Saturday, November 24, 2018

External and Internal Laws

In learning about the trouble of indwelling sin in believers from John Owen, one aspect he shared really resonated with me: the concept that indwelling sin acts as law in our hearts and has more power because it is internal rather than external.  The law of God is external and is therefore easily broken until God himself writes his law on our hearts again through Christ.

1. The law of God was internal with Adam and Eve.
2. Adam and Eve were created in the likeness of God (Genesis 5:1).
3. This likeness includes God's law being internal. (Remember God IS the law).
4. In disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit, Adam cast out God's law and acquired the law of sin in its place.
5. All progeny from Adam have this law of sin internalized (Genesis 5:3).
6. This law of sin causes the intent of man's heart to be evil from its youth (Genesis 8:21).
7. God provides his law externally to us through Moses.
8. The external law of God is easily broken and actually stirs up the internal law of sin.

However, Jeremiah 31 tells us that God has made a new covenant with Israel (the church), in which the external law of God will be made internal, written on the heart. Read Jeremiah 31:31-34. As believers, we now have two laws in our heart, at war, but this is preferable to the law of sin being alone in our hearts to drive us to destruction.  How is this internal law of God restored? By faith in Christ.  See Hebrews 11:

1. By faith Moses rejected the pleasures of sin found in Pharaoh's household.
2. Notice that what Moses rejected were pleasures, which carnal man ever seeks.
3. By faith Moses endured hardship with his people.
4. Notice that only with an internal law of God in his heart, Moses is able to choose hardship, which carnal man ever rejects.
5. Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.
6. The internal law of God not only has power against the law of sin, it sets the Christian apart from the carnal world.
7. As revealed by Christ himself in Luke 14:25-35, sin is hated, and the carnal world is hated, so that even once beloved family members who are carnal are fought against in favor of Christ.

Now, we turn to the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). See how the internal and external laws work:

1. The younger son has the law of sin in his heart, and the grace of God is nowhere to be seen.
2. God (the father) releases us to follow our sinful hearts to their end.
3. Following the law of sin brings one to rock bottom.
4. When the son comes to his senses, this is the moment when God puts his law into the heart of the sinner.
5. The first reaction of this newfound faith is to repent.
6. The father forgives the penitent sinner.
7. The older son has not followed his sin to rock bottom.
8. However, he has not the law of grace in his heart. He is attempting to follow God's external law.
9. His unforgiving spirit reveals that he, too, follows the law of sin in his heart. He has failed to follow God's law, even though it may seem that he's following it on the surface.
10. The younger son has been brought to life, yet the older son still lies dead in his heart.

Which son are you? Faith and repentance in Christ brings the law of God into your heart, and the war between the two laws can commence. The law of sin looks appealing, because it gives us pleasure, and the law of God looks like it will give us only pain and suffering, but Moses chose the narrow path, because his faith in Christ compelled him there. Which law is ruling your heart? We can't eradicate the law of sin completely from our hearts, but with the aid of the law of God's grace, we can wage war against the evil within us. This is only possible with the law of God being internal and not external.  The law of God becomes internal when we have faith in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, our salvation.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Snares and Pestilence

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. Psalm 91:3

We know that God rescues us out of danger, but these two metaphors are special, in that they represent dangers that overtake people before they are aware.

1. Think of Satan as the trapper laying out his snares of temptations for us.
2. Think of the infectious, corrupt ideas of the ungodly as pestilence that will lead us down the road to destruction.
3. Those who have faith in Christ are preserved from such.
4. Such snares and pestilences can cause danger to both body and soul.
5. God preserves us from both kinds.
6. God not only breaks the snare, He enables our escape.
7. Our help is in God's name.

