Author: Matt Sherro

The Bible Train (Family Readings) 2/11-2/17

The Bible Train (Family Readings) 2/11-2/17

This week, in our guided tour of the Bible, we have some action packed readings. The showdown between YHWH and the false gods of Egypt comes to an end and YHWH is victorious. Following, the Host of Israel leave Egypt and begin their journey to the Promised Land. (Special Note: the journey to the Promised Land is a picture, or shadow, of what we as Christians endure as we journey to the ultimate Land of Promise, Heaven)

 

  • Sunday– Exodus 8:20-9:35
  • Monday–Exodus 10:1-11:10
  • Tuesday–Exodus 12:1-51
  • Wednesday–Exodus 13:17-14:31
  • Thursday–Exodus 16:1-36
  • Friday–Psalm 90
  • Saturday–Exodus 17:1-16

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What are we able to learn about God’s characteristics from the exultant prayer of Moses?
  2. God revealed Himself to Abraham as YHWH Jireh, the God Who Provides. What do we learn of God’s provision with the manna and quail experience?
  3. Another of God’s names is YHWH Shua, the God Who Saves (redeems). What do we learn about God as a redeemer in the Red Sea experience?
Anger: Where Murder Begins

Anger: Where Murder Begins

Text: Matthew 5:21-26
 
The first thing we need to understand, here, is that Jesus is not overturning the Law nor is He altering it in any way. When He references what the people had heard, He is referencing the teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees.
 
 
We said, last week, that Jesus gives the correct understanding and application of the Mosaic Law and, in this first lesson on the Law, He wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter, literally.
 
 
“Jesus goes behind the act of murder itself to declare that the anger and hatred which give rise to it, though not capable of being examined in a human court, are no less culpable in the sight of God. The continued validity of the sixth commandment is assumed, but a legalistic interpretation which restricts its application to the literal act alone is rejected.” —Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.
 
 
You see, the actual act of murder, the killing itself, is the end result of the sin. In order to develop that more, shall we turn to the Epistle of James.
James 1:13-16
“13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”
 
James is not referencing the death from murder, like our primary text talks about. Instead, he is talking about the worst kind of death, spiritual death and that death is eternal. Let us turn back to our text and learn from the Holy Spirit.
James points out that you cannot be tempted except that you desire the thing in the first place. Logically, then, we see that unrighteous anger is rooted in the desire to destroy another person. This may seem a little extreme but we really need to process the fact that Jesus is intent on our understanding that no matter how “perfect” that we might believe we are, absent grace we find ourselves hopelessly devoid of any real chance at Heaven. I don’t want to take us too far down a rabbit trail, but in this lesson, Jesus is illustrating the doctrine of Total Depravity.
5:21 “You have heard that our fathers were told.” Jesus begins his detailed “filling” of the Torah (v. 17) with one of the Ten Commandments, implicitly alluding to this underlying ground for all obedience to God. In Judaism, the citation of a Scripture text implies the whole context: in this case, all Ten Commandments, not merely the quoted words.
The phrase “The ancients were told” could also be rendered “the ancients told, or said.” In the first instance the implication would be that the ancients were told by God, in which case Jesus would be referring to God’s revealed Word. The ancients. For Him to contradict God’s Word in any way would be totally out of the question in view of verses 17-19. In the second rendering the implication is that the ideas the ancients taught were primarily of their own devising. That must be the correct approach.
Jesus customarily referred to the Scriptures by such phrases as “Moses commanded,” “the prophet Isaiah said,” “it is written,” and such. Here His words are much more general and therefore cannot refer directly to the Old Testament. Jesus shows that, even in regard to the specific biblical commands against murder and adultery, their tradition was at variance with the Holy Scripture, which reveals that God’s primary concern has always been for inner purity, not simply outward compliance.
 
The rabbis of past generations were often called the “fathers of antiquity,” or “the men of long ago,” and it is to them that “the ancients” (vv. 21, 33) refers. Jesus was contrasting His teaching—and the true teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures themselves—with the Jewish written and oral traditions that had accumulated over the previous several hundred years and that had so terribly perverted God’s revelation.
In his Institutes (Library of Christian Classics, vol. 1, p. 372), John Calvin wrote,
“Let us agree that through the law man’s life is molded not only to outward honesty but to inward and spiritual righteousness. Although no one can deny this, very few duly note it. This happens because they do not look to the Lawgiver by whose character the nature of the law is to be appraised. If some king by edict forbids fornication, murder or theft, I admit that a man who does not commit such acts will not be bound by the penalty. That is because the mortal lawgiver’s jurisdiction extends only to the outward political order. But God, whose eye nothing escapes and who is concerned not so much with outward appearance as with purity of heart, forbids not only fornication, murder and theft but lust, anger, hatred, coveting and deceit. For since He is a spiritual Lawgiver, He speaks not less to the soul than He does to the body.”
 
Among Jesus’ most amazing departures from what would be considered traditional teaching were His insistence that tradition and Scripture were in conflict and that inner righteousness, not outward form, is the central and necessary characteristic of a right relationship to God. (Side note, this is one of the major problems that we, as Baptists have with Rome: The Roman Church elevates tradition as equal to the very words of Scripture and Jesus makes clear that tradition is not ever equal to the Scripture.) We will spend the remainder of our time, today, looking at that very concept.
“5:21-48 Six times Jesus contrasts traditional interpretations of OT texts or themes with his understanding of their meaning and application. In five of the six antitheses, he also prescribes proactive, positive action as an antidote to what is prohibited. Presumably similar action is implied in the remaining instance (to prevent divorce) as well.”–DA Carson
 
