Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sleepwalking Through The Kingdom

A number of years ago, I was living on the San Francisco peninsula, between San Jose and San Francisco. Because of my proximity to San Francisco I would often have visitors. On one occasion some friends, a couple came from San Diego for a visit.. So, we went to spend the day in the City. But we had to get back to San Jose at a specific time for their flight home. We left a little late from San Francisco and we’re driving down the freeway and the woman who was with us fell asleep in the back seat of the car. We arrived at my apartment with only a few minutes for them to pack, and we had to wake her up. But the problem was she didn’t wake up. She opened her eyes, she walked into the apartment but she was sound asleep. If you’ve never known a sleepwalker then you can’t understand how this works. They have their eyes open; they look like they’re awake mostly. But their mind is in a completely different place. And so we told her to pack up and she walked into the bedroom and threw one piece of clothing into her suitcase and she thought she was packed. So my friend packed for her and I did my best to keep her from laying down because she would not have woken up in time to get to their flight. Finally, we got to the airport and they got on the plane and made it safely back to San Diego.

What an interesting moment! If you had seen her walking around you might have thought she was a little different but you would never have guessed she was sound asleep. I’ve known a number of sleepwalkers and I’ve heard stories of things they’ve done. It’s such an interesting phenomenon because they go through the motions but they never actually complete anything.

In my firend’s mind she had completely packed her suitcase, but if she had tried to wear what she had packed she would have been woefully unprepared to meet the world. Today I want to talk about sleepwalking through the kingdom from this portion of scripture:

Judges 16:16-21
16 And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death,17 that he told her all his heart, and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” 18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.” So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand.19 Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him.20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.

Sleeping in the Midst of Danger

Here we see Samson. Samson is a Nazirite. That mans he has taken a vow of holiness before God.

Judges 13:5
5 “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

So this is the vow he has taken: The vow of a Nazirite. There are three components to the Nazirite vow.

1. The Nazirite does not cut his hair.
2. The Nazirite doesn’t drink strong drink (any alcohol) or touch anything from a vine and,
3. The Nazirite cannot come into contact with dead bodies.

It is a way of giving yourself completely to God’s purpose for you. In fact, we can see in Judges 13:5 that God did indeed have a purpose for Samson.

"he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

The Nazirite vow is really a picture of salvation. When we get saved that’s what we’re doing. We’re giving our lives over to his use. Have you ever heard the phrase, “He gave his life to Jesus?” That’s why we say that he becomes our Lord. We are in a sense making a vow that we will live out his will. This is the meaning of the Nazirite vow. You and I are Nazirites.

So, Samson, here, has made a commitment to the will of God. But when we find him in our text he’s asleep, and very far outside the will of God. On the outside he still looked like a Nazirite, but if you could see his heart you would see that he’s backslidden. Think about this for a moment. He is living in sin with Delilah. He’s not thinking about the things of God but he is concerned about his flesh. His love of Delilah and the physical pleasures are of more concern to him at this moment than his relationship with God.

The question is when did he go to sleep? When did he begin to sleepwalk through his salvation? The Bible tells us that he didn’t even know that God had departed from him. That alone tells us that he’s no longer sensitive to what God is doing in his life. He’s going through the motions but he’s not conscious of what he’s doing. He’s like my friend he’s packed that one piece of clothing but he’s not prepared for the trip. So he completely misses that God has departed from his life and it comes at a critical moment, which is when the enemy attacks.

How many times have we seen this exact same thing? People looking and talking like they’re saved. They’re talking about how they’re serving God. But if we looked more closely at their lives we would see that they have no idea what the will of God is for their lives.

Samson thinks that because he hasn’t cut his hair that his strength will always be there. But I want you to to know his strength comes from the commitment he's made to God. The strength comes from the presence of God in his life. You can say I still know God, but this story tells us that if you’re not in the will of God, God can depart from you and you don’t even know it.

This wasn’t a sudden event. It didn’t just happen in the last few moments before this event. He had been sleepwalking for some time. In Judges 14 Samson killed a lion. The lion attacked and the Bible says that the Spirit of God came upon him in power and he tears the lion apart with his bare hands. But then he makes a mistake. He loses sight of his vow.

Judges 14:8-9
8 After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion.9 He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.

He’s come in contact with a dead body. He’s broken the vow, he’s no longer sanctified. When we do something that would be considered sin, God doesn’t always react violently. He doesn’t throw lightning bolts at us. Sometimes, he just continues to move in our lives and we see no real change.

I was thinking about famous television Preachers who have sinned they often continue to preach and God continues to move in their words. And so they think nothing’s changed. But they are no longer hearing from God. They’re preaching out of their own knowledge and understanding and God is able to use it because God is still faithful to move in the hearts of his audience. God is still trying to draw them to Him. He’s not moving in the man that’s preaching but in spite of him. The backslidden preacher may see people being affected by the preaching and think that God is still speaking to him and through him. He doesn’t realize that because of the sin God has departed from him. This is where Samson finds himself. This is why he doesn’t know that God has departed from him. He sees himself being able to shake off the bonds and defeat the Philistines, anyway. He’s sleepwalking.

Where was it that Samson fell asleep? It was in the moment he began to hide his sin. Remember verse 14:9 “But he did not tell them he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.” That moment right there is when it began to happen. God was no doubt dealing with him. How do I know that? Because he knew it was a violation of the vow and he chose not to tell anyone. He knew it was sin and he hid it from the others. God was dealing with him to repent, but he chose to ignore Him. At that moment he is being insensitive to the will of God and pretty soon he’s even insensitive to the presence of God in his life.

So in our text we find him in bed with Delilah. Delilah represents sin. Samson is living with her; he has a relationship with her. He looks like a Christian but he’s living like a sinner. He thinks he can beat the sin, that he can escape the consequences of sin that God will be with him no matter what, because he has taken that vow in the past. So he sleeps comfortable in that idea and he is overwhelmed and taken by the Philistines.

This whole thing is true for us as well. When we begin to turn away from the word and will of God we begin to do things that aren’t right. Nobody knows what we’re doing and we choose not to be open about it. We hide the things we’re doing that we know are wrong from the others in our church. That’s a decision we make not to confess it. God deals with us and we don’t repent, we still see things happening and think that God has overlooked the sin, but we are only sleepwalking. At that point we are as insensitive to the will of God as Samson, and we will also find ourselves overwhelmed by the Delilah in our lives.

Sleepwalking in Christianity will lead to backsliding. Samson is taken by the Philistines. The Philistines in our text represent the deadly influences of the world. We become more and more worldly until we are captured and blinded by the world. “The Philistines took him and put out his eyes.”

This is how Christians live like sinners thinking they’re saved. Because they have become blinded to the things of the world, that are taking place in their lives. “I know that the Bible says fornication is a sin, but God wasn’t talking about our fornication. We’re committed to each other. We’re in love; we’re married in the eyes of God.” Hello, You’re walking around with a suitcase containing only one piece of clothing. You better wake up and get packed, because you’re already tripping.

This Guy Must Have Been Dreaming

I can just see Samson sleeping there. He’s got his head in Delilah’s lap. He’s smiling that little smile. He’s sleeping the sleep of the ignorant, isn’t he? We can see how intimate his relationship is with her. He’s told her all that’s on his heart. Who do you tell those things? Not a casual acquaintance, you tell those things to your spouse or your lover. He’s in love with this woman. He’s emotionally intimate with her. He’s telling her all that’s on his heart. This is how deep his relationship with sin has become. He thinks he can handle her… and the Philistines. “I can handle it, I still have my salvation.” In Samson’s thoughts, “I still have my hair I can handle it. Sin, the world, whatever, I can handle it because I still have my hair.”

His hair represents his relationship with God. He is always able to defeat the enemy while his hair is long, but once his head is shaved the Philistines capture him.

