Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Christ Or Not; Nothing Else Matters

Gen 6:14  Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. Gen 6:17  For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. Gen 6:18  But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you.  Gen 8:13  In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.  Gen 8:18  So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him.

I put together a few verses from the account of Noah to emphasize a point I want to make.  We read that it was covered inside and out with pitch which is significant in biblical theology.  This word is the same word as mercy-seat which “covered” the ark or box found in the temple; ark means box.  The pitch made sure absolutely no water or judgment could get into the souls being saved.  In both cases then, the ark was the place where God’s wrath was turned away from the guilty.  While seen vaguely in Noah’s ark, it is elaborated on some in the Ark of the Covenant where we see that the wrath of God is turned back through the blood sacrifice of a substitute being sprinkled before God and thus reconciliation and peace is made.

Finally, the NT word for Propitiation is the same word for covering in the OT to which we have referred.  These words carry with them the idea of putting off or appeasing or satisfying something.  The blood of Christ did not just divert God’s wrath away for a time, but as he became sin for us, he actually bore the wrath of a holy God and satisfied fully the justice of God so no wrath remains on those that are united with him; they weren’t in the ark bailing out water because it was seeping through and getting them wet.  All judgment was borne by Christ and we will never face sin’s judgment!  Christ paid the price that all sin deserved so that by coming to him we can be justified.  We have been put in a position in which God has nothing against us.  But things get better than that.

Remember that Noah found grace in God’s sight.  Not only are our sins removed in Jesus Christ but his righteousness is imputed unto us.  Had only our guilt been removed God would at best been neutral toward us.  But by looking at us as he does his Son we now are in his favor.  He isn’t being held back so that he can’t exercise his wrath, he has no wrath toward us.  In fact, he loves as he does his Son and gives us the same inheritance.  He brings us to glory and lavishes his grace upon us. 

This points to a key doctrinal difference between clear biblical teaching and that of the Roman Catholics and other Arminian groups.  They see Christ as turning back some of God’s judgment but that it keeps seeping through when we sin.  So we have to keep bailing out the water and if we miss some before we die we have to face God’s judgment.

The last verses above were quoted to show how the account fits the type so well.  On the other side of the ark’s salvation they stepped over onto dry ground.  Before they were allowed to leave the ark all the water had to recede; all the wrath of God had to be satisfied before Noah and his family could leave the ark.  Christ has saved us perfectly and there is no sin that can ever be held against us and someday we will stand on a new earth where all sin has been destroyed. 

This is what it means to be safe in union with Christ.  As such, the ark is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as everyone who was in the ark was saved and everyone not on the ark was lost, so everyone who, in the obedience of faith, has put himself under the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ will be saved from God’s future judgment; everyone who is outside of Christ will be lost. It doesn’t depend on one person being better or worse than another person. There were probably some nice people who didn’t get on board the ark. There are some wonderful people who have never trusted in Christ for salvation; but being wonderful towards other men is not being righteous before a holy God. It all depends on whether you are “on board” or not, covered from God’s judgment by the means He has ordained.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Weapons of Christian Warfare

2Co 10:3  For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.
2Co 10:4  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2Co 10:5  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

I consider the above passage along with a similar text in Eph. 6 as being of the utmost importance for Christians to understand if they are to battle sin effectively.  Our passage says that our weapons are not fleshly but spiritual and have to do with the mind and ideas.  While it is intimated in 2 Cor. 10 that our enemies are spiritual, Eph. 6 says it plainly that our weapons are spiritual because the enemies are spiritual, Eph 6:12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

In a nutshell 2 Cor. 10 is telling us that our real battle with sin lies in how we think about God and his Word.  The strongholds in vs. 4 aren’t actual physical forts but erroneous thinking and being deceived; thinking that is dangerous because it is against the knowledge of God.  The positive way of saying this is seen in the latter part of verse 5.  Incorrect and sinful thinking accepts human wisdom over the revelation of God.  Godly thinking has only one grid that all thoughts must pass through, does it fall under the will of Christ; will it serve his cause, does it fall in line with what he has said or will it undermine truth? 

The objective of our warfare is to change how people think and so it begins with us.  Too often Christians have tried to clean up people’s lives but because they are so weak in the faith all they accomplish is to make the “converts” look outwardly like them.  But their ideas of God and service are so defective that they are unable to do battle when the trials come.  They cannot have strong relationships because their love for Christ isn’t driving them; they still love themselves and live for themselves and can’t figure out why attending church or not drinking, or not smoking doesn’t fix their problems.  Their hearts and their minds (in the Bible they are the same thing) have not been transformed by truth. 

When Christians do this they turn their attention on things of the flesh as if somehow that will change the heart.  An even more extreme example of trying to fight this spiritual battle with weapons of the flesh would be when some in the name of Christ have actually taken up conventional weapons like swords or guns and tried to force people into a spiritual kingdom.  Nothing could do more damage to Christ’s kingdom than that.

It also, then, forces us to acknowledge that those who tempt us or persecute us are not our enemies as such.  This is how we can love our enemies.  They are held captive by sin and Satan and need the gospel.  While they can hurt the body and fight against Christ; pain and suffering are not our enemies; listening to their siren call of pleasing the flesh is our enemy.

For instance, many have used torture or physical intimidation to try and cause saints to deny their faith.  We might ask isn’t that physical enemies and it would seem the way to combat it is to get away from the pain or danger?  Not necessarily.  What happens when you cannot get away from such things?  The real problem isn’t the pain or discomfort; it is the lie that they are trying to get you to buy into which is that momentary relief is more important than honoring the Lord!  It is the same lie that brought down Adam and Eve and everyone since then.  And this holds true whether you are being attacked with poor health, lack of a steady income, relationship problems, etc.  The spiritual enemy’s attack is to get inside your mind and make you think that the most important thing is to get rid of discomfort, to exalt your pride and your wants and your needs above serving the Lord. 

So the only effective weapon against sin is a strong love for the Lord that causes us to reject the lie of the flesh and the Devil that there are things that are more important than serving the Lord with all your heart.  It is to live in light of eternity and not live to please the flesh for a few years on earth.  The battle against sin is first and foremost a battle of the heart and mind.

When Paul was arrested by the light of God on the road to Damascus, his first words after finding out that it was Jesus was, “What shall I do Lord”.  If this isn’t our mantra, the fundamental truism that we constantly come back to when making decisions then we haven’t been delivered from these spiritual forces no matter what our theology might be or how well we think we keep the outward laws.  May God help us to recognize our real enemy and to also recognize our most important defense and weapon; a transformed heart saturated in the Word.