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Entries in Creation (6)

Tuesday
Oct162018

Your Personal End Times: The Millennium Part II

Zechariah 14:8-11, 16-20; Romans 8:18-25.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 14, 2018.

We are taking time to see what the Bible has to say about the period of time that we call the Millennium.  This is the promise throughout the Old Testament that God would deliver Israel and rule over the nations of the world through His righteous, anointed King, who will sit upon the throne of David.  We are given a taste of this righteous King and his righteous kingdom in the Church.  Jesus is our King and we obey his commands.  However, the fulfillment of these Old Testament passages is about more than a metaphor for our current experience in Christ.  It truly is about an earthly kingdom that will occur when Christ returns to earth.  Thus, our current experience simply prepares us for that reality.

Now the Church has preached that Jesus is the coming King of kings for the last 2,000 years.  It is clear that, though many people within the nations of the world have embraced Him, the governments of the world have no interest in Jesus being King over them.  Not even the “Christian” nations in the West show any true desire for Christ to return and rule over them.  Instead we keep doubling down on our own human wisdom and looking for anyone, someone, who will come along with better answers.  In short the governments do not like the Savior that God has given and seek another savior, or an antichrist.  Eventually God will allow them to have their wish.  However, such a hope will be short lived.  Jesus is destined to reign over the earth and His divine wisdom will usher in a new time of peace that the world has never known.  Let’s continue our look at this 1,000 year kingdom and what it will be like.

The nations of the earth will worship the Lord Jesus

Our first passage today will be in Zechariah 14.  You will notice that the millennial passages in the Old Testament have a distinctive, Jewish flavor to them because the Israeli people will be re-gathered, and Christ will reign from Jerusalem over them and the world.  You may remember Jesus speaking to His disciples in Matthew 19:28.  He promised the Twelve, “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (NKJV)   

However, the Millennium is not just about Israel.  It is also about the nations of the world.  Thus Zechariah speaks about the whole earth worshipping the Lord Jesus.  Now, we should not expect that we will have church services exactly as we do now.  However, neither should we expect that all cultures will have to adopt a Jewish-style service.  This passage is not saying that we will have to follow the Old Testament laws on worship.  Rather, it makes clear that there will be universal aspects of worship that all nations will do.  In this case, all nations will gather once a year to celebrate the Feast of Booths (The last feast of the 7 feasts of the Lord, which is in the Fall).  This is a super-corporate event.  It leaves the question of what worship will be the other days of the year.  I believe this passage leaves room for cultural differences, but also makes clear that Jesus will give some specific directions, much like Moses directed Israel in how God wanted them to worship Him.

We are told that there will be some big topographical changes to the area surrounding Jerusalem.  Most of the area will be flattened like a plain.  However, Jerusalem will be raised up above the plain.  This topography actually will occur, but it also symbolizes God’s decree.  All who approach the City of Jesus do so from a humble position and should have an attitude of worship.  In verse 4 we are told that the Mount of Olives will be split in half as the Lord stands upon it.  We are also told that water will flow out of the city of Jerusalem, some towards the Mediterranean Sea and some towards the Dead Sea.  This actual water flow is also intended to symbolize what God is doing spiritually.  His truth will flow towards the East and towards the West and fill the world.  He will lift up Jerusalem and dispense the Life of God to the nations.  Ezekiel 47 actually states that the waters that flow from Jerusalem will heal the Dead Sea so that fish swim in it and vegetation grows around it.  It also states that the water will flow all year long.  In the Pacific Northwest this may not sound like an important statement.  In the Middle East this is a powerful statement.  It will not just be a powerful spring river that is completely dry by the end of summer.  Rather, it will flow continuously, making the land a land of milk and honey once again.  Water shortage has been a big problem in the Near East for centuries.  The fact that this land lacks water and would be barren without modern technology, despite clearly being bountiful during the times of Moses, points to the judgments of God.  During the Millennium the land will be blessed and have plentiful water.

In verse 16 we see the worship of the Millennial Kingdom.  The passage uses the term “survivors” for those who remain after the devastations of the Tribulation, and the Second Coming.  Under the Beast and the False Prophet, the kings of the earth had gathered their armies against Jerusalem in order to destroy it, but now the nations will come up to worship rather than to attack.  The Feast of Booths is also called the Feast of Tabernacles.  In Ezekiel 45 we also see that the Feast of Passover will be observed.  However, it does not say that the people of the earth will gather for it. 

