Posts Tagged ‘Resurrection’

What Child is This?

What Child is This?

© C. O. Bishop, 12/22/2017 THCF 12/24/2017

(Comparing the lyrics of the hymn to the scriptural promises from which it sprang.)

Introduction:

One of the reason I really love the Christmas hymns is that they so frequently carry a pretty faithful representation of the facts of the Gospel, along with a fairly faithful representation of the facts of Christmas. Certainly, one may protest that there are facts overlaid by legend and mythology. That is true. We go to God’s Word to sort out the truth, and frequently still can see that the intent of the author was to honor God, and to reflect the truth of His Word. And, of course, there are glaring exceptions…but those are not the ones I am drawn to. A year or so ago, we took “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as an example and found that, actually, the original words were quite accurate, and that the only questionable line in the lyrics was changed by a later hand (and, ironically, became the title of the hymn.)

This Christmas I would like to examine some of the core questions posed in a different Hymn: Today people try to recreate and re-invent The Jesus of the Bible. Even in his day, people denied that He was who He said he was, and within the first century, unbelievers were trying to change the Gospel to something more comfortable. It is not comfortable! The uncomfortable portions of the “Good News” of the Gospel are that way because of the unthinkable wickedness of the Human Race…because of our sin.

Today, as then, the appropriate question is “Who is this Jesus?” Zacchaeus climbed the tree because he desperately wanted to see Jesus, “who he was”.  Jesus, himself, asked “but who do you say that I am?”

A Little History: In 1865, in Bristol, England, an insurance company employee named William Chatterton Dix fell ill, and became extremely sick. He gradually recovered, and during that period of convalescence he went through some pretty deep depression, during which time, he read his Bible a great deal, possibly for the first time with comprehension. The result was that he went through what he called a “spiritual renewal.” I can’t say whether that was when he first received the Lord Jesus as his personal sacrifice for sins, or whether this is just the time when it deeply impressed him. He wrote a poem during that time, called “the Manger Throne”, from which three stanzas were later lifted when he wrote the Christmas Hymn, “What Child is This?

“Who do the People say that I am?”

Jesus asked the disciples this question, before asking them about their own answer to that question: They said “Some say that you are John the Baptist, and some Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.” We can see that there was great controversy, even at that time, as to who Jesus really was. Each person was to be held accountable for their own answer to the question. Pilate later posed a similar, essential question: “What then shall I do with this Jesus, who is called Christ?” We are each held accountable to the answer to that question, as well.

Every year, for the last several decades, people have gathered for the “Jesus Symposium” or some similar name, where they essentially “reinvent” Jesus, according to their own tastes. But the Jesus of the Bible was a historical person, and is easily proven to have been so. What becomes more difficult is the fact that only the Bible gives us an accurate view of who He really is, because the whole rest of the world has “an axe to grind,” in that, the entire human race is antagonistic toward the holy God of the Bible. We want a God who is more to our taste…so we re-create God in our image, according to Romans 1:21-23.

When William Dix confronted this question from his sick bed, he asked

What Child is This?

We need to address the same question: Who is He really? So let’s look at William Dix’s approach:

What Child is this who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high, the virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Where was He to be born? In Bethlehem…fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2. (read it!)

Where was he to be found by the Shepherds? In a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, fulfilling the word of the Angelic messenger to the shepherds as a group. And who were those shepherds told that the baby really was? “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” They were not told that he was the king, in that particular context, but, if they knew the Old Testament prophecies (such as the one in Micah 5:2), they would have known that the Messiah (Christ) was to be the Eternal King, as well. So they left their flocks and they hurried into Bethlehem; they made haste, the scriptures say, to go see the newborn king. And they found him just as the Angel had said, along with Joseph and Mary. They went back to their flocks with Great Joy. Did they understand it all? I doubt it…but, then, I don’t really claim to “understand it all,” either.

But, why was he in a manger, and not in some hospital ward or maybe in a palace? Philippians 2:5-8 sheds some light on this: “…he humbled himself.” He not only became part of His own creation, but he became a man, not an angel. He not only became a man, he became a poor man, in a nation that was already a slave-state to Rome, a cruel, ungodly, polytheistic nation. A place where life was cheap, and righteousness was foreign.

He came, not as a conquering hero, but as a tiny, helpless infant, enduring all the hardships of life with the people he had called his own. Did they bring him honor? Not so you’d notice. The shepherds were the only witnesses. But, in that manger bed, all the Promises of the Ages were being fulfilled. He came to save sinners…and his entire life was poured out to that single end.

Take it Personally!

The hymnist recognized what was happening, there, and it shook Him. He was moved to a Godly fear, and he became a true believer, if he had not been one before then. He pondered the fact that those tiny, curled-up baby hands would be the same ones later pierced by spikes, as he was tortured on the Cross. That this tiny, helpless body, when full grown, was the same one which would be pierced through by the Roman spear, as his blood was poured out at the Cross. And he knew it was for himself, personally. “Nails, spears, shall pierce Him through…His blood be shed for me, for you!” Take it personally!

He also realized that this was the fulfillment of John 1:14, where it said that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory…)” We, too, can either embrace that truth, knowing that the Word, which was God, is also the Word which became flesh…and thus we can see His glory…or we can go back to seeing Jesus the way the World sees him: just another dead Jew…or perhaps a tragic martyr…or, even just a myth.

He winds up his hymn, encouraging the listener to join in worshipping the God-in-flesh Savior. To say “bring Him incense” is a call for worship. The incense burned in the temple was only used for that purpose…it was not used to make the home smell nice, or any other common purpose. It was a picture of the prayers, and praises, and worship being offered by believers. How do I know? God says so! Revelation 5:8 says that the incense (odours, KJV) in the vials of the elders (the church) were “the prayers of saints”; saints are the “holy ones of God”: believers! If you are a child of God, God says you are a saint! You may not feel that way (nor do I), but our feelings are not an accurate reflection of reality. It is a fact. But he says “Bring him incense, gold and myrrh.” Who did that? It was the wise men. Why did they do it? Remember, they weren’t even there, that first night.

Later, within a year or two, the wise men came from the East, and sought “him who is born King of the Jews”. These wise men were not Jews—these were from the area we now call Iraq, most likely, near what was once ancient Babylon, and may possibly have been some of the last surviving disciples of Daniel, the prophet. He had become one of the head wise men (later called Zoroastrian seers) in Babylon, some 500 years earlier, and he had prophesied of the coming Messiah (Daniel 9:26). They did bring him honor, but later…not at his birth. And the things they brought were appropriate: they brought gold, which was an appropriate gift for a king (and which would be needed for their escape into Egypt); they brought frankincense, which was appropriate to a priest and a sacrifice. They brought myrrh, which was a costly resin, used in medicine and in embalming…appropriate to His death. They recognized him for who He was. We need to do the same thing, and not take lightly the story of the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

The hymn-writer says that the way is clear, now, for the lowliest of human slaves, to claim the Savior, as well as for any nobleman willing to humble his or her heart. Queen Victoria was one of those monarchs who humbled her heart and by her own testimony, she was saved. Jesus echoes this, and says, “Whosoever will may come!”

The issue, then, becomes “What will I do with this Jesus, who is called Christ?” That is what Pilate asked, in Matthew 27:22…but then he went on to condemn Jesus to death. He claimed to be innocent, himself, but he was not. He had the authority to do right, and did not do it. God says that is sin (James 4:17). “Therefore, if a man knoweth to do right, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Pilate was guilty. We have to choose, as well, what to do with Jesus, the Messiah.

“Who do YOU say that I am?”

Jesus directed this question to His disciples. Peter answered: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus blessed Peter for that answer. But later, as you remember, Peter denied Jesus…and later still, he went back to commercial fishing…Jesus had to call him again. But God didn’t give up on Peter; He had a use for Peter’s life. And He has a use for yours and for mine.

So… just like Peter, I know who He really is, too …but what am I going to do about it?

The hymn-writer said, “The King of Kings Salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone him!” Is that what I will do? Allow him to reign in my heart? Or will I just live life as usual, and let one day follow another for whatever is left of my life, not honoring The King much more than does the World: (“Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!”) But no real thought given to the reason we celebrate. Every day of my life, I wake up with one more chance to serve: one more chance to work with Jesus, offering my body a living sacrifice to His glory. Every day I have to choose how to spend my time, how to spend my money…and whether to serve Him, the King of Kings, or to just go ahead and serve my flesh, just doing what I want, to bring honor to myself. And, too frequently, I choose badly.

