said: “God says that truth is personal. More than that is a person and this person is the Lord Jesus Christ. He Himself said unequivocally ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6). Plato said ‘It may be that someday there will come forth from God a Word who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain.’ That Word has now come. The Lord is that Word. He is the one who has come to reveal all mysteries and make everything plain.”

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                       

 

 

The Presence of God and Covenant

I am reading a book entitled The Presence of God by J. Ryan Lister. Let me quote part of the book to you. He says:

God is present because He wants to be; He is present because it brings Him glory. There is nothing forcing Him to draw near other than His very character. We see that the transcendence of God is the source of His imminent presence with and for His creation. His nature—typified by holiness, control, and authority—is free to relate to a broken world in the ways He deems fit and in ways that exalt Him. It is only in this understanding of God that we can truly grasp what the presence of God really is. Out of the Lord’s transcendence and freedom emerges His decision to draw near—to redeem us and to be our hope. God enters this world to establish a covenant relationship with us, to redeem us and to usher us into new creation filled with His presence.”

There are three things he deals with in this book as our covenant God: God’s presence, a place, and His covenant people. He begins with Adam (people) in the garden. God was present with him to meet his every need. He gave him a wonderful place in which to dwell. If Adam had not sinned, would not the beauty of Eden been worldwide? Adam walked with God, there was no sin. He enjoyed His presence with no hindrances at all times. When God created Eve for Adam, they dwelt in perfect bliss with God. Every need they had was met. Think of living in an environment with no sin, not only in ourselves but in others and enjoying unhindered fellowship with God. This all changed when Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the garden. God made a covenant with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15 which is often referred to as the first Gospel. There God said: “and I will put enmity between you and the woman, in between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Here God talks about the triumph of Jesus Christ over Satan.

In spite of their sin, God did not abandon mankind but promised that His presence would continue. If you read through your Old Testament, you will see that the pattern of God’s presence, place and people continues. We see this through Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.

When we come to David however, He promises in 2 Samuel 7:10: “Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more…” It is a land of peace, free of affliction (2 Samuel 7:10) and enemies, characterized by joy and rest (2 Samuel 7:11). This evokes what we call Edenic imagery and looks forward to the new creation’s fulfillment of these promises in Revelation 21. In this sense the covenant with David “restarts” creation. Through the dominion promise, the Lord reveals an unwavering devotion to the purposes established in Eden.

Let me close by quoting from Lister:

With Israel set to become the new Eden, let us remember that we who were once in sin received our just curses, but also received, out of God’s sheer grace, a covenant relationship with our Creator and Redeemer that ensures the eschatological goal of becoming a people in the place of His presence. In light of this, may our hearts revel in the God of our salvation, who covenants with us to secure His glory and our hope and happiness. And what is more, God is not done. Our look back upon God’s work before David should draw our eyes forward to what God will do next. What we see when we look ahead is our Lord pulling the common threads  of all the previous covenants together to create the beautiful fabric of the new covenant.”

Though we are now enjoying God’s presence as His people, the place in which we now live is yet to be renewed when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. In John 21:4, he said: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

 

See you Sunday.

Dick

Eternity in Our Hearts

1982210_10203612663261325_1171423907_nI am currently reading a book entitled Developing a Biblical World View by C. Fred Smith. What is a worldview? It has to do with how we see God and how we see the Bible in our life every day. What would be a worldview for an unbeliever? They would see us as nothing more than animals or machines who live by our own code of ethics. We answer to no one but ourselves and thus we live only for ourselves. How does this look in everyday life? Many people have racked up a lifetime of debt in the mistaken belief that life is about owning things. Things that make us look good to others and provide us with a temporary satisfaction. We believe that if there is a God that we are independent of Him.

With a world view that involves God’s Lordship over us, how are we to live? Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: “…also He has put eternity in their hearts…” This means that no human being can find satisfaction outside of God. As I said people look to their money, their job, their stuff for satisfaction and it doesn’t work. There is a void in everyone’s life outside of Christ that only He can fill. As we look at life around us, we see people desperately trying to find security and satisfaction in their lives. Misguided young people turn to gangs for acceptance. Others turn to various addictions from drugs to alcohol to pornography to fill a void in their lives. We who are Christian people know  that does not work. We daily struggle with some of the same things. We want to be secure and satisfied in life.

But we know the answer. God has put eternity in our hearts and has filled the void thus bringing meaning to our life. This is the world view by which we are to live. This does not mean  that we cannot enjoy the things which God has given to us but Jesus summed up very well the philosophy by which we are to live.