Some believers are bothered by the idea that at least some of the Jewish feasts will be reinstated and that sacrifices are described.  Let’s remember that they are not Israel’s feasts.  They were originally described as the Feasts of the Lord.  Clearly, we will not be under the Old Covenant of the Law of Moses.  However, there will be some symbolic rituals and memorial offerings that will function much like Christian Communion does today.  We do not look to the juice and the bread as our salvation, but rather a celebration of what Christ did.  Thus these feasts and their sacrifices will function the same way during the Millennial Kingdom.  They will point to the work of Christ.  We also should remember that there will be mortals as well as immortals on the earth in those days.  Thus the sacrifices will also testify and remind the mortals of where their salvation lies.  It lies in Jesus and His ability to atone for sins and to forgive them.   This snapshot of global worship doesn’t imply that we will worship only once a year, but that there will be an annual global, worshipful, celebration.

The last part of our section brings up a hypothetical situation where the nation of Egypt might choose not to come to the feast.  It describes the “blow” or punishment that Christ will give to any nation that refuses to come.  They will lack rain in their country until they comply.  This strikes me in two ways.  On one hand it is clear that Christ means business and Egypt will have to comply, if they want their country to survive.  However, on the other hand, there is no executing of rebels and military occupations either.  There will be no tactics of the Antichrist, or the empires of this world, in play here.  His response is both extremely powerful and yet extremely gracious.  It reminds us of the punishment of a Father who does not wish to destroy a child, but rather to help them learn righteousness.  This gives a picture of what the Bible means by the phrase ruling with a rod of iron.  His commands will be unyielding and yet they will still be gracious, as is his character.

It is the hope of all creation

This concludes the passages that we are going to look at, which describe the Millennial period.  However, I want to end today’s lesson by making this one last point from Romans 8:18-25.  In this New Testament passage it refers to the time when Jesus returns to earth as the “hope” of all creation.  Paul seems to personalize all of creation, as he describes its eager awaiting of this time.  It is referred to as the revealing of the Sons of God.  This is what the Apostle John spoke of in 1 John 3:2-3.  “Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  You and I presently do not look like “Sons of God,” which was a phrase used in the Old Testament for the angels.  However, when we are resurrected and come with Christ from the clouds at His Second Coming, it will be made clear, or revealed, just who we really are.  We need this personal revelation from time to time.  Don’t forget what your destiny is and trade it for a bowl of beans in this life.  The whole creation is groaning for deliverance and crying for you and I to be revealed for who we really are, the Sons of God.

We can look at this groaning and travailing of creation in a couple of ways.  First the sentient parts of creation, angels and humans, literally groan and travail.  The righteous angels and righteous men long for the Lord to come back and deliver the earth from the bondage of The Rebellion.  However, there is also a symbolic groaning and travailing that we see in the earth itself, which is racked with quakes, tsunamis, and volcanic activity.  As we approach this blessed event, all of creation will groan more and more, louder and louder.

In verse 20 and following, it refers to the fact that the creation was subjected to futility.  This word has the sense of something that has been perverted and lacks truth, or is devoid of the ability for good.  This is the same word in Ecclesiastes used to translate the Hebrew, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”  Some versions also translate it “meaningless.”  I believe that Paul has the curse from the Garden of Eden in mind.  There Adam’s sin causes changes to the ability of the earth to produce.  However, this curse was not intended to be forever.  God’s punishment was given in the “hope” that it would one day be removed.  Thus, we should not let the difficulties that we face today cause us to lose hope in the God who will one day lift this curse and celebrate the creation as it was meant to be with us.  This is His promise to those who trust Him.

The freedom of the Sons of God will bring freedom to creation, just as the bondage of Adam, the son of God, brought bondage to creation.  The Millennium is about Jesus, but it is also about His ability to bring forth the Sons of God.  The righteous of every generation are those who put their faith in God.  These will enjoy the glorious freedom of Christ as they are set free from death and this freedom will release freedom upon all of creation.  Thus the Second Adam brings life where the First Adam brought death.  May the Lord fill our hearts with faith even though we may not see these things now.  It is the same Lord, who rose up from the dead and ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father, who will set creation free from the bondage that it is currently under.  Amen!  Don’t squander another minute without turning towards Jesus in faith and trust.  Give your life to Him and become a disciple of the greatest Master who ever lived, God Himself.

The Millennium Part II

Friday
May112018

The Identity of Jesus

Colossians 1:15-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 6, 2018.

We have been looking at the book of Colossians.  Paul in the verses before this section has focused on how thankful Christians should be.  The apex of this is to be thankful that we are in “the Kingdom of the Son of His love.”  Though the world of darkness is still around us, believers are part of the Kingdom of Jesus and need not fear the darkness.

