Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lord's Day 38

Samson – Fatal Attraction (Sermon, March 3, 2019)

Samson is the last judge, the end of the story – he is the “anti-peak”, the bottom of the spiral.

The story is layered like an onion:
  1. Samson, the man. His birth is foretold by an angel and he was to be dedicated to God – never to cut his hair or drink alcohol. He is set apart to God. Instead he is self-indulgent. He scoops honey from the carcass of a lion. This is a symbol of his life – he takes what is sweet, he takes what he wants. He has to have it. His vows are broken. His heart is fickle – he is more interested in the next pleasure rather than being faithful to God.
  2. It is also the story of Israel. Like Samson, Israel did not have time for God. They wanted to be like the people around them and this is what they pursued.
  3. It is a story about us. We may protest – but, like Samson and Israel, God calls us to be holy. We are fickle and desire more to fill our desires than to cling to God.
  4. It is a story about Jesus – really? Samson is an “anti-type.” He drives us to look for something better, a better savior – Jesus. The point is to make us long for something better. Samson's story ends with salvation. God saves his people at any cost and by any means. This is the story of the one who came to save us.
Thoughts on Devotions – LD38

Q. 103 What is God's will for you in the fourth commandment?

J. V. Fesko, in The Rule of Love, explains how the concept of Sabbath has changed during the story of salvation. In the garden of Eden, Adam was to rest from his labors and contemplate the goodness of God. After being delivered from Egypt, the Sabbath was to remind God's people of his deliverance. All along, however, it looked to God's eternal rest and proclaimed that we enter that rest not by our works but by grace – that is, through Christ's fulfillment of the required works. In this he notes that the death penalty associated in the OT with breaking the Sabbath is still in effect – if we try to enter on the merit of our own works instead of resting in Christ's work we will merit death. The Sabbath rest is a celebration of Christ's completion of the work required. Our attitude to the Sabbath may be telling – is it an obligation or is it a pleasure? Do we see it connected with Christ's work and our salvation? DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, emphasizes that we are no longer held to strict Sabbath keeping. While Jesus kept the law perfectly, his discussion and demonstration of the Sabbath was of a day of freedom and for doing good. He notes that Calvin outlined three principles in regard to the Sabbath: 1) one day in seven should be set aside for worship; 2) we should trust Christ to provide for our material needs – we show this by resting from our labor; and 3) we need to rest in Christ for our spiritual needs and trust in him for salvation.

Monday: The Sabbath day of rest was established at the time of Creation, and then was incorporated into the law of the covenant with Israel in the Ten Commandments. Jesus, in keeping the Law, faithfully kept the Sabbath (even though the Pharisees would beg to differ). In the new covenant, the day of Christ's resurrection is defining moment that it became the day Christians gather to worship, replacing the Sabbath as outlined in the OT.
Genesis 2:1-3 The heavens and the earth were completed with everything that was in them. By the seventh day God finished the work that he had been doing, and he ceased on the seventh day all the work that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he ceased all the work that he had been doing in creation.
Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day to set it apart as holy. For six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or the resident foreigner who is in your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
John 20:19-20 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Tuesday: The NT practice is to meet one day in seven to worship and do two of the church's most important tasks – Gospel proclamation in the preaching of the Word and teaching the “full counsel” of God. Churches are easily distracted from these two important tasks – we want to be attractive to the outside world, or sometimes we have just lost our way.
1 Timothy 3:14-15 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God, because it is the church of the living God, the support and bulwark of the truth.
1 Tim. 4:6-11 By pointing out such things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, having nourished yourself on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness. For “physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers. Command and teach these things.