“Raise, raise, the Song on High!” When we sing together, do you really hear the words? Do you consider the importance of those teachings? Do you sing the words as a song from your own heart? If you do, then the last line says what should be the result:

“Joy! Joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the Son of Mary!” We can see Him as the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan and all of His promises to Israel and the World! We can see that the perilous times coming are not directed at us, but at the unbelieving world. We can see that our Savior is coming to take us home, to safety and eternal joy! We can experience, every day, the joy of knowing that He is truly in control, and that, regardless of how bad things look, we are headed for a good conclusion.

Lord Jesus, draw us along into Your Joy. Mature us through the teaching of Your Word, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, re-shaping us into Your own likeness, that we can be able ambassadors of Your Grace and Love to a dying world. Please lift us up, as Your tools, Your hands and Your feet, and use us to Your glory.


How Important is the Resurrection?

How Important Is the Resurrection?

© 3/26/2016 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 15:13-19

Introduction:

Frequently we avoid an argument by “agreeing to disagree”, and there is perhaps nothing wrong with that practice, in principle. But we have been trained to avoid conflict, and to compromise, hoping for a peaceful resolution of any difference, to the extent that we don’t know where the limits are. We don’t know where to draw a line and say, “Here I stand; I can do no other!”

The Apostle Paul was savagely beaten on many occasions, left for dead after being stoned, imprisoned several times and finally executed for his faith. We fidget uncomfortably, and say, “Well, yes, that is wonderful, how he lived for Christ, preached his faith, and died for it, but we live in a safer world today, don’t we?” Well, I wonder: do we?

We have the same three enemies today: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil: Which of those three do you imagine to have changed? Satan certainly has not changed in the least. The Bible tells me that the flesh also has not changed—and in fact, if anything, it can only get worse. Has the World changed for the better? While it is true that for the first three centuries the Church existed, the Roman government viciously persecuted it, mercilessly torturing and murdering those who clung to the Name of Jesus, there are many nations today in which it is either illegal to be a Christian, or illegal to talk about it, or both. And in several of those nations it is quite common for a Christian to be either murdered for his or her faith or persecuted by the governments of those countries to the extent of confiscation of property, imprisonment, torture and even execution. We have been lulled to sleep by the relative peace and safety that we have enjoyed in this country for the last 200 years, so that when someone says something like “All religions serve the same God, and it doesn’t really matter what you call Him, or what you believe about Him”, we are only a little uncomfortable, because we have been taught that “Our way isn’t necessarily the only way…how can a billion Muslims all be wrong? Or, how can a billion Buddhists all be wrong?”

How Do We Know Our Way is Right? Isn’t that “Narrow-minded?”

In the first place, it isn’t “our way.” We are just following the instructions given and responding to the invitation given by Jesus Himself. Part of the answer to the implied question was given by Jesus, when he taught in Matthew 7:13, 14— He said, “Enter ye in at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: Because narrow is the gate, and narrow the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.”  If there seem to be relatively few who respond to the invitation of Christ, and believe His Words, it actually proves Him correct. He told us ahead of time that this would be the case.

In the second place, the way is not “narrow” because of the caprice of an angry God, or bigoted people, but because of the simple fact that, throughout History (beginning before the Creation) God has provided only one means by which sinners may approach a Holy God without fear of condemnation. We see the first promise in Genesis 3:15, the first book of the Bible, and can trace both the promises and the growing clarity of doctrine regarding the death and burial and resurrection of Christ all the way through the Old Testament. We finally see the fulfillment of all those promises, prophecies, and teachings, in the person of Jesus Christ, in the Gospels. But in the Book of the Revelation, the last book of the Bible, (Revelation 13:8) we find that Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth.”  So we see that the provision for our salvation was actually made before the first human was even created.

This “Way” that has been alternately blessed and cursed by humans for the entire history of the Human race, is, in fact, the Way laid down by God before the creation. Jesus identified Himself as being that “Way”: In John 14:6, Jesus stated, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” (That sounds narrow!) As modern Christians we are uncomfortable with things that are “narrow”. We are afraid of public opinion that labels us as “narrow-minded.” We are taught to think that the number of our choices dictates the quality of our life. And yet, I cannot remember ever hearing anyone complain about the “narrow” choices afforded by the reality of our dependence upon oxygen.

No one rebels against reality and declares himself free from the tyranny of breathing, unless he intends suicide. Why? Because it is simply a fact of life that mammals all have lungs and breathe air, while fish all have gills of one sort or another, and get their oxygen through water. We accept that fact, and no one says how “unfair” it is that we cannot choose to live in a pure nitrogen atmosphere, or to breathe water, as do the fish. We embrace the reality of our dependence upon oxygen, and no one complains about it. Why? Because it does not require conscious submission to an external authority. We are built to crave air, and cannot do otherwise. But we do rebel against the fact that we need a Savior!

How Can Jesus Be the Only Savior?

Interestingly, the book of Job was evidently written before the books of Moses, the Pentateuch. And, in his book, in the middle of a frustrating, tangled, verbose argument with his three friends, Job made a fascinating statement: (Job 19:25-27). He stated that his redeemer already lived (give that some thought!), and that he (the Redeemer) would stand upon the earth at the latter day. He definitely declared the eternality of the Messiah, and that he is coming…but the following statement is really astonishing: he says, “…though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet, in my flesh, shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another”. Job predicted his own resurrection, based on the Eternal life of His Redeemer. And, in so doing, he established which “coming of Christ” he was addressing. It was not the earthly ministry of Jesus, but the second coming: Job’s resurrection is still yet to come, but: when Jesus stands upon the Earth at the latter day, Job will be in his resurrected body, and his prophecy will be literally fulfilled. He will see God, face to face, with his own eyes.

Jesus was the Redeemer for whom Job was waiting, and he was the promised Seed of Woman in whom Adam trusted. He was the Judge of all the Earth with whom Abraham pleaded for the life of Lot. He was the literal Rock of Ages that was Cleft to bring forth the water for the two and one half million Children of Israel, and all their livestock in the desert. He was the Passover Lamb, under whose blood those same children of Israel had huddled, to escape the judgment on Egypt. He is the only Savior because He has always existed as the Savior of the human race.

How Important Is the Resurrection in the Bible?

The fact is; if Jesus was not resurrected, then He was not any of those things. The person in whom Job trusted had to die. Isaiah 53 predicts the suffering of the Savior, and clearly states that it is for our sins that He was killed. Psalm 22 describes the crucifixion in stark terms and it is clearly a prophecy of the Christ, as nothing even remotely similar ever had happened to David, the human writer of that psalm. But Isaiah 53 also claims that this suffering savior would not remain dead, because it says that after his death; after he “made his soul an offering for sin”, he would see his offspring (us!) and prolong his days.

Psalm 16:10 is also prophetic of the Messiah: Peter alludes to it in Acts 2:27 and points out that it is definitely not regarding David, the human writer of that psalm. You see, it stated that the person involved, though he would die, would not be allowed to decompose, and that his soul would not be left in Sheol, the place of the Dead. David died, and had been in the grave for over one thousand years when Peter was preaching there in Jerusalem. His body was thoroughly decomposed, and mummified, and his soul was still in Sheol, to that day. Peter declared that this psalm was specifically in reference to the resurrection of the Messiah, and testified that he and the other (hundreds of) disciples were all eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. He concluded that this was final proof that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Redeemer.

Paul wrote, in Romans 1:4, that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God, with Power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead.” The Resurrection was God’s stamp of approval, showing that Jesus was really who He claimed to be. Without it, he was just another one of the victims of the Jewish leaders, and the iron fist of the Roman law. He would have just been a poor, deluded, poverty-stricken, pathetic Jewish carpenter who had overstepped the bounds of the society in which he lived, and it had cost him his life.

You see, those are the choices: either he was who he said he was, or he wasn’t. There is no real middle ground. If he was not the Messiah, then he was either crazy enough to think he was, or he was an incredible liar who ensnared millions of people with his false teachings, and who died the death a false prophet can expect, and his followers have simply duplicated his folly. But, there are a couple of problems with both of those scenarios:

In the first place, he didn’t act like or talk like a crazy man. He used very clear logic, analogy, and the authority of God’s Word to teach the people. And even His enemies recognized the power of His words. He was by no means incoherent, or illogical, nor did he teach anything that was in conflict with the existing scripture. He did teach things that contradicted the traditions of the Jews, and that is partly what caused the trouble. They hated Him for that.