In verses 15-20, Paul expands on just who this Jesus is for whom he says we should be thankful.  What Jesus did for us ultimately hinges upon who He is.  Both are important.  So who is this Jesus who has redeemed us to God by His blood at the cross (see verse 14)? 

We are in the Kingdom of the Son of His Love

All kingdoms have a king and Jesus is the King of all believers.  However, he is far more than this.  The Colossians had been influenced by several different views about Jesus.  Some who had a Jewish background saw Jesus as something to be added to the law.  Thus they promoted circumcision and the prohibition of certain foods etc.  Some, who had a Greek background-especially Gnostic ideologies- had difficulty mentally accepting that Jesus could be both fully God and fully human.   Thus you would run various ideas that made Jesus less than the Apostles had taught.  Paul here reminds the Colossians just who Jesus is.

The first point we run into is that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  This is an important concept because in Genesis we are told that mankind was created in God’s image.  We have the ability to reflect attributes of the God who created us.    This is different than being God, but is important nonetheless.  The fall in the Garden of Eden impacted the ability of people to reflect God’s attributes.  The interference of that ancient serpent, the devil, led mankind to experience sin and its death.  Since the Garden no human has perfectly reflected God’s image nor even come close.  This is compounded by the fact that sin separates us from God.  Jesus in his totality is the image of the invisible God in its totality.  He is the only way we have to truly understand what the invisible God is like.  To see One of them is to have seen the other.  Hebrews 1:3 makes this even clearer by saying that Jesus is the “express image” or “the exact imprint” of the Father.

For everyone who has ever wanted God to come down out of the heavens and show Himself, God sends Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t just look like the Father, but He is the manifestation that the Father has given to us so that we may know exactly what He looks like, how He thinks, and just exactly what His plan is.  This is why it is important for us to take the time to find out what God’s Word says about Jesus, not just what people in their wisdom are saying about Him.  Sure we need the help of those who are mature in the faith to get insight into the Word.  But we can never abdicate our responsibility to find out just who Jesus is for ourselves.  Do you want to know what God is like?  Take time to read the Bible, but also spiritually ask God to open your eyes to what the Word is saying about just who Jesus is.  Thus there is a natural part and a spiritual part that go hand in hand.

Next we are told that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation.  Some have tried to make this mean that Jesus is part of the creation and is merely the first created thing.  To them Jesus is not divine in the sense that He is the same essence of the Father.  Rather they would call him divine in the same way that we call angels divine (i.e. that which comes from God).  The problem with this is that this is not what the phrase is emphasizing.  To call Jesus the firstborn is not a way of removing distinctions between Him and creation, but rather inserting one.  If we are talking literally, the firstborn is just as human as his brothers.  But this is clearly a metaphorical use.  The firstborn is not just another brother.  He not only receives a double-portion of the inheritance, but He will be the patriarch when the Father dies.  Thus the firstborn is distinct from his younger brothers.  To say that Jesus is the firstborn of creation emphasizes His authority and place over all of creation.  He is heir to all that belongs to the Father, that is, all of creation.

Now the following words go on to make the last point obvious.  Notice that the creation, both heavenly and earthly, was created by Jesus.  This is made even more explicit in John 1:3.  “All things were made through Him [The Word who is Jesus], and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  Thus Jesus stands outside of the created order, or all things that were made, as The One through who all created things were made.  The logic of these verses makes it impossible to see Jesus as a part of the creation, except for the human form that He took upon Himself at a particular point in time.

Thus the firstborn is used to present the man Jesus in a category that is different than all of creation.  He is the heir and the one who is Lord over all of creation, even though he looked like a man.  In fact in verse 16 three prepositional phrases are used to expound the relationship between Jesus and creation.  Creation was created “by Him.”  This means He is the active agent of its existence.  Next we are told that creation was created “through Him.”  This is not to contradict the prior statement, but instead to add to the meaning.  Jesus is the means by which God the Father brought all things into existence.  Lastly, creation was created “for Him.”  The purpose of creation is found in Jesus.  All things exist because He has a purpose in bringing them all into existence.  It is important for all humans to look to Jesus as their Lord, source of being, and source of purpose.  Without Jesus we will continually bump up against the reality of this as we try all manner of our own purposes for living.

