Archives For Scripture Thoughts

I’m going to be interested in receiving feedback on this post. I’ve not read of this anywhere else but simply God impressing this on my heart. So please, let me know what you think.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2 ESV)

From my understanding of Genesis 1, God creates the heavens and the earth at an unknown time before Genesis 1:3 begins. But before God makes light and life, earth was chaotic, dark, and empty. It had no purpose and could not sustain life.

In God’s judgment upon Israel, the prophet Jeremiah declares this:

“For my people are foolish;
they know me not;
they are stupid children;
they have no understanding.
They are ‘wise’—in doing evil!
But how to do good they know not.”
I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and behold, there was no man,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

Notice that the Bible illustrates sin and death by referring to the heavens and earth of Genesis 1:1-2.

But we see the Spirit of God hovering or moving above this formless and chaotic water. This to me is huge proof that God already had planned redemption for mankind long before he declared “Let there be light.”

Then out of this chaotic creation, God speaks into it and light shines forth, life springs up.

Eventually, mankind became so corrupt and filled with violence and every intention of the thoughts of their hearts were evil continually, that God decided to put an end to them. He would destroy the earth with a cataclysmic flood.

Noah and his family are saved by the ark. And after the earth was uprooted by water, everything tossed and turned, and all living creatures outside the ark destroyed, the storm ceased and the waters began to recede.

Noah eventually released a dove who soared over the waters and returned to him with an olive leaf. A sign of life and a sign of peace from judgement.

Though God had not obliterated mankind completely in his grace and long-suffering, we still continued to rebel against his authority. But instead of destroying the world once again, he comes to us as a man named Jesus.

As Jesus begins his ministry, he is baptized by John the Baptist. As the Son of God is raised from the water, this is recorded:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus was born into a world of darkness and chaos.

The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. (Proverbs 4:19 ESV)

The Spirit (dove) moved above the waters of darkness and descended on the Christ who is called the Light of the world, the Life, and the Prince of Peace.

In these instances, the Spirit is seen moving above chaos and darkness as a promise of life and light to come. The ultimate source of light and life being the person of Jesus Christ in whom we find eternal life and light.

The accounts in Genesis, though real events, being prophecy, and the account in Matthew as the reality.

As the Spirit moves in the first book of the Old Testament, Jesus declares, “Let there be light.”
As the Spirit moves in the first book of the New Testament, the Father declares, “This is my beloved Son.”

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Jacob loved Rachel.

Not Leah.

Though tricked in to marrying Rachel’s older sister, his feelings never changed toward this woman whose eyes were weak. She was rejected by her husband for her beautiful, younger sister.

But she desired nothing more than to be desired. Leah passionately wanted her husband to look at her with the same gleam as he always did with Rachel. To be tied to a man that had never wanted her, she lived married to him, and yet alone.

So when God opened her womb, and not her sister’s, she believed this would change his feelings toward her. The greatest pride for a woman were children and she was able to give this to Jacob.

Reuben…

then Simeon…

then Levi.file000456350909

Each bore names as an eternal testimony to her inward grief and longing to be loved.

And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also. And she called his name Simeon. ~Genesis 29:32-33

When Levi was born she was confident that with these three children, Jacob would be attached to her, thus she named the third Levi, meaning “attached”.

But sadly, it was never meant to be. Jacob only had eyes for the younger, and the older died having never been loved by her husband.

Levi’s descendants would be chosen by God to be the nation’s priests. They would have no inheritance but God and live solely to intercede on the behalf of their brothers. This tribe would live to offer sacrifices, pray, and seek redemption for their people.

In fulfillment of his name, Levi lived to “attach” Israel to God. But their labor would be in vain.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. ~Romans 3:20

Ancient Israel depended on the Law of Moses to attach them to God, to make them right before their Creator. Our contemporary society does the same thing. Baptism, service, kindness, church attendance and more are highly depended on to grant us passage into Paradise.

But just as Levi failed, so does our vain attempts to please the Holy.

But Jesus…

Jesus is our Great High Priest, not after the order of Levi, but Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness. Jesus’ priesthood reigns forever and will continually intercede for us until our day of redemption. His sacrifice that he offered is once and for all valid and will erase all sins from those who enter in by faith.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. ~Hebrews 10:12-14

Leah labored in vain. Levi labored in vain. Jesus labored once and for all with eternal victory and success. If we labor so to attach ourselves to our husband, Jesus Christ, we too will fail. The only way to enter in to a relationship with our God is to attach ourselves to Jesus’ satisfying work by believing in His Name.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

A read-through of Psalm 37 would quickly show us the err in which we apply verse 4. I’ve heard countless times Christians quote this verse to boast in God for how he’s blessed them with a job, health, marriage, etc. Thus the hearer assumes that if one “delights” in God, then all of their dreams come true. As if somehow entering church is equivalent to skipping through the crowded streets of Disneyland.