How’d he get to this place? It’s through ignoring the will of God. We saw that he began to be unaccountable for his behaviors. He didn’t disclose the honey from the lion. He wasn’t willing to admit to the sin. He became unconcerned about his actions. But this didn’t take place early in his salvation this took place years later. In Judges 13:5 when he took the vow he was a baby, but when he eats the honey he’s an adult. He’s a mature man, he’s off to get married. This takes place in mature Christians. This isn’t a thing that happens to new converts. New converts tend to be alive and awake; eager to hear from God. They’re open to whatever God is trying to do in their lives. But it is the ones who’ve been around for a while. They become restless, maybe or bored. They become sleepwalkers.

They’re like Samson; over and over they’ve witnessed the power of God moving in their lives. It is those of us who’ve been delivered from a few things that take a nap; we fall asleep in the midst of danger.

This is where Samson is at this point. He’s sleeping, even though he’s been attacked several times, already. Look at what he says in verse 20:

“I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!”

He’s always relied on his relationship with God; on the power of God to deliver him. So he sleeps thinking God will always deliver me. While he sleeps contentedly, they cut his hair, his relationship with God is broken and he doesn’t even realize it until it’s too late. He’s captured and blinded by the world.

Our testimony is the outward sign that we wear that we’re sanctified. It is the symbol of our salvation; that we’ve been delivered from whatever sin to which we were enslaved. In our spiritual sleep we turn back to our sin.

How many that are reading this have been delivered from something; maybe even more than once? For some of us it seems like God is always right there to help us out. And we begin to rely on God’s strength and deliverance. And so we begin to drop our guard and rest peacefully, allowing sin to come in and destroy our relationship with God

“Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head.”

This is the danger; that we will become so restful in the power of God that we think we can do anything and God will be there to help us. But the fact is that God hates sin and he will not wink at sin in the lives of his people. The Bible tells us that God departed from Samson.

Sleeping Through the Alarm.

I’m a very light sleeper. I wake up when a mouse sneezes. And because of that lightness of sleep, I have never been a sleepwalker. People who sleep walk are so fast asleep that nothing wakes them up. One of my friends one time walked outside into the garden. Then went back into the house and went back to bed. And the only way she knew that was that she woke up and her feet and sheets were all muddy

Samson is a heavy sleeper. Someone came in and shaved his head and he slept through it. Have you ever slept through a haircut? He must have been a pretty heavy sleeper.

He also wasn’t too aware of what was happening around him. Delilah called the Philistines on him three times. The King James Bible says she yelled The Philistines be upon you and men who were hiding in the room burst out trying to grab him. You know, I think that if my wife called out Philistines get him, after three times I might begin to get suspicious, I may even be alarmed. But Samson sleeps right through the alarm.

What is the alarm that’s ringing for us? It’s alarms like preaching on sin. Unfortunately the whole church world is sleeping through their alarm. In many churches you wouldn’t hear a sermon like this preached. In fact, I’ve had people tell me, “Religion should never be a burden.” Religion isn’t a burden, but a relationship with God requires that we remain in his will and not our own. There are many churches that aren’t preaching on the danger of sin anymore.

Look what ultimately happened to Samson.

Judges 16:21
21 Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.

They put out his eyes and attached him to a big wheel and he walked around and around pushing a huge stone and grinding corn. This is what happens to those who allow themselves the luxury of becoming intimate with sin and captured by the world. They wind up blindly going in circles. The sad part is that many of them are still in church. You know who they are, they’re the ones who can’t seem to escape sin. They’re continuing to run in circles and never getting anywhere. They can’t be trusted with ministry. They can’t break certain habits. They always have one foot in the church and one foot in the world, but I want you to know that there is hope.

Samson’s hair grew back.

Judges 16:22
22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.

The relationship with God was restored and God used him for exactly the purpose that he had indicated to his mother when He called on her to make the vow on Samson’s behalf.

"he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

His power was restored and he took out many Philistines as he brought their temple down on them. If we have fallen asleep it isn’t too late to wake up. It isn’t too late to heed the alarm. You can wake up and step into the purpose and destiny that God has for you without having to go through what Samson went through. Can you hear the alarm?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Does the Shepherd Know You?

The Bible refers to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. There are a number of times that he is compared to a shepherd: A shepherd who cares for his flock: A shepherd who will seek the lost sheep. There are a number of references to this aspect of Jesus’ character. But the one that makes this most clear, I believe, is this reference.

John 10:14
14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

As the shepherd we know him. We recognize his leadership in our lives. We know who he is and understand the relationship between us. He is the author and finisher of our faith. But He also knows us. He knows who are His sheep.

John 10:3
3 “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

He knows His own intimately, he calls them by name. The question today is does he know you? Have you become familiar enough to Him for Him to know you and recognize you and call you by name? Today I want to look at three people: Three people whom Jesus calls by name. I want to look at their lives the instance in which he calls their names and I want to try and apply it to our lives.

The First is Mary Magdalene.

John 20:11-18
11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

In this scripture we see Mary Magdalene in a moment of panic and confusion. The events of the last few days have taken a toll on her. She saw the Messiah, the pone she considered to be the savior of the world crucified and killed. Then as she arrives at the tomb in which he has been placed she finds the body missing. She finds that he’s not in the place where he has been laid. She is not doubt overcome with frustration and panic.

Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever wondered, “Where’s God? Why is this happening? Why have I been forsaken?” All of her life she’s been taught that God will send a Messiah who will come and destroy the enemies of Israel. Finally, here is a man who has the power of God. She knows that God is with Him because of the things He’s done. She knows He has power because of the powerful deliverance she has received at His hand.

Luke 8:2
2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons,

Yet, he is laid in a tomb, dead, and now even his body has disappeared. Can you imagine the pain and confusion she is suffering at this moment. Then He comes to her and speaks her name and she is instantly, lifted out of that confusion.

I’m sure there were others who understood the prophecies better. There were others who studied doctrine and understood he doctrine better than she did. The Pharisees were so leaned in the law and the doctrines. They knew much more about all that than she did, but…she knew Him. She had a relationship with Jesus. She understood His power to change lives because she knew what He did in hers.

I’m sure that there swill be others who will stand before God who know more about doctrine than you and I. I’m sure that there will be others who are more learned in those things than us. But they will stand before God and here the words “I never knew you,” because they may know doctrine and law but they don’t know Jesus. I don’t claim to be a theologian but I know Christ and I hear His voice and recognize Him when he calls to me.

It is the same with Mary. She knows Jesus intimately…and He knows her. It has never been about what you know. It has always been about whom you know and more importantly who knows you. Can you recognize the voice of jesus in the panic and confusion of life? When Jesus called Mary’s name, she recognized His voice: She knew Him and He knew her.

The Second is Thomas (Who is Sometimes Called Doubting Thomas)

John 20:24-29
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

After the crucifixion, Thomas had a crisis of faith. Here was the man to whom he had discipled himself: the man who he also thought was the savior of the world: The man he thought was the incarnation of God on earth and he lies dead. So Thomas begins to doubt his own faith.

Can you see that? “I thought He was God. If he was God why couldn’t He save Himself, why did God have to die?” He’s struggling with his faith. It’s like the carpet of all that he believes has been pulled out from under him. He begins to think, “Could I have been wrong? Everything that seemed so right just a few days ago was gone, after the crucifixion, his faith was left in tatters.

When they told him they saw Jesus he couldn’t believe it. He had believed his own eyes. He saw Him hung on the cross. He saw Him look up and say, “it is finished.” He saw him give up his spirit and die. He saw all of those things and seeing, he believed. He told them he wasn’t going to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead unless he saw it with his own eyes. How like us he is.

We want to see something tangible. We want to see something real. We go to Healing Crusades and we see people healed, so we believe that healing is possible…but we don’t always believe it’s possible for us. We ask for deliverance and all the time we think that promise isn’t for us. We doubt, just like Thomas.

I spoke to man once who told me that he believes in deliverance, bur he said, “I don’t think I’m strong enough to be delivered.” You’re not, so it’s a good thing that your deliverance doesn’t depend on you. Put aside your unbelief for a moment and think about this: Jesus rose from the dead, do you think he has the power to deliver you from whatever you’re going through? Can He resurrect you?