Looking at this, we see that Jesus corrects six misinterpretations or, as we referenced last week, “abolishing of the Law.”
5:21 murder. The sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13) prohibits the taking of another human life. Now, the KJV renders this as, “Thou shalt not kill.” So does this mean that all killing is wrong? No; the verb refers to all killing except in war, capital punishment, or self-defense. Jesus’ assertion internalizes the command so that one who harbors rage or spews out spiteful words is also guilty of sin and its consequences (v. 22). The matter is so serious that one should leave a worship service, if necessary, to be “reconciled” (v. 24) to a fellow believer and “settle matters” (v. 25) if at all possible.
5:22 angry. The dangerous and destructive effect of human anger is likewise stressed throughout Scripture (Proverbs 20:2; 22:3; 29:22; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; James 1:20). Anger typically entails a desire to damage or destroy the other person, either in some personal way or literally in the form of murder (Matthew 5:21 and James 4:1–2).
The scribes and Pharisees said that a person who referred to another as Raca, meaning “empty head,” was in danger of being sued for libel before the council (The Sanhedrin). To bring this into more modern terms, Raca would have the modern connation of calling someone an idiot or jackass. So am I saying that calling someone an idiot is as severe as murdering them? I’m afraid so. Calling someone a fool or an idiot is closely related to anger, in that it represents a destructive attack on one’s character and identity. This attack on the person, made in God’s image, is so fundamentally horrible, that the Lord equates it with murdering them.
Notice:

 

  • Jesus exposes the essence of the scribes’ heresy. To them, the law was really only a matter of external performance, never the heart. Jesus brings the law back to the matters of the heart. “The supervision of the Kingdom does not begin by arresting a criminal with blood-red hands; it arrests the man in whom the murder spirit is just born.” (Morgan)

 

 

 

  • We should emphasize that Jesus is not saying that anger is as bad as murder. It is profoundly morally confused to think that someone who shouts at another person in anger has sinned as badly as someone who murders another person in anger. Jesus emphasized that the law condemns both, without saying that the law says they are the same things. The laws of the people could only deal with the outward act of murder, but Jesus declared that His followers understood that God’s morality addressed not only the end but also the beginning of murder.

 

 

 

  • Barclay, commenting on the specific ancient Greek word translated angry: “So Jesus forbids forever the anger which broods, the anger which will not forget, the anger which refuses to be pacified, the anger which seeks revenge.”
  • “The words ‘without cause’ probably reflect an early and widespread softening of Jesus’ strong teaching. Their absence does not itself prove there is no exception.” (Carson)

 

 
Note that the very first murder was the result of Cain’s anger that God did not accept his sacrifice, which, incidentally, was made in defiance of God’s revelation. (Genesis 4:1-17)
The first specific prohibition of murder is found in Genesis, in God’s instructions to Noah: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (9:6). Here the penalty for murder and the reason for its seriousness are given. The penalty was death for the killer, and the reason for such severe punishment was that man is made in God’s image. To take the life of a fellow human being is to assault the sacredness of the image of God. This assault, Jesus teaches, begins in the heart.
I may beat a dead horse a little but I really want to drive this home: By beginning with the prohibition against murder and showing its true nature, Jesus utterly destroys any illusion that we might have of our own self-righteousness. Consider that there is not a person alive who can claim to have never been angry without cause and there is not person alive who can say that they have never called a person an idiot or stupid.
 
From John MacArthur
“Here Jesus begins to specifically point up the inadequacy of the righteousness in which the scribes, Pharisees, and many others trusted. Because their view of righteousness was external, their view of themselves was complimentary. But Jesus shatters that complacent self-righteousness by beginning with the accusation that a person is guilty of murder even if he is angry with, hates, curses, or maligns another person. In a statement that may have shocked His hearers more than anything He had yet said, Jesus declares that a person guilty of anger is guilty of murder and deserves a murderer’s punishment.”
Do I mean to say that a person who is angry without cause is in danger of hell? I’m afraid so. Remember that we have to have better righteousness than the Scribes and Pharisees in order to see Heaven.
So what do we do about the fact that sin lurks in the heart and waits to destroy? We repent and we pursue reconciliation. Repentance is the English rendering of metanoeo and it means to change your mind or change your thinking. So in repentance we change our thinking about ourselves and our righteousness and we agree with God that we are totally depraved and helpless to do anything about it. As a result we come to Jesus because He is our only hope of being restored into a relationship with the Father.
I want you to understand that repentance and the subsequent request for pardon is sufficient to spare you a place among the damned. However, repenting and asking for pardon does not restore your relationship. Looking at verses 23-25 in our text, we can see how important reconciliation is; it is so important that God Himself, in the person of the Lord Jesus, commands us to cease worshipping and go to be reconciled to the person we have sinned against. Do you understand how radical that is? Stop worshipping and go to be reconciled to the person you have sinned against! This statement takes everything you know about worship and sets it on its head.
In other lessons, I have referenced Micah 6:8, but I want to show that verse, along with the previous two verses to help you understand. (This is perhaps the quintessential OT passage on God’s expectations in worship.)
Micah  6:6-8
What can we bring to the Lord? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
 
Turn also to Hosea chapter six. Reading verse six, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
 
If you will remember our earlier lesson, the whole of the Torah is to love God and love your neighbor, so reconciliation with another party is vital. Now, I need to point out that reconciliation is not always possible. There are times when the other party is so wounded that they are not able to reconcile with you and there may be times when one of the two parties is so steeped in sin that reconciliation is not possible.
 
In summary we have this quote: “Jesus is kind. His aim is to reach into our hearts, grab that anger and that ‘murder in miniature,’ and then pull it out and lead us to a place of reconciliation.” – Jim Salladin
Jesus and the Law

Jesus and the Law

Text Matthew 5:17-18

 

This week, we are interacting with a topic of fundamental importance: the relationship of not only Jesus Christ but also the Christian to the Law.

 

“It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Sabbath-day requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law. This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Christ did not suggest here that the binding nature of the law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).” — Got Questions Ministries

 

We need to start by understanding a few important ideas. Often times, we refer to the section of the Bible called the Torah as the Law; it is not. Torah, literally, means teaching. The mitzvot are the commandments/law and these are found in the Torah. Looking at this passage, we need to ask 2 questions, 1. Is the Law still in force for Christians? 2. What is the point/goal of the Law?

 

As Christians we see what is called a tripartite (3-parts) division of the Law: Moral, Ceremonial, and Civil. The Civil Laws are enjoined upon national Israel and are technically still in force today since Israel is a nation. There is not, currently, a Temple in Israel, so the Civil Law is not abolished but it is certainly on hold. That brings us to the Moral Laws in the Old Testament. Is it still in force for the Christian? Yes, and I would like to develop that idea a little this morning.