I’m fully aware that these are well intended Christians who mean no harm to their family in Christ nor to the Word of God. My intention is simply to understand the text. May we see it for how it’s written, apply it accordingly, and walk, not into Disneyland, but into the glorious riches found only in our Living God, Jesus Christ.

David in Psalm 37 is comparing the righteous and the wicked. Evildoers are succeeding while the righteous are starving. The Psalmist reassured the original hearers that God loves and cares for his people, and each will be rewarded in due time. But as for the evildoer, he will “fade like the grass” and their “swords shall enter their own hearts.”

But in the midst of this beautifully written and divinely inspired song, we have a promise. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

We easily read “delight” and assume it means “to be happy or joyful.” Thus that rendering leads us to read this psalm like this: “Find happiness in God, enjoy serving him and going to church, be grateful for salvation, etc.”

The Hebrew word anog, translated ‘delight,’ literally means “to be soft or pliable.”

The connotation of this word does involve joy and happiness but in its root meaning reminds me of Isaiah 64:8,

But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

This idea of giving ourselves to the Lord and allowing him to mold us fits the flow of the Psalm. The next verse, thinking of ‘delight’ in this way, is paralleled to 37:4.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

There is a running theme in this Psalm that the righteous submits to the plan, wisdom, and working of God. The child of God doesn’t fight his sovereignty, but willfully and joyfully allows his Father to make decisions and shape his character.

And thus we receive the desires of our hearts. If we are completely subjected to the authority and use of our Lord, what desires will we have? David answers this very question.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday. (verse 6)

But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (verse 11)

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord. (verse 39)

These are only a few but I encourage you to read it for yourself and mark all the blessings that God gives to those who delight in him. David didn’t just write this, he lived this. He knew that the best place to be was in the creative, loving hands of his God. And that his greatest desire wasn’t kingdoms, wealth, relationships, or pleasure, but God himself.

This is why I believe that King David was declared as a man after God’s own heart. Because he wanted what God wanted. He desired solely his Lord and all that he is; righteousness, peace, salvation, joy, and justice.

Jesus would preach this very thing to his disciples after they asked him how to pray. Christ makes an astounding statement to them.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (Luke 11:13)

To give ourselves completely to God’s direction and use is the ONLY way to receive these good gifts. It’s not simply being happy that I’m a Christian. It’s not simply being willing to serve in church. It’s not found in only telling people how good it is to be saved. It’s the heart cry of the song:

Take me, mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand*

May our heart’s desire lead us into the Potter’s caring hands, and allow him to shape us into all he created us to be. May we not sell our lives short for temporary pleasures that are here today, gone tomorrow, and weigh us down in shame and guilt. But may we hold on to his promise:

Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace. (Psalm 37:37)

*Potter’s Hand- Darlene Zschech/Hillsong Australia

Jesus died for our sins.

Yes. Absolutely yes.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:3

This is the Sunday morning message, the message every sinner needs to hear. That the penalty of their sin was paid for by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. That he who knew no sin became sin on our behalf. This truth has set me free from the penalty and p0wer of sin and reconciled me to my God.

But is this the only reason?

Jesus prayed in John 16, “I glorified you (the Father) on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

Everything Jesus does, is in accordance with the will of the Father. The Son is the Word, that spoke all things into being. He is also Emmanuel, God with us. God Himself condescended to this planet, was born in the flesh, and lived among his creation. This was the Father’s plan all along. From Abraham, to Moses, to David, and the prophets, God was orchestrating events to lead up to the first advent of his Son.

Why? Because man was sinful, separated from him, and the only way reconciliation was possible was if God himself took matters into his own hands, and won the victory for them.

And yet, while Jesus hung lifeless on the cross, another victory was accomplished.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:23-26

The first part of this passage declares what I’ve already explained. All people are sinners because they are descended from the first man, Adam, and his sin is transferred to every person born. Jesus died to justify (declare sinners righteous), and this salvation is a gift that is received by faith. Jesus removed God’s wrath from us and gave us grace.