We doubt, just like Thomas doubted. Even in his doubt Jesus, called him by name. he spoke into his life, he reached out and said, Touch Me. Feel me I am who I said I was.” In that moment that Jesus allowed Thomas to touch the wounds, He touched Thomas. In that moment Thomas’ faith was healed. “My Lord and my God.”

Jeus said, “Thomas you believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who believe and haven’t seen.” Jesus knew this man. He knew what it would take to for him to believe. He could have said Thomas had missed his hour of visitation, but instead he reached out and reached into his life. Just like he does in when we doubt.

A man came to Jesus with his demon-possessed son. The demon would throw him onto the ground, into the fire, and into the water to try to kill him. This desperate father came to Jesus and asked Him to pray for his child that the demon would be cast out. Look at this exchange between them.

Mark 9:23-24
23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

That should be our prayer. “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” The fact is that we all experience moments of doubt. We believe but sometimes we need help to believe. A Jesus that knows you can help you to believe.

The Third is Peter

John 21:15-17
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

We all know Peter’s reaction when Jesus was taken to be crucified. He followed at a distance, when someone recognized him he denied he was a follower of Christ. When they asked him a second time he denied it again. When they asked the third time he denied Jesus once more this time with a curse. He refused to allow anyone to call him a disciple of Jesus. He turned his back on Jesus and that moment of denial could have cost him eternity.

He turned his back on Jesus, went into hiding and eventually went back to fishing; his life before he became a disciple. He had abandoned his faith and he stood on the crossroads and Jesus spoke his name, “Simon Peter, do you love me?” In his moment of rejection, in his moment of denial, Jesus reaches into his life and restores him with the words, “Simon Peter, do you love me?”

None of us have experienced a test as powerful as this. None of us has seen the leader of our faith taken and crucified. Yet, some of us have gone through moments of denial: Moments when we have turned our back on his will and gone back to our former occupation, which is sin. We’ve gone back to our old life. We’ve gone back to our fleshly lusts. We turn our back on His will and go back to our own pursuits. In those moments we are denying Him as Lord over our lives: We’re denying his as God. We are lifting up sin and making that lord over our lives.

Yet, in this example we see that even though we have denied Him, he still desires to speak into our lives. He still desires to call us back to Him. “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Even through all that jesus still recognizes him as His own; still calls him by name. “Simon Peter, do you love me.” We sometimes think that when we backslide we can never go back again. We think that we can never be accepted again.

Imagine how peter felt when he heard the rooster crow. When he realized that he had denied the lord whom he had pledged to follow to the death. He must have felt like he’d lost it all. He was depressed; he was beaten down. I believe that’s why he wanted to go fishing - he’d given up. But that was something he did to himself, because Jesus came to him and spoke his name; He called him back. He restored him back to his destiny. He will do that in our lives as well.

What each of these people had in common was a personal history with Jesus Christ. They had spent time with Him. They knew him. They recognized His voice. And he called them by name. This is a part of discipleship; an intimate oneness with him. It’s more than just believing it’s knowing Him.

He knows us and calls us by name: Even when we are in moments of confusion, even in moments of doubt and even in moments of denial. The shepherd’s love is a love that knows us and reaches out to us even through those things.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back to the Garden: Thank You Joni Mitchell

Editor’s Note: I realize that this is a lengthy post. This is an excerpt of a book that I am currently writing. I hope you enjoy it. I would welcome your comments. Thank you - Chris

In the late 1960s Singer Joni Mitchell wrote a song that became an anthem for the counterculture of that time. The song “Woodstock” spoke of the freedom for which people of that generation were searching. It spoke of the rebellion of that generation, my generation, from the morals and beliefs of our parents. This is the generation of “Make Love not War”, the Summer of Love, Charles Manson, Anti-War Rallies and Riots, and of course the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, itself. “Woodstock” is a song that spoke to an entire generation but there was an interesting lyric in the last chorus of the song:

"We are stardust, billion year old carbon
Caught in the Devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the Garden”

This, of course is a reference to the loss of the Garden of Eden through Adam’s failure and fall to sin and death. That loss was a devastating event in human history. But is it lost forever? Can it ever be regained? I believe that there is a way for us to regain the Garden

.Where is the Garden of Eden today? It’s non-existent; it’s no longer there. If it survived until the time of Noah, it was buried under the debris and silt of the judgment of God and we will never see it physically, as a part of this world again.

I read an article about the Mount Saint Helens eruption of 1988. When that mountain erupted, nearby, Spirit Lake was buried under over 150 feet of ash. The river once again was dammed by the debris and silt, of the explosion, and formed a new lake. All of the topography, the Spirit Lake Lodge and everything else are buried in the sand 150 feet below the bottom of the “new” Spirit Lake. It will never be seen again unless someone attempts to excavate the bottom of the lake. Can you imagine the depth of something buried beneath the silt of a world-wide flood? Even if we could locate the place where the Garden stood, we would never be able to reach it. The Bible describes where it was located.

Genesis 2:10-14
10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads.11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.12 And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there.13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush.14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

We see the river named the Euphrates and we think it is a reference to the Euphrates River that flows through Iraq. But if the entire world was covered by water the topography of the earth must have been changed by that. It seems absurd to think that the Euphrates would have survived. New rivers would have been created by the changes in the land after the flood. So this river may resemble the Euphrates but not be the Euphrates River of the Garden of Eden. It would be difficult to pinpoint the location of the Garden with the evidence given in the Bible. We can’t just go stand on the land that once was within the perimeter of the Garden of Eden. If I were to speculate it seems likely to me to think that the Garden may have resided in the land that God gave to His people. The land that later became Israel.

Because of the sin of Adam and the subsequent corruption of the purposes of God for mankind, the Garden was forever changed. It was no longer a place where God’s love and provision for mankind was seen. Because of the curse on Adam for his sin, man would forever have to toil for what God had freely provided in the Garden. Through Adam’s sin we lost the nurturance and provision of God in the Garden and eventually, the Garden, no longer serving a purpose, was destroyed and lost altogether. In the last chapter I wrote about all that God had given us in the Garden.

There were seven things that were provided to mankind by God that made the Garden of Eden what it was, a paradise for humanity. We have seen how these things demonstrated to us God’s character and love for us. I want to briefly review them in this chapter so that we can fix our minds once again on all that God did for us.

The first thing He gave us was dominion over the earth. We were given to rule over all of the earth. Every animal, every plant, in fact, all of the world was given to our control. We were to go forth, multiply and subdue the earth. This was the plan of God for the creation that was made in His image. Remember, we were the only creation formed by His hands and the only creation to have His Spirit breathed into us. We are different from every animal that resides on this earth and God gave their care into our hands.

The second thing we had been given is His provision for our every need. God created us and God knew what we needed in order to have a meaningful, productive and enjoyable life, so He met our every need. He provided for our physical needs: The need for a place to live and for food to eat. The garden was created for us and He told us to eat of every tree of the garden except one: That they had been provided for our comfort and to meet our need for nutrition.

The third thing we had been given was meaning and purpose for our lives. God gave Adam a job, a purpose within the Garden to keep it and to tend it. It was up to him to insure that the needs of the Garden were met. It was given to him to subdue the entire earth; to expand the garden, if you will, to make all of the earth a place of God’s provision for those who would come later.

The fourth thing He provided was companionship. He gave us each other. Eve was created as a helpmate to Adam. He couldn’t go forth and multiply without her. She was the instrument of procreation that God gave to Adam. In the first chapter of Genesis as God looks over His creation the only thing that he saw that wasn’t good was that man was alone, so He created Eve to meet that need for companionship for Adam.

The fifth thing He gave us was standards by which to live. This was done to give Adam and Eve the opportunity to demonstrate their love for God through their obedience to His command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is in the creation of standards that free will is introduced. Free will is the opportunity to show your love and respect for the creator through obedience to His standards or to reject that same creator through disobedience. Sadly, Adam and Eve rebelled from God’s standards through the free exercise of their will. Adam’s great sin was that he knew of the standard of obedience and chose to disobey and thereby reject God.

