Saturday, April 30, 2011

Huge wake up call to the churches of America

Hebrews chapter 10 starts out emphasizing, again, that the Law is a shadow of things to come:

Hebrews 10:1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.

Hebrews 8:5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "SEE THAT YOU MAKE ALL THINGS ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN."

Hebrews 7:19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

Hebrews 9:9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—

Then the writer quotes Psalm 40, twice, to bring home the point that God no longer desires their sacrifices and burnt offerings. This was confusing to me at first. I was thinking, “why did He have this sacrificial system if He didn't desire it?” So I checked on some commentary. John MacArthur says in his commentary that God no longer desired sacrifice and burnt offerings because He was making way for the New Covenant; the Final Sacrifice:

Hebrews 10:8-9 Previously saying, "SACRIFICE AND OFFERING, BURNT OFFERINGS, AND OFFERINGS FOR SIN YOU DID NOT DESIRE, NOR HAD PLEASURE IN THEM" (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, "BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD." He takes away the first that He may establish the second.

Then the statement is made that must have sent the Jews in to a tail spin. I envision a scene where people have been so committed to their religion, constantly striving to gain God's approval; and along comes the Gospel of Jesus Christ saying, “It is all worthless, there is One Final Sacrifice by which we must be saved and there is NO OTHER WAY”:

Hebrews 10:10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

This sounds strangely familiar doesn't it? There are so many people convinced that their way is the right way. They don't really know why, but they have grown up in a certain church and “my parents brought me to this church so it must be right.” There is no doubt there are those in catholic churches across the world that are convinced it is the Truth, even though the catholic church has been shown to be a false religion over and over again. There are those in the ELCA wing of the Lutheran church loving what they hear and are equally convinced, although their doctrine contradicts Scripture. There are those in other churches, such as Jehovah's Witness and Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism) that are convinced they are the only ones with the Truth. There are billions of Muslims in the world that have grown up a certain way and through confusion and intimidation they will identify themselves as Muslims without really practicing their own self-proclaimed religion.

A common response from many people as they read a paragraph like the one above is, “yea, and you also think you are the one with the Truth.” The Truth is found in the Word of God and the evidence of Its validity is overwhelming for anyone who desires to make a sincere study of it. There is no doubt many have made an intellectual exercise of Christianity, and there has been no evidence to disprove the Bible. However, at the end of all the intellectual exercise there still stands a person equally condemned, unless they have been convicted by the Holy Spirit and born-again. There is no fleshly ritual or routine that will wash away sin:

Hebrews 10:11-12 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,

To enter the Kingdom of God we must be perfect. The problem is, with an honest assessment, it doesn't take long to figure out that we are all FAR FROM PERFECT. So, the question must be asked, how can I be made perfect? The answer is, only One Way; through the Blood Sacrifice of Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 10:14-17 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. 15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 16 "THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR HEARTS, AND IN THEIR MINDS I WILL WRITE THEM," 17 then He adds, "THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE."

How amazing is that!?!?! "THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." As we discussed this week, we die once and then the Judgment. The last thing anyone should ever want is to face the Judgment Seat of God when He remembers your sins and lawless deeds. Yet, that is exactly what happens to those who are too proud and too in love with their sin to let the Blood of Christ wash away their sin so it is “remembered no more”.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,

Hebrews 10:22-23 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

In chapter 6 we looked at some terrifying verses; these next two verse can easily be added to the long list of terrifying verses of the Bible:

Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

Here's how the ESV translates:

Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

I have no doubt the the recipients of this letter were living much like many people do today. An attitude of “I'll sin and seek forgiveness tomorrow”. I know this is true, because that is exactly what I used to do before I got saved. An attitude of “live like the devil tonight and seek the forgiveness of God tomorrow, after all it's all about Grace.” There has been a mindset of, “it's easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission”; read the Hebrews 10:26-27 again to see if you still think that. 1 John 1:6 makes the same point:

1John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

For those that continue to preach GRACE, GRACE, GRACE without the rest of the puzzle in place; consider what the Word says about those that deliberately continue in sin; which the Word calls insulting the Spirit of Grace:

Hebrews 10:29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

This should act as a wake up call to many, especially considering that many people with the GRACE, GRACE, GRACE attitude also have a confused opinion on how God will look at those that continue in sin, this verse should make it clear:

Hebrew 10:30-31 For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We are to be obedient, faithful; we are to fight the good fight and keep the faith:

Hebrews 10:35-39 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 "FOR YET A LITTLE WHILE, AND HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME AND WILL NOT TARRY. 38 NOW THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; BUT IF ANYONE DRAWS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM." 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Do you know about the Blood?

