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God’s plan IN Christ!

”In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” And so begins the Universe and the creation of our world and even, of course, the creation of us, mankind. However, before “the beginning” what had God done?

God did what any good builder does. God planned it out:

Luke 14:28-30 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  (29)  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, (30) saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

 How many times as you have read Genesis, have you imagined God, thinking, “oh no, Man ate of that tree….what are we going to do now?” Yet, as you read the Genesis 3 account of sin entering into the world, it doesn’t feel like God has been caught off guard. Immediately, even before sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden, He speaks prophetically to Satan.

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This is commonly understood to be a prophecy about the coming Messiah and even the virgin birth since it was the seed of Eve mentioned not the seed of Adam.

When we fast forward to the NT however, it is more clearly understood that God did indeed have this all planned out. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God had a plan. Here is a rather long but significant part of what Paul wrote.

Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10) as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (11) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (12) so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (13) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Notice first, and I dare say, foremost, that all that God planned, he planned IN Christ. Everything was brought to completion by Christ and through Christ and so when he describes us as IN CHRIST, it only seem natural that we would need to be.

This passage, one long sentence in the Greek text, is very rich in meaning and I don’t plan an in depth explanation of it but it is worth noting some things from this passage.

Those of us who are IN CHRIST:

  • Are Blessed with every spiritual blessing
  • Are chosen as sons by adoption
  • Are sealed with the Holy Spirit

That is a LOT. Just the first one alone blows my mind. EVERY spiritual blessing is IN Christ. In my way of thinking, it is a good thing that I am IN Christ.

Also worth nothing is that those of us who IN CHRIST:

  • Have redemption through His blood (redemption is to buy back. See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and Revelation 5:9)
  • Have the forgiveness of our trespasses (Colossians 2:13)
  • Have an inheritance (And a great one at that: 1 Peter 1:3-4)
  • Have knowledge about His will. (A great blessing that even the Jews had…if they had only listened. Romans 3:1-2)

These, of course, could simply be a list of some of the “every spiritual blessings” Paul say we have in Christ and I would count them as blessings. Which of those 4 items is most important to you?

And yet, as the saying goes, with great privilege comes great responsibility and so it is true that IN CHRIST:

  • we are to be Holy and Blameless
  • to the praise of His glory (i.e. bring praise to him. Mt 5:16)

So many times, people want the blessings but not the responsibility. As John Maxwell said “They have uphill dreams but downhill habits.” 

We all want to enjoy the blessings of God that we have IN CHRIST, however, it is truly a very serious thing to consider that the same God who chose us in Christ, chose us to BE holy and without blemish. Therefore, if you choose to be IN CHRIST, you need to also choose to be holy and without blemish.

Amos 3:3 “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?

We KNOW what God wants for our life. Holy and Blameless. Do you agree? If you agree with that then you can walk with God. If you disagree and want to have all spiritual blessing and yet not be holy and blameless, then you cannot walk with God. However, the choice is yours.

Are you IN Christ? How did you get there?

3 areas of focus for the Christian.

As we begin the new year of 2019, just like with any year’s beginning, it is common to focus on making improvements in our lives. Whether it is increasing our financial stability, our health (and shape), or simply being a ‘nicer’ person, the resolutions we make as Christians need to be well founded on Biblical principles.

For example, weight loss and getting in shape are two very common resolutions we make. Without a doubt exercise is good for us but so often we focus on the physical and forget about the spiritual.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; (8) for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Now, don’t use this as an excuse to NOT exercise; you will note that “bodily training is of SOME value” but it is very clear that the emphasis and better focus is on the Spiritual. The reason for this is easily understood by the spiritually minded. When we see with spiritual eyes we will always keep in mind three things.

First, life is short and unpredictable. We do not know how much time we have left so…

James 4:13-15 ESV Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— (14) yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (15) Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Second, we are one year closer to our death. No one wants to think about this but how ever much time we do have—if you finished last year, you are one year closer to death than you were last year. But for the Christian that means “salvation is nearer than when we first believed” Romans 13:11 So we should use our time building spiritual 401k rather than ONLY building the earthly ones. (Luke 12:33; Matt 6:19-21)

Third, We will all stand in judgement before God. (2 Corinthians 5:10) On our own we will fail but IN CHRIST, we will succeed. So making sure we are IN Christ and STABLE in Christ is important.

So here are 3 good resolutions for a Christian to adopt this year (and even on a permanent basis) because these three will have a positive affect all the other resolutions you wish you make.

Resolution #1 Improve your relationship with God.

