This is Breakfast With Dad, a collection of devotions on books of the Bible that I send out to over 150 friends and family members. I hope you will take time to read the most recent blog and maybe one of two from past offerings. If you have an interest in studying the Bible or have been thinking about starting a daily devotion, this would be a good place to begin. I started writing these devotions when my youngest son moved away from home and was having a hard time in his life. I used to fix him a hot breakfast every morning before school, so I decided to send him spiritual food instead to encourage his heart. I hope these "breakfasts" encourage you.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Romans 11:17-24 God's Kindness!

Romans 11:17-24  If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches.  If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted.  But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.  Do not be arrogant, but tremble.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.  Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.  Otherwise, you also will be cut off.  And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Those who follow the natural order of the senses are the wild tree, an olive tree that is not cultivated or domesticated.  A bonsai tree begins as a wild tree, falling under the nature of its DNA.  This wild tree will have no other controls than those which are given to it by natural means: soil, water, insects, gravity, and so on.  In a real sense this tree will follow the world of nature unless a gardener takes over its care.  With humans, we follow our senses.  Because of the fall in the Garden, humans live fleshly lives for their own benefit.  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  (Galatians 5:19-21)  We find the world before Noah as a very fleshly world.  Everyone did what was right in their own eyes to the point God repented of this wild tree, repented of creating man.  All the people were crowned by their own desires and not crowned as children of God, motivated by his will.  They were definitely functioning outside of the goodness of the Creator, his mercy and grace.  In God’s time, a man of faith was chosen to lead people out of corruption: Abraham.  He became the cultivated, domesticated olive tree.  Abraham shaped his life by his faith in God and his word.  He never lost the desire to please the God of creation.  He did fail many times, but his desire to serve the living God never left him.  This tame tree of faith became the father of many branches, the Israelites.  This ethnic group believed in a Creator not seen by human eyes, not detected by the flesh, but who existed and was worthy of their service.  The faith of Abraham, the root that goes into the very heart of God, sprouted and thrived through these people, the cultivated olive tree.  In cultivating a bonsai, the owner uses wires and heavy pruning to bring out the shape he desires.  His purpose is to make a plant beautiful in his eyes.  Abraham’s faith brought about a people that God could design in his image.  He shaped the children of Israel with his law and its concomitant regulations.  God’s purpose was to shape humans into his image of goodness, mercy and grace.  But completely following the law and its demanding regulations never took hold with the Israelites.  For the DNA of Adam’s nature even in a domesticated tree constantly sprouted to the surface, contaminating God’s intentions.  Eventually, God dispersed the residents of Judah and Israel into all the world.  A heavy hand of discipline rested on their heads because of their disobedience.  They had lost their faith in the Creator and instead placed their faith in unknown gods of the wild tree.  However, God was not through with the people he domesticated through his laws and regulations.  No, someday they will accept the plan that Peter lays out so passionately and directly on the day of Pentecost.  In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  Even on my servants, both men and women,  I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.  I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.  And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  (Acts 2:17-21)

In the last days, faith in Christ’s redeeming work will be part of God’s plan to bring people into the household of God.  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  (Galatians 3:26-29)  We who are of faith are now presently in the household of God, for we have been born again to a new life IN CHRIST.  The Gentiles have been grafted into this plan of God to become like him in righteousness.  The Gentiles no longer stand outside of the plan of conforming people to his likeness, for they have entered into this plan by faith in the only perfect human: Jesus Christ.  The law and its regulations attempted to cultivate the tree to righteousness, but flesh will always fail to please God.  Works to please God will fail because the work comes from faulty beings, born in sin, in the image of Adam.  We who are alive IN CHRIST are born out of a new seed, one of faith in Jesus’ work on the cross.  No other work than his is totally acceptable to God.  Jesus purchased our salvation at the cross, paying the price for our sins.  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.  (Acts 4:12)  The law and its regulations attempted to prune and stress the Israelites into the likeness of God.  But rather than move them towards God’s likeness, the law brought rebellion into their lives in a real way as they failed to please God.  They placed their faith in their own gods rather than the God of the universe.  Their rebellion brought a hardness of their hearts.  Their ears became stopped to the cry of the prophets.  The prophets warned them of their hardness and predicted their dispersion to all lands if they did not change, but the Israelites were never able to turn completely from their wayward ways.  Consequently, their branches as people of faith in the living God were broken off because of unbelief.  Paul writes that because of this breaking, the wild branches, the Gentiles, were grafted in.  The Jews were left to their own means, their own strength.  The root of Abraham, established by faith, went into the very heart of God.  When that faith in the living God ceased in most of Israel, the cultivated tree was pruned, branches were broken.  An enduring, strong faith in God would have revealed to them that faith in the coming Messiah would make them holy and acceptable to God, but before his coming their hearts were already hardened because of unbelief.