In the second place, false teachers virtually always have an agenda: They are the “hallelujah hijackers”, and religious charlatans of history, who made grandiose claims and seized honor and/or wealth for themselves, availing themselves of privilege by one means or another. They usually eventually showed their true colors by vile immorality or treachery and violence, too, though there have been exceptions.

Jesus did none of these things: He sought no audience with the kings of the earth, nor with the rulers of the temple. He taught the poor, and healed the sick. When he worked miracles, both his friends and his enemies were conspicuously present. He seldom, if ever, did things in secret.

When he raised the dead (John 11, 12), proving his authority over death and His authority to give life, his enemies were there, as well…and they plotted to kill both Jesus and the man he had raised from the dead. (What insanity! If someone has proven his ability to raise the dead, wouldn’t you want him on your side?)

Jesus simply didn’t act like either a false teacher or a pathological liar. Even his enemies, well-versed in scripture though they were, could not refute his teachings. They could make no real accusation against Him, though they desperately wanted to do so. The Roman Governor, Pilate, could find no fault in Jesus, and said so, publicly. He eventually agreed to have him put to death only because he was afraid of yet another Jewish revolt, for which he could be held responsible.

How Important Was the Resurrection to the Disciples?

Remember that the eleven apostles had all been hiding in a locked upstairs room when Jesus appeared to them, entering the locked room and appearing in their midst. They were terrified that the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers might not be satisfied to have murdered Jesus: they could decide to mop up His followers as well. That seems a reasonable response, to me. Since their leader claimed to be the Messiah, and they had fixed their hopes on Him, it follows that, when he failed to deliver the kingdom they thought he was to usher in, and was taken without a fight, given a mock trial, a savage beating and a criminal’s execution, they would feel completely devastated and hopeless, besides (possibly) feeling that they had been cruelly duped. They would certainly not feel like “telling people about Jesus”, if they were sure he was dead…and they were sure of that, because they saw it happen, though from a distance.

After He appeared to them (and continued to meet with them and the other 120 disciples and an extended group of 500 followers), they were filled with joy and relief, but were still pretty confused about what Jesus wanted them to do. They actually went back to their old jobs as commercial fishermen, and had to be called away from that error. They were completely convinced of his having been raised from the dead, but…how could they be used by God, as the timid, fearful men they had become?

Jesus’s last words before He ascended into Heaven were that they would be given power (“dunamis”, not “exousia”: ability, not just authority) when they received the Holy Spirit, and that they would be witnesses for him throughout Israel, and to the uttermost parts of the world. And that is just what happened.

Ten days later, at the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in Jerusalem, and the Church was born. The disciples were no longer in hiding. They were openly preaching, and willingly risked death to complete their assignment, the Great Commission. They had been transformed instantly from a terrified group of very confused men to bold, fearless apostles, whose thoughts were supernaturally clear, to the extent that their enemies were amazed that uneducated men could have such insight and wisdom. Apart from their being absolutely convinced, as eyewitnesses, that their Master was alive forever, and, of course apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit, the transformation simply could not have happened.

How Important Is the Resurrection to Us?

Paul makes this one absolutely clear for us in 1st Corinthians 15:13-19

13But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

To summarize: If Jesus is not risen from the dead, then,

  1. All Christian preaching is futile and wrong.
  2. All Christian witnesses are found to be false
  3. All Christian faith is misplaced and hopelessly wrong.
  4. All of us are still condemned in our sins
  5. All the millions who have died in faith, trusting in Jesus as the Christ, are utterly lost.

Paul concludes that, if in this life only we have hope in Christ (and not in an eternally living Messiah), then we are of all humans most pitiable…most wretchedly misled, and most miserably lost. And all of that is completely true IF Jesus is not risen from the Dead.

But we have the authority of God’s Word, as well as the historical testimony of transformed lives, and that of all those who have joyfully faced death, knowing their resurrected Lord. We are witnesses of that fact, as well, because He has also changed our lives. With the prophet Job, we can confidently say, “I know that My Redeemer Lives!”

Those who believe in Him are simply embracing the reality that God has provided one way by which we can have eternal life with Him.

Jesus said, (John 5:24) “He that hears my words and believes on Him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from Death unto Life.” We believe His promise, and are secure in Him.

Because…the truth is:

He Is Risen!


The War between the Two Natures

The War Within

© C. O. Bishop 12/8/15 THCF 12/13/15

Romans Chapter Seven

Introduction:

We have been working our way through the book of Romans for some time now. Last week we began the segment encapsulated in Romans chapters 6, 7 and 8. Here in Romans 6 through 8, there is a three-chapter introduction to the reality of Life in Christ: We “crossed the threshold” into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, in the end of chapter three. The facts of “imputed righteousness”, and the difference between Grace and Works were explained to us in chapter four; and our new, perfect position in Christ (along with the doctrine of “federal headship”) was explained to us in chapter five. But now there are three fundamental facts presented in chapters six through eight:

  1. We no longer have to sin. (chapter 6) We are no longer slaves to our old sin nature. This is a hard concept to grasp, because it seems to contradict our experience, but it is a fact, and we need to place our faith in God’s facts, rather than our own experience, when the two seem to be at odds.

 

  1. We now have two natures, and we cannot simply “do what comes naturally” (chapter 7). We are free from our old lock-step of sin, but we have to constantly, consistently choose to allow God to live through us, if we want to see our lives conformed to Christ. Otherwise, we will revert to sin.

    I have been told recently that the “old sin nature is not in the Bible.” True! Neither is the “new nature”, in so many words…the two are called the “old man” and the “new man” in Ephesians 4:22-24, and, even more frequently, they are referred to as “the flesh” and “the spirit”. The “flesh” is not in reference to the physical body, when we are talking about our bent to sinning. The physical body has nothing with which to covet, and, interestingly enough, that is the particular commandment referenced here in chapter seven. The fact that a particular term used in our society to describe a scriptural concept is not in the scripture as that exact word means nothing.

    The word “rapture” is not in scripture, either, but the concept is clearly taught and explained. The words that are translated “Heaven” in both Greek and Hebrew do not mean what we think of when we use the English word. The Greek words translated “forever, eternal, and eternity” do not translate to those exact words, either, but they are the Greek words used to express those concepts, and they are used equally to express the eternality of God, the eternality of the human spirit, and our eternal destiny in Christ.

    Don’t quibble over jargon; but rather, earnestly endeavor to extract the actual intent and meaning of scripture, which we can then apply to our lives.

  2. There is now no condemnation for us in Christ (chapter 8). God is eternally our savior, our father and our defender. We can never be lost again, nor, under any circumstances can we be separated from the Love of God in Christ. We can, however live as though that Love were not present, and endure the reality of chapter seven over and over again.

Paul Struggled with Sin, too!

It is comforting, in a way, to see that Paul struggled with the same things we do. He was not some “super-saint” who never had bad times. But, I am doubly thankful that Paul detailed, in writing, his struggle to live the Christian life, so that know the nature of the real problem.

He begins with an object lesson from real life. Bear in mind, he was also speaking from the cultural background of the Middle East and Mediterranean world, of the first century, not modern day Europe or USA. Modern feminism did not exist, nor was there any legislation expounding or requiring the equal treatment of the genders.  He was stating the facts as they existed in that culture, and as they still exist today, in that part of the world. Again, the meaning is clear, though we may feel uncomfortable with the cultural context from which it arises. Rather than quibbling over the cultural differences, let us try to see the point of the object lesson given. Slavery was a grim reality, then, as it is even more, today, in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as other parts of the world. We don’t like that, but it doesn’t change the facts.

The fact we must face in our own lives is that we are slaves, whether we believe it or not. We have been given a choice as to which master to serve, but becoming an autonomous, self-ruling spirit was never one of the options, though we have been taught from infancy that it is. The whole concept of spiritual autonomy came from a known source: Isaiah 14:12-14 tells us that Lucifer chose that as his goal, and, as a result, became Satan. He did not become truly autonomous, by the way, he only exiled himself permanently from fellowship with God, and doomed himself to an eternity in the lake of fire. (We don’t like that idea either, but it is a fact.)