Verse 17 reminds us that Christ is “before all things.”  Before anything existed that has been created, Jesus existed in a relationship with the Father.  At this time He did not have a human body, but was as the Father is.  This is similar to the functioning of Genesis 1:1.  Here we find that before anything was brought into existence, God was already in a state of being.  John emphasizes this in his gospel (John 1:1) by referring to Jesus in His pre-creation state as “The Word.”  This preexistence of Jesus was hard for the religious leaders of His day to swallow (read John 8).  However, to the apostles and those who experienced the powerful words and wonderful acts of Jesus, it was proven in every way and was the only logical explanation (not to imply that they determined this through human reasoning).

Verse 17 also says that in Jesus “all things hold together.”  The idea is that in Jesus all things have been set in relation to each other.  Another way to see this is to look deeper at the word translated here.  The word is translated as “consist” in some translations.  We can compare the word “consist” with the word “exist.”  Existence emphasizes the individual thing has being.  It exists.  However, consistence or to say that something consists is to emphasize its being in relation to everything around it.  Thus even the phrase “all things holds together” falls short of the full spectrum of this word.  Our existence and we fit into all the systems of this creation, whether natural or spiritual, are His doing.

Verse 18 says that Jesus is the head of the body [or Church].  Body is a reference to the Church being the “body of Christ.”  Head refers to the authority, but even more importantly it points to a vital influence that it cannot be without.  Jesus isn’t just the head authority of the Church, but just as a body cannot live without connection to a brain, so the Church has no existence without Christ who is its head.  Thus the image of the headwaters of a river could be used.   The vitality of the Church depends upon its connection to Christ who is our head.  He is the source of our relationship to all of creation (including Father God), but also the source of our purpose and function within it.

The phrase that “He is the beginning” most likely goes with the next phrase that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.  However it can just be another way of saying He created all things.  So let’s deal with this second firstborn phrase.  Again, the firstborn is intended to set Jesus apart from all that have died.  He alone of all who have died has firstborn status.  This is important because typically if the firstborn dies, someone else has to take his place.  However, Jesus is such a being that his firstborn status is not overcome by death.  Just as He is the firstborn of the living, so He is to those who have died.  This is proven in that He is the only one to enter into death and come back by His own power.  John 10:18 says, “No one takes it [his life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from my Father.”  Thus, those who are dead have not “missed out” on Jesus.  They are included in His authority and as such will be given the right to one day take up their bodily life again, as He has.  In Jesus an emptying of the grave is begun. Throughout history all of humanity has come into being, lived, and then died.  This cycle is overcome and brought to an end in Jesus.  In fact 1 Corinthians 15:22 uses the phrase that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have died.”  His resurrection is a signal that a greater resurrection is coming and for which we can hope.

Verse 18 ends with the statement that it is God’s purpose that Jesus should have first place in all things.  All spiritual beings, such as angels and cherubim, and all physical beings, such as mankind, are to look up to Christ as the One who has first place and authority over them.  John 5:22-23 says, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  Also Philippians 2:9-11 says it this way, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Verse 19 states that, it is the Father’s pleasure that in Jesus all the fullness dwells.  “The Fullness” is a phrase that was used at the time to refer to the totality of divine powers and attributes.  This is important for those Greek thinking peoples who had the concept of hybrid beings that were only partially divine.  Jesus wasn’t just full of the Holy Spirit, although that is true.  He embodies the totality of the divine powers and attributes.  Thus He is the source of all that we need and could ever ask for.  When one is in right relationship with “The Fullness” then one never needs to worry.  The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.

As we end this section, Paul points out that it is through Jesus that all things are reconciled to God.  Jesus started the process of reconciling the creation back to The Father.  The chaos of individual choices and sin, whether in the heavenly beings or earthly, has put all of creation out of whack and proper order.  But the work of Jesus at the cross was the place where this reconciliation process was made possible and began.  How about you today?  Are you in right relationship with the Father and His Son, Jesus?  Has your life been reconciled to God by Christ?  Let Jesus become the Lord of your life and He will help you set all things in proper order before the Father as you walk with Him.  How can you say “No” to such an amazing savior?  Trust Jesus as Lord today!

Identity of Jesus Audio

Tuesday
Sep062016

Society under Siege: Racism

Acts 17:26-28; Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 9:11-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 28, 2016.

Today we begin a new series entitled “Society under Siege.”  In this series we will look at different social issues and try to answer the question, “What does God’s Word say about this?”  As Christians, we ask this question because we want to be like Jesus.  We want our thinking to change and become like His thinking.  We want our actions to change and become like His, and we want our inner man to change and become like Him.  Thus Christians who are looking to Jesus for direction will have a different world view than the society around them, to one degree or another. 