As I was reading Hebrews chapter 9 this morning, three things came to mind: 1- How important it is for us to understand the importance of the Blood, 2- How little I have heard about the Blood from preachers, 3- How some may let their confusion of the need for the Blood be a stumbling block when they need to start from the premise that God makes the rules, not us.

The writer of Hebrews has spent much time recapping the sacrificial system as it relates to the high priest and the tabernacle. He has also made the crucial point that there is no remission without the shedding of Blood:

Hebrews 9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

Here's how the ESV translates Hebrews 9:22:

Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

To the recipients of this letter, it would not have been confusing to them to talk about blood sacrifice; they have been taught this their entire life. What they are hearing for the first time is that Jesus made the Final Sacrifice establishing the New Covenant:

Hebrews 9:18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

1Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The Letter of Hebrews clearly establishes the New Covenant and the need for Blood sacrifice to save us. In addition, it puts to rest any silliness about purgatory or second chances after we die. These 16 words are as clear as it gets:

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Once we have been convicted of the Truth, what then? The answer is the same now as it has been since the beginning and is covered in the pages of Scripture, repent and put your faith in Jesus. Trust in the New Covenant, be washed clean in the Blood of Christ. Walk in fellowship and obedience to Jesus Christ. Do not be confused in to thinking that you can deliberately continue in sin and have fellowship with Him:

1John 1:6-10 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Our marching orders are outlined throughout The Word and 1 Peter chapter 1 makes it as clear as any other text:

1Peter 1:13-19 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Covenant was flawed!

I read Hebrews chapter 8 yesterday and was very fired up and excited at how clear this chapter opened up to me; one of those experiences where you feel like this is the first time you read it. This morning when I read it again to prepare my post I had to laugh when I was done because I had almost the entire chapter hi-lited.

We established yesterday in Hebrews chapter 7 that there is a New Covenant; and that the first Covenant was flawed. This struck me curious yesterday as I read it again in chapter 8, but now today it is very clear. The first Covenant was not flawed because of anything God did (God ALWAYS keeps His promises); the first Covenant was flawed because His people did not keep it:

Hebrews 8:9 NOT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT THAT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS IN THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; BECAUSE THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DISREGARDED THEM, SAYS THE LORD.

In the New Covenant there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman; we are all one IN CHRIST:

Galatians 3:22-29 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The New and Final Covenant is simple:

We are all sinners deserving of eternal death, but God being rich in Mercy, Grace and Love for His Creation has provided a Way of Redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ, for all who will repent and put their faith in Him as their Lord and Savior.

How joyous are you that the New Covenant is that simple? Would you rather have the Old Covenant and be saddled with the burden of Levitical Law? The New Covenant is as simple is it gets to understand, but the road is difficult and narrow:

Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Why is it so difficult? I thought Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light?

Matthew 11:29-30 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

His yoke is easy, and His burden is light; however, the way is difficult because men like their sin too much:

John 3:18-19 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

God's people did not continue in the first Covenant, so He showed no concern for them. In the same way, those that do not receive the New Covenant, will not enter His rest and will not enter His Kingdom.

It is interesting that Jesus followed up His statement about way being difficult with warning about false prophets. The false prophets, false teachers and false religions want to paint a different picture than what Jesus did. The false prophets want to say things like, “say this prayer and you are in God's family”. The false prophets will distort, twist, add to and take away from God's Word; they will offer “fine sounding” arguments and only offer a small piece of the overall puzzle of the New Covenant. That is why we are warned throughout the Word:

Matthew 7:15-21 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

Hebrews 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "BEHOLD, THE DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL MAKE A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH—9 NOT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT THAT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS IN THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; BECAUSE THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DISREGARDED THEM, SAYS THE LORD. 10 FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MIND AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 11 NONE OF THEM SHALL TEACH HIS NEIGHBOR, AND NONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, 'KNOW THE LORD,' FOR ALL SHALL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST OF THEM TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. 12 FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." 13 In that He says, "A NEW COVENANT," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don't be deceived by any other "priest"

As we read Hebrews it is important to remember that the writer is addressing the “religious Jews” (is that a proper term?). The writer is spending much time establishing the things of Judaism that they would already know, such as, the history and function of the priests. As a short recap, the high priest had to make sacrifices; first for his own sin and then for the sins of the people. When the high priest would die, another one was put in place; however, the sacrifices required remained.

The Jews knew two things for sure; 1. they were sinners that needed atonement for their sin; 2. this atonement came through blood sacrifice carried out by the high priest. I'm sure the recipients of this letter may have been thinking, “yes, we know all this.” But, after all the foundation was laid, the writer says, “there is a new and better covenant”.

The old covenant of Levitical Law and the sacrifices of the high priest are done away with because there has come a High Priest that has made a sacrifice once and for all. This High Priest lives forever and His sacrifice is final.

Hebrews 7:15-17 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies: "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK."

The Law made nothing perfect, which is the requirement to enter the Kingdom of God:

Hebrews 7:18-19 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

Hebrews 7:22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

Jesus is the only High Priest that you can be redeemed through. You do not need to confess to, get atonement from, or trust in ANY OTHER....it not only can be, but must be, all through Jesus Christ:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Hebrews 7:24-27 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Most Terrifying Verses in The Bible

Hebrews chapter 6 begins with the word “therefore”, just as chapter 4 does. “Therefore” what? The end of chapter 5 seems to show a little irritation with the recipients when the writer says, you ought be on solid food by now, but instead, like a baby, you still need milk. The writer starts chapter 6 indicating that he DOES NOT want to continue on with the basics. He seems to be making it very clear that the basic foundation of Christianity has been laid:

Hebrews 6:1a Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of....

In the rest of verse 1 and verse 2 the writer makes it as clear as it can get what the foundation of Christianity is:

Hebrews 6:1b-2 repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

It is crucial to point out that when anyone is practicing anything that is outside of God's will, they are warned to repent. In the case here, Hebrews is addressing the religious of the day. Their focus was on the religious rituals of Judaism and they were counting on their own "works of righteousness”; which we know amount to nothing. The irritation of the writer seems to be, “I've told you over and over again that your religious ritual is worthless, why do you insist on returning to this silliness when it has no eternal value. NOW REPENT OF THESE DEAD WORKS. Turn from these things and put your faith in God alone for salvation.”

The Word of God is covered with this same message of repentance. Whether someone is practicing sin or sins, whether they are trusting in religion or their own righteousness, whether they have created their own god or determined there is no God; whatever the situation is in our life before we are born-again, God warns us to repent and trust in Jesus.

Chapter 6 continues on to give three of the most terrifying verses in the Bible:

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Here is these same three verses from the ESV:

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Did you see what is impossible? It is impossible to “restore them again to repentance”! Do you realize how terrifying this is? Each one of us has to fall under one of three categories, and only 2 of the 3 offers hope of salvation.

One- You have repented of your sin and/or dead works of righteousness and religion and have put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation; in other words, you are born-again

Two- You have not repented and put your trust in Jesus; in which case, there is still hope for you to do so; otherwise you will die condemned

Three- You have heard and received the Gospel, you have “ tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” and fallen away to a life of unbelief, sin, and/or religion and have now made it impossible to be restored unto repentance.

I am not sure if I know anyone that falls under the third category. It scares me to think of someone in this condition. My personal opinion (which this and $1.06 will get you a cup of coffee at Holiday) is that most that call themselves Christians and have not repented have not really “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come”. I know there was a time in my life that I thought I was a Christian and was only fooling myself, I was ignorant of the ways of God. I praise Him and thank Him everyday that He didn't leave me in that condition. Instead, in His Grace and Mercy, He broke me, and His goodness led me to repentance and true saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 2:4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

2Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

2Corinthians 12:21 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.