The War Within

Chapter seven details what happens when a genuine child of God…truly born again, and possessing a new nature which is completely righteous and holy…tries to live for God in his own strength. This is part of Paul’s personal testimony, and is very helpful and encouraging to me.

Verses 1-3
1Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

Paul begins by pointing out how completely God has separated us from the authority of the Law of Moses, and the principle of law in general. He states that a woman is no longer responsible to obey a dead husband—she has been freed from his authority, whether it was benevolent or harsh. He is simply dead and entirely separated from her. She is free to submit herself to a new husband if she so desires, or press on alone if that seems better. But her old husband is dead, beyond all argument, and has no further control over her life, except as she allows it. Please bear in mind that the reality of that time in history was that there was very little available in terms of employment for women. Just a fact: sad, but true. Marriage to a good, kind, loving husband was pretty much the best option available.

Verses 4-6
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

As a logical extension of the idea of the woman being freed from her dead husband, Paul says that we are also freed from the Law, and may now serve Christ. She (it is implied) evidently had a rough time with her old husband, and now is free to go to someone better. (Remember Abigail and Nabal, culminating in Abigail and David—or, better yet, Ruth (who was married to one of Elimelech’s and Naomi’s sons) and Boaz, the great-great grandpa of King David.) These are historical people, and historical realities, being used to teach us about spiritual realities today.
Verses 7-16
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

Very interesting choice of laws to use for a case in point: it is one that has no physical parallel. It is strictly mental/emotional/spiritual in nature. The physical body does not covet. So the “flesh” referred to in this passage is not the physical body, but the old sin nature.
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

My guess is that Paul was referring to the time before he understood the true intent of the Law. There was certainly never a time in Paul’s life when he was not a sinner, but there was a time when he thought he was not a sinner. Jesus showed him the truth of his spiritual condition.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin
, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

Paul shares his own experiences here…Remember that, when he was an unsaved Jew, he saw himself as blameless. He really thought he had no sins to deal with. But when Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus, he awakened to a new realization of the demands of the Law. So, still trying to serve God, but now with a new understanding of what the Law really said, and, as a born-again individual, he began trying to live the Christian life in his own strength.

The results were disastrous, in that he failed constantly. He had two natures, and he was identified with both of them in his own mind. He said, “I do the things I do not want to do, etc.”  All through the repeating cycle of striving to do good and failing, he referred to both his sin nature and his new nature as “I”.

Paul speaks to this issue in other places as well: he called the people living that way “carnal”—fleshly! They were living under the dictates of their old sin natures. They apparently did not understand that there has been a spiritual “unplugging”, and that their old nature was no longer in authority at any level.

Separated from the Old Man

  1. 17-23

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me
(that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I
that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man
:
23 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.

Paul finally concludes in verses 17-23 that the old man is “no longer I”. This is a vitally important concept: God no longer recognizes that individual as me…why should I continue to do so? And yet, Paul does not offer that as an excuse for sin…he simply recognizes that his old nature is the “old Saul of Tarsus”—not the new Creation in Christ. Nowhere in the Bible are we excused for sin on the basis of it “not really being us who did it”. The disconnect, here, is in realizing that, far from sin being a failure in God’s new creation, it is simply a “case in point” for God’s indictment of the old man.

I need to realize that my old sin nature has been disconnected; “unplugged”, in a sense—it is not gone, but it has lost its authority and its identity. It is no longer “I”. I still have a will and a choice, and I can still subject myself to sin if I choose to do so…but even then, God is not judging my new nature…he has already judged the old nature, and nailed it to the Cross with Jesus.

So, when I obey, by way of the Holy Spirit living in me, it is “Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20 Don’t be confused—the “new man” is just that—a new creation! Neither the Lord Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can be said to be a “created” being. But I am! And my new nature was created the moment I trusted Christ as my savior.) And when I sin, it is my old Sin Nature (also called the “Flesh”) who also lives in me. I am continually faced with a choice: to whom will I submit my will? To sin, so that I continue in my old life? Or, to Christ, so that my new life shines as a light in a dark world? The choice is always mine, and it is not always much fun.

If I choose sin, I am wasting the opportunity to honor God with my life, and, in the process, to gain reward. If I choose obedience to Jesus Christ, then there will come a day when a reward will be forthcoming. Either way, I am secure in Christ…my position in Him is never in jeopardy. But my relationship with Him suffers when I continually choose to sin.

Conclusion:

Paul cries out his grief at the reality of the spiritual vortex in which he is trapped, and poses a final rhetorical question:

 24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

And the answer is?

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Paul accepts the reality of his two natures and knows that his old nature will never change. He is thankful that he now has two natures, though the old one is still a grief to him. He rejoices that he now has a legitimate choice and that he can serve God.

He explains to us in some detail how to accomplish that, in Romans 6, as well as in Galatians 5:16 and Colossians 2:6, 7. It is to be by faith, step by step, day by day. That is why we call it “walking” in the Spirit. There is no such thing as “coasting” in the Spirit, or “surfing” in the Spirit, or “gliding” in the Spirit. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and deliberately taking another step, by faith. The more practice you get, the easier it will become, as the discipline of walking becomes habitual.

But, like it or not, that is the only way it can be done. There are no magic formulas, no magic spells—only a consistent walk by faith. Jesus said to take up our cross daily, and follow him. Recognize the fact that you are dead with him, and buried with Him. That is where the cross comes in. Then realize the truth that you have also been raised with Him, and that you now have the authority to live as He lives, if you will choose to do so by faith.

Lord Jesus, Help us to walk, day by day, step by step, until we develop the spiritual balance and strength to joyfully run in your service.


“Federal Headship” Results

Federal Headship: The Result

© C. O. Bishop 11/5/15 THCF 11/15/15

Romans 6:1-10

Introduction:

We talked briefly about the doctrine of Federal Headship in the past, but since this passage is so heavily involved with that particular doctrine, it seemed good to spend more time with it today. If you remember anything of the previous teaching, you will remember that when Adam sinned, we sinned with him…in him. His fall into sin was accounted as our fall into sin. We have very consistently proven the truth of that historical fact, in that all of us continue in sin, to varying degrees. Adam exercised his authority to make a decision on behalf of the whole human race. He became the head of the entire fallen race of Man. We had no real choice, though it is evident that we would have made exactly the same choice as Adam did.

But the other side of the Federal Headship concept is that of Jesus being the head of a new Man. Jesus exercised His authority to make a decision for all of humanity as well. But in this particular case we are given a choice: we can stay in Adam, where we were born, or we can be transferred into Christ via a new birth. Today, the text is speaking to those who have already made the conscious choice to trust in Jesus’ blood sacrifice, and who have been born again as a member of that new Man of whom Jesus is the Head.

We are conscious, too, that Grace came to answer Man’s sin. Paul first poses the question,

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Should we sin more, to get more grace? Absolutely not! It is unfitting for us to remain in sin, as that is no longer where we live! We are dead to sin. This is the opening statement of fact, and upon its truth and exactitude hangs all the rest of the argument.

How can Paul say that we are dead to sin? I certainly don’t feel dead! On the other hand, I don’t think I would have said that I felt “dead to God” before I was a believer. I felt pretty alive, and wouldn’t have even understood the concept of being “dead to God.”

Think back, though: when Adam fell into sin, he died spiritually the moment he ate the fruit of the tree he had been warned against eating. He was separated from fellowship with God. Of course, 930 years later, his spirit was separated from his body, as well, which we call physical death. But right that moment, his spirit was separated from God. Had God not intervened with Grace, and restored fellowship, Adam would have been lost… permanently separated from God. In the same manner, as an unregenerate man, I was separated from God…dead to God. Had I died in that state I would have been lost. That is the simple truth.

But now, being joined to God through Jesus’ sacrifice and by God’s Grace, I am “separated” from sin as a principle…In God’s sight, I have been separated from my old sin nature, as He gave me a new nature in the new birth. It is possible for God to fellowship with me, and it is possible for me to love Him…because I have a new nature.

As far as God is concerned, the old sin-nature is dead. He does not propose to patch it up, correct all its ills, or restore fellowship to it. If we look ahead to Romans 8:7, we can see that the old sin nature is antagonistic toward God, and cannot be made subject to Him…. God says it can’t be done. So, the only way he can redeem a fallen human is to offer them a new birth. The old sin nature had to be set aside. I have not lost my old sin nature, but I am “separate” from it. God wants fellowship with the new me; He does not seek to change the old me; but rather to let it starve as He feeds the new me.