Our society has embraced a world view that sees this world and mankind as cosmic accidents that have no absolute meaning or purpose, except that which we make for ourselves.  Morality is defined by what we think is best for us at this point in time, and the only destiny that awaits mankind is that of extinction within a universal/”multiversal” heat-death.  This is in direct contradiction to the world view of God and His Scriptures.  The Bible tells us that God created the universe and particularly mankind for a purpose, and that purpose is for us to become His children, bearing His image, and ruling over the earth while taking care of it in His stead.  Of course this purpose has run into many problems along the way, the main one is our sin and rebellion against it.  We are going to look at a particular sin today, racism.

This is a deep-rooted sin that has persisted throughout mankind’s history since we spread out and differentiated in appearance and customs.  Last year, on a Wednesday night in June, a 17 year old, white teenager stepped into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  After sitting in on a Bible study and as the church began to pray, the young man pulled out a gun and pointed it at 87 year old Susie Jackson.  Her nephew Tywanza Sanders, stepped in between them and tried to talk the young man down.  However, this was to no avail. Nine people were killed that night.  What was the murderer’s desire?  He wanted to ignite a race war and get rid of all black people.

It isn’t just certain white people who have given in to the sin of racism.  This summer in Dallas, Texas, during a Black Lives Matter protest, a 25 year old, black man parked on the street and ambushed a group of police officers.  He continued moving and targeting police officers and rapid transit officers until he holed up in a college building nearby.  He murdered 5 officers and injured 9.  What was his desire?  He simply wanted to kill white police officers.  Both of these devastating sins were committed on people who had done nothing but be a certain color.  It is obvious that these things are wrong and yet many are sucked into the twisted logic that one race is better than others, or that any race is morally superior to another.  Let’s see what the Scriptures say.

Racism Rejects our Common Creation

In Acts 17:26-28, Paul is in Athens, Greece, at an area where philosophers gathered and shared ideas.  This place was called the Areopagus, which literally means “Mar’s Hill.”  Paul is reasoning with these philosophers about God’s plan for mankind.  Why should these Greeks listen to Paul, a man from another race?  Paul points them back to the reality that all the nations and races have been made by God from “one blood.”  Thus we all trace our existence back to a common ancestor.  Whether you point to Noah, or to be technically correct, Adam, the Bible teaches that we have a common ancestor that is not an ape.  Though DNA has differentiated over the years, we are still related to one another.  Racial lines tend to focus on ancestry because this is how the different lines of DNA are passed on.  People scattered into groups that were isolated (whether geographically or purposefully).  Evolution emphasizes the differences and fractures our commonality.  It’s natural progression of logic leads to eugenics and the extinguishing of (in the terminology of Charles Darwin) “unfavored races.”  Thus early evolutionists created things like Planned Parenthood, not to help the poor and “inferior races.”  But rather, they wanted to stop the proliferation of inferior genes and eventually extinguish them.  The Bible, on the other hand, emphasizes that genetically we come from the same source, and that we are different from animals.  Animals do have the breath of life, but they were not created with the ability to bear the image of God.  Humans, as well as the angels, have the ability to act in particular ways that are like God.  All humans bear the image of God (no matter how much we tarnish it) and therefore are sacred to God, whether they are born or unborn.  Thus we should hold people of all races as having the same level of sacredness.

On top of this, Paul brings out that God has determined the nationalities, their times, and their borders.  Thus it is God, whom we are supposed to be like, who created all these differences.  So why did God do this?  Paul says that God did this so that we would seek for Him and find Him.  The differences and separations are intended to cause us to search for God and to recognize that no one people had the corner market on what God was like.  Of course mankind fell for deceptions that were given to it by fallen angels.  Thus God used Israel to bring the truth back to them.  Yet, even Israel did not have all the answers.  Christianity is not about having all the answers, but rather, knowing that God has acted within space and time in order to save mankind.  It is about trusting Him even though we don’t have all the answers.  Mankind has historically trusted itself rather than God, despite what it may look like to the modern observer.  The Devil uses our differences to cause us to destroy one another, but God uses our differences to break us out of our self-centered and sinful thinking.  In other words, He did so to challenge us.  Thus the white man needs to quit ignoring the cries of black people, and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Yet, the black man needs to quit blaming everything on white people and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Each of us needs to learn to deal with our own hearts before God rather than letting the enemy stamp his image upon our hearts through racial ignorance.

