Covenant is Biblical concept seldom considered

There’s one concept in the Bible that many modern-day Christian fail to grasp and understand; and it’s found throughout the Bible, from beginning to end. That concept is covenant and, particularly, the covenants established by God for the benefit of man.

Unless one studies law, he may rarely even hear that word covenant today. Another word often used interchangeably and with similar meaning is testament. The usual Hebrew and Greek words are “berith” and “diatheke.” Basically, a covenant is a binding agreement and promise made sure by certain pledges and guarantees – sometimes by property but in the Bible covenants often included an oath and, in many cases, the shedding of blood (thus, the expression to cut a covenant).

There are many covenants in the Bible. Most notable are God’s covenant after Adam and Eve fell into sin; His covenant after the flood; His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; His covenant renewed at Mt. Sinai; and the new covenant promised in the Old Testament (Covenant) Scriptures and put into effect by the death of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ.

And these covenants and promises of God were connected to the shedding of blood. Animal sacrifice began immediately after the fall into sin (Gen. 3:21; 4:4; 8:20) and continued through the Old Testament era, pointing ahead to the promised sacrifice of God’s Son.

As the covenant maker, God Himself passed between the pieces in Genesis 15. He, Himself, provided a substitute ram for Isaac in Genesis 22 and promised in Isaiah 53, Psalm 130, Psalm 22 and elsewhere a substitute who would, by the shedding of His blood, make atonement for the sins of all mankind and establish a new covenant – that covenant promised in Jeremiah 31 and explained in great detail in the New Testament – especially in the Book of Hebrews.

And there was a sign and mark that a person was made a part and recipient of God’s covenants. The rainbow was a sign of God’s covenant with all mankind not to again destroy the entire world and all living creatures by a flood. Circumcision was a sign and mark that Abraham and his descendants were God’s own people and recipients of God’s covenant with Abraham to bless them, give them the land of promise and through Abraham’s Seed to bless all other peoples of this world (cf. Gen. 17).

There was a covenant meal which assured to recipients the blessings promised in the covenant. The people ate the Passover lamb who’s blood was shed and put upon the lintel and door posts of their houses that they might be spared God’s judgment upon the Egyptians (cf. Ex. 12). The people partook of their sacrifices under the old covenant worship laws and, in Exodus 24, were even sprinkled with the blood of their sacrifices.

As promised throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, God kept His promise to send the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, His only-begotten Son in human flesh, the virgin-born God-man Savior, to fulfill all righteousness in the place of fallen mankind and then to bear on the cross the full and just punishment for the sins of all mankind. By dying for the sins of the world and rising again on the third day as our substitute, Jesus has put into effect a new covenant of God with man, a covenant which no longer requires continual sacrifice of animals for sin because Jesus by His one sacrifice has paid the debt of all sin for all time. Read Hebrews 9-10. This is a covenant in which God forgives all our sins for Jesus’ sake and remembers them no more (cf. Jer. 31:31-34 and Heb. 8:1ff.), a covenant in which He again writes His laws upon our hearts and will one day restore all things to perfection.

And as circumcision was a mark and sign that a person was a child of God under the old covenant, baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is the way God has appointed to bring us into this new covenant He has made with man through the shedding of Christ’s shed blood. That’s why baptism is called the circumcision made without hands (Col. 2) and why making disciples of all people in this world is done through baptizing them in the name of the Triune God and then teaching them all that Christ taught and commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). It is why all of us who have been baptized in to Christ are called children of God and heirs with Abraham of God’s eternal promises (Gal. 3:26ff.). It is why the apostle Paul, after his conversion on the road to Damascus, was commanded by Ananias: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord,” (Acts 22:16 NKJV). When He was baptized and brought into the new covenant established by Jesus’ blood, all His sins were washed away and remembered against him no more.

And the same remains true today. Baptism is not some insignificant thing we do in obedience to God’s command. It is what God does in us, bringing us into His new covenant in Jesus’ blood and washing away all our sins! Why would people put off baptism or deny its benefits to their children? Indeed, why would anyone wish to delay becoming a covenant child of God through Jesus’ sacrifice!