Wednesday: The Lord's Day is to be a “festive day” - a celebration! We rejoice in hearing the Good News proclaimed, we participate in the sacraments (signs and seals of our faith) and we take joy in meeting with brothers and sisters in Christ – to encourage and be encouraged, to be nourished as others use their gifts (e.g., teaching) so that we can grow in the Lord.
Psalm 95:2 Letʼs enter his presence with thanksgiving! Letʼs shout out to him in celebration!
Isaiah 58:13-14 You must observe the Sabbath rather than doing anything you please on my holy day. You must look forward to the Sabbath and treat the Lordʼs holy day with respect. You must treat it with respect by refraining from your normal activities, and by refraining from your selfish pursuits and from making business deals. Then you will find joy in your relationship to the Lord, and I will give you great prosperity, and cause crops to grow on the land I gave to your ancestor Jacob.” Know for certain that the Lord has spoken.
Hebrews 10:23-25 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.

Thursday: What are the things that God's people do when they gather on the Lord's Day? They are largely the same things that we read about in Acts when people gathered to worship: read the Word and hear it preached and taught; celebrate the sacraments; pray together; and bring offerings and gifts to support ministry and to care for the poor (both physical and spiritual poverty).
Acts 2:42-44 They were devoting themselves to the apostlesʼ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. All who believed were together and held everything in common,
1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
1 Cor. 11:23-25 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
1 Tim. 2:1,8 First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people... So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute.
1 Cor. 16:1-2 With regard to the collection for the saints, please follow the directions that I gave to the churches of Galatia: On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside some income and save it to the extent that God has blessed you, so that a collection will not have to be made when I come.

Friday: The Sabbath is more than we see just on the surface – I is also a picture of what we have in Christ. It is a picture of the “rest” that Christ has earned for us – and one day will experience fully when He returns.
Hebrews 4:3, 8-10 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my anger, ʻThey will never enter my rest!ʼ” And yet Godʼs works were accomplished from the foundation of the world... For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken afterward about another day. Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. For the one who enters Godʼs rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works.

Saturday: Jesus called people and promised to give them rest – he has finished the work of perfect obedience to God. When we trust in him we receive it as a gift – we must rest, stop any ideas of earning God's favor on our own. Jesus also gives us new hearts and we are free from having to be slaves of sin. In Jesus we also have rest as his Spirit within us produces fruit for God's glory. God's will for us is that we make every day a Sabbath day – resting in Jesus by faith and rejoicing in God's love for us.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”
Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you.
Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to,
Romans 8:6-10 For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness.

Reading between the lines...

Paul tells us to submit to the governing authorities - “the powers that be”. Authorities have been established by God. But since they have been established by God as his servants, they are also answerable to him. Their role is to execute justice. Jesus shows how power is to be used in service – the Son of God became the slave of all.
Romans 13:1-7 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by Godʼs appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, for it is Godʼs servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is Godʼs servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are Godʼs servants devoted to governing. Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The world looks for God in two ways: 1) a miracle encounter, or 2) rational proof. Paul recognized these two groups in writing to the Corinthians. The Jews he was writing to wanted miraculous signs; the Greeks were used to rational understanding. In both cases members of the group were setting the terms on which they would deal with God. Paul says that God frustrates every such demand – in a world of power lovers and wisdom seekers, God shows up on a cross! It is scandalous - “stumbling block” is a translation of the Greek term skandalon, something that trips you up. The miracle lover is given weakness and a bloody corpse on a cross. The wisdom seeker is given foolishness – a God who dies. It is not what they want, but it is what God wants preached. But to those called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This is the greatest miracle imaginable – someone can stumble on the cross and say, “My Lord and my God!” and recognize it as God's power and God's wisdom. Death is defeated through dying; the curse defeated through condemnation. The Son glorified in shame. The living God is not found in the human search for power and wisdom – instead he serves and dies. He does not enforce our goodness; instead, he forgives our badness. The stumbling block is more wonderful than what we can imagine.
1 Cor. 1:22-25 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

