Friday, July 25, 2014

The Value of the Bible

The value of the Bible comes from its source and it's function. God is the source of the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 says is breathed out by God. Some versions say inspired by God, but the Greek word "theopneust" literally means "breathed out". 

The functions of the Bible are set out in the same verse. First, Scripture teaches sound doctrine. Some of it is hard to understand. For that reason, God gave the church teachers to communicate sound doctrine through instruction in the Scriptures. Teachers cannot invent new doctrines. Rather, they study the Bible until they understand it's meaning, then teach it to others. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PLEASING GOD

Romans 7 shows us that we cannot please God in the flesh. The non-believer cannot do it, for he cannot live up to God's standards. Back in 3:20, Paul wrote "for by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight". Human beings just cannot live up to God's standards, as God demonstrated for us in Adam. In a perfect world with a perfect wife, Adam chose Satan over God and sinned. That also kills the nature verses nurture argument, I think.

But, the believer still struggles with sin. It is so frustrating. But it is comforting to see that Paul, the greatest Christian ever, understood it. The more he focused on the law, the more he struggled with the flesh. He finally cries out "wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death". (7:24) I think of this in the men I have mentored and counseled over the last several years. Several were addicted to pornography. They knew it to be a sin. They tried to avoid it, but they returned to it again and again.

The answer of chapter 8 is that, as Christ delivered us from sin and death in salvation. Yet, knowing that, we often return to our sins. When we do this, we are the true "Walking Dead". We walk around serving the dead man, the body of sin, rather than the Lord. Paul wrote that "the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for they are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." (Galatians 5:17)

What is the cure? Chapter 8 says the cure is the Holy Spirit. We did not convert from a failed moralist who was going to hell to a failed moralist who is going to heaven. Rather, we came from living for the flesh to living in the Spirit. The Spirit continues to deliver us day by day in our new life.

But we have a part in this. The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. But the mind must be set on the Spirit. "For I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth". (Colossians 3:2)

The mind focused on God in Bible study, prayer, meditation\reflection, is a mind the Spirit can direct and protect. You will have life and peace. If your mind is set on earthly things (money, ambition, success, power, status, appearance, sex, pornography, drugs, revenge, personal gratification) you will sin and you will be unhappy.

Paul knew it to be true, both theologically and experientially.

So say we all.



Monday, July 21, 2014

BE FRUITFUL


Romans 7:4 says "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God".

Building on his argument in chapter 6, Paul said we died to the law through the body of Christ. When we received Christ, we were "buried with him". We received the benefits of his death, the sacrifice that satisfied the law and fulfilled it. We also received the benefits of is resurrection. We have a new life, not bound by the law, not bound to sin, and freed to live for Christ.

Since Christ freed us from sin, we belong to him. (7:4) We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to him for a purpose, to bear fruit for God.

Jesus told a parable about bearing fruit for God. It is recorded in Luke 20:9-19. In the story, a man planted a vineyard and rented it to tenants. He sent servants to collect some of the fruit of the vine, to which he was entitled as owner. But the tenants beat the three servants that came. He then sent his son, who would inherit the vineyard someday, but they killed him so they would have the inheritance.

The owner of the vineyard is a symbol for God. The vineyard is God's kingdom. The put these tenants there to cultivate his kingdom and produce fruit for him. The tenants are a symbol of the Jews. They did not produce fruit for God. The ran the kingdom for their benefit and as they pleased. They rebelled against God repeatedly. Way back in the time of Isaiah, centuries before Jesus' ministry, God condemned the failure of his vineyard, Israel, to produce fruit and threatened to destroy it. (Isaiah 5:1-7)

At the end of the parable, Jesus said the owner will come and kill the tenants and give the vineyard to others. (Luke 20:17) He gave the vineyard to the church. And now we have the responsibility to bear fruit for God. Since bearing fruit is the result of receiving Christ, it is also the sign that we have received Christ. In other words, if you do not bear fruit, you have not received Christ's salvation. For example, Jesus told the Pharisees and Sadducees that every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:8) He also said a good tree bears good fruit. (Matthew 7:17)

Our fruit is the character that reflects Christ and the works he prepared for us to do. Galatians 5:22 gives us a list of the fruits of the Spirit, the character trait that the Holy Spirit builds into the believer. In Colossians 1:10, Paul urges us to live lives worthy of Jesus, bearing fruit in every good work.

