To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

Adam And Eve And The Goodness of God

Adam was told by the Lord that “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 3:16b-17). When he was given this instruction the primary question Adam had to resolve is: Is God good?”

If God is good then the withholding of something was bound to be for Adam’s good. The withholding of the fruit though, was not the only issue. The fruit by it’s name, being called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had a certain significance. The clear implication of not taking the fruit, is that certain knowledge was being withheld from Adam and his, soon to be, wife.

If Adam concluded that God was not good then this restriction was mean and the accompanying threat was just scaremongering. However, if God is good then the restriction is a grace from the Lord for Adam’s benefit. And the warning is a kindness which reinforces the need to keep the commandment which was for Adams’s blessing.

So how could Adam know that God was good? Simply he just had to look around himself and see the beautiful, fulsome and convivial environment he was in. All of it provided by and gifted to him by God.

But after the command God even went further to prove His goodness. He gave Adam a wife, Eve. She would have been the most beautiful woman in history and they would have had the best sex in history and they were encouraged to do such (see Gen. 2:24 and 1:28).

We conclude then that God’s goodness as etched all over Genesis 1 and 2. Alas, mankind did not live long in this blessed appreciation.

Satan sought to bring Adam and Eve down by inferring that God was not good, but rather a killjoy. His lie was  God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Eve, with the by-standing Adam complicit, fell for it and the rest is history; very sad and bad history. And we feel like shouting at Adam in particular, why did you allow that to happen; you must be crazy to allow any suspicion that God is not good.

This question about the verity of the goodness of God is continually with us as we seek to understand the Bible and life. When we don’t know and don’t understand how do we handle the issues of life? If we have doubts about the goodness of God then we are inevitably in an uncertain predicament about how to move forward in our lack of understanding.

However, if God is good then faith bridges the gap in everything. This is so because, I reason that He is withholding full knowledge from me for my good. At the heart of that conclusion is the reckoning that it is better to trust God than to know everything. As the Word from Habakkuk 2:4b says the righteous shall live by his faith.

So how can we know that God is good? Through the evidence of God’s creation and sustaining of this universe most definitely we can conclude God is good. And as we enjoy food on our tables can we ever doubt that God is good when we have a God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17b). Food comes to us not only as suitable to benefit our bodies, but also for our enjoyment. God is good.

Moreover, when we look back we can follow the example of Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12 and raise our Ebenezer stone. In that verse we read: Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

The apogee of our being convinced of the goodness of God is the cross of our Lord Jesus. Of that event we read God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Calvary says “God is good” in the most profound way. In Christ, God deals with our most pressing need; our sins. Truly God is good.

The evidence then is overwhelming: there is a God and He is good. The saving value of the benefits of the cross trumpets this above all the other melodies of His goodness.

Calvary says: God is good, So faith says: I believe, even when I don’t understand. When suffering comes, when people mess us around, when we feel disobedience would be more convenient. In all the trying circumstances of life we recall that God is good and we trust and obey.

 

The Lord’s Supper Frames The Church

One of the key inputs that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper has in the life of a church is that it frames the church around our Lord Jesus Christ and the rich grace of God that is in and through Him.

When we come together to partake of the bread and cup we are making certain declarations about what we believe and are committed to. The two which are key to our understanding of God’s ways for us as churches are the centrality of Christ and the necessity of grace. Let us read this paragraph which gives Paul’s understanding of the meanings and implications of the Lord’s Supper

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26)

From this we discern that the Lord Jesus is centre stage in the Lord’s Supper. He is the One who we remember, and most particularly we focus on remembering His death.  And we do all this whilst awaiting His return. When the table is set and the bread and cup partaken of, Jesus Christ our Lord is portrayed before our spiritual eyes as the all glorious One who is returning for His church. History is defined by Christ and the church is similarly to be defined by Him. Moreover, the church is to formed into the likeness of Christ who died and rose and is coming again.

Furthermore, we are declaring that we owe all to Him. Christianity is not a joint-undertaking where we do our part and Jesus comes and does His part. Rather it is deal whereby our God in Christ by the Holy Spirit does everything. We can as much save ourselves as jump to the moon; it is impossible. We need God to come to rescue us from ourselves and from our sin. This is grace; God’s grace.

But we must go a stage further. When we come to the Lord’s Supper we have the  instruction by Paul: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Cor. 11:27-28). In the examination we discern two main things; we owe all to Christ and we are sinful. We are not just neutral people that God reaches out to, we are, rather, sinful people who are rejectors of God. With such thoughts in our minds the sweet fragrance of grace is intensified in the church. 