In the last year, has your relationship with God improved or declined? James 4:8 ESV Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. One should expect a better spiritual maturity from the Christian who is 5 years in Christ over a babe in Christ. But we should continue to draw nearer to God and further from the world. To this end, we should:

Read our Bibles every day! Now I know that things come up that may prevent this but far fewer excuses can be given for not not reading/listening to the Scriptures than 20 years ago. With all the Bible apps and audio versions, hearing God’s word is easier than ever. Here is a link to a post that will give you 7 reasons to read the Bible daily.

But, Read our Bibles for understanding! Do NOT just read to check off a box in your annual daily reading list, read so that you can learn and remember and understand. What was written was written for our understanding and learning, (Romans 15:4) so let’s learn something not just read something.

Also, we need to be diligent in prayer to improve our relationship with God. Jesus, as our High Priest, is ready and willing to help us be we do need to ask. Additionally, we need to be thankful in our prayers not just asking in our prayers. There is so much to thank God for. (1 Chronicles 29:14, Phil 4:6)

Resolution #2 Become closer to the brethren.

Unfortunately, the things of this life and sometimes the resolutions of this life can keep us from such important relationships. Mark 4:19 ESV but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. What prevents us from being fruitful are the everyday things of this life when we focus on them.

Perhaps we need to resolve to invite over or have dinner with 6 people/couples this year. You may be surprised how that will help bind you together.

Resolution #3 Become closer to NON-Christians.

While we are to do good to the household of faith in particular, we also get to, and should, do good to those not in the household of faith as well. (Galatians 6:9-10). Again, eating together can be a good way to encourage and build a relationship. We do this in order to influence them not to be influenced by them. We shine as lights in the dark. (Philippians 2:14-15) so if we do not shine in their lives, how will they see the way to go?

A follow up to this blog should center around self control. The stick-to-it-ness that we need to carry these and other resolutions to accomplishment. Until that blog post happens, keep in mind what God said of Man in Genesis 11:6


And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

We can accomplish great things when we set our mind to it, so let us set our mind to these three resolutions!

What resolutions have you made for this year?

3 thoughts from Genesis 9

As we look at Genesis chapter 9, there are many thoughts we can take away from it. This post will mention three. We see the apparent beginning of mankind eating meat, the covenant of the rainbow, and the cursing of Ham. While this will make the post extra long, I can’t decide which one to omit.

Should we be vegetarians?

According to verse 2, there is going to be a dread of mankind from the animals; the same animals that went into the ark with Noah. Just the wording of the verse indicates that this is a new thing.  In fact, if we go back to chapter 1 we will see this:

Genesis 1:29-30 ESV And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (30) And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

In Genesis chapter 9 verses 3 and 4 read this way:

Genesis 9:3-4 ESV Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (4) But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Here we seem to have a clear indication that originally man was a vegetarian and so were the animals. This, of course, does not mean that we should be what we were (if we were) before the flood but it does show a difference between how we lived before the flood and what God allowed after the flood.

In addition to this allowance of eating meat were two restrictions. One, not to eat meat with blood. That seems to continue even to this day.

Acts 15:20 ESV but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

The second restriction involved the death of  either man or beast who kills a man. The reason? Man is created in God’s image. To kill man is to kill the image of God. This is the basis, as I understand it, for capital crimes. The death penalty seems to be enacted here first.

The covenant of the Rainbow

What does it take to make a rainbow? Well, it takes two things: Rain (water particles) and Sun. This is one reason why I think that perhaps, it really did not rain in the world before the flood. Two passages before the flood and one from here in chapter 9.

Genesis 2:5-6 ESV When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, (6) and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—

Hebrews 11:7 ESV By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Genesis 9:13-14 ESV I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (14) When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,

If you look at all this verses, you might come to the conclusion that it had never rained on the earth when God told Noah that he would bring a flood by having it rain 40 days and 40 nights, to which Noah said “What’s rain?” (concerning events as yet unseen-never before seen) and afterwards God brings clouds and with the clouds come rainbows. A reminder of the flood and a promise never to do it again.

The cursing of Ham

So Noah got drunk. Then he went into his tent and uncovered himself.  It certainly doesn’t seem to be the type of thing a righteous man would do. But we will focus on what happened. The text tells us the following:

  • Ham saw his father’s nakedness
  • Ham told his brother outside what he saw
  • Noah realized what his younger son had “done” to him
  • Noah cursed Canaan (the son of Ham)

Much speculation has been written about this and I am afraid that I could only add to such speculation. However, in such speculation, let us at least look at what the text says. From verse 24, Ham DID something to Noah while Noah was drunk. If the Genealogy given in chapter 10 is in order, Ham was Canaan’s 4th son, meaning he was born many years after the flood. That Ham was cursed seems to give cause for us to believe that he was somehow involved in this incident. So, since we are speculating because the text is void of details. I offer this. Ham (a younger man and perhaps subject to the follies of youth) saw grandpa Noah in a drunken stupor and told his dad. His dad rather than covering his father up decided to share the disgrace and further uncover his father’s reputation with his two brothers.