People try to distract themselves from their feeble and mortal condition. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians he tells them to “stay put” – he gives three reasons: 1) remember your calling – God has called us into fellowship with the Son. If we are not content in that, changing our circumstances will not make a difference. We are to flee from sin, but not from our situation. 2) Mission – as we build up a witness in our station we can have a tremendous impact. 3) Because “the time is short” - don't live for our earthly circumstances; instead, live for “that day”. The message is not that our time to live is running out, but the time is short and then at the end of that time we will really live in the resurrection. We should look for contentment in Christ. If we are in difficult circumstances we can pray that we will have relief or be taken out of them, but that is not our “hope”. Instead we seek to know Jesus in the place that we are and to serve him there – take heart! The time is short.
1 Cor. 7:17 Nevertheless, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each person, so must he live. I give this sort of direction in all the churches.
1 Cor. 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

All things to all men” does not refer to slick marketing campaign or devious social strategy – instead Paul is presenting a mission strategy of deep integrity which seeks to honor something far deeper than cultural expressions. In every situation Paul adopts cultural practices that are appropriate so that he can engage the person before him. Because he belongs to Christ, Paul is free from the claims of culture and can be flexible, and uses that flexibility and freedom to serve others so that some might be saved. But in all of this Paul's true allegiance and commitment is to Christ – his constant phrase is “in Christ”. His vision is that the Gospel is big enough to touch all people and that one day he will sit down at the feast with people of all cultural backgrounds. Paul is following Jesus in this endeavor – Jesus went so far as to become one of us in offering us salvation. We too can take this strategy in reaching out to all types of people that we encounter.
1 Cor. 9:19-23 For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from Godʼs law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some. I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it.

Psalm 23, John 1 and 1 Corinthians 13 are some of the most recognizable parts of the Bible. People see 1 Cor. 13 as a scriptural “bubble bath” - warm, soothing and inoffensive. But it was a strong rebuke when read by the Corinthians. The first paragraph revoltionizes our thinking – Paul is saying that without love our spirituality is bankrupt. Impressive gifts without love are just noise. Impressive gifts of teaching or leadership without love are nothing. Gifts without the Spirit – manifest in love – are nothing. Without love, gifts are nothing. Is he saying put the gifts aside and focus on sacrificial service? He is not saying that either – love is still what qualifies the service as worthy. Love is the source and substance of the Christian life. We are loved by Christ and because of this we love others. The question to ask is, “Is the love of Jesus in you and does it come out of you?”
1 Cor. 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.

1 Cor. 13 is dynamite, exploding all our ideas about spirituality. Love never fails. We often can act loving to a certain point, but when we are faced with one thing too many, we lose it. When love is flourishing, boasting and envy are not issues – but they are huge issues for us. So what does that say about us? We must consider what Paul is describing – it is not an abstract noun with lots of adjectives to make it look really great. But love here is a concrete living thing that performs actions. Love is a power; love is a person. Christ exemplifies this in Gethsemane – he is overwhelmed, yet says yes to the fierce suffering that brings us peace. He exceeds all adjectives in the list – he never fails. We ask “what is love?” The better question is “who is love?” Love is a person – we love because he has first loved us. Love is first down to us, and then is done in us and through us.
Paul is not assessing the level of love a person has – either one has it or one does not. Either you have Jesus or you do not.
1 Cor. 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 John 4:19 We love because he loved us first.

We think of the present as reality. Paul says that when we compare our current life to resurrection life in Jesus, the present experiences are not the substantial ones. Paul uses 3 illustrations to compare now and then. In verse 10 he calls the future “perfection” - all things have come to the goal and completion. Verse 11 describes the future as maturity. Paul says that we are like children now compared to our wisdom and maturity in the resurrection. In verse 12 Paul talks about seeing “face to face”. It describes openness, adoration, intimacy with Jesus. Now we see “through a glass darkly” - we see Christ but things can be indistinct or confusing. We think that we are now seeing in technicolor, but Paul says that we cannot even imagine what it will be like then.
1 Cor. 13:8-13 Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Lord's Day 37