And yes, Jesus has established a new covenant meal in which we are given to partake of the very sacrifice for sin that made this covenant possible! As God’s people, under the old covenant, continued to partake of the Passover lamb each year in remembrance of that first Passover sacrifice and God’s saving of His people, so we are invited by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to partake often of the body He gave into death when He died for our sins and the blood He shed when He established this new covenant in which we have forgiveness of sins, life in fellowship with our God and eternal salvation. In the Lord’s Supper, we remember Christ’s atoning sacrifice for all sins and are given to partake of it that we might be assured of God’s covenant promises.

That is why Jesus says, in each of the four Lord’s Supper accounts: “This is My body … This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (quoting from Matt. 26:26,28 NKJV; cf. Mark 14; Luke 22, 1 Cor. 11). When Christians partake of the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper, they are also given to partake of the sacrificial Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and of the covenant-establishing blood He shed for the sins of the world. And why is this so important? Because this is a means God has appointed in order to offer and assure to us the blessings of this new covenant; namely, the forgiveness of all our sins and life eternal as a child of God in His kingdom.

Some might ask how God could bring us into this new covenant through the waters of baptism or how he could give us to partake of Christ’s body and covenant-establishing blood in the Lord’s Supper. No, I can’t explain it, but I certainly am not going to question the words or wisdom of the One who created all things by simply saying, “Let there be….” Why would I doubt or try to explain away His Word?

And what is the benefit of considering what it means to be a covenant child of God? Let me speak personally. It means that though I am a sinner, God has graciously brought me into a covenant (a binding agreement and promise) He has established through the shedding of Jesus’ blood to not remember or hold my sins against me but to forgive and accept me as His own dear child. It means I have the promise of an eternal inheritance in heaven and can live and die in the confidence that I will not be condemned for my sins and failures but have forgiveness and the certain hope of life everlasting for Jesus’ sake. He gave His word on it and it is promised and guaranteed to me through the shed blood of Christ Jesus, my Savior! There’s nothing more sure than that!

Who Betrayed Jesus?

“Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.” And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?” He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.” Mark 14:18-21

Who betrayed Jesus? Who is responsible for handing Him over to His enemies that He might be condemned, crucified and put to death? Yes, it was Judas. But are you and I also guilty?

The Scriptures tells us: “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).

Judas ate bread with Jesus at the Passover meal and probably numerous times before. And he, for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed Jesus into the hands of his enemies that they might try Him and condemn Him to die. But what about you and me? We partake of Jesus’ body and blood in His Supper. We sit at His feet and hear His Word. We worship Him as our God and Savior and call ourselves Christians and disciples of Jesus. But do we betray Jesus?

What about when we live in such a way that gives opportunity to the enemies of Christ Jesus to speak against Him and His disciples? When our life, instead of bringing to Jesus praise and glory, makes it easier for the enemies of Jesus to speak against Him and call His followers hypocrites? Cf. Ezek. 20:27; Rom. 2:24; 2 Pet. 2:2; Phil. 3:18-19.

Could our words or actions have caused others to sin or turn away from Christ and His Word? If so, haven’t we betrayed our Savior, who gave His life to save the lost? Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matt. 18:6-7).
Yes, you and I have often betrayed Jesus! But Jesus did not betray us and hand us over to be condemned. Instead, He willingly went to the cross, suffered and died for our sins and rose again. In Him, we have forgiveness and life!

Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me for the many times I have betrayed You by my words and actions. Grant that I turn from my sins to You in faith and received the blessings You won for me and all by Your sufferings and death and glorious resurrection. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

 

How do you want the Lord to look upon you?

“Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.” Psalm 25:6-7

How would you have the LORD God deal with you? On the basis of your sins? Or, on the basis of His mercy promised of old and made possible by the atoning sacrifice of God’s Son in our stead? How do you want God to judge you on the last day?

David clearly knew he was a sinful man who was deserving of God’s wrath and punishment. Read Psalm 25. How many times does David acknowledge His sin and request God’s mercy and forgiveness? Count them.

We look to the LORD God to have mercy upon us and save us for the sake of Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead. With David, we acknowledge our sinfulness and ask God to have mercy upon us and forgive us rather than dealing with us as we justly deserve. Cf. Psalm 130; Psalm 32.

And God provided a substitute for us to be sacrificed on the cross in our stead for the sins of the world! Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God in human flesh is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; cf. Gen. 22:1ff.). He took our sin upon Himself and suffered our punishment that we might be pardoned, forgiven and have everlasting life (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 2:1-2).