Abraham received the promise of blessing all nations through his lineage.  He received a land that he and his descendants would inhabit.  Of course, Jesus told us that Abraham is now before the Father God.  He received his promise.  We also who believe in Christ Jesus will inhabit that promised land.  Abraham’s people grew up with the understanding that they were chosen to inhabit an eternal land, one created and established by God.  Initially, the promise to them was one of a natural dwelling.  Moses led them to this natural dwelling place, but in the spiritual sense, the law and its regulations always pointed to another land, one where God dwelt.  They needed to be holy to enter that place for eternity.  The law and its light was to deliver them to that eternal resting place.  But they could not hold this expectation in their minds.  As with all flesh, they thought of this world and its activities as the only real existence.  They attempted through their flesh to get as much out of this world as possible.  But the reality of that lifestyle brought them into the likeness of the wild olive tree.  Rather than look and act differently from the heathens around them, they became like them in their nature.  Rather than portray God’s image of love, grace and mercy to the world, they became the world’s image of hardness, destruction, and selfishness.  A lack of faith in the God will always bring about the nature of Adam: rebellion to God’s purpose and likeness.  We who are living now need to commit to God’s plan for our lives.  We should image him and not ourselves.  We should stay in the land of faith: believing in the God of creation; believing He has a grand purpose for our lives.  If we stop believing in his works, we will lose the shekinah glory.  We will lose the face of God in our lives.  We will become darkened in our visage, lonely in our lives, hopeless in our dreams.  Jesus came to give us full lives.  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  (John 10:10 KJV)  Those who are dedicated to God, who understand his voice, who walk with him in an intimate manner are new creatures.  We do not pick up manna from cultivated land; we pick up manna on uncultivated land.  Our daily sustenance remains a free gift given to us by God.  The Holy Spirit is that manna, not from cultivated ground, not from a tree we tended.  No, He gives free gifts.  Today, pick up that manna in your hearts.  Hear the voice of the Lord.  Live free from the constraints of the law and the stresses of regulations.  Live according to every word that comes from the Lord.  As Jesus said, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  (Matthew 4:4)  Oral words need sound waves for us to hear them, but the Spirit needs no sound waves for us to hear him.  We hear the quiet voice of the Spirit within us.  Breakfast companions, live today as those who belong in the olive tree, those who hear the voice of God and know his mercy and grace.   

Monday, September 3, 2018

Romans 11:11-16 Shine Your Light!

Romans 11:11-16  Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?  Not at all!  Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.  But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!  I am talking to you Gentiles.  In as much as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envying save some of them.  For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?  If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

If the first fruit of a harvest is holy, then the whole harvest is blessed by God.  The acceptance of God as the creator and reverence towards him as Lord is the first step to salvation.  With this acceptance, we recognize God as the tree of life.  All life comes from the roots of this tree.  Abraham believed this reality: he believed in God’s work, God’s words.  Consequently, the Bible tells us his faith in God’s realm was counted to him as righteousness.  He heard God’s words and placed his faith in them.  Because of his faith in God, he was honored as the father of many nations.  Also, he must have understood eternal life would be his inheritance.  Jesus confirmed this fact when he told the Sadducees that the patriarchs were presently with God.  But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."   He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.  (Luke 20:37-38)  Abraham’s faith in God’s words and work brought great favor to his descendants who received the law and regulations to protect them from God’s wrath on sin.  The children of Israel lived in great light: the law.  God was pleased with their intentions to obey him, but because the Israelites operated in the flesh and were not born again, they could not be faithful to God’s laws and regulations.  Their transgressions, their lack of fidelity to the Lord, caused them to be put aside for a while.  Their fleshly nature deceived them.  As with all men, the flesh with all its flaws will never be obedient to God.  Although men do not recognized this fact of their nature, God knew they would always be disobedient to his will and nature.  Their rebellion and need to control their own lives would defeat their intentions to obey the living God.  God illustrates this nature of rebellion by choosing the Israelites to carry out his will on earth, telling them to follow his laws and regulations.  Even though his laws were righteous and his regulations would protect them from God’s wrath, the Israelites did not follow the will of God.  The chosen Israelites failed; the outcast Gentiles failed.  All of humankind fail in following the will of God.  Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.  For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.  (Romans 11:30-32)  What then is the hope of salvation?  What is the first fruit?  Where is blessing from God?  What will make the whole batch holy?  God has had a plan from before the world was formed: All who place their faith in the first fruit, Jesus Christ, will be saved!   But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

Paul worked hard to deliver some of his brethren, the Jews, from the darkness in their hearts.  However, most of them had ears that were stopped.  They could not hear the message of grace and mercy.  They were overcome with the need to protect their religion of laws and regulations, their way to salvation.  Paul in his teaching referred them back to Abraham and to the fact that Abraham received God’s validation of righteousness long before the law was given, some 400 hundred years.  God gave Abraham right relationship with him on the basis of Abraham’s faith in him as God and creator.  Abraham was willing to follow God’s words, his will and not his own.  He was willing even to sacrifice his son Isaac, the child of the promise.  This is the faith God has asked all of us to possess, a belief in the eternal One and his works.  This is the faith of the great people in Israel, the ones who relied on God’s words and works, and not their own.  In Hebrews 11 we see many of their names mentioned as people of faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Samson, David, and the like.  All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  (Hebrews 11:13)  The born again soul comes only to those who place their total trust in God’s righteousness.  God’s work is capsulated in his Son, who gave himself for the salvation of many.  Jesus did not hold back his life for himself, but gave himself up completely for the plan God had conceived for humankind.  He meant to redeem man.  Man could not be saved as long as he held the belief that in himself was goodness, and he could please God through his own good works.  The Jews failed at this attempt to be good even though God gave them the righteous law.  Although the law revealed light, the will of God, they could not please God, for they were born out of Adam’s fleshly desires to be in control of their own lives, their own desires to rule and reign.  They would not conform to the dictates of the law or its regulations.  The Israelites were lost in their own self-will.  Jesus struggled with the elite of the Jewish religion, for He knew they were as the blind leading the blind.  The leaders knew what the law said, but their hearts were far from God.  Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.  What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”  Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”  He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.  Leave them; they are blind guides.  If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”  (Matthew 15:10-14)  Jesus knew people needed spiritual eyes to see the Lord in their midst and spiritual ears to hear the voice of God.