But this passage also describes Jesus as being put forward (displayed publicly) for all to see. His death was to be public because one other declaration had to be made known. That God is just and holy.

In God’s divine forbearance (patience), he allowed mankind to live despite their sin. The wages of sin is death, so any life after sin is a gift of grace from God. He had set up a sacrificial system called the Law of Moses which covered sin, but as we know, never was able to forgive them.

If Jesus had never died on the cross for our sins, we would still be in them, and God would be unjust and unholy. His justice demands punishment for sin, unrighteousness, and godlessness. But throughout the Old Testament, God simply passed over sin, never punishing it as it deserved.

The Jews in Ezra’s time realized this as they mourned over their disobedience to God’s Word.

And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved-”
 Ezra 9:13

The wrath of God continued to increase throughout the generations of men who lived in sin and rebellion. But on the cross, the entire cup of wrath was poured out on the Father’s beloved Son. His justice was served in it’s entirety upon the one righteous man that ever walked the earth.

And for all to see, God was seen as he truly is: holy, just, and righteous. We can worship him for God is never changing. And although for years, he looked unfaithful to his promises and justice, his plan was sure. That justice would be served, but not in the way anybody would have expected.

Now we can be declared righteous simply by placing our faith in the person and work of Jesus with full assurance that our God is righteous and faithful.

So, may we be careful in singing lyrics such as, “He took the fall, and thought of me, above all.”

I will argue that Jesus died for his Father’s glory and honor above all.

ultrasound

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
Psalm 139:13-14

A beautiful psalm quoted by many. Memorized by clergy and laypeople alike. A delightful passage to show that we are special people because God created us. We are wonderful!

But I couldn’t understand what it meant to be fearfully made. What does that mean? As it turns out, not exactly what I thought.

This Psalm praises the Lord for His vast knowledge and power. It begins by admitting that God knows us completely and was the sole agent of our existence. God’s creative power is elaborated on by showing that He created us in the womb and that our frames (skeletons) were not hidden from Him.

God’s powerful miracle of creation is detailed in Genesis 1. Every day he elaborates on his workmanship, beginning with light, then land, seas, stars, plants, etc. He reviews his works every day and proclaims that it is good. We know that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17) and he showed that with an intricate masterpiece called the heavens and the earth.

But God wasn’t finished. The best was yet to come. Day six, God determined to make mankind, a creation after his own image. He made them male and female and blessed them. It wasn’t until after Adam and Eve were created did he say that his creation was VERY good.

This is what Psalm 139:14 is referencing.

If you were to look up the Hebrew word for made, you’d see that there is no reference. It was added by the English translators as is the word and that separated fearfully and wonderfully.

So taking those words out, we are left with, I am fearfully wonderfully.

The word fearfully can easily be translated to “ones being fearful.” Literally, ones that bring fear or awe.

So now we have ones being fearful, wonderfully.

The Hebrew word for wonderfully in this verse is “palah” literally meaning ‘to be distinguished, or set apart.’ These verses use the same Hebrew word.

But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell…” Exodus 8:22a (italics mine)

But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Israel an Egypt. Exodus 11:7 (italics mine)

The second use of the word wonderful in Psalm 139:14 is the Hebrew word “pala.” This is only slightly different in spelling but means, ‘extraordinary.” This is clearly different than the meaning of ‘wonderfully’ that was previously used.

Here is the exact transliteration of the Hebrew text:

I shall acclaim you on that ones being fearful I am distinguished ones being marvelous deeds of you and soul of me one-knowing exceedingly. (www.scripture4all.org)

Here’s how it could read:

I praise You, for out of all the things that bring awe, I am distinguished. Extraordinary are Your works; I can’t deny them.

The psalmist praises the Lord for all his wonderful works that he can’t deny. But among all of these things that bring fear or awe to us, we as humans are distinguished or set apart. The vastness of the heavens and the complexity of the smallest of cells leaves us breathless, but we as God’s image-bearers are set apart from them. He created us for a greater purpose. Every person was born with a spirit so to relate personally to their Creator who is spirit (John 4:24).

We are special. But we should never use this verse to glorify mankind.

God chose Israel, not based on anything they were or did, but simply because he chose them. (Deuteronomy 7:6-11) Similarly, God created us differently than everything else. He gave us his breath of life, chose us, redeemed us, and called us his own, not because of anything good we have done, but because he chose to. This Psalm isn’t glorifying people, it’s glorifying an all-powerful God who loves us and created us for a specific purpose.

