Monday, December 26, 2011

Why The Messiah Must Come Twice

I was reading of a story that the Jews relate.  A New York City rabbi was being told by a witnessing Christian that Jesus was the Messiah.  The rabbi walked to his window, looked out at the city unchanged by all its corruption.  He returned and said, "No, when the Messiah comes there will be justice".  Perhaps he was thinking of Isa. 61:1-2, " The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;  to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn."  Here the prophet repeats what he has already said, that when the Messiah comes one of the things he will do is judge the wicked.  It might also be worth while pointing out that when Jesus quotes this passage early on in his ministry while in Nazareth he stops before he gets to the reference to judgment.

It seems to me there is a fundamental flaw in this rabbi's criterion for identifying the Messiah.  He assumes that the Messiah will only come once and when he does he will judge the wicked and exercise justice.  His assumption then is that this is a good thing at least for Jews.  The flaw is in thinking that he should have justice and not grace.  He has placed himself in a category that doesn't exist, at least not outside of Christ.  "There is none that does good, no not one"; why then does he assume that the Messiah will only come once and that this is a good thing for him?

This was the first thought that came to me when I read the story and perhaps the reason Jesus leaves out part of the quote from Isaiah when speaking of what his mission was during his first advent.  It is unmerited mercy and amazing grace that he came the first time without reference to judgment.  If Jesus hadn't come the first time to deal with our sin no one would be able to stand in the Day of Judgment.  It is a tragedy of monumental proportions to think that the only work the Messiah needs to do is make this world right by giving to everyone what they deserve.   It is supreme arrogance to think that you are ready to meet God's appointed Judge while you reject his work on the cross.

Heb. 9:26-28 seems to bring the need of these two advents together in the same passage, "For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."  The reason he had to come the first time was to put away sin and the reason was because all men are sinners proven by the fact that all men die.  And at death we are judged for our sin.  The ones that Jesus died for are the only ones who can legitimately look forward to his return.  He has taken away all the guilt of our sin and so when he comes back it will not be to judge us but to glorify us.  Clearly there is a connection between the cross and being ready for his return.  May each one reading this make his calling and election sure.  Have you fled to the cross of Christ as your only way for the forgiveness of your sins?

If the Messiah only comes once, we are all in trouble.  Praise God that he sent his Son the first time to save so we can be ready for the Second Coming.  The first advent secured our salvation.  There's your Christmas message in a nutshell.  Sorry it's a day late!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sermon Notes On How We Glorify God In Our Lives

The context of these notes is 2 Kings 19 when Hezekiah was seeking the Lord's deliverance from the army of the Assyrians.  Verse 19 states, "2Ki 19:19  So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone."  Notice how he acknowledges that their salvation was not to form the basis for God's blessings but instead it was so the Lord could reveal his power and might.  We might add that Hezekiah is seen as equal to David in his relationship to the Lord so we should take his prayer in that light.

"If this doesn’t form the basis for whatever we do including asking the Lord to save our skin we have completely missed the point.  Hezekiah, Jerusalem and we today have no relevance unless we honor our God and Savior.  Yes, he has an eye on his trouble but the other one is on the Lord revealing himself to everyone involved.

We need to see this because we have so many running around telling us that God has a happy plan for your life and it comes across like his main purpose is making you happy.  But the fact of the matter is that his “wonderful plan for our life” is that we find satisfaction and joy in worshipping him.  As soon as we make it about ourselves we show that Adam is alive and well in us.

Interestingly enough we have to be careful not to use this as some sort of magical formula for getting our prayers answered which invariably leads to selfishness.  Tacking on a phrase like, “may you be glorified in what I am asking for” even if it is from the heart doesn't mean that the Lord will be glorified by it.  Perhaps it would be better to say that often he glorifies himself through what looks like defeat. 

It is clear that a lot of church goers think that God is glorified and the cause of Christ is furthered by Christians appearing to have their act together physically, materially, emotionally and spiritually.  The humility that the Bible speaks of is seen as "loserville".  Christ and his people have to appear to be succeeding or it is a reflection on God.  But let’s remember Paul in 2 Cor. 12 where it was his afflictions and apparent weaknesses in which God’s power was most demonstrated in his life.  Elsewhere we learn that he wasn’t a polished speaker, he apparently was repulsive to look at; at least unimpressive and yet no one has been used any more than Paul.  

