So, at the beginning of each school week, our writing assignment is to summarize the sermon from the previous Sunday in some sort of a readable, understandable, easy to follow format. I decided that I would put mine on my blog. For those of you who are here in AZ and go to our church, add your comments on what you thought about the sermon...
Total Grace - The Day of Atonement
If a man has a high view of God's law and a right view of God, it makes him a seeker of grace. He can see that to keep all of God's law is good, wonderful, wise, and necessary, and yet to do so is impossible. Seeing this, the only thing man can do is trust in God's grace by faith.
After the Israelites left Egypt, they were given a glimpse of just how holy God is. At Mt. Sinai, this group of people witnessed firs-hand God's power, holiness, and greatness of the seperation between Him and man. They understood His holiness, and He gave them the Ten Commandments to show them how to live and walk in harmony with a holy God. He also showed them that there are consequences for our sin; some more severe and immediate than others. Knowing that it was impossible to completely keep His law, God provided the Day of Atonement.
Regulated by God to once a year, this was the day when all of Israel was pronounced clean; all their sins were taken away. The priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and atone for the sins of himself, his family, and all the people. Laying his hand on the head of a goat, he would confess their sins, and then that goat would be set free in the wilderness to carry their sins far away. Then, because ofthe shedding of blood from sacrifices to appease GOd's wrath, and by the people's confession and faith, the priest would pronounce them clean!
There are so many similarities between this day and the day of Christ's death.
1. They were both done in one day
2. Both were a gift
3. Both were done vicariously
4. Repentance is needed in both
5. Both signify the Gospel
The difference is this: the Day of Atonement had to be repeated once a year; Christ's death was sufficient for eternity! He was the final atonement needed to cover us.
True Worship Is Important
In the modern church today, there are four things being done that are hindering true worship from taking place. First, our lives are too fast. Due to our busy schedules and things we "have" to do, many times we see that worship gets hardly enough priority. Secondly, we tend to live our lives in a far too individualistic manner. God's design was for the church to worship as a body and not for each person to have their own "custom-made religion." Thirdly, Americans are known for their independence. In many cases, this can be a very useful thing, but it is hurtful when it comes to respecting authority. Especially in our culture, we are too irreverent; irreverent towards parents, employers, political leaders, and, ultimately, God. Irreverent worship is not worship. Lastly, the modern church has a problem with being too creative.
What? Too creative? That's hardly possible! Bible colleges and churches around America are constantly trying to come up with ways to make their worship service more creative...and that's exactly the problem. Today's church is centered around what they call "outreach." Basically, they are trying to find out what lost people like and then integrate it into the church. Their belief system stresses that independence and creativity are important, but that raises a question: Does it matter how we worship God?
God, as the one true basis for ethics, has given us a set of rules that He expects us to follow. Obeying God's rules is expressed in three ways: 1. If God says "do" something, do it; 2. If God says "don't" do something, don't do it; 3. If something is not based on Scripture, it is forbidden. Out of these statements, the first two are accepted by Christians, but the last one is often ignored.
In Leviticus 10, God vividly demonstrates this fact in the story of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu. These two priests were involved in worshipping the Lord, and they offered strange fire to Him. Instantly, God killed them. Right there...in a moment. "But that's not fair! God didn't say they couldn't do that!" No, He didn't, but He did tel them what they were supposed to do, and they weren't doing that.
In our own time, just because God isn't judging America for her worship style doesn't mean He approves. We tend to get caught up in God's mercy. God can choose to judge one of three ways: 1. in a moment; 2. over a lifetime; 3. not till generations later, but He will judge.
As we seek to come near to God, we must remember that to do so is a dangerous thing. We have to come near to God in the way He commands - holy and seperate to glorify Him.
The Sin Offering
Most of the sins addressed in the Bible are unintentional sins. These are still sins, but they do not require death as a penalty. When one unintentionally commits a sin, and everyone does, at some point, that sin will be revealed to them. Once it is revealed, it must be confessed and then covered, or atoned for.
In the Old Testament, unintentional sin was atoned for through a sin offering. A lot of the Old Testament deals with heart motives, and this is no exception. Of course, God knows what sins we have done, but once we know them, we have a responsibility to confess them.