In Matthew 6:33 He said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things shall be added unto you.” Is Jesus not giving us two-fold direction to life. If He satisfies my deepest longings then no matter what possessions I have or don’t have or money I have or don’t have, He is my everything. I am no longer searching for satisfaction. What a blessed life that is. The blessing for trusting Him for my life is that He will provide all of my needs. None of us who believe have ever been let down by God but have been as Paul said in Ephesians 3:20 blessed exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think. Let this be the world view by which we live our lives.

See you Sunday.

Dick

The Christmas Tree & the Christian Life

When I was in seminary my Hebrew professor Jack Scott spoke in a chapel service right before Christmas. He used an illustration of the Christmas tree symbolizing what it means to be a new creature in Christ. I have used this many times over the years and if you have heard it, bear with me again. If you have not, I think you will find it most interesting.

He said that when we buy a Christmas tree from a lot it is already dead. We bring it home, put it in a stand and decorate it with many lights and ornaments. We are making something dead look quite beautiful. When Christmas is over, we take down the ornaments and the lights and place the tree on the lawn for the garbage man to pick up. His point was that that is how many people see the Christian life. It is more religion than relationship. We can get caught up in the emotion of Christmas time and celebrate with parties and family activities and even get sentimental about the Christ child. But when the celebration is over, life returns to what it was. That’s what Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

Many do not realize that religion and sentimentality do not save. The point of my professor’s illustration is that the Christian life is lived from the inside out, not the outside in. Jesus gives us two examples of this. The first is Luke 17:20-21: “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘the kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say ‘see here!’ or ‘see there!’ for, indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.’(emphasis mine) “In you” could also be translated as “in your midst”. The Greek word “Entos” literally means inside. The Lord Jesus was reinforcing a point. The spiritual kingdom is eternal and not manifested by observable signs.

John MacArthur said: “The kingdom of which Jesus spoke is, as Paul wrote, marked by ‘righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17).  It exists in the hearts of all those in whom the King lives. The wonder of wonders is that the Trinity takes up residence in the hearts of those who embrace Christ and enter the spiritual kingdom. In John 14:17 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would indwell believers, while in Verse 23 He added, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him,  and we will come to Him and make our abode with Him.’”

In John 4 Jesus is talking to the woman at the well. Jesus asked her for a drink. She was quite surprised for the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered her in Verse 10 and said to her: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, ‘give me a drink’, you would have asked  Him,  and  He  would have  given  you  living water.”  The woman asked Jesus where do you get that living water? She then asked Jesus if He was greater than their father Jacob who gave them the well and drank from it himself as well as his sons and his livestock. Then in Verses 13 and 14 Jesus said: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

No one has ever seen a well of water springing up. Only the water in a spring springs up. The water in a well just lies there. So Jesus is not talking about a well. The woman had come to a well. Jesus invited her to a spring. Now He adds that if she allows Him to place the spring within her, the spring will never stop but will continue to bubble away forever.

James Boice gives us a perfect illustration of John 4:14. “Imagine, if you will that you’ve just purchased a piece of property upon which you are going to build a house. There is water on the property. If the water is in the well, the water will give you no trouble. If you are there with your bulldozers to clear the ground for your house, all you have to do is push some dirt into the hole and the well will be gone forever as far as you are concerned. It is entirely different, however, if the source of water on your property is a spring. Try to do the same as you did with the well. You push some dirt over it and it seems to be gone. Five o’clock comes. The workmen go home. But the next morning, when the workmen come back, the stream will be there again. A well can be covered. A spring seeps through anything you may place over it.”

This is what Jesus is saying. He is promising to place a spring within the life of anyone who will come to Him. This is the message of Christmas and the Christian life.

Merry Christmas. See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

 

The Christmas Symbols

Since it is Christmas time, I thought I would share with you the spiritual meaning behind some of the decorations we enjoy.

First of all, there’s the Christmas tree. Legend has it that Martin Luther was walking home on a dark December evening when he was struck by the beauty of the starlight coming through the branches of the many fir trees in the woods around his home. He was so captivated by the way the filtered light appeared that he felt moved to duplicate this effect on the tree he had placed in his home. He tied a candle holder onto one of the evergreen’s branches, put a candle in the wooden holder, and lit it. Walking to the opposite side of the tree he studied the flickering light. He liked the effect and attached several more candles in the same way. Not only was his family impressed, so were his neighbors. A host of them added candles to their own indoor trees, and the tradition of a lighted tree was born.