 

First, we need to understand the goal of the Law. “The Greek word, τέλος (telos), can be interpreted in the following ways: “end”, “purpose”, “goal”, “to set out for a definite point”… This word τέλος was used by Greek thinkers such as Aristotle and was also used in the New Testament by Paul, the author of the book of Romans. Paul states in Romans 10:4 that the Messiah is the τέλος of the Torah. The Messiah is the goal, the purpose, the end, and the definite point which the Torah was moving towards.”–One for Israel

“The author of Hebrews argues the Law was never a goal in and of itself, but rather it prescribed a system of worship that was divinely intended to point people to the Messiah. He writes about the tabernacle,

“By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation” (Heb 9:8–10; see also 10:1).”–One for Israel

Jesus clearly states that He came to fulfil the Law but what does this mean? Understanding this phrase is central to a proper understanding of the relationship of the Law to a Christian. Let’s look at 1st Century Judaism for a moment.

It is correct to state that the focus of all the rabbis teaching was the Law. For the rabbis, the “Law” consisted not only of the Written Law, but of the Oral Law as well. The Written Law was the Torah, or the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), that God gave to Israel at Sinai. In addition to this written revelation, Moses also received, according to the rabbis, additional commandments or instructions that were communicated orally. These additional commandments were designated by the rabbis as the Oral Law. You might have noticed that, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus frequently says, “You have heard it said…” and this is what is called the Oral Law.

 

“Fulfill the Law” as a Rabbinic Idiom 

“It will help us greatly to know that the phrase “fulfill the Torah” is a rabbinic idiom that is still in use even today. The word we read as “law” is torah in Hebrew, and its main sense is teaching, guidance and instruction, rather than legal regulation. It is God’s instructions for living, and because of God’s great authority, it demands obedience and therefore takes on the sense of “law.” The Torah is often understood to mean the first five books of the Bible, but also refers to the Scriptures in general. In Jesus’ time, and among Jews today, this is a very positive thing – that the God who made us would give us instructions for how to live. The rabbis made it their goal to understand these instructions fully and teach people how to live by it.

The translation of “to fulfill” is lekayem in Hebrew (le-KAI-yem), which means to uphold or establish, as well as to fulfill, complete or accomplish. David Bivin has pointed out that the phrase “fulfill the Law” is often used as an idiom to mean to properly interpret the Torah so that people can obey it as God really intends. The word “abolish” was likely either levatel, to nullify, or la’akor, to uproot, which meant to undermine the Torah by misinterpreting it. For example, the law against adultery could be interpreted as specifically against cheating on one’s spouse, but not about pornography. When Jesus declared that lust also was a violation of the commandment, he was clarifying the true intent of that law, so in rabbinic parlance he was “fulfilling the Law.” In contrast, if a pastor told his congregation that watching x-rated videos was fine, he would be “abolishing the Law” – causing them to not live as God wants them to live. “–ourrabbijesus.com

There is so much in this concept that it is hard to know where to begin. Obviously, Jesus is going to give us the correct interpretation of the Law; the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount is entirely about a proper understanding of the Law. In another sense, to fulfill the Law can mean to obey it and Jesus fulfills the Law by perfect obedience to it.

In the context of Matthew 5:17, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.” Christ came “…not to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10, 13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.

 

There is a school of thought that suggests that “abolish” means to teach someone to misinterpret the Law. I can see that point and tend toward agreement with it. Clearly, from His own words, we can see that Jesus is not abrogating the whole law. (Matthew 5:18)

Without reading too far ahead, I want to share a quote from Jesus and a very similar quote from Hillel the Elder, a contemporary of Jesus that I think will set the tone for the remainder of our lesson.

According to Jewish tradition, a student asked Hillel the Elder to teach him the whole Torah and Hillel replied, “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah; The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.”

 

Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

 

Paul talks about the Law of Christ and I want to spend a few minutes on that because the Law of Christ is the correct interpretation of the entire Torah.

From Got Questions:

Question: “What is the law of Christ?”

Answer: Galatians 6:2 states, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (emphasis added). What exactly is the law of Christ, and how is it fulfilled by carrying each other’s burdens? While the law of Christ is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:21, the Bible nowhere specifically defines what precisely is the law of Christ. However, most Bible teachers understand the law of Christ to be what Christ stated were the greatest commandments in Mark 12:28–31, “‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

The law of Christ, then, is to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In Mark 12:32–33, the scribe who asked Jesus the question responds with, “To love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In this, Jesus and the scribe agreed that those two commands are the core of the entire Old Testament Law. All of the Old Testament Law can be placed in the categories of “loving God” or “loving your neighbor.”

Various New Testament scriptures state that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law, bringing it to completion and conclusion (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23–25; Ephesians 2:15). In place of the Old Testament Law, Christians are to obey the law of Christ. Rather than trying to remember the over 600 individual commandments in the Old Testament Law, Christians are simply to focus on loving God and loving others. If Christians would truly and wholeheartedly obey those two commands, we would be fulfilling everything that God requires of us.

Christ freed us from the bondage of the hundreds of commands in the Old Testament Law and instead calls on us to love. First John 4:7–8 declares, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” First John 5:3 continues, “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.”

Some use the fact that we are not under the Old Testament Law as an excuse to sin. (This insidious and heretical doctrine is known as antinomianism.) The apostle Paul addresses this very issue in Romans. “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). For the follower of Christ, the avoidance of sin is to be accomplished out of love for God and love for others. Love is to be our motivation. When we recognize the value of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our response is to be love, gratitude, and obedience. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and others, our response is to be to follow His example in expressing love to others. Our motivation for overcoming sin should be love, not a desire to legalistically obey a series of commandments. We are to obey the law of Christ because we love Him, not so that we can check off a list of commands that we successfully obeyed.

So what is the relationship of Christ to the Law?  Once again, I turn to notes from one of my favorite Baptists, John Piper.