Why God's name? Well, God's name is his identity. It separates the true God from all the false gods that are claimed to exist (even though they are no gods at all). In the Old Testament the identity of God was YHWH, which in Hebrew means, "I AM." In the New Testament, the identity of God is still I AM, but Jesus Christ identifies himself as the same. He claims to be I AM, but he is also Jesus, the name meaning "He Saves." God is one. Worship him and him alone, but the conduit through which he has chosen to save us is his son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. To worship him is to worship the true identity--the name--of God, who rescues us from the snare and pestilence.  Read Christ's own words in John 8:31-59 as he discusses true freedom with people who don't know Christ, because they remain captives to the snares of the devil and are infected with the pestilence of false doctrine:

1. If we continue in God's Word, then we will be true disciples.
2. The truth found in the scriptures about Jesus will set us free from spiritual snares and pestilence.
3. Jesus is not talking about physical slavery, although that can be a consequence of spiritual slavery.
4. Jesus is talking about us all being slaves to sin. We didn't choose to have sin in our lives or not. We are born with original sin, and from that foundation we commit actual sin.
5. Sin is the ultimate snare, because it cannot be avoided by man.
6. The slave to sin does not remain in the church forever.
7. The slave to Christ remains in the church forever.
8. Slavery to Christ is true freedom.
9. Where sins are snares set by the devil, Christ is the one who destroys the snares.
10. Where the pestilence of sin leads to death, Christ is the cure that leads to eternal life.
11. In God's Word we find the true identity of YHWH in Christ.
12. To reject the Word of God is to reject Christ and remain ensnared.
13. To reject the Word of God is to not know his true identity, the name of God, which sets us free.
14. To trust in another god will fail to free us. To trust in another christ will fail to free us.
15. Lies are the ultimate pestilence, because once a lie takes hold, it spreads like a wildfire, infecting so many who come in contact with each other.
16. Jesus' true identity is violently offensive to those who are slaves to sin.

What snares have captivated you? What false ideas about Christ have taken root in your heart like a disease? True freedom comes from knowing God and his son Jesus Christ. This knowledge can only be found in his Word. Take and read. The truth will set you free.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

More Than You Can Handle?

The words, and message, "God won't give you more than you can handle," are not in the Bible. God gives us more than we can handle all the time, sometimes to the point of death. Where did this idea come from?

The verse that gets twisted is 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."

1. The verse is about being tempted, not pain or struggles or adversity.
2. All fallen mankind receive similar temptations. None are "special cases."
3. If the temptations become so strong that you may not be able to overcome them, God will help.
4. God helps his children. He is faithful to his children.
5. God will provide a way of escape from the temptation.
6. God will help you endure the temptation.

This help from God is for those who are in Christ. This is clear. We see from 2 Peter 3:4-10

1. God condemned sinning angels to hell.
2. God flooded the entire world and saved only Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and his family.
3. God destroyed all the cities among Sodom and Gomorrah, sparing only righteous Lot.

Given these three historical facts:
4. God certainly knows how to rescue the godly from temptation. Righteous angels, Noah and his family, and Lot: all were extremely tempted. When everyone else is "doing it", the temptation is mighty high to go along to get along, to "join them." So, God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what believers can endure.

It is of great importance that we do not take God's help lightly, and plunge, of our own will, into temptation, because we know that God will get us out of it. This help is for those who have an abiding faith in Jesus Christ, and if we put God to the test, it shows that we do not fear God--do not have reverence for him--and may not be his children.  For an example, we look to Christ's temptation in the wilderness: Matthew 4:1-11.

1. The devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple in Jerusalem.
2. The devil quotes scripture to support his temptation.
3. The devil omits a crucial part of the verse, because it is contrary to his point.

The devil quotes, "He will command His angels concerning you. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

The actual verse from Psalm 91 reads, "For He will give His angels charge concerning you, TO GUARD YOU IN ALL YOUR WAYS. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone."

What are your ways? Are they godly ways that are acquired from faith in Christ? Or are they the corrupt ways of your old nature? Help from God comes from walking in his ways. Christ affirms this when he responds to the devil, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."

Use Psalm 91 to examine yourself:

1. Do you dwell in God's shelter?
2. Is God your refuge and fortress?
3. Do you sense God's faithfulness to you?
4. Do you fear the world and not God?
5. Do you fear death?
6. Do you fear the wicked?
7. Do you sense God's protection?
8. Or do you sense the continual oppression of fate or bad luck or karma?
9. Do you love God?
10. Do you know God?
11. Do you call on God in times of trouble?
12. Are you satisfied with your circumstances?
13. Do you see his salvation in Christ?