Luther taught his friends and family that the tree represented the everlasting love of God. He pointed out that the evergreen’s color did not fade, just as the Lord’s love would not fade, no matter what the circumstance or trial. The candlelight represented the hope that Christ brought to the world through His birth and resurrection. Thus, to those who knew Luther, the tree evolved into a symbol not just of Christmas but of Christian faith in general.

Holly has also become a symbol of the Christian faith. Christians begin using holly as a teaching tool to explain the life and death of Christ. Initially the prickly leaves represented the crown of thorns that had been placed on Jesus’ head on the day of the crucifixion. The plant’s red berries were to remind believers of the blood that the Savior shed on the cross for their sins.

The poinsettia’s original name means “a flower that withers, mortal flower that perishes like all that is pure”. The plant is a fitting representation of the redeeming work of God’s Son. The red represents the blood that was shed on the cross and the green stands for the promise of eternal life offered to us through that sacrifice.

Then there is the candy cane. A persistent legend surrounding the candy cane it tied to Oliver Cromwell’s rule in England, a time when Christmas celebrations were banned by the Puritan leader. It is said that during this short historical period, a dedicated Christian confectioner created a candy cane as a way for Christians to recognize each other on the street. The candy was supposed to be a type of code or signal, like a secret handshake. These canes, decorated with three tiny red stripes (which represented the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and another bold, thick red stripe that demonstrated the redemptive power of Christ’s blood, were given out to those who professed Christ as their Savior.

Another man in the 1920’s in Albany, GA made candy canes which symbolized for him the Trinity and the redeeming blood of Christ. The hook of the cane symbolized a shepherd’s staff and the white, the purity of Christ. He said also if you turned the hook upside down it appeared as the letter J standing for Jesus. However you see it, this too is a symbol of our faith.

Then there is the wreath. In early Christianity there were not many hotels and most Christians could not afford to stay in them. When they traveled from town to town they were in need of a place to lodge overnight. Christians would put wreaths on their doors to indicate a Christian lived there. This meant that people were welcome to knock on the door for lodging. The wreath was a symbol of eternal life. So when we place a wreath on our door, it is a symbol of eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ died to give to us.

Mistletoe…In ancient times mistletoe was viewed with awe. It was considered a miracle plant. During the harshest days of winter’s fury, when most everything else had died, this small, flowering, seemingly rootless plant thrived in the treetops. It offered beauty and color, life and hope, mystery and wonder.

Even before the time of Christ, the early Greeks and Celts believed mistletoe was sacred. They taught that only God’s powerful touch could bring a new plant out of winter’s dead wood and nourish that plant during the year’s most brutal days. For this reason, people of many different faiths have considered mistletoe a sacred and noble gift that represents life, hope and security. Many Christians even believed it was the key to understanding God and His purpose for humankind. They claimed that if you understood how mistletoe grew, why it survived and thrived each winter season, as well as how it spread you would understand the Lord and your relationship with Him. Thus mistletoe not only symbolized faith, it also came to stand for a love that would not die.

Every time you see these symbols I hope it will remind you of God’s great love for us through the Lord Jesus not only at Christmastime but all year long.

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

 

Be Thankful

At Thanksgiving we should remember to give thanks to God. On October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued a formal proclamation, passed by an act of congress initiating the first annual National Day of Thanksgiving. It states:

“No human counsel has devised nor has any mortal hands worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, has nevertheless remembered mercy… I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens… [It is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proved by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord…It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.”

How far we have come from our roots in thanking God for His bounty. Today Thanksgiving is more of a holiday with feasting and football. Though there is nothing wrong with that, we should recognize God’s hand not only in our personal life but in our nation’s life.

In Psalm 107:1 the psalmist said: “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

Why should we thank God? The answer is, we praise Him because He is good, we thank Him for His many good acts toward us and to all persons.

James Boice said: “There is an echo in the first three verses of this psalm of Deuteronomy 10:17, which says, ‘The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.’ The names or titles for God in Psalm 136 are from that verse: The Lord (Jehovah), God of gods and Lord of lords. This is the only true God, and He is mighty, as the following verses that deal with His power in creation remind us. He is also good, which means that His mighty acts are good acts and for our benefit. That is why the refrain ‘His love endures forever’ is so appropriate as a response to each of the psalms 26 assertions about God.”1011207_313243542191515_5608881705538041233_n

If you read Psalm 136 you will see how wonderfully good God is.

Charles Spurgeon says this about God’s goodness: “He is good beyond all others; indeed, He alone is good in the highest sense; He is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this He deserves the constant gratitude of His people.”