 

The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all its penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on Christ. Therefore, the law is now manifestly not the path to righteousness; Christ is. The ultimate goal of the law is that we would look to Christ, not law-keeping, for our righteousness. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4) When we note that Christ is the end of the Law, He is, as I said earlier, the telos or point of the Law. Paul refers to the Law as our school master (Galatians 3:24). The mitzvot/law is glorious because it shows the holiness of the Lord and points us toward Christ.

 

 

  1. The blood sacrifices ceased because Christ fulfilled all that they were pointing toward. He was the final, unrepeatable sacrifice for sins.Hebrews 9:12, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

 

 

  1. The priesthood that stood between worshiper and God has ceased. Hebrews 7:23–24, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.”

 

“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5-9).

Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. The priesthood served as a picture or “type” of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ–a picture that was then no longer needed once His sacrifice on the cross was completed. When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).

 

 

  1. The physical temple has ceased to be the geographic center of worship. Now, Christ himself is the center of worship. He is the “place,” the “tent,” and the “temple” where we meet God. Therefore, Christianity has no geographic center, no Mecca, no Jerusalem.John 4:2123, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’” John 2:1921, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ . . . He [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body.” Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my [Jesus’s] name, there am I among them.”

 

Since the Holy Spirit now indwells all believers, a temple is no longer necessary.

 

  1. The food laws that set Israel apart from the nations have been fulfilled and ended in Christ.Mark 7:18–19, “[Jesus] said to them, . . . ‘Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him?’ . . . (Thus he declared all foods clean.)”

 

  1. The establishment of civil law on the basis of an ethnically rooted people, who are ruled directly by God, has ceased. The people of God are no longer a unified political body or an ethnic group or a nation-state, but are exiles and sojourners among all ethnic groups and all states. Therefore, God’s will for states is not taken directly from the Old Testament theocratic order, but should now be re-established from place to place and from time to time by means that correspond to God’s sovereign rule over all peoples, and that correspond to the fact that genuine obedience, rooted as it is in faith in Christ, cannot be coerced by law. The state is therefore grounded in God, but not expressive of God’s immediate rule.Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” John 18:36, “My [Jesus’s] kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting.”

Ultimately, Christ completes the Law and, as we will see in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, He gives the proper understanding of the Law.

Let’s turn our attention to verse 20 in our final minutes together.

“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

How is that supposed to happen? The Pharisees were fastidious about keeping the Law. Look at what the Apostle Paul said about his time as a Pharisee, “as touching the Law, a Pharisee…As touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5-6). The Pharisees considered themselves to be perfect and, in fact, they were as close to perfect as you could get BUT there was still that pesky pride that got them.

Think back a couple weeks to our lesson on the Beatitudes. Does this sound familiar, “God blesses those who are poor and recognize their dependence upon Him.?” This is what Jesus is talking about. If it were possible for a person to keep all 613 of the commands in the Old Testament, you would still be guaranteed a spot in Hell if you thought that obedience was going to do anything for your standing with God. For our righteousness to exceed that of the Pharisees means that we come to God with nothing but an outstretched hand begging mercy.

The idea of being a beggar is offensive to most of us in our society. We hear about “self made millionaires,” doctors, lawyers, civic activists etc. But the truth of the matter is, no one is truly self made. The Sovereign of the Universe has orchestrated events in their favor. All throughout our time together, we are going to see Jesus butting heads with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law and we will notice that it is very hard to come to the Lord when you are “perfect in every way.”

The better righteousness that Jesus is talking about is Imputed Righteousness. Now this is a legal term, as well it should be for we are judged before the Law. Even having come to Christ, the Law testifies against us that we are sinners. However, when we have knelt before the Lordship of Christ and repented of our sins, God the Father imputes or rather assigns the righteousness of Christ unto us. Having been judged in our stead, at Calvary, Christ’s righteousness grants us access to the Father. This is what Jesus meant when He talked about our righteousness being better than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. When you stand before God, He will either account Christ’s righteousness to you and welcome you home to Heaven or He will look at your own righteousness and will justly damn you for all eternity. You need to make sure that you have made the right choice and bowed the knee to the Lordship of Christ and repented of your sin.

The Bible Train/Family Worship 2/4-2/10

The Bible Train/Family Worship 2/4-2/10

After a brief detour through the story of Job, the Bible Train concludes the story of Joseph, this week. Following that, the action begins to pick up in the story of Moses, the Deliverer.

 

  • Sunday Genesis 46:1-47:31
  • Monday Genesis 49:29-50:26
  • Tuesday Exodus 1:1-2:25
  • Wednesday Exodus 3:1-4:17
  • Thursday Exodus 4:18-5:23
  • Friday Exodus 6:1-30
  • Saturday Exodus 7:1-8:19

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. In Exodus 3:14, God reveals Himself as I AM. What does this tell you about the Lord?
  2. Each plague attacks one of Egypt’s deities. What message is YHWH sending through the plagues?
  3. What parallels can you find between Pharaoh and people, today, who obstinately refuse to yield to the Lord?
The Bible Train/Family Worship Readings 1/28-2/3

The Bible Train/Family Worship Readings 1/28-2/3

This week’s Bible Train stops are in the life of Joseph. Joseph, like the later prophet, Daniel, is unique in that there is nothing negative mentioned about either one in the Bible. Joseph is a type/foreshadowing of Jesus.

 

  • Sunday- Psalm 1
  • Monday- Genesis 37:1-36
  • Tuesday- Genesis 38:1-38
  • Wednesday- Genesis 39:1-40:23
  • Thursday- Genesis 41:1-57
  • Friday- Genesis 44:1-45:28
  • Saturday- Genesis 46:1-47:31

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does the Psalmist celebrate the godly? What do we learn from the comparison of the righteous and the wicked found in Psalm 1?
  2. God communicates to both Joseph and Pharaoh in dreams. What do we learn about God’s character from the experiences of communicating via dreams?
  3. We see from the experience of Joseph and his brothers that God took something that was intended for evil and turned it around for His purposes. Where have you seen something similar happen in your life?
Choosing A New Bible

Choosing A New Bible

On, at least, a weekly basis, I am asked for help in choosing a new Bible. Today, I would like to answer that question for you. There are certain criteria that should factor into your criteria.