Racism Rejects the Great Commission of Jesus

In Matthew 28:18-20, we see another reason that racism is a great sin.  When we embrace racism we fight against the commands of Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority over heaven and earth.  Whether we like it or not, we are under the authority of Jesus.  Of course Christians believe this and embrace it.  However, Jesus is Lord over everyone, Christian or not.  Now Christians have sworn allegiance to Jesus and resist joining in the rebellion against His authority.  If you look at Jesus in the Scriptures, you will not find a single issue in his life that can be properly interpreted as racist.  Yes, ignorance and sinfulness have caused many who claim to follow Jesus to operate in rebellion to their Lord.  But this can never change who Jesus is and what His commands are.

In the Great Commission, Jesus gives us the duty to make disciples of all nations.  The term translated as nations is the Greek word “ethnos,” where we get the world ethnicity.  It is a reference, not to DNA, but rather to those who live in close association to the point that they have their own customs and manners.  Thus it is more than a political word, and more than a biological word.  Jesus has given his followers the command to go to all ethnic groups in order to invite them into His kingdom.  Thus God is drawing people from every ethnic group into a new people or nations who carry out His customs and manners.  People of every race, do not have a savior from their race, or a different gospel.  We are all called to the same Lord, saved the same way, and called to the same work.  Thus a black person or a white person who comes to Jesus is stepping out of their own people and entering into a new kingdom of Christ.  It is not “the white man’s religion.”  It is the way of Jesus that we are called to follow.  The way of Jesus will offend all cultures and all nations.  Some have looked at this plan and have called it ethnocide.  But that is a silly charge.  Christians are not trying to get rid of the nations of the world.  We are offering them the truth of a better way.  In fact, the ethnicities of this world are doomed to destroy themselves.  But those who embrace the way of Christ will not only survive, but thrive.  They will enter into the only Eutopia that can truly exist.

So what does God think of Christians who persist in the divisions and rivalries of this world?  In Acts 10:34 we see that God had revealed to Peter that it was not biology that made one clean before God.  It was those whom God called clean, regardless of their race or ethnic background.  Yet, Peter had some trouble living out what he knew to be true.  In Galatians 2, a situation is revealed to us where Peter had allowed his fear of what other Jews might think to affect how he treated some gentiles.  Peter could have claimed ignorance before this, but now he was simply being a coward and yielding to the stubbornness of other men.  Peter ends up being rebuked by the apostle Paul.  However, he is really being rebuked by the Holy Spirit.  Unless we repent of our own stubbornness in these matters of racial relations, the Lord will bring discipline, rebuke, and eventually judgment upon us.

Racism rejects the Character of God

In Matthew 9:11-13 we are reminded of the true character of God, rather than that which is demonstrated by those who are supposed to represent Him.  Mankind was created to bear the image of God.  Of course, it is understood that there are ways in which we cannot be like God: omniscience and omnipotence are a few examples.  But we can take on His character.  In fact, if we are following Jesus with full faith in him, then we need to be courageous enough to take on the character of God.  Though many ignorant and reckless people accuse the God of the Bible of being an angry, hateful God, this is far from the truth.

Jesus points this out to the Pharisees.  They could not understand why Jesus would interact with sinners and tax collectors.  He didn’t do it to become like them or because he liked how they were.  Rather, he was displaying the compassion of God for those who are sick, hurt, and trapped in sin.  The compassion of God can only amaze those who have become convinced of the sinfulness of mankind and our ability to fix ourselves.  The Pharisees had the truth right in front of them, but their eyes were blinded by their own sin.  Thus they had segregated themselves from the “others” around them.  “Those tax collectors have betrayed their nation and their God.”  “Those sinners aren’t trying to be holy like we are.”  They were willing to let others die and miss out on fellowship with God as long as they had it.  It is true that God will judge every single person.  However, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to faith in Jesus Christ.  His compassion causes Him to go to such great lengths that He would even lay down the life of His own son in order to make it possible for “others” to become the children of God.  Racism displays the opposite of such compassion.  Do I demonstrate such compassion for “others” in my life?  Or am I stuck in the distinctions of this sinful world?  It was the Pharisees own sin that deceived them into a lack of compassion.

God is also love.  He doesn’t just exercise compassion as some high and mighty person helping the poor.  Rather, he truly loves them and wants to raise them up to his side.  John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world so much that He would give up His One and Only (unique) Son to die in our place so that we wouldn’t have to perish, but have everlasting life.  Which of us loves that fiercely?  Which of us looks at the others around us and refuses to let them perish?  Which of us lives a life of sacrifice to help them?  This is the character of God.

