Tag Archives: Word

Daily Scripture Meditation

In reading through the Old Testament, particularly the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles; one of the first things we notice is that there is a constant fluctuation between the worship of God and the worship of idols in Israel. In many cases this change took place in rather extreme ways within a single generation. One minute there would be a good king and the people would pursue God and then the next minute that leader would be gone and it would be right back to idolatry. Now obviously we know that God preserved for himself a remnant of those who were faithful to Him (1st Kings 19:18 for example0, but have you ever wondered why the people were so quick to switch back and forth between the worship of God and the worship of idols?

2 Chronicles 15:3-4 provides an explanation that has some important truth for us today as well.

“For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; but when in their trouble they turned to The Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.”

Like most people, Israel turned back to God when the futility of their idolatry became clear and they had no where else to turn; and God, being gracious and abounding in mercy, responded to their repentance and prayer. That they had a long tradition of idolatrous ways (as does all post-Eden humanity) partially explains there constant back and forth, but the 2nd half of verse 3 shines some additional light on the subject. They had been a long time without a teaching priest and without law.

When the law departs from a people, when the priests fail to keep in constantly before them. They have no solid foundation on which to resist idolatry and wicked behavior. There commitment to The Lord is based on emotion, and upon what they need to receive from The Lord in that hour. When a political or cultural leader stands as the driving force to follow God, then they will. When that leader is gone, they won’t anymore. Without the sound teaching of scripture to provide a moral backbone, nations flounder in idolatry and sin.

We live in a day and age where idolatry is running rampant. Obviously we don’t put our trust in little statues of made up gods anymore, but instead we have turned to insurance policies, to political leaders, to economic systems, to money, television, and others. In the midst of all this idolatry, the Church, the “kingdom of priests” has allowed herself to be silenced by the need for “tolerance”. In an age of moral relativism, holding forth a bright light of absolute truth, right and wrong, is unpopular. People are more comfortable lurking in the gray haze of “it doesn’t really matter”, “don’t judge”, and “no one is really right”.

If this is allowed to continue that the pattern from Scripture is clear, we will see a back and forth vacillation between worship of God and worship of idols based solely on emotion. As that vacillation continues idolatry will become worse, up until the point that God chooses to pour out His wrath on our nation and punish the idolatry for the sake of His name, which on our account is now slandered among the nations. Ultimately responsibility for this will fall on the Church in this nation for failing to hold up the Scriptural commands as absolute and essential.

If you don’t want the blood of others on your hands, then don’t participate in this deliberate watering down of Scripture. Cling to the whole Word and beg others to do so as well.

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Can the Old Testament be Trusted?

In the ongoing debate over the morality of the homosexual lifestyle this question is becoming more and more relevant, and yet the focus has been entirely on the issue at hand with most people quietly refusing to ask the hard questions that should be at the center. Can we accept the Gospel apart from the Old Testament? Is the Old Testament reliable, and is it compatible with the message of the Gospels?

Over the past few weeks, I have repeatedly seen info-graphics, pictures of facebook discussions, short “stories”, etc. that take an aggressive posture against the teaching of the Old Testament, particularly when it comes to basic definitions of morality. The argument is that the Old Testament Law is separate from the New Testament teaching of grace and forgiveness. The idea is that when Christ introduced the Gospel of grace all obligation to the Old Testament law was lost. For Christians, according to this line of thinking, the Old Testament is outdated and shouldn’t be relied upon for sound moral teaching.

Those who teach this seem to have forgotten to read the Gospels in all of their haste to separated them from the Old Testament.

Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:17-20

We should note that this passage comes right after the ever popular beatitudes, in the middle of the sermon on the mount, and just before all of the “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” teaching that no one wants to dispute.

Is it possible that Jesus could really have meant to uphold the teaching of the Old Testament law? Look at the teachings on murder (5:21-22), adultery (5:27-30), and divorce (5:31-32) that follow right after this teaching. In most of these cases, true to what He said in 5:20 Jesus’ moral teaching either affirms the strictest Pharisaic interpretation of the law or goes beyond it. From this it is safe to gather, that just as He said, Jesus fully intends for Christians to adhere to the Old Testament’s moral teaching.

All the confusion comes from what we see happening in verse 17 “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. The key to understanding what is going on in this passage is to have a correct view of the unity of Scripture.

The Bible is divided into to two testaments, or covenants, but it stands as a unified whole. The key is to understanding this unity is to properly recognize the purpose of the Bible itself. The purpose of Scripture is to tell the history of God’s redemptive working for mankind after our fall into sin, and to ultimately tell how God stepped down to redeem us from our sin and show us the way back to Him through grace.