Translation Choice:

The most important consideration for your new Bible is the English Version/Translation that you will use. The translation should be easy for you to understand but it should also be accurate to the original languages. I won’t get into the differences between form based (word-for-word) and meaning based (thought-for-thought) translations but I would like to recommend 4 English Versions for you.

NLT: My 1st recommendation is the New Living Translation. The NLT is the Bible that we preach from at Abounding Grace Baptist Church. The English is very easy to understand as it is translated at or near a 6th Grade reading level. NLT is the ideal choice for the disciple who has never read a Bible before and for the disciple for whom English is not a native language. NLT is a meaning based translation that endeavors, quite successfully, to capture the the thought of the original scriptural author.

CSB: Christian Standard Bible is what is called a mediating or optimal translation because it is pretty well in the middle of form based and meaning based translations. It reads at or near 8th Grade. CSB is perfect for the intermediate level disciple who wants to go deeper in their study and it is a great choice for academics. If you are enrolled in/considering a Christian School, at any academic level, I would highly recommend the CSB.

ESV: English Standard Bible is the translation taking the conservative community by storm. Reformed Christians of all stripes love ESV for its accuracy, its word-for-word rigor, and its liturgical feel. Listening to the cadence of an ESV being read aloud, you can tell it was designed with pastors in mind. ESV read’s at or about a 9th Grade level. When I am preparing my lessons, ESV is my normal study text in parallel with NLT.

NKJV: New King James is a perennial favorite of many excellent teachers, not the least of whom are David Jeremiah and the late Dr. R.C. Sproul. Like the ESV, NKJV is very word for word yet still easily readable. I would also rate it at 8th/9th Grade. NKJV is an ideal translation in almost any situation.

Now here is my secret: I love all 4 and use all 4 regularly. I could not choose just one so I use all 4 in different scenarios.

If I were to be pushed into making a choice of only one, it would be the NLT; I have found none better for my one to one discipleship efforts.

Helps:

There are several helps that you may want to consider, only one of which I would deem essential and we will talk about it first.

References:

There are two types of references available, end-of-verse and center-column. Center-column references are the feature that I would consider to be essential. We believe that Scripture interprets/explains Scripture and center column references are the best way to experience that. By following references, you will be able to follow the thought patterns/themes of Scripture.

Commentary

There is a class of Bible called a “study” Bible. The study portion stems from the fact that they include commentary on the Scripture; some even include introductory materials for each book and an outline of each book. These features are not bad, per se, but I would encourage you to do the work yourself. My 4th grade teacher, Miss Cortell, told me that, “you must hunt, search, and dig, for what you want to know. Knowing is your payment for doing the work of learning.”

Concordance

A topical concordance is a very useful tool to have. It will help you to follow what the Scriptures teach on a host of topics. Some concordances are more in-depth than others but almost every Bible has one. I highly recommend that you use the one in your Bible.

Wide-margins/Journaling Paper

Wide margins are one of the best features available for a Bible today. It is a wide margin Bible that you make truly yours because you fill in your own notes and references. Some even go so far as to add drawings and charts etc. to help with memory aids.

Choosing a new Bible is very important, perhaps the most important choice you will make in your life as a disciple. I hope the materials above will help you to choose your new Bible. I congratulate you on your decision to answer Christ’s call and become a disciple. I pray that your new Bible will help you to grow in your knowledge of Christ.

Family Worship 1/21-1/27

Family Worship 1/21-1/27

Our Family Worship readings, this week, will take us on a sidetrack into the world of Job. It is in Job’s story that we learn why bad things happen to “good” people.

  • Sunday  Genesis 31:1-55
  • Monday Genesis 32:22-32
  • Tuesday Job 1:1-2:13
  • Wednesday Job 3:1-4:21
  • Thursday Job 19:1-21
  • Friday Job 40:1-24
  • Saturday Job 42:1-17

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Job’s experience teach us about Satan’s power?
  2. Since God is totally in control of our situation, what should our response be when we are in a time of trial?
  3. Does Job’s restoration really mean that God will always return us to prosperity?
The Final Shadow: When Christians Cross Death’s Door

The Final Shadow: When Christians Cross Death’s Door

 

Since the days of Adam, death and decay have been our constant companions. Even a casual observer will note that death surrounds us.

In Ecclesiastes 1, the Teacher uses the word hevel which most translations, unfortunately, render as “meaningless” or “vanity.” However, hevel is best translated as vaporous and few words better describe the human experience. Vaporous, vaporous; life is utterly vaporous.

“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14 ESV)

That death must be a part of our reality stems from the curse in Genesis 3. The Man had eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and now, in Adam, all men die. He is our Federal Head (representative in God’s Covenant) and his failure has been imputed to all of his offspring.

In our reading as a congregation, the Psalmist referred to walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and this is truth; we walk, as it were, through a dark valley full of the decay, despondence, and death that sin brings. Thankfully, there is verse 1 in that Psalm. The Lord IS our Shepherd; He is guiding, leading, sometimes carrying us along on our journey to that glorious home that awaits us at the end of this life.

For most, death is sudden whether in slumber, or some form of accident, or the body just gives up the ghost. For others, our translation out of this world is accompanied by prolonged illness. I cannot imagine the unique trial that those brothers endure as they watch their bodies fail but look forward to the day they are welcomed into the presence of the Lord. Before we come to our text, I want to share this thought with you:

We are assured that life eternal in not just life unending. Instead it is life that can never be diminished. As a joint heir of Christ, we are lent His glories and one of them is a life that can never be taken away from. For all of us, when death comes let us not meet him with weeping. Remember, he is no more than God’s butler who receives us at the door. Yes, he must take our coat (body) but when we lay aside that pitiful rag, we will be ushered before the Throne and will then be robed in splendors you can’t imagine in your wildest fantasies. Perhaps your coat must be a little more worn out so that you might better appreciate the robes to come. Looking to 2 Corinthians, we see the words of Paul…

 

2 Corinthians 5:1-8

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

 

Now, let us come to our text, so that we can see what awaits the believer after passing through that final shadow. Revelation 22:1-6 “Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.”