It is a new week. Be fruitful in good works and good character. Let the Holy Spirit have full control of your life and spend the week for the glory of the Lord who saved us. Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

PROPHESY AGAINST GOG - EZEKIEL 38-39 - PART 1


Chapters 38-39 are really one unit. It is one prophecy or oracle in two parts. The chapter division marks the division between the two oracles.

This is a complex passage with several literary difficulties. There are some obscure references. But we see a clear message: God is sovereign and will protect his people Israel.

The Preamble
38:1-2

The message begins with God’s instruction to Ezekiel. God told Ezekiel to turn his face toward a person called Gog, of the land of Magog. The NIV and KJV say “against” where the other translations say “toward” (ESV, NASB, RSV). God then told Ezekiel to prophesy against God. So, this oracle, or message is directed at this person or figure.

The Lord described Gog as being of the land Magog. He is also described as the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Gog is not identified anywhere else in the Old Testament outside of this oracle. Genesis 10, sometimes called the Table of Nations, tells us that Noah’s son Japeth had sons named Magog, Tubal and Meshech, among others. No children are named for these three sons, although they are for the other two sons, Gomer and Javan. (Genesis 10:2-4)

We cannot say for sure who Gog is. Dispensationists often claim he is the leader of Russia. This comes from a Hebrew word translated “Rosh”. The NIV, ESV, KJV and RSV translate that word as “chief prince”. It is a title. So, Gog is the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, along with his own place, Magog.

C. I. Scofield, the man who primarily sold Dispensationalism to America, used the King James text, but added a footnote that said “the reference is to the powers in the north of Europe, headed by Russia. He did not mention the word “rosh”. Instead, he referred to current events, stating that Russia persecuted the Jews there, so it made a connection for him. The NASB says “the prince of Rosh” with a foot note saying “chief prince of” is an alternate translation. Hal Lindsey picked up on this and wrote about it in “Late Great Planet Earth”, claiming that Russia would lead an invasion against Israel sometime in the future. He equated the Hebrew “rosh” with Russia.

But, most translations treat “rosh” not as a place name, but a title. That is why they say “the chief prince of”. There are also some Hebrew grammatical problems with the concept of “rosh” as a place name.

The other problem with the use of “ros” or “rosh” as a place name is that there is no place called Rosh. The Bible does not name any such place, so it is unlikely the Jews would have understood this as a place name. Russia did not exist at the time Ezekiel wrote. The term “rus” was only applied to the region of Kiev during the Middle Ages. So, this reference to Russia is an anachronism, an attempt to put a modern thing back in an older time where it did not exist. And, on top of that, Rosh and Rus are not the same words.

But, where were Magog, Mesheck and Tubal, the places where Gog was chief prince? Ezekiel 27:13 says they traded slaves and bronze to Tyre for its goods. Tyre was directly north of Israel. Ezekiel 27 groups Tubal and Meshech with nations along the coast of the Mediterranean. What we can ascertain from this is that Gog is a leader, not just of a nation, but as a leader of a confederation of nations along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Meshech and Tubal appear in Assyrian records. At one point, Meshech is said to be ruled by the king of Phrygia, King Mitas. And we know from Psalm 120:5-7 that Mescheck is a people who hates peace, is known to Israel and is close enough for the Psalmist to say he lived among them. But they are not people who had interacted with Israel in the same way as Assyria and Babylon.

So, it is possible that Gog is symbolic of a powerful enemy rising up against God and his people. In addition to his nation, and the two others he rules, Meshech and Tubal, he is joined by Beth Togarmah (6) and Gomer. Back in Genesis 10, we see that Gomer is the firstborn of Japeth and Togarmah is Gomer’s son. “Beth” means “house of”, so it is the House of Torgarmah. These are all people groups that lived north of Israel, mostly around the area of modern Turkey, not Russia.

In addition to these northern nations, Gog is allied with Persia (Iran), Cush (Ethiopia) and Put (Libya). (5) II think it it possible that Persia is a mistranslation for “Paras”, for this seems to be a list of nations to the south of Israel. The list appears in lists of the allies of Egypt. So, it would fit the context of southern nations better than Persia would.

