The Real Meaning Of Christmas:
The Rest Of The Real Meaning Of Christmas:
Romans 8:1 - There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:2 - For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Romans 8:3 - For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
Romans 8:4 - in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Have A Very Merry Christmas!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The Bible is what we call the Word of God. The Scripture itself says that it is “god-breathed” or “inspired” by God. Working through ordinary men, God spoke in a miraculous and mysterious way, through the writing of these men, so that we have a record of the actual thoughts, the very heart, of God. In what we call the Holy Bible.
And as we read and study this Bible, this Word of God, one of the most important things we can do is to “rightly divide” the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Cutting Straight The Word of God
That phrase “rightly dividing” literally means “cutting straight”. We need to cut straight or rightly divide the Word, in the sense that we see the divisions that God Himself has made as He progressively revealed Himself over many hundreds of years.
In one sense, it’s absolutely stunning that so many men over so many hundreds of years could write something that fits together in a way that makes sense. At least it makes sense if we “rightly divide” it. If we don’t rightly divide it, then some things don’t make sense.
God at various times and various places, with various peoples, sometimes had different plans, different commands, different expectations, and different ways of dealing with those people.
The Old Covenant And The New
And one of the most important ways that we need to “rightly divide” the Word is regarding the difference between the Mosaic Covenant, or Old Covenant, and the New Covenant.
Let’s read from the book of Hebrews something about the New Covenant, and then we’ll look at some comparisons with the Old Covenant.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
For finding fault with them, He says, "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
"Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those day, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
...."For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."
When He said, "A new covenant" He has made the first obsolete. (Heb. 8:7-13, selections)
I’d like you to notice three things from this passage:
1. The Old Covenant is obsolete.
--doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from it
--well worth studying
--what we want to know is the heart of our Lord, don’t we?
--there is much about Him that we can learn even from the Old Covenant
--but it is obsolete, even for the Jew (it was never meant for the Gentile)
--vs 13, “becoming obsolete” refers to 70 A.D. destruction of the temple
2. The Old Covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant
"When He said, 'A new covenant' He has made the first obsolete...." (Heb. 8:13)
--although promised to Israel, the Gentiles have been grafted in, as Rom. Chapter 11 tells us, and we Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ, are now included in this great New Covenant.
We see this in such passages as:
1 Cor. 11:25, "In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'"
2 Cor. 3:6, "...who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
3. There is a reason why the New Covenant replaced the Old, and why The New Covenant is a BETTER Covenant.
Heb. 8:6, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises."
So what is the reason why the New Covenant replaced the Old, and why it’s a better covenant?
Hebrews 8:7,8, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah."
What does He mean, “finding fault with them”.
Well, it simply means this. The Old Covenant was a bi-lateral covenant. That means it had conditions for both sides. This was expressed many times in the Old Covenant laws, which said over and over this basic message:
“If you follow these laws, you will be blessed. If you don’t follow these laws, you will be cursed.”
Now there are a couple problems with that, to put it mildly.
The Problems With The Old Covenant
1. First, it couldn’t save.
There were over 600 laws under the Old Covenant, and the bible makes it clear that if you broke one single law, one time, it was just as if you’d broken them all, and that would keep you from earning salvation.
And obviously, no one could keep all the law, all the time.
Most couldn’t keep any of the law all the time, and some could hardly keep any of the law any of the time.
So the Law couldn’t save.
2. Secondly, the Law was a great burden.
If you read through Exodus and Leviticus and Deuteronomy, you will literally thank God that you are not under the burden of the 600 laws proscribed there, many with a simple penalty: death.
But even if you made the attempt, of course you would fail over and over, at least regarding the perfection the Law required.
And because you would fail, the sacrificial system itself was a burden. Actual rivers of blood flowed from the slain animals sacrificed to cover sins.
3. And that brings up a third problem. There could be no forgiveness of sins, only the covering of them.
Only the temporary covering of sins, because "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins." (Heb. 10:4)
And so the sacrifices had to be done over and over and over, with never any real assurance that it was enough. At times God Himself said, your sacrifices make me sick, because your hearts aren’t right.
Then Came Jesus
Ah, but then came Jesus. Then came the Lamb of God who became the final sacrifice, the once for all sacrifice, the One who gave His blood that truly could take away sins.
