Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Message of the Cross: What's in it for God

We often think of the Bible as God's message for us. We read it to find out what God has given us. For many, the Bible has become their personal promise box. Our whole perspective of the word of God is how it relates to ourselves and not to God. However, the Bible is as much a record of what God has done for Himself as it is a record of what He has done for us. Jesus died on the cross not only for what it would do for us but also for what He would gain through the cross. Jesus went to the cross not only for us but also for Himself; that He might purchase something for Himself.
"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus went to the cross because of the Joy that was set before Him. He knew that something would be accomplished through the cross that would bring Him great joy and it was because of the hope of this joy that He endured the cross and its shame. So what was that Joy? It was not just that we might be saved but that He might have us with Him.
"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)
Jesus was not content to conquer death Himself but His desire was that through the cross many would conquer death and that, as a result, he would have many brethren. "For which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, 'I will proclaim your name to my brethren.'" (Hebrews 2:11-12) The Joy that lead Jesus to the Cross was not the hope of His own glory and honor but us. Jesus hoped to win us for Himself through His death on the cross and that hope was his joy.
"Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:14)
Through His death on the cross Jesus purchased us for Himself. We cannot receive the things Jesus provided for us through the cross until we first become His. Jesus purchased us and it is only as His that we can receive the benefits of the cross.

Jesus died for us to have us. Jesus does not want our scarifies, our works, or even our worship, He first and foremost wants us; that we might be His people, that we might be His brethren. Our journey through the cross begins by becoming His and continues as we learn to discover the things He has provided for us through His love.

David Robison

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Friday, August 12, 2011

The Message of the Cross: What's in it for me (part 2)

In the last post in this series we looked at some of the things that are ours because of the cross. Here are a few more.
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Through Jesus' death on the cross we have been made righteous; not a righteousness based on the law but one based on faith. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4) This righteousness is by faith in that it is not based on our own good works; we are righteous apart from keeping the law. This is what Paul meant when he said,
"What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. " (Romans 9:30-32)
This is not to say that our behavior is not important, but only that we do not obey the law to become righteous rather we seek to live righteously to express the righteousness of Christ that we have already become. We are made righteous by faith and now called to live out that righteousness with God and man.
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" —  in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:13-14)
Not only are we given a righteousness that is not based upon the law but we have also been freed from the law that we might live according to the law of Christ. Jesus came to establish a new covenant with mankind. However, we are not free to join ourselves with the new covenant as long as we are bound to the old.
"Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." (Romans 7:4-6)
Jesus freed us from the law not by abolishing the law but by fulfilling it, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) and by paying the price for our sins that the law demands. Because Jesus died for us on the cross we are now free to live for Him in a new covenant.
"'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 'They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the Lord, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'" (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
More to come... David Robison

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

How to be perfect as God is perfect: Mt 5:48

"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
As Christians we are very comfortable talking about God's holiness and even how we have been made righteous in Christ, but when it comes to talking about our own holiness, righteousness, and perfection, we tend to be silent. We know God is holy and we know we are the righteousness of God in Christ, but we are not often sure about our own personal holiness. God wants us to be perfect, not only as accounted to us in Christ, but as an outward expression of the righteousness we are inside. God wants our outward behavior to express the inward righteousness we have been granted in Christ.

So how do we achieve or become perfect? One key is to identify in what ways God is perfect and then to imitate Him in His perfection.
"So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45)
One of the ways that God shows His perfection is in how He loves people. God loves people not because they are good or deserving but rather because they are His; He loves them because they are created in His image. There is a common blessing and favor that God showers upon all mankind, the righteous and the unrighteous alike. God is not sectarian; He loves all. If we are to be perfect then we must emulate God's perfection in His love.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
If we are to be perfect then we must love people, not because they are lovable or worth of love, but because they are God's. We must not see our world as "us against them" but that we are all one; we are all the same, we are all made in His image. This is not to say that there is not a difference between the family of faith and the family of disobedience, but rather our love and care for people should be without regard to whether or not the agree with us, believe like us, behave as we do, or are as worthy and deserving as we are; we should love people as people made in God's image. When we do this then we are, in part, showing forth the perfection of God. John said, "For God so loved the world, that He gave..." (John 3:16) Let this be said of us as well.