Paul looked forward to the time when the Jews would accept the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah, when they would understand that through him comes reconciliation with God.  The gift of this right relationship with God is eternal life.  For if their rejection of the Good News brought reconciliation to the rest of the world, what would their acceptance be but life from the dead for God’s people?  Praise God, all who accept the Lord as Savior will have a right relationship with God.  Our lives should be lived in a way that everyone will know that Jesus Christ is alive and that God is on his throne.  Jesus said, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16)  In the Old Testament, we see Daniel threatened by a law that would surely bring about his death.  The law said that no one should pray to any god for a whole month.  If anyone was caught praying to another deity than the king, he would be killed by throwing him into the lions’ den.  When Daniel heard this law, a law he knew was pointed at him, he went home, threw up his windows that faced Jerusalem, and prayed as he had always prayed, three times a day.  Of course, the people who hated him because he was a favorite of the king and had great power, spied him out.  When they heard Daniel pray, they quickly went to the king and told of Daniel’s failure to obey the king’s decree.  In those days, a decree could not be changed; the king’s words could not be altered.  Even though King Darius had great love for Daniel, he had to carry out the law, so Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den.  At dawn after Daniel was in the den overnight, the king came, asking him if his god has protected him.  Daniel answered, My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.  They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.  (Daniel 6:22)  Daniel did not shirk from his duty to praise the Lord.  He opened up his windows and through his prayers proclaimed there is a living God who deserves to be praised and followed.  He paid a price for that boldness: he was thrown into the lions’ den.  Are we that bold or are we afraid of the consequences of being bold?  The lions’ mouths were stopped for Daniel, but many more believers as in the Hebrews 11 account, lacking a way of escape, have faced horrible persecution and even death.  In certain countries today, people face grievous trials for proclaiming Christ.  Dear friends, we ask you to throw open your windows and to pray loudly to the God of the universe, to display Abraham’s faith and the faith of the saints of all the ages that God lives and He deserves our praises.  Glory to God in the highest!    


Monday, August 27, 2018

Romans 11:1-10 A Peculiar People!

Romans 11:1-10  I ask then: Did God reject his people?  By no means!  I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.  God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.  Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”?  And what was God’s answer to him?  “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”  So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.  What then?  What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain.  The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.”  And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them.  May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.”

Did God reject the man of faith, Abraham and his descendants?  No, Paul is saying.  Abraham’s faith in God’s mercy and grace gave him a mission on Earth.  His people, the Jews, were God’s chosen to bring grace and mercy to the whole world through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  The Jews were promised a special land, but first they had to go through a period of 400 years of slavery.  They experienced in Egypt what all people on Earth experience: slavery to a dark spirit, Satan.  Mankind, made in his image, fell from his grace and mercy through their disobedience in the Garden.  They immediately fell into slavery to Satan when they left the Garden.  We see their first example of darkness and obedience to evil when Cain killed Abel.  This act was so unnatural to God’s intentions for his creation that he says Abel’s blood cries out to him or the disobedience of man cries out to him.  From that time on man’s nature manifests itself through his evil thoughts and deeds.  People knew what was righteous and good, but they chose to follow the evil and waywardness in their hearts.  With their disobedience to God’s nature came the wrath of God.  Romans 1 describes this well: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  (18-20)  God selected Abraham to lead mankind out of darkness.  He believed in God’s promise to him to be the father of many nations even though this promise was not evident in his circumstances.  When God gave him the son of promise, God asked for this one son as a sacrifice.  In obedience, Abraham placed this son of promise on an altar.  But God spared his son, honoring Abraham’s faith in God’s goodness and grace.  Isaac was spared and a great nation came through his lineage, eventually known as the Israelites.  Abraham’s faith in God’s promise seemed to be totally snuffed out in the land of slavery.  The Israelites were a product of their slavery: subservient even to the Egyptian gods.  But God called another man of faith: Moses.  He was prepared by God in the house of Pharaoh to lead the Israelites out of slavery to a land promised to Abraham.  Moses battled the Israelites unruliness in the wilderness, but he accomplished the task of delivering them to Canaan.  After they took possession in Canaan, they lived in a wayward manner, accepting other gods, humiliating the God who led them out of slavery.  Although the Jews possessed a land of promise, God had greater plans for them—a plan he would fulfill in Jesus Christ.  The Promised Land is an eternal plan, one that can be gained only by faith; the same kind of faith that Abraham placed in God.  Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  (Romans 4:3)  In today’s verses, Paul tells us that only a few of the Jews understood this plan of God to bring eternal life to all men and women who put their faith in the works of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  The majority of the Jews had stopped ears to this message of redemption for all people.  They had eyes only for their land, their destiny, their plans.  Consequently, only a remnant of Jews believed in Jesus as the Messiah.