While many would turn away from Christ and go it on their own, we with David pray that the LORD would remember us in His lovingkindness and with His tender mercies for the sake of Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for sin. We pray that God would not look upon our sins, but look upon the holy and precious blood of Jesus shed for our sins and remember us in mercy and with forgiveness.

Indeed, it is the only way to stand in God’s sight. Apart from Jesus, we stand condemned by God to the fires of hell. In Christ Jesus, our sins are pardoned, forgiven and no longer remembered against us. In Christ Jesus, God deals with us in lovingkindness and mercy. He brings us into His covenant of forgiveness and assures to us life everlasting!

According to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Why must I die?

coffinMany would put off and try to ignore the inevitable fact that they will one day die. And, yes, even believers die. Unless the Lord Jesus returns soon, I too will die.

But, why must I die? The answer is found in the Scriptures, and most specifically in Genesis, chapter three. As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, each and every one of us must die.

Following Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience, God told Adam in Genesis 3:17-19: “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” The apostle Paul also wrote to the Romans (5:12): “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Why must I die? Because, like Adam, I am a sinful man. As David says in Psalm 51:5, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” My entire nature – something God originally created good – is now corrupted by sin. Instead of loving God and seeking His perfect will, I am turned in upon myself and think of my will and desires first. Instead of loving others as I love myself – recognizing them as God’s creatures and putting their needs above my own – my nature is to put myself first and give to others the leftovers. Instead of loving and serving God with all my heart, my heart so often is just not into it. And, as a result of my corrupt and sinful human nature, I have come far, far short of keeping God’s commandments in my thoughts, desires, words and deeds. Even when I try to obey, I fail. My motives are wrong and I just can’t measure up.

When I became a Christian, God’s Spirit took up residence in me and created in me a new nature which does love the LORD God and does desire to serve Him by living in accord with God’s commandments. But, as long as I am in this body and in this world, I have still have my old sinful nature, too, which is far less enthused with learning God’s Word and walking in the ways of the Lord. In fact, my old nature still balks at the thought of going to church, reading God’s Word, worshiping the Lord God and living in accord with His commandments.

St. Paul describes this in Romans 7:18-25a: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Even Moses, who was certainly a man of God, had to die! He wrote the following words in Psalm 90 (v. 1-12): “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You turn man to destruction, and say, ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; they are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: in the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers. For we have been consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

“So, what is the difference?” you might ask. “If believers die just like unbelievers, what’s the point in being a Christian?”

Yes, it’s true I will die unless Jesus returns and judges this world very soon! But the death of a believer and an unbeliever is so different.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” When an unbeliever dies, he dies in his sins to face the judgment of the almighty and holy God. And God does not grade on a curve! The Bible teaches that “there is not a just man on earth who does good
and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). It also teaches that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4,20).

Death for an unbeliever (one who does not repent of his sinful ways and trust in Christ and His shed blood for mercy and forgiveness) is the gateway to God’s judgment and to his eternal condemnation for sin and the rejection of God’s offers of mercy in His Son (Mark 16:16; John 3:18,36).

For the believer (one who acknowledges his sin and looks to God for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world), death, too, leads to God’s judgment; but the believer’s sins are pardoned and forgiven and will not be held against him. As Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

We are told of believers (Revelation 7:14-17): “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Though unbelievers are raised up to be judged and condemned to the eternal punishments of hell, believers are raised up without sin and given the eternal joys of heaven.

The believer’s “citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).

The Bible tells us as believers: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

So, yes, I must die! But that is not bad at all for me as a believer in Christ Jesus. Why? Because, my sins are washed away in Jesus’ blood and will not be held against me! And, when my body is raised up, it will be changed into a glorious and heavenly body like that of my glorified Savior (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35ff.) I will no longer be a sinner or corrupted by sin but will be able to serve my God in righteousness and true holiness – forever! There will be no more sin, death or sorrow.

Yes, I must die; but, by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, I will rise again without sin to live forever with my God and Savior in a perfect heaven and earth which He will create! Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1ff.; Revelation 21:1-8.

You see, I must die, but Jesus took away the sting of death and made it for me the gateway to true life! Cf. Romans 8:28-39.

“As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Hebrews 9:27-28

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Who Killed Jesus?

“Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death….” Acts 2:23

Who killed Jesus? Who is responsible for His crucifixion and death? Was it the chief priests and scribes who plotted Jesus’ arrest and handed Him over, demanding He be crucified? Was it Judas who betrayed Jesus? Was it Peter and the disciples who denied and forsook Him? Was it Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers who condemned Jesus and carried out His execution on the cross?

The Scriptures tells us: “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death….”

And so, who killed Jesus? Was it the men of Israel addressed by Peter in his Pentecost sermon? Many lay the blame on the Jews even yet to this day for rejecting their Messiah and having Him crucified.

But the Scriptures make it clear who killed Jesus. It was you! It was me! You and I are the cause of the condemnation of this just and righteous man. He was holy and without sin. Yet, we caused His condemnation and death with our sin!

As the Scriptures say, Jesus was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” We read in Isaiah 53:5-6: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

The hymn verse we just sang expresses it so well: “Ah! I also and my sin wrought Thy deep affliction; this indeed the cause hath been of Thy crucifixion” (“Jesus, I will Ponder Now,” verse 3, TLH).

Yes, you and I killed Jesus! But the beautiful part in it all is that He paid in full for all our sins and rose victorious! Because He took our punishment and bore our condemnation, we have pardon and forgiveness from God; and in Jesus we have the certain hope of life everlasting!

Dear Lord Jesus, I am guilty. It was my sin that brought about Your agony on the cross, Your condemnation, Your death. In love, You willing bore my sin and suffered my punishment that I might be pardoned, forgiven and have life everlasting. Grant that I turn from my sins to You in faith and received the blessings You won for me and all by Your sufferings and death and glorious resurrection. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Does your face shine like Jesus?

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:18 (Read v. 7-18)

Does your face shine? Does it, like the face of Moses, reflect the glory of the LORD God? But, does it diminish as did the face of Moses after he had talked to the LORD and shared the words of the LORD with the people, or is it growing in brightness? Are you reflecting more and more of the Lord’s glory every day?

When Moses entered into the presence of the LORD God, his face shone with the glory of God; but after sharing God’s Word with the people, Moses put a veil over his face so the people would not see that glory fading away. But he removed the veil when he went back into the presence of the LORD and again reflected God’s glory for a time as he shared God’s Word with the people (cf. Ex. 34:29-35; Mark 9:2-10).

The apostle Paul tells us that veil remains over the heart of the unbelieving Jews to this day. When they hear the law of God read and proclaimed, they see its glory but they do not see that glory fade away because of man’s sinfulness and inability to keep God’s commandments. And with that veil over their face, they fail to see a greater and more glorious covenant established by the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus in our stead. With the veil over their eyes, they do not see the fading glory of God’s law or their need for a Savior from sin and eternal death.

But when we, by the grace of God, come to Christ and place our faith and hope in Him and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, the veil is lifted from our eyes. Instead of attempting to be righteous in God’s eyes by the keeping of the law, we acknowledge our failures to keep that law and look to the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus Christ in our stead. We recognize that Jesus has fulfilled God’s laws for us and that He paid in full for all our sins when He died upon the cross and rose again (cf. 1 John 2:1-2; Rom. 10:4).

Those with the veil over their face may try their best to keep God’s law and measure up to His glory; but no matter how hard they try, they fail and come short (cf. Rom. 3:23). But those of us who place our hope in the redemption accomplished by Christ Jesus (cf. Rom. 3:24) are counted righteous and holy for Jesus’ sake and are being changed by the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit into the image of Christ. The closer we draw to our Savior, the more the Spirit is able to transform us into the image of Christ. And, of course, that sanctifying work will finally be completed in us when we are raised up on the last day in a perfect and glorified body like our Lord Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:28-30; 1 John 3:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:49ff.; Phil. 3:20-21).

Dear Lord Jesus, as we see You through Your Word and behold Your glory, change us more and more into Your image until that day when we are changed and raised up without sin to be like You. We ask this for the sake of the redemption You accomplished for all when You suffered and died upon the cross and rose again. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Why don’t people go to church anymore?

Why don’t people go to church anymore? That’s a question many are asking, and the suggested answers vary from people not wanting to be judged to a disconnect between churches and the wants and needs of people.