Thoughts on Devotions – LD37

Q. 101 But may we swear an oath in God's name if we do it reverently? Q. 102 May we also swear by saints or other creatures?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, notes the issue of oaths was an important topic at the time of the reformation. One issue was whether people were bound by monastic oaths and oaths sworn to saints – they were not. These “rash” oaths were made for wrong reasons and should be their making should be repented. The other issue was whether any oaths were lawful – the answer is yes. While the Anabaptists use Matthew 5:33-37 to forbid all oaths, the Reformers pointed out that there is multiple mention of proper oaths in the Bible – e.g., God swears by himself to guarantee his promises (Hebrews 6:13).

Monday: There are times when a solemn vow is required because the issue at stake is so important. A person swears to tell the truth in court; an elected official vows to fulfill the duties of office.
Genesis 21:22-24 At that time Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. Now swear to me right here in Godʼs name that you will not deceive me, my children, or my descendants. Show me, and the land where you are staying, the same loyalty that I have shown you.” Abraham said, “I swear to do this.”
Romans 1:9-10 For God, whom I serve in my spirit by preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness that I continually remember you and I always ask in my prayers, if perhaps now at last I may succeed in visiting you according to the will of God.

Tuesday: God swore by himself to fulfill his promises since there is no one greater than himself. God never lies so there technically is no need for him to swear an oath, but necessary oaths that we might take vows by God (submitting to his judgment) that what we are doing is honest and true.
Hebrews 6:13-18 Now when God made his promise to Abraham, since he could swear by no one greater, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you greatly and multiply your descendants abundantly.” And so by persevering, Abraham inherited the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and the oath serves as a confirmation to end all dispute. In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie.

Wednesday: We may not swear by anyone other than God – that is because we are calling for one who can judge our hearts and inner thoughts to be true. To swear by anyone else is to put them in the role that only God can properly take.
Deuteronmy 6:13 You must revere the Lord your God, serve him, and take oaths using only his name.
Deut. 10:20 Revere the Lord your God, serve him, be loyal to him and take oaths only in his name.

Thursday: Law courts and political ceremonies no longer require people to swear by God's name. Now people are just asked to solemnly swear to tell the truth or carry out responsibilities. God speaks only truth and hates falsehood; God's people must similarly must love truth as God loves truth.
Luke 1:18-20 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is old as well.” The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will be silent, unable to speak, until the day these things take place.”

Friday: Even if oaths are not required, God's children should always speak truth to be like their heavenly Father.
1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, Solomon my son, obey the God of your father and serve him with a submissive attitude and a willing spirit, for the Lord examines all minds and understands every motive of oneʼs thoughts. If you seek him, he will let you find him, but if you abandon him, he will reject you permanently.
Psalm 44:20-21 If we had rejected our God, and spread out our hands in prayer to another god, would not God discover it, for he knows oneʼs thoughts?
Romans 2:16 on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.

Saturday: God's children must love and speak truth as God does. If we promise or make an oath we must follow through even if it is difficult or costly. We should, therefore, be careful about making promises in the first place, but if we do promise we should show that our word can be trusted because that is what our Father, God, is like.
Psalm 15 Lord, who may be a guest in your home? Who may live on your holy hill? Whoever lives a blameless life, does what is right, and speaks honestly. He does not slander, or do harm to others, or insult his neighbor. He despises a reprobate, but honors the Lordʼs loyal followers. He makes firm commitments and does not renege on his promise. He does not charge interest when he lends his money. He does not take bribes to testify against the innocent. The one who lives like this will never be upended.

Reading between the lines...

