Behold the Eternal Lamb of God

•October 6, 2013 • Comments Off on Behold the Eternal Lamb of God

‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ – John 1:29-41 shroud and crosses

How many times have we read this verse, or heard it, without really stopping to absorb the impact of what it is really saying? Our very familiarity with verses such as this one is many times a hindrance to our discovering the depth of what is written. We become so used to the words that we quickly pass over them thinking we have gleaned all there is from them. John did not say – ‘look, over there is the Messiah, follow Him’. He did not say, ‘Look, over there is Jesus of Nazareth, He will lead you into all truth.’ What he did say was “Behold the Lamb of God.” This title did not merely mean, as some have supposed, that John was pointing out that Christ was meek and gentle as a lamb. This would be truth no doubt, but only a very small portion of the truth. There are far greater depths to be plummeted here! John recognized that Christ was God’s great sacrifice for the sin of the world. He was that Lamb of which Abraham told Isaac at Moriah God would provide. (Gen. 22:8.) He was that Lamb which every morning and evening sacrifice in the temple daily pointed to. He was that Lamb of which Isaiah had prophesied, that He would be “brought to the slaughter.” (Isaiah 53:7.) He was the true Lamb of which the Passover lamb in Egypt had been a representation. In short, He was the great propitiation for sin which God had covenanted from all eternity to send into the world. He was indeed, God’s Lamb.

John tells us that, “Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world.” He did not become one of us to be a conqueror, or a philosopher, or a mere teacher of morality. He came to save sinners. He came to do that which man could never do for himself–to do that which neither money nor learning nor human effort could ever accomplish– He came to “take away the sin of the world.” But, the cross did more than just bridge the “sin” gap – Christ removed it, He took it away. The Lamb of God has eliminated, removed, and annihilated any separation between God and man; that is, in Christ – for God, hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18). Jesus has taken our sins upon Himself, but He has done even more than that, He has taken away the sin (singular) of the world. Let me take you back to the beginning. Or should I say, to man’s beginning.

How was He, the Lamb of God first presented to the world? It was as the lamb for one man, presented by one man for himself, and on his own behalf. If we go back to the beginning, to Genesis, we see Abel, a shepherd, bringing of his flock a lamb, and he brought this lamb for himself, and on his own account, that God might accept him, and that he might present to God an offering well pleasing in His sight. Cain, his brother, on the other hand, brought of the fruit of the ground as an offering to God. We must not judge the men, but rather the sacrifices, for I believe that the difference was in the sacrifice, as much as in the man bringing it – for little is said about the differences of the men, but it is said, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Cain’s sacrifice, the fruit of the ground, the result of his own energies, was without the shedding of blood, whereas Abel’s sacrifice was a type, a foreshadowing of Christ, the Lamb of God, and was thereby accepted. Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. And it is no different today. You can only be “accepted in the Beloved.” You are not saved by what you can do, but by what He has done; not by what you have suffered, but by what He has endured. We are accepted for His sake. When you approach God, bring the Lamb of God; put Him on the altar, and you shall be accepted at once. But Christ is more than just a personal Savior.

Let us continue. As we move along through the history of Israel, we find the Lamb presented in another connection. While Israel was in Egypt, under bondage, the lamb was for the family, (Exodus 12:3). “In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.” This is why the apostle Paul could claim to the trembling jailer in Acts 16:31; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” As we move along, we see in Exodus 29 (38,39) God’s command that the lamb was for the people, for all of Israel. The sacrifice lamb began with the individual, went on to the family; and then the lamb was offered for the whole nation, day by day, morning and night, a continual burnt offering throughout their generations at the door of the tabernacle.

And then we behold, in today’s Gospel lesson, ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ We have gone beyond the individual, the family, the nation of Israel, and have come to the Lamb for the world. But, we must not stop there. Let us glance towards heaven itself, and there we see the Lamb for all heaven. From the Book of Revelation chapter 7, “These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

But, need we stop there? No, for a few more verses down we find; “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.” It is a blessed truth that the day shall come when, from every place that God has created, there shall be heard the voice of praise unto the Lamb forever; there shall be found everywhere men and women redeemed by blood, angels and archangels, and glorious spirits, rejoicing to adore Him who was, and is, and is to come; the Almighty Lamb of God.

