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JULY 2015

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Freed from all Charges!

 

Acts 13:38-39  “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

 

Background

Paul and his band had gotten as far as the city of Antioch which is in modern day Turkey.  There was a Jewish synagogue there.  Paul and his band went there on the Sabbath and “sat down.”  The leaders of the synagogue asked them if they had a word of exhortation for the people.  Paul did and he explained to them how that Christ was from the lineage of David, that he had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah and that He had been rejected and crucified by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.  However, God had raised him from the dead and now all that believed in Him were justified FROM ALL THINGS,   something that the Old Testament law could not do.

 

Justification is being freed from all charges

What does it mean to be justified?  Apparently this is a legal term and means to be “freed from all charges that are against you.”  The judge is declaring that the charges are dropped.  Those who are in prison are to be freed.  God does this righteously by allowing the penalty of our sin to be borne by another—that is, by the Lord Jesus Christ.  We who are in bondage to sin and have charge after charge laid against us can be righteously declared free from all charges by God, but there is one condition.  We must trust in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord.  The law shows us our sin and continues to lay additional charges against us.  But Christ, the sin bearer, wants to free us from all charges. 

 

I am sure that there are people in our prisons who wish that they could be freed from the charges against them, because then they would be freed from prison.  Our system of justice does not allow for the kind of justification that God’s system of justice allows.  Think of it, we who believe have been declared free from ALL charges against us.  The Lord stepped in and bore the punishment we deserved so our justification does not overlook sin, but it provides a righteous way to be forgiven and freed from the charges. 

 

What does it mean to believe?

What, then, does this verse mean when it says all who BELIEVE are justified from all things?  We have to look at other Scripture to get a full understanding of the Biblical concept.  It certainly does not mean to believe about the Lord.  Many people do that without actually trusting Him.  Many religions and Christian groups believe about Jesus but do not accept Him as the Messiah.  They do not accept the fact that Christ is the full manifestation of God.  Until they change their minds on those issues, they have believed about Him and not trusted in Him.  As such they are not justified. Believing in the Lord certainly doesn’t allow us to pick and choose which parts of the divine record we want to believe and which parts we don’t. 

 

Today, because two thousand years have elapsed since the New Testament was written down and because the Old Testament was written down many years before that, we have a hard time understanding the way some of the authors of the Biblical record expressed themselves.  The Bible was not written in English with American logic and with our high school teachers teaching about topic sentences and about English rules of grammar.  So it is hard for us to understand the random nature of time in some of the written record.  We have a hard time discerning between what is allegorical and what is literal.  We have a hard time understanding the idioms of the day.  But while we have a hard time understanding some of these things, to believe requires us to accept all that is written.  It does not require us to understand all that is written.  But people who accept the Gospels but who don’t accept the writings of Paul (and there are people like that) could not accept our present verses, because they were spoken by Paul and written down by Luke. Peter tells us that Paul’s writing are Scripture even though some of his writings are hard to understand (See 2 Peter 3:15:16).

 

I believe in the Biblical account of creation and in the Biblical events associated with the flood.  I believe that a great fish swallowed Jonah.  I believe that Christ was raised from the dead.  I believe in the miracles of the Bible.  The written record tells us all we need to know but it doesn’t tell us all that we want to know about some of these things.  However, I am sure that the written record, properly interpreted, will prove to have been accurate when we finally get full understanding in heaven.

 

When it comes to this passage, I believe that the plain sense makes sense and I seek no other sense.  I am banking on the fact that what Paul said, God meant.  And that is so freeing. 

 

Meditation for the week of July 5, 2015

Personal Lessons from Job

 

Job 1:8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

 

There is only one really perfect man and that is the God-man Christ Jesus.  But if a man can be blameless and upright, that was Job.  Yet, Job suffered.  Why?  Because he could be trusted with a trial and because Satan didn’t believe anyone worshipped God just because God is God.  In the Satanic mind, there has to be something in it for the worshipper.  Power, riches, prestige, or something has to be the motive for worship.  This was not the case with Job even though outwardly it looked like he worshipped God because God had blessed him. 

 

His Friends

They were sure they were wise.  While they had no specific charges to make against Job they KNEW that he must have sinned for God to strike his wealth, his family and his health.  In their minds, there was no other explanation.  Their attitude was, “Remember now, whoever perished being innocent (Job 4:7)?”  There was just one problem.  THEY WERE WRONG!

 

His friends start out with general accusations; but before they are done, they make specific accusations which they cannot prove.  See Job 22. 