To be a church celebrating the Lord’s Supper and be failing to be gracious is a complete contradiction. And similarly we will not be able to focus on ourselves and our desires, but on Christ our Lord and His desires when we fully grasp the communion feast.

In His Presence

The nation of Israel were called to live in the presence of the Lord. Also, their commitment in the covenant of law was to obey His law. Enjoying the Lord’s presence was conditioned upon obedience to the law. Alas in the very act of receiving the tabernacle, which would be the means of them enjoying and participating in His presence they rebelled and defied the first two of the ten commandments which are the summary of that law (see Ex. 32:1-16). They made a golden calf to be their God and in doing so made a graven image of God. The first two commandments prohibited these actions.

The book of Exodus accordingly finishes with Moses outside the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:35). And the book of Leviticus commences with the Lord speaking from the tabernacle to Moses. The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting (Lev. 1:1); Moses could not go in where the Lord was.

The book of Leviticus then gives in full the description of the way in which a sinful people could approach a holy God. This was on the basis of the sacrificial and priestly system. It all centred upon the Day of Atonement which is portrayed in Leviticus 16. Leviticus is a book full of grace. It is a book showing how God establishes the means for a people to be with Him and in His presence.

The success of the book of Leviticus is seen in the first verse of Numbers which says. The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt (Num. 1:1).

The sacrifices have worked! The priests are successful in doing their job! Moses can now be in the tabernacle to speak with the Lord.

Oh what beautiful revealings this has to our souls of the great sacrifice and priest of God’s supply: our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the great One to bring us to God. We no longer need be outside of the presence of the Lord, but we are brought in, in and through our Lord Jesus.

The promptings for this post come from the Bible Project here.

We No Longer Have The “Old Man”

Christians often use statements referring to how they are battling with the “old man”. But is this really accurate? Do we still have the “old man”?

Paul writes this in Romans 6:6-7 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin –  because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. At the moment we become Christians we are finished with the old self; the old man is crucified with Christ. Sin used to dominate in that life which I had before I was saved, but when I became a Christian the old man, given over to sinful pursuits, was slain. On the ,contrary we are now new men. We are new because of Christ. The teaching of Romans 6 is that through the gospel we have been re-wired. So rather than being dominated by sin, we are now dominated by righteousness. The inclination of the new man is predisposed towards righteousness.

So the life story of every Christian is like this. Before they we saved, they had the old man. After they were converted, they are remade as new people. As Paul says to the Corinthians: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Cor. 5:17).

We must state here, though, that although we do not have the old man; we do most definitely still have the old nature; we have the flesh. We do still have within us a nature which is set on doing wrong. Paul writes in Romans 7:18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. The Christian cannot be dominated by sin, but he can be plagued by sin. The bent of every Christian is towards righteousness; this is the reason why sin is so detestable to the Christian.

Paul further teaches in Ephesians 4: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The main idea in this passage is that the Christian is to be who they are. More correctly the text should say that they have put off the old self which is corrupted in evil desires and have put on the new man which is created to be like God in righteousness and holiness. Given that this has happened, they should now live as new people who are finished with the past.

The teaching in Colossians 3:5-10 is similar. Here Paul addresses the Colossians and says: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

So most wonderfully, fellow Christians, we no longer have the old man. Given that God has worked this so wonderfully for us, let us make sure we live as new people risen in Christ.

(Originally published at Venabling on January 30 2014)

Sacrifice Then Promise.

When Noah came out of the ark the first thing he did was to make sacrifices; burnt offerings to the Lord. So we read that Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (Gen 8:20).

Upon making the sacrifices the pleasure of God is known. This is discerned through the consequent promises.

  • To not curse the ground again: Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood (v21a)
  • To not destroy living creatures again And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (v21b)
  • To make the earth abide fruitful ‘As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’ (v22)
  • to make Noah and his sons fruitful Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. (9v1)

Herein is a principle established that the promises follow on from the offering. This finds its most profound fulfillment ultimately in the giving of our Lord Jesus as the propitiation for our sins. He offered Himself as the ultimate burnt offering. On the basis of that one final sacrifice blessing flows to us as God’s people. Consequent to our Lord offering Himself, our Father has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3b). Through our Lord’s sacrifice we are promised so much and we will enjoy what has been promised. Praise Him.

Finally, I must mention that in our lives the sacrifice must come before the promised blessings. If we have not received the benefits of the Christ who sacrificed Himself then we will not receive the promised blessings. We may covet the blessings which the Lord promises. However, these only flow from Calvary’s cross and the Saviour who gave Himself for all who will believe in Him.