The sixth provision of God in the Garden was fellowship with Him. God created man in order to have fellowship with Him. That word fellowship means to have a relationship with God; to be of one mind with Him; to have mutual love and respect. In this way God was meeting the need that is in all of us for a relationship with Him. This is man’s greatest spiritual need.

There was a personal interaction between God and Adam. God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them. Through their interaction, there was relationship. I can picture the delight on God’s part as Adam carefully examined each animal and named it.

We took our daughters Elizabeth and Emily to McDonald’s when they were very young, probably not much more than a year old. This is that wonderful time of discovery in children and we were delighted often by things they would say, or the way they would react to things that were new to them, as almost everything was. As we gave Elizabeth the little toy that was part of her Happy Meal ®, which was a Beanie-Baby® Giraffe, she gasped and said, “A Moomas!” Of course her mother and I had never heard of a Moomas, so I asked her, “What sound does a Moomas make?’ “Moomas!” she replied as if I should have known that. We were delighted and this has become one of our favorite stories as the girls have grown and I still to smile every time I tell it.

What made that moment such a delight was her excitement at discovery and the kindling of her imagination and I believe God must have been delighted at Adam’s naming of the animals for the same reason. It speaks of the relationship between them.

The seventh provision was eternal life. Adam and Eve were created to be eternal beings. They were able to eat of every tree in the Garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, including the tree of Life. That tree was the reason they were banished from the Garden after they had sinned.

Genesis 3:22
22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—

God created them and gave to them to subdue the world. He intended for them to populate the earth and remain alive at the same time. God never mentioned death until He gave the command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It wasn’t until they sinned that death came into the world. It was God’s intention that they would live forever.

Romans 5:12
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

So the Garden was created for us. It is a demonstration of God’s love and personal care for us. We can see the personality of God in this. In all ways He has acted as a loving and responsible father, providing for all the needs of His children. What responsible father who loves his children today is not willing to sacrifice to make sure that his children’s needs are met. What loving father would not look to meet the needs of his children, even before his own needs are met?

When you travel on an airliner they give instructions for what to do in the case of loss of cabin pressure. One of the instructions is that you put your own oxygen mask on before you put it on your child. Do you know why they tell you that? Because the nature of a parent is to make sure the child’s needs are met before their own. The airlines want to make sure that you put yours on first, so that you won’t faint as you put it on your child’s face. It is to protect the parent. If you put yours on first and the child faints you will still be able to put the child’s mask on. But if you faint the child will not be able to put yours on. This is necessary because we naturally seek to meet the needs of our children. God naturally seeks to meet our needs as well.

Matthew 7:9-11

9 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?10 “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

So God had given us all that we needed to be healthy and happy in the Garden. He met every physical, emotional and spiritual need. But there is a risk in that as any parent knows, and that risk is found in the possibility that the children will turn away from the values and moral principles they have been taught and turn instead to the values of their own flesh. There is a risk that they will turn away from all that we desire for them and turn to that from which we have tried to protect them.

How many parents have been hurt and disappointed as their children strayed away from the things they held dear and turned instead to drugs, illicit and immoral relationships, or crime? How many parents have cried out as their children overdosed, were savaged and abused in a relationship, or lived out their lives in prison? Imagine how God felt when Adam chose to place his desire for his relationship with Eve over his desire for a relationship with God. How did God feel when Adam chose suffering and death over the love and provision of God? He probably felt like any parent who has experienced the same thing with their children.

The Garden of Eden was a manifestation of all that God desired for His children. But because they desired a loss of innocence, (Eve was tempted because she wanted to be like God knowing good and evil); they lost it all, forever. All that God had done is lost to us, through sin. Now that we have reviewed what God had done by giving us the Garden we are prepared to answer the question before us: Is the garden lost forever or is there a provision by which we can once more enter in?

Lessons on God’s Desire for Mankind

God has shown us who He is through the creation of the Garden of Eden. He is a loving and thoughtful father. Even in the moment of judgment for the sin and rebellion of mankind, His thoughts were for reconciliation. He didn’t think to Himself, “That’s it; I’m done with these people.” His thought isn’t toward destruction but reconciliation. His thought is to bring the seed that would bruise the head of the serpent.

Genesis 3:15
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
In this scripture God is planning how He will deliver mankind back into a relationship with Him. This is the nature of God. In the book of Isaiah, God, when speaking through the prophet about the sin of men says, Come let us reason together.”

Isaiah 1:18
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

This is an attitude of reconciliation. If God had desired to destroy mankind He would have killed every human being in the flood. But instead He left a remnant to continue His creation. In His judgment on the serpent He left the door open to reconciliation with mankind through the seed of the woman, who would redeem mankind and reconcile us with God. This is God’s way. He’s always left the door open for repentance and reconciliation.

This principle can be seen in a personal ways as well. In the early church there was a woman in Thyatira, a part of the church, who was leading the church away from the worship of God and into false religion. The worship of false gods in pagan societies often included sexual immorality within their services. The church leaders had allowed this to continue, and did not judge the teachings, the doctrine or the immorality. God judged the sin but before He acted on that judgment He gave her an opportunity to repent of her sin and blasphemy.

Revelation 2:20-21
20 “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.21 “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Time was given to see if Jezebel would repent, she didn’t and then the judgment of God came on her. God desires reconciliation. Even the rapture and the tribulation to follow is God giving time in a last ditch effort to see men repent. God doesn’t want to lose any of mankind to sin and hell.

2 Peter 3:9
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

God is a gracious God. He doesn’t think like we do. How many of us would have had no thought for destroying mankind? Bill Cosby used to tell a story of his father’s discipline. As his father would intervene on his and his brother’s rowdy behavior he would speak these words, “I brought you in this world; I’ll take you out. And it don’t make no difference to me. I’ll just make another one, look just like you.” This is how people think, we want justice. We’re not always concerned with mercy. God requires justice, but His justice is always tempered with mercy. He didn’t have to preserve a remnant. He didn’t have to send a redeemer. But He did. He doesn’t have to create another Garden of Eden for us. But He will. God will create for us another kind of Garden of Eden and He will call it the New Jerusalem.

Revelation 22:1-3
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

This Garden will have a river of the water of life, it will contain the Tree of Life and there shall be no more curse. This is like the Garden of Eden of Adam’s day. There is no need for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because we have already eaten from it. God will dwell with His people once more as He reigns from the Throne of God. That word Jerusalem translates as the Vision of Peace. We will dwell at peace with God. Our faith makes us a friend of God. Abraham believed God, he was a man of faith and the Bible tells us he is a friend of God.

James 2:23
23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

Our flesh or the carnal nature of man, the sin nature, puts us in enmity with God. In other words as we are in our flesh or involved in sin we make ourselves enemies of God.

Romans 8:7
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

We are at war with God. The New Jerusalem is the promise of peace with God. It is the same peace with which mankind resided with God in the Garden of Eden.

Lessons from the Commands of God

In order to understand how to “get ourselves back to the Garden,” we have to understand how we can once again achieve what we lost to sin: What was stolen through the deceptions and temptations of Satan and the rebellion of Adam.

God had given Adam a standard by which he should live. It came in the form of a command, “Of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good an Evil you shall not eat of it: (Genesis 2:17).” This command was intended to preserve their innocence. The entire third chapter of the Book of Genesis is devoted to the loss of the Garden. It begins with the temptation of Eve. It speaks of Adam’s sin and the resultant shame. Finally, it explains the judgment of God and the expulsion from the Garden.

The first six verses of the chapter are the details of what transpired, as first Eve then Adam, fell into sin. We see that Eve was deceived by the serpent that in eating the fruit she could be like God. Then Adam has chosen Eve over God by eating of the fruit as well. But what was the loss that was incurred in the sin. What was the natural result of eating the fruit?