2Timothy 2:25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

Matthew 3:2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

Matthew 3:8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,

Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Matthew 9:13 But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

Matthew 11:20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:

Mark 1:4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

This is a small sampling from the Bible with the word REPENT. It is missing from many churches today, and many consider it a bad word. However, we need a paradigm shift in our thinking. Repent is a glorious word. The freedom and joy that comes with turning away from the lusts of this world and turning to God is beyond words. It is a source of confusion for those that prefer the lusts of this world, but for those that are born-again it is the desire of our heart, to set our mind and heart on Him in everything we say think and do.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"God loves the sinner" clarified

I made a comment a couple days ago that I would like to clarify. It is in regard to the commonly known phrase, “God loves the sinner and hates the sin.” I had said that was not true. Whereas I still maintain that position it does need clarification.

Of course God loves His creation; He loves the world so much that although they were separated from Him without hope of redemption, He sent His Son from on High to suffer humility, shame, brutality, torture, and abandonment from the Father so we would have a Way of redemption.

John 3:12-16 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

I would like to encourage you to read verse 14 again: 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

Now read a portion of the account Jesus is referring to (from Numbers 21)

Numbers 21:7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live." 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

There are 3 things that really jump out at me as I read this:

1- The people then knew they sinned against God and knew they needed His Mercy and Grace. Many people today do not consider themselves sinful, and until that happens they will not see the need for Jesus

2- God brought the Jews out of bondage and they still turned on Him, choosing instead to serve idols. Sounds strangely familiar doesn't it? Many people get to the point of brokenness and turn to God. He frees them from the bondage of sin and instead to serving Him, they return to serving idols. Our idols are much more sophisticated than golden calves though, right? Our idols are money, power, sex, booze, drugs, pornography, hollywood, gossip, pride, religion etc.

3- Although God provided the most basic instruction to the Jews, “look to the serpent and you will live”, many still died. Why? Were they too proud? Were they too angry with God? Did it sound silly? Were they too lazy? It is confusing that many rejected God's healing; after all, the ones that were bitten by the snake were going to die. There wasn't a chance of another “remedy” to come along. Maybe some were deceived by someone saying, “don't waste your time looking at that snake, I have a cure right here, you don't need to look to the snake.” All of this sounds oddly familiar with peoples reaction to God's plan of redemption.

Pride, anger, confusion, laziness, deception; pick your favorite or add to the list; there are plenty of reasons people reject Jesus Christ. But one thing is certain, Jesus is the Author of salvation and the disobedient will NOT inherit eternal life:

Hebrews 5:9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,

The reason I say, “God loves the sinner and hates the sin” is untrue is because it creates confusion and God is not the author of confusion. This statement leaves people with a false sense of eternal security. This statement suggest that we can go on sinning and God still loves us and we will still be ushered in to Heaven when we die. This is simply not true. God is angry with the disobedient every day. God is angry with the unbelievers every day. Yes, He loves the world so much that He did what He did to redeem us; but that doesn't mean your hands been stamped by default. We are not born children of God, we are born objects of Wrath with the right to “become” children of God.

Ephesians 2:1-5 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Hebrews 3:10 THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THAT GENERATION, AND SAID, 'THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN MY WAYS.'

Deuteronomy 9:7 "Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 Also in Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry enough with you to have destroyed you.

I have been accused of being too hard-core in my posts and that I need to be more positive. I am reading what the Word of God says, and when I read that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey and know there are those professing to be Christians, yet look just like the rest of the world in serving their flesh, I write about it. I just write what the Lord puts on my heart. My desire is not to get people to like me, my desire is that people be saved.

Hebrews 5:11-13 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is God Angry with Me?

Hebrews 4 begins with the word “therefore”. Any time a verse begins with that word, it seems logical that we should know what was previously said. If we don't, we miss the entire point of the “therefore”. As soon as we see that word, the question should be, “'therefore' what?