In came the New Covenant.
The New Covenant is not a bi-lateral Covenant. The bi-lateral Old Covenant failed, in that man was unable to keep his end of the the Covenant. So a better Covenant was put in place. And the one sure defect was left out, namely, dependence on man doing his part.
The Unilateral New Covenant
The New Covenant is UNI-lateral, that is, it was planned, instituted, carried out, fulfilled, and maintained by God. It is not a Covenant between God and man, with each having conditions to make the Covenant "work". It is not of the "letter", but of the "Spirit", and thus cannot fail.
It has His laws placed into the hearts and minds of His people, and He causes them to walk in His ways. It causes man to die to the Law (the very *principle* of Law), so that he is no longer under Law, but under Grace. And this very construct insures that the Law, all Law, is fulfilled, not by the [always shaky] performance of man, but by the [always sure] performance of God.
1 Cor 11:25, "In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'"
2 Cor 3:6, "...who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I’d like to begin by quoting a great verse of Scripture from Philippians 4:8. Some of you may have memorized this verse. It goes like this:
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things."
In connection with this passage on what we should be thinking about, what we should be meditating on, I’d like to read also the verse from John 8:31,32 which says this:
"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Much of what we decide to do or not do in life is decided by how we FEEL about it. And this is not automatically bad. Emotions certainly are a gift from God. To be able to feel often means to be able to enjoy. To be able to feel often means that we don’t just live as robots, but that we live with zest and passion and COM-passion and focus and fun.
Of course our emotions also may allow us to feel grief, despair, depression, rage, and misery.
But how do we take these wild mustangs of emotion and drive them into the corral, and train them to do what’s best for them? To be able to value them, and not dread them? To get them to help us in making decisions in life that are wise decisions? Without becoming robots?
It has to do with what we think about, meditate about.
When we think about things that are bad, we tend to feel bad. When we think about things that are good, we tend to feel good.
Now this is actually good news, for three reasons:
1. We can limit the bad that we take into our minds.
We can’t eliminate it, because it assaults us through our eyes, our ears, and even internally from repetition of past bad things. But we can limit it. We can stay away from input that we know contains great amounts of bad, whether it be books, TV shows, or a particularly destructive person.
2. We can fill our minds with good.
The most obvious source of this truth, this good, for the Christian is the Word of God. Secondary sources may be trusted teachers of the Word, including books, spoken messages, and so forth. But filling our minds with good things tends to set us free.
3. Our emotions are the result of our thoughts.
Now the reason this is good news, is that if you can limit the bad you take in, and if you can fill your mind with good, and if your emotions will respond to that good, then you can be made free. Free in your thinking, free in your feeling, and free in your decision-making.
Now I’ve heard teachers say, don’t let your feelings make your decisions for you, use wise thinking. But they’re in a sense denying a normal thing, and that is the simple reality that SOMETIMES our feelings decide for us. And it’s important for those feelings to be directed by the true, the noble, the just, the pure, the lovely, that which is of good report, that which is virtuous and praiseworthy. As our verse for today tells us.
Another word about what is true: The Bible is big book, and some truth is just plain more important that others. The geneologies are good. But some truth affects our emotions in a good way.
So there’s a lot of truth in that wonderful book. Now the Bible itself says, in 2 Tim. 3:16, that "ALL scripture is inspired by God and profitable." And I sure believe that. There is no scripture that should be left untouched or unread, from the genealogies of Genesis, to the obscure symbolism of Revelation.
But, having said that, we have to realize that when it comes to our daily lives, and truth that brings right thinking, which leads to right emotions, and good decisions, in other words, what we meditate on, there are some scriptures which are just plain more important than others.
There are some rich gems in the genealogies, and digging them out is a wonderful thing. But lets’ face it, there are some truths of the Bible that if we don’t have a good solid handle on, we are just plain messed up. And by “messed up”, I mean “in bondage” of one kind or another. We’re not free in our thinking and in our feeling.
So let’s just look at a couple examples of these foundational truths that tend to set us free. These things that are more important to meditate on than perhaps some other more obscure parts of the Scripture.
