Monday, May 24, 2010

Genesis 7:16, 21, 22

"...the LORD closed (the door) behind him. All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died."

One of the most popular stories in all of Scripture, so often geared primarily toward children, with bright and colorful images of the animals, Noah, and the boat, "Noah's Ark" is generally presented as a happy tale. Actually, it is one of the most horrific accounts of divine judgment in the entire Bible. How so?

For one thing, there is the magnitude of the Lord's poured-out wrath. "All flesh that moved on the earth...birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth and all mankind.
" Never before, nor since, had the living God displayed His anger on such a scale. Worldwide in scope, utterly thorough in completeness, the waters rose above the highest mountain peaks, sparing nothing nor anyone in their relentless rising. For, as far as the eye could see there were only floating bodies, terrible stench, and rain, for five months. As stern as Noah's prior pronouncements no doubt were, as he warned his mocking neighbors and others about the destruction to come, likely even he couldn't fully grasp the enormity of the deluge until it hit!

Another aspect of the account is the method God determined to use. In contrast to the striking destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire & brimstone, or the sudden confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel, or the various plagues against the Egyptians, the use of water in the Flood was a slow process. Even though water was used in the slaying of Pharaoh's army by the rushing waters of the Red Sea, it was a death quickly done. Not so the Flood, with its incessant rains inch-by-inch eliminating every place upon which to stand, and breathe.

Finally, there were the terrible memories Noah and his family reflected upon for the rest of their lives... the seemingly-endless hours of shrieks, calls for aid, pleas for help, cries for mercy that they could not answer... the pounding of fists on the outside of the ark, as desperate, frantic neighbors sought entrance for their children, if not for themselves... to no avail. The only door had been closed, and by the LORD Himself.

Possible lessons?
*The only true & living God is utterly holy, and hates sin, seriously.

*There is grace with our God, even amid judgment. He didn't have to preserve anyone from the waters' certainty, but He did.

*Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, like the ark, is the only hope of refuge from judgment (Acts 4:12).

*The rainbow reflects His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood (9:11, 15), but His hatred of sin will again result in earth's destruction, this time by fire (II Peter 3:10, 11; Revelation 20:9; 21:1).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hebrews 12:1

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us"

The writer makes a distinction between "every encumbrance" that needs to be laid aside, and "the sin" that so easily entangles us. Both are obstacles, hinderances to running the race the Lord has set before us, yet one is characterized not as sin, but rather an impediment.

Those athletes running competitively in ancient times wore little or nothing during the race, minimizing any restriction to their movement clothing might impose. Their single-minded intensity in the athletic realm is held up as a challenge to us in the spiritual marathon that is our Christian walk. We, too, are to put off whatever the Holy Spirit reveals has become a drag upon our stride. A colorful leader I knew years ago phrased it: "I needed to get the junk out of my life!"
The "junk" we need to lay aside is often morally neutral in itself, and no spiritual hinderance for others, but has become an encumbrance in our heart and must be expunged. The temptation is always there to look around and question why we are not allowed to experience what others are free to enjoy, but Romans 14:12 must prevail--- "So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God." However innocuous my encumbrance may seem to someone else, however little need they may see for my getting it out of my life, however misunderstood I may be, the unchanging and unchangeable truth remains:
"Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:9, 10)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Romans 11:5,6

"In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."

Insidious. adj. "
operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect"-- Random House Dictionary, 2010.

Insidious comes to mind whenever considering systems of theology that speak of grace in terms other than the biblical usage, characterizing it as a means of meriting favor (salvation). Various cults, such as Christian Science, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. teach such heterodoxy, a "gospel" which is not good news at all.

These groups' popularity speaks to the natural tendency in lost folk to believe that surely some good works will help earn a spot in heaven. Still, these cults' influence is not as insidious, nor as pervasive, as the consummate organized "works-'grace' " theological system today: Roman Catholicism.

With its sacramental system inherently works-based, the entire theological structure is skewed, because the foundation is faulty. What is this foundational fault which 'proceeds in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually (has) grave effect'?
AUTHORITY. By asserting that its authority (Church Tradition) is on an equal plane (superior, actually) with Scripture, the Roman Catholic theology of "salvation-by-sacramental-obedience" subverts the true biblical meaning of grace.
For, to add any effort whatsoever to the freeness of the genuine Gospel's grace of Scripture is to invite such questions as, "How much effort is enough? How many good works does it take to know you have salvation? Where is the joy of salvation's assurance, especially at death, if one is depending on works for acceptance?"

The implications are enormous, important, and of eternal consequence. Why? People act on what they believe. And those who teach them are promised by God a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Those who teach the systems of works-salvation in all their insidious forms will have much to answer for, when before the King (Romans 14:12).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hebrews 12:11

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

Recently, in a Bible class, someone raised the question of whether or not the Father punishes His children. I see in Scripture that we are disciplined by the Father, but are discipline and punishment the same thing?

Random House Dictionary defines punishment thus:
1. the act of punishing.
2. the fact of being punished, as for an offense or fault.
3. a penalty inflicted for an offense, fault, etc.
4. severe handling or treatment.

For discipline, more is involved, according to the same source:
1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training: A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the harsh discipline of poverty.
5. behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control: good discipline in an army.
6. a set or system of rules and regulations.
7. Ecclesiastical. the system of government regulating the practice of a church as distinguished from its doctrine.
8. an instrument of punishment, esp. a whip or scourge, used in the practice of self-mortification or as an instrument of chastisement in certain religious communities.
9. a branch of instruction or learning: the disciplines of history and economics.

Although the terms are here used interchangeably, there is in Scripture distinction made. Punishment is seen most graphically displayed in judgment against the wicked, although God also dealt with His people Israel severely for their idolatrous ways throughout the Old Testament. Yet even amid His wrathful pronouncements and harsh measures, there remained covenantal commitment, not given any of the other nations. Only to His chosen people was His holy outrage an expression of zealous love, whereas toward Israel's enemies His judgment was purely punitive.

At the cross the Lord Jesus took upon Himself the complete wrath and judgment of God against the sin of His own, so that we are no longer under condemnation with its fear of punishment. Yes, we experience His discipline (which can certainly feel like punishment, true), but its eventual peaceful fruit of righteousness is unknown to a punished world.