So, how did I die to sin, then?

Baptized into Death

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

The baptism to which Paul refers, here, is not water baptism. There is no water in this passage. Water baptism is only an object lesson—a picture, or a demonstration— of something real that has already happened. Water baptism (in the New Testament) is reserved for believers, because it is meant to announce that the baptism of the Holy Spirit has already occurred…that the believer has been placed into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. (1st Corinthians 12:13)

So, Water Baptism announces what has already happened: I have been separated from my old sin nature, because Jesus’ death is reckoned as my death: I died with him, just as I died in Adam, and was lost, I have been crucified with Christ, and my sins have been dealt with at the Cross. I am separated from my old sin nature through that death. When did it happen? The moment I trusted His completed work at the Cross as being sufficient payment for my sins; at that moment, the Holy Spirit placed me into the Body of Christ, though I was completely unaware of it.

But there is more! Paul says that death with Christ is not the only thing I gained there. I also gained eternal life!

Baptized into Life.

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Just as I was fully identified with Adam in his sin and his spiritual death, and, in fact, was born that way, I am now fully identified with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection, to the extent that God expects me to start living in that reality….because I have been re-born that way. In short, He says that because I have already been re-born a literal child of God, I am to begin acting that way. And his reasoning is very clear: he says that I am dead to sin—separated from it. I have a moment by moment choice to make as to which nature (old or new) will be manifest and prominent in my daily life. I am to “walk in the newness of life.” As I mature in my Christian life, that walk will become more consistent.

When I started Bible school, one of the staff members had two children living there in the school, who I assumed were much older than they really were. The older girl seemed to be in her early twenties, but occasionally acted like a 16-year-old. Her younger brother seemed to be perhaps ten or twelve, but occasionally acted like a five-year-old. I found this very irritating and off-putting until I found that she actually was 16 and he actually was five, but just very large for his age, and both usually seemed fairly mature. But both kids occasionally just acted their age!

Sometimes Christians are under the control of the Holy Spirit, and we are very impressed with the grace in their lives. Occasionally they “act their age”, so to speak, and are behaving like “natural” men. That does not make them a hypocrite—it proves that they have two natures, just like you! We need the constant control and guiding of the Holy Spirit in our lives to have any sort of consistent walk with Him.

The next phrase (verse 5) assures me that since I have been buried with him (in him—this is what Federal Headship implies), then I shall be (future tense) also in the likeness of His resurrection.  From the moment I was born again…from the moment I believed the Gospel, and received Christ as my savior, I have been guaranteed a resurrection, to be with him and like Him forever!

In fact, over in Ephesians 2:6, he states that God has already “raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ.” There’s that location clause again. This is positional truth. The only conditions are the ones laid down by Jesus himself: (John 5:24) “He that heareth my words and believeth on Him who sent me…” Those who have heard the Gospel and believed it—placed their full trust in the completed work of Jesus at the Cross, are placed in Christ, and they are safe in Him forever. The identification is so complete that God views it as already done. He will never again see me as a lost sinner, because my old self is separated from me—dead—and the new person (created at the new birth, whether I knew it or not) is free forever from the curse of the Law. What an amazing change!  My old position, in Adam, left me absolutely doomed. My new position, in Christ, leaves me absolutely blessed, and fully accepted by God.

What should the Result be?

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.

If I know that I am dead to sin, and dead to the Law, what should the result be? I should begin to place my trust in that fact, and not give in to the desires of sin any more. This is not just self-control; it’s recognition that those desires are no longer “mine”—they are the desires of my old sin nature, and, though it still exists within me, it is an “enemy within the gates”, so to speak. I have to be conscious that it is there, recognize its movements and leanings, and defend my heart against them. Fortunately, I am not alone in this battle. I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and He is faithful to warn me, and guide me, so that I can see what to avoid.

Is it easy? Absolutely not…in fact, without the constant empowering and enabling of the Holy Spirit, it is utterly impossible. Unbelievers, through self-control, can appear to be good persons, and do good things, and avoid bad things, etc., but their actions are still controlled by their old sin nature (which, as an unbeliever, is the only one they have.) So, the scripture says, even their “righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6); and so are mine, if I try to “do good things” in my own fleshly power and motives. This is true of the whole human race. I have nothing to offer God except my new nature, and the work the Holy Spirit can do through me. As an unbeliever, even my thoughts and prayers were corrupted by who I was as a sinner. The only prayer of an unbeliever that God commits Himself to answer is the one that confesses Him as Savior, and places faith in His Grace.

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

God has given us a guarantee that we will live with Him eternally; He asks us to start living in that reality today—now. He says that since Jesus can never die again, and can never be tested again, and has once-for-all paid the price for sin, we should take heart from that fact and step forward into the liberty he offers us as well. We can be free from the ravages of sin in our lives!

We do not have to be torn apart by fear, jealousy, pride, anger, and lust. We can be free from the destructive, conflicting desires of our old nature, because we are part of a new creation…we have been separated from our old nature to the extent that we no longer have to obey it. I can freely tell you that though this is completely true, I certainly have not mastered this concept.

Next time we will discuss how that is supposed to work.

Father, lead us into the truth of your Word. Enable us to walk in the newness of life!


The Bad News, Part 1

The Bad News, Part One

© C. O. Bishop 8/7/15 THCF 8/9/15

Romans 1:18-32; 2:1

Introduction:

We began our journey through the Epistle to the Romans a few weeks ago, and saw that the theme of the book is the “Gospel of God’s Grace”. We also saw that the “Good News” of the Gospel is good news, primarily because of the bad news that it addresses. We could see that the only reason, for example, that the Salk vaccine was such good news when it was first developed in the early 1950s, was that the ravages of Polio were such horribly bad news.

The Bad News of the Gospel, in a word, is Sin. We can talk about Sin as a concept. We can examine the origin of Sin, from a biblical perspective. We can bemoan the results of sin in our society…but ultimately, we need to realize that Sin as a principle is the whole source of our problems as a society, and our lostness as a race. Jesus came to free us from that Sin…in every sense. That is the Good News. But we need to understand the Bad News, before the Good News will really be “good news” to us personally. And we need to see it from God’s point of view:

God’s Perspective

In verse 18, Paul begins a dissertation on the overall slide of the human race into sin and perdition that runs all the way from 1:18 to 3:20. He is not singling out any particular group— by the time he is finished talking, in chapter 3, the whole world is condemned in sin. And he is not being judgmental at all—he is simply stating facts.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Paul first states that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness. He is not “OK with some sin, but hell on the bad stuff”. God hates all sin. Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why?

Consider a company, in which a serious accident (or several) has occurred, due to equipment operators being under the influence of intoxicants of some sort: We are not surprised when such a company adopts a “zero tolerance” policy toward drug abuse, including alcohol. Or a parent whose child (or children) have been lost to the drug trade…how do you think he or she would feel toward street drugs and those who promote them? We are certainly not surprised when they passionately hate the drugs and those who promote them.

Now, how much worse, when something has killed every single one of your kids, and separated from you those you loved the most? That is where God stands. Adam and Eve died spiritually the moment Adam ate the fruit in the garden…and we all died with them. Jesus said that Satan was “a murderer from the beginning”: Who do you suppose he killed? The answer is: he killed you!

God hates sin, because it has murdered the whole human race. Every sin, no matter how small, is a facet of that death-dealing disease we call Sin. God loves the sinner, but he hates the sin. And He is never confused about that distinction, though we sometimes find it very confusing.

Further, he states that his wrath is revealed against those who “hold” or “suppress” the truth in unrighteousness. When I first read that passage in the King James Version, I thought that perhaps his anger was reserved for those that ‘hold” the truth, in the sense of “having it”, but refuse to respond to it. When I looked up the Greek word I discovered that it means to “hold down” or “hold back”—to suppress. It is not a matter of possessing but not responding to the truth, though that is addressed later…the issue is that our unrighteousness seeks to suppress and shut down the truth of God. The fact of the matter is: we don’t want to hear it.