In today's age, we still have a responsibility to confess our sins. The difference is that now, our sins have been atoned for through Christ's death on the cross. The moral principles are the same pre-cross as well as post-cross. However, we don't have to offer sacrifices anymore because Christ was the ultimate and final sacrifice. Our Christian life should be characterized by constant confession.
Leviticus 4 shows that different social groups have more or less responsibility before God depending on who they are teaching. This is shown by the type of sacrifice they had to bring.
1. The social group with the most responsibility isthe spiritual leaders. While it certainly includes pastors and elders, this group also contains fathers because they are the spiritual leaders of their family.
2. The church (or the congegration) has the next most responsibility. As part of God's people, we are accountable to Him to share Him with the world. WIthin the congegration, men are ultimately held responsible as their family's representative.
3. Strangely enough, the rulers of a nation are less responsible than the congegration. It is comforting to know that whatever wrongs the rulers may "get away with," they are accountable to the Lord for how they ruled.
4. The group with the least responsibility is the common people. These still have individual responsibility for their sin before God.
In the post-cross age we live in, we need to remember that if Christ hadn't died, we would still be sacrificing animals. We are no "better" or "worse" than the ancient Israelites; our sacrifice has already been offered.
Get A Grip
For the past 150 years, our culture has had a "grip" on us. Slowly but surely, we have embraced more and more the lies of culture versus the truth of the Bible. As a few examples, 150 years ago, the divorce rate was 3%; it is now up to 50% - even within the Church. Even as recently as 60 years ago, the average number of children per family was 7; it is now a shocking 1.8. What has happened? Why has the American society moved so far away from the Christian principles it was founded upon? One of the main reasons is that we have succumbed to the egalitarian mindset.
Egalitarianism is defined as a social philosophy that removes all distinctions between people. It equalizes gender, race, classes, appearances, etc. This mindset has influenced our culture in 5 main ways that can best be remembered by a hand.
Palm - Biblical Authority palm - Christian humanism
Thumb - Unity thumb - Women's suffrage
Index - Integrity index - redefinition of marriage
Middle - Work middle - women working out of home
Ring - Fruit ring - birth control
Pinkie - Modesty pinkie - immodesty
Unity - God designed the family to work together as one unit with hierarchy flowing from the Godhead into it. On the other side, the women's suffrage movement wanted confusion and said "no" to unity. In the issue of voting, "women's rights" were a symbol of an anti-headship mindset. When a man is connected to his family, he is able to understand their wishes and then represent them as one unit before the state. When women acquired the right to vote, it took away the husband's headship that God had established. God gives men authority in order for them to edify their family, not abuse them.
Integrity - The demise of our nation's integrity can best be seen in the redefinition of marriage. Looking at God's truth, we see that He created male and female equal in essence, but distinct in their functions. Man was created in God's image and is made to be the spiritual leader of his family - as well as responsible for them. Woman was created from a man for a man, and that continues to be her function. As a daughter, she is her father's helpmeet, and later as a wife, she is her husband's helper. She is to submit and respect her husband, and he is to lead and love his wife. The lie of feminism says that the wife is just as responsible as the husband in leading the marriage relationship. As a wife starts to believe that, she stops respecting her husband which makes him stop loving her which leads to an unhappy and often broken marriage.
Work - Another contrast arises in the area of work. The lie of feminisim says "women must be financially independent from men." God tells us that men are to provide for and protect women. As Godly daughters, we should be growing up to be financially dependent on Godly men. In our current stage of life, we are dependent on our fathers, and, in the future, on our husbands. When a man and woman marry, the two become one - in everything...even finances. Our world has them living as seperate individuals. In God's eyes, they are one.
Fruit - Before birth control and the introduction of 'the pill,' the average birth rate was 7 children per family. Today, it is down to 1.8. No longer are children viewed as arrows of a warrior or fruit of the womb; instead, they are seen as a burden and a hinderance to a woman's life. The ability to use birth control allows pleasure without responsibility, but these two are inseperable. In every aspect of life, responsibility comes with pleasure, and having children is no exception.
Modesty - This aspect is a little different than the other four because it is an outworking of them. Our culture's immodesty has developed because of the four previous moral failings. Our clothes are a sign of what we believe. As the Russians say, "First we greet you with our clothes; then we greet you with our words." Modesty is an inward perception with and outward reflection. It is an attitude of the heart that is then expressed in how we dress.
