Posts tagged ‘Christ’

Our Covenant Keeping God

Throughout history, Jehovah has always dealt with mankind according to covenants. He is a God of order, and does not rule in an arbitrary or capricious manner. Rather, He lets us know the conditions of His covenant so that we know what His promises are and can then exercise faith in His Word to us. Thus, Jehovah establishes covenant relationships and has signs to serve as a reminder of that covenant. Unfortunately, due to the divisions of our Bibles into Old and New Testaments, there is a common misperception that there are only two covenants. In fact, there are three covenants contained in the Hebrew Scriptures and one in the Greek Scriptures.

The first covenant, one that is still in force, is the Noahic covenant. It was established between God and Noah after the flood.

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. (Genesis 9:9-13 NKJV)

I am thankful that this is in effect, as another worldwide flood would be a bummer. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow, and still occurs today. In Hawaii, it occurs on a daily basis! This covenant is also one that is unconditional, and was entered into after Noah sacrificed an animal on the altar in worship. Thus it was established by the shedding of blood.

The next covenant I want to consider is the Abrahamic covenant. In this one, God covenants with Abraham to give his descendants through Isaac possession of the land of Israel perpetually. Jehovah also promised that through Abraham’s seed (Jesus) all nations will be blessed. This covenant is also unconditional, and is still in force. In fact, those of us who have been reconciled unto God by His Son are those who are part of “the blessed.”

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21)

Again, there were no conditions listed, and the covenant was sealed with a blood sacrifice.

The next covenant was the Mosaic covenant, made between Jehovah and the nation of Israel. This covenant was conditional unlike the others. It is within this covenant that most of the Bible is given. This covenant was given at Mount Sinai and was in force until John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). The covenant, though perfect from God’s side, was beyond human ability to fully keep. It was designed to be temporary, and served to condemn the world under sin. The sign of the Mosaic covenant was circumcision. This covenant was fulfilled at the cross when Jesus Christ ushered in the New Covenant with the shedding of His own blood. While the Mosaic covenant has been fulfilled and is not in force, but in no way does that negate the Noahic or Abrahamic covenants.

The current covenant is the covenant of Grace. It was also initiated by the shedding of blood, but this time by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The sign of our New Covenant are both internal and external. Internally, we experience circumcision of the heart at baptism (Colossians 2:12), and externally we show the covenant to others when we partake of the elements of communion on the first day of the week. What is the significance of this? It is that we are in covenant relationship with Jehovah God, whose nature is that of a covenant maker and keeper. He is not going to change His mind and decide to cancel our covenant. We are secure in Christ. No one is ever lost because God abandoned them or lost them. Jesus doesn’t fire people; they quit on Him! His part of the covenant is completed. We only need to accept the offer of salvation as He has prescribed, and walk in covenant obedience to Christ.

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20, 21)

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We Smell Like Something

Scientists, through diligent research, have concluded that our olfactory senses (smell) are the ones most closely linked to our memories. There are many things, such as a the smell of certain foods cooking, that bring back many fond memories from long ago during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, there are also specific odors that are linked to horrible memories and can send people into panic attacks or make them physically ill. Such is the power of olfactory memory.

In the same way, our spiritual lives have memories. Certain songs bring back memories of worship services with my father leading singing, or of times of worship at Sierra Bible Camp. Various Bible verses bring to mind situations in life where they became especially poignant. And spiritual memories can encourage or discourage us in our walk with God. Likewise, the Gospel message has a lasting effect on those who have heard it. You see, no matter what happened at the time, there was either a positive or a negative response to that message. Paul is speaking of such things in his second letter to the church at Corinth.

14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 KJV))

In later years, we can look back with gratitude on a lesson we heard that “sealed the deal” for us and elicited a response to the Gospel. Many, with deep regret, will look back at the judgment, and perhaps for all eternity, on squandered chances to respond with obedience and faith. Whenever the Gospel message is preached, due to the power of the “living and active” Word of God (Hebrew 2:14), we are enabled to respond, and do so. To ignore the message or brush it off, is to reject the message. We are confronted with decisions of eternal consequence, so our response needs to be carefully weighed, in light of its eternal consequences.

The Gospel message is seen as offensive by those who reject it. That is true because it causes such discomfort when our pride is wounded by our sin being exposed. The Gospel says that we are dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1) and we don’t like that. It offends us to find out we have been duped by the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and that as a consequence we are doomed to eternal destruction. In that way, it is an aroma of “death unto death” (v. 16).