But There are No Excuses

19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

In verses 19 and 20, Paul states that no one is fully excused, because everyone has, built into them, the awareness of a Creator. He says that much of what can be known of God is revealed “in them”. We learn (sometimes very early…in my case, before I was 8 years old) to turn a blind eye to the evidence in creation (Psalm 19:1-3), and particularly our own construction…(compare Psalm 139:14) and so we turn a deaf ear to the call of God, with the result that some of us (myself once included) arrive at a place where we arrogantly (or bitterly) declare that “there is no God.” But the evidence was there, and still is. In fact, the only reply God has to those who say “there is no God” is that “the fool says in his heart that there is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Notice, however, that it is in reference to a people who once knew God: it is regarding the whole human race, or a nation, say, that had its beginnings in faith. Not so much an individual, as no one starts off “knowing God” and regresses to being lost: it’s the other way around.

The human race, as a whole, once “knew God”…there was a time when every single human on the planet knew God personally, but not all were in a right relation with him…and it went downhill from there, as history tells us. By the time of Noah, the world was irreparably evil.

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

They definitely knew who he was, as the Creator, and they did not glorify him, but turned their backs on him. We profess ourselves to be wise, apart from the wisdom of God.  We are sure that we, ourselves, the wonderful human race, can solve all the world’s problems. We even think that if we could get our hands on another planet, orbiting another sun, we could “terra-form” it, thus recreating our own world, and providing a new home for humanity.  What incredible arrogance! We can’t even fix the world we live on! Our so-called wisdom is unspeakable foolishness, and, year after year, it is shown to be so with every tragic mistake we make as the human race.

23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

As a race, we have turned to idols; we used our imaginations and creative skills to produce images to which we ascribed the attributes of Deity. We made images of men (say, Buddha, for example; ironically, he hated idols, but there are more idols made in his likeness than in that of any other deity), and birds (some of the Egyptian deities, as well as North American Native deities, among many others, had bird attributes), and four-footed beasts (The golden calves, for instance), and creeping things (there are Hindu temples in India dedicated to the worship of rats and serpents.) In today’s world, we have deified Science and computers, and we are sure that together they will save us all. Men like Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and others have become the “priests” of the religion of Science. Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a social outcast; not simply misinformed. (That is a characteristic of religion, as opposed to simple facts.)

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Paul says that because Man turned his back on the real God of the universe, the Real God has turned Man loose to experience the result of his arrogance. The results are strange, as, to my mind, they seem to have little to do with the spiritual sin…but evidently the immorality of Man is directly linked to the unholiness of Man. Corruption at a spiritual level begets corruption at a physical level, and finally at a social level. He says that the immediate result is that they began to “dishonor their own bodies” between themselves. as a result of their own lusts. The sin nature bears sinful fruit; hardly surprising.

 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Many people today try to deny that the New Testament condemns homosexual behavior. As you read these verses (24-27), what other interpretation could there possibly be? He is specifically describing homosexual behavior, and declaring it to be one of the direct results of abandoning accountability to God, and worshipping and serving created things instead of their Creator. Please notice that that particular sin is not given a special category: it is simply listed along with all the rest: disobedience to parents, and envy are listed right along with murder and adultery.

The Problem is that We Don’t Like God

Remember that, in the Garden of Eden, God came seeking fellowship with Adam and Eve…and they ran from Him. It was not the other way around.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Don’t use this to try to create a “hierarchy” of sins by which to decide that some sins are really despicable, while others are just “kinda cute”. God does not agree with our estimation of the relative worth of sin. He says his wrath is revealed from Heaven against all unrighteousness.

32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Paul’s conclusion is that we not only do these things in full knowledge that those who do such things are worthy of death, but we give approval to those who do them. Today we give that approval by making box-office hits of movies glorifying adultery, murder, debate, deceit, disobedience to parents…etc. The fiction section of a library or a bookstore (even a Christian bookstore) is always the most popular, as we prefer fiction to reality…we prefer fiction to truth. There are perhaps 20 would-be fiction writers for every would-be non-fiction writer. And we glorify novelists far above mere journalists and technical writers. It all seems to fit, I think: Jesus said that when Satan speaks a lie, he is speaking his own language, because Satan “is a liar and the father of it.” I am not suggesting that creative writing is wrong. But we are addicted to it.

We, as a race, are addicted to fiction, and, increasingly to fiction that caters to our lusts. Things that were once unmentionable are now common fare: things once fully condemned as grossly pornographic are so widely available that even Christian parents frequently allow their children access to them. I recall hearing a young child of a professing Christian couple gleefully telling of the erotic scene he had viewed the evening before in his parents’ home. And that was nearly thirty years ago. It is far worse now.

We celebrate the authors of such books and screenplays, as well as the actors and producers of the movies. We hail them as great artists. We give approval to those who do the very things God condemns. We encourage others to do the same. Yes…it all seems to fit.

2: 1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

We tend to robe ourselves in the rags of our self-righteousness and reject someone else because of their perceived sin…But God says that in so doing we admit our own guilt: You see, that list he gave us in verses 24-27 is a list of examples of the sin God condemned…not an exhaustive list of things he calls sins. And it is certainly not a hierarchy of sins in some particular order of importance.

Sin always breaks fellowship with God. Hold your finger here in Romans, and turn to Proverbs 6:16-19 (16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.)

Notice it doesn’t list drug abuse or sexual immorality? That isn’t evidence that such things are approved, it simply gives us notice that the things God hates have to do with the sin of the heart…the self-centeredness that makes us arrogant, foolish and violent. That sin is the same source as the sin that drives every other social ill in the world. The wrath of God is upon all of it.

So, what are our options?

  1. We can deny it all, and say that sin doesn’t even exist—that there is no such thing as right or wrong—that it is only our perceptions and social norms that drive such a concept. But the problem with that is that every single culture in the world recognizes right and wrong, though they disagree wildly about what it means.
  1. We can deny the importance of sin, and claim that God is such a “sugar-daddy” that He doesn’t condemn sin at all: he just loves everyone so much that we can do anything we want, and we will never face consequences for our decisions. The problem with that is that we all have an inborn sense of justice, as well, which tells us that there should be consequences for bad behavior and reward for good.
  1. We can admit the existence and importance of sin, and admit the holiness and justice of God, but then suggest that human effort (doing lots and lots of good things to make up for the bad things we have already done) can somehow earn a right standing with God. (Virtually all the world’s religions teach this, by the way.) The problem with this is that we are trying to carry out flawless works with very flawed hearts. Our motives will always be questionable. Everything we touch is tainted by who we are. When I confess that I am a sinner, it does not mean that “I got something on my shoe”…it means that my character is such that I break God’s Law. In fact, even if I am allowed to make the rules myself, I will break them (which is why I gave up on New Year’s resolutions many years ago.)
  1. The last option is what the Bible teaches: Sin is real, and it matters! God is holy and just, and He will judge sin. And, finally, there is nothing I can do to undo the sins I have already committed. But where does that leave me? It leaves me lost… and needing a Savior.

Then, What is God’s Solution?

That is why Jesus went to the Cross: He provided full payment for all my sins: past, present and future: In fact, if you think a moment, you will realize that when He died for me, all my sins were future. He paid for them all, knowing everything I would ever do; all the ways I would fail him as a Christian, as well as all the vile ways I despised Him, as an atheist, before I was saved. And he says in John 5:24 that all he asks me to do is believe it.

Conclusion:

Paul says I have no excuse…and he is right. But, in the next few chapters, he will introduce God’s solution for sin: the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of God’s Grace.

Lord Jesus, help our unbelief: we fail in so many different ways to trust your Grace, and believe your Word. Train us to be your followers, in Jesus’ name.


About the Resurrection

The Resurrection:

© C. O. Bishop 2010

Introduction:

We are here to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We come with a sense of reverence, and joy. That is as it should be. But let us also consider why we feel that way.

Why is the resurrection so important? Do we just want to feel good, believing that somewhere, somehow, Jesus is still alive today, and that he will come back? Or is there more at stake? And when we talk about resurrection, are we talking about a physical resurrection, or just the “going to heaven when you die” type of idea?

Did Jesus’ wrecked, mortal shell that was taken down from the cross, carefully wrapped in cloth and spices, for embalming, and laid in a solid rock tomb really come back to life, fully healthy, and leave the tomb, without disturbing the stone at the door? Was the tomb really already empty, before the angelic messenger rolled the stone back to reveal the empty tomb to the women who came to complete the embalming process? Or was it all a hoax? A nicely-told, religious myth? And, finally, does it really matter? Let’s see what God says about the resurrection.