Every sin carries with it, natural consequences. These are the results of that particular sin. For example, the natural consequence of smoking tobacco is Lung Cancer. The natural consequences of an action will many times tell you if that action is sin. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. So if an action will lead to those consequences, that action is more than likely sin.

Another example is that continually placing yourself in unnecessary danger is a sin, because the likely outcome of that action is death. During the temptation of Jesus the Devil told Him to jump off the roof of the temple, but what was Jesus’ reply? It is written, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” (Luke 4:12) By this we know that eating the fruit was sin, and of course, God told them that the result of eating the fruit would be death. But for an interesting insight into what was lost through the eating the fruit look at the last verse before the sin.

Genesis 2:25
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

They were naked and unashamed. They were innocent. When my twin daughters were little, they were routinely bathed together, because it was easier for their mother. She would put them both in the tub, with their little rubber ducks, and they would play and giggle and have a wonderful time. They were innocent; there was no shame in their nakedness. The same was true of Adam and Eve. But look at the verse immediately following the eating of the fruit.

Genesis 3:7
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Before they had knowledge of good and evil, there was no shame in their nakedness. They didn’t know any better. They were innocent and what was lost in that sin was innocence. As our daughters have gotten older they no longer bathe together. If it is even mentioned that they might have to change clothes in the same room they both say, “Eww.” Innocence is lost, forever. The same is true of Adam and Eve they have lost their innocence. Innocence is a legal term meaning, according to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary: Blamelessness, freedom from legal guilt. In their innocence they were free from guilt and the shame that attends guilt. It isn’t until they understood what was right and wrong that guilt was imputed to them.

When a person commits a crime they have to be judged as to whether or not that are fit to stand trial. Fitness in this case means whether or not they understand their actions and the consequences of those actions. If they cannot understand the elements of the trial then they are judged as not fit to stand trial. They are innocent by reason of insanity and they will be committed to a mental institution. They cannot receive the death penalty for crimes committed in mental illness. They didn’t understand the wrongness of their behavior. This is Adam and Eve before they ate the fruit, they are not mentally ill but they have no understanding of right and wrong. When they ate the fruit understanding dawned and innocence was lost.

There is another legal term used in the Bible. That word is to justify. The word justify is defined as to pronounce free from guilt or shame. In this case justification simply means that we are once more made innocent. This is important because we are justified by Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. In other words we are made like we were before the sin.

Romans 3:23-26
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

We are made innocent, justified, through the blood Jesus shed on the cross for us. There is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. We had lost innocence through sin but Jesus shed His blood to purchase innocence for us. As sinners we think that God’s commands are to limit us. But His commands are designed to protect us.

Through my own experience I have recognized the truth of this. I had allowed myself to come to the very brink of destruction and suicide. But in coming to salvation and patterning my life after the commands of the Bible I’ve been changed.

My life had a veneer of success. Outwardly, I seemed to have it all together. I had all the trappings of success, a nice place to live, a hot car and a high-paying job. My neighbors would point me out to their teenaged sons as an example of what hard work and diligence could achieve. But what those parents couldn’t know was that on the inside. I was lonely and miserable; I had no satisfaction in my life at all. I had destroyed relationships. I’d used women. I’d lied and cheated to achieve my position in the company. I destroyed other people’s careers, all to get what I wanted. I was lonely, miserable, drunk and contemplating suicide when I came to salvation.

I began to read and study the Bible and it changed my life because it changed my perspective about how to live my life. I remember one phone conversation, with my father, where he told me, “Be careful. Don’t allow that to control your life. Keep some distance and perspective.” His fear was that I was taking it all too seriously and that I had joined some kind of cult. My reply was, “I am discovering that if I will live my life like the Bible says that I’m going to be happy.” I had recognized that most of the ugliness of my life stemmed from me trying to get what I wanted.

It is a truth that if you avoid sin you will avoid much of the ugliness in life. I can’t tell you that there will be no hurts and heartache in your life. You can’t avoid the things that will overflow into your life through the sin of other people. But you will not be contributing as much yourself.

We will never completely overcome sin in our lifetimes, only Jesus was sinless. But certainly, we can eliminate a great deal of it, by carefully living out the commands of God. We can’t avoid sin altogether because we’re human, but by studying and applying the Word of God to our lives we can stay aware of the sin that is there and we can overcome a great deal of sin, this way. Through self examination and looking closely at our decisions and actions we can be aware of the disobedience and rebellion, and recognize the need for repentance. Change is a process that takes place over our lifetimes. The key to change is self examination and repentance.

Repentance is crucial to regaining the Garden. It’s laying aside the rebellion and disobedience that caused us to lose the Garden in the first place. It’s reasoning together with God, and receiving the justification that comes from the sacrifice of Christ. In repenting and being justified we regain that lost innocence and we step into the Garden once again.

But there is something which precedes repentance. In order to repent, you must have the faith that Jesus came to suffer and die so as to redeem us and bring us into a right relationship with God. In other words, we have to believe. If you don’t believe that Jesus is who He said He was you won’t repent. Why? Because you won’t see any benefit to yourself.

For example, in our recent presidential election, the primaries resulted in two men campaigning for the office of the President of the United States. Within the Republican Party there was concern that Senator McCain was not the right candidate. He spoke as if he was a great conservative, but his actions, in many ways, demonstrated a lack of conservative thought in a number of the issues facing our country. Because of that, many conservative voters, who were looking for a strong conservative voice, felt that he wasn’t who he said he was and when it came time, many of them chose not to vote for him.

If we recognize that we need to reconcile with God but don’t believe that Jesus came to the earth for that purpose, or that he isn’t able to provide that substitution for us we won’t see a benefit to repenting. You don’t ask the Easter Bunny to forgive your sin, because you don’t believe that he has the capacity to do that. So faith in Jesus is necessary in order for us to repent. Faith is a necessary component to justification and returning to innocence

Abraham was justified by faith. God considered him righteous by his faith.

James 2:23
23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

Abraham believed God, he had faith in God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. God took his faith and put it in his account as righteousness. In other words, God saw his faith, and determined that that faith was righteousness and placed it in his account for the day of reckoning. When He goes to consider Abraham’s fitness for Heaven, He will look at Abraham’s account and see righteousness and Abraham will be judged on that. Because of that faith he was called a friend of God. He was no longer at war with God. Salvation comes through faith like Abraham had. If we have faith in Jesus Christ we also will be saved.

Mark 16:16
16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

What is believing? Of course, believing is being convinced of something. But when you have beliefs you must act accordingly. One of the reasons that the United States Government overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, was because President Bush was convinced that there were weapons of mass destruction. He was certain that because of that, the entire world was in danger, and he acted on that belief.

If you believe the Gospel, then you must act accordingly. If you believe that what is written in the New Testament is the word of God, then you must act on the commands as if they are the will of God.

Matthew 7:21-23
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Jesus is telling us that it is not enough just to be convinced of Him, but that we must act out on that belief. He is saying that we must live the will of God. Jesus is speaking to the believers in His day and hour, because those are the ones who prophesy in His name. They are the ones who have cast out demons and have done wonders in His name. He told us that those things are the signs that follow them that believe. But if they don’t live out the will of God then they’re to depart from Him. It is those who do the will of God, who will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Faith, therefore, leads to repentance, and repentance requires change. I often meet people who say, “I believe in Jesus. I believe in God,” but it is evident from their lifestyle that they aren’t living the will of God. They have continued to live in sin. There is no change present in their lives. They haven’t repented, because there is no change. So they aren’t justified. Justification requires both belief and repentance. Abraham acted on his belief in God by leaving Haran for the place that God would show him. Since God was calling him out of that place, following the call of God is living the will of God. He acted on the God’s command to leave Haran. He started a new life on that day. In a sense he was reborn, because he was a different man than he had been before God called him.

John 3:3
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

And this is the reason that it is necessary for the church to preach on sin. It’s necessary to provide an opportunity for people to examine their lives and the decisions that they’ve made, and bring their lives into conformance with the will of God. The church must provide direction, to assist people, in living out the will of God for their lives. It isn’t enough just to believe. When you come to a place of real repentance you are ending the old life and starting the new. It is like the moment that you are born. You have a clean slate, a fresh start, a new life. You are once more made innocent and have gotten back to the garden. To see how you have regained the Garden, you need only to look at the promises of Jesus.