God declares believers in Jesus “Saints” through Paul and other NT writers. A saint is a “holy one” - there is nothing in our natural circumstances or our behavior that would define us as a saint, but we are declared saints purely through the work of the Holy One, Jesus Christ. How does God view us? It is not like a dimmer switch – it is either on or off, like an ordinary switch. We are either in Christ or not – if we are in Christ, even though we are still sinners, God sees us as holy – saints!
Romans 1:7 To all those loved by God in Rome, called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Ephesians 1:7 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [in Ephesus], the faithful in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:21-22 And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds, but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him

A law unto themselves” usually means someone who does not follow convention. Scrivener describes Gentiles who now have the law written on their hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit as “a law unto themselves”. They have escaped from under the law to be good from the heart.
Romans 2:12-15 For all who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous. For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them,

Hope against hope is the hope you have when there is no hope. Paul uses Abraham as an example of this. He shows that salvation comes through God's grace, not through our goodness or faithfulness. Salvation is from the Lord. Abraham can do nothing other than trust in God's promise. The context for faith is a hopeless, barren place – it is a confrontation between the deepest human weakness and the greatest Divine strength. Faith is trusting the Lord's Word and not our capability. We trust God to do the impossible. Trust that God will do what God has promised.
Genesis 18:11 Abraham and Sarah were old and advancing in years; Sarah had long since passed menopause.)
Romans 4:18-22 Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, “so will your descendants be.” Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarahʼs womb. He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do. So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness.

God forbid” might better be translated “may it never be”, but it has become a statement of indignant resolve. It occurs 26 times in the Bible, with the majority by Paul who uses it as a rhetorical device – he voices a possible rejection to his teaching and then rejects it firmly - “God forbid!” Sometimes salvation is thought of as an impersonal thing given to us, a blank check, and then we run off to live our lives. God does not given an impersonal thing – he gives us Christ! A person with whom we have become united – in his death and in his resurrection. We are not individuals with a “get out of hell free” card, we are members of Christ himself in whom our sin has been dealt with, once and for all. We have been brought through sin, death and judgment and out into new life. We have been saved from sin, free to live a new life. We think that to make people good, we need to add conditions – but conditional love causes us to turn from the lover to other things and increases sin. Jesus says we have an unbreakable bond, an unconditional love that, as we come to know it, makes us hate sin more and more.
Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”
Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not!
Romans 11:1 So I ask, God has not rejected his people, has he? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!

This verse reminds us of 3 contrasting pairs: wages vs. gifts; sin vs. God; and death vs. eternal life. People usually view God as a taskmaster who requires us to strive to meet high expectations in order to be acceptable. Paul says this is a condemned view. Instead, God is about giving salvation freely. From all eternity God has been giver. The second pair is about 2 paymasters – sin pays out a wage; God gives a gift, he comes into the world to give life to sinners. The third pair shows us death as the loss of everything while eternal life is fullness and fulfillment. Sin is the legalist, God is the gracious one; sin demands that we work for a wage, God offers a gift; sin is death dealing, God is life giving.
Romans 6:23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

According to Paul there are 3 tenses of salvation: 1) Christ has saved us – completed! 2) we are being saved 3) we will be saved. Paul as makes a distinction between spirit (saved the moment we believed in Christ), mind/soul which is being renewed and body which will be saved when Christ returns. We have the flesh of Adam even as we have received the Spirit of Christ. The struggle that this causes should give us confidence that we have the Spirit of Christ within us. Paul's final word comes in Romans 8:1, that there is now no condemnation for those in Christ!
Titus 3:4-6 But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Romans 5:9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from Godʼs wrath.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice - alive, holy, and pleasing to God - which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God - what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
Romans 7:14-25 For we know that the law is spiritual - but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. For I donʼt understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want - instead, I do what I hate. But if I do what I donʼt want, I agree that the law is good. But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Paul calls people to live at peace with people even when subjected to evil and we might feel angry and vengeful. We need to leave revenge and pay back to God. Miroslav Volf states that the ability to respond in non-violence requires the belief in a God of vengeance, and that the only time violence is legitimate is when it comes from God. We do not have to take vengeance into our own hands, we can trust that Christ will judge perfectly. Having this knowledge can even inspire pity for those who inflict violence on others. It is the vengeance of God that creates peacemakers.
Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to Godʼs wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Lord's Day 36

Thoughts on Devotions – LD36

Q. 99 What is God's will for us in the third commandment? Q. 100 Is blasphemy of God's name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent it and forbid it?