Some Extra-Important Things To Meditate On
1. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” -- John 14:6
Whenever we talk about truth, primary in our minds should always be Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus Christ was the Truth and is the Truth upon which all other truth is based. Just meditating on that fact, even just meditating on that passage that “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’”...that has so much in it that can change our thinking, and therefore our feeling, that just to meditate on that truth alone is a valuable thing.
It reminds me of that Scripture which says, “Be still and know that I am God”. Such a simple thing on the surface, and yet the truth of that small passage is so incredible.
2. Secondly, let’s look at the idea of Righteousness.
Romans 3:21 says, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction."
Meditating on righteousness is a great and valuable thing, too. One of the things about the Gospel is that it reveals the righteousness of God, to those who otherwise never would have understood righteousness at all.
You see, because as the Scripture teaches, our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, that when we’re born into this world and inherit the sinful nature from Adam, our forefather, we have no righteousness within ourselves.
If we’re to be righteous at all, if we’re to gain any kind of righteousness, it has to be given to us from elsewhere, as a gift. And that’s exactly what God did.
He said that Jesus became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. And when we meditate on that truth, that we have been declared righteous by God, that He has given us His righteousness, and now it’s ours...when we meditate on that, it can turn our thinking around. And cause great joy and feelings of gratitude and enlightenment, that nothing else can do. So that’s a great one.
3. The third one is we need to understand and meditate on the fact that we died too, when Jesus died on the cross. Those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ...when He died, we died – in a way that, while mysterious, is very clear in the Scripture.
We look at Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who delivered himself up for me.”
Romans 6:11: “Reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to god.”
See, when we died, we died to sin, and became alive to God in Christ by this miracle.
Romans 7:6: "But now we have been released from the Law, having died
to that by which we were bound."
See, when we died in Christ, we also died to the Law. We were released from the Law, so that the Scripture says that we’re no longer under law but under grace.
Galatians 2:19 "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God."
So something amazing has happened here, and worth meditating on. Talk about that which is noble and of good repute! This is an amazing thing that God has taken us with Him in Christ, and allowed us to die, our old self to die, and be made new, a "new creation". "Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).
4. O.K., fourthly, is our Unconditional Love and Acceptance.
Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus...”
Boy, is that worth meditating on.
And Romans 8 goes on to say that “NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ, the love of God”. He accepts us in the Beloved, and there is nothing we can do to make Him accept us more, and nothing we can do to make Him accept us less.
He accepts us in Christ.
He loves us in Christ.
That alone is a worthy cause for meditation.
5. Fifthly, the Sovereignty of God.
This is one of the most important ones, to understand simply that things are not out of control. That God has control over ALL things.
Philippians 4:11 says, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”.
Paul says that he has learned to be content in any circumstances. Why? Because he understands that God is sovereign. That no circumstances come into his life that God has not planned and allowed, for good. And that even things that are bad are being worked together for good.
Romans 8:28, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, and are the called according to His purpose.”
When we can meditate on that, and really get a grip on that, we have no cause for [undue] sadness. We have no cause for despair or depression, because all things are being worked together for good.
And if we can meditate on that, get a hold of it, it can revolutionize our lives.
Contentment comes from understanding that God is good, and that God is in control. That’s the sovereignty of God.
6. And then lastly, the fruit of the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit.
What a wonderful thing to meditate on. This leads to surrender.
This is the wonderful fruit of the Spirit that comes into us as we meditate, commune with Christ, surrender to Him, are filled with His Spirit, are walking in truth.
And this only comes from the Word of God and the Spirit of God, as we look upon Him. As we meditate on Him and His Word. As we move our eyes from ourselves, and onto Him. As we surrender to grace, and get off the ground of law.
In comes this fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Those things alone are great to meditate on.
As we meditate on good things, we are filled with the truth of Christ, and the truth of Grace, and the truth of who we are in Christ, and the truth of His great love and acceptance of us, and we naturally tend to respond in our feelings, and with that comes a freedom we may have never known before.
Well, let’s close by reading that great verse again, Philipp 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things.”
And you know, God has made us fearfully and wonderfully in a particular way, and that is that our minds can only think or meditate on one thing at a time.
So as we set our minds on these things that are good, on these things that are true, it actually crowds out of our minds those things that are bad, and untrue, and that cause bondage.