In conclusion, the egalitarian mindset has affected everyone. Each of us has a tendency to succumb to it's beliefs and start acting accordingly. An egalitarianistic women will respond by either becoming a toy for men, or competition for them. An egalitarianistic man will either become a playboy, or effeminate. By keeping with God's standards, Christian men and women must fight the culture and submit to the roles God has assigned them.
Truth. What is "truth?" The definition of truth is: that which is - reality. It is not something fictional, made-up, or relative. In our universe, everything that exists is the way it is because of truth. If there was no truth, the sun would not move with such calculated punctuality, the clouds would not stay suspended - nothing would function properly. Truth is what constitutes the laws of nature and science, and truth holds our universe together.
Because of all this, it is evidenced by creation that we must trust in truth. So, by God's standards, what is truth? Ps. 119:142 says that God's law is truth. Whenever we trust in something other than truth (i.e., self), we are being hypocrites.
Psalm 119:137-144 lists three different characteristics of God's Law. The first is - God's commands are trustworthy (v. 137). Even though His commands go against our nature and feelings, they are trustworthy...because they are true. Because of our innate fleshly nature, His WOrd will contradict us at every step because it is parallel to God's nature.
V. 1490 says God's Word is very pure. Something that is pure cannot be anything other than true because untruth is impure.
Finally, v. 142 says point-blank that His Law (Word) is truth. When Christians stop believing that the whole Word of God is true, they start drifting from a fundamental belief. Before the church was ever in the problems it is now in, it stopped confirming God's Word as true.
One of a Christian's fundamental presuppositions is that God's commands stand forever (v. 144) and are to be obeyed unless God Himself changes them. If there is no law, there is no truth; if there is no truth, there is no God.
Five principles for application are:
1. Continual - God's Word is continually true
2. Ceremonial - some commands have been changed by God
3. Jurisdictional - different rules apply to different jurisdictions
4. Principally - they should be adapted to new situations
5. Progressive Revelation - God has spoken in various times and various ways, and has now spoken through His Son.
If one were to honestly put the Bibly & Christian beliefs to the test, they would not be found lacking. Christianity is not a faith that has been tried and found wanting. It is a faith that has been largely untried.
How to be Happy
In the Hebrew language, there are two different words that can be translated "blessed" or "happy." The first word in Psalm 1 comes from the word that means: to be supremely, enviably happy. By using this word, the psalmist - presumably David - is striving to convey extreme, faultless happiness.
So, how does one become so happy? There are two main things given here:
1. Reject Ungodly Wisdom
In order to be happy, we must turn from those who offer bad advice. An example of someone who accepted ungodly wisdom is Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12. Interestingly, the elder men are those who gave him the godly advice, and his young peers are those advising him wrongly. Choosing to accept bad wisdom, Rehoboam listens to his friends, and his decision brings about great punishment and unhappiness. We must reject what we would naturally want to do because the mind set on things of the flesh rejects God.
2. Love God's Wisdom
The text says to delight in the law of the Lord and meditiate on it day and night. Naturally, we will meditate on those things which we delight in. But, what is meditating? It is to ponder on something so hard that you find yourself mumbling outloud. Being completely delighted with God's Word will cause us to care so little about what or who is around us that we will ponder it outloud.
We are next given a contrast between the godly and ungodly. On one hand, we are given the picture of a tall beautiful tree by a stream. However, the other picture is of chaff; useless, good-for-nothing. Unhappy.
Which would you rather be - happy or unhappy?
Minister the Word
When Christian men spread the Word of God, it brings unparalleled results. In this section of Acts, there are four main things that happen due to Paul spreading the gospel.
First, the Word of God strengthens disciples. In 18:23, we are shown how Paul would go back to the cities where he had previously been. He walked 1000 miles to "follow up" with the new Christians. By being willing to suffer fatigue and physical pain to encourage them, he showed how much their salvation meant to him.
In Acts 18:23-19:7, there are examples of how the Word of God fully instructs. Apollos was a man with a heart that was ready to hear and accept the truth. He knew about repentance, but did not fully understand the concept of baptism and Jesus dying to totally pardon us. People today have the opposite problem. They believe in a Jesus who can make them feel good about themselves, but they miss that they must repent. Through reading the Bible, both mistakes can be completely cleared up.