Lessons on Getting Back to the Garden

The Christian life is a reinstatement into the Garden of Eden. If you believe that Jesus is God who became man for the expressed purpose of dying on the cross to reconcile you with God: If you have repented of your sin and restored innocence to your life, through His justification of your sin: If you are living the calling and will of God for your life then you have regained the Garden. I know that life in our times doesn’t seem all that idyllic: That the place in which we are living doesn’t seem like a paradise. The world has been corrupted by sin, and sin remains in the world. But the principles that were true in the Garden are a component of the Christian life. Those same principles are in effect in our walk with God.

The first principle visible in the Christian life is dominion. In the tenth chapter of Luke, we see that Jesus has appointed seventy disciples to go and preach the Gospel. They are to go into the cities and villages and preach the word of God. He has also given them instruction for their behavior

Luke 10:3-9
"Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.4 “Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.5 “But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’6 “And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.7 “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.8 “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.9 “And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Jesus tells them something that is very important here. He tells them to heal the sick. Is this because He sent only doctors to preach the Gospel? It is because, they as believers, are able to heal the sick. Later in the chapter He tells them something else.

Luke 10:20
20 “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Do not rejoice because spirits will do what you command, but rejoice because you have received salvation. Why is this important in the return to the Garden? Because it establishes that in receiving Salvation we have been given authority over the spiritual world. What is authority in the spiritual world? It’s dominion. We have been given dominion over the spiritual world. Jesus even states I give you authority…

Luke 9:1
Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.

One definition of authority, according to Mirriam-Webster Dictionary is power to influence through command. That means that we are able to command healing because of the authority that is given to us. This is dominion over sickness. Another definition is the person-in-charge. If you have authority you are in charge. The centurion in whose servant is sick tells Jesus, “I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, if I say to this man go he will go…” (Matthew 8:9) He is the man-in-charge, he has authority.

The definition of dominion is supreme authority. So Jesus through salvation has established dominion and authority back into our lives. Just as we had dominion in the garden we have dominion now.

The second principle at work, in the Christian life, that was found in the Garden is that God provides for our needs. God has promised us that he considers us to be valuable and that He will provide for our needs.

Matthew 6:31-33
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

God still understands our needs and if we seek the Kingdom of God all of these things will be given to us. He is making the promise that he will meet our needs, but there is one other thing required.

Mark 11:24
24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

When we believe that God can and will meet our needs, those needs will be met. That’s faith; it’s trusting in God for His provision. Adam and Eve had to trust God for their provision and we must trust Him as well.

You might think I don’t have great faith. People are like that. When things aren’t going right we have a tendency to worry. We try to make things happen for ourselves. But it only takes a little faith to see God produce on His promises.

Matthew 17:20
20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

A mustard seed is a small seed. You can buy them as a spice in your local grocery store. They are maybe a 1/16th of an inch in diameter. So this verse is telling us that we only need a small particle of faith to see God provide for our needs.

Several years ago, I was laid off of my job. I’m not young and the prospect for a new job seemed like a faint hope. Nevertheless, we attended Bible Conference and wanted to support what God was doing through the fellowship of which we are a part. As always on Thursday night of the conference, young people are launched out to begin international works. People are being ordained to enter the mission field. My wife and I have always been excited about the possibilities of reaching the world, so we have a tendency to give as much as we can to support these new international ministries. Now, I had been laid off of my job. I didn’t see the possibility of a new job in the near future. We had little savings and so the future looked bleak. I confess that I had been worrying about what would happen to my family.

But as it came time for offering I wrote what I thought was a big check, considering our circumstances. As I finished writing the check, my wife leaned over and said, “God gave me a number,” meaning that God had told her what amount to give. In that instant, God spoke to me as well. I knew what number He had given her. I also knew what I had written. So I tore up the check I had written and wrote another for the amount that God had given both of us. I remember praying as the offering basket came around, “God I don’t know what we’re going to do in the future. But …here I go.” This isn’t a prayer of great faith. I wasn’t saying, “Thank you God I know you’ll provide for our future.” It was a weak prayer whispered on shaky breath. The basket came by and I dropped in the check.

And God met every need for us that summer, because three weeks later I received an unexpected check, for exactly ten times the amount of the check I’d written and dropped in the basket. God knew our needs and met them because of the mustard seed-sized faith that I had demonstrated.

The third principle at work in the Christian life is the restoration of fellowship with God. We are reconciled with God.

Romans 5:10
10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

That word reconciled means that we have come back together. There was a separation that had taken place but that we have joined back together. We often hear of this taking place in marriage relationships. A marriage is an intimate relationship between two people. The Bible tells us that we cleave to one another. In other words, that we are joined together in such a way that to separate us would damage one or both of us. Welding produces this kind of adherence. When you weld two pieces of metal together the welding process, actually, makes them one piece of metal. If you then go to separate them, the process used to do that causes damage to the metal. The same is true of marriage. Divorces are ugly, damaging processes that usually end up with one or both parties bitter and angry.

When a couple separates, they sometimes, often through the intervention of a counselor, can solve their marital problems and reunite them. This is called reconciliation. They have come back together. It speaks of a change that has taken place. They had been in conflict with each other but they have now reconciled.

The same is true of our relationship with God. We were separated, in the loss of the Garden. When God, as a result of their sin, cast Adam and Eve out of the garden He separated Himself from all of mankind. After sin, there was conflict between the righteous, holy God and carnal, sinful man. The Bible tells us that when we are living in our carnal nature, we are in enmity with God.

Romans 8:7
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

In simpler terms, we are enemies of God. We have seen that sin is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These are the things that define carnality. Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines carnality as of or relating to the body. The things that we do to satisfy our senses are the manifestation of our carnality; our physical appetites, our emotional appetites. When these things are the most important things in our lives we’re enemies with God.

In the loss of the garden we were physically separated from the presence of God and because of the sin we became enemies with God. Our relationship with God was in need of reconciliation. And that is why Jesus came to earth.

Romans 5:8
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were enemies, Jesus came and died for us and in the process of His death reconciled us with God. The relationship is once again restored. The separation has been removed and we have direct access to God. This was graphically demonstrated for us during the crucifixion.

In the book of Exodus God gives a command to Moses to build the tabernacle of meeting. In that blueprint he called for a room to be built that would house the Mercy Seat. This is a part of the Ark of the Covenant from where God would meet with His people.

Exodus 25:21-22
21 “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you.22 “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.

And He instructed that a veil be made that would keep the people from entering that place of God’s presence. This room was called the Holy of Holies, and when God gave instruction for the construction of His Temple He also included this room and the attendant veil of separation. So this separation with mankind was maintained throughout all the years between the removal from the Garden and the crucifixion of Christ. But in the moment of His death that veil was torn in two.

Matthew 27:50-51
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

The veil was torn in two from top to bottom as if a pair of hands had grabbed it and ripped it. Once again, there was direct access to the presence of God. Through His death we were reconciled with God and fellowship with Him is possible.

The fourth principle of the Garden is that our lives have meaning and purpose. God provided this for Adam as He gave him the job of tending the Garden. In our Christian lives we also are given a task, which gives meaning and purpose to our lives. That task is to preach the Gospel.

Mark 16:15
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

It always amazes me that God has given us an opportunity to be a part of His plan for the salvation of mankind. After all we caused all the problems with God’s original plan for us. We have shown ourselves to be completely untrustworthy; and yet we are “Plan A” to reach our generation. God is allowing us to draw others to Him.

I spent a number of years, in my career, as an executive level manager. Over the years I gained a lot of insight into the management of people. I understand what motivates employees. I realize the vulnerability of employees to errors and misunderstanding. I always looked for an employee who had a track record of success before placing them into any mission-critical position. This is vital to the successful outcome of any endeavor. But look at what God has done. He is using the creatures who couldn’t handle one simple command in the Garden of Eden to be the lead in His plan for the salvation of their generation. In fact, they are the only plan for the salvation of their generation. “There is no Plan B.” He has restored us to a purpose. That purpose gives our lives meaning.