Later on in Romans 11, Paul exclaims, I am talking to you Gentiles.  Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.  (13)  Even though the Jew’s fixation on their earthly dwelling place is so strong, Paul ministers to them about heavenly things, about a new kingdom that God has prepared for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord.  Most of the Jews vehemently rejected the message of Christ and his redemption for all people.  But Paul still ministered to them, holding out hope that some would have ears to hear this message of faith in Jesus as their redeemer.  He was not just sitting back and saying that whosoever God wants in his kingdom will come to the realization that Jesus is Lord.  No, he was seeking their salvation.  He understood the heart of Jesus who told the story of the shepherd going out for the one lost sheep and ended it with: In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.  (Matthew 18:14)  Paul experienced much persecution from the Jews because he told them of the truth of the Kingdom of God.  The early church, consisting mostly of Jews, faced horrendous persecution from unbelievers, but they faced this persecution with a strong testimony of Jesus as their Lord.  The hardness of the hearts of the majority of Jews probably emanated from their great disappointment in Jesus.  He was lifted up by the crowd as their savior from the oppressive yoke of the Romans; instead, they later believed He betrayed them by meekly going to the cross supposedly dying for their sins.  How could He be someone they should trust in completely?  No savior of their people and their land would ever be arrested and hung on a cross.  They were looking at existence on Earth as the only real existence.  Their ears were closed to the message of eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord.  But Paul and others working for the Lord were seeking for the Jews and the Gentiles that would have ears to hear and minds to believe in the Good News.  The Jews who were hearing and accepting the Good News began to preach to others.  Peter preached to Cornelius and his family.  In Acts 11 we see Jews from Cyprus and Cyrene preaching to the Gentiles in Antioch, and we read how God revealed to Peter his plan to bring the gospel to Jews and Gentiles.  In every land, all people were presented with the Good News, so that some might put their trust in the Lord God of Israel.  When the people heard what Peter had to say, they said, So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”  (Acts 11:18) 

There has always been a remnant in every land who believe in the eternal Lord and his Son, Jesus.  When we as Christians search history, we find very few who truly believe in living by faith in a holy God.  We are nearly faceless in history.  If spoken of at all, Christians remain mostly misunderstood and misrepresented.  Jesus explained how the world would not accept believers.  If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  (John 15:18)  Jesus has placed us as lambs among wolves.  We are to love our enemies, not kill them.  Looking at history, we see established religions of all sorts, mostly building influence and kingdoms on Earth.  In European history, we see nations and institutions that claim to be Christian but were really ravenous wolves of power, using the name of Christ to gain earthly influence and authority.  With their power, these institutions willingly hurt others to establish their kingdoms.  But the reality of Christianity is that the kingdom of Heaven is not built by power and influence, it is built by faith in Christ.  The Bible says, Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.  (Zechariah 4:6)  The kingdom of God is a heavenly kingdom, eternal, gained only by faith in Jesus Christ.  Even today, people are trying to establish a kingdom of God on Earth.  Abraham and his descendants never really made much impact on the world physically.  They have been and always will be a small ethnic group.  But their spiritual impact through faith in the Jew, Jesus Christ, as Lord has been huge.  Many people from all ethnic groups and from all races have trusted him as their gate to eternal life.  Jesus said we must be born again.  Many have experienced the transformation of the soul to new life.  Abraham’s trust in God is the same trust that is needed by anyone to experience a new life IN CHRIST.  Those who are born again are peculiar people, aliens, strangers to this earth for this is no longer their home.  People who trust in Jesus as Lord seek a city not made by human hands.  We who are IN CHRIST are those who have been chosen for eternal life.  We are the ones who sing to God, praise his name, just because He is, not because of what he has done for us, but just BECAUSE HE IS.  God is worthy of all praise.  Praise him today for He is alive in you.  Jew and Gentile are one IN CHRIST.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  (Romans 3:21-24)  We all wear the white robes of the redeemed.  We are standing with all the brothers and sisters through the ages with our beloved Apostle Paul: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.  (Titus 2:13 KJV)  Amen! 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Romans 10:18-21 To the Ends of the World!

Romans 10:18-21  But I ask: Did they not hear?  Of course they did.  “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”  Again I ask: Did Israel not understand?  First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”  And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”  But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
In these verses, Paul addresses the unwillingness of the Jewish people to accept Jesus as the Messiah.  Their disobedient and rebellious hearts stopped their ears.  Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.  He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you.  But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”  (Mark 4: 10-12)  The children of Israel should have been able to recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah because they had the law and the Old Testament prophecies to enlighten their hearts.  Jesus performed many miracles in the midst of them.  He calmed the seas and silenced the wind, but they would not believe in his words or his actions.  They approached God’s revelation of himself through Jesus Christ as if it had no eternal value for them, only temporal value: desiring him to deliver them from the Roman Empire.  Their present condition in their flesh overrode his voice about the kingdom of heaven.  They lost their ears to hear.  Even though they were chosen, they operated as the heathens who lived in great darkness, living for this kingdom of the flesh.  As God’s chosen people, they should have been in tune with the eternal God; instead, because of their disobedience, they were as blind as the Gentiles.  God presented his kingdom to them under the context of faith: believe in my Son, Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.  However, since they were under the Roman authorities; they felt the chafing of subservience to a hated power more than they felt the need of a savior.  Where was their God under their circumstances of bondage?  Where was the God of the universe who called them his own?  The Sadducees went so far in their unbelief that they taught there was no resurrection, no eternal prize for believing in the God of all creation.  Their ears were deaf to the One who performed miracles in their very presence.  They challenged Jesus to reveal clearly his divinity, to show them a special sign or give them a rational explanation of his divinity.  They were completely in the domain of those who believe power on this earth was the only real prize to be obtained by religion.  They chose to live for today’s world, not for some illusionary kingdom of God.  They did not have to be new creatures; they did not have to be born again, for they were functioning quite well in their biological existence, striving for today, for the meager awards that fleshly existences awarded them.  They did not understand their foolishness: For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  (Mark 8:36 NKJV) 

