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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

 

 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” ~John 3:1-2

We.  Nicodemus speaks in plural.  This religious leader is not just speaking for himself.  He says, “…we know…”  It is very likely he is speaking on behalf of himself and several, if not many, religious leaders of his day.  The Pharisees.  They knew.  They knew, at the very least, that Jesus was from God – yet – they still hated him.  They still sought ways to discredit and undermine him.  They still publicly challenged and slandered him.

This is amazing!  Jealousy makes power-hungry religious men do terrible things even though they know better.

Jesus takes Nicodemus immediately to the reason and the solution for why he doesn’t know him for who he actually is.  Jesus is not just from God – he is God.  The reason Nicodemus doesn’t know that is because he has not been regenerated by the power of God.  He is a just another guy who is interested in religion.  He lacks spiritual insight and wisdom precisely because he has not come to know Christ truly yet.  He knows all about religion.  He fails to know God.  This is tragic.

What does Jesus do?

He wastes no time explaining who he is or setting Nicodemus straight about his identity.  Jesus gives him the solution.  “You must be born again.”  He proceeds to preach the gospel to Nicodemus adding that it is quite peculiar that he is in a position and in fact is a teacher of God’s people and yet has no understanding of the things of God. (verse 10)

Nicodemus is bewildered.  He is confused.  He is astonished at what Jesus tells him saying, “How can these things be?” (verse 9)

After Jesus makes the point that a teacher of God’s people ought to know these things, he reveals the real issue in Nicodemus’s life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”~ John 3:11-12

You don’t believe me, Nicodemus.  I have repeatedly told you and showed you the truth in simple, lisping lessons but you simply do not believe it.  If you don’t believe me about things on earth – things you can see – how will you believe about things in heaven – things you have not seen?!  He gives Nicodemus the gospel as well as the reason men just like Nicodemus do not believe it.

We tend to forget that this whole John 3:16 business is in the context of Jesus talking to one of the most religious men of his day.  Think about that.  Consider the implications of that truth.

So what does Jesus say to this very religious teacher guy?  Grace is here – but, as Jesus has already told this man, it is for those who believe.  You do not believe.  Light is here.  The problem is not that you do not have enough light.  You love darkness.  That is the problem.  And why do you love darkness?  Because you’re hiding.  You are afraid that your wrong deeds will be exposed.  You care more about how you look on the outside than you do about whether you are in God’s favor.  You would rather hide behind religion than come into the light and be made clean.

The main idea here is that Jesus is not the one hiding.  God is waiting and willing no matter how or when we come to inquire of him.  We are always the ones who hide from God.  Nicodemus comes at night because he is hiding.  Likely he fears his religious friends seeing him talk to Jesus – because God forbid one of them get to know Jesus rightly and for who he truly is.  They were much more content to make him who they needed him to be in order to keep their sin hidden and their people – their followers – deceived about who they really were.

Jesus is not the one hiding.  The religious men are hiding.  When asked indirectly who he really is, Jesus pulls no punches.  He tells the inquirer the solution and the problem for why he does not know the answer to his own question.  Jesus does not have to say, “I am God” because it is extremely clear that Nicodemus has already repeatedly refused to believe the truths that would lead to that conclusion.  Instead, Jesus mercifully gives him the solution.

Here’s your problem, Nicodemus.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, Nicodemus.  There’s grace, Nicodemus.  Believe and be saved, Nicodemus.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, Nicodemus.

Have you ever had someone try to be your friend secretly?  Or treat you differently when others were around vs. when they were not around?  Religious people are infamous for this kind of behavior because they not only fail to recognize and believe who God is, they fail to know who they themselves are.  Therefore, they are not genuine in their dealings.  Jesus shows us how to deal with this kind of pretense.  Say this:

Here’s your problem, religious man.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, religious man.  There’s grace, religious man.  Believe and be saved, religious man.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, religious man.