Yes, one day all will behold the Lamb of God, but it will be an awful thing to see the Lamb from afar, with a chasm, a great impassable gulf in-between. For even then, Jesus will still be the Lamb, even to the lost; but then it will be “the wrath of the Lamb” that they will behold. The 6th chapter of Revelation tells us: ’15And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’ Be not deceived; the Lamb of God always has and always will be among us. He may be neglected, rejected, refused by many before that great and terrible day, but He will be beheld in eternity, and beheld to the everlasting confusion and unutterable dismay of those who refuse to behold Him here and now as the Lamb who taketh away the sin of the world.

Thus, we see that the cross of Christ, upon which the Lamb of God was slain to make atonement for sinners, is the center truth of the entire Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we read Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the Law of Moses and the history of the nation of Israel. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and temple, – all these were symbols of Christ crucified. This is the truth that we see honored in the vision of heaven in the book of Revelation. “In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts,” we are told, “and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain” (Rev 5:6). Yes, even in the midst of the glory of heaven we see Christ crucified, the Lamb of God.

Take away the Lamb of God and the cross of Christ, and this Bible, though full of wisdom, and instruction and edifying thoughts, will be of no everlasting use to you. You may know a good deal about its contents. You may know the historical outline of it, the history as some are prone to call it; you may be able to recite the dates of the events that are described within, just as you might be well acquainted with the history of America. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as you may be able to knowledgeably discuss George Washington, Betsy Ross, Thomas Edison, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. You may know the fundamental teachings of the Bible, and admire them, just as one might admire the philosophy of Plato, or Aristotle, or Bertrand Russell. But if you have not yet found out that Christ as the Lamb of God crucified, is the foundation of this book, you have read your Bible to little profit.

It will not suffice to know who Christ was, where He was born, and what He said and did. You may know of His miracles, of His sayings, of His prophecies, and His ordinances. You may know all about how He lived, and how He suffered, and even, how He died. But unless you know the power of Christ’s cross by experience-unless you know personally that the Lamb’s blood that was shed on that cross has washed away your sins, unless you can confess that you know that your salvation depends entirely on the work that Christ did upon the cross, – unless this be the case, the Lamb of God will profit you nothing. You must behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world and never, ever, ever cease beholding Him.

As long as you live, as long as there is breath within your frame, beware of a religion in which there is but little emphasis on the cross. Sadly, we find ourselves living in a time when we are surrounded by these false gospels; both in church buildings and on television. There are numerous places of worship today in which there is every thing you could imagine; except the cross. There is carved oak and sculptured stone and stained glass and impressive artwork. The services may be solemn and filled with the sound of ponderous music. But the real cross of Christ is not to be found there. Jesus crucified is not proclaimed from the pulpit. The Lamb of God is not lifted up, and salvation by faith in Him alone is not proclaimed. There are thousands of books on the shelves labeled as being spiritual and religious in which there is to be found between the covers everything – except the cross. They may be full of directions about sacraments and praises of the church. They may abound in exhortations about holy living, and rules for the attainment of perfection. They may have plenty of fonts and crosses both inside and outside. But the real cross of Christ is left out. The Lamb of God and His dying love are either not mentioned, or mentioned in an unscriptural way. And hence they are worse than useless.

And one last thought. When we behold the Lamb of God, we must never forget that in the purposes of God, Jesus, the Lamb of God, existed from everlasting. His incarnation was planned, counseled, and determined from all eternity. This is what the apostle Paul is reminding Timothy (2 Timothy 1:9) when he writes: ‘God, who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but in accordance with His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began’. We must forever be cognizant and in adoration of what Christ has done for us regarding our salvation, but we must not stop there, we must recognize that our redemption is only part of God’s plan, and not the whole. While we know that Jesus came to earth to die on the Cross for man’s redemption, His work, His doing of His Father’s business included a much more far-reaching purpose – it included the actualization of the Father’s original, supreme desire; to share Himself through a living union with man – a blending of the human and divine. Sin and the Fall did not alter God’s eternal plan, but only necessitated that redemption should be incorporated as part of it. The Father has always purposed for everything to be accomplished through, and find it’s meaning and existence in, His Son. The Son was to have become our very life even if man had never sinned. He is the tree of life. But when we focus solely and primarily on our salvation, though it be true, it elevates sin and leads us to believe that redemption was the primary purpose of God. Because we accentuate man’s fallen condition, the contemplation of the incarnation of Christ is only seen in the light of God’s redemptive plan. Because our perspectives are too narrow, everything in God’s plan seems to take its importance and meaning from the Fall rather than from God’s eternal purpose in Christ. But, when we see our redemption against the background of God’s eternal purposes in Christ, then that redemption becomes even more important and imperative as we accept it as the initial step in realizing the Father’s supreme desire; ‘That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him.’ (Ephesians 1:10)

Psalm 23 – a way of life

•October 6, 2013 • Comments Off on Psalm 23 – a way of life

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Who Is Christ?