Paul’s teachings infer an awareness of God existed in all people at one time.  Many cultures have a creation story in their lexicon.  But the knowledge of God the Creator fell on many types of ground.  As Jesus pointed out, some seed fell on ground that was not conducive to germination or healthy growth: some on rocky ground, some among thorns, some in meager soil.  Of course, seeds of faith in God that do not germinate or fail to thrive become nothing more than opinions or legends in different cultures, societies.  Consequently, many stories are created to explain the beginning of life on Earth.  Life becomes merely a process of living, trying to please manmade gods held responsible for existence.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  (Romans 1:18-21)  The secular man’s perspective, regardless of his belief in God or gods, places himself on the throne of life.  His narcissistic view of himself and the meaning of life satisfies his basic rebellious nature of Adam.  Before his stoning, John the Baptist said this of those around him, You stiff-necked people!  Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised.  You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!  (Acts 7:51) John knew religious acts did not change the heart.  Only faith convinces a man or a woman of God’s realm.  Jesus would not stoop to people’s desire for him to convince them of his divinity.  He demanded their faith, not their rational minds.  Consequently, He spoke in parables.  Salvation would not depend on man’s ability, his IQ, his knowledge, his wisdom.  Salvation would come to all those who put their faith and trust in the Son of God.  This way of faith seems foolishness to the rational man.  He would accept a Jesus who showed himself all-powerful, but he rejects a God so weak that the Jewish elite and the Roman Empire could dally with him and then put him to death.  Unbelieving men and women fail to comprehend that the God of all creation must be accepted by faith.  Weighing authority by strength, power, the unredeemed ask how Christ on the cross reveals God’s mighty power?  He is one to be ashamed of, for he is weak, helpless in the face of mere men.  No wonder the crowd cried, “Crucify him!”  The onlookers were ashamed that his meekness and weakness would stain them with the same robe of humiliation.  The Jews wanted a strong, authoritative man who could throw off the yoke of the hated Romans.  They wanted their own Caesar to breathe fire, who could defang the Roman Empire.  Instead, their king helplessly hung from the cross while the soldiers beneath him claimed his clothing for themselves.  Jesus’ proclamation remains clear: for those without ears to hear, I will let them walk in their deafness.  Those who will not accept the Messiah by faith without absolute proof of his divinity, I leave them to their rebellion, their ignorance.  I will not open heaven to them, for I despise their unbelief, their lack of acceptance of the Creator, even though they know better.  They ask me for proof, but I will give them only one proof of my divinity, the proof of Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  (Matthew 12:40)  In this manner Jesus alluded to his death and resurrection in power and authority from the grave.

The Bible clearly indicates the Jewish people were the most culpable concerning not receiving Jesus as the Messiah.  They rejected the prophets who foretold Jesus’ coming.  They chafed under the prophets’ words that predicted dire consequences for their unwillingness to accept God’s authority over their lives.  Their rejection of the Creator God by accepting other gods into their environment caused them untold trouble and grief.  Their unwillingness to accept God as the only authority in their lives caused them not to hear the voice of God through Jesus Christ and his life.  They contaminated their lives with other gods and secular living.  All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.  Through the years, they tested God as they did in the Wilderness.  They questioned his direction, his authority in their lives.  They questioned his love and his provision for them.  The Israelites even wanted to abandon him and go back to Egypt, serving a lifestyle of slavery and servanthood to other gods.  Consequently, after all these years of unfaithfulness to the God who chose them out of all races, God turns his favor upon a people who did not know him, who previously were not blessed by him.  He turned to the Gentiles.  Of course from the beginning of time, God’s plan was to bless all people with his divine salvation.  We read in the Word about God’s covenant:  This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.  Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.  (Hebrews 10:16-17)  But faith in God had to supplant the nature of Adam in humans.  Men and women must be born again through a divine work in their hearts.  Because of God’s grace, the Gentiles have discovered this new life through faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus has become their hope of eternal life.  The Gentiles have found a new life through Jesus the Savior and Healer.  I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.  The wayward people’s works were not many, their knowledge about God was not great, but they trusted God IN JESUS.  Therefore, they inherit the kingdom of God by faith.  They know God has cleansed them of their sins by the efficacious blood of the Lamb.  They are in tune with God; they serve him out of love.  The wayward from all ethnic groups, all races, who received the mercy and grace of God by faith, walk in gladness because their lives are now worth living.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.  (Luke 19:10)  Amen! 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Romans 10:14-17 Bring Good News!