David Robison

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Isaiah 57:1-2 and the Rapture

Several years ago I blogged on the following passage in Isaiah:
The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, he enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walked in his upright way.” (Isaiah 57:1-2)
Recently I received an interesting comment on that scripture and my discussion of it.
I think the statement means exactly what it says. The righteous will perish (vanish) and no one will take notice. It is the first rapture. The "Church of Philadelphia, the only church which Christ had no problem with, would not have to suffer the miseries of tribulation, and would become the pillars of heaven, and they would not have to ever leave. The 'righteous' I believe, are the Church of Philadelphia. We are instructed to "pray that we be found worthy to be taken" which I believe refers to all of the above.
I felt that this comment was worthy of a response and have chosen to do so as separate post.

First, I must confess that, while I believe in the Rapture and in the tribulation at the end of the age, I believe that the Rapture will occur at the end of the tribulation and not before; I do not believe in a "pre-trib" rapture. But more on that later.

First, we must understand that there are three different ways, or modes, by which we may interpret scriptures. First, there is the literal and historical interpretation. For example, in this scripture Isaiah describes the events in Israel where the wicked have increased and the people no longer give any attention to righteousness. They are on the brink of becoming a totally godless society, and no one even gives it a thought. Secondly, there can be a proverbial interpretation. This type of interpretation looks for parallels or principles from the literal and historical interpretation that we may take and apply to our lives and our world today. This is what Paul meant when he said, "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." (1 Corinthians 10:11) From this scripture in Isaiah we can begin to see the dangers if we allow our nations to forsake God and instead turn to become increasingly more secular in our society and government. Thirdly is an allegorical interpretation. This interpretation looks for signs and figures in the scripture that refer to some hidden or secret truth. For example when Paul wrote, "Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children." (Galatians 4:25) Allegorical interpretations have, at times in the past, been very popular with certain sects within the christian church.

In responding to this verse in Isaiah and the one in Revelations referring to the church at Philadelphia, the questioner is posing an allegorical interpretation to these verses. Along with the questioner, I too believe that they mean exactly what they say, however, what they are exactly saying is still in question. The problem with an allegorical interpretation is knowing which allegorical interpretation is correct. For example, if agreeing with the questioner that perish could also be translated vanish (although I am not sure the Hebrew supports that), we could just as rightly propose an allegorical interpretation that God will make all Christians invisible. Such an interpretation fits the passage as well as supposing that it is referring to a pre-trib rapture. The other problem with allegorical interpretations is deciding if such an interpretation is called for or not. For example, how do we know the message to the church in Philadelphia is meant to have an allegorical interpretation for us today? We certainly can see a literal historical and even a proverbial interpretation, but did Jesus ever intend us to find an allegorical interpretation in His message to the church at Philadelphia?

That being said, should we expect that these two scriptures may be allegorically apply to a pre-trib rapture? Concerning the scripture in Isaiah, it says that the righteous parish and no man takes it to heart. It is hard to imagine that, with the rapture and the taking of millions if not billions of Christians, the world should not notice nor take it to heart; even if it is only to increase in their anger and rage towards God, for this rapture will not be done in secret, but openly as Paul says, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." (1 Thessalonians 4:16) Also, concerning the scripture in Revelations, if the qualification for the Philadelphia church to escape the hour of testing was that God had nothing to correct them about, then if this same reasoning is to be applied to the churches that are to escape the tribulation, then which churches are to escape? Since it seems to me that presently there are few if any churches that would have nothing for which Christ could not correct them for. Even if we are to say that the church of Philadelphia is to be allegorically applied to the church universal in the day of the rapture then why should we expect that we are the church of Philadelphia and not one of the other seven churches, say Laodicea, except for our desire to escape tribulation.

In whole, I do not believe in a pre-tribpre-trib rapture.

Thanks again for your comment, David Robison

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