This purpose is clear from the message itself. Genesis 3 tells the story of mankind’s deception and fall into sin. Yet look what God promises from the first moments of man’s sinful condition, in speaking to the deceiver:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Even from the beginning God had promised to send One who would crush the head of the Serpent, but since a testament is a covenant, we should recognize that everything that proceeds the giving of the covenant to Abraham in Genesis 12 is the prequel, the back story that explains why the story is necessary. Look at the covenant itself and God’s plan is perfectly clear:

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

From the very institution of the covenant, God is working to see the redemption and blessing of all the peoples of the earth, in fact, those who read the Old Testament well will find that the “Great Commission” is simply a restating of what God has been getting at all along.

When we recognize this unifying theme in Scripture, then we can ask ourselves what the point of all those dreaded books of the Law is. The New Testament writers as well as the early church fathers all agree, the purpose of the Law is to demonstrate to mankind our own sinful condition, the insufficiency of animal sacrifice as well as our own works, and our ultimate need for redemption. This means that the moral requirements of God do not simply go away because we cannot meet them, they are tied directly to God’s divine nature and cannot change. What does change is the means by which mankind ACCESS God.

God gave us the full weight of His moral law, and a sacrifice system for when we failed to live up to it, to demonstrate in fullness that we are unable to live up to His just requirements. As shown above Jesus reiterated and reinforced these just requirements, but then chose to introduce the power of grace. Christ bore the punishment of our moral failure on the cross, once for all time, and freed those who place their faith in Him from the just recompense of their sinful ways. In so doing He put an end to the need for the sacrifice system, by His one perfect sacrifice.

It gets even better though! Rather than excuse us from the demands of God’s just law, the power of Christ allows us to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirt who makes us able to meet God’s righteous requirements. The moral demands of God cannot go away because to do so would make God not God, but being God He has chosen to not only pardon our past sins but also to empower us to walk a life free from entangling sin. The message of Christ is not that holiness will be redefined so we can reach it, but rather that we will be transformed so that we can attain true holiness.

Where does that leave this discussion? What is it we are actually doing when we try to reject the moral nature of God and His just requirements? There are two ultimate issues with choosing to ignore the Old Testament because we don’t like what it has to say.

First and foremost, those who reject the moral teaching of the Old Testament are closing the door to God’s grace. The Old Testament is necessary to demonstrate to mankind that we are sinners in need of grace, without the knowledge of sin, there is no room for grace. When we try to redefine sin to make ourselves or others more comfortable, ultimately we are blocking God’s ability to forgive us of that sin and to empower us to overcome that sin. God had to give the Old Testament first, before we would have any ability to comprehend what the New Testament meant. Apart from the knowledge of sin, there can be no forgiveness of sin. The reason for this is obvious, I won’t repent of sin that I don’t acknowledge is there. Our goal ought to be to recognize and repent of ALL sin in our lives, and as followers of Christ we are under command to help others recognize and repent of their sin as well.

Second, those who fail to study the Old Testament will fail to see the working out of God’s constant faithful dealings with those who follow Him. The New Testament doesn’t attempt to cover any ground that the Old Testament has already thoroughly addressed, for this reason it dwells on the Gospel itself, the establishment of the Church, and the teaching necessary to establish the Gospel in men’s hearts. Most of the great stories of God’s faithfulness to those who trust Him are in the Old, not the New Testament. Christians would have a much better grasp on how to handle suffering and walk faithfully through difficult times if they would just read the first 2/3 of their Bibles.

Ultimately, Scripture is a unity. It is all written for man’s redemption. If we choose to ignore part of it, we damage the means of our own redemption.

Daily Scripture Meditation

All passages quoted from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted

Proverbs 1: 7 The Fear of The Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares

Proverbs 1:24-29 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, When terror comes like a storm, And your destruction like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did choose the fear of The Lord.

When a nation rejects the fear of God, and pursues instead its own course, it walks away also from all wisdom and understanding. As the moral fiber of the society begins to unravel, so also does all reason and sound thinking.

Wisdom will for a time call aloud for the nation to return to the fear of God, and to wise ways; but there is a tipping point at which point wisdom can no longer be found. Once this is crossed, destruction, the sure consequence of abandoning wisdom, comes in like a whirlwind; and there is no escaping destruction.

The only hope for our nation is to restore the fear of God. We cannot compel others to return to the fear and reverence of God that was once common in this land, but we can return ourselves. We can turn and repent of our sin and unfaithfulness, and seek to live holy lives before our righteous and sovereign God. As we do, I still hold out hope that the Holy Spirit will influence those around us by our actions and draw the nation back to Himself.

The Coming of the Lamb

A Passion Week Meditation on the Incarnation

This week, those who follow after Christ Jesus, celebrate the most significant event to ever take place on this broken and hurting planet. However, in order to understand the significant events we will celebrate this week, we must be clear of the identity of this man from Galilee.