Jesus deals with pretense, fear, a religious spirit, and sin all in one blow.  He tells this spiritually impoverished soul the truth of the gospel and the solution to his sin problem.  He makes sure that guy knows exactly what is required of him and shows him that he has not yet been willing to do it.

God’s grace is waiting.  He wants people to come to the light.  We must believe, confess our sin in the light, and repent of our hiding it in the darkness.  God is faithful to meet us there and do a great work in our lives.  He will change us from religious pretenders – people who have (as the Bible says) a form of godliness but deny its power – and false friends to real sons and daughters; brothers and sisters of his very own.

Come to Jesus.  Confess your sin to him.  Ask forgiveness.  Allow his Holy Spirit to do his work in you and you will be a new creation.  You will be born again.  Amen.

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adultery

The seventh commandment that God gives to Moses on Mt. Sinai concerns purity and chastity within marriage.

Adultery is generally defined as a married man or woman being sexually unfaithful to their spouse.  So, infidelity.  Jesus, however, defines adultery with more detail.  He says that unfaithfulness is found even in adulterous thoughts and gazes.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~Matthew 5:27-30

Jesus knows our hearts.  He knows what is in a man (and a woman).  He knows how easily we are enticed and entangled in sin.  Jesus knows that thoughts often lead to actions and small errors often lead to big problems.  Jesus cares enough about us and our purity to tell us the truth.

Flirting with adulterous thoughts, flirting with anyone other than our spouses, and flirting with temptation on any level in word, thought, or deed is more than enough reason to be alarmed, take heed, and repent.  These seemingly “smaller” offenses are – according to Jesus – not small.

To look is to commit adultery.  To lust is to commit adultery.

If we consider the other offenses that we commit in this kind of sin, it is not hard to see why the seeds of adultery are so important to both understand and avoid at all costs.  Jesus’ advice is to pluck out our eye or cut of our hand!  It is that dangerous.  It is that important to avoid.

When we cheat on our spouse, we steal.  We lie.  We covet.  We worship another in place of God – ourselves and our forbidden partner.  We dishonor our parents.  We break almost every commandment God set before us when we sin in this way.  Men and women in the Old Testament were stoned to death for this.

“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. ~ Leviticus 20:10

Death!  The penalty was death for both the man and the woman.  Now, the Pharisees tried to make it as though only the woman should be stoned but Jesus – what did he do?

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ~John 8:1-11

We also have his example of the Samaritan woman, also known as the woman at the well, who had five husbands in John 4.  How did Jesus treat these women?  Or should I say, these kind of women?

In the first case he stood up to the bullies who hated her by stooping down in a public proclamation of his alliance with the sinner. In the second case he went the way everyone else always avoided and talked with a woman – a loose woman to boot – when it was taboo in order to teach her the truth and – get this – use her to save a whole town by her testimony!  Amazing!

Why?

Jesus knows that we are guilty of breaking this command.  The level of severity is the only difference between men.  Therefore, he does what God always does.  He gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud.  That’s why we see him siding with the adulterous women and making a point to go to the people and places others intentionally and painstakingly avoided out of superiority, pride, and religious condescension.

Yesterday my husband and I were talking about temptation.  We have both done our share of failing in this area.  Temptation is never going to go away until we die.  We talked about the verse in 1 Corinthians 10 about being careful when things seem calm and when we feel less tempted.  That’s when the enemy strikes.  But today the verse of the day on my Bible app was the following verse so I’ll just read them both.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:12-13

You know what this means?  It means God is faithful.  You can trust him!  Even though we will be tempted to look, to lust, to think impure thoughts, to flirt, to act scandalously – we will also be given a way out.  Every.  Single.  Time.  The way will not be some religious pretense that shuns and avoids “sinners” in order to look pious and holy on the outside and impress our religious friends.  The way will be grace for us and for the other sinners he allows in close proximity to us.

We need to get that.  We need to get it deep down in our hearts.  Jesus does not shun and avoid sinners out of pride, pretense, preference, superiority, or self-preservation EVER.  Jesus goes to them purposefully and offers grace to the humble.  It is those who think themselves too high and holy to even be in the same town with “sinners” that he deals harshly with.