Proverbs 25:9 ESV Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret,

His brothers did right by Noah and hid the shame rather than further spread it. If the thing Ham ‘did’ was a simple as that (though many suggest much worse), it would be bad enough and if one is correct is assuming that Canaan had a part in it, then the curse on him is not unjust at all, but becomes a punishment his father should have inflicted which Noah did in the absence of such punishment.

There is much we can look at in this chapter and discuss. Do you have an opinion as to what happened between Noah and Ham? Whether it rained before the flood or not? Whether men were vegetarians or not? please share your thoughts….

Remember, you were a slave

Five times in the book of Deuteronomy, God commanded the people of Israel to “remember” that they had been slaves in the land of Egypt. In those passages, the context of the command deals with their service to God and their relationship to their neighbor, especially, the poor or needy neighbor.

Remembering that they were slaves in Egypt and rescued by God would help them keep a good perspective in life so as to not forget their need for God or to be generous to their needy brother.

We too can benefit from such a command. We should always remember that we were once slaves too. Slaves to sin and the ways of the world.

Galatians 3:25-4:9 ESV But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (26) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (4:1) I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, (2) but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. (3) In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (4) But when the fullness of tofe had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (8) Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. (9) But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

English Standard Version

We, who are IN  Christ are now sons of Christ and freed from sin. However, it is beneficial to remember that we once were slaves.  In this way, we can avoid mistakes like thinking more highly of ourselves than we should and forgetting God, or treating in others with contempt as if we are privileged ones and that God is lucky to have us on his team, while others are not worthy.  (Luke 18:9ff)

Yesterday’s lesson deals with this need to remember that we were slaves in a little more detail. you can listen to it here if you wish. In the mean time, there is one other good reason to remember that we were once slaves of sin, owing a debt that could never be repaid. That is, it will help us be more forgiving. No sin or crime against us matches up to the sins we have done in marring the image of God He created us in. If God forgives us…we can and should forgive our fellow man.

3 things we can learn from Genesis 3

As we turn our attention to Genesis 3, we find the account of the first sin, the consequences of that sin, and a hope to redeem us from our sin. It is hard for us to imagine a time without sin and even though the Scriptures teach that we are not inherently evil and sinful from birth, it is impossible to argue that sin has not conquered us. All of us have sinned, so the lessons from Genesis helps us in our battle, especially the first lesson.

Lesson #1-Sin comes from our desires even if we are deceived.

When the serpent tempted Eve, it was a pure deception. He lied to her. She believed the lie and so the sin was completed. However, as we read the conversation and her thought process, we see that Eve was beguiled as much by her own desires to be like God as she was by the serpent’s lie. All of the trees were good for food, they all were desirable to look at (Gen 2:9) but only this one held to promise of something she wanted: wisdom.

Alas, we understand now that wisdom is really found in following God’s commandments and not bypassing them.  As an example: It may be considered wise for two unmarried people to move in together and to test out the relationship for compatibility. However, after looking at end results of such wisdom, we can understand God’s plan is truly wisdom.

Sin brings consequences

The Sin of Adam and Eve brought with it many consequences. They were removed from the Garden, kept back from the tree of life, forced to work hard for the food they would eat, have painful and increased childbirth. Even the marital relationship seems to have changed with the man being placed over the woman. Even in good relationships today, the husband is still charged with the oversight of his wife and sometimes that causes problems. (Husbands read Ephesians 5 and follow Christ’s example-Women, because submission is a voluntary action, be sure that you marry someone who will love you like Christ loved the church. In this way, you will not be tempted to violate his leadership.)

Redemption is promised through the woman

Interestingly enough, when we see the promise of redemption, it is a promise that does not involve man but only the woman.  To the serpent God said:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Gen 3:15 ESV

The enmity was between the offspring of the two. The offspring of Satan and the offspring of Eve. While we might casually read ‘her offspring’ as the children of Adam and Eve, it needs to be remembered, that Jesus was born only of the seed of woman and not of man.  God is foretelling His plan to bring Jesus into the world via a virgin birth. That offspring would be bruised on the heel….just an inconvenience, as He was killed on the cross. But that offspring would bruise Satan on the head, a decisive blow of defeat when He was raised from the dead.

Remember, when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, they died. There was a spiritual separation that took place between them and God. God makes a promise of restoration at a future time.

What other lessons do YOU see in Genesis 3?

What does Genesis 2 teach-part 2

gen 2-24The last two verses of Genesis 2 speak to the relationship that a husband and wife have.