If we want to know what real goodness is and enjoy it the place to find it is in God. We should be thankful for God’s love to us through His Son Jesus who has opened up for us God’s throne of grace that we may not only praise Him for His gift of eternal life to us but also receive grace upon grace.

Happy Thanksgiving. See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

 

Our Evangelism Conference

002I would like to encourage all of our church family and their friends to attend our Bible Conference this Saturday and Sunday. When the Session was planning the conference last spring, we spent time praying about a topic we would like to be covered. We decided that our church needed encouragement in the area of evangelism. We will all admit that we could do a better job in sharing our faith. It is something that does not come naturally to most of us.

We then needed to find a speaker that was appropriate to the topic. We invited Dr. Guy Waters, Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS to be our speaker. He enthusiastically accepted our invitation as well as our topic. He will be speaking four times. Two sessions Saturday night as well as Sunday School and morning worship. His text for the entire conference will be Acts Chapters 1 and 2. You may want to read these chapters and meditate upon them in preparation for his preaching.

1011207_313243542191515_5608881705538041233_nMany times after churches hold conferences the lessons learned can be easily forgotten. One sobering fact is that people who do not know Christ eternally perish. But for the grace of God that would be all of us. God showed us His marvelous grace and brought us to Himself. He may have saved you through your meditating upon His word, at a church service or more likely, someone told you about Christ. We all know lost people in our neighborhood, in our schools or at work. We do not want to be obnoxious and shove the Bible down people’s throats nor do we want to be so timid that we are afraid to speak.

In Evangelism Explosion, one of the key phrases was “A divine appointment”. A Biblical example of this would be Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8. God led Philip to the eunuch as he was reading from the book of Isaiah and God used him to bring the eunuch to Christ. So we should pray for God to bring people into our life who are searching for meaning and purpose for their life. If you have ever had the privilege of sharing your faith, it not only strengthens your faith and confirms what you believe, but it also excites you to be an instrument in God’s hands to see a lost person saved.

Let us pray that what we learn will be used of the Holy Spirit to give us a greater desire to share our faith and ask God to do great things through us as a church in our community.

Hope to see you at our conference this weekend.

Dick

Volcanoes, Suffering, & the Question of Why?

1982210_10203612663261325_1171423907_nI have been watching the news about the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. In its path are towns with people’s homes and businesses. All they can do is watch as it creeps ever so closely to their town. Some, I understand, have been in these homes for most of their lives. Each day as they awake they are wondering how much closer it is to their homes. All they can do is watch and wait. They can evacuate and save their life but all that they own unfortunately will be destroyed.

There is a spiritual lesson in this for us. I think of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:26: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” J. C. Ryle said: “There can only be one answer to this question. There is nothing on earth, or under the earth, that could make amends to us for the loss of our soul. There is nothing that money buy, or man can give, to be named in comparison with our souls. The world, and all that it contains is temporal. It is all fading, perishing, and passing away. The soul is eternal. That one single word is the key to the whole question. Let it sink down deeply into our hearts.”

We must consider the same possibility in our lives. If we lost everything temporal, would we grieve for that more than we would our own eternity? The people in Hawaii are learning from this trial what is most important in life. We should certainly pray for the people in Hawaii.

This leads me to another question. Did they do something to incur this judgment from God? We know the answer. However in Luke 13:1-5 Luke said: “There were present at that season some who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things. I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem. I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’”

First of all we do not know anything about the incident mentioned about Pilate mingling blood with their sacrifices. Apparently a group of Galileans had been offering animal sacrifices  and while they were doing this they were murdered by soldiers under the government of Pontius Pilate. The Galileans who were fiercely independent in those days were seen by Pilate as a political threat. It is not clear why people brought this report to Jesus; however, whenever something terrible happens, we always look for someone to blame. For example in John 9:2 when the disciples met a man who had been blind from birth they asked Jesus: “Who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind?”

We sometime believe that all of our suffering is do to our actions so we leap to conclusions that if we suffer another hurricane, it is due to the fact that we are morally worse than anyone else.  Jesus rejected this line of reasoning. What he said was regardless of why in God’s providence He sends tragedy our way instead of blaming God for what happens, we need to look at our own life and ask whether we have sufficiently repented of the sin in our life. It is our spiritual condition that is the most important thing. If tragedy happens to people we are never to think that if we escaped, we are morally superior. The people who suffer tragedies are no better or worse than anyone else. We are all sinners saved by grace. Let us ponder our spiritual state before God regardless of our circumstances and continue to pray that by His grace we will cherish Him at all times.