So, don’t commit adultery in thought, word, or deed.  Use the escape routes God is faithful to provide when tempted.  But don’t put on a religious show just to make others think you’re not guilty of this sin.  Confess it.  Don’t hide and pretend.  We are all guilty.  There is grace for the repentant and humble in heart.

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A Poem

A Man and His Friend

Once I saw a man

I saw a man try

He tried to be wise

He tried to oblige

He tried to get the speck

right out of his eye

The man tried and he failed

The man could not fly

The man got so tired

That he started to cry

I saw a man learn

I saw him regret

I saw a man try again

to pay back his debt

Working and wearing

his body so hard

He barely had time

to look at his heart

Apologies seemed

too great a task

So penance he paid

When his accuser did ask

I got mad at the man

I hated his art

I wanted to see

Him make a new start

I hid from the man

I wished him no more

I covered my eyes

and I closed up the door

Day after day

I wondered again

Just where had he come from

and who was that man

He passed through my thoughts

Like a storm raging high

I wished he had never

wanted to fly

No more would I trust him

No more would I cry

No more would I wonder

why ever he tried

But I saw a man pray

I saw him alive

I saw a man live

When he learned how to dive

I saw and I hid and I wondered so long

I stopped trusting a moment

and proved myself wrong

I got to my senses

I laced up my boots

I prayed and I prayed

And I asked to bear fruit

I saw a man change

I saw him made new

I saw a man die

For me and for you

There is that man!

There is his friend!

I can see they met up

somewhere towards the end!

How much I do love them!

Both the man and his friend

I know my own heart

they surely can mend

I’ll wait and I’ll watch

I’ll lace up my boots

I’ll trust and I’ll seek

believing the truth

I want to remember

That man and his friend

For they are my fortress,

my Savior, my end

~Lori Rodeheaver

1/1/14

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perfection

God has just sent his people into a brand new wilderness.  He has told them two very important instructions: to remember his extreme grace and mercy toward them, and to obey Him.  He has promised that if they would but listen to Him, that he is ready and waiting to make them a kingdom of priests; a holy nation; his very own treasured possession.  Talk about making a deal they can’t refuse!  Of course, they agreed.

The next step in this “process of becoming” as we will call it, it for the prophet to instruct the people on how to prepare themselves for the coming of God Himself.

 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;[a] whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” ~Exodus 19:9-15

God said that these people were to be consecrated.  The way in which God instructs this to be accomplished is that they:

1. Wash their garments.  Matthew Henry notes, “When we are to attend upon God in solemn ordinances it concerns us to sanctify ourselves, and to get ready beforehand.  Wandering thoughts must be gathered in, impure affections abandoned, disquieting passions suppressed, nay, and all cares about secular business, for the present, dismissed and laid by, that our hearts may be engaged to approach unto God…It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God, who sees them as plainly as men see our clothes.  This is absolutely necessary to our acceptably worshiping God.”

2. Have established limits set.  They must be told with an extreme amount of clarity that these are the lines we do not cross lest we receive the severest of consequences.  No compromises will be made past these lines.  No blind eyes will be turned when any person – even any animal!!!- crosses.  No grace whatsoever will be given if there is injustice done to these unbreakable rules.  The message God was conveying here through the work of his prophet’s line drawing?  YOU DO NOT PRESUME UPON GOD’S MERCY – EVER. You want stoned?  Shot?  If you cross these lines that’s exactly what is going to happen.  Try me.

3.  Do not go near a woman.  This was a matter of purity of mind and heart.  Henry says, “In token of their devoting themselves entirely to religious exercises, upon this occasion, they must abstain even from lawful enjoyments during these three days, and not come at their wives.”