 Prophetic History:

The theme of the resurrection begins in Genesis 22, where it is hinted at, in Abraham’s obedience, attempting to sacrifice Isaac. We find, later in the scripture (Hebrews 11), that he assumed God would bring him back from the dead. The subject is broached over and over, throughout the Old and New Testaments, and runs all the way through to the Revelation. It is stated clearly, as in Job 19:25, where Job states that “I know that my redeemer liveth, and shall stand upon the earth at the last day, and, though, after my skin, worms shall devour my flesh, yet will I see him, with my eye, and not another.” How did Job know? The books of Moses were not even written yet…so either the revelation was given to him as a prophet, or it had been given to others and handed down as an oral tradition, to be confirmed in the book of Job.

Later prophets, including King David, were used to pen the scriptures telling us specifically that the Messiah would not be left to rot…that his body would be resurrected. “Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy one to see corruption…thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol/hades)” (Psalm 16:10) It would be good to remember that the Hebrew word “sheol”, translated “hell” only meant the place of the dead, and included the place then called paradise. Either way, the fact is, he was not going to stay dead, and his physical body would not be allowed to rot.

Isaiah 53:8-12 states that after his death and burial, he would live to see his “offspring”, and that after his death he would be rewarded richly. Both would be patently impossible, without a literal, physical resurrection. Jonah 1:17-2:10 tells us of Jonah’s experience with the great fish (or whale, as some translations say). This was intended as a Messianic Prophecy—the prophet did not die: but Jesus did. Jonah spoke from the belly of the fish—not from Sheol. The prophet was not raised from the dead, any more than David was, who said similar things. David was not pierced (Psalm 22); But Jesus was. And, in Mathew 12:39,40, Jesus laid hold of that particular prophecy of Jonah as the sign for unbelieving Israel—saying that just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish (not in Sheol), so he himself would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth: not in the tomb, but in Sheol/Hades…specifically, in Paradise, as he promised the thief on the cross. The companion idea was that it was ONLY three days and three nights. The resurrection was not only guaranteed to happen, but it was guaranteed to happen in a specific way and at a very specific time.

In Zechariah 12:10, the Lord Jehovah—the Creator God—states that the day would come when he would return, and Israel would see him. He specified that “they shall see me whom they have pierced, and mourn for him as one mourns for his only begotten son…” In that passage we see that Jesus is

  • the almighty God,
  • in the flesh;
  • eternal by nature, but who
  • became flesh for the purpose of His work at the Cross (seen in the fact that he was pierced by them).

We see Jesus, in fact: the resurrected Messiah, confronting those He came to save—unbelieving Israel—after they crucified him. What an uncomfortable situation that will be! And yet, in that moment, he will be confronting a finally repentant nation. This still necessitates the resurrection: the future of Israel depends entirely upon the truth of the resurrection.

The Personal Teachings of Jesus…also Prophetic

All the above prophecies (except the reference in Matthew) were put in place long before Jesus walked the earth; but Jesus didn’t leave it at that. He reminded them, and underscored the resurrection truth. He told the Jewish rulers who demanded a sign, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days!” (John 2:19-21) The Jews thought he meant the temple of Herod, but, as the scripture explains, he was referring to his physical body.

When Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), he comforted him, saying “…today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Incidentally, notice that he did not say “in the tomb”, but “in Paradise”.) That doesn’t specifically promise the resurrection, but it does promise a blessed life after death. But the physical resurrection of Jesus and the physical, bodily resurrection of his followers is as necessary to the Gospel as the truth of the crucifixion. The point is this:

  • If Jesus was not resurrected, then he was not the Messiah, since the Messiah, it was promised, was to be resurrected.
  • If he was not the Messiah, then he was not the Son of God.
  • If he was not the Son of God, literally God in the Flesh, then he was not the Savior, sent into the world by God,
  • And his blood could not wash away sin,
  • And his death was a simple miscarriage of justice, and one more tragedy to add to an already overburdened world.

Jesus told his disciples (John 10:17,18) that he had the authority to lay down his life, and to take it up again…that no one would take it from him, but He would lay it down, and take it up again. Now, either that was true, or it was not true! If it is true, then the resurrection happened, as He said it would. If it was not true, then he was either a liar, or a poor deluded fool who was about to get himself killed. Jesus demonstrated his power over death several times, raising the dead—some who were only minutes or hours dead, some on their way to their grave, and one who had been in the grave four days. There may have been more…but he gave ample evidence that he was not exaggerating.

He further states (John 10:28) that he gives his followers eternal life, and that they shall never perish. Again: either it is so, or it is not so…that is a very powerful promise. If Jesus has the authority he claims to have…and keeps his promises, then the resurrection of his followers is sure to come, as well. Job’s faith would find fulfillment in the person of Christ. Abraham would find the promise complete in his risen master. And we have something to hope for as well.

 Apostolic Confirmation…and That of God the Father

Romans 1:1-4 states, concerning Gods Son, Jesus Christ, that he was “Declared to be the Son of God, with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” That means that the resurrection was God’s stamp of approval… God’s signature on the contract… God’s seal; saying “YES! This is my Son!”

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:8-12) states that He is the creator God, that he remains the same throughout the ages, and that his years shall not fail. He later points out (Hebrews 10:21) that Jesus has entered into the Holy of Holies through the veil, which is his flesh. And that he has made the way for us to follow.

In 1st John 5:11-13, the writer states that God wants us to know that we have eternal life. He says that that life is in the Son of God. He says whoever “has the Son, has the life”…and that those who do not have Him do not have the eternal life he offers.

Can you see why the resurrection is vital to the message of the Gospel? The simple fact is that: if Jesus was NOT resurrected, we are in deeper trouble than anyone has ever thought we were in. It would mean that the person we thought was the savior was NOT the savior, but either a liar, or a self-deluded fool. That is why, in 1st Corinthians 15:14-19, Paul points out that if Christ has not been raised:

  • Our preaching amounts to nothing
  • Your faith is futile
  • We are found to be false witnesses of God, because we have testified that God did raise Jesus from the dead,
  • You are still in your sins (no saving sacrifice—no forgiveness)
  • Those who have died, believing in Christ, are forever lost.

He concludes that “If we have hope in Christ for this life only (no resurrection, in other words), then we are of all men most miserable…most to be pitied. Some of the world sees us that way. Most either mock us for fools, or hate us because they first hated Christ.

But the truth still stands: the resurrection either did happen, or did not happen. There is really no middle ground. We believe it did happen, just as God says. If it did not, then all the rest of our beliefs fade into insignificance, because upon the resurrection rests the entirety of the Christian faith.

 Conclusion:

What shall we do with these things, then? If I already believe in the resurrection, does it make me believe more? Or make me more emphatic in arguing with others? That is not my purpose in offering these thoughts. We frequently wonder whether it is really necessary to believe all the accounts of miracles in the Bible. We wonder, perhaps, whether at least some of them might be pious-sounding forgeries, added after the fact.

The problem with that, in this particular case, is that the forgers would have had to be able to go back and change all the prophetic writings of thousands of years of history. If that has been the reality, then the fact is, we simply do not have God’s Word. There is no evidence that this has happened; indeed quite the opposite. There is more evidence to the truth of the Bible than any other document in history.

An even larger issue, provided we are satisfied with the pedigree of God’s Word, is that this particular miracle was predicted thousands of years in advance, affirmed many times throughout history, and restated in further prophetic writings. If this one isn’t for real, we do not have a Savior. This is a miracle to stand fast upon, with no doubts.

So What Really Happened?

In accordance with prophecy, and according to the written record, Jesus arose from the dead, physically, hours before daylight, by the simple expedience of passing through the winding cloths they had wrapped him in; he folded the napkin from his face, and set it aside, and then transported himself away, by passing through the solid rock. He then waited for the women who would be the first to discover the empty tomb.

There were still sixteen Roman soldiers guarding the sealed but now-empty tomb. An angel appeared, bright, and fiercely shining, and they all fell— apparently unconscious—then, after they awakened, fled. The angel rolled the stone back from the door, and sat on it.

The women arrived, wondering how they would get in to complete the embalming process, knowing that the massive doorway stone was beyond their best efforts. They found the empty tomb with a new guard—the angel—who said “why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here!”

