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.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pictures of God's Love

Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam sinned and disobeyed God.  I know you remember the story.  God created a beautiful garden paradise.  He created Adam and put him in the Garden to tend it and keep it.  The He gave him Eve, because it is not good for a man to be alone.  In the Garden he placed a tree called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and He commanded them not to eat of the fruit of that tree. 

He gave them the choice to obey.  Why?  He did that because their choice was a measure of their love for Him.  He wanted to know that we love Him.

It’s the same with us today.  Our obedience to His will and His calling are a measure of our love for Him.  We have a choice whether to obey or not.

The Garden of Eden was a place where God demonstrated His love for us.  He met every single human need in the Garden.  He loved us and wanted to know that we chose to love Him.

Then there as a problem in the Garden because Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.  They were removed from the Garden, but God’s love and care for us didn't end there.  God still loved them.

Today I want to post a sermon about God’s love for us.

Romans 5:7-11 (NKJV)
5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 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. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

God’s Love

Here in our text we see how God demonstrates His love for us, because while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  While we were still in rebellion:  While we were rejecting Him He died for us.  That’s what sin is, it’s rejection of God.  It’s just like Adam and Eve in the Garden rejected God through disobeying His one command.  God had to judge their rebellion but He didn't stop loving them. 

There’s an interesting moment when God gives the command not to eat the fruit:

Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV)
2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

God tells him you can eat of the fruit of any tree in the Garden except the fruit of that one tree, or what?  “You will surely die.”  You can look at this and say that God is saying, “If you eat the fruit of that one tree, I’m going to kill you!”  I don’t think that that’s what God is saying here.  I think God is warning them.  You can eat of any fruit in the Garden except that one fruit, and the consequence of eating that fruit is that you will die.  Death will come into the world.  It’s not a threat it’s a warning.

It is the same as we as parents do.  We tell our kids, “Don’t run out in the street without looking because you will surely die.”  I’m not telling them, “If you run out there I’m going to kill you.”  I’m just warning them that running out into the street without looking can get you killed.  Do it often enough and you will surely die.

God’s just laying out the consequences for them,  “If you eat of the fruit of that tree over there, nothing bad will happen; or that tree over there the fruit is good to eat.  But if you eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, if you eat that fruit, death will come.”

After the sin we see God searching for Adam in the Garden.

Genesis 3:8-11 (NKJV)
. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." 11 And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"

God comes into the Garden and Adam and Eve are hiding from Him.  So God calls out to him looking for him, “Adam, where are you?”  Adam had never hidden from God before.  Adam and God had met in the Garden together before.

Somebody once said, “You can never be a preacher if you read this as though God were a policeman.  Read it as though God was a broken hearted father looking for a lost child.”

Do you think God was crashing through the Garden yelling, “Adam, I know you’re in there!  You better come out now….Oh boy are you going to get it.  Where are you!”?  I think God called for him with concern in His voice.

Have you ever been somewhere and turned around and your child was missing?  Did you run around, yelling, “When I find you, you’re going to pay for this!”  No you didn't,  you looked for that child desperately until you found him/her.  I know this is true because it happened to me.  Adam was gone; he had never disappeared before.  God is a father, isn't He?  He’s not an action movie villain.  He’s a Father.

When Jesus came to earth He taught us about His Father.  He taught us to love our enemies, remember that?

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)
5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Love your enemies bless those who curse you.  Do good to haters, pray for those who persecute you.  Why?  The next scripture gives us the reason, “That you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”  Do that so you can be like your Father.  God is a Father.

Then our text tells us that God put this command into action Himself, when He sent Jesus.  Jesus died on the cross for His enemies.  When we are involved in sin we are enemies of God. 

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

Sin is carnality; it’s putting the needs of our flesh before the will of God.  Being in sin is being God’s enemy.  Jesus died for us while we were enemies of God. 