In J. V. Fesko's book, The Rule of Love, he makes the point that God's name is sacred. He also points out that God is connected with his redemptive acts – God's people were redeemed “so they could reflect the character of their covenant Lord.” The third commandment, in its emphasis on God's character and his Redemption, also points to the perfect righteousness of Christ. Fesko makes the connection using verses such as Joel 2:32 - “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We can violate the third commandment not just with words, but also through our actions if, as Christians, we dishonor the name of the Lord. DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, notes that the OT outlines several actions that violated the third commandment including, blasphemy, false oaths, false prophecy, when priests did not follow the correct procedure for sacrifices and when people either unlawfully touched holy things or put detestable things in holy places. DeYoung also mentions “vain repetition” of God's name in prayer (using his name “like a comma”) as misusing the Lord's name. Joking about God or using other speech that uses God and his name for amusement rather than addressing him in reverence also violates this commandment.

New English Translation of the Bible: Note on Exodus 3:14 a tn The verb form used here is אֶהְיֶה ('ehyeh), the Qal imperfect, first person common singular, of the verb הָיָה (haya, "to be"). It forms an excellent paronomasia with the name. So when God used the verb to express his name, he used this form saying, "I am." When his people refer to him as Yahweh, which is the third person masculine singular form of the same verb, they say "he is." Some commentators argue for a future tense translation, "I will be who I will be," because the verb has an active quality about it, and the Israelites lived in the light of the promises for the future. They argue that "I am" would be of little help to the Israelites in bondage. But a translation of "I will be" does not effectively do much more except restrict it to the future. The idea of the verb would certainly indicate that God is not bound by time, and while he is present ("I am") he will always be present, even in the future, and so "I am" would embrace that as well (see also Ruth 2:13; Ps 50:21; Hos 1:9). The Greek translation of the OT used a participle to capture the idea, and several times in the Gospels Jesus used the powerful "I am" with this significance (e.g., John 8:58). The point is that Yahweh is sovereignly independent of all creation and that his presence guarantees the fulfillment of the covenant (cf. Isa 41:4; 42:6, 8; 43:10-11; 44:6; 45:5-7)....

Monday: The catechism starts with an explanation of what is forbidden in the third commandment. Blasphemy (i.e., to make light of or insult God in some way) or using his name to curse someone (to wish harm on someone). False swearing (perjury) or unnecessary oaths (e. g., expressions such as “by God”). Profanity is using God's name as though it is common, in swearing, but also in expressions such as OMG! In the OT the punishment for misusing God's name was death.
Leviticus 19:12 You must not swear falsely in my name, so that you do not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
Lev. 24:10-16 Now an Israelite womanʼs son whose father was an Egyptian went out among the Israelites, and the Israelite womanʼs son and an Israelite man had a fight in the camp. The Israelite womanʼs son misused the Name and cursed, so they brought him to Moses. (Now his motherʼs name was Shelomith daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) So they placed him in custody until they were able to make a clear legal decision for themselves based on words from the mouth of the Lord. Then the Lord spoke to Moses: “Bring the one who cursed outside the camp, and all who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the whole congregation is to stone him to death. Moreover, you are to tell the Israelites, ʻIf any man curses his God he will bear responsibility for his sin, and one who misuses the name of the Lord must surely be put to death. The whole congregation must surely stone him, whether he is a foreigner or a native citizen; when he misuses the Name he must be put to death.

Tuesday: We should use God's name only with reverence and awe. We should treat God's name in the same way that we would treat God himself if we were standing in his presence. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus teaches us to “Hallow” God's name – treat it as special and holy.
Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us! But to your name bring honor, for the sake of your loyal love and faithfulness.