This was how they were to prepare for the coming of God.  These were the things necessary to truly “be ready” to meet him.  Here, before the law was given, God came down on the third day.  In the future, before grace was given, God was raised on the third day.  In the former, God came down to tell us what he expects of us – absolute perfection.  In the latter, God is raised up to tell us what we can expect from Him – unmitigated grace.

You simply cannot get the magnitude of that without falling down to worship Him.  WOW!!!  There are no words to aptly describe what a beautiful God we serve!

Hey world!!!  Look at HIM!!!  How awesome!  How amazing!  How merciful!  How good and great and strong and wise!  That’s MY Dad!!!

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family1

After Moses delegated responsibilities to the chosen men around him, the whole company of Israel came to a new part of the wilderness.  Just 50 days (think Pentecost) after their deliverance, God moves them from one wilderness (Sin, found on the west side of the Sinai peninsula) to another (Sinai, found on the east side of the Sinai peninsula).  Lives lived in God are lives lived one wilderness after another.  Ask John Bunyan.

Now, they had overcome enslavement (Exodus 12).  They had overcome thirst in the desert (Exodus 15:22-24).  They had overcome hunger (Exodus 16).  They had overcome fatigue by working together (Exodus 17:12).  They had overcome in battle against their enemies (Exodus 17:13).  They had overcome a poor model of leadership (Exodus 18).

They had fought with God and rebelled throughout all of those victories which were given solely by the gracious mercy of God alone.  God was faithful to these most unfaithful people.  God was acting, moving, and working mightily on behalf of his people.  Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Now observe, that the maker, the first mover, of the covenant, is God himself.  Nothing was said nor done by this stupid unthinking people themselves towards this settlement; no motion made, not petition put up for God’s favor, but this blessed charter was granted ex mero motu – purely out of God’s own good-will.  Note, in all our dealings with God, free grace anticipates us with the blessings of goodness, and all our comfort is owing, not to our knowing God, but rather to our being known of him.”

So.  They’re ready to live in the shade with their umbrella drinks, right?

Wrong.  Time to camp out in…the castle?…Beach house?…Vacation spot?….No.  Time to camp out in a brand new wilderness.  The new wilderness comes complete with instructions in preparation for the instructions.  Apparently the instructions that were being given in preparation for the instructions about to be given were both profoundly important.

So what were God’s plans for this perpetually proud and imperfect people of His?

Priesthood.

Priesthood!!! What?!  Hey, guys.  I know you don’t like to listen and you’ve grumbled and disobeyed me the whole way here but you’re all gonna be my priests.  Either God isn’t as smart as he’s made out to be or He loves us in ways we cannot even fathom.

All of them, from the least to the greatest were to become a kingdom of highly honored, holy hallelujah nation of card-carrying tangible treasures for none other than the Almighty Father of all the world.

The way that this was about to happen was by:

1. Remembering the amazing love, protections, deliverance, and providence God had shown to them, (Exodus 19:4)

and,

2. Obedience to Him (Exodus 19:5)

These are the profoundly important instructions which precede the profoundly important instructions, commonly known as the Ten Commandments.

Remember God’s un-stinking-believable grace.  Obey Him.

Henry says this: “Obey my voice.  This He is said to protest earnestly to them.  Only obey in deed, not in profession and promise only, not in pretense, but in sincerity.  God had shown them real favors, and therefore required real obedience.  He assures them of the honor he would put upon them, and the kindness he would show them, in case they did thus keep his covenant.  Then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me…he expresses it in that which was inclusive of all happiness, that he would be to them a God in covenant, and they should be to him a people.”

Plain and simple.  Do this and you will be my priests; my treasure; my glory; the apples of my very eye.

What grace!!!  Do you even know who these people are?  How they’ve sinned?  The faith they’ve lacked?  The complaining they’ve done?  The pain they’ve caused God’s prophet?  The miserable, many, misguided mistake-makers they really are?  These guys were just like us!  Still, God’s words for these particular preferred people is simply this:

“Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” ~Exodus 19:5-6

WOW! WOW! WOW!