•August 15, 2012 • Comments Off on Who Is Christ?

The crucial question,  who do you say Christ is?

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/isaiahtwentysix/2012/08/09/to-live-is-christ–

who-is-christ

 

The True Worshippers

•August 14, 2012 • Comments Off on The True Worshippers

The True Worshippers  

John 4: 5 0 42.

‘But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23-24).

True worship addresses God, not only as the Creator and Preserver of our natural world, all that we see around us, and as the great Lord of the Universe, but true worship also brings us into the presence of a God who has taught us to call Him our Father, the beloved of our souls. Jesus tells us here that the Father seeks for those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Let that thought sink in for a second; God seeks true worshippers. Have you ever really considered the magnitude of that statement? Our worship satisfies God’s loving heart and is a joy to Him. He who has forgiven our sins to the uttermost, and brought us into eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ, finds pleasure in our worship of Him. We, puny, finite, relatively insignificant creatures of His vast universe, actually have the privilege of being able to bring joy to the heart of Our Heavenly Father. With that in mind, let us hear what Our Lord has to say further regarding the subject of worship.

In our Gospel reading this evening, in an encounter with a Samaritan women at Jacob’s well,our Lord spoke of three types of worship. There was the ignorant worship of the Samaritans, the intelligent worship of the Jews, and the spiritual worship which He Himself had come to establish. Perceiving that Jesus was a prophet, and to shift the attention away from her less than admirable lifestyle that was being uncovered, the Samaritan woman, like so many when their sin is being brought to light and exposed, attempted to take refuge in a religious debate: ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’

Never one to mince words, or confuse an issue with an abundance of rhetoric, Jesus simply replied: ‘Ye worship that which ye know not’. Let us remember that the Samaritans rejected all the Old Testament except for their version of the 5 books of Moses. Their knowledge of God was lacking and incomplete; and consequently, so was their worship. In 722 B.C., after the ten tribes of Israel had been carried captive, and those regions left almost uninhabited, the king of Assyria planted in them a colony of various nations from the eastern part of his empire, who, mingling with the few original inhabitants, formed to themselves a strange concoction of a religion, by mixing together the principles and rites of Judaism and those of oriental idolatries -“fearing Jehovah, and serving their graven images.” (2 Kings 17:24-41). Yes, the Samaritans worshipped the God of Israel, the true God, but they were entrenched in gross ignorance for they worshipped Him strictly as the God of that land, as a local deity, along with all the other ‘gods’ of the nations. At the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity, the Samaritans, after having their alliance refused by the Jews, became their bitterest enemies, and presented the most active opposition to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple and capital (Ezra chapter 4; and Nehemiah chapters 4 & 6). The Samaritans did not acknowledge the authority of the historical books, as written by the Jews. The natural consequence of all these circumstances was, that the Jews and the Samaritans regarded each other with a much more rancorous, resentful, bitter dislike for one another than either of them did to the idolatrous nations by which they were surrounded. We may find that strange, but is it all that different from the animosity that has existed between God’s children in the different denominations; each going their separate ways, assigning different degrees of importance to God’s Holy Word, worshipping the same Lord, but not together, and yet, having no problem in being of one mind in fully accepting the ways of the godless secular world around them? The Lord said the Samaritans worshipped what they knew not – that they were ignorant, not only of the place, but of the very object of their worship. The Samaritans had abandoned the Law, and developed their own version of worship. Indeed, they feared the Lord after a fashion; but at the same time served the gods of those around them.

