Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jesus Fulfills the Law

[A few days ago my daughter Amber asked me “How did people go to heaven before Jesus died”. The answer I gave her was simple, the same way we do by faith in God. We have faith that Jesus is the savior, who delivered us from the judgment of the law. The Old Testament saints had faith that God would provide a way to fulfill the law. But the transition from the law to grace is actually a wonderful look at how God worked out his plan for us.]

Matthew 5:17-20 (New King James Version)

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

[It easy to think of the Law as the beginning of God’s relationship to men but that is not the case.

Galatians 3:17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.

430 years before the law there was the promise God made to Abraham “I will be your God, and you will be my people”. The Law did not replace the promise, but established a standard of righteousness that Jesus would have to live up to.]

18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

[The smallest part of the smallest letter (Greek iota) of God’s law was guaranteed to be fulfilled.

Luke24:44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

Colossians 2:16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

The substance of the Law, what the law was really teaching us was that we need Christ. We need the savior, we cannot be reconciled to God by our own works within the Law.]

19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

[Jesus turns his attention to teachers warning those who fail to uphold the righteous standards of the Law will lose any reward they had earned as teachers.

Mark 12:38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

On the other hand he elevates those who practice and teach righteousness.]

20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

[The Pharisees considered themselves to be the standard for righteousness concerning the Law. But in Mathew 15 Jesus condemned them for substituting their traditions for God’s Law. So here Jesus is illustrating the need for redemption to enter the kingdom heaven. In other words man’s attempt to be righteous by his own efforts is not enough.]

Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”{Deut. 27:26} 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” {Hab. 2:7} 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” {Lev. 18:5 } 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” { Deut. 21:23}), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

[So here we see God’s plan laid out for you from the Promise, to the Law, to Grace. Jesus completed the promise God made to Abraham “In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed”, he fulfilled the Law in his body, then he sacrificed that body for us that we might inherit his righteousness by Grace. But whether you lived under the Promise, under the Law, or under Grace; your connection to God was always by faith.]

<< Ephesians 2 >>
® Translation

1 You were once dead because of your failures and sins. 2 You followed the ways of this present world and its spiritual ruler. This ruler continues to work in people who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us once lived among these people, and followed the desires of our corrupt nature. We did what our corrupt desires and thoughts wanted us to do. So, because of our nature, we deserved God's anger just like everyone else. 4 But God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us. 5 We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ. (It is God's kindness that saved you.) 6 God has brought us back to life together with Christ Jesus and has given us a position in heaven with him. 7 He did this through Christ Jesus out of his generosity to us in order to show his extremely rich kindness in the world to come. 8 God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. 9 It's not the result of anything you've done, so no one can brag about it. 10 God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.

11 Remember that once you were not Jewish physically. Those who called themselves "the circumcised" because of what they had done to their bodies called you "the uncircumcised." 12 Also, at that time you were without Christ. You were excluded from citizenship in Israel, and the pledges God made in his promise were foreign to you. You had no hope and were in the world without God [atheist]. 13 But now through Christ Jesus you, who were once far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 So he is our peace. In his body he has made Jewish and non-Jewish people one by breaking down the wall of hostility that kept them apart. 15 He brought an end to the commandments and demands found in Moses' Teachings so that he could take Jewish and non-Jewish people and create one new humanity in himself. So he made peace. 16 He also brought them back to God in one body by his cross, on which he killed the hostility. 17 He came with the Good News of peace for you who were far away and for those who were near. 18 So Jewish and non-Jewish people can go to the Father in one Spirit. 19 That is why you are no longer foreigners and outsiders but citizens together with God's people and members of God's family. 20 You are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone. 21 In him all the parts of the building fit together and grow into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 Through him you, also, are being built in the Spirit together with others into a place where God lives.

[God’s plan is complete in us when we respond in faith to the work of Christ. Allowing God’s spirit to write his Law in our hearts, then doing works worthy of righteousness. Demonstrating God’s Love to the world, by becoming witnesses to the life changing power of God. Living together as a family of God, being built into the temple of God. helping one another, and sharing Christ with those who are willing to listen.]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ezekiel - The Watchman

Ezekiel 2
1 And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” 2 Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me. 3 And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.
[The prophecy of Ezekiel also covers the Babylonian captivity. Chapter one begins with his vision where he sees 4 living creatures similar to the living creatures seen by Isaiah but Ezekiel sees their faces so his description is somewhat different. He also sees the wheel-within-a-wheel, and the glory of the Lord himself. The judgment against Judah had already begun but Ezekiel was still going to offer individuals the opportunity to repent. Ezekiel’s prophecy is directed toward Jerusalem and God warns him these people were rebellious, setting his expectations low for revival.]
4 For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5 As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 “And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious.
[God continues to complain about their stubborn nature (he has been sending them prophets for decades) but God keeps the message coming and this time makes his appeal to individuals, making it clear each one has the opportunity to repent. His message is simple “Thus says the Lord God (or sovereign Lord)”. No matter how they respond, give the message.]
8 But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
9 Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.
[Since this opportunity to repent was for individuals, Ezekiel needed to accept it himself before he could give it out. God said “eat what I give you” and he hands him a scroll. God wanted him to take it all in, fully absorb it, so when it comes time to preach it, he could preach with conviction. This was not a happy message, lamentations of loss, mournings of death, and warning of punishment and woe.]

Ezekiel 33
7 “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
[God made Ezekiel the watchman. The watchman stands guard at the gate, if he sees danger coming he sounds the alarm. God says if he sees wickedness and does not warn the wicked, then their blood is on his hands. But if you warn the wicked and they choose not to repent, then they are judged but the watchman is innocent. We should be more afraid of God’s judgment, than of offending someone who needs to be warned. Everyone needs forgiveness. If life without God had the same outcome as life with there would be no need to warn anyone.
2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…. But understand we are never responsible for the decisions others make. We are only responsible to carry God’s message. Whether people accept it or not is up to them.]
10 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?”’ 11 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ 12 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: ‘The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’
[The Lord says never give up hope. Even if you have sinned in the past, you can still repent now and not die. The past doesn’t matter, only the present. Likewise those with a history of righteousness can’t rely on their past righteousness to save them when they sin. Only repentance brings deliverance. God will judge but he has no “pleasure in the death of the wicked”.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Each of us has a deliberate choice to make, to follow God or not. Sin has consequences, but so does silence.]

2 Corinthians 5
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
[God provided for our righteousness through Christ, and gave us the “ministry of reconciliation”. He made us his ambassadors to the lost world. Whether or not they receive the message is their decision. Whether or not they hear it from us, is our decision.]