Wednesday: God's name is special because it stands for all he is. God revealed his name because he wanted to have a relationship with his people. When God “passed by” and showed his glory to Moses he proclaimed his name because God's name stands for God himself. We should gently correct people who are misusing God's name and make known to people how great God is so that they will honor him.
Exodus 33:18-23 And Moses said, “Show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will make all my goodness pass before your face, and I will proclaim the Lord by name before you; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.” But he added, “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” The Lord said, “Here is a place by me; you will station yourself on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and will cover you with my hand while I pass by. Then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back, but my face must not be seen.”
Exodus 34:5-7 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the Lord by name. The Lord passed by before him and proclaimed: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and childrenʼs children, to the third and fourth generation.”
Psalm 34:3 Magnify the Lord with me! Letʼs praise his name together!

Thursday: We use God's name properly when we confess publicly that we believe God is who he says he is and when we confess Jesus' name and say that we believe he is the Son of God sent by the Father to save us from our sin. The apostles and disciples preached Jesus' even when the authorities told them to stop.
Acts 4:1-4 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests and the commander of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, angry because they were teaching the people and announcing in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. So they seized them and put them in jail until the next day (for it was already evening). But many of those who had listened to the message believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

Friday: Prayer is another way that God's name can be used properly. Scripture tells us to call on the name of the Lord. Jesus taught us to pray “in his name.” We recognize that prayers can come to God only through Jesus and what he has done to bring us to his Father.
Psalm 116:4,13,17 I called on the name of the Lord, “Please Lord, rescue my life!”
I will celebrate my deliverance, and call on the name of the Lord.
I will present a thank offering to you, and call on the name of the Lord.
John 14:13-14 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Saturday: Another way to use God's name as he wants is to glorify him by what we say to him. We bring honor to God's name when we live in a way that brings honor to him and causes other people to praise him.
Psalm 145:1-2 I will extol you, my God, O king! I will praise your name continually! Every day I will praise you! I will praise your name continually!
Psalm 148:13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty extends over the earth and sky.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Reading between the lines...

Thomas Jefferson thought that by getting rid of the concept of Trinity would make us better disciples. He is not alone; some Christians also think this way, but it denies the very person and teaching of Jesus. It denies the person of Jesus since he fundamentally is the Christ, the Son of God. Both the gospels of Mark and John are structured around the full name of Jesus as the Son of God, anointed by the Spirit, the One eternally begotten of the Father. To know Jesus is to be introduced to the Spirit and his Father. To know Jesus is to already know the close bond – united in love – between the three persons of the Trinity. The Trinity is the three persons of God united in love (Adam and Eve are “one” united in love; the church is “one” united in love). They are so “one” that they cannot be without each other – they are so much one that they are “in” one another. To understand the person of Jesus we must be Trinitarian, but to understand the teaching of Jesus we must also be Trinitarian. Scrivener likens the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6 to the threefold name of God in the Trinity. In Matthew 28, Jesus basically proclaims all believers as priests who can put God's name on the people of all nations. Jefferson could not be more wrong – the Trinity is the very heart of our faith.
Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Numbers 6:24-27 “The Lord bless you and protect you; The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”ʼ So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Jesus is the only one in the Bible who is referred to with this phrase. On Pentecost (harvest time, i.e. thinking of fruit) Peter is telling the crowds that Jesus is guaranteeing an abundant harvest of new life. Peter invites people to be gathered into the harvest. At the start of Pentecost there are 120 disciples waiting for what Jesus promised... Peter explains what is happening to the crowd. Peter's quotation from David in Psalms, points out David's prophetic role in proclaiming Jesus as the promised Messiah. David's descendant was the first fruits of resurrection – and on the basis of this first fruits the world can now be grafted in to find new life, when before there was only death. The “fruit of David's loins” had life enough for a cosmic harvest.
Acts 2:30-31 So then, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, David by foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did his body experience decay.
Psalm 16:10 You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit.
1 Cor. 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