Interestingly, then, there are 7 total nations. One group is from the north and one from the south, symbolizing a world joined together against Israel. This is likely a symbol of all the nations from the uttermost parts of the world known to the Jews gathered against God’s people. That symbolism only works if “ros” or “rosh” is interpreted as a title, such as chief prince, rather than as a place name.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

GOD IS RIGHTEOUS


The Lord is righteous. (Psalm 11:7) What does righteous mean, though? In the Bible, the words righteous and just are translations of the same word. Righteousness is an expression of God's holy nature. He always does what is righteous or just. His actions toward us are always in perfect agreement with his holy nature. His standard of righteousness is not made up by men outside of God's nature, to which God must conform. So, you cannot read a story in the Bible and say God was unjust or unrighteous in his actions. In Psalm 11, God is righteous even in anger and hatred. He hates the violent and wicked person. (11:5) They are acting contrary to God's holy nature, so he must reject them.

We are righteous when we reflect God's righteous nature. For example, we must abhor violence and wickedness since God does if we are to be righteous. God wants us to be righteous. Jesus taught that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are blessed. (Matthew 5:6) And if we are hungry for righteousness, we will be satisfied. God will work to make us righteous if we want to be righteous. He will make us "Christ-like". And Christ was completely righteous, being one with the Father. (John 10:30)

Monday, July 14, 2014

SALVATION REQUIRES CHANGE OF HEART


Romans is a theological argument for the gospel in the form of a letter to the church in Rome. The church had both Jewish and Gentile members. Throughout the book, Paul will argue for the unity of Jews and Gentiles, both in God's condemnation of their sin, and of salvation for both through the gospel. In chapter 1, Paul revealed the sin of the Gentiles and God's condemnation of it. In chapter 2, Paul exposed the sin of the Jews. They thought their membership in old covenant family, shown by their circumcision, would save them no matter what. Paul said no, Jews are indeed under condemnation for sin unless they have obeyed the law perfectly. And they had not.

Paul shows that the true people of God (the church) are not that because of outward signs, such as physical circumcision. Rather, they belong to God because he changed their heart, symbolized by the term "circumcision of the heart". (29) It is a change caused by the Holy Spirit, not by the law. It is demonstrated by a desire to please God and not man.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

2 STICKS & 7 TRUTHS REVISED





NOTE: I wss not able to complete the lesson last week because it was too long. Therefore, I am teaching the remainder today. However, as I thought about it during the week, I thought of more things and added them to the lesson.

AN OBJECTION LESSON AND SEVEN TRUTHS
This passage serves as a transition, or hinge, between the prophesies of hope in chapters 34 through 37 and the prophesies of a new sanctuary in chapters 40-48 which will be established after the final defeat of evil in chapters 38 through 39. In this passage, God instructed Ezekiel to present an object lesson, then teach 7 future events that God revealed.
37:15-17
The Object Lesson
God (Yahweh) instructed Ezekiel to take two sticks and join them together. On the first stick, Ezekiel was to write “Judah and the people of Israel associated with him”. 1 Kings told us that God vowed to take most of the kingdom from Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, because Solomon turned from the LORD to worship the idols of his wives. (1 Kings 11:9-13) Because of the LORD’s love for David, he left the tribe of Judah in the hands of Rehoboam. The ten northern tribes, referred to from that point on as Israel, were given by God to Jeroboam. (1 KIngs 11:29-32). The tribe of Benjamin is the one not mentioned. Benjamin stayed loyal to the king of Judah. When Judah was conquered by the Babylonians and went into exile, Benjamin went with them. Mordecai, for example, is from the tribe of Benjamin in Persia after the fall of the Babylonian Empire and after the return of at least some of the Jews to Canaan. (Esther 2:5-6)
So, when the Lord said “Judah and the people associated with him”, Benjamin was included. The tribe of Levi was also included, at least in part, because of their service in the temple in Jerusalem, the capitol of Judah. There may also have been people from the other tribes who left Israel and come to live in Judah either out of loyalty to the house of David or to have access to the temple.
On the 2nd stick, Ezekiel was to write “for Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the hose of Israel associated with him”. (37:16) Ephraim was one of the tribes which tore away from Rehoboam and associated with Jeroboam in the northern kingdom. It is located north of Judah and Benjamin, right in the center of the country. It was a powerful tribe and the whole northern kingdom came to be identified with Ephraim. The whole northern kingdom went into exile after Assyria conquered it. The tribes were re-located and no one can trace them today.
After writing on the two sticks, Ezekiel was told by God to join them together so that they became one stick. (37:17) That is the object lesson.