 

Death is the final shadow that we must walk through and having walked through that fleeting shadow, we rise to worlds unknown and behold the glories of the risen Christ. In that first instant after we put off the pitiful rag we call a body, we will behold such wonders that every superlative we can think of will be beyond insufficient to describe.  Christ, Himself, will welcome us into Heaven’s grand throne room and He will present us to the Father. I am taking a little license for a second, but I can imagine Jesus presenting us to the Father and saying, “This is my beloved whom I have welcomed home. We will delight in each other forever.”

 

For the remainder of our time, let us look at what we will enjoy with our Christ forever and ever.

22:1 river… of life. This river is unlike any on earth because no hydrological cycle exists. Water of life symbolizes the continual flow of eternal life from God’s throne to heaven’s inhabitants.

22:2 tree of life.

Word Study: the tree of life

(Gk. xulon zoes) (2:7; 22:2, 14) Strong’s #3586; 2222: The term in Greek denotes “a tree that gives life,” that is, eternal life (see John 20:31). This tree symbolizes the eternal life God has made available to humankind. The tree of life was present in the Garden of Eden, but its fruit was not eaten because Adam and Eve had fallen into sin (Gen. 2:9; 3:24). Jesus came to earth to restore humankind and to again offer them the tree of life (2:7). Those who are in the new paradise, the New Jerusalem, will partake of the tree of life forever (22:2).

(For emphasis) A symbol of both eternal life and continual blessing, this vision brings the opening imagery of Genesis to a close. The tree of life, which was forbidden after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden for eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, is the very tree that will unite humanity with one another and with God. That there are 12 different kinds of fruit speaks to the abundance of Heaven. In the new Heaven and on the New Earth, lack of resources will be no more. Famine, pestilences, all manner of plague are gone and mankind will eat of the abundance of the fruit just like was intended in the beginning, at Eden

 

22:3 no longer be any curse. The curse on humanity and the earth as a result of Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience (Ge 3:16-19) will be totally finished. God will never have to judge sin again, since it will never exist in the new heaven and new earth. No more curse means that the affliction of sin, especially on the human race and creation (Gen. 3:14–19), will be erased. As God had fellowship with Adam and Eve before their fall into sin (Gen. 3:8), so the Lord will again be with His servants eternally. In turn, His servants will worshipfully serve Him (Rom. 12:1).

Let me drive this point home for you: This verse, Revelation 22:3 is why I say that life eternal is a life that cannot be diminished. Now that the curse is removed, there is nothing left to take quality away from our lives. Blind eyes will see, deaf ears will hear the Lamb’s praise, crippled feet and legs will dance with all their might before the Throne, lungs that gasped for air will be filled to capacity never to struggle again. Every horrible disease you can imagine will be stripped away when we pass through the final shadow and catch a glimpse of our new home! For ages, there has been mention of a “mansion just over the hilltop” and what a rich metaphor that is. Paul referred to our bodies as a tent, in our earlier reference, and now we see that the human body, now glorified and celebrating the Resurrected One is indeed worthy of the metaphor of a mansion as it will now be glorious and fully equipped with every perfection you can imagine so that we can properly glorify Christ upon His Throne.

 

22:4 see His face. No unglorified human could see God’s face and live (Exodus 33:20-23). But the residents of heaven can look on God’s face without harm because they are now holy (John 1:18; 1Timothy 6:16; 1Jn 3:2). When I read this verse, the words to the old hymn always ring in my ears: Oh, I want to see Him, look upon His face, There to sing forever of His saving grace; On the streets of glory let me lift my voice, Cares all past, home at last, ever to rejoice.

His Name…Beloved, in the Promised Land, we shall finally have our longing fulfilled; God will be OUR God and we will be His people. He, Himself, will be our treasure, the priceless gift without comparison and the just reward for a life well lived. His Presence is our gift to enjoy forever and ever. There is a Greek phrase used here that I think is most helpful. It is eis ton aiona tau aiono, into/unto the age of the ages. That is how long we will enjoy our God. The hymn just barely begins to do justice to the concept. “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”

Beloved, if you have bowed your heart before Christ’s Throne, death has no teeth. He is an old hound that barks loudly but he cannot bite. Your body will sleep, this is a truth, but the part of you that is really you will not die. You will be translated into a glorious new home where you will find that after 500 lifetimes, your living has only just begun. We cannot begin to imagine what comes next but I can promise you two things:

  1. Once you see the face of Jesus, no amount of suffering in this wretched body will matter any more.
  2. The trials you have overcome will give rise to the praises you will offer to the King.

The body decays because of the curse of sin, but my friend we have no idea what awaits us. A river of life, a tree so full of abundance that the nations will eat of its fruit and be satisfied, and, even better than that, the omnipresent God will walk with each of us. We will have one on one communion with the Creator. For ten thousand times ten thousand years, we will behold His glory and never grow tired of it.

If you are suffering, lift up your head, the King is coming and when He calls you unto Himself, your suffering shall be no more.

22:5 they will reign. “Once more we are assured that there is no more night there (21:23, 25; Zech. 14:7) and that God gives them light. The section culminates with the assurance that they will reign for ever and ever. It is not said that they will reign over anyone, and, indeed, it is difficult to see who their subjects could be. The term indicates a blessed and exalted state. They share in royalty.” (Tyndale NT Commentary Revelation)

This is a marvelous mystery that the Holy Spirit lays out before us in this verse. We, the redeemed will reign, with Christ, forever. Who, or what, will we reign over remains a question that can lead down all sorts of rabbit trails if you overthink it. I think that the Lord is reserving that to be a surprise for us on the day of our coronation. Perhaps, whatever we shall reign over will be our “wedding gift” so to speak since the Church is the Bride of Christ.

Shall we stand and shall we sing.

What is discipleship and how do I do it?

What is discipleship and how do I do it?

Here, at Exploring the Truth and Abounding Grace Baptist Church, discipleship is a critical part of what we do. In fact, you might go so far as to say that it is our most important act of worship. We have to ask, though, what is discipleship and how do I do it?

First, discipleship is what happens when you obey the command of Jesus to “Follow me.” It is the process of learning everything we can about what He teaches us and the Holy Spirit conforming our new nature into a nature like His. Discipleship is a lifelong process and as we grow, we will produce new disciples by leading others to Christ.

How do I “do” discipleship?