Because he knitted us together, and set us apart from all other created things, in humility we should pray as the Psalmist concluded:

Search me O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” Genesis 1:28a

God, in this verse, echoed a command he’d already given to the birds of the air and fish of the sea. So, is this God simply commanding people to have babies?

pregnant

After the flood, only eight people survived and as they exited the ark, God repeats the command, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Again, is this just a command to populate the planet?

Before we can fully answer this, we need to see God’s purpose in creation.

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and midst, stormy wind fulfilling the word! Mountains and hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above the earth and heaven. Psalm 148:3-13

God’s creation was to magnify his glory and character. It would praise him and glorify his name, and God loved it and said ‘It was good.’

So, when God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, he was just telling them to have babies. BECAUSE they were blameless and holy. They walked and talked with God in harmony and unity. If they had never sinned, their children would have automatically worshiped and enjoyed God as well.

But they disobeyed the Lord.

Now having children just brought sinners into the world. People that were separated from Himself and having no desire to serve Him. (Psalm 14 & Romans 3:10-18) Sin became so grotesque and violent, God destroyed the whole world with a flood. HIs grace was still evident and his plan unchanged as he saved Noah and his family. He repeats his command, “Be fruitful and multiply.” But God wasn’t interested in them simply making babies for each child would be born as a self-worshipper.

Sin had to be dealt with. Death, the consequence for iniquity, had to be paid. God chose to create Israel from whom the Savior of the world would be born. Through this nation, blessing for the nations could be restored. (Genesis 12:3) They were to be a light for the nations, that God’s salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)

And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply.” Genesis 35:10-11a

Jesus, the Messiah, comes. God Himself in flesh. He lives without sin but dies sin’s death on the cross. The God-Man raises from the grave defeating sin and death once and for all. Through his sacrifice and believing in Christ, sinners now have an opportunity to be born again, recreated to be how God initially intended. Holy and blameless, able to enjoy a relationship with their Creator.

Because God’s intentions hadn’t changed from Eden.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. John 4:23

worship

Each redeemed life, now able to do what they were created to do. And to each saved person (the church) he gives a command.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20a

These disciples were to bear fruit (John 15:16 & Galatians 5:22) and as more disciples were made, the church multiplied. (Acts 2:47, 6:7)

God never desired just a populated planet, but a world of worshipers. Genesis 1:28, because of sin, is replaced by the Great Commission. No longer can we create worshipers from mere procreation. But we must evangelize and disciple a fallen and depraved world. And that’s something everybody can do; male and female, old and young, married and single.

Trapped within mortal reason and understanding, we are often left clueless to God’s ways. Our vision is limited to the present moment and how God will keep his promises are beyond us. But that should never deter us from trusting Him. How God fulfilled the Davidic Covenant is a great example that God will do what He’s said He will do no matter the impossibilities.

In 2 Samuel 7 God gives one of the greatest covenants in Scripture. He promised to King David that his son, Solomon, would take the throne after him and build the temple of God. But even greater than that, God declared three times that his throne would be established forever.

And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.
2 Samuel 7:16

But Solomon fell in love with his wealth, but worse, with the foreign gods of his foreign wives. The Bible says King Solomon chased after these gods. A sad statement reads, So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. (1 Kings 11:6) And God seems to go back on His promise with his discipline of the ungodly king.

Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.”
1 Kings 11:11-12

And God did just that. Judah’s second to last king only did evil in the sight of the LORD as had many of his predecessors. And with King Jehoiachin, God fulfilled his promise to Solomon. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God declared that this was the end. The man was written down as childless and none of his offspring would succeed him on the throne. The royal line of Israel had ended. The signet ring was removed and the nation was left without a kingdom.

How can this be? The throne was to be sure forever. But the Davidic Covenant could never be fulfilled with sinful man. Only one could be the answer. The prophet Isaiah was given the solution to this dilemma.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Then in comes Zerubbabel. After release from captivity, he is governor of the devastated city of Jerusalem. He was the natural choice for leader being a son of David, but not through Solomon, but David’s son, Nathan. The prophet Haggai, through the Holy Spirit, declared Zerubbabel would be the signet ring. The royal line would continue through him and the promised King would come through his bloodline.

Jesus is born of a virgin, the only human to be born from only one bloodline. His mother was Mary, daughter of Heli, a son in the line of none other than Zerubbabel himself. Jesus was born in the family of David. Mary married Joseph, a man in the line of Solomon. And Joseph adopted Jesus, now making the boy his legal son. The throne was to be through Solomon, and so being adopted into Joseph’s family, gave Jesus a legal right to the kingship.