But we have another option. We can repent and believe the Gospel. If we can set aside our pride and admit to our spiritual bankruptcy before God, we can be saved. For the Gospel does not end with a message of death and destruction. It continues with a message of hope and new life in Christ Jesus!  We learn about His offer of life, and if we respond in obedience we are graced with eternal life. Thus, in the case of those who are saved, it is a message of “life unto life” (v. 16). What we have to decide is which type of message it will be for each of us!

But there is another warning here for those who proclaim the message. It is not to be corrupted, watered down, or peddled. I really like the way the Amplified Bible translates verse 17:

17 For we are not, like so many, [like hucksters making a trade of] peddling God’s Word [shortchanging and adulterating the divine message]; but like [men] of sincerity and the purest motive, as [commissioned and sent] by God, we speak [His message] in Christ (the Messiah), in the [very] sight and presence of God.

The Apostles did not use the message for personal gain. I often wonder whether Jesus or the Apostles, had they been with us today, would have made money by selling their teaching series on CD or DVD to their partners. No, they had a threefold commission to preach the Gospel.

They were:

1.        Sincere and had pure motives. There was no thought of personal gain or of being popular and accepted by the culture.

2.        Commissioned and sent by God. Their only thought was to be faithful to the God who commissioned them. They were not consumed with thoughts of making the message more palatable for their listeners or of marketing their ministries.

3.        They spoke the message in Christ, in the sight of God. Their sole mission was to be pleasing to God. They also kept themselves cognizant of the fact that God was watching over all that they did and would hold them accountable for completing the work he had sent them to do.

So yes, we all smell like something. Our message will have, not only different, but completely opposite effects on those who hear us. So rather that water down the message, realize that it only matters what God thinks of us, and that our reward is not determined by our popularity with men, but our faithfulness to God.

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Smooth Talkers Not Needed

Smooth Talkers Need Not Apply
There are some smooth talkers that it seems could sell people anything. There are also some who can give a speech so moving that people run to join their cause. But when preaching, is that what God is looking for? Is He looking for the most gifted speakers or the most persuasive salesmen? Let’s see what the Apostle Paul said about his own preaching strategy.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NASB)

Paul first says he did not come as a gifted speaker or philosopher. Paul was not an uneducated man, either. He was a scholar in his own right, and could have overwhelmed his audiences with the depth of his knowledge. But rather than give into the temptation to do so, he purposely avoided it. His message was simply about Jesus Christ and his crucifixion for our sins. He would rather be seen as weak and foolish than as a gifted orator.
Why? The focus had to be kept on Christ. How many sermon series being preached around the American church today are on things other than Jesus? Oh, He may get a cursory mention but Jesus is not the central focus of the teaching. The message is on how we can be happy, or prosperous, or successful. The message is a WIIFM statement (what’s in it for me) rather than centering our thoughts and actions on Jesus and what HE wants.

But what about the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God?

God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:4 NASB)

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20, 21 NASB)

While the signs and wonders of the Apostles were necessary for Showing that the message was from God, that message is now here for us. The power of the Spirit is demonstrated by the ability of the Bible to convict sinners and draw them to Jesus.

When we preach with the mission of drawing people to the person of Jesus Christ, and we use the Word of God to do so, the message has inherent power. That power will so draw people to Jesus that they will not be dissuaded by a worldly philosophy. A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. And their faith will be based on the Word of God, and not the preacher.

What is needed is a generation of preachers who are so in love with Jesus Christ that they can’t stop talking about him. Preachers who will draw their messages from the pure spring of living water found in the Bible, unadulterated by human philosophy and the wisdom of men. They will be men of power that can be mightily used of God to win their generation for Christ. The world can keep its smooth talkers and silver tongued orators. We want men to know nothing and long for nothing more, than the person of Jesus.

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What God Owes Us

“Life isn’t fair!”

How many times have we heard children and others say those words, or had thoughts like that ourselves? When we say such things, what we are in fact saying is that if we were in charge, instead of God, things would be different. What that shows is a lack of faith and trust in God, and we are accusing God of making a mistake. Is that what you want to do?

In Romans 10 – 11, Paul is talking about the Jews being broken off due to disobedience and Gentiles being grafted in. At the end of his dissertation, Paul seems to burst into praise for God.