In this case, the previous points (at the end of chapter 3) are as follows:

-The parallel has been made between those brought out of Egypt, and those hearing the Gospel then and now
-Much like the Jews who were brought out of Egypt rebelled; so do many that hear the Gospel
-God was angry with those who sinned then, and He is angry with those that sin today
-God makes it clear that the disobedient did not enter His rest then, and the disobedient will not enter His rest today
-Unbelief was the reason they did not enter His rest then, and unbelief will keep us from entering His rest today

I have witnessed a couple slow deaths in my life. The contrast between the two was as stark as night and day. One died with peace and no confusion; ready to go. The other was filled with anxiety, worry, confusion, fear, and anger. I have a pretty good idea of where each were at in their faith, but only God knows. However, the Word says perfect love casts out all fear. When we put our faith in Jesus the fear of death is removed. As the Word says, “death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is gone when Jesus is first in your life. This is part of the "rest" the Word talks about, peace that surpasses all understanding.

THEREFORE” the promise of His rest remains:

Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.

Those that have not been born-again should fear; that fear should motivate them to get right with God. Fear of death is a good thing for the non-believer, it should be a catalyst for them to seek the Truth.

Verse 2 talks about the Gospel not profiting certain people, take a look at why that is:

Hebrews 4:2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

Did you catch that? The Gospel did not profit them because it was not accompanied by faith. Someone can here the Gospel, they can even “reason” it to be true; but until you put your complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ, it is only an intellectual exercise that amounts to nothing. When I used to preach in the prison, the prisoners used to call this “12 inches from being saved”. You would be stunned at how brutally honest prisoners are. Although they were in a 18 month Christian program, many had no problem saying, “I get it here (pointing to their head); but I don't have it here (pointing to their heart).” We should have that kind of honesty in all our churches and Bible studies; people being honest about their faith or lack thereof. The only one that loses when you practice a fake Christianity is you. There is no shame in saying, “I grew up saying I believe this, and I want to believe this, but I just don't”. If this describes you, and you lift that prayer up to God, “Lord please help me in my unbelief”; He will honor that prayer.

Hebrews 4:3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "SO I SWORE IN MY WRATH, 'THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,' " although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Hebrews 4:5-6 and again in this place: "THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST." 6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience,

Mar 9:23-24 Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

Mark 16:14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

Romans 11:23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

1Timothy 1:13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

Hebrews 4:7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "TODAY," after such a long time, as it has been said: "TODAY, IF YOU WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS."

Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

When we enter God's rest, fixing our hearts and thoughts on Him is of no effort, it flows as effortless as breathing. If you truly desire to enter God's rest, you need to read, study, memorize and meditate on God's Word:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

False religion, false teaching, false profession, false converts, fake Christianity.....IT IS ALL BARE BEFORE GOD:
Hebrews 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Do not harden your heart today, boldly approach the throne of Grace:

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are your hands hardened from working out?


When I first started getting in to weight lifting I remember my hands had not yet developed callous' and they were very sensitive to the grooves in the bar for a while. Then after a short period of time I wouldn't notice the pain in my hands any more. Then after a while I had developed very hard callous' and nothing hurt my hands. The callous' were so hard and developed that I figured they would never go away; but now that I don't workout much any more my hands have softened and the callous are almost untraceable.

A couple days ago we established some analogies to help us get our mind around how God is Just and Loving. We also looked at the different ways God communicates with His creation. He sends us Angels, Prophets, Evangelists, preachers, dreams, visions, “coincidences”, etc.; He is constantly speaking to His creation through the Holy Spirit as well. His creation points to Him.

I remember one of the first times God spoke to me was through a 10 year old. I had recently fell prey to the “health, wealth and prosperity gospel” when a customer invited me to a Christmas play her church was presenting. Their church meetings were held at a local school and that is where the play would be showing so I decided to go. Around the end of the play a little girl came on stage and started singing, “every time I see a candy cane, hanging on a tree, it reminds me of the One who died, and gave His life for me.”

I never forgot that song or the performance. I wish I could say I got saved right then, but I wasn't; sin was too precious to me to give it up. So I went on for quite a while pretending to be a Christian. I even spoke like a Christian sometimes. I even preached Jesus in the bars sometimes.

I praise God everyday that He didn't give me over to my sin. He has every right to give you over to your sin, and He makes that clear in Romans 1

Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Just like a barbell slowly hardened my hands, sin slowly hardens our heart. Every time we hear the Gospel and refuse to respond, our heart is hardened a little bit more. Every time the Holy Spirit prompts us in some way and we ignore Him, our heart is hardened a little more. Every time we hear about Jesus something happens to our heart, it either softens, or hardens.