Think about this for just a moment.  When Jesus was dying on the cross, what did He cry out to God?    “Father forgive them they don’t know what they’re doing.”  He was asking for forgiveness for our sin.  He was even asking for forgiveness for those who put Him on the cross.  That’s really, “loving your enemies,” isn't it? People may be willing to die for their friends, for their loved ones, for those who care about them but how many would be willing to die for those who hate you. I would venture to say not many of us would.  That’s how much God loves us:  Enough to suffer an agonizing death on the cross for us.

Examples of God’s Love

Remember the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba?  This was God’s chosen man.  This was a man after God’s own heart.  Do you remember what happened?  In the time when the kings went to war David stayed back.  He was up on the roof of the palace and he saw Bathsheba bathing.  Bathsheba was the wife of one of David’s mighty men, Uriah the Hittite. 

So he sends some people to have Bathsheba brought to the palace, where he sleeps with her and gets her pregnant.  Then to cover that sin David sends for Uriah the Hittite and sends him home to sleep with her, but Uriah refuses.  So David sends him back to the front with instructions for Joab to send him to fiercest part of the battle then pull back and allow him to be killed. 

This is great sin.  What a huge disappointment to God that His man would act like this.  The sin had to be judged and God did that, and the child died.  David repented of the sin with Bathsheba and look what happened:

2 Samuel 12:24-25 (NKJV)
12:24 Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her and lay with her. So she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. Now the Lord loved him, 25 and He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Jedidah means beloved.  David felt the love of God through the birth of Solomon.  Solomon became king after David, even though he wasn’t the first-born son.  God restored David back into the relationship with Him.  We would even say that God reconciled with David.  Even though we have lived in sin, we have also been reconciled with God.  Look at our text again in verse 10.

Romans 5:10 (NKJV)
5:10 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.

While we were involved in our sin we were enemies of God, but because Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we are now reconciled with God.

Do you know what it means to be reconciled?  Two that were separated are brought back together.  A married couple that separates and then come back together are said to be reconciled.  We were separated from God by our sin, but when Jesus died he opened an opportunity for us to be reconciled with God.  When we repent like David did, we are reconciled and brought back into a right relationship with God once more.

Isn’t that a demonstration of God’s love for us?  Why did the couple that separated come back together?  Because they realized that they loved each other.  Why are you able to argue with your wife and kids and still remain a family?  Because you love each other and forgive each other.  Forgiveness is a demonstration of love. 

God showed His love for David after his horrible sin, by forgiving him and restoring him back into relationship.  Jesus showed His love for those who were murdering Him by crying out for their forgiveness.  God shows His love for us, by sending His Son to die for us and pay the price for our sin.

John 3:16 (NKJV)
3:16 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.

We know that Jesus loves us because He laid down His life to restore our relationship with God.

John 15:13 (NKJV)
15:13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

How much more love does it take to lay down your life for your enemies?  How much love does it take to sacrifice your only son for those who hate you?  That’s how much God loves us.

How Can We Exemplify that Love to Others?

So God has called us to exemplify that love to others.  We’re to be a reflection of God’s love for mankind, through our love for other people.  We are called to exemplify that ultimate love:  Love for our enemies.

Matthew 5:44-46 (NKJV)
5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

How easy is it to do that?

Those that are looking to ruin me?  God says, “Love them.”

Those that curse me, gossip about me, and slander me?  God says, “Love them.”

Those that use me, take what they can from me and throw me aside?  God says, “Pray for them.”

Why is God looking for us to do that?  Why is He asking us to do something do difficult?  So that we can be like our Father in heaven.  So that we can demonstrate His love:  That He might be glorified that others will see Him through us.

There is a man in Iran, a pastor, who was arrested and is being beaten for his Christianity look at this from a letter he wrote to his wife:

...Naghmeh described in detail how he's been mistreated at Iran's notorious Evin Prison. He described how he saw his face for the first time in the mirror of an elevator