Regarding the Jews, Jesus said,We worship that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews.’ The word of salvation was of the Jews (Acts 13:26). It was delivered to them and they therefore knew what they worshipped. To them were committed the oracles of God (Romans 3:2), the covenants, and the receiving of the Law, the temple worship and the promisesof God. (Romans 9:4). Jesus answers the woman’s question by saying that in worshipping at Jerusalem, we, the Jews, are acting in compliance with the Divine will. In essence, He is saying ‘In regards to the religious debate between you and the Jews, you are wrong, and they are right; you are ignorant, and they are well-informed’, but, you are both wrong.

But, Jesus did not stop there for He continues on to say A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. . . . the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”

Obviously, the words ‘in spirit and truth’ do not mean, as it is so often taught, worshipping in earnest, in sincerity, from the heart, for as mentioned earlier the Samaritans had the five books of Moses and some knowledge of God and there was doubtless more than one among them who honestly and earnestly sought God in worship.  Likewise, the Jews had the true full revelation of God in His word, as far as it had been revealed and there were among them godly men, who called upon the LORD with their whole heart. As far back as Genesis Chapter 4 we read ‘then began men to call upon the name of the LORD’. And yet Jesus said that, “God is Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”. It is imperative, they must worship Him in spirit and in truth; there is no other way. This is not the first time that we have encountered this very emphatic word ‘must’ in John’s Gospel. Last week we discussed Jesus’ use of it when He said to Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7) and “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). Each of these three “musts” is equally important and intertwined to create the fabric of worshipping God in spirit and truth. The first has reference to God the Spirit, for it is He alone who brings about the new birth. The second refers to the work of God the Son in His incarnation and death upon the cross, for He it is Who is the propitiation for our sins. The third has reference to God the Father, for He it is that seeketh worshippers (John 4:23). The foundation of our worship cannot be built on anything else; it is only those who have been reborn of the Spirit, and who are resting solely upon the atoning work of Christ, that can worship the Father.

In order to worship God in spirit and in truth, He must be known: and He cannot be known apart from Christ. To worship God “in spirit and in truth” means in the full and final revelation which God has now made of Himself in Christ by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. ‘Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.’ (John 8:18)

To worship in spirit and in truth is contrary to a carnal worship which is external and ostentatious. Worshipping in spirit and in truth excludes all worship of God with the senses. Worshipping in spirit and in truth eliminates everything that is of the natural man for it is the adoration of a redeemed people, occupied with God Himself. The natural man looks upon worship as a duty, something that God demands from him and which gives no joy as he offers it. Far different is it with those who have been born from above and redeemed with the precious blood. Worshipping in Spirit and truth is the new nature in the believer stirred into activity, turning to its Divine and heavenly Source. It is that which is “spirit” (John 3:6) turning in adoration to Him who is the “Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9). It is that which is the “workmanship” of Christ (Ephesians 2:10) turning to Him who re-created us. It is the child spontaneously and gratefully turning in love to his Father. It is the new heart crying out, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). It is sinners, cleansed by His blood, exclaiming “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). This is true worship; being assured of our acceptance in the Beloved, adoring God for what He has made Christ to be unto us, and what He has made us to be in Christ. It is not approaching Him to receive from Him, but rather to render unto Him. It is the pouring out of the heart’s adoration. The entire object of the worship, from beginning to end, is God and God alone. The author of worship in spirit and truth is God for He can only be satisfied with that which He has Himself produced. “Lord… Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isaiah 26:12). Worship in spirit and truth is indeed praise, but it is so much more; it is the adoration flowing forth from a heart which is fully assured of the excellency of Him before whom it bows in love and reverence, expressing its profoundest gratitude for His unspeakable Gift, and to have ‘the Spirit of the Son’, dwelling within us, and revealing the Father unto us, making us spiritual worshippers crying out ‘Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:6).

The woman at the well had asked our Lord whether Samaria or Jerusalem was the true place of worship.  Jesus answered that henceforth worship is no longer to be limited to a certain place: ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father.‘ For as God is Spirit, not bound by space or time, but in His infinite perfection always and everywhere is the same, so His worship will henceforth no longer be confined by place or form, but will be spiritual as God Himself is spiritual.  The more our worship is in spirit and truth, the less attractive to the flesh will it be. There is so much so-called worship today that is chiefly designed to render it pleasing to the flesh with beautiful surroundings, sensuous music, and entertaining programs. Much of this ‘worship’ comes from, and ministers to, the soul, the emotions. Music which makes one “feel good”, emotional anecdotes which draw tears, the stirring oratory of a polished speaker, the clever showmanship of professional evangelists and singers who aim to ‘produce an atmosphere’ for worship and which are designed to move the varied emotions of those in attendance, are so many examples of what is of the soul and not of the spirit. True worship, spiritual worship, is reverential, occupying the worshipper with God Himself; and the effect is to leave one not with a hyped-up sensual experience, but with a peaceful heart and a rejoicing spirit.

