Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Grace Changes People

In Romans 6 Paul asks one of the best questions in the entire Bible.  After hammering home the distinctions between the first Adam and the second Adam (Christ) he knows his listeners are going to struggle with the idea of grace.  He knows grace is so radical it will cause people to ask, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound" (Rom. 6:1)?  When salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is taught I think most of us struggle with this response.  But Paul really helps us out by taking us to the reality of what happens in salvation.  He chops away at the mindset that grace allows us to sin by asking a simple yet profound question: "How can we who died to sin still live in it" (6:2)?  

Grace is not cheap.  Grace comes at the price of the Father sending his Son into the world for the very purpose of dying for those chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation.  Jesus comes on a rescue mission that not one of us deserve.  He came to seek and save the lost.  He was perfectly fine in heaven fellowshipping with his Father and the Holy Spirit.  Yet because of his love he comes to dwell among those whom he created and who would crucify him on a cross like they would a criminal. In Romans 5, Paul has been driving this point home: "For while we were weak...Christ died for the ungodly.  God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom. 5:6,8,10).  Paul knows grace will melt a hard heart.  He knows God's love will in turn cause sinners to turn and love him.  

Grace changes people.  Grace changes sinners to saints.  It changes enemies to friends.  It changes the unreconciled to the reconciled.  Grace produces change!  This change is why Paul is confident to preach grace and grace alone.  He knows when grace is preached, God will work.  When God works, people die to sin and are changed.  He knows God makes people alive to him and dead to sin.  "How can we who died to sin still live it?"  We can't because of grace.

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Creation and Commands

The other night I went outside to accomplish the mundane task of wheeling our trash can to the street in order for the city to come wisk our trash away to a magical landfill.  When I arrived to the edge of the driveway and turned to go back inside, my eyes caught the bright reflection of the moon.  It was shining bright, illuminating the sky.  Stars were spread across the sky as clear as could be.  What had started as a mundane trip to the edge of the driveway turned into a glorious spectacle of God's handiwork.  The verse that came to mind as I looked at the sky was Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."  The sky was declaring and proclaiming the awesomeness of the Creator.  It was a beautiful sight.  

Lately I have been looking at Psalm 19 so it was fresh on my mind.  I am not normally a big nature guy but I have been trying to be more observant to the beautiful handiwork of my God.  I realize the things of nature shout out that our God is big, beautiful, and creative.  Nature shows God's glory and he should be worshipped because of it.  That is what the Psalmist is communicating in the first section of Psalm 19.  Verse one is not the only verse in the chapter talking about God's revelation of himself through creation.  "Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge...Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.  In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man, runs its course with joy.  Its rising is from the end of the heavens... and there is nothing hidden from its heat" (2-6).  All people have seen his creation therefore all of us know God exist.  "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20).  The Psalmist along with Paul is telling us that creation screams God exists!  His general revelation about himself through creation is a grace to all.

But the Psalmist doesn't stop with simply God's general relevation but proceeds to speak about God's special revelation in the Scriptures.  He uses terms like "The law of the LORD", "the testimony of the LORD", "the precepts of the LORD", "the commandment of the LORD" and "the rules of the LORD" to describe God's word to us. Many times when we read words like "law", "commandment" or "rules" they come across in a negative connotation.  But we must remember of few things about God's intentions.  Remember in Genesis 1-2 when God spoke everything into existance he then said "It is good. It is very good."  Adam and Eve and creation were glorious.  No flaws, no groanings because there was no sin. God also knew what would be the greatest detriment to all mankind so he gave Adam and Eve one command or law or rule: You may eat from anywhere in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The reason: If you eat of that tree you will die.  Pretty simple and straightforward.  God gave a command for the good of Adam and Eve not as a restriction to their joy.  The restriction of their joy came when, in Genesis 3, they disobeyed God and sinned against him.  Spiritual death and broken fellowship with God was now the curse passed down to the rest of humanity.  When the Psalmist uses these terms to describe God's word we shouldn't have a mind that drifts toward restriction but freedom.  

Notice the freedom statements that follow the descriptions of God's word: "reviving the soul", "making wise the simple", "rejoicing the heart", "enlightening the eyes" and "enduring forever."  Such a drag.  Not really.  Reviving, wisdom, rejoicing, enlightening and enduring are words that sound so good they almost seem unrealistic.  Maybe I could use the word supernatural.  This is what God's word does for us through the Holy Spirit.  God's word is for our greatest joy not a ball and chain.  I get the argument from the world's perspective because God's word is restricting them from what they love the most: sin.  But as followers of Christ we need to wake up to the reality that God is for our greatest good not a life of boredom.  He has revealed himself through his word in order for us to know the One for whom we were created to worship and find joy.  In verse 10 the Psalmist gives us a greater taste when he says, "More to be desired are [God's rules] than gold, even much fine gold."  Gold is a precious, valuable commodity in our world yet the Psalmist says God's rules are greater than gold.  His commands are better than a great career, grades, sports, sex, money, comfort and you fill in the blank with whatever may be keeping you from obeying Christ and his commands.  

The Psalmist then gives us two motivations for obedience to God's commands:

1.  Warning
2.  Reward

Notice verse 11, "Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."  God is so kind to us that he gives us his commands to warn us.  He wants what is best for us.  As our Creater he knows what we will enjoy but also what will ruin us.  His commands are those warning signs telling us, "Don't do it because I love you and know this will be for your destruction."  Heed his warnings.  

He also promises a reward for keeping his commands.  Rewards are a good thing.  Maybe as a kid you were rewarded with an allowance for doing the things you were told to do.  You weren't earning your parents favor or love. Rather they were teaching about life and how to be someone who should contribute in a positive manner in society through responsibilities in the house.  In keeping God's commands we are not earning his favor.  His favor is given through trusting in Christ's finished work on the cross.  Rather, in keeping his commands, he is giving us greater glimpses of his goodness.  The reward is seeing more of God and his goodness! 

General revelation and special revelation give us a picture of our great God.  May we aim to please him in all we do.  May we pray with the Psalmist, "Keep back your servant also from preumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!  Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer" (Ps. 19:13-14).

Grace upon grace,