I think a more healthy NT way of seeing this worked out is by acknowledging in ourselves and when we see it in each other, how the Lord sustains and uses us in our afflictions as well as when he graciously removes our afflictions.  Had not Hezekiah and Israel been brought low in this trial none of these chapters would have been in the Bible.  Prosperity can’t begin to expose our faith like difficulty and humiliation can."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Healthy View of Yourself

I was reading of a story a missionary in the Sudan told of a meeting he was holding one day.  It was one of those places where the natives might or might not show up with clothes on.  But it was one prominent village elder's attire that really caught his eye.  Evidently the man had been rummaging through the missionaries trash and happened upon his wife's corset.  But don't get ahead of me.  To this man this fancy piece of clothing was not to be wasted wrapped around one's waist but worn on one's head like crown!  To make matters worse, this was all he felt necessary to wear to the meeting.  Of course, to the missionary this man had not impressed him with his fancy covering but merely became an object of pity and repulsion.

Now it isn't too difficult to see the similarity of such a story with what the natural man does when he thinks he can impress the Holy God with some good deed or religious ritual.  No matter how wonderful you think you are and how many "worthy" deeds you do in this life, in that great meeting, read Judgment Day, in the sky you will stand naked and ashamed unless you are clothed with the clothing given to us from God; the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

But perhaps there is a lesson for the saints as well.  Too often we soon lose that sense of need and unworthiness that we had when we first came to Christ.  We clean our lives up, memorize some Scripture, tithe and wear fancy suits and dresses to church and we begin to feel pretty smug about ourselves before the Lord.  We compare our "good" works with all the lost around us and fool ourselves into thinking that God has to be more than a little impressed with us.

Of course, by the time this happens we can be sure he is quite displease with our efforts.  Anything done without his glory in view out of thankfulness is no better than when the lost do it.  Isa. 64:6 reminds us of how God sees such activity, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away."  To parade our good works before the Lord is like wearing this on our heads!  It is no accident that the elders of Revelation 4 cast their crowns before the throne.  Whatever we do in this life is merely because it was given us from the Lord.

There is no doubt it is a struggle to serve the Lord without pride getting in the way; to walk humbling before him and others, always bearing in mind that I am nothing more than a sinner saved by grace.  It is easy to forget that without the imputed righteousness of Christ I would be walking around in all my naked sinfulness and not only would I not have enough sense to be ashamed but I would be proud of myself.  So let us preach the gospel to ourselves daily.  When we see some poor soul lost in his sins and doing some evil thing that disgusts us let not our first thought be how awful they are but let us think of ourselves first and praise God for loving us while we were yet sinners; "There but for the grace of God go I".  Perhaps we will walk more humbly, love more intensely and serve more effectively.

Friday, December 2, 2011

God's Love and Election

Let me try to make two points concerning the way God loves and the way he elects.  It seems most errors come about when we take a biblical teaching and go to one extreme or the other when the doctrine wasn't meant to be taken to either extreme.  The Bible teaches that God loves different things and people in different ways.  In one sense he loves all his creation and all humanity and in another sense he loves his chosen ones in a different way.

The Arminian assumes that if God loves one, he must love all  and love them equally.  Some Calvinists assume that if God loves any he must also choose to save them also.  But both of these assumption assume too much.  We certainly have no problem when men love differently.  I don't expect my neighbor to love his cat like he loves his wife like he loves me!  And yet it seems we want to pigeon hole God's love to be the same for everyone.  The problem is that this isn't supported by the Bible.  Let me prove this by just quoting two verses since it should be rather obvious anyway.

Rom 9:13  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.  
Deu 7:6-8  For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.  The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:  But because the LORD loved you.

I use these verses for two different reasons.  First of all they show that God loves people differently.  It is not my intention here to elaborate further but when one can accept this truth he is well on his way to understanding the sovereignty of God.

The other reason was to prove my second point; this is found in vss. 7-8.  One of the standard arguments against election is to say that God looks forward in time and sees who would choose or elect him and he elects them first.  This fails for several reasons but the above verses show one basic reason why such an argument holds no water.

Deu. 7 is one of the classic biblical illustrations of divine, saving election in the Scriptures.  God's very point in vss. 7 and 8 is that his election is not based on anything found in Israel that would cause him to set his love on them to be a special people for him and that calling was unlike his purpose for any other people.  Thus to say that God looked ahead and chose those who were smart enough or spiritual enough to choose him is to teach the exact opposite concept that the Bible teaches.  

He says he loved them because he loved them; end of story, vs. 8.  The biblical doctrine of election is that God chose to save some and not others based solely on his will, John 1:12-13.  This and only this removes all human boasting.  It isn't that we are all equally deserving to be saved but that we are all equally deserving to be damned but the Lord stepped in and saves some to glorify his love and holiness and leaves the rest to their own choice to demonstrate his justice and wrath.

Those that reject election because they don't think it is fair can only make this accusation because they believe all men deserve God's saving love.  But this only exalts man over God.  It is interesting how we can turn truth upside down.