Finally, there is the principle of eternal life. Adam and Eve were created to be eternal beings. In the creation there was no death. But because of the sin that took place in the Garden, death came into the world and we have suffered from the affliction of death since that time.

Most of us have experienced death. Through the loss of a parent or a friend or neighbor we have experienced the sting of death. No one is happy about the loss of a loved one and no one looks forward to experiencing death themselves.

In Beaumont, California, in 1997 a ten-year-old boy was kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered. His kidnap and death carried international headlines, as the case remained unsolved until August 2005, when an Idaho convict confessed to his murder. The entire nation grieved for the loss of this child and his funeral was broadcast nation-wide. The death of one child carried with it the grief of an entire nation.

All of this is part of the curse of sin. “From dust you came and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) But as we enter into salvation we are promised eternal life once again. Whoever has faith in Him, and acts on that belief and faith, by repenting and entering into a relationship with Him will have everlasting life.

John 3:16
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

If all of the conditions of salvation are met then all of the principles of the Garden of Eden will be at work once more in our lives. If we will believe that Jesus Christ is God who became man for the expressed purpose putting Himself in our place and receiving the punishment of sin that was meant for us. If we put that faith into action, by admitting that we are sinners, and ask forgiveness in real sorrow. If we accept that forgiveness, repent and change, by laying aside sin and living within the commands and the will of God. Then we are restored to the Garden of Eden.

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Open Letter to the Church

Church attendance is down in many Christian churches. There are a number of reasons for this, but I blieve the main reason lies in the hearts of individual believers.  People are simply putting other things before their commitment to serve God.   I think it is important to address this, because I believe that church attendance is key to maintaining our salvation.

So I want to offer the following Bible study as a way to encourage you to attend church. Your attendance shouldn’t be to please me, but because you have identified yourself with Jesus.

Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

I want to take this passage of scripture and break it down so we can get at what the scripture is speaking to us.

Hebrews 10:23
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Let us hold fast to our confession of hope. As Christians we have hope in Jesus. Jesus has promised us eternal life. He has promised us heaven. The wonderful thing about this is that heaven is promised to us, not because of what we have done but because of what Jesus has done. In Buddhism, there is the idea of Karma: That your karma affects what happens to you after you die. Karma says that how we live in this lifetime will affect where we go as we wait to be reincarnated. Karma tells us which level of hell we are assigned to and the life we will have when we are reincarnated. It is all based on how we live. But you and I know that we have all done things that are wrong. We have all damaged other people and we have all violated guidelines for righteousness. So if it is up to us we can never achieve heaven. The Buddha cannot change our Karma; he can be no help to us as we go through our lives. It is dependent on us. There is no hope in that. The bible tells us that we all fall short. It tells us that there are none righteous. That includes me and it includes you. So in that belief system we will be doomed to repeat life over and over with no hope of entering heaven. But in Jesus we can have hope because he has died for us. In a way he has changed our karma. Heaven isn’t dependent on us, it’s dependent only on what Jesus has done and us confessing faith in him and repenting.

If we’re Christians we believe that Jesus paid a price for our sin. We need to hold fast to that confession of faith, because it is the basis by which we will be judged. That phrase “hold fast’” means to grab a hold of it and not let go. How do we do that. We can hold fast by doing things that will increase our faith in Jesus. Or doing things that build faith.

1. Prayer. Prayer strengthens our relationship with Jesus. Think of it like this: If you have a friendship with someone but you never speak to that person or spend time with them what happens to the relationship. It will begin to break down, because there is nothing to strengthen that relationship.

2. Read your Bible. As you read the Bible you see the faithfulness of God demonstrated over and over. You can see the prophecies that have been fulfilled. When Jesus was born that was the fulfillment of more than 300 prophecies. As you see his faithfulness and the truth of prophecy you can realize that you can believe God. God never changes he is just as faithful today as he was in Biblical times.

3. Go to church. The Bible in Romans 10:17 tells us that, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing the word of God strengthens faith.

These things will help us to hold fast to that confession of Faith.

Let’s now examine verse 24 of our text:

Hebrews 10:24
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,

This verse speaks of being an example. We are to consider each other in an attempt to stir up love and good works. Let’s face a fact here, people are watching our lives. What do other people see when they watch your life? Is what your doing stirring up love and good works? Is your life an encouragement to others to do the will of God?

This is the real issue. We are not alone in our salvation. There are other people involved in our destiny and the will of God for our lives. We look at other Christians to understand how to live and to act as a Christian and other people look at our lives. Someone else fulfilling his or her destiny in Jesus may be dependent on our example. All of us are examples to someone else. We are definitely an example to other people in the church, but beyond that friends and families gain their understanding of Christianity from watching us. Does your example demonstrate the importance of living out the will of God? Can someone who isn’t saved look at your life and see how important Jesus and your salvation are to you? Do they see you talking about Jesus, maybe even confronting them about Jesus, but don’t see you placing any importance on being in church? Because believe me they are forming their opinion about Jesus from watching how you live.

In the last verse of our text we read this:

Hebrews 10:25
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

This verse simply tells us that we should attend church. Through our attendance we are exhorting (encouraging) one another. We build our faith and we help to build someone else’s by church attendance. This is vital if we want to have the faith to endure until the end. I’ve been preaching a number of sermons, recently, on faithfulness. Faithfulness is a sign of our faith. But if we’re not there to hear them how can we be stirred up to love, good works and faith.

Finally, we must understand the purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is to reach the lost for Jesus. In a number of cases that means friends, families and coworkers. Our goal is to reach them as well as neighbors. We are placed in this place to reach people in Taoyuan City. That’s what this church is placed in this city to do. But we lose momentum when people don’t faithfully attend church.

When we don’t attend church:

1. We send a message to our friends and families that church isn’t really important to us. We are telling them that church is just a place where people gather, like a social club, but that there is no power to change lives there.

2. The Bible establishes that God has chosen the foolishness of the message preached to save those that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21). If we don’t attend church we miss God’s chosen method of salvation and change.

3. When we don’t attend and someone we have invited does, then the only connection that they have to the church is missing. They have come because of the relationship they have with you. They are likely to not come back because you have let them down.

Assembling ourselves together builds bonds between us: Bonds that will help us to weather the attacks of the enemy. It is important to us to come together as a fellowship of believers:

1. To build up each other’s faith.

2. To strengthen our own faith.

3. To develop relationships that will help us to reach our own personal destiny in the will of God.

4. To hear the word of God preached, God’s method of change and salvation for us.

An excellent question to ask yourself is this, “Is my salvation important to me, or are there other things that I have placed before my relationship with Jesus?”

The rich young ruler asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life? The question is what thing shall I do to go to heaven. Jesus answers him in an interesting way. He begins to list off commandments: Specifically, the commandments that deal with our relationships with other people. And the ruler tells him, “Cool, I’ve done these things since my youth.” Then Jesus tightens up a little bit, he says, “There’s one thing you need to do still, sell everything you own, give it to the poor, take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus isn’t saying that you have to be poor to be saved. But what he’s doing is focusing on the issue in this man’s life; his possessions. He’s saying if you value something more than your relationship with Jesus, you can’t inherit eternal life. He says that in another way in the Luke 14:

Luke 14:26-27
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

That word hate doesn’t mean what we take it to mean in our generation. It only means to love less. So what Jesus is saying is that we can’t be his disciple if there is something we put before Jesus. Jesus wants to be first in our lives. If we are going to call him Lord, we need to treat him like he’s our Lord.

