Saturday, August 12, 2017

Remembering the Word

2Pe 3:1  This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,
2Pe 3:2  that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.

In Peter’s second epistle, he is warning the church of false teachers who will lead them into sin and away from Christ.  In warning them against error he doesn’t have them focus on the error but on the truth found in the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Word of God.  He exhorts them to grow “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”, 1:2.  To use the old adage, one becomes an expert spotting counterfeit money by studying the genuine, not the false.

In the above verses Peter also points out that much of what he is writing is not new but he is reminding them of things they have already been taught.  So he is causing them to focus on the genuine over and over again.  The implication is that we tend to forget what we have been taught and along with that we tend to store biblical teaching in the hard drive of our memory not the RAM.  What I mean by that is that we walk out of church and we tuck the message away until next week as if it isn’t relevant and necessary every moment of every day.  We don’t live our days with the Word of God constantly in our minds.  We haven’t let it permeate our thinking so that it determines our world view and identity; so that it is readily available in our minds when we need it.  We let our current financial or relational status or political climate or the discomfort we are in determine our thinking and actions and mood rather than letting the Word of God be continually guiding us.

It is amazing how so many modern day saints think that one message a week is sufficient Bible study.  One would have to assume that they have retained everything they have ever heard and it stays fresh in the memories so it is right there when they need it.  I think the reality is that we need to learn and relearn the Word and it needs to be drilled and redrilled into us because our natural bent to sin will easily take over our worldview and thought patterns if we don’t keep our minds saturated with the Word of God.

Peter gives us a good example of this in Luke 22:60-62.  In the previous evening Jesus told him that before the cock crowed in the morning Peter was going to deny him three times.  Now I know that if the Lord told that to me I would think that all I have to do is not forget what he said and hold out for a few hours.  There is no way I am going to forget his words and deny him not once but three times.  But my sinful tendency, just like Peter’s, is to let self dominate my thinking.  Like Peter, as soon as I am confronted with the possibility of physical danger my natural tendency is self-preservation even if it means disassociating myself from the Lord.  Instead of dwelling on Jesus’s words, Peter and we tend to dwell on self and this is why we need constant, steady Bible study and teaching.  I think this is seen in the text in Luke, Luk 22:60  But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. Luk 22:61  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times." 

Can you image Peter looking at the face of Jesus and remembering what he had forgotten just a few hours before?  How prone we are to forget and how much we need the power of God to keep the Word before us and to be controlled by it.  But without the Word in our heads, it can never permeate our hearts.  Let’s pray that we would have a proper desire to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and to be patient when the preacher preaches on something that we “already know and don’t need”.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

What Land are We Looking For?

Gen 28:13  And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Gen 28:14  Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 

One thing that Christians have debated from the very beginning of the church is how are the land promises given to Abraham fulfilled.  Were they fulfilled by the time Christ came or is there a future fulfillment for them to be regathered back into the land of Palestine?  Some see the Jews being regathered back into Palestine as pretty much the culmination of God’s plan for the world.  People like John Hagee have made it their life’s ministry to “help” God fulfill prophecy by physically relocating Jews back to their “homeland”. 

While it is a vast study that is too large to cover entirely here, I want to offer a few thoughts that might help us find a more practical application for the subject.  Where this can move into unfruitful and even dangerous areas is when people seem to be more concerned and even excited over Jews being gathered to Israel than they are about the gospel being proclaimed to them.  Some even go so far as to say that the Jews don’t need the gospel since God loves them outside of Christ and their future isn’t connected to Jesus’s work but the blood that runs in their veins. 

One of the problems as I see it is that many fail to realize that the land promises while fulfilled literally in the OT always had a universal goal in mind.  In other words, the promises look forward to the day when God’s people will dwell in the whole earth not just in a tiny part of it.  By “God’s people” I mean all those in Christ because anyone not in Christ ultimately will have no part of God, period.  It was necessary for the Jews to possess the land for a time so that Christ could come and do his work but the goal was never Palestine but a new heaven and earth because the goal was never just about the Jews but about the elect unto salvation.  The above passage shows that early on the Lord was speaking about his people possessing more than just a few square miles in the Middle East. 

Elsewhere in Genesis, for instance, we see that it was never just the Jews in mind but that the Gentiles would be brought in to create a people way too large to merely indwell Palestine, Gen 12:3  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Gen 15:5  And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Gen 22:17  I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, Gen 22:18  and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."

It is important to note that nowhere in the NT does anyone refer to the Jews waiting to inherit the land.  Anytime there is a reference to anyone inheriting land it speaks of the church and the word “land” is changed to a more universal word like “world”.  Mat 5:5  "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Mat_6:10  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Rom 4:13  For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.  Rev_5:10  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."  Rev_11:15  Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."

If Israel gets to live in Palestine for a few years then I am glad for them.  I will be with Christ so I will have something much more glorious to think about.  But what is sad is that there are so many who are much more interested and excited in the Jews getting their own country than they are about Christ’s kingdom being established on earth.  Christ told us to go into all the world and establish his kingdom through the gospel, not worry about getting Jews to Palestine.  

There is a lot more that could be said about this but I think a biblical and a much more practical, Christ honoring case can be made that the land promises to Abraham as well as all the promises are fulfilled in the new nation that God is making through the preaching of the gospel that includes Jew and every other people group, Rev 5:9  And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, Rev 5:10  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."