 

What is the lesson here?  We should not assume that people in trouble are being judged by God for their sin.  Often the good are tested and their faith is strengthened by the test while the wicked are allowed to prosper in this day of grace.  As Christians we all get our exercise by jumping to conclusions--conclusions that are often wrong. 

 

Elihu

Elihu seems to come out of nowhere. Being younger than the others he has listened to their wisdom before speaking.  Elihu has more wisdom than the older men but even he cannot really explain why Job is suffering.  But he does recognize that the other friends have made accusations that they cannot support.  He also recognizes that Job has become self-righteous in his defense of his innocence.  He sees Job justifying himself rather than God (see Job 32:2).

 

What is the lesson here?  Age should be respected.  But age does not always mean that a person is wise.  Only the Spirit of God using the Word of God can make us truly wise.  Many times older people present themselves as having spiritual understanding when in fact they are using experience and logic and tradition to explain God and his purposes.  We certainly need to pray for discernment when we are being taught things that make natural sense but do not always make Biblical sense.

 

Job

While Job was not suffering for his sin, he did become self-righteous in his defense of his innocence.  We need to remember that there is a spirit world that is interested in the affairs of earth.  Satan and his minions want to resist all that glorifies God.  There are obedient angels looking on that need to see a people that love that Lord and are willing to be faithful even when life seems unfair. 

 

What is the lesson?  It is easy to be right and at the same time be wrong.  We may be right in our relationship with God and right in our understanding of truth while being wrong in our attitudes.  Pride tripped up Satan and can trip up Christians. 

 

The Solution

Job needed a fresh encounter with the Lord.  In Job 42:5-6, Job says, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

 

What is the lesson here?  We who are saved all need to get a fresh vision of Calvary.  It will keep us humble, and it will keep us from feeling that God has not been fair. 

 

I notice that Job’s blessings were restored when he prayed for the friends who had so misjudged him.  I personally might have found that hard to do.  But the lesson is that they were well-meaning and they did come as his friends.  Now he could and should do something for them.  By praying for them, it would seem he forgave them.

 

 

Meditation for the week of July 12, 2015

Paul was Faithful, Are We?

 

Acts 20:27 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”

 

A Cause for Reflection

As I am writing this, I am faced with the loss of another close friend.  I received a text message last night a little after midnight.  It said that my friend had “passed” at about 11:55 pm.  She had been sick because of a cancerous brain tumor for about three years.  So the news was both a relief and a grief.  I had prayed publicly for her and privately with her on many occasions that the Lord would either heal her or take her home.  That prayer was answered last night.  She has been freed from a body that was imprisoning her.  But I am convinced she has seen the Lord based on what Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:8,  “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  Paul expected to see an “appearing” or “epiphany” of the Lord at “that day.”  Paul had said that the time of his departure was at hand.  What day do you think was on his mind?  I think it was the day of his execution.

 

I know my friend loved the Lord and was looking forward to actually seeing Him.  And I am convinced that she had that privilege last night.  That is why this is a relief.  But losing her friendship and companionship in this life is certainly a grief. 

 

Need for The Whole Counsel of God

As I have thought about her passing, I have been reminded of Paul’s words to the Ephesians on his last visit to them.  I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  I have had to ask myself, “Have I been faithful in that regard?”  Are there things that I do not teach today that I should teach?  And am I teaching things that God does not ask me to teach?

 

As I read through Paul’s last message to the Ephesians  in this chapter, I see him saying “take heed,” and “therefore watch or be careful.”  He says that he did not cease to warn them with tears.  His message was loving but intense and justified because we find out in Revelation 2 that this congregation had left its first love within the space of 30 or 40 years.  I am sure that their “first love” or “chief love” had been the Lord himself.  Now they were occupied with works which were good but they had some deeds or works that were bad.  But any problems that they had could not be attributed to Paul.  He had been faithful.

 

What is the Whole Counsel of God?

Obviously, if we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then the whole Bible is the whole counsel of God.  Unfortunately, today is a day of confusion when it comes to what the Bible teaches.  Some live in the Old Testament and try to live under the law of the Jews.  They don’t distinguish between the Jews, the Gentiles and the church of god  (1 Corinthians 10:32).  While all Scriptural doctrines are important, I notice in this passage that Paul preached both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).”  This seems to a foundational truth.  Paul told the people that saying that they were serving God without accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as the prophesied Messiah was wrong.  They needed to change their minds and repent.  He changed his mind and repented in Acts 9.  When we repent of all that we thought was right but that was not scripturally right, we are able to believe in the Lord or have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Today many want to teach Christians without challenging them as to whether they are Christians.  Christians are getting a bad name because of that.  We are being identified as a people who are against gays and abortion rather than a people that are for the Lord and who are against all sin, even our own.   We tell people about the problems but don’t give them the real solution which is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We get involved in politics because we think that if we change people’s behavior we also change their thinking when in fact they have to change their thinking (repent) in order to change their behavior.