Then Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, and comforted her: He sent her, as the first resurrection witness, to tell his disciples to meet Him in Galilee.

Sometime during that day, he met with Peter, who had some special issues to deal with. Later that evening, he met two of the apostles on the road to Emmaus, and they hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the others. Jesus showed up as they were telling about the meeting on the road, and greeted the eleven remaining apostles as a group, especially dealing with the doubts that Thomas had suffered. After that, during the next forty days, he revealed himself to a large number of disciples—once to over five hundred at a time. He later met with James, then again the whole group of apostles, just before he ascended back to Heaven. Later, still, he met with Paul, whom he had chosen to be an apostle as well.

We have the historical witness of these changed lives, the witness of the epistles they wrote, and the voice of two thousand years of martyrs to persuade us. Those of us who have placed our faith in the shed blood of Jesus as full payment for our sins have another witness—the indwelling Holy Spirit. We encourage one another, as well as all who will listen, saying “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Of course, if He is actually dead, and his corpse is simply gone, then, as Paul said, we are of all men most miserable… most to be pitied.

But, He’s Alive! We can see His Glory in the lives around us. We look to His coming with unspeakable Hope and Joy.

And we confirm: “He is risen, indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

Scripture reference list:

 

 

Genesis 22 Isaac

(compare to Hebrews 11:17-19)

Job 19:25 My Redeemer lives

Psalms 16:10 Not left to rot

Isaiah 53:8-12 After death, shall see his offspring, and be rewarded

Zechariah 12:10 Look upon me whom they have pierced

John 2:19-21  “Destroy this temple…”

Matthew 12:40 3 days, 3 nights

(Referring to Jonah’s prophecy)

Luke 23:43 Thief on the cross…Paradise

Romans 1:4 God raised him from the dead, declared, by that fact, to be his son.

John 10:17, 18 I have the authority to lay down my life and take it up again

Revelation 1:18 he that liveth, and was dead, and, behold, I am alive forevermore

Hebrews 1:8-12 “Thou art the same and thy years shall not fail

Hebrews 10:21 entered in through the veil

John 10:29 they shall never perish

1st John 5:11-13 Know you have eternal life

1st Corinthians 15:19  we are of all men most miserable…

 

 


Comfort through Christmas–all Year

Finding Comfort in Christmas Throughout the Year

© C. O. Bishop


To those of us who have lost loved ones, as well as those who suffer from depression, or the loss of a job, etc., Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the worst. Our society has taught us to expect sunny feelings of joy and happiness, and to expect to give and receive wonderful gifts, and that everyone will love one another, and politicians will all tell the truth… and that Santa Claus is coming

To those of us who hurt, or who have suffered loss, all of the above seems a cruel hoax. And in some ways it is, even if those responsible meant no harm. We have been given false expectations, and have been taught to turn our eyes away from the real truth. Let’s see if we can turn that around, just for a moment, today…

The First Christmas

Consider the first Christmas…the real one…the one no one really noticed except some farmer types…shepherds, actually. It happened in a barn; a stable, if you want to be specific. No tree, no tinsel, no eggnog. “No crib, for a bed”…the only “gift” in sight was a baby. “For God so loved the World, that He gave his only begotten son…” (We don’t think of it often, but the wise men showed up quite some time later—not that day…probably not that year. But when they did, they brought gifts to HIM, and not to one another.) But those who were there—those shepherds— were overwhelmed with joy. Why?

Why The Joy?

How is it that without any of the things we think ought to be there, the partakers of the first Christmas were filled with joy? Mary was having her first baby…do you think maybe she would have liked her Mom, or an Aunt, or someone to help her? How do you suppose Joseph felt about the accommodations? And the shepherds still had to go back to those sheep, and the smelly, hard job that was their whole life. No day off for Christmas…no bonus; no free turkey, or ham, or whatever. Just… great joy.

Do you suppose they understood a little about what had happened? They were all orthodox Jews, and they, with their forefathers, had been waiting for the Messiah for thousands of years. The promises were there, for anyone to read. And the angels that showed up clearly told them that this was it: The real fulfillment of God’s real promise. Did they understand it all? Nope. They almost certainly did not. In fact, they may have had some real disappointments a few years down the road. They thought he was come to be a king (He was!), and a deliverer (he was!). But they thought he would throw the Romans out of Israel, and reign there in Jerusalem in their lifetimes. (He did not, and He never said he would.)

Their disappointments were based on false expectations, just like ours. But those who remembered could look back with wonder and recall the voices of the angels, praising God, and announcing the Holy birth. They did not cease to believe in the goodness of God, and his faithfulness.

Remember the Promise

We have forgotten what was really promised, and more specifically, how we are to take part in it. There is no promise that we will live lives free of pain. Quite the opposite…we are told that it is given unto us “…on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on His name but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29) That’s not what we really wanted to hear, huh?

So what really was promised, and how do we take part in God’s real Christmas? How can we find Comfort in Christmas?

To begin with, immediately after Adam and Eve fell into sin, as recorded in Genesis, God provided a plan of redemption. He said that a person would come, called the “Seed of Woman”, and this person would undo Satan’s work, done through the serpent.

The promise was repeated, with more and more details, until just before the time of Christ (actually, the last detail was given 400 years before his birth), when they pretty much knew all that was to happen regarding the Messiah. They did not understand it all, any more than we can claim to understand it all today.

But the believers, mostly Jews, had come to believe in the character of God, and they believed His Word was true. They believed his promises. When he told them to place their trust in His redemptive plan, and it involved a blood sacrifice, they brought that blood sacrifice, as directed. Did they understand it? Did they really know that all those little Lambs were pointing forward to the True Lamb of God? Somehow I doubt it.

The Promises Were Fulfilled

When Jesus was introduced by John the Baptist, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” some people may have understood the intent; most folks probably did not. But many believed that He was the fulfillment of God’s Promise. We can look back and see that they were right. He fulfilled God’s Word to the letter…even that thing about the “Seed of Woman”. (Who else in history has only one human parent?)

Jesus was born in obscurity, with shepherds rejoicing, and precious few others even taking notice. He preached in a tiny nation for three years or a bit more. He had twelve devoted followers, about ten times that who were part-timers, and thousands who claimed allegiance to him. But he was betrayed by one of those “inner-circle twelve”, Judas Iscariot, and he died a criminal’s death, condemned by Jew and Gentile alike. He was attended at His death by only one of his twelve disciples, and a few women, including his mother.

He was lent a tomb by a rich man who secretly believed. It turned out Jesus only needed it for three days and three nights, just as predicted. He was physically resurrected that third day, in spite of efforts aimed at preventing such an occurrence, and he showed himself to all his disciples, on one occasion to 500 people at once. He ascended back to God, physically; bodily, and promised to return in the same manner: Physically…Bodily.

Believing the Promise

We, who do find comfort in Christmas, whether Jew or Gentile, do so because that day was the beginning of all that was to follow. We find hope in the Christ, in the Cross, and in the empty tomb. We find hope in his resurrection, and in his promised coming again.

We find hope in His written Word, where He promised personally, that “Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

We look back to that first Christmas and the unspeakable gift of God’s Son, and we find comfort in the Goodness of the God who gave the Gift. When we suffer losses, we look back to what our redemption really cost our Lord, and our Heavenly Father.

How can one take part in God’s real Christmas? Jesus said “He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed over from death into life.” (John 5:24)

Notice the tenses there—he covers my present, saying that because I have heard his word, and believed the promise of God, I have eternal life now…I don’t have to wait ‘til I die to see if I got “good enough grades”. He covers my future, promising that I will never be condemned by God. He covers my past (perfect tense), saying that I have permanently crossed over from being spiritually dead, to being spiritually alive.

Finding Comfort in Christmas

This is the hope of all believers. And those of us who believe, and who have lost one or more believing loved ones, have the sure hope of seeing them again. Some we are not sure of, because we can’t see their hearts, but God knows, and His justice is perfect. He loves them more than we ever could; and we rest assured that he has done right by them.

Christmas, the way the World presents it, can be very depressing, quite honestly. But the way God presents His gift it is a never-ending source of joy—not seasonal at all.

If you would like to know more about how to experience God’s joy, I’d be happy to chat with you.

To each of you, in the name of the Christ of Christmas, I wish a truly joyous Christmas season that will last throughout the year.

Blessings upon you all.