Third, the Word of God is powerful to advance the kingdom. In verses 8-10, Paul meets with those who have hardened hearts towards God. When they "cross the line" of publicly speaking "evil of the Way," Paul comes out from among them. He continued speaking in other places and advancing God's kingdom.
Finally, God's Word prevails. The story of the imposters who try to cast out demons in Jesus' name (v. 11-20) shows how the truth will overpower the evil and will reveal it for what it really is.
Give Ear, O My People, To My Law
In Psalm 78, there are two clear commands for us; 1 - Hear God's Word, and 2 - Tell God's Word.
Verses 1 & 2 talk about hearing God's Word. Throughout the Bible, we are shown that hearing is more than just physically listening - it is understanding. In order to become sanctified and more Christ-like, we must read God's Word because that is how we learn and grow. If we are not wanting to read and grow like it talks about in Proverbs 2, it means that there is idolatry in our heart.
Once we have heard it, we cannot keep it to ourselves; we must tell it to others. Verse 4 shows who we are to tell it to - the children, and what we are to tell - the praiseworthy deeds of God. If fathers do not communicate these things to their children, they are hiding them from them. When this happens, the children grow up complacent.
The rest of Psalm 78 is an example of telling God's wondrous deeds in the context of the history of a nation. Each family has their own history of how God has worked throughout time. This needs to be told so that the children understand and will tell their children. History is the proving ground of the Word of God.
How does God grow His Kingdom?
Acts 16 gives us an outline of four ways that God uses to grow and advance His kingdom. The first way is through the establishment of kindgdom relationships. Throughout the book of Acts, Paul always has a God-centered relationship with another man who is also dedicated to God's work. In the beginning of Acts, he has Barnabas helping and working wit him, then Silas, and now Timothy. Philippians 2:19-23 shows the type of bond that existed between Paul & Timothy.
Secondly, God divinely directs where he wants His missionaries to go. In Acts 16:6-10, God divinely makes it very clear to Paul as to where He wants him to preach. We are not told why they are not allowed to go to certain areas, but we are shown that when they trusted and obeyed God, He led them to people who needed to hear them. God's subjective leading always points to objective revelation.
The third way God advances His kingdom is through the opening of hearts. If you notice, when Paul goes into a city, he always goes to a place where there will be people who have some fear of God - in most cities, the synagogue. However, in Philippi, a synagogue is not mentioned, so he goes to a place where the people would go to pray (v. 13). There were people there like Lydia who had soft hearts towards the gospel (v. 14-15), and then there were hard hearted, tough people like the keeper of the prison (v. 27-34). It does not matter where the person is at...God can always soften their heart.
Finally, God uses humble responses to suffering. When humans are subjected to inconveniences, however big or small they may be, our natural, fleshly response is, "It's not fair." Paul and Silas were different. In verses 16-40, we see how they humbly rejoiced in the midst of theie unjust suffering. They even sang praises whil they were in pain and in prison (verse 25). One of the signs of being full of the Holy Spirit is singing praises to God.
One last interesting twist to the story occurs after their release from jail. In verse 37, Paul demands that they be openly declared innocent instead of just quietly being let free. The church at Philippi had to be built on a firm foundation, and not hindered with the fact that its founders were "jailbirds."
When Good Men Disagree
In Acts 15:35-41, there is a situation where two good men have exactly opposite opinions, neither will relent, and there is sharp contention. Before looking at the actual cause for the disagreement, what is the definition of a "good" man?
There are two principles that good - or Godly - men will be measured by. The first is: They preach God's Word. Every Christian man has this reponsibility - especially to his family. If a man calls himself a Christian, but he is not teaching and preaching God's Word in his own home and to his own family, he is not fulfilling his God given responsibility as husband, father, and Christian man. Acts 15:35 shows that both Paul & Barnabas were preaching God's Word.
The second quality for a good man is that he shows concern for those he preached to. He follows up with new Christians and continues to encourage them (v. 36). Back to the home, the man should not only do short "family worship" times, but should be talking to and discipling his children and wife all day long. For Paul & Barnabas, this meant going back to the cities they had preached in before, and seeing how the Christians there were doing.