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

Ebola and the Sin of Adam

Romans 5:12: “Therefore just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned-”

In the last several weeks, our nation’s attention has been focused on Ebola. We are not sure how it spreads or how to stop it. We are told that if a vaccine is developed it is at least a year away. Think of how much trouble one person with Ebola caused. Recently in Dallas, one man, Thomas Eric Duncan arrived from Liberia and infected at least two nurses that we know of in the hospital. Others have been quarantined for possible infection. This past weekend a Carnival cruise ship was refused to disembark passengers in Belize and Cozumel because one passenger had contact with a vial of his blood and was in quarantine. One of the nurses who treated him flew on a plane from Dallas to Cleveland. As a result all on the plane going and coming were contacted for possible exposure to Ebola.

Think of the hysteria that one man can cause. The Scriptures tell us the same thing about the sin of one man, Adam. The results of his sin affect all mankind. Because of his one sin, men are filled with unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil mindedness, they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventers of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only to do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:29-32).

Because of one man’s sin we have had countless wars, violence in our streets, countless thefts and murders of innocent people.

The sin of one man has also affected creation. Romans 8:20-22: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected in hope, because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

What Paul is telling us is the reason we have hurricanes, volcanoes, tornados and other natural disasters. It is rooted in the sin of Adam. Look at all the trouble from the loss of life to the loss of property that natural disasters leave in their wake. Also because of one man’s sin, there are diseases in the world such as Ebola. Think of all the plagues that have taken the lives of millions of people over the centuries.

The scripture paints a very bleak picture of the horrors of human sin but the antidote to the sin of one man is the sinlessness of the God man. Romans 5:15 says: “…for if by one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ abounded to the many.”

This is what gave the angels such great joy in announcing to Joseph that he should not be afraid to take Mary as his wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Then the angel said: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) [emphasis mine]. This one man Jesus is the only one who can deliver us from the plague of sin. We who have been healed by His shed blood can thank God for the provision of His great salvation and pray for opportunities to tell others of the tremendous hope of the Gospel.

See you Sunday.

Dick

The Struggling Christian in Romans 7

fgbfhRomans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The apostle Paul was speaking to a legal situation. Paul’s readers were aware of that to which he was referring although we are not.

Here’s the background. As we in the American legal system deal with the crime of murder in terms of first, second and third degree, the Roman legal system described several levels of guilt for the offense. Romans 7:24 refers to one of the most severe punishments of Roman law. The dead body was literally chained to the murderer—face to face, hand to hand, toe to toe. The condemned man was sentenced to go through the remainder of his life chained to this decaying corpse. Keep in mind the acceleration of the decomposing process in that warm climate, then try to imagine how it would be if this body were in front of you while eating or attempting to talk to your wife or children. Imagine the horror as each day the stench becomes increasingly offensive, bringing alienation from family and friends, depriving you of intimacy with another human being. As the decaying corpse becomes rigid and stiff when rigor mortis sets in, sitting down becomes virtually impossible. Sleep escapes you as death permeates every waking moment. Each day the stench grows worse and becomes increasingly more offensive, both to you and everyone around you. Therefore, you are progressively more isolated from family and friends. There is no escape from the reminder of your crime.

The murderer could not avoid breathing in the stench of this decaying body which was his constant companion. It is not hard to understand that many times the condemned man would lose his mind if he did not first die of inhaled putrefaction.

This is a picture of sin. Using his knowledge of the Roman legal practice to draw a vivid comparison, Paul was talking about Christians who sin. Though we may make a desperate attempt to live a sinless life, the apostle Paul became more and more aware of the fact that the harder he tried the more frustrating his failure became.

In Romans 7:24 Paul said: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” That is all of the stench and filthiness of my sin that clings to me as the corpse of a dead man. What then is our hope? In Romans 6:18 Paul said: “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” This verse tells me that we as Christian people have been freed from the sin which clings to us. Christ has cleansed us and made us free from the burden of indwelling sin. In Romans 6:6 the apostle Paul said: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that they body of sin might be done away with,  that we should  no longer be slaves of sin.”   We do struggle with besetting sins daily but the bottom line is we now have the power of God at our disposal so that we can enjoy victory over every sin. On this earth we will never live a perfect life. We are constantly bombarded with many opportunities for sin but the God who raised us from spiritual death has given us the grace to resist. No longer do we sin under compulsion as a convicted murderer carrying a corpse.

Let us realize first of all the burden that our sin places on us and secondly the freedom that Christ bought us.

See you Sunday.

Dick