The purpose of our worship should always be to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and yes – bring pleasure to God. He must at all times, and in all places, be sought and worshipped for Himself, never as a means towards something else. Worshipping in spirit and in truth is a way of life, not a separate activity that we do when we feel so inclined. We should live in an attitude of constant dependence on the Spirit of God; to live our life, to do His work, and especially, to worship Him. And, above all, remember that the Father is not seeking worship, but rather, the worshipper. May you be found by Him as such, from this moment forward.

…. Paul G. Stanley   originally given on Feb. 2, 2005 

The Fatherhood of God

•August 14, 2012 • Comments Off on The Fatherhood of God

John 14: 1-14

It is indeed a true testimony, which we say during our Eucharist, that the Lord is forever the same, whose property is always to have mercy. Today’s Gospel reading is a perfect example. At no time did the heart of Jesus overflow with a more tender, merciful and sovereign love and compassion for his disciples, than when He said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled.’ Jesus knew that His disciples were distressed and uneasy about many things. He had told them that He was going to leave them; He had told them that one of them would betray Him and that another would deny Him – that they would all be offended because of Him that very night; and perhaps they may have even thought that He would be leaving them alone to fend for themselves, departing from them in anger. And so, Our Lord mercifully says to them, ‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.’

 

Yes, Jesus knew that they believed in God, that they were familiar with and believed the testimonies of the patriarchs and the prophets, of the promised Messiah and His Kingdom. These were no infidels that He was speaking to, but those who had abandoned all to follow Him as He traveled throughout the countryside, teaching the multitudes, confronting head-on the established religious elements of His day, and healing many. Yes, Jesus knew that these disciples believed in God. But Jesus also knew that believing in God is not enough, for ‘even the devils believe in one God and tremble’ (James 2:19). Jesus knew that simply a belief in God, an acknowledgement that He exists, was not sufficient to keep their hearts from being troubled. So, Jesus tenderly continues on by speaking to them of the Father, of the many mansions in the Father’s house, of knowing the Father and seeing Him, of the Father being glorified in the Son. In His farewell discourse, found in the 17th chapter of John, Jesus said while praying to the Father, ‘this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ and accordingly Jesus’ whole life, His words and all of His actions here while amongst us were a revelation of the Father, and of His union with Him.

 

With that in mind, it is my intent to speak today about the Fatherhood of God – especially in connection with a verse in our Gospel reading that has been the cause of much concern for many since that day it was first spoken by Jesus nearly 2000 years ago. Verse 6 reads, ‘Jesus saith I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ If we are to accept His words exactly as they are written here before us, then Jesus is undeniably saying that no man or woman, regardless of how earnestly they desire, or diligently they labor, or sincerely they believe in the existence of God, can be brought into the presence of God the Father, except through Himself, the Christ, the Eternal Son of God. This claim rankles and irritates so many people like no other. This is not some idle declaration that Jesus has spoken, not some arbitrary statement, and definitely not one upon which we can be ambivalent, non-committal, undecided, or without opinion.

 

Think about it for a moment; Jesus has told us that God is our Father – In what sense are we the sons and daughters of God? Some say that the Fatherhood of God is universal, and that every man and woman, from the fact of their being created by God may consider God their father. But did He not also create the mountains and the beasts that roam the earth and the stars that exist in the farthest reaches of the Universe, as well as the vermin and the parasites and those ghastly roaches we sometimes see scurrying around on the floor when we turn on the lights? If He is our father because He created us, then assuredly He is also their father, and they are our brothers and sisters. But such is not the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, for we are taught to come before God, looking upon Him not as our Father through creation, but as our Father through adoption and the new birth. To approach God as Father requires something beyond creation to constitute such a blessed relationship, and this is why Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried: Why He descended into hell and the third day rose again from the dead; why He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

 