God is also forgiving.  We cannot talk about the love and compassion of God without forgiveness.  All ideas of love and harmony are dashed on the rocks of sin, offense, and the hurtful acts that people do.  God teaches us to let go of the wrongs done against us, by first calling it to the attention of the person doing it.  Then, we leave the rest to God.  I can’t control people, and I don’t have to let what they do rule my life.  When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like he was at the mercy of their actions.  But the truth is, they were at the mercy of His actions.  When you forgive people and move on, you are not absolving their sins.  Rather, you are letting God deal with it and refusing to let the enemy poison your heart with bitterness, anger, and rage.  At the same time you are doing what you can (sometimes there is nothing left to do) in order to save them from the judgment that they are headed towards.  This is the character of God.

May we strive everyday to reject the sinful thinking and distinctions of this world.  Instead, may God help us to display His character to a world that desperately needs it.

Racism audio

Tuesday
Apr072015

This is His Story

Today is the day that we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When you think about how much history there is in the world, both that we know about and that which was never recorded, we can forget that all of those things are connected.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Thus historians throughout the ages have sought to explain not just the facts of history but also the relationships between them.  Why did the Roman Empire rise to such great power but then fall apart?  Why did Germany fall under the spell of Adolph Hitler?  Of course was WWII a failure or a success?  It all depends upon your view point.  Thus the facts of historical events can all be the same but many different interpretations of the relationships that existed will be promoted today. 

The Bible is a book from history, but it is also a book about history.  In fact it has been stated that the history is really His story (God’s).  You can approach the Bible as the history of mankind from God’s perspective when you think about it in that way.  There are multitudes of viewpoints among mankind, but only one view point of God’s.  Which will you live by?

Thus God gives us a narrative of what is really going on throughout history.  Of course, today, politicians and various groups have learned that you can control people by controlling the narrative that they accept.  So instead of responding to accusations with facts and events, we respond with a “narrative” that the people would rather believe.  We have ceased to be a people who look for truth, but rather a people who believe the story that we like best.  Well, into this pool of narratives, God gives his take.  Many may accuse religions of trying to manipulate the people, but the truth is we manipulate ourselves all the time.  Let’s look at history from God’s perspective

Creation Exists For God’s Purpose

In Genesis 1 we are told, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Then in verse 26 God says, “let us make man in our own image.”  Here we see that God purposefully created all that we can see including ourselves.  Modern man has embraced the idea that there is no purpose to what we see and probably no real beginning.  We are simply an accident of nature.  But that begs the question, “What was nature an accident of?”    Societies cannot function on a foundation of purposelessness and amorality and so we create a hybrid philosophy that keeps the concept of morality that God gives us and makes society itself as the arbiter of what is good and bad.  Yet, this means our definitions of good and bad will shift from generation to generation.  This shifting sand cannot hold up society very long before it will go through cataclysmic social change, over and over again.  Without God the foundation for defining good and evil will become a quagmire that will never sustain anything we build on it.

God not only tells us that He created us, but that he created mankind to be able to relate with Him.  Thus God places Adam and Eve in a Garden and gives them a purpose.  He also converses with them daily.  This picture of a relationship is central to all that follows in human history.

Now in John 1:1-5 we see that God is the giver of light to mankind.  But that is not just natural light.  Just as he gave natural light, so God has given intellectual and spiritual light to mankind.  It is easy to exist merely on a natural level.  And, yes, God did create all the natural beauty we see around us and wants us to enjoy it.  Yet, there is more to life than just nature.  Some people will say, “I don’t believe in the Bible.  I believe in science.”  But doesn’t science mean knowledge?  The Bible is definitely knowledge.  What is really meant by the above statements is that the person only accepts a certain method of obtaining knowledge.  They categorically reject any knowledge that doesn’t come by the scientific method.  Yet, we cannot put the ultimate questions of life into a test tube.  We can only find circumstantial evidence in regards to the origins of the universe, but nothing by which to determine without a doubt what it really was.  Even our attempts to analyze human psychology and social dynamics has found that such thing evade yielding ultimate answers about ourselves.  Without God, man is doomed to a future of making purpose out of the sand of the beach, only to have it either destroyed by the next generation stomping on it, or by the waves of time crashing on the beach.

But Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that God has been there all along.  He has been talking to mankind and helping us to understand what is going on.  He even sent Jesus who was the perfect light and knowledge concerning God’s purpose for this world.  Francis Schaeffer, after talking with many college age students, came to the conclusion that many felt that God was not there because they didn’t hear him or see him.  Yet, he stated that, “God is there and He has not been silent.”  Of all the books and teachers of history only Jesus and the Bible have verified themselves with prophecy and resurrection from the dead.  All of history has been God speaking to mankind about its problems and its destiny.  Will you not give it an honest reading?