Have a deep reverence for God. Study his word and pray continually. He will not lead you into temptation, and he will not allow temptation to overtake you.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Two Covenants

Two covenants exist for all of mankind. 

1. The covenant of Moses. This is the law. The ten commandments and all the permutations thereof. All moral law is built upon this covenant. All worship is built on this covenant.

2. The covenant of Abraham. This is faith. God made a covenant with Abraham 430 years before he gave the law through Moses. God fulfilled both sides of the covenant and Abraham believed God's promises. In Genesis 15, God told Abraham:

a. Do not fear.
b. I am a shield to you.
c. Your reward shall be very great.
d. Your heir will be your natural son.
e. Your descendants will number the stars.

Abraham believed the Lord, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. When we have faith in God, we do not fear, because he is a shield to us. Our reward is very great, for our reward is Christ, who is the ultimate heir of Abraham. Anyone who has faith in Christ can be called a true descendant of Abraham, and we can be numbered among the stars visible from Earth. That is a great amount of believers in history.

Now, Hebrews 3 describes the flaws in the singlemindedness of the Mosaic covenant, which, when followed alone, does not enable us to enter God's rest:

1. Moses freed the slaves of Israel from the Egyptians.
2. He brought them out into the wilderness.
3. God gave them the law through Moses.
4. They hardened their hearts when they heard his voice.
5. For 40 years of trial they hardened their hearts.
6. They did not enter the promised land.

Because of sin, all of life for everyone is one big trial. It's as if we are all in a vast wilderness of struggle. All mankind, regardless of religion or philosophy, are in a struggle to obey a universal standard: do not murder, do not lie, do not steal, do not cheat. The law given to Moses is an explicit spelling-out of the God-given conscience that is burned into all human hearts.

Here is the unique claim of Christianity: if you struggle to keep the law, you will fail. If you attempt to conquer the Mosaic covenant, it will crush you. However, if you embrace the Abrahamic covenant, God will bless you with the ability to keep the Mosaic covenant, too. Remember, do not fear; God is our shield; he rewards our faith in his son by making us his children.

Galatians 3 spells this crucial difference in the covenants out:

1. We do not receive the Holy Spirit by works of the law.
2. We receive the Holy Spirit by hearing the gospel with faith.
3. Those who are of faith are the true sons and daughters of Abraham.
4. The faithful include those naturally outside Israel and those naturally inside Israel.
5. Outside of faith in Christ, all mankind is cursed.
6. Attempting to fulfill the law and failing increases the effect of the curse.
7. Living by faith enables us to fulfill the law. Why?
8. Because Jesus Christ took on the curse for us. How?

a. He fulfills the law. He kept the Mosaic covenant perfectly.
b. He was cursed anyway.
c. He suffered the penalty of the curse on our behalf.
d. Faith in the cursed one removes the curse from us.
e. We are able to live by the law as a rule of life.

For a demonstration of the two covenants, we turn to Mark 9:14-29:

1. Sin is a destructive force that corrupts the whole man. (v. 17)
2. Attempts to live by the law only intensifies sin in us. (v. 18)
3. Christ reveals the problem to be unbelief. (v. 19)
4. Sin corrupts us from childhood. (v. 21)
5. Our unbelief reduces God to just another option for help. Maybe he will work, maybe he won't. (v. 22)
6. With faith, all things are possible (v. 23)
7. Even with faith in Christ, unbelief will still creep in. We must cry out to God for help. (v. 24)
8. Jesus defeats sin.
9. We must die to sin.
10. Christ raises us to everlasting life.

Which covenant are you immersed in? Which one are you following? The Mosaic? Are you attempting to live by the law and finding that it is more difficult than ever? Do you find that sin keeps getting the upper hand? Open your Bible, pray to God, and let the Abrahamic covenant be your guide. Think of God as your protector, not your oppressor. Think of him as your hope, not your judge. Live life in faith and you will find that you are able to worship God in truth and holiness, and you are able to love God and your neighbor as yourself.