The entire Bible, from cover to cover, bears witness to the fact that strictly by nature we have no avenue, no path to the Father. We are by nature full of sin, and God is, by nature, infinitely holy – and as such must turn away from sin for He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. This was undeniably revealed to Adam and all the patriarchs that were to follow. In the beginning, back in the garden of Eden, God dwelt with Adam, and walked with him, and communed with him; but when Adam fell, rejected God’s word as truth and disobeyed Him, he was ‘driven out of paradise; and God placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to guard the way of the tree of life‘,(Genesis 3:24). This flaming sword between the cherubim signified that the doorway was closed, that direct communion between man and God no longer was possible. And if it had not turned every way – if it had left some slight entryway unprotected – then Adam might have endeavored to sneak in by that path, as so many have since tried, attempting in their own way to reach the tree of life. Yes, from the moment when Adam touched the forbidden fruit, the way from God to man became blocked, the bridge had collapsed, a great gulf was fixed, so that if it had not been for the divine plan of grace, we could not have ascended to God, neither could God in justice come down to us. Every way was blocked – for man by nature, in his own effort, will never find access to the Father. And as such man was constantly kept in remembrance.

 

In the burning bush, God appeared to Moses as a consuming fire and warned Moses not to come any closer for he was on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). When God condescended to dwell among the children of Israel, He dwelt specifically in the Holy of Holies – the innermost area of the Jewish temple. There the visible sign of His presence rested between the cherubim – described to us as a light inaccessible and full of glory or as a cloud that filled the temple. But this innermost area, what is referred to as the secret place in the Psalms, was separated from the holy place by a curtain or veil, and through that veil no man was allowed to pass, lest he should die; no man that is except the High Priest, who entered in, but once a year, and not without blood for his sins and the sins of the people. A more clear picture could not be painted expressing that the way into the holiest did not exist – that indeed sinful man had no way of entering into the presence of God.

 

No man could find out this path of life; but Jesus says, ‘I am the way.’ He did not leave mankind, the poor sons and daughters of Adam, to vainly struggle without success in their attempt to find a way into paradise and communion with God, but rather He left the bosom of the Father, so that He might open up a way for us, in Him, into the bosom of the Father. And how did He do it for God had placed the flaming sword to protect the tree of life. Was it by exerting his divine authority, and commanding the flaming blade to withdraw? No, for that would have been to dishonor His Father’s law, instead of magnifying it. The eternal Son became a man in our stead – took our sin upon Himself and bore our iniquities. He approached that blade, and fell beneath its piercing blow and paid the penalty. And what of the veil, did He pull it aside that we might steal in secretly and easily into the presence of the Father? No; but rather, He made by His one oblation of Himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world – an offering to satisfy Divine justice and reconcile us to God. When He said from the cross, ‘It is finished’, and bowed his head and gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom. The punishment of the law was borne – the demands of the law were answered – the way to the Father was accomplished! He has prepared the way by going before us as our Head and Representative, and taking possession of it for all the members of His mystical body. He has prepared the way to the Father by carrying our names with Him as our High Priest into the holy of holies.

 

But what about those who are not in Christ, not members of His mystical body? Ah, that is the question, is it not? It avails nothing that a man is clever, learned, highly gifted, amiable, charitable, kind-hearted, or zealous about this or that religion. All these will not save his soul if he does not draw near to God by Christ’s atonement, and surrender himself to God’s own Son as his Mediator and Savior. God is so holy that all men, regardless of their deeds, thoughts or intentions, are guilty and debtors in His sight. Sin is so sinful that no mortal man can make satisfaction for it. There must be a mediator, someone to pay the ransom, a redeemer, between God and ourselves, or else we could never be saved and stand in His presence. There is only one door, one bridge, one ladder, between earth and heaven – Jesus, the crucified Son of God. Whosoever will enter in by that door shall be saved; but to him who refuses to use that door the Bible holds out no hope at all. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission. Let us beware of supposing, from the limited vantage point of our finite reasoning powers, that mere earnestness will take a man to heaven, though he knows nothing of Christ. The idea is a deadly and ruinous error. Sincerity will never wipe away our sins. But that is not all that the Bible has to speak on the matter.