How Can The Unsaved Live?

I am pondering here upon the experience of being a unbeliever and wondering how they can go on in life. When I say unbeliever I am referring to those who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour; those who have not repented of their sins and believed in Jesus as their Saviour.

Now life can be tough for the believer; sometimes very tough. We read of Paul and Barnabas how they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said. (Acts 14:21b-22). Many hardships can be experienced by those believing in the Lord. However, always there is hope. There is hope of eternal blessings secured by our Lord and Saviour which we will fully enter into by-and-by. Moreover, there is knowledge that our sovereign kind Lord is watching over us to work out all things for His glory. 

However, for the unbeliever there is none of this. They are ultimately cast out on the sea of life, with all its uncertainty, without any sure and certain hope concerning the future. They do not have faith and thereby they do not have God and that means no hope. Amidst all the camouflaging of eternal issues and the pursuit of the pleasures of this life, there still remains the great uncertainty of death and beyond.

Moreover, they have no anchor for the soul in the turbulence of life. There are no everlasting arms underneath them promising to strengthen them and comfort them.

Oh what a fearful position it is to be unsaved. Is that you? You may have plenty of religion, but if you do not have Christ then all is not well. So come and find Christ as Saviour and enter into the joyous privileges of being a Christian.

Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Church Membership.

God has established a proper order for our lives in His Word. He, in His grace, provides a structure wherein we can function for His glory.

Salvation. The first and most important thing is that we are saved. We can be involved in church and participating in all kinds of things, but if we are not saved they are all irrelevant. To be saved involves repentance and faith. We need first to realise that we are wrong before God and are going the wrong way; we are on a way that leads to death and destruction as a result of our sin. When we fully appreciate that this is our state we turn back to God. This is repentance. And when we do turn back to God we see how our Lord Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins and is now risen from the dead. Through believing in Him and in Him alone we have eternal life.

Baptism. Upon being saved the Lord calls us to be baptised. He calls us to confess our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by being immersed in water and raised out of the water. This is baptism. The principle is established in Acts 2:41a. Those who accepted his message were baptised. Similarly when the message was received by the Gentiles we see the pattern followed. So we read in Acts 9:46b-48a: Then Peter said, ‘Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptised with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. The receiving of the Holy Spirit proved that they were saved and so they needed to be baptised. Baptism is the outward act that indicates to all, that we have been saved. It does not make our salvation, but it confirms our salvation. The act of baptism is associated with our commencing the life of grace in Christ. Every Christian should be continually remembering their baptism and how they confessed that they were finished with living for self, sin and this world and were committed to living for the new creation.

The Lord’s Supper. God also gives us an ongoing ceremony to remind us of our salvation; this is the Lord’s Supper. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only ceremonial acts that are given to the Christian church. The Lord’s Supper confirms our ongoing life of grace in Christ. It is our weekly declaration that we are in Christ and not living for ourselves. You will gather from this that there is something wrong if someone is taking the Lord’s Supper and is is not baptised. The order is that baptism is to be at the start of the Christian life and the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated throughout the Christian life. To be involved in the ongoing rite without submitting to the initial rite is contradictory.

So what happens when we take the Lord’s Supper? At this feast we are called to examine ourselves, confess our sins and acknowledge Christ together. It is to be done in a church setting; it is not a private individual or family thing. In the church setting all those participating in taking the bread and drinking the cup together acknowledge Christ together.

Church Membership. By taking the Lord’s Supper together with other believers we acknowledge our togetherness with them. Paul expresses it to the Corinthians like this: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf (1 Cor. 10:16-17). When participating in the Lord’s Supper you declare that you are committed to these people who you are sharing the loaf with; you are one with them. So many people seems to think that celebrating communion is just an individual act, but surely this is only part of what is taking place. There is a significant collective element to it.

But our collective participation in the Lord’s Supper is contradictory if we are not a member of the church. When you become a member of a church you are committing yourself into the life of that church; you are formally associating yourself with that community of believers. So if you are not a member and are taking the Lord’s Supper your are giving a contradictory message. You are saying you are joined with that body of believers by taking the Lord’s Supper, but you will not commit formally in membership. Something is wrong here.

I conclude by putting before you what happened when the church in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost was originally formed. After the preaching of the Word by Peter we read this summary of what happened in Acts 2:41-42: Those who accepted his message (salvation) were baptised (baptism), and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves (church membership) to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper) and to prayer. Salvation, then baptism, then church membership, then the Lord’s Supper; that’s the Lord’s order.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of October 2016)

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