Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hymn of the Week - Hark the Herald Angels Sing

1. Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King, 
 peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
 God and sinners reconciled!" 
 Joyful, all ye nations rise, 
 join the triumph of the skies; 
 with th' angelic host proclaim, 
 "Christ is born in Bethlehem!" 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

2. Christ, by highest heaven adored; 
 Christ, the everlasting Lord; 
 late in time behold him come, 
 offspring of a virgin's womb. 
 Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; 
 hail th' incarnate Deity, 
 pleased with us in flesh to dwell, 
 Jesus, our Emmanuel. 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

3. Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! 
 Hail the Sun of Righteousness! 
 Light and life to all he brings, 
 risen with healing in his wings. 
 Mild he lays his glory by, 
 born that we no more may die, 
 born to raise us from the earth, 
 born to give us second birth. 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Memorization Monday - 1 Corinthians 15:58


Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

These verses come from the Fighter Verses website: http://fighterverses.com/set-4-core-esv/week-51/
 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Summary of God's Curse or Blessing



To help you pull this together in your own mind, I'm including a list of truths that we have discovered in this study.

In the Old Testament, God gave statements of blessing and cursing. Those who keep all of the law are blessed. Those who fail in any of it are cursed.

There are two ways of living – under the law or by faith.

Those who are under the law are under that curse that God gave.

Abraham believed God and God blessed him and his seed.

The law that came later could not annul that promised blessing otherwise God is guilty of breaking his contract.

If we too believe God and accept His word of salvation through Christ, we are Abraham’s seed according to the promise and therefore recipients of the blessing that cannot be revoked.

Christ lived a perfect life and yet died on the cross and therefore was cursed because anyone hung on a tree is cursed. He bore the curse that was due to us.

The law cannot bring reform to our lives because with it comes the curse. It also stimulates sin and gives sin its power.

The law was in charge before the time of Christ, but now we are in an adult age when those who are Christ’s are adopted as adult sons into his family and are no longer under the guardianship of the law to keep us in line as though we were children.

God begs us not to look to the law as the answer to our sinful and fleshly ways. He reminds us that we, just like Isaac are children of promise and should live our lives in that light.

Friday, December 12, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing? - Part 9



In Galatians 4:21 Paul asks us to look at the picture provided by Abraham’s two sons. If you know your Bible you will recognize these references as to Ishmael and Isaac. One was of the freewoman (Isaac) and one was of the bondwoman (Ishmael). The one born to the bond woman was of the flesh. He came into existence because of the Abraham's scheming, not according to the working of God. Isaac, the child of the free woman, was a child of promise. He came into existence because of the promise of a miracle, which promise Abraham believed.
   Romans 4:19-22 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

 These are symbolic of two covenants (Galatians 4:24) – one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage and the other corresponds to Jerusalem. Sinai of course was the place where the law was given.
Paul concludes by saying this in verse 28, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise…. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
This is the warning and admonition with which we conclude this study. The seed of bondwoman, representing life under the law, and the seed of the free woman, representing the life of faith based on the indwelling Holy Spirit according to the promise of God, are mutually exclusive. The warning is not to be entangled again in the bondage that comes from trying to perform in order to reach an acceptable standard with God. So we are to live by faith, trusting God's promises and living accordingly. We are to accept the forgiveness freely given by God and not beat ourselves up for our lack of perfection. God is working on us and molding us more and more into the likeness of his Son. That's his promise. We need to accept that and trust him with the outcome.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing - Part 8