We typically use the phrase “cut to the heart” when we are betrayed or insulted – but 3 times in Acts the Israelites are “cut to the heart.” It is the preaching of the Apostles that is like a knife to the chest. The first is Peter's sermon at Pentecost when he tells the crowd that the Messiah that they killed was now God and Lord. They were so disturbed by this that they exclaimed, “What shall we do!?!” Should they hide? Should they hope that God forgets? Should they make it up in some way? What could they do? Peter extraordinary news – God not only wants to forgive, but to also give a gift – the gift of the Spirit! We kill one family member, the Son – and he gives us another family member, the Spirit. Peter says repent, change your mind! Turn to Jesus. We used to think of Jesus as an inconvenience, a swear word or a mere teacher – he is Lord and Messiah, raised to rule at God's right hand. Jesus was baptised into our kind of life; Peter now says that those listening must be baptised into his kind of life. Inspite of our crimes we are given God's son, we are given his Spirit and we are called home to his family life. When we see this Gospel reality our hearts are not simply cut, they are melted.
Acts 2:37 KJV Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Acts 5:33 KJV When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
Acts 7:54 KJV When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Damascus road experience” refers to any dramatic conversion, but people will have to wait for Christ's return to experience anything like what Paul experienced. The Damascus road was not only the conversion of a man, but the creation of an apostle. The qualification of an apostle is to have met the risen Christ. Paul, a Pharisee, chief persecutor of the early church – and of Jesus himself – is dramatically called to service by Jesus. Jesus pities enemies and transforms them. Saul is converted from one kind of suffering to another – he will go against the “flow” in proclaiming Christ to the world. The church's greatest enemy is turned to its greatest asset. The witness of Paul is not diminished by his past, it is magnified. Paul can preach a gracious Gospel – the grace of Jesus extends even to his greatest enemies.
Acts 1:21-22 Thus one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus associated with us, beginning from his baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us - one of these must become a witness of his resurrection together with us.”
Acts 26:16-18a But get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this reason, to designate you in advance as a servant and witness to the things you have seen and to the things in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God,
1 Tim. 1:15 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” - and I am the worst of them!

After Jesus was crucified and buried his followers were discouraged and despondent. Yet shortly after they began to turn the world upside down. The revolution occurred through the preaching of a reasoned scriptural message. The message – about a King who dies for his people and then is raised back to life – revolutionizes how people think about things. Trusting the message changes how people respond – though it is not this action that changes the world, it is the power of the preaching of the good news that does it.
Acts 17:6 When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, screaming, “These people who have stirred up trouble throughout the world have come here too,

How do we teach the Gospel to a world that thinks so differently? Paul used ideas already in the culture to further his Gospel proclamation.
He reasoned with people in the marketplace, though to Athenian ears he proclaimed a strange God. They were used to new ideas, yet Paul's proclamation makes little sense to them. Paul uses the “unknown god” inscription as acknowledgment that they lack this wisdom – and he offers to fill in their lack of knowledge. He exposes their theological inconsistencies and calls them to repent – based on the fact of Christ's resurrection. The Gospel does not confront us as one truth among many. Instead, it is the truth that measures all others.
1 Cor. 1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Acts 17:22-23 So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ʻTo an unknown god.ʼ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.
Acts 17:28-31 For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ʻFor we too are his offspring.ʼ So since we are Godʼs offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination. Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Both religious and secular people praise altruistic behavior as beneficial to both the receiver and the giver – but true self-giving is usually avoided. The Christ of the Gospel, however, is the difference. He may tell us to give, but he is the ultimate giver and determines that ultimate reality is one of self-giving. Since the Lord is grace, self-giving is not a means to an end. It is the essence of the blessed life. This is a gracious univers because it is Christ's universe – to be blessed we must give.
Acts 20:35 By all these things, I have shown you that by working in this way we must help the weak, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, ʻIt is more blessed to give than to receive.ʼ”