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has first given to him,
and it will be repaid to him again?”
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 WEB)

Rather than a random statement of praise, this is a deliberate declaration of the sovereignty of God, as if he is anticipating that some will question the wisdom of God’s dealings with Israel.
Paul begins with a foundational statement in verse 33. He is saying that, the knowledge and the wisdom of God is deeper and fuller than we have the capacity to comprehend. How ways, which are based on this complete knowledge and wisdom are so complex that there is no way anyone could understand why he does what he does. So don’t waste time in pursuit of a complete answer to why God does what he does.

In the next verses, Paul very frankly explains why God does not owe us an explanation for anything. This is because:
1. None of us can completely know Gods thoughts, so we are in no position to presume to give God advice on what he should do and how he should do it.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8, 9 NASB)

2. God is not indebted to anyone. Whatever any of us has given to God originated from Him. We are only returning what God has provided. Jehovah God does not owe us anything, including an explanation.

3. It’s not about us; it’s about God! The purpose of our lives is to bring glory to God. God loves us and gives us all things to enjoy, but every one of those things are a gift, or grace, from God. Whatever we have in life that is good and pure is from God because he loves us. And we will give him glory for eternity for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

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The Anointed One

The Anointed One
Jesus of Nazareth was and is truly the Son of God. Of this the Bible leaves no reasonable doubt. The angels proclaimed on the night of His birth that He was to be Immanuel, which means “God with us.” John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was “The Lamb of God.”
He has always been Jesus. But when did He assume the title “Christ”?

Contrary to what some may assume, Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It is in fact a title which means “anointed one” in Greek, and is the Hebrew equivalent of “messiah”. While Jesus had been chosen to be the Messiah from the foundation of the world. It’s like someone who has been hired for a position but has not started work.
Let’s look at the biblical narrative to see what we can discover.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17 ESV)

So Jesus insists on being baptized, but not for repentance, for He has to sin. What was needed was for Jesus to begin His messianic ministry. Up until this time, He was growing up “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52 ESV)”. His baptism was the point at which he offered himself to God. It was a point of reference in his life, where His life as a carpenter ended and His true mission began.

As Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened to Him. At this point He has full recollection of His existence in heaven with the Father and all that His mission would entail. How significant that the act that began his ministry would prefigure the end of his earthly mission as he was buried in the watery grave and rose again to a new type of life.

The Holy Spirit then descended upon Him, anointing Him as the Christ/Messiah. So, while he had eternally been the Son of God, at His baptism He became the anointed One. Jehovah God sealed this anointing with an audible, spoken blessing, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Years later, that same Holy Spirit would descend and signal the beginning of the church. And now as members of that church, we can say with the Apostle John, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:” (1 John 3:1 KJV)

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Christ and the Church

Let’s look at these verses from their primary perspective, that of Christ and the Church.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”. Eph 5:31-32 ESV

There are other places in scripture where the Church is called the “Bride of Christ” such as
2 Corinthians 11:2-4. “2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.”

In these verses here, Paul quotes Genesis 2. So let’s take a quick look at that in context to see the correlation Paul is making.

22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,”This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:22-25 NKJV)

And the Holy Spirit is saying through Paul the this is a type of Christ and the Church.

In what way?
1. Christ preceded us, and yet we are part of his body. We are his flesh and bones, working together in unity to carry out his commands.
2. We are called “Christians” because we are in Christ.
3. We are called to be help meats, or helpers to Christ in preaching the Gospel message.
4. Christ loves each of us, just as he loves his own body, and cares for us.
5. As with the original marriage, there is nothing hidden from the view of our spiritual husband, Jesus Christ.
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. 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. (Hebrews 4:12, 13 NKJV)
6. As his bride, it is spiritual adultery when we follow after the things of this world instead of Christ.

Application for us?

A. To truly have a close relationship with Christ, we must, as John wrote, “believe the love” he has for us. (1 John 4:16)
B. take the time to communicate with the one we love. Prayer should not be a chore.
C. Read the letters he has written to us, because we love him and want to know him more deeply.
D. Live lives of undivided love and loyalty to Christ. How would you respond at the altar if your fiancé responded to the question with, instead of “I do”, saying “for the most part”, or “when it’s convenient”! Be totally sold out for Christ.
E. Don’t believe lies about your spiritual husband (false teachings).
F. We should not deceive ourselves into thinking we can keep secret, unconfessed sin and that Jesus will not know about it or discipline us for it.
G. And for those who love attacking his church and speaking ill of her, I would be careful. I would guess that Jesus will deal harshly with those who spend their time insulting his bride!

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