Monday, July 22, 2013

Don't Worry About the Secret Things, Live in the Light

Gen 42:36  And Jacob their father said to them, "You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me."

Act 23:11  The following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome."

You might be wondering what these two verses have in common other than they are both in the Bible.  What they have in common is that they both speak of what God calls all Christian to experience in this life.  A lot of people, especially those who speak on TV seem to think that once you decide to become a Christian God is so happy to have you in the family he will do whatever it takes to make you happy and trouble free in this life as long as you have faith. 

What the Bible actually teaches us is that the call to serve the Lord as Christians is to live in weakness so that the power of God can be seen in us, 2Co 12:9  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2Co 12:10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  Paul is a good example of this in that while he served and glorified the Lord as well as anyone before or after his time, he did it through primarily suffering, not comfort.

With that in mind the above two texts start to come together for us.  In Jacob’s case he couldn’t seem to fathom why the Lord was taking his sons away from him.  He seems to have resigned himself to this and is willing to accept it from the Lord but he is missing something very important in his thinking.  The Lord is not just being cruel; he was actually putting his family through all this in order to supply food for them so that they would not starve to death.  He didn’t have Romans 8:28 to read like we do so we should expect more of our faith since we have more revelation to believe in.  We know that all the hardships and trials and what to us seems like needless suffering is actually God working in us an opportunity to display his glory and teach us that he is better than what this world offers. 

Paul’s case teaches us this also.  The Lord tells him that he is going to eventually get to go to Rome and preach the gospel.  But Paul isn’t told immediately that the way to Rome is the way of hardship, not glory.  The Lord gets the glory when in our weakness we succeed and in suffering we are faithful, joyful and content.  So while Paul is fully in God’s will, it is clear that God’s will is trial not comfort.

Let me say it like this: we must not live by his providence but by his precepts.  By his providence I mean what seem to us as circumstances.  We many times can’t put his providence together to make any sense.  It seems like random circumstance even though we know that is not the case.  The lost live by “happenstance” of everyday life, unable to make any sense of it, having no direction as to what is going on and what to do about it.  We can’t understand his providence but we can understand his Word.  Only his Word provides a foundation for living.  We can easily misinterpret circumstance just like Jacob did and get depressed or fearful or worried.  But if we keep in mind what God says about life we will realize that suffering is what we have been called unto and be patient and joyful in tribulation because we have the light of God’s Word to explain what is really going on and how it is all going to end. 

So we live by the Word and watch God do his work and not fall apart in the mean time because this is the way he works.  We leave providence to the Lord and worry about what he has revealed to us, Deu 29:29  "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.  Why worry about what we cannot know when the Bible is there to guide our way?  

Psa 119:104  Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Psa 119:105  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Working Up a Thirst

Joh 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." 

Far from being merely an historical account of Jesus’ death, the Gospels recount these events in such a way to explain what is going on spiritually.  John alone omits the three hours of darkness as Jesus hung on the cross but he is the only to tell us that Jesus said “I thirst” after the three hours of darkness.  Why does Jesus call out only minutes before he gives up his life that he is thirsty?  Was it necessary for him to get a drink and then die?  I think the word “thirst” is significant.

When someone is thirsty we might say that it is because they have exerted some sort of work and are weary because of it.  I think this is the point here.  He was doubtless thirsty three hours before but it is here that he proclaims his thirst.  His thirst right after his great work of making atonement for sin, of bearing the wrath of God, of suffering the effects of the curse points to the fact that he has done some great work and is therefore thirsty.  This comes right after the three hours of darkness when he suffers the separation from the Father as the Father’s wrath is poured out on him.  This is specifically the work of substitutionary atonement in which he does the work that we could not do for ourselves. 

He told the woman at the well that if she would believe in him or drink from spiritual water she shall never thirst again.  How can he keep this promise?  Because he in his death has provided eternal life, he became thirsty by doing a work that we could not do so that we would never thirst like he did that day.  He took our shame, pain, death, punishment, abandonment, Hell, burden, all the futility and all the unfilled desires that sin brings.  He suffered the abandonment of God so that we never will have to.

The Samaritan woman’s thirst, not just physically but spiritually would be continuous because she had no way to gain life in herself.  Hell is eternal for this very reason.  Sin will always leave us wanting because to be separated from God is to never be fulfilled, never happy, never satisfied, totally ruined.  Only in Jesus’s work can sin be atoned for and our “thirst” be satisfied. 

I am glad that one day Jesus was thirsty so that someday I never will be in need of anything again.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Scene At Calvary

Mat 27:39  And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads Mat 27:40  and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." Mat 27:41  So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, Mat 27:42  "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. Mat 27:43  He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'"

Matthew has recorded the events of Jesus’s crucifixion with little scenes in which the way it is played out teaches us of what is really going on during this time.  For example as Jesus is forced to wear the crown of thorns there are a couple of things we see.  First of all by accepting the mockery and suffering of the cross he is actually doing what is necessary for him to receive a kingdom and wear a true crown.  As he stands before them bearing a crown of thorns, the irony is that he is their king whether they realize it or not; by pushing that cruel crown upon him they were helping him get a better one.  Secondly thorns speak of the curse of sin that came upon us at the fall in the Garden of Eden.  The crown of thorns on his head was a picture that he was bearing the curse for us so we could escape the effects of the fall.

In the verses quoted above we have more irony that depicts what is going on at the cross in a spiritual sense.  In vs. 40-42, they say to come down off the cross and save himself.  In vs. 42 they make a statement that rings throughout history, “He saved others; he cannot save himself”.  Actually this is a completely true statement.  If he came down off the cross and saved himself he would not be able to save anyone.  To save others he could not save himself!  They might have believed something about him if he came down off the cross but they would not be able to believe on him as their savior because saving himself would have made him an unsuitable sacrifice for sin.  If he came down off the cross we would not be saved.

Then in vs. 43 they unwittingly make another true statement.  “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now”.  He did in fact trust in God and the Father delivers him through the sufferings of the cross.  Ironically this is exactly true of anyone who will trust in God for salvation through Jesus Christ.  If you trust in his sacrifice on the cross as your only hope God will deliver you in the Day of Judgment. 

Surely Matthew 27 is the focal point of human history!