Romans 10:14-17  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

The message of Christ has been sent around the globe in all kinds of forums: face to face, small and large gatherings, written letters, newspapers, radio, television, online, telephone, and so on.   Two and a quarter billion Christians inhabit the world.  These are people who classify themselves as Christians when asked.  One would think the message of Christianity has invaded every corner of the world, for Christianity is the largest religion in the world of seven and half billion people.  However the message of faith in Christ alone has not been well received by many who claim to be Christians.  They might have joined a Christian organization or follow a dogma that claims to be Christian, but they lack complete dependency on Christ for their salvation, a key element of true faith.  Christ crucified and resurrected has always been a stumbling stone to many in the world, religious or not.  When Peter wrote of people rejecting the living stone, our cornerstone, Jesus Christ, he quoted the Old Testament: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.  (1 Peter 2:6)  Jesus is the only way to everlasting life.  This pure truth of the gospel must still be preached in all lands.  Until Christ returns, people must be sent to every corner of this world to preach the Good News: eternal life comes to those who are IN CHRIST THROUGH FAITH IN HIS WORKS.  The salvation message, received by faith in Christ, must still be spread by every means possible.  The supernatural existence of the born again experience must still be shared.  A new creation comes alive by faith in Christ’s work, through his efficacious blood on the cross and in the power of his resurrection from the dead by the Holy Spirit.  A born-again life moves from this finite kingdom of the Earth to an eternal kingdom known as the Kingdom of God.  The redeemed receive a new citizenship: a new residence is promised to them forever.  This is the message believers must take to all people who are trapped in this time capsule without an escape from death.  This is the message of the GOOD NEWS.  Across the ages, many have been persecuted and even killed because of promulgating this lifeline to a sick and dying world.  But Christians must continue to carry this Good News to their communities and to the world.  Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.  
We should have a fire in our souls burning to share the same message Paul wrote to Timothy, Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to same sinners—of whom I am the worst.  (1 Timothy 1:15)

The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is real to those who grasp this reality by faith.  All others cannot enter into this domain of God because of their lack of faith.  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6)    However, a new kingdom, a heavenly kingdom, must be seen through eyes of faith that trust in God.  God has demanded that we use faith in order to come to him.  The Good News requires faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  God will accept no other avenue to him, but faith.  As humans, we often want to see evidence that God is real.  The people in Jesus’ time wanted him to perform miracles on their command.  But Jesus would not accommodate them.  In fact he told them that an evil generation seeks a sign, a generation that will not accept God and his existence by faith.   The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus.  To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign?  Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”  (Mark 8:11-12)  A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!  But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  (Matthew 12:39-40)  From the beginning to the end The Bible lifts up faith.  Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve could never again enter into the Garden of Eden or find a place where they could commune with God face to face.  Their lives would carry out God’s curse on them.  But even in this desperate situation, God had a plan for them and for all humanity to come to him in faith, believing God has a place of abiding with him just over the horizon.  But this kingdom of God must be attained by unswerving faith in his goodness, mercy and grace.  God has not given up on mankind, even though man’s inclinations are evil from birth.  His rebellion, his shaking of his fist in God’s face, is integral to his nature.  “I WILL DO IT!   I don’t need you.  I will perform righteousness in my life.” Mankind cries out at God.  But man’s existence through historical accounts has always been polluted by violence, degradation, untold evil acts.  He has not been able to reform himself, even though God has given him understanding, great knowledge, and wisdom.  Yet God made a way for us through his Son that we might be saved and take the gospel forth to a dying world in answer to Jesus’ command: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  (Mark 16:15) 

Faith in God and in his words was central to the lives of the ancients in the Bible.  By faith, Noah had to see a new kingdom after the flood.  He built the Ark, based on his faith in God’s words.  By faith, Abraham left what he knew and moved to a new land, one he never would own in his lifetime, but a land that was promised to him and his descendants.  By faith, Moses took the Israelites to a land that he had never explored, a land already populated, but promised to the Israelites.  These Bible greats and men like Joshua all accepted their future by faith.  The prophets, depending upon God, accepted the truth of the future by faith.  In the New Testament, we find Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples, the apostle Paul, and all the others who followed Jesus accepting their future by faith.  Today, we who are IN CHRIST also have a future we accept by faith.  We know God has given us the Kingdom of God now and that we will live forever in the presence of the Lord.  Because of our hope and trust in Jesus and our confidence in his Word, our future is established.  The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  (Romans 10:8-10)   We who are IN CHRIST have inherited a new existence, a new Kingdom, one that we have never explored or possessed with our physical senses, but it exists.  We have obtained this kingdom by faith.  Because of the Holy Spirit in us, we can function successfully in this kingdom.  We have the privilege of talking to our Lord face to face because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  This relationship depends on the faith we have in Jesus Christ, just as people in the Old Testament depended on their belief in God and his works, we depend on God’s work and not our own.  We are risen with Christ into a new life.  We are born again into a new family through our faith in Christ.  Our kingdom is present, but also in the future.  For someday we will be known to all creation as the adopted members of God’s household, through the work of Jesus Christ.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls our, Abba, Father.  (Galatians 4:6)  Today, walk with beautiful feet as a son or daughter of the King, sharing the gospel that Jesus saves to the uttermost! 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Romans 10:5-13 The Name of the Lord!