What Does This Mean?
37:18
God anticipated that, when the exiles saw Ezekiel do this, they would ask what it means. It is also a nice literary device to bridge between the object lesson and the explanation.
The question is also well founded. Israel, the northern kingdom, had gone into exile 150 years before. They did not maintain their identity as Jews and members of tribes. So, why was God even mentioning them?

37:19-28
7 Truths
Truth 1. God will reunite the tribes of Israel into one nation. (37:19, 22) This is an interesting claim, since the ten tribes were dispersed and “lost”. But, looking back to chapter 36 and the dry bones, this might indicate that it happens when God gives the Holy Spirit and creates a new people for himself out of Jews and Gentiles, the church. If so, then the reference to the one nation is symbolic of the people God will create for himself under Christ. That seems to fit the pattern from earlier in chapter 37, the revival of the dry bones. And it seems to fit the rest of the truths God reveals in this chapter.
Truth 2. God will bring them to their own land (21,22). Again we may see a partial fulfillment of this when the Jews return to Judah from Persia under Ezra and Nehemiah. But, also again, that cannot be the complete fulfillment, because it does not fit with the other truths God reveals in this passage, the establishment of David as king and shepherd dwelling with them forever. The same applies to the re-establishment of Israel in 1947. There is no Davidic king.
Truth 3. The people of God will be holy. (22, 24b) God said they will not defile themselves anymore with idols, detestable things or any other transgressions. The Jews seem to have avoided idol worship when they returned to Judah. But they had many other problems, leading to threats of judgment from Malachi, John the Baptist and Jesus. And they were destroyed again by the Romans in a very similar way to the destruction by the Babylonians. But, when salvation came through Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was given to believers, they were given the ability to live holy lives. Yes, they still sin. But, conversion marks the beginning of a journey of increasing sanctification. That is what is meant by 36:27: “And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” It is the same with Jeremiah’s words “I will put my law within them and i will write it on their hearts”. (Jeremiah 31:5) He said this in the context of the new covenant the Lord would make with his people.
Truth 4. God will save his people from their sins. (37:23b) He will save them from their backslidings and will cleanse them. Being “saved” is at the heart of salvation terminology. Those who are away from God are lost. Those whom God has brought to himself are saved. John 3:17 says “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”. An angel told Joseph “...you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”. (Matthew 1:21) Paul wrote “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to dave sinners, of whom I am the foremost”. (1 Timothy 1:15)
God also cleanses sinners of the stain of sin. Ephesians 5:25-27 says “...Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Part of salvation is coming into a relationship with God through Christ. God, in verse 23, says these these new people will be his people and he will be their God. He also said “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them.” (26)
Believers are in a new covenant with God. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of this. Jesus said “this cup is the new covenant in my blood.” (1 Corinthians 11:25) The New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant, as the book of Hebrews explained. It is the new covenant God proclaimed through Jeremiah: Behold the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah...I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God and they shall be my people”. (Jeremiah 31:31-33) Hebrews 13:20-21 says “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation shows us that when God makes all things new, he will continue in covenant with believers for eternity. In John’s vision, God said “The one who conquers will have this heritage (the water of life) and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7) This is an individual application of God’s promise that they will be his people and he will be their God.
Truth 5. They shall dwell in the land forever. (25) This clearly did not apply to the return from exile, for the Jews did not live in the land forever. The Romans ran them out of Judah. The Arabs later ran them out again. They were out until 1947. Additionally, the dwelling in the land is tied to the reign of Davidic prince, whom we know to be Jesus, the Messiah. There has been no king in Israel since the exile, excepting a period under the Macabees. Interestingly, Jesus made no mention of a return to the land for the Jews. Indeed he took the words of Psalm 37:11 “the meek will inherit the land” and expanded it in Matthew 5:5 to “blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” So, while there may have been a partial fulfillment of this word from God in the return from exile, the greater fulfillment, and I think the true picture, is that God would give the church the world to conquer for the kingdom of Christ, and that in eternity believers, old covenant and new covenant, would live forever on the new earth or new Jerusalem. This unity is symbolized in Revelation 21:12-14 by the gates and foundations of the city:
12 gates named for the sons of Israel
12 foundations named for the 12 apostles