Man Has Desecrated It And Himself

In Romans 8:19-22 we have a passage that points to creation groaning.  Today many fear and point out that man has the ability to drastically affect the earth.  They arrive at this without the Bible.  Interestingly enough, this is the Bible’s position.  The actions of the first human couple have affected mankind and the world in a negative way.  Though God and man enjoyed a perfect relationship in a perfect world, man rebelled against God after it was manipulated by Satan.  They were seduced by the idea that God was holding out on them.  If they disobeyed God they could become like Him themselves.  Yet, when you read the whole Bible, you see that it was God’s intention to make us like Him all along.  We are on a path to try and make ourselves God’s and yet we do so having rejected a path in which God has promised to make us like Him.  This choice leads in two very different directions.  The Bible pictures mankind as willfully persisting in accomplishing on its own what God has promised for those who love Him and wait upon Him.  Because God is the creator of nature, we find our rebellion against him bleeding into nature.  We do not like the “nature” he has created and thus try to manipulate it into our desire and will.  Sometimes this is innocent enough.  But think about those who are born a certain gender and yet feel like they want to be another gender.  We can reject the way we are naturally and replace it with the way we are mentally.  But this only causes grief and trouble.  When you fight against nature you always find yourself fighting a losing battle.

This rebellion of mankind has affected not just man, but also the rest of creation.  The creation has been subjected to futility because of man’s sin.  This curse that God placed upon Adam caused something to change in the earth.  It would not grow things like it used to.  Later after the flood we see something else changing to where people did not live as long.  The effects were drastic for us and for the creation.  However, the curse could just as easily be called “The Effects of our Choice.”  We live in a nature in which each choice brings about certain effects.  We don’t always like those effects and try to avoid or counteract them.  But this too has effects.  God does not wish to destroy mankind.  Rather He has promised to fix the problem.  That is why Paul states in Romans 8 that the Creation groans awaiting the revealing of the Sons of God.  God is bringing this broken world to a place where things are going to be fixed.  Yet, mankind persists in trying to fix the problem without Him.  Yet, the problem today is not the perfecting of our forms of governance.  Our founding fathers did their best to create a new and better form of republican governance.  And yet, they testified that it would only work for a godly people.  No matter how much we perfect governance, it will be ran by faulty humans.  Even if we put in their place computers, they will be programmed by faulty humans.  Like the movie “Minority Report” we can build a system to remove all murder and yet someone will learn to game the system. We have a rebellion problem.  Neither can we fix how our society functions because it will always be the interactions of fallen people. 

Our problem is much deeper than DNA, politics, and religion.  As Romans 5:12, 18 says, sin has come into the world and by it death has spread to all men.  We are all sinners and under the judgment of a righteous God, completely condemned.  Our problem is an internal, moral problem.  Some may ridicule looking to an ancient book for wisdom and knowledge in this modern technological age.  However, the moral problem of man has not gotten better with our technology.  We are the same people we were 2,000 years ago.  A people filled with bitterness, hate and anger.  A people still manipulating others in order to get what our flesh wants.   We are still the same actors acting out the same plot lines, only on a different stage with better special effects.  If we could travel 6,000 years into the future and mankind hasn’t destroyed itself by then, we would find people struggling with the same moral issues, in spite of the great technology we will have by then.  Notice that Star Trek and Star Wars still assume people will be morally the same no matter how much we learn about physics.  But God offers a different answer.

God Promises A Re-Creation Of All things

Romans 5 goes on to say in verses 18 and 19 that God has an answer for man’s continual wandering in the wilderness of right and wrong.  God has implemented a plan to fix mankind and the creation and it centers upon Jesus.  All of the Old Testament was God’s attempt to ensure that the world would be able to understand what was going on when Jesus came.  God’s plan starts with a spiritual fix or internal one, and then has a second phase of a physical fix.

Our spiritual problem cannot be fixed through changing our DNA, and any physical problems we are able to fix will only make the spiritual worse.  Thus God promises to transform our spirits and then re-create our bodies.  Notice how the book of Revelation ends with the reality that God will complete His purpose of fixing not only mankind, but all of creation.  We will dwell with God in perfect relationship in a New Heavens and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1-5).  God states unequivocally that this story will have a particular ending.  We will be back in close fellowship with God.  The heavens and the earth will be remade.  This is no reason to abuse the earth, but rather recognition of what God’s desire is.  Will you embrace God’s story today?  There is a place for you within this story.  However, if we reject the Creator of all creation, we not only will find ourselves fighting against nature, but also nature’s God.  The other narrative puts man in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that is careening out of control.

His Story Audio