Romans 10:5-13  Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law; “The person who does these things will live by them.”  But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say?  “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Praise God!  The above scripture is foundational in the life of those who are saved by the grace and mercy of God.  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  No one can find the gate to heaven, to everlasting life in the kingdom of God, unless he or she calls upon the name of the Lord.  We must be born again is the cry of fallen man.  Fallen man, finite man, troubled man can never exist forever with God unless he or she becomes a new creature.  Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”  Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8)  We must be born again to be saved from finiteness, chaos, eternal death.  How can we be born again?  How can we find a different life, a better way of existing?  Only through the Spirit of God who reveals the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is not like our biological existence, determined by our senses.  Jesus describes the ethereal existence by saying, as with the wind, you know that it exists, but the mystery of where it came from or where it is going is difficult to understand.  The moving air is all around us, so is the kingdom of God.  God’s realm exists, but as humans we find it hard to detect where it is from and where it is going.  We are caught in a biological existence on a small planet called Earth.  Our existence in reference to what we scientifically know is largely insignificant.  We cannot be considered even a speck in the galaxies that we know exist.  Yet, the Creator has designated us as so significant that we will become part of his family, adopted sons and daughters, born of the Spirit with an understanding of spiritual realities that exceeds our comprehension of life.  But we must be born again into a new dimension, a dimension where God exists in perfect holiness, an existence set apart from our former lives.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)  

Without this new creation in us, we are hopelessly lost in our sins, our rebellion, our degradation.  When we try to make ourselves different, we fail.  We fail in keeping the laws of God, of our culture, and of our society.  We even fail in following our own laws: often saying to ourselves, I will never do that act or think that thought again, and then finding ourselves unable to keep our promises.  We are  intrinsically rebellious and wayward.  With these sinful attitudes in us, we are dangerous, untrustworthy, and innately selfish.  Throughout mankind’s existence, horrible things have happened to people: men, women, and children.  Last century alone, over 200,000,000 people were slaughtered by violence.  Other heinous acts such as rape, torture, slavery, and the like, far too many to number, were committed against innocent people in those hundred years.  Century after century, violence and savagery have been a major part of the human existence.  In Joseph Conrad’s famous novel, Heart of Darkness, that delves into the depths of man’s depravity, the main character, upon his death, cries out, “The horror!  The horror!”  Man’s biological nature is contaminated by a sin so deep we are left with such angst.  Human beings need a new existence, one that propels us beyond our natural inclinations.  Law cannot do that, for regulations merely rearrange the chairs on the Titanic but cannot save the sinking ship.  Neither will laws rescue man from his final destination of death.  Only a new life, a new creation will rescue man from oblivion.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all thing have become new.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)  The new creature comes through faith in the works of the Perfect One, Jesus Christ.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  We are saved through faith in Christ’s work on the cross from the consequence of sin that is death.  When the light went out of Jesus’ eyes because he was dead, the work for our redemption was completed.  God is a just God.  Sin must be paid for with death.  Jesus paid that price.  Just as the sacrificed lambs in the Old Testament paid the price for the Israelites’ sin, so did Jesus pay the price for whosoever will come to him.  His death paid the way for our redemption.  His resurrection gave us eternal life with him in heaven.   

People tend to rely upon religion or religious activities to attain heaven.  Many count on a church or a tradition to secure an afterlife.  Others place their faith for a positive hereafter in the wisdom and knowledge of various people: philosophers, sages, mystics, monks, witchdoctors, priests, saints, ministers, and so on.  People are intrinsically religious, seekers of the unknown.  But good ideas, mystical religions, philosophies, ideologies, traditions, heritages will not provide the answers pilgrims seek.  The Bible says, “Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  Otherwise, do not attempt to find the answer to life by investigating ways to find God.  Do not say you need God closer to you because of something you have learned or because you want to gain more knowledge about him.  Why do you think He is far away from you when the Word says God is even at your lips?  You do not need someone or something else to show you the way: a wise man with cunning words, a church hierarchy to explore, a mystical man from a foreign land to help you find God.  Do you think you will find what you are looking for in some remote religion or philosophy book written by someone just like you?  You do not have to depend on others to find God.  The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Good News!  The message of God is one of faith.  If you declare Jesus Christ as Lord and depend on him with your whole heart, you will find God near, even in your soul.  Salvation comes to all who confess the truth of Jesus Christ.  He has come in the flesh to save people from their sins, to deliver them to God in right standing.  All other ways to God are false, no matter how sensible they seem.  Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit.  You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.  For there are many false prophets in the world.  This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God.  But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God.  Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.  (1 John 4:1-3)  Jesus Christ is a stumbling stone to many.  They cannot believe a man could be called the Son of God, die on a cross, and rise from the grave.  But this is exactly what Jesus did.  Only through his life, death, and resurrection can new life come to man.  He alone paid the price for sin, pleasing God in the flesh.  We who have put our hope in him have that same resurrection power in us.  The Holy Spirit will resurrect us to be with God.  Dear friends, your hope rests in this fact: Jesus was resurrected, so will you be resurrected.  Jesus went to prepare a place for us, so we could be with him again.  The new creature within you will be with God forever.  Amen!      

Monday, July 30, 2018

Romans 10:1-4 The Gift of God!

Romans 10:1-4  Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.  For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. 