This letter is intended to encourage you and exhort you to be an active part of the church. It is not intended to condemn anyone. I want to see you get the most from your relationship with God and I’m concerned that some of you are putting other things before your relationships with Jesus. I understand about work commitments and I understand about family commitments. But I really want you to focus on what is keeping you from church.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bethesda: The House of Grace

Many of us can look at our lives, the things we came out of, and see what it is that Jesus has done for us. We can look at our lives before Jesus and see what we had made of them. We can look back and see what the sin that we had allowed to enter our lives had done to us. If you’re a Christian today, you sit in church changed and set free, by His grace and mercy. Today I want to share with you a moment of grace and mercy from the Bible.

John 5:1-13
1After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”  7The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”  8Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.  And that day was the Sabbath. 10The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”  11He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’”  12Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

The House of Grace

The word Bethesda in Hebrew means House of Grace. It is probably named that because of the grace, or mercy, shown to the ill and lame who were healed in the pool. Bethesda had five porches. Five is the number of grace; in the same way that six is the number for man and seven is the number of completion, or perfection.

So here at the pool of healing we see Jesus with a man who is afflicted: A man who has suffered his affliction for many years. This is the place where he meets Jesus; the place where he has that one encounter with Jesus that makes him whole; that sets him free of his afflictions. He has suffered this affliction for thirty-eight years and in one moment of time his affliction is swept away. In one encounter with Jesus his suffering ends. It takes place right here, at the pool of Bethesda. It’s interesting that this meeting took place here at the pool. It didn’t happen on the streets of Jerusalem. This man didn’t meet with Jesus, on his own, some place. He met with him here at the “House of Grace.”

There is a House of Grace in our lives, as well. There is a place where we can meet with Jesus and the pain and suffering or our affliction can be taken away in a moment, just like the man at the pool. Our affliction may be a physical affliction that requires physical healing, but it is also a spiritual affliction. We can have an encounter with Jesus that frees us, in one moment, of the affliction of sin. The House of Grace in our times is the local church. The local church is the place where you can have an encounter with Jesus that will set you free. At the altar of repentance you can meet Jesus and be transformed. Through His death on the cross He has made it possible for our sin, our affliction, to be taken away. By His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

He is the Angel of the Lord that stirs the water and brings healing. We meet with Him at a place like this where He transforms us, in a moment of time, and heals us of our transgressions and afflictions.

Entering Into the Pool

In order for this man to be released of his affliction he had to enter the pool. The Bible says in verses three and four of our text

John 5:3-4
3In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

After the water was stirred up, the first one who entered into the pool was healed. You have to submerge into the House of Mercy to be healed. But how many people do you meet that tell you they’re Christians; they tell you their believers, but they have no home church? How many people have you met that have a long list of churches that they’ve attended but not a church to which they’re committed? The problem is that they’ve spent their lives on the fringes. They’ve never been willing to put themselves into God’s method of transformation for their lives, which is to lock into a church. They’ve never allowed themselves to be immersed into God’s will for their lives. They’ve been around the church but aren’t willing to ground themselves in God’s word. Because of their unwillingness to step into that they continue in their affliction.

I used to know a man, who asked me about my church. He wasn’t interested in the church’s doctrine. He asked me about how many people attended. He asked about fellowship opportunities. He told me that he played softball at his church. But he shared with me that he didn’t think they would ask him that year. He said he hadn’t attended church lately. Actually, he didn’t attend at all, he just played softball with them. He had the aura of church attendance, but in fact, didn’t attend church at all. There was no change in his life. He continued to live the way he lived before: His wife was ready to leave him his life was a mess. He was still caught up in his affliction because he was on the fringes. He never immersed himself into the pool of healing.

What do we see in our text? On the porches there was a multitude of people. There were a lot of people on the fringes. They see the power of God manifested in the lives of those who enter the pool. They see the miracles, they see the transformation, and they want those things to take place in their lives but they never make it into the pool. They aren’t aggressively seeking the miracle, they’re hanging around the pool, they’re close to the pool, but…

It makes me think of the woman with the issue of blood.

Luke 5:25-29
25Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”  29Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.

This woman aggressively sought healing. The Bible says she, “suffered many things from many physicians.” She was looking for a cure, when she heard about Jesus. She knows that if she can reach Him she can be healed. So she’s willing to risk arrest.

She had an issue of blood, so she was unclean. She was required to walk the streets and call out, “Unclean.” She could touch no one. But here she is, she pushed her way through a throng of people to reach Jesus. She had to press past maybe hundreds of bodies to get next to him. She wanted to touch him; she wanted to enter in; she wanted to be made well.

She could have stayed on the fringes. She could have waited for Jesus to notice her. But she risked it all, she went to Him to be healed and set free. The question is, “Are you willing to allow God to stir up the waters of life in you? Are you willing to step in and immerse yourself in the will of God/

The man in our text tells Jesus, “I have no one to place me in the water and when I come down someone gets there before me.” But he wasn’t aggressive about reaching the water. He could have set his cot right at the water’s edge, so when it got stirred up he could roll off the cot and into the water. If you really want it you’ll be at the edge of the water ready to dive in at the first sight of movement not back up in the fringes or on the porches. "Oh look the water’s moving, quick, someone carry me to the pool. Oh, it stopped, oh well maybe next time.”

In order to be healed of the affliction you must immerse yourself. You must enter into the will of God for your life. It’s not going to happen until you take the step, like the woman with the issue of blood, and aggressively seek God’s miracle for your own life. You must enter into the pool with a desire to be healed and transformed, and then God can work with you, and change you.

Continuing in Sin

Finally, let’s take a look at Jesus’ final comments to this man at Bethesda.

John 5:14
14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

Jesus is admonishing that if he continues in sin a worse thing can happen to him. You know, you can attend church and lose your salvation. After this kind of encounter you can’t continue in sin, because something worse can come upon you. Understand tis, just because his grace is upon you, you can’t continue to sin and rely on that grace. That’s not how grace is intended. Grace is intended to give us a fresh start, a new beginning. We abuse grace by accepting grace and continuing to sin.

Romans 6:1-2
1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

What’s interesting here is that as this man sat on the fringes, Jesus came to him. In this moment we see a snapshot of His grace as He reaches into this man’s life and gives him the healing he desires. We can see the same snapshot of grace as Jesus reached into our lives and brought healing and transformation to us. He desires that all of us have an opportunity to be cleansed and healed. He wants to use us as instruments of His grace to reach out to others.

But there is a warning here to us that we can fall from his grace, by continuing to sin. How valuable is your salvation to you? How valuable is the free gift that was given to you in the moments of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Are you willing to put to death the “Old Man of Sin”? Or do you esteem so lightly the grace that was given through His suffering that you would put Him on the cross once again? Is there sin you are unwilling to give up?

I know a man who was saved about 25 years ago. Throughout his life God changed him and showed him much grace and mercy. But he continues to smoke. In fact, the day I met him and he found out that I was a Christian he told me, “I know God is going to deliver me from smoking, but he’s going to do it in His own time.” Well, the fact is, that God’s time is now. But God couldn’t deliver him from smoking until he took the first step and put it down. The problem was he wasn’t willing to put off the old man of sin. Then he was diagnosed with lung cancer. I told him, “Look man, God is trying to get a hold of you right now. This is what God is doing to get you to lay that stuff down.” His reply was interesting,, “I already have cancer, now, so why quit.” I was sad to attend his funeral.

In our text Jesus is warning us that if we continue in sin, “a worse thing can come upon us.” We need to take our salvation seriously. He paid for that gift of grace with his life. He willingly gave his life and it cheapens his death by continuing in sin and letting that grace abound.

It is like when somebody gives you something of great value and you don’t take care of it because you paid nothing for it. Are you that way with your salvation? Do you care so little about it that you don’t guard it and ensure that you never lose it? That you don’t work to keep it healthy?

Pastor Glen Cluck once said, “If you live your l;ife like you could lose your salvation, you probably won’t.” In other words if you are aware that your salvation could be lost and live with that awareness, then you will do what it takes to preserve it.

Here is a fundamental truth for life: We need to enter into the House of Grace and submerge ourselves in it. We need to dive into the will of God, so that we can receive the promise of mercy and spiritual healing. Total immersion in the will of God is what does it.