While there may be some elements of truth in many of the suggested answers, Jesus actually tells us the answer to this question. In His conversation with Nocodemus, just after Jesus shared the well-known words of John 3:16: “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,” He also said (in verses 19-21): “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. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5). Jesus came preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

And what was the result? Some, by the gracious working of God the Holy Spirit, came to the light, acknowledged their utter sinfulness and placed their faith in Christ Jesus and the atoning sacrifice He accomplished for all when He suffered and died upon the cross and then rose again on the third day (cf. John 3:14-16).

Others, because they did not want to be confronted with their sinfulness and did not want to repent of their evil deeds, avoided the light and even attempted to put out the light. They did not want to have the wickedness of their lifestyles exposed. They did not want to acknowledge their utter sinfulness and look to God for mercy in Messiah Jesus. And they did not want to change their lifestyles and live for their God and Savior, in accord with His Word.

Has anything changed today? Only that people of our day are taught and indoctrinated at every turn to be more and more accepting of what God in His Word says are sin and evil. Thus, when churches preach and teach what God says in His book, the Bible, people avoid it and do not come. They even try to legislate and keep any discussion of God and His Word from the public arena where they might be confronted by it and be reminded of the truth. They would rather not hear that they are sinners and that God is about to judge and condemn all that is sinful and evil in this world. They do not want to hear God calling them to repent of their sinful ways and look to His Son, Christ Jesus, for forgiveness and life. Why? because they are happy and content in the lies of darkness and would rather avoid the truth the light reveals.

This, of course, does not excuse churches from failing to faithfully proclaim the truth of God’s Word in ways which will let the light shine out into the darkness. Christians need to go out into this world and let the light shine in such a way that it reveals sin and God’s judgment upon sin but also reveals Jesus Christ and God’s mercy and forgiveness through Jesus’ shed blood.

If churches turn the lights down low, as some suggest, impenitent sinners may indeed feel more comfortable there, but they will remain impenitent sinners – confirmed in their sin and rebellion against the God of the Bible – and on their road to an eternity in the fires of hell.

If churches turn up the light, many will scurry away into the darkness, as Jesus said, but some, by the grace of God, will come to the light, repent and believe!

By the way, the next time you have surgery to remove cancer or a diseased organ, how many of you would ask your doctor to turn the lights down low so as not to see the full spread of the disease?

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

All things to all men to save some

“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22b (Read v. 16-27)

The apostle Paul was called and entrusted with the task of preaching to all men – and especially to the Gentiles – the gospel of forgiveness and life in our Lord Jesus Christ. He was to call all people to repentance and faith in Jesus, God the Son in human flesh, and the redemption He accomplished for all when He suffered and died upon the cross and rose again on the third day.

As such, the apostle could not boast of going above and beyond what he was called to do in anything, except in the fact that he preached the saving gospel without charge, that he did not make use of his right to be fully supported in his work.

And the apostle – as do all of us – had great freedom in Jesus Christ. He was no longer bound under the Old Testament ceremonial laws which regulated such things as how to worship, observance of the Sabbath and what one could eat. All was fulfilled in Christ Jesus; and in Jesus, the apostle – as are all of us – was dead to the requirements of the law.

Yet, the apostle says: “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

What did he mean? Though he was free and no longer obligated to keep the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, he used his freedom in such a way that he served all and could reach out with the saving gospel to all. When witnessing to the Jews, he observed the Sabbath and worshiped in accord with Jewish customs. When sharing Christ with Gentiles, he did not follow the strict Jewish customs and laws. When witnessing to the weak in faith, he respected their weaknesses and did not use his liberty in such a way as would cause them to sin against their consciences.

What does this mean for us? Though we cannot yield in matters of doctrine or living in accord with God’s moral law (cf. v. 24-27), we have great liberty in Christ. We are not bound in regard to worship days, the foods we eat, or even in our forms of worship (cf. Colossians 2:16-17; Psalm 141:2; Psalm 150; John 4:23-24). We are free in Christ Jesus!

But it is important to use that liberty for the eternal salvation of all. We know we can drink alcohol in moderation, but if witnessing to those who think it is wrong, we would not exercise that freedom. We know we can worship with organ and liturgy, but we also know we are free to worship in casual dress and with other forms of worship and music. We use that freedom to reach out with the gospel and save others. We become all things to all men that we might save some.