It all starts with repentance. Repentance, simply, means a change of mind; you change your mind about your sin, you change your mind about who Jesus is, and you change your mind about whether or not you deserve to go to Heaven when you die. In repenting, you agree with God that you are a sinner, that you are totally unable to do anything to merit a place in Heaven, that you deserve eternal punishment in Hell, and that without Jesus, you have no hope.

Repentance leads to confession. Confession is simply this: you acknowledge Jesus Christ is Lord, that He was raised from the dead, and that His death and resurrection paid for your sins. The Bible does not give us a set formula or set of words to use to do this. It can be as simple as saying, “Jesus, I am a sinner and I deserve eternity in Hell but you are Lord and you died for my sins, please give me forgiveness and help me to live a life that is pleasing to the Father.”

Once you have repented, then discipleship really begins to move. There are some things you need, and different churches have different ways to help you get what you need. For example, at Abounding Grace Baptist Church, we have a New Disciples Kit that we can provide. The kit includes: a Bible, a set of colored pencils for marking, and a study guide to take the new disciple through basic Christian doctrine. What your church provides may be different.

There are two questions that we need to deal with and these are very important to your discipleship process: Which Bible should I choose and which church should I choose? The second question is easier to answer so we will take it first.

You should choose a church where the pastors teach the Bible systematically. Systematically teaching the Bible could be teaching one verse at a time, one section of Scripture at a time, or one chapter at a time. I don’t recommend a church that teaches a different topic every week as it is too easy to skip over uncomfortable portions of Scripture. You do not have to choose one denomination (grouping of churches) over another. Admittedly, we at AGBC are Baptists but there are a number of other good choices: Calvary Chapel, Evangelical Presbyterian, United Reformed, Dutch Reformed, Orthodox Presbyterian, Reformed Anglican, etc. The important thing is that the Bible is taught from the pulpit and that you have opportunities to grow.

As for which Bible to use, you want to get an English Bible that is easy to understand. At Abounding Grace, we preach from the New Living Translation because it is a very accurate translation that is easy for most people, including those with English as a second language can understand. Other translations we recommend are: Christian Standard Bible, New International Version, English Standard Version and New King James version. I recommend that you spend some time comparing the 5 translations at the Bible Gateway website so that you can decide which is easiest to understand.

It would be helpful if your new Bible had cross references to help you see how the Bible interprets itself. You may even want one that has commentary notes in it. If you are not sure what to get, ask your new pastor what he recommends. Most definitely, ask which additional resources he recommends.

Now that you have a Bible and a church, it is important to study. We provide Christian Life Master Outlines that were written by Dr. Porter Barrington. These outlines cover the basic teachings of the Christian faith. Once you have grasped these outlines, you can move on to more advanced studies.

It is important to find a more mature Christian to guide you through the process. You are going to have questions and you will also need/want prayer as you go and so it will be important to have someone walking with you in the discipleship process to help guide you on the path to Christlikeness. In time, you will probably take on your disciples and teach them.

 

We are happy that you have become a disciple and we are anxious to walk with you. If you have questions, you are always encouraged to reach out to us.

Salt and Light: A Robust Faith

Salt and Light: A Robust Faith

Our text this morning is Matthew 5:13-16 where we see Jesus use the metaphor of Christians being both salt and light. I referred to these as being the fruits of a robust faith so let us think about that a little.

Salt:

The salt we would be most familiar with is iodized table salt. When you consider table salt there are some interesting things to note. It is coarse to the touch, has a distinct flavor profile, and performs a unique function. How is that a metaphor for the Christian faith? In short, to the world, we are coarse, we definitely have a unique function and profile.

A little background information:

In the ancient world, and even still today, salt was a preservative. During the time before refrigerators, salt was rubbed on meat to prevent putrification.  In biology, we notice that salt is an essential element for life (a critical electrolyte) and saltiness is one of the four taste sensations.

Have you ever heard that a person was “worth his salt?” That is because salt was such a valuable commodity that it became useful as a form of currency.

So what does any of this have to do with Christians and our faith? Well, a person full of the Holy Spirit and demonstrating the character traits in the Beatitudes will have a preserving influence on the world.

“Wherever there is a strong Christian emphasis and a strong Christian voice, that society is being preserved and maintained. But whenever the Christian voice begins to wane, that society begins to deteriorate and ultimately be destroyed.

And take a look at history and notice the preserving influence of Christianity, as long as it remained strong and a dynamic influence within the community, the community was strong and powerful. Look at the United States, we were formed on Christian principles. Tremendously heavy Christian influence in the forming of this nation and thus written into our very Constitution those safeguards to protect that religious freedom, freedom of worship and assembly in all because the Christian influence was strong and we weren’t afraid to say, “One nation under God”. But through the years, the Christian voice has been weakened in its influence upon our society. And we can see those rotting forces that are beginning to erode away the very foundations of our democracy, as we see children being exploited for sexual purposes, as we see child pornography being produced and purchased.” —Chuck Smith

  1. Campbell Morgan said, “Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption, the disintegration of life at every point, its breakup, its spoliation; and, because of His love of the multitudes, He knew the thing that they needed most was salt in order that the corruption should be arrested. He saw them also wrapped in gloom, sitting in darkness, groping amid mists and fogs. He knew that they needed, above everything else…light” (The Gospel According to Matthew [New York: Revell, 1929], p. 46).

We are living in a world full of filthiness, though it is no small thing for the world to live in its filthiness; no the world celebrates its filth and puts its debauchery on display. They demand celebration of their filth; celebrate or be destroyed. Don’t believe me? Try reading a news story about Christian owned businesses that do not capitulate to the LGBT agenda. Each story is a testimony to the demands of the world, celebrate us or be destroyed.

Let’s look back to Genesis Chapter six. This is the account of the Noahic Flood and Covenant. Genesis 6:5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil”

I wish that I could say it was different today but it is not. Our society is consistently and totally evil.

In the OT salt is most often a purifying agent (Ex 30:35; Lv 2:13; 2Ki 2:21; Ezek 16:4). As the salt of the earth, Jesus’ disciples are to purify a corrupt world through their example of righteous living and their proclamation of the gospel.

Light.