 

Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked shall be cast into hell with all the nations that forget God.” It is not necessary that one must hate or despise God, or contend and struggle against Him in order to inherit destruction; the simple neglect of God is sufficient to ruin one’s soul forever. Thus has the author of the book of Hebrews so aptly stated,  “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:3).” Stand still and do nothing; regard Him not; shut your eyes to His existence and engross and entertain yourself with the temporary toys and allurements of this earth, and you have as surely ruined your immortal soul as if you had defied and rejected Him to His face.

 

Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ It is as true today as it was the day He spoke it. So if it is your desire to be one with Christ and the Father through the Holy Ghost, to be sanctified through the truth, to be with Christ where He is that you may behold His glory and the love wherewith the Father has loved Christ be also within you, then yes, through Christ and Christ alone shall you come unto the Father. But, if it is not the Father you seek, but rather another God, one that more strikes your fancy, one that is not concerned with the issue of sin, then indeed there are many, many diverse ways in which you may pursue the Omnipotent; and there is no doubt that in that final day, regardless of which path you chose, you will encounter the All Powerful One – for in this one thing all these other paths do share a commonality – they will assuredly lead you to the same end – that of destruction and ruination of your immortal soul.

… Paul G. Stanley

originally given on April 24, 2005   

  

Shaking the Dust

•July 18, 2012 • Comments Off on Shaking the Dust

Link to audio message:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/isaiahtwentysix/2012/07/08/to-live-is-christ–shaking-the-dust–terrible-consequences

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Photo from The Pen of the Wayfarer Blog

The Resurrection of the Body

•April 12, 2012 • Comments Off on The Resurrection of the Body

The Resurrection of the Body

The very heart, the core, the foundation and substance of our Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Very few Christians, if any, would take issue with me on that statement. That having been said, however, it is just as valid a statement to claim that there are very few Christians who actually believe in the resurrection of the dead. You may be startled that I make such a claim, possibly even defensive, but I would not be the least bit surprised should I discover that there are probably those amongst us here in this assembly today who, if pressed to express their beliefs, have doubts on that very subject. Before you scoff at my assertion, let me insure that you fully understand what I am saying. By the resurrection of the dead is meant something quite different from the immortality of the soul, for that, not only does every Christian believe, but also almost every avowed non-believer likewise affirms, or at least hopes is the case, for there are indeed very few people who take comfort or embrace a concept of total annihilation of their individuality, of their distinctiveness, of their self-awareness being lost forever when the time comes for them to be placed in a hole in the ground one day. As long as man has been contemplating his existence, higher reason has taught that the soul is something so marvelous, so elevated, that it must endure forever in one fashion or another. But the resurrection of the dead is quite another issue altogether, for it deals not only with the soul, but with the body. The belief in the resurrection of the body is that this actual body in which you, and I, now exist, is to live forever with our souls; that not only is the ‘essence’ of our being, our spirit, to exist throughout eternity, but this very container, if you will, in which our being exists currently, are to be preserved forever. The spirit, most every one confesses, is eternal; but how many are there who believe that the bodies of men and women will actually rise up from their graves at that great day? And yet that is precisely what the resurrection of Jesus Christ teaches, and it is the core of our faith.

In fact, that is the peculiar and unique foundation of this faith we call Christianity. The great philosophers never espoused or imagined such a concept; and consequently, when the Apostle Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead, “some mocked,” which proves that they understood him to be speaking of the resurrection of the body, for they surely would not have ridiculed him had he only spoken of the immortality of the soul, for that was a teaching that had already been proclaimed by Plato and Socrates, and which they all received with reverence. And Paul was in good company when he taught of the resurrection of the body, for it was consistent with the patriarchs from the very beginning. Abraham believed in the resurrection of the dead, for we are told that he ‘accounted that God was able to raise up his son Isaac even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” Obviously Joseph believed in the resurrection, for he gave commandment concerning his bones; and surely he would not have been so careful of his body if he had not believed that it should be raised from the dead. Job was a firm believer in it, for he said “For I know that my Redeemer liveth; and that He shall stand at the latter-day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” David believed it beyond the shadow of a doubt, for he sang of Christ, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption.” Daniel believed it, for he said, that “Many who sleep in the dust shall rise, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting contempt.” Isaiah the prophet has written, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” If you study carefully what each of the apostles preached, you will find over and over that the very core of their preaching was always the resurrection of the dead.