The law is good.  Its regulations and sacrifices helped the Jews keep in right relationship with a perfect, holy God.  However, keeping all of the commandments, regulations, special days, holy sacrifices perfectly exceeds man’s abilities and the natural order of things.  What if someone decides to switch on an electric light, or to put out a house fire, or to sweep out a contaminant on the Sabbath?  Does that work violate God’s command to keep the Sabbath holy?  Where does holiness begin and end; is holiness a heart issue or an activity?  Does obedience to the law stem from endearing love or from slavish behavior?  Does picking up a leaf, sharpening a pencil, or brushing dried mud from boots constitute work?  Can you walk on grass, crushing it with your feet, but not cut down a tree?  Are there exceptions to the commands and regulations in a daily life?  When does holiness stop and secular life start?  Of course in today’s scripture, Paul writes about the hearts of the Israelites in their attempts to follow God’s ways.  Their obedience came from control and monitoring, not from heartfelt commitment.  In fact, we discover as we look back on the Jewish experience after they left Egypt that they were continually idolatrous.  They carried two allegiances in their hearts: one to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the other to their preferred heathen gods.  God often complained about their idolatry, their lack of fidelity to him.  He repeatedly judges them for their failure to serve their Creator wholeheartedly.  Jesus quoted Isaiah when He said, These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  (Matthew 15:8)  They expressed religious zeal, attempting to serve God through the law and regulations they received in the Wilderness, but their own self-righteousness contaminated their hearts.  Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  They knew God demanded exactness, to do things exactly as he commanded.  They built everything: the ark, the tabernacle, the temple items, exactly as God ordered.  Nothing was to be too big or too small or as an approximation of what God ordered.  No, everything had to be exact, conforming to his will.  Also in their daily lives as individuals and as a community, they had to live lives of exactness, perfection, and holiness. Of course as with all humans born with Adam’s DNA, the Jews were rebellious in nature.  To force them to come under the will of another, even God’s will, ran contrary to their human nature, their willful spirit.  What they needed and what all men and women everywhere need is a substitute for their waywardness: an advocate before God.  They required someone who could satisfy all of God’s expectations of mankind.  Jesus Christ is that person.  Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  

The Jewish people were chosen to bring to the world the answer to perfection, the answer to God’s exactness and his holiness.  Nonetheless, their own efforts to please God failed miserably, for they were not capable of following God unreservedly from their innermost being.  Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  (Matthew 22:36-39)  Their attempts to follow the laws and regulations did not change the intents and purposes of their hearts.  Their self-centered human nature dominated their everyday lives, their actions in community with others.  Their Adamic nature was predominant, even in their repentance: “We will do it.”  We will change; our efforts will prove that we can be like you God: holy and good.  Even in the Garden of Eden when the devil tempted Adam and Eve, he appealed to their desire to be co-equal with their creator.  He told them to eat the fruit.  For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.  (Genesis 3:5)  In the beginning, humans were so foolish as to believe that if they received the knowledge, they could follow it.  However, they could not follow the way of God’s rules and regulations, for their hearts were full of self: self-effort, self-satisfaction, self-correction, and the like.  Their Adamic personality was present even in their repentance.  They desired not God’s ways, his nature of love: they desired their will, their nature, their way.  They held to the rebellious nature of mankind, even to the point of worshipping strange gods made in their own image of licentiousness, worldliness, sin.  They sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness: loving God with their innermost being and loving others as themselves.  Jesus said to Nicodemus to know God, to enter into his kingdom, to perform his will of goodness and love, you must be born again.  Humans must experience a new birth, replace Adam’s nature in their spirits with God’s nature.  Peter says, All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.  And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.  (1 Peter 1:3-5)  Someday our true nature will be revealed to all creation.  We are new creatures because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  

How should we live now as new creatures, born again through our faith in Jesus Christ’s works, a holy replacement for our works?  Knowing God’s marvelous work in us, our intentions should be to live lives of goodness by faith — seeking good rather than evil.  We should live as obedient children to his nature of holiness.  We should internalize the Spirit’s nature: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22-23)  Our actions should be governed by the attributes of the Holy Spirit as we live in holy reverence to God in this alien world where we find ourselves.  Why reverence?  Because God paid a high price to ransom us from this world and its nature.  We read in the Word, He (Jesus) was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  (I Peter 1:20)  At the beginning of time, God chose his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a ransom for the sin of humankind.  His death bought our freedom.  The price was the blood of Jesus Christ.  He became the captive of death, allowing us to walk out of the captivity of death to eternal life because of the blood of Christ that paid for our sins.  Sin always leads to death, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23)  But He delivered us from the just consequences of sin.  We are born again, not to a life that will quickly end in death, but to an eternal life in the family of God.  Isaiah wrote that on Earth, we are like a flower that soon fades and the grass that withers.  But through the works of Jesus Christ, we will bloom and flourish forever, never losing our beauty, our luster, always pleasing in God’s eyes.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  (1 Peter 1:23)  The Israelites were blinded to this work of God that comes through faith. They tried to earn a place of honor through their obedience to his directives, his regulations; but their flesh, their self-will could never completely please the God who demands one-hundred percent obedience, perfection.  In the final analysis, Paul says they needed to place their hope of salvation in the faith of Abraham and not their own works.  They had zeal, they tried to be right before God, even in their self-willed nature, but they needed to function with a knowledge of the truth.  God deserves complete obedience.  His world, nature itself, is run on exactness.  Without perfection, they could never please God.  CHRIST IS THAT PERFECTION; HE ALONE PLEASES GOD.  All of us who are hidden in Christ because of our faith in his works are pleasing to the Creator God.  Therefore we follow Paul’s admonition: Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  (Colossians 3:2-4)  Amen!