The verses are generally considered to be commentary on the preceding verses where Adam names his wife. As inspired by God to write the account of our beginning, Moses clearly says that each newlywed couple is to be independent and separate from the families that raised them.  This will not eliminate the need to honor father and mother or to help father and mother in their later years but it does necessitate the need to be independent and not dependent on them for the needs of your new family.

As the newlywed couple leaves and ‘cleaves’ or hold fast to each other, they form their own family (with or without children) and as such need to put their mate first in their dealings and plans. Becoming one flesh speaks of more than just the sexual union but includes the vision and direction the family is going to go. Being naked and and unashamed shows an openness and intimacy that does not recoil at flaws and things we hide from others but not our spouse.

This passage also talks about the permanence of marriage and Jesus used to it to show God’s plan for marriage from the beginning.

It is good advice to not get married until you and your intended are willing and able to stand independent from your families, fully commit to each other permanently, and can be honest about deeper things than favorite colors and foods.

What does Genesis 2 share?

Gen Gen 2-152: Here we see God putting man in a garden with a job to do. God did not create man to sit around and do nothing. There were no basements (like in our parents homes) in the Garden of Eden.  Adam had to work.

Work is good for us, many passages in the Bible testify do this. However, just this small passage in Genesis two should help us to understand that from the beginning, God intended man to work. There is purpose and honor and dignity in working. As long as it is moral, it should be pursued.

Genesis 1 instructs us

Gen 1-1Genesis Chapter One: Here, we learn the origin of everything we see (and even those things which we cannot see). We also learn the esteemed position that Mankind has been given-that of being created in the Creator’s image.
That God created it all tells us of His power and authority. (As we tell our kids sometimes: My house, my rules.) That God made us in HIS image tells us that we can aspire to be more than base animals living by instinct and desire alone, we can exercise the self control necessary to NOT sin and to live by His rules.

How to approach your brother

The sermon for this topic can be heard here. Read the rest of this entry

Comparing ourselves part 2

In the last post, we talked about comparing ourselves with others and stated that when we do so we can, on one hand, judge ourselves to fall short of expectations or, on the other hand, judge ourselves superior to the other person and condemn them.  There is another effect that can happen when we compare ourselves to others: We get discontent!

Comparing leads to discontent

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells of a landowner who agreed with some workers to pay a  denarius for the day’s work. A few hours later he went to a second group and promised to pay “what is right” and still later on to another group and finally, one group who only worked one hour for the whole day.

And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ (Mat 20:8-15)

By comparing themselves with the others (Who worked more?, Who had it harder?, Who was more valuable?) they had decided they were better and got upset. The fact is that the last group didn’t deserve what they were paid but the first group didn’t deserve to be paid more. The owner was a generous man…and a fair one.

Another thing we do is compare the job or task of others to our own. We get discouraged if someone has an easier job…or at least what we perceive to be easier. Jesus and Peter had a conversation like this.

 (Jesus) said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (Joh 21:19-23)

We are often interested in the other person’s affairs but we need to pay attention to our own.  We think that maybe they have a better task or one that is more fun. Sometimes we wonder how they landed that job. We see them sitting down and wonder if they are doing their job.  Who cares? Just do yours!

In the Psalms, Aseph confessed to envy when he said:

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. (Psa 73:2-5)

But it is just comparison. Look at the wicked…they are prosperous, nothing bad happens to them, they are well fed, don’t get into trouble….everyone else who plays by the rules suffers. It is a comparison of how well others are and how bad I am. It isn’t even based on a true reality because this comparison does not take into account the spiritual prosperity the righteous have.

Remember, the grass may seem greener on the other side of the fence but it is just as hard to cut.

The problems of comparing ourselves with others.

Paul said that those who compare themselves with others lack understanding. Whether it be in who is the best preacher or who is the best trombone player, it is useless to compare yourself with others. If you compare yourself with someone for what they have…not for who they are, the results of your comparisons are going to cause problems.

The disciples of Jesus were comparing themselves to each other. Who is going to be the greatest. Can you imagine what that conversation was like?

Andrew: Well, I went and found Peter

Peter: Well, I am the oldest. (editor: we don’t know if Peter was the oldest)

John: He loves me more.

Judas: I am the one He trusts with the money

Nathaniel: He said I was without guile.

I am taller, I am more handsome, I know more people, I am smarter, I am younger….Yada yada yada.

When you start arguing over who has the best merits or qualifications among the group, you are simply comparing yourself against one another. That is not a good thing to do.

When we compare ourselves to others for the purpose of promoting ourselves, we forget that we were like them. Maybe we still are in some ways.  Maybe not in the big sins (as if there are any big or small sins) but in many ways we all stumble and fall.

In the next post (or perhaps the one after that) we will explore the times and ways in which it IS good to compare ourselves with others. While this topic is explored over three posts, you can hear the sermon on this topic at this link.

 

 

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