But this is where the conflict arose. Back in Acts 13:13, John Mark left Barnabas & Paul, and now, Barnabas wants to take John with them on their next journey (v. 37). Paul, on the other hand, did not want to take with them "the one who had departed from them...and had not gone on with them to the work." (v. 38) Both were adamant in their decisions - "Barnabas was determined..." (v. 37), and "Paul insisted..." (v. 38) - and the argument became heated.
When good men disagree, it is often over how to do ministry. It is not going to be over doctrinal issues (i.e., the sufficiency of scripture), but it is going to usually be over issues on dealing with people. If both men are resolute, the result will come down to them agreeing to disagree, and separating as friends.
From Barnabas' side of the argument, John Mark was his cousin, so this was a family member he was dealing with. Barnabas was also someone who was willing to give another person a second chance. In Acts 9:26-27, Barnabas was the only one who would take Saul in because none of the apostles trusted him yet.
Paul had a mission to accomplish. He was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles without any compromises. John had left them before, and he did not want to be deserted again. (Prov. 25:19) He felt that John was not to be trusted to carry on with the work now, and wanted to take no chances.
So, they argued. But, in their arguing, there was no back biting, gossiping, or slandering. They met and talked about it face to face. When good men argue, it can be open because there is no shame. This needed to be open because Paul and Barnabas were key church leaders. The people did not need to know all the details - just the basic facts. When the arguing became heated, they separated. They didn't separate angrily, because in his later epistle, Paul references Barnabas, and in 2 Tim. 4:11, Paul says that Mark is "useful in the ministry." These show that the men are still on good terms, even when they do disagree.
When men can resolve a problem like this, God uses it to advance His Kingdom. Paul and Barnabas had a mission that was bigger than themselves - they were buildling God's Kingdom, not their own. Becasue of this, they were still able to accomplish their original purpose (strengthening the churches) and honor God through their argument.
The Battle Ground
This passage has been used by some theologians to try and prove that the Old Testament is no longer applicable to us today. In Acts 15:1-34, men were telling the newly saved Gentiles that they could not be saved unless they were circumcised. Paul & Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to dispute with the apostles and elders about the question, "Does this law still stand?" So now, people have taken this to the extreme that none of the Old Testament is still valid, and the New Testament is for us - our "set of laws," if you will. But, if you think about it, that means that there are scriptures such as Duet. 6 that we know and love...and they don't actually apply anymore. In fact, there are numerous times in the New Testament when Christ Himself says, "It is written..." and quotes the Old Testament. Knowing this, how then can someone say the Old Testament is not applicable? The Old Testament is God's Word just as much as the New Testament is, and the only way that it could no longer pertain to us is if Scripture explicitly says so. Some examples would be: Peter and the unclean animals in Acts 10:9-16, and the circumcision incident in Acts 14:1-34.
So now, what happens when Paul and Barnabas go up to Jerusalem? Some of the Christian Pharisees are saying that Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved (verse 5). Is this statement legalism - obeying the law in order to be saved, works based salvation - or is it antinomianism - against God's law? Taking the legalistic thinking that they have lived with for so long, the Pharisees are implying that Jesus' death on the cross is not sufficient for salvation. Peter sums up the heart of the issue in verse 11 - "But we believe that we shall be saved in the same manner as they." He is telling them that they are saved "by grace through faith," and no physical actions can save them.
This next part was interesting to me because I had kind of missed it before. Out of this discussion there arose another problem. Fellowshipping with the Gentile believers was difficult for their Jewish brethren because the Gentiles would have still practiced things that the Jews disagreed with. However, the Jewish Christians knew that they could not expect the Gentiles to accept all the Jewish customs; it would discourage them in their new faith. So, they agreed to a compromise. The Jews decided to put up with some things, but to ask the Gentiles to "abstain from" the four main issues. These were the actions that it was necessary for them to discontinue if Jew and Gentile were going to fellowship somewhat freely. (verses 28 & 29)
1. Things offered to idols - they could not be worshipping Gods and idols
3. Things strangled
4. Sexual immorality - both in their pagan customs and rituals, and just basic moral standards.
The apostles then delivered this message to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles were able to accept it without becoming frustrated.