 

Am I faithfully telling people that there is a heaven to gain and eternal damnation to shun?  Do I tell them that death is not the end?  Do I tell them that Christ died for ours sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and that He was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)?  Do I tell them that they may not like God’s plan of salvation and they may not even fully understand it, but God is God; and His plan prevails.  Do I tell people that they will never understand love until they understand the reason for the cross? 

 

Death is Knocking at Each of our Doors

Because we all are one day closer to eternity today than we were yesterday, it is time to listen to the whole counsel of God and also to preach it so that we can all know that when we pass from this scene that we are truly ready to meet the Lord.  My friend was truly ready.

 

 

Meditation for the week of July 19, 2015

An Old Preacher’s Wisdom

 

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

 

Beauty

This planet is a beautiful place.  It is teeming with all different forms of life.  There are birds for the sky, plants for the earth, fish and other mammals for the sea as well as a multitude of other sea life.  Then there is man—the creator’s crowning display of His power and creativity.  But unfortunately, along with all that beauty came evil.  The evil in this world sometimes drowns out all the beauty and good. 

 

Self-Evident Truth

That we were created seems to be a self-evident fact.  We certainly didn’t make ourselves; and to assume as some do that we are simply the product of time and chance seems very fanciful and foolish.  A world this beautiful and orderly had to be created.  We didn’t have anything to do with our first breath and apart from suicide and bad eating habits we will not have anything to do with our death.  Just as there is a divine creator, there is a diabolical destroyer.  The events of 9/11/01 certainly point to the existence of such a destroyer. 

 

While a divine creator and a diabolical destroyer seem to be self-evident to me, I do understand why people wonder if they can know their creator.  There are many religions and philosophies in this world.  Some would say it makes no difference as to which one of those philosophies or religions (or lack thereof) a person believes, because there is no way to really know the truth about the divine and the afterlife.  But either we believe in an authority outside ourselves or we must believe that we are the final authority.  That makes man (who has obviously been created) god, knowing good and evil.  But while mankind may want to believe that he is the final authority, man certainly didn’t create himself.  Whether the story in Genesis is considered an allegory or whether it is considered literal, the story illustrates the struggle that man has.  Either man is the final authority which makes man god or man has a creator that he needs to find and get to know.

 

The Revelation of God and His Contract with Men

The thing that gives my life meaning and purpose is the Bible.  I realize that we know about God through creation.  We also know about God because we have consciences that know good and evil.  But the only way we can really know God is if He shows Himself to us.   He says He has done that through His Son Jesus Christ.  In addition to giving us a God-man in Christ, He has given to us a contract with promises in the Bible.  It seems simplistic to believe that an old book could be the guiding light in knowing Christ, but I am just simple enough to believe that.  We need a constitution to run a government.  We need written contracts to do business.  We need a Bible to know God. 

 

I realize that while I could give many reasons for believing in this old book, the real reason I believe in it is because I want to.  It tells me of a God who loves me.  It tells me about the solution for sin.  It tells me that, for the believer, there is a hereafter that is better than anything we can imagine on planet earth.  It also tells me that there is an awful eternity awaiting those who are not true believers.  In addition, it tells me about a diabolical destroyer who wants as many people as possible to share that awful eternity with him.

 

I keep seeing my friends and family members placed in the ground.  Some of them have had great success and great pleasure.  Some have more toys than I will ever have.  Some have lived lives of great trial and sorrow.  But ultimately, they all die.  Is that the end?   Wouldn’t life be depressing if living and dying was all that we had to look forward to?  Paul had more than that to make his life worthwhile.  He was in prison with a death sentence almost a certainty.  And he said that if he lived, He would serve Christ.  If He died He would be with Christ and that would be gain or better.  He realized that there had to be more to life than being born to pass through life and then ultimately die.

 

There was a preacher in the Old Testament that struggled with these issues.  He tried everything and found that nothing satisfied.  At the very end of his philosophical dissertation, he says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man's all (or the whole duty of man). “See Ecclesiastes 12:13.  Fearing God and guarding His truth by doing what He asks and preaching His Word gave Paul’s life purpose.  It gives my life meaning.  

 

I think the preacher was on to something.

 

Meditation for the week of July 26, 2015