God did the impossible. A miracle. Both promises fulfilled. Solomon’s direct descendants were cut off forever. And David’s throne would last forever. Because Jesus was born into both the direct lineage of David but also adopted into the legal line of royalty.

Don’t be discouraged by your present circumstances or the unknown. For God’s plans will not be thwarted. Even if it means pulling off the impossible, his promises will stand true. The good things He’s vowed to His children, He will give. The justice due to this world, He will see through.

Jesus is still Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

One of the first commands given by the Lord. Adam as we know did eat of the tree and died. But what is death? For many, it’s a simple ceasing to exist, an annihilation. If this were so, Adam would have lived forever if not for the consumption of forbidden fruit. Yet because he did, he is not here with us today.

But that isn’t all.

Physical aging and death were minimal compared to the treacherous state the first man found himself in. God had breathed into him the breath of life. John 4:4 says about Jesus, God Himself,

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

Jesus told his disciples and all in earshot that he was the way, the truth, and the LIFE. So to clarify first, the reason there is life in us and the world around us is simply because God is life. Adam, in his blameless state, was alive as God is alive. But then he opened the door to death.

Death is the opposite of life. The man who walked and talked with God now hid in the brush from the very presence of the Almighty. Something happened that was deeper than physical deterioration.

Death can easily be defined as separation. Physical death is the mere separation of the soul from the body. But the consequences of sin run deeper.

Spiritual death is the ravaging enemy of every person born on this planet. The awful state of being separated from God. Being born spiritually dead, nobody has the ability or desire to have a relationship with the Lord. This condition will keep us out of Heaven and from ever experiencing true love, joy, peace, and hope. And even worse, if we physically die still spiritually dead, we face eternal death. Being separated from God forever.

And as spiritually dead beings, we embrace the death. We don’t seek God, want to know God, nor have anything to do with God. Everything good that had been planned for us from the beginning is now void in our lifeless plight. And God became our enemy.

But praise to the Lord that he never stopped seeking us. He still loved us so much that he came as a man and died our death for us. On a cruel cross, Jesus breathed his last so we would have the chance to live for the first time.

“For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Rom. 5:8)

Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave defeating death once and for all. By his victory, death lost its power and hold over all of mankind. For those who believe in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins gains the one beautiful death.

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:9-11)

It tell us in Scripture that our sins are forgiven if we trust in Christ’s death and resurrection. To forgive means to send away. God removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west.

eastwestIf you’ve believed in Christ, you are now dead. Dead to sin. The funeral that brings joy and life. You are alive in God. Brought near to him by the precious blood of his Son. Blessed be that beautiful death. Amen and amen.

Like spokes on a bicycle wheel, roads spread from the capital of the Roman Empire. By the 1100’s, the metaphor was already being used. All roads lead to Rome.Road

All religions lead to the same end is a common belief in today’s social circles. We yearn for the same thing, a place of love and peace. Some call it Heaven, others Utopia, Nirvana, or paradise. And as long as you pursue your path passionately, you will arrive someday.

And if one doesn’t understand the differences of religions, this may seem like a valid argument. For many, they group religions as one, for each have similar traits. But as we look into just one point of doctrine, we will see one that separates itself from the others. I will show how many of the major belief systems show how one can be saved.

Jehovah Witnesses: They will claim it is by faith you obtain righteousness. The Watchtower claims though ‘to receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise, we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it.’

Mormonism: Salvation involves faith in Christ, baptism by immersion, obedience to the teaching of the church, good works, and ‘keeping the commandments of God which will cleanse away the stain of sin.’ (Journal of Discourses 2:4) The Book of Mormon states in 2 Nephi 25:23, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

Christian Science: Mary Baker Eddy claimed sin and evil are mere illusions thus ‘Man as God’s idea is already saved with an everlasting salvation’ (Miscellaneous Writings, 261).

Scientology: Salvation is to be free from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth. Rebirth had been termed reincarnation in many of their writings. Reincarnation can include life on other planets.

Buddhism: The Eightfold plan must be followed to reach the state of Nirvana; Right belief, right resolve, right word, right act, right life, right effort, right thinking and right meditation. Until then, they are caught in a cycle of reincarnation.

Islam: Any Muslim who hopes to escape the judgment of Allah must fulfill the works of the Five Pillars of the Faith; Recitation of the Shahada, five daily prescribed prayers, almsgiving, fasting, and a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city.