In the book of Revelation, after the judgment of the great white throne, a new heaven and earth is made. John said “then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.” (Revelation 21:1) Isaiah 6:17-18 says “For behold, I crete new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” Similarly, Revelation 21:4 says there will be no mourning or crying or pain. They will have passed away with the old earth.
I am not sure how this happens. It may be that the present earth is renewed in some way. Or it may be that the present earth is actually destroyed and God will make a new one from scratch. Peter wrote “the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed...all these things are thus to be dissolved.” (2 Peter 3:10, 11) That passage seems to indicate that the old will be destroyed. Regardless, the old has to go, because it is marred by sin. Romans 8:19-22 says “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
After the new earth is made, a holy city called the “new Jerusalem” comes down out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21:2,10) I think this is the place Jesus said he would go and prepare for us. (John 14:2,3) It is prepared for us by Jesus, he will come again and take us to be with him there. It is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2) I believe this is a representation, or symbol of the church, the body of believers of all time, now presented as a spotless bride to Christ the groom. The bride in the New Testament always symbolizes the church.
From then on, the dwelling place of God is with man in this new Jerusalem, fulfilling the promise of God for his people to dwell in the land forever. And in typical fashion, God fulfills his promise by giving much more than he promised.
Notice how this relates to the beginning of the Bible. Genesis tells us God created the first heavens and earth. It was without form, but God made it habitable for man, even creating a perfect garden for him. Now God remakes the earth into another perfect place, a city like a garden. Revelation 22:1-5 describes this new garden where believers live with the Father and with Jesus.
Truth 6. God’s people will have a king and shepherd. This person will be of the line of David. He came to be known as the Messiah, or anointed one. Therefore, the very first verse of Matthew says “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Christ=Messiah=Anointed One), the son of David...” Every Jew knew the Messiah would be a king in the line of David. Matthew had to prove that lineage first before he could go on to other proofs, or no Jew would read or listen to his gospel. The Wise Men who came to Herod looked for the baby who was the “king of the Jews”. (Matthew 2:2) I think they got that from the book of Daniel. Daniel had a vision of one like a son of man to whom was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that would be an everlasting kingdom that would not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14) Revelation 22:3 completes the picture by showing us that, in the New Jerusalem or new earth, “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it...”. Jesus will reign forever over his people.
Truth 7. God will dwell in the midst of his people forever. God said “my dwelling place shall be with them” and “my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore”. This is tabernacle and temple language. Again, this cannot refer to the return from exile. It took the Jews years to build the 2nd Jewish temple. It was destroyed in 70 A.D. and has never been rebuilt. For 20 centuries, God has not dwelt in Judah or Israel. But, God did come to dwell in his people, the believers in Christ.
Jesus made clear that the temple became his body. He said “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) John explained “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:21)
Jesus told the Samaritan woman, in response to her statement that the Samaritans and Jews disagreed on which temple was proper for worship, that “...the hours is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father...But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and truth.... (John 4:21-23) Here you see that no physical temple is indicated. Here you also see the fulfillment of God’s word that Judah and Ephraim will be one. The Samaritans lived where the northern kingdom once was. In Jesus, the differences between the Samaritans and Jews are destroyed, just as Ephesians 2:14-21 tells us the differences between Jews and all Gentiles are destroyed. In Christ, people of all nations are united.
Stephen pointed out that God does not dwell in houses made by hands. (Acts 7:48) Paul repeatedly taught that the church was the temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says “Do you not know you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you...For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.” In Ephesians, Paul wrote to Gentile believers: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)
Once God comes to dwell in and among believers through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, he never leaves. It truly is forever. Again this is shown in Revelation’s account of the new earth. Revelation 21:22 says there is no temple in the new earth, for the Father and Son are there, dwelling in the midst of believers, and are the temple. (Revelation 21:22) As Ezekiel said, “my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore”.
The result of all of these actions and fulfilled promises is “the nations will know that I am the LORD”. (28) All believers in heaven already knew he was the Lord and they rejoice to be with him. All non-believers in hell will also know that he is the Lord even though they are not with him. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. (Philippians 2:11)