When they preached they always testified concerning the resurrection of Jesus, and the consequent resurrection of the dead. When they chose another apostle to replace Judas, they said, “One must be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection;” so that the very requirement of an apostle was to be a witness of the bodily resurrection of Christ. When Peter stood up before the multitude, he declared unto them that “David spoke of the resurrection of Christ.” When Peter and John were taken before the council, the great cause of their arrest was that the rulers were grieved because they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. It was this very teaching which stirred the curiosity of the Athenians when Paul preached among them. “They said, he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods, because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.” When Paul stood before the council of the Pharisees and Sadducees he said, “Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” The resurrection of the body of Christ, and one day of our own is critical to the foundation of our redemption, it is not simply an academic issue, for as we heard in our New Testament reading today, “If Christ be not risen from the dead, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain, and ye are yet in your sins.”

In fact, Holy Scripture is so full of this truth that I marvel that so many have departed from such a foundation of our faith, that it should be preached from so many pulpits that the actual bodies of the saints will not live again, nor that the bodies of the wicked will not have a future existence. As Christ actually rose from the dead – flesh and blood, so shall we. Christ was not a spirit when He rose from the dead; His body was laid in the sepulchre, but was not to be found 3 days later for He had risen, spirit and body. Did not Thomas put his hand into His side and did not Christ say, “Handle me, and see. A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” And if we are to rise as Christ did – and we are taught so – then we shall rise in our bodies – not spirits, not some ethereal, surrealistic, phantasmic entity, but “as the Lord our Savior rose, so likewise shall all those who are in the grave, for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

This tabernacle that we now inhabit will one day be laid to rest, but only that it may be replaced with a temple. There shall be an absolute identity between the body in which we die and the body in which we rise again from the dust. Note that I used the word identity, for our body shall not have an absolute sameness of substance. We all know, as a matter of fact, that we are living in the same bodies which we possessed 20 years ago and yet we have been told by our prestigious scientists that perhaps not one single particle of the matter which constitutes our body now was in it 20 years ago! The body in which we die and are buried will be the same body in which we were born and yet I trust every one of us agrees that though it is certainly not the exact same body, in fact, every particle may have been exchanged and yet it still remains your body, not someone elses. In similar manner, so the body in which we rise will be the same body in which we die – it will be greatly changed, but those changes will not be such as to affect its identity. I know that all kinds of questions arise in our minds when we consider the reconstitution of our dead bodies, corpses which have decayed, have been spread to who knows where through the passage of time, which may have been affected by fire and other catastrophic events. But if the God of creation initially brought our bodies into existence from nothing, I should think it a far lessor matter for He to be able to refashion them from wherever they may be scattered. Were it possible to preserve our bodies perfectly after we died without a single shred of decay, do you think that would make it easier for God to resurrect them? Is God that inadequate? It is a known fact of nature, of science, that atoms are conserved; they cannot be created or destroyed, that all matter is composed of atoms of the various elements, and the total number of atoms in the universe remains constant.  That is, you can rearrange the existing atoms in any way you like, but you cannot cause additional atoms to materialize nor can you cause existing atoms to disappear.

A non-physical resurrection would be like a sunrise without a sun, it is non-sensical, an absurdity. Resurrection means that we will have bodies. If we didn’t have bodies, we wouldn’t be resurrected! We will not be disembodied spirits in the world to come, but redeemed spirits, in redeemed bodies, in a redeemed universe. The point at which Adam became a living being is when God joined his body, the dust of the earth and his spirit together. Thus, the essence of humanity is not just spirit, but spirit joined with body. Your body does not merely house the real you – it is as much a part of who you are as your spirit is. Scripture indicates that God designed our bodies to be an integral part of our total being. Death is an abnormal condition because it tears apart what God created and joined together. It is the result of sin. When we die, it isn’t that our real self goes to Heaven and our fake self goes to the grave. When you think of Christ, can you do so without including His body in your thoughts? Paul did not say that if there is no heaven the Christian life is futile, but that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then our hope is an illusion and we are still dead in our sins.

The empty tomb is the ultimate proof that Christ’s resurrected body was the same body that died on the cross. If resurrection meant the creation of a new body, Christ’s original body would have remained in the tomb. And so, to return to my opening argument, we state in our creeds, that we look for the resurrection of the dead, that we believe in the resurrection of the body. Do we?

… originally given in 2007, Br. Paul                    Image

 

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