In His own words:
*All passages are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted

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

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
– Matt 18:11

Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”
-Luke 22:70

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
– John 8:58

Notice especially the last passage, Jesus claims for Himself the covenant name of God by which He revealed Himself to the Children of Israel. This is the name by which God demonstrated Himself not only sovereign over all the God’s of Egypt, but also by which He revealed Himself as the God who reaches out and saves His people.

In His disciples words:

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
– Matt 16:16

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
– Acts 2:36

In the words of Angels:

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
– Luke 1:35

In the words of Demons:

And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.”
– Mark 3:11

In the words of the centurion who stood beside the cross:

And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.”
– Mark 15:39

In the words of the Ancient church:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
The third day he rose again from the dead:
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
– The Apostles Creed

Obviously I have put forward a great deal of testimony about the person of Jesus, for this I have a good reason. If we don’t understand fully who Jesus is, then nothing that He said or did will carry the full weight that it ought with us. We cannot merely dismiss Jesus as an excellent moral teacher, because He refused to be dismissed as such. Had Jesus contended Himself to be a moral teacher He would have never faced the cross, instead He refused to relinquish the scandalous claim that He was the Son of God most high!

When we actually embrace the doctrine of the incarnation, though it is too much for us to understand fully, all of the rest of the Gospels becomes clear. The virgin birth, the miracles, even the resurrection are natural extensions of the presence and power of God Himself walking this earth beside us.

God chose to come down, in person, as Jesus Christ. He came fully human and yet also fully God, with the full authority and might of the creator coming into His creation. He alone had the power to live a life victorious over sin and death and to break the power of sin and death in our lives. The very hand that shaped man from the dust, willingly was pierced by a wicked nail and driven onto the cross for us. The very Word which spoke the stars into space said of your sin and mine “It is finished!”.

The real marvel to us, ought not to be that He who was fully God should rise from the dead or work miracles; but rather that the great I AM, the maker of heaven and earth should demonstrate His glory and love by willingly dying an excruciating death on a cross. Have you marveled today at the significance of the one who died for you? Nothing but His own will could take Him to the cross, and yet He went.

*Note: I owe a tremendous debt to J.I. Packer and his wonderful book Knowing God in influencing my thoughts on the significance of the incarnation.

Daily Scripture Meditation

2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

When our Lord Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness and removal of your sins, they were as of yet all in the future. You hadn’t been born yet, you hadn’t committed a single sin and yet He knew, and made a path to salvation for you. When the Holy Spirit called you and you responded, you received through the cross for all of your sin, past and future. Nothing you had or would do remained a secret from God.

For this reason, you can walk out from under habitual and addictive sin. There is no need to feel the ongoing condemnation of sin your life. As Romans 8:33 says “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Only God is lawfully able to prosecute our transgressions against Him, and when you accepted grace through the cross He chose to pardon you of His own sovereign will.

For this reason, the old you – the flesh, actually died at the moment of salvation. Instead you became a new creation in Christ Jesus, and that new creation is completely freed from the sin that used to entangle you. It may feel like you can’t shake something, but the scripture says you can. In fact it says you already have.

All you have to do is recognize that the only way you can be entangled in sin is by giving in to a lie. Sin only has an ongoing grip on you if you believe it does. Repent, not only for your sin but for believing its lie, turn back to God, and then forget. God has already forgiven you, repent and move on!

Daily Scripture Meditation

1 Samuel 17: 45-47 NKJV “Then David said to the Philistine [Goliath], “You come to me with a a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of The Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. This day The Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that The Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”

Frequently when we teach these Old Testament Bible stories, especially to children, we miss the most important part of the story. This story in particular is often used to demonstrate that God is with us or that we should have courage in facing adversity. While all of these things are true, they miss the biggest point.

David did not go after Goliath because Israel needed to be rescued, he went after Goliath because he perceived Goliath’s challenge as an affront and reproach against the name and glory of God. This zeal for the name and glory of God caused David to face down Goliath with total confidence that The Lord would deliver him into his hands, as is clear from David’s words just before he attacks Goliath.

Not only is David concerned about God’s reputation, but specifically he is concerned about God’s reputation to all the nations of the earth in demonstrating His power to save His people. The story isn’t just about God saving His people from an oppressor, it is about God’s name being glorified to the ends of the earth, which is ultimately what all of scripture is about.

The entire Bible is about God’s glory and salvation being proclaimed to all nations of the earth, make sure you don’t miss it. Look for this, the underlying theme of the whole Bible, in each and every passage you read and ask yourself two questions: 1. How does this story or teaching fit in with the big picture of God’s glory and worship going forth to every tribe, tongue, and nation? 2. What does this passage teach about my role in causing God’s glory and worship to go forth to every tribe, tongue, and nation?

Are you like David? Would you have taken an affront to God’s name and reputation seriously enough to go to battle with a giant? Or are you more worried about giving offense to the culture around you?