Paul warns of this TWICE in the 3rd  chapter of Hebrews. Within 8 verses he warns of hardening our heart:

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "TODAY, IF YOU WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, 8 DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS IN THE REBELLION, IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,

Hebrews 3:14-15 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said: "TODAY, IF YOU WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS IN THE REBELLION."

Many of us have heard the phrase, “God loves the sinner and hates the sin.” That's not true. God is angry with unbelievers everyday, He is angry with the disobedient everyday. He “swears in His Wrath, they shall NEVER enter His rest””

Hebrews 3:10-11 THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THAT GENERATION, AND SAID, 'THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN MY WAYS.' 11 SO I SWORE IN MY WRATH, 'THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.' "

Hebrews 3:18-19 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"If God would just give me a sign"

Many people have said, “if God would just give me a sign, I would believe” or “if God would just do this or that, I would believe”.

The Truth is, God has provided every possible scenario for men to believe, yet they still choose to ignore the messages, warnings, and signs.

Hebrews 2:4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

An interesting paradigm has taken place at some point in history. The first century Jews needed to be convinced that the Messiah the Bible speaks of has been manifest in Jesus of Nazareth. So Paul would reason with them in the synagogues. The debate wasn't whether the things Paul, Luke, Matthew, John, Peter and James spoke of and wrote about regarding Jesus really happened, the first century people new they did and the witnesses of these things were overwhelming. But, at some point, people started to question whether these things really happened, or whether the Old Testament prophesies of Jesus were written after the fact. The silly arguments continue today, they have just been changed slightly. The reality is, the arguments are only smoke screens, and are only the words of those that have fallen prey to deception.

The Truth is, God desires that none would die condemned:

1Timothy 2:3-4 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

All men to be saved, that's what He wants, that's His will. So, according to His will, He provided signs and wonders and miracles:

Hebrews 2:4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

Someone could logically say, “if that's true, then why doesn't He just save everyone and be done with it.”

Answer: Because He is a Just and Holy God. He is a Righteous Judge. For someone to suggest that it is just that simple would be the same as suggesting that a man that has been caught after a decade of raping, torturing and killing children be set free. If a earthly judge said, “yes I know the jury has found you guilty, but I am a very loving man and I am going to set you free.”

What would you think of a judge that did that? You may be thinking, "that's not the same thing, I've never done brutal things like that.” With all respect, I would contend, if you think that way, it is because you have not yet fully grasped how God views sin of any kind. Our sin is against a Righteous and Holy God.

The severity of punishment depends on the one in which you have committed the offense. Would my punishment be more or less severe if I punched a drunk on the street in the mouth, or the President of the United States? If I punched the President in the mouth there is a good chance I wouldn't get out of prison for years, if at all; yet, we think we can spit in the face of God and walk “Scott free”?

God has sent His Holy Angels to be messengers, He has sent Prophets, He has sent Evangelists; yet, we drift away from the Truth, and in some cases turn our back and run away from It. Many have been warned of this Truth over and over again and continue to neglect the Truth:

Hebrews 2:1-3 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

Take a look at the definition of “propitiation:

Propitiation
PROPITIATION, n. propisia'shon.

  1. The act of appeasing wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person; the act of making propitious.

If you have committed an offense in a third world country and were about to be sentenced to the most brutal prison in the world, a prison so brutal that 1 month or 10 years would amount to the same thing, you will not survive either one; would you want someone to intervene on your behalf? Would you be thankful to anyone that would appease the judgement of the court in this country? Such a person would be making propitiation for your crime. This person satisfied your debt.

Now let's take our hypothetical situation a step further. You are in court when this unknown person intervenes and the judge looks at you and says, “are you willing to receive this act of propitiation, if so, you may go?

If you are a right thinking person, you would shout for joy and wouldn't be able to say "YES" fast enough. Furthermore, you would probably embrace this stranger, and ask what you could do to repay him.

He says, “you can never afford to repay what it cost, but I do ask that you never return to the lifestyle that got you in this bind.”

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

(Words of Jesus)
Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—

John 8:11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."