So the bottom line for the person who is in Christ is that the days of the guardianship of the law are over. It did it's job in the first part of human history but now in Christ it's responsibility has been completed.
Please don’t interpret any of this to say that we are free to live in any way we like. I’m talking about the role of the law and its place in our lives. The reason this is important is that many Christians put themselves under the law in order to try to please God in the sense of making Him happy with their level of obedience. What they don't realize is that perfection is the standard and we fall way short. Even though you may not lie, steal or cheat, do you really want God to condition his favor toward you based on whether you loved him with the entirety of your mind, heart, soul and strength over the last 24 hours? You didn't fall at all short of that standard?  Even though you didn't rob a bank, you perfectly loved your neighbor as yourself and didn't look with covetousness or envy at anything at all that another person has or does? You don't really want to be evaluated by the law, do you?
 Another motivation sometimes is to try to use the law to get our lives in order. If we struggle with certain temptations, we tend to go back under the law to solve that problem. The trouble is that the law brings a curse as we have seen. In fact in Romans 7:8 we learn that sin takes the opportunity in the law to produce all sorts of evil desire. Second Corinthians 15:56 tells us that the strength of sin is the law. Sin gains power when the law is in force. Life requires self-discipline, but putting oneself under the law doesn’t work and in fact God pleads with us not to do that.
 Returning now to Galatians 4:7 we find that if we are a son then we are an heir of God. Think about what that means! We are adult sons, not children. We are heirs of God with all the rights and privileges of being an adult son. Paul tells us in Romans 8:17, "“and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ."  We share in the inheritance that Jesus Christ receives. We are his siblings, so to speak.
Paul basically spends much of the rest of chapter 4 begging the people not to return to childhood. Notice his pleading in verse 9, “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”
In Colossians 2:8, Paul writes, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Then in verse 20 he says, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, (there’s that expression again) why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.” The interesting point here is that he finishes up this thought in verse 23 by saying, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” In other words, it doesn’t work to set up these rules for yourself to try to stifle the flesh. Returning to law-keeping seems like it has a wisdom to it, but it does not work! It just stimulates more sin.
So my question was, “does God beg us not to put ourselves under the law?” Look at verses 11-16 of Galatians 4 and see what you think. God is serious about this. He uses expressions like “I urge you…” and “I’m afraid for you….” The answer we need for trying to live a godly life is not more law. It is in our recognition and accepting by faith the fact that we are new creatures in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit within us and we need to yield to His leadership in our lives.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing? - Part 7



During this time of childhood, Paul describes it as a time of bondage under the elements of the world. What are those elements? This is not a trivial question just for theologians. It is a practical one for us because if we find out that we are still trapped under those elemental issues, then we are still responding like children. We are living like we are adults still under the sway and guardianship of our parents and that is not a good place to be.
Let's begin with a question Paul asks in Galatians 4:9: "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?"  Do you see what he is asking? There is something wrong with desiring to be in that kind of bondage to what he calls the weak and beggarly elements. What are these? In the very next verse he says, "you observe days, months, seasons and years." What does he mean by this?
            Let's look at a couple of other passages and then draw some conclusions.

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Colossians 2:20-22 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?

So we can see from these passages that the elementary principles of the world involve man-made religion, human rules and regulations, religious exercises that are not from God and similar things.
In addition, God has said that even his law was given to keep us under its guardianship until adulthood came. That adulthood came with the coming of Christ. When an person is a child, he needs to be told what to do about virtually everything. He doesn't have the maturity to know which vegetables he should eat and that he shouldn't play in the street. He doesn't know it's good to go to bed at a decent hour to get a good night's sleep. But when adulthood comes, he essentially has the maturity to make these kinds of decisions for himself.
In the religious realm, before the coming of Christ and the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit, people needed to be told what to do and how to live. Humans innately develop religious rules and regulations to guide them and God gave his commandments to his people to serve that same function.
But after Christ and the Holy Spirit came, believers are recipients of the benefits of the New Covenant which promised a new heart, new motivations, and the presence of God's Spirit (Galatians 3:14; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Under these circumstances the guardianship of the law is not necessary. A Christian has within himself the resources to follow God and do the things that are pleasing to him. He is an "adult" in the sense that he has "grown up" spiritually. He has the internal resources he needs. He is treated by God as an adult son. There is obviously more growing to do just as in physical adulthood, there is a big difference between an adult 25 year old and an adult 60 year old in terms of wisdom and experience and so on.
So the bottom line for the person who is in Christ is that the days of the guardianship of the law are over. It did it's job in the first part of human history but now in Christ it's responsibility has been completed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing? - Part 6



Now let's go back to a question we left hanging earlier. The law is a guardian and a tutor until faith comes. When is that? What is the timeline? Once faith comes, the guardianship and tutor relationship ends. When is that? Does that mean when we trust Christ and are saved? Let’s continue reading.
In Galatians 4:1-3 we learn that the law is like the parent or guardian to an under-aged child. A child, Paul says, is not much different than a slave even though he is the heir of everything. Many children probably feel like that! He is under the rule of his parent until he comes of age. Even though he is an heir, he still has to go to bed when told, has to go with mom to the store, has to eat his vegetables and so on. In the same way, when we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world. My question is still the same – when were we children and when did adulthood come?
Paul answers that question in Galatians 4:4. He says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
So there's the timing answer. God sent forth his son more than 2000 years ago when Christ came into the world. That's when childhood ended. That's when adulthood started. That's when the law's guardianship and tutelage ended. It doesn't have anything to do with our growth from childhood to adulthood or with our conversion to Christ.
During this time of childhood, Paul describes it as a time of bondage under the elements of the world. What are those elements? We'll look at that next time.