“They were brought not only into a state of liberty and honor, but into covenant and communion with God.  This, this was the glory of their deliverance, as it is of ours by Christ, that he died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (Henry)

Now that’s a God who redeems.  That’s a God of unmitigated grace.  That’s the God of Redeeming Grace.

So the prophet says those very words to the people and “all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.  And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that he people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.'” ~Exodus 19:8-9

They listened.  They listened.  Of course we all know it didn’t last too very long but I’d say this is progress for a people ever arguing with God’s providence.

God is getting ready to do something absolutely incredible.  Buckle your seat belts, kids. It’s time to watch Daddy drive.

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responsibility

Five days of provision had gone by.  The manna fell faithfully as God’s people continued to rebel.  Moses was mad over their stubbornness, disobedience, and unbelief.

When the sixth day came, they gathered twice as much manna.  Apparently, they had some knowledge at this time about a Sabbath rest – even before the law was given or Moses had specifically instructed them.  It wasn’t until after they had gathered twice as much bread on the sixth day that Moses gave the formal instructions on what to do on the sixth and seventh days.

“This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” ~Exodus 16:23

Do you think these people listened?  Do these people ever listen?  No.  They wanted more.  More, more, more, more, more!  God was literally raining food down upon them every single day.  Are they happy?  No.  They are faithless.  They disobey in an effort to control.  They want more than God is giving.  In their pride, they usurp God in their efforts to store up and provide for themselves.  It is outrageous.

Do you want to know what is even more outrageous?  What is even more outrageous is who God blames for it.

 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?…” ~Exodus 16:28

The Lord indicts Moses.  MOSES!!!

Moses was not disobeying.  Moses wasn’t rebelling or failing to believe and trust God.  Moses was doing everything he could to minister to these rebels.  Moses was speaking the very words of God and praying in faith that they would believe and obey.  How in the world does Moses get the blame?!

“Why did he say this to Moses?  He was not disobedient.  No, but he was the ruler of a disobedient people, and God charges it upon him that he might the more warmly charge it upon them, and might take care that their disobedience should not be through any neglect or default of his.” ~Matthew Henry

Moses was the leader of a disobedient people.  The responsibility is great when you are a leader in any capacity.  When you are a leader of an expressly disobedient and rebellious clan, the responsibility is greater still.  God is not in the business of overlooking sin without first having that thing examined carefully.  He brings correction and calls the guilty to account.  Judgement begins at the house of the Lord and God’s discipline works from the top, down, always.  The reason is because God is just and he will not have the unjust ruling in his stead.  If you want to lead God’s people, you best be prepared, not only to examine yourself, but to be thoroughly examined yourself.

It is interesting that we never see Moses arguing with God in this passage.  There is no mention of Moses’ innocence.  Moses never says, “Wait a minute, Lord, didn’t you see me resting?  Didn’t you see me trusting?  Didn’t you see me angry at the disobedience taking place in front of me?  Aren’t we homies?  Haven’t I obeyed?  What’s the deal?”

Perhaps the reason Moses never states his case is because he understands that a lack of clear and fitting correction when those closest to as well as underneath his jurisdiction were blatantly disobedient to God, that it was just as much his fault and responsibility to act; to speak; to correct; to admonish and he had not done so.

I don’t know.  What I do know is that if I were Moses and I felt completely and altogether innocent, I would have at least said so.  Moses never does.  Maybe that’s why he is often remembered as such an angry man.  Just sayin’.

Moses was, by all appearances, innocent in this instance, but God indicted him.  The seriousness of sin in those directly related to and in close communion with a leader of God’s people is very great.  For this reason, judgement falls first on the leader – despite his innocence – for a matter of principle established by God.  God did as much to his own son.  If a man would seek to bring salvation to a disobedient and rebellious people on behalf of God, he must both understand and accept the principle of owning blame that belongs not to himself.  This is the example we see here in Exodus 16:28.  This is the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Would you take the place of the guilty?  Your Savior did.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

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