Hinduism: There are several ways of salvation for this Eastern religion. Karma refers to the debt of each person’s bad actions and must be atoned for (through various ways) to escape the pattern of reincarnation.

Christianity: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. Not a result of works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

Apart from Scientology and other beliefs such as universalism, all believe that man is depraved and in need of peace. The existence of pain, sorrow, and torment are evidence that something isn’t right. It’s not a figment of our imagination. Something is wrong. We need freedom from this world of sin and shame.

These religions offer a remedy. Do good and you will be freed.

The problem is that we can’t do good. Sure many actions are defined as good to mankind, but in the eyes of God, the one who sees us through and through, they are not. Our false motives and selfishness reek through the apparition of benevolence. Jesus defined himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He stated without hesitation that nobody comes to the Father except through Him. And as his bloody feet crept along the Via Delarosa towards Calvary, his upcoming death and resurrection would be all that mankind needed for their chains to be torn asunder.

Christianity is the only true faith based belief. It’s not a religion, some organization formed by man to appease God. It tells us all clearly that God is near but to restore the broken relationship caused by sin, we must believe in the name of Jesus Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. This sets it apart from all others. Works has nothing to do with gaining salvation and forgiveness. Only faith. Faith in Christ.

Do all roads lead to Rome? Of course not.
Do all roads of religion lead to Heaven? Again, no.

There is one Way. There is one Truth. And they both lead to one Life. A life abundant.

worship

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Hebrews 13:15 ESV

Worship is central in the Christian life. Few people would argue this. Scripture commands us that in everything we do, do it all for the glory of God. Yet so often, whether among other saints or in private, my sacrifices feel so incomplete. Even in my deepest, purest moments, it never seems enough.

I want to encourage you if this is how you feel as well. Because its true. Our praise is never worthy of Him. And it always will be this way this side of Heaven.

God is the Holy of Holies. His glory far surpasses everything we deem as glorious. If we stretch our imagination and envision perfection, He is far more. God’s character is so pure and untarnished that anything less than Him cannot enter His presence. The cheribum, who guard God’s holiness, continually sing, “Holy, holy, holy!” The Seraphim, in Isaiah 6, are shown praising in the same way but hiding their face and feet with their wings before the Lord.

So how are we supposed to adequately praise the Holy of all Holies? Because in Hebrews 12 we are commanded to:

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,  for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 that a new way to worship was approaching. Worship that wasn’t stringent on location, but solely Spirit and truth. When we believe in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, for our salvation, we are completely changed. The Holy Spirit indwells us, we are newly created, our heart is no longer deceitful and wicked, and our spirit is quickened. These changes are the ONLY reason we can offer acceptable worship.

But we have to be honest. Even when we offer a sacrifice of praise THROUGH Him, its still not completely worthy of Him. Because even though we are holy on the inside, we are still wrapped in sinful flesh. Pride, selfishness, doubt, and fear still seep into our songs and prayers.

Why then are they acceptable to God?

There isn’t a perfect illustration, but here’s the best I can come up with.

My two sons draw and color pictures constantly. Everyday, a new stack of artwork is finished for my viewing. Most you can tell took no time at all. Their name is spelled correctly, just backwards. Scribbled crayon reach far outside the lines of the picture. Or only 10% of the page is even touched. I always compliment but am quick to remind them that they can do better. These were rushed jobs and I know that if they take their time, they can do excellent work.

There’s one page though that hangs in my bedroom. My oldest drew a picture of himself on a swing with me pushing him. Below it he wrote ‘Thank you.’ Granted it was done by a four-year-old so it was in no way perfect. The H in Thank was originally a G, crossed out, and replaced with the correct letter.

I don’t treasure it because of the perfect artwork or spelling. But because I know it took him a long time and he did it to the best of his ability. All to tell me ‘Thank you.’

I have to believe our Heavenly Father is the same way. His children attempt to thank him in their limited and often broken ways. But when its genuine, he delights in the praise because we are his children and he understands our limitations.

Praise God for the Spirit who indwells us. He prays for us when we don’t know what to pray. Our worship is made complete when its done through him. And we constantly need him to be able to worship properly.

So no matter how insignificant you may feel, worship. No matter how broken you are, worship. Give him what you have. He may not receive it if its rushed or done sloppily. And yet he anticipates when its done with the right motivation from a heart of gratefulness. Not because its perfect, but because its from us.