Grant to us, Lord Jesus, that we would use the freedom You have given us in the gospel to be all things to all men that we might share with them the good news of forgiveness and life in Your name. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Jesus is Prophet promised by Moses

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:17-18 (Cf. Deut. 18:15-20)

When the Children of Israel stood before Mt. Sinai and heard the voice of God Himself as He gave the 10 Commandments, they were terrified and told Moses, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:19). And which one of us could stand in the presence of the holy God and not fear death and eternal condemnation?

But God, through Moses, spoke to the people, saying, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

And that’s what God did. He sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to redeem us from our sins and rise again and to speak to us the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in Him as our Savior. Jesus is the eternal Word, the creator and life-giver, God Himself in human flesh, come into this world to fulfill the holy commandments of God which we have failed to keep and to suffer and die in our stead to bear the punishment we justly deserve (cf. John 1:1-5;14-18,29; cf. 14:8ff.).

Though none of us could endure the thunderings of God’s law because of our sinfulness and failures to measure up to all that God’s holy commandments require, yet He comes to us in Messiah Jesus with pardon, peace and forgiveness for the sake of Christ’s holy life and His innocent sufferings and death for our sins and the sins of the world.

As the Bible says, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:19-24).

Do you want to know God? If you seek to know Him only through the Law given on Mt. Sinai, you will be terrified and afraid of Him.

If you want to know God, learn of Jesus and know Him. He is God in the flesh. He came into this world to redeem you – to die for your sins and rise again. In Him you will know God as your loving and merciful Father. In Him you will have forgiveness and life.

Dearest Jesus, Son of God and son of man, thank You for revealing to us not only our sinfulness but Your grace and mercy for the sake of Your holy and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Going Fishing for Jesus

1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing [their] nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto [their] partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw [it], he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so [was] also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. Luke 5:1-11

I remember when I was contemplating studying for the ministry, an uncle of mine jokingly told me being a pastor was a great job because you only had to work a half day a week and you could go fishing the rest of the time.

To be honest with you, it’s even better than that. A pastor’s job allows him to go fishing every day of the week. And, of course, the same is true for every Christian. Even though we may have toiled all night and tried every thing we can think of, Jesus tells us to let down the nets for a catch and He fills the nets beyond belief.

Jesus calls you and me – every believer – to be fishers of men (cf. Luke 5:10; Luke 24:46-47; Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16) and He commands us to let down our nets again and again, trusting that He will accomplish His purposes. And so we do. We continue to preach and proclaim God’s Word, knowing and trusting God’s promise that His Word will not return to Him void, without accomplishing His purpose (Isa. 55:10-11).

Perhaps we can take the analogy of our text even further. Jesus commanded His disciples to launch out into the deep and let down their nets for a catch. He didn’t tell them to stand on the safety of the shore and try to bait the fish in. He sent them out to where the fish were – in the deep – and it is there they were to let down their nets.

So also, Jesus would have us to go out into the world where the people are – maybe even into places we would rather not go – and there let down our nets. It doesn’t usually work to call the fish to come onto the shore or to jump into our boats. Nor is it sufficient to simply invite people to come within the walls of our church building that they might hear the Word of God and believe. We need to go to them and find ways to reach them with the Word of God where they are. It’s only when they are caught in the net out there that they can be brought into the boat and in here!

So, how do we launch out into the deep that we might catch men for Jesus? First of all, we need to go out where the people are and not expect them to come to where we are. Secondly, we need to let down our nets, and they may need to be let down deep to where the fish are. That means finding ways to touch people’s lives with God’s Word where they are and in ways that they will hear. Thirdly, we need to remember who it is that fills the net and follow His fishing instructions. We won’t catch souls for Jesus unless the nets we let down are His words of Law and Gospel – warning people concerning their sin and its eternal consequences and telling them of God’s mercy and forgiveness and life in Christ Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness for us and then suffered and died on the cross for our sins and the sins of all and rose again in victory!

And what a great job God has given us! We get to go fishing every day by taking the message of His Word out into the deep, where the lost are, and catching them with the good news of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior!

Dear Lord Jesus, You have called us to be fishers of men, to launch out into the deep and let down the net of Your Word for a catch. Grant us the faith to go out into the world and proclaim Your Word to people where they are that You might fill the nets and bring people from the depths of sin to faith in You as their Savior. Amen.