In the Bible, darkness is a metaphor for sin. Let us take a look at the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus…

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:17-21)

It’s safe to say that “living in darkness” general means “living in sin”. And while “sin” can be described in terms of actions, like murder or fornication, it ultimately means rebellion against or rejection of God. Christians are those people who no longer walk in darkness because they live with God as their king. Non-Christian people, even if they “live a good life,” continue to reject God and therefore remain in darkness.

How many people, upon being asked why they should be allowed into Heaven answer with, “I’m basically a good person?” Without going down a different road and travelling far into the Doctrines of Grace in Salvation, I want to assure you that, “I’m basically a good person” is nothing more than a fiction that we comfort ourselves with. It is written, there is none righteous or there is no one who seeks to do good. (ROMANS 3:10–12; PSALM 14:1–3; PSALM 53:1–3) Paul further points out that in the flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:8)

If being a “good person” is a fiction, why do so many people buy into this idea? The terrifying answer to that question is found in Isaiah 9:6 (I’m paraphrasing), “Hear but don’t understand. See but do not learn anything.” God has decreed that they will stay in darkness.

Being Light as a Christian

“Jesus also calls us to be light. You are the light of the world. Whereas salt is hidden, light is obvious. Salt works secretly, while light works openly. Salt works from within, light from without. Salt is more the indirect influence of the gospel, while light is more its direct communication. Salt works primarily through our living, while light works primarily through what we teach and preach. Salt is largely negative. It can retard corruption, but it cannot change corruption into incorruption. Light is more positive. It not only reveals what is wrong and false but helps produce what is righteous and true.” (John MacArthur)

2 Corinthians 4:6

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

What does this really mean when we say Christians are the light of the world?  It means that we are so full of the Holy Spirit, so steeped in Scripture, and so focused on Jesus that our actions overflow with his presence and the world sees and gives glory to God because of it. I do not want to set false expectations with you, most of the world will not glorify God even in the face of your acts of righteousness; nearly the whole of Revelation is filled with the tale of the obstinate wicked that demand any other god but YHWH, any other savior but Jesus. Be assured though, that some will see and some will hear and will be converted.

Some thoughts from Chuck Swindoll

“When you’re willing to be salt and light in the world, you cultivate in people an appetite for God.

First, live right and start praying. These two go together. Each of us lives in a neighborhood or a community. Each of us works or lives around people who are lost. Each of us is engaged in activities alongside lost people. Live right and start praying. When you pray, think outside the box. You’re not just praying for another person. You’re praying that you will have the opportunity to strike a match where there’s only darkness or to shake some salt on a life that has become bland.

Second, care about and reach out. Start simply by being friendly. You might practice smiling regularly. People are drawn to those who smile. It is amazing! I’ve had the most fantastic conversations in grocery stores that have started just because I’m smiling.

Third, be available and listen. Listen, for a change. Don’t do all the talking. When you’re available—when people know you will listen—they will tell you their needs, their worries, their concerns. They will share their hearts with you. Care enough to enter into where they are. Laugh with them, cry with them, sigh with them. Tell them you care. You may not have the answers and you may not be able to solve their problems, but you can do a lot for people just by being available and listening.

Fourth, share your faith openly and follow through. Be ready. When the opportunity is right, when you sense that the Spirit is guiding you to share your faith, don’t hold back. As Peter says, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Pet. 3:15).

When you’re willing to be salt and light in the world, you cultivate in people an appetite for God—or at least a curiosity. You become a phenomenon to them because you live in the same world they do yet live with a totally different attitude. It makes them wonder what gives you that kind of joy. Trust me—people will ask, and they will listen. Be ready to tell them the answer: It’s the Good News about Jesus Christ.”

I called being salt and light the fruit of a robust faith and before we go, I want to develop that a little.

The Object of our Faith

For our faith to have any efficacy, at all, it must have a sure object. This is a total contrast to when people in the world tell you that you need to “have faith” or “keep the faith.” Aside from the fact that they are speaking nonsense based in ignorance, what they really mean is to stay positive. Not withstanding what Norman Vincent Peale or Robert Schuller may have told you, being positive does not have anywhere near the impact on our faith that the world would have you to believe it does.

Join me in Hebrews 11

We read the first verses this morning and I want to turn your attention to the last 8 verses:

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

The Triune God is the object of our faith. This is the central truth that underscores all we will do here. We believe in God the Father and all the truth that He has revealed to us, we believe in God the Son (who is Jesus our Lord) and His atoning death and resurrection, we believe in the Holy Spirit who indwells us and empowers us to desire righteousness and to carry out that desire.

 

The Actions of our Faith

Being consumed with the Lord, we minister to others as ambassadors of the King. James, in his epistle, tells us exactly what the actions of our faith look like: James 1:27

27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

 

The Results of our Faith

“By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.”

Ultimately, the results of our faith will be that others are converted through our witness.

 

WAIT!!! If the salt loses its saltiness…that sounds like losing salvation! Don’t worry, that isn’t what Jesus means. If you “lose your saltiness” you are losing your influence. Cheap salts that were found near the dead sea were easily corrupted and lost their flavor. Continuing the metaphor, a Christian who falls into sin will lose their influence in the world.

You are secure in Christ so you will not lose your salvation, but influence? That can definitely be lost. Now you may hear references to a person who has “fallen from grace” but I want to tell you that this cannot happen. You cannot fall from grace. You absolutely can fall into sin and you can grieve the Holy Spirit which of necessity will bring chastisement but if you are a true Christian, the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the embodiment of grace, does not leave you. To be sure, you will feel a difference in the relationship and this is part of His chastening but Jesus said, ” And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Be on your guard against sin, daily, but do not despair of losing your salvation. Jesus never lies and no one will ever pluck us from His.

There is a price to pay, while we walk on this earth when we sin. At the same time, we are pardoned, forever, from the eternal price of our sin. Sin has penalties and leaves scars on our lives. This is that “losing saltiness.” If you do fall into sin, or have fallen into sin, you can be restored; you will, most likely, not have the same influence on the world that you had before, but be assured that when you come for forgiveness and restoration, you will find it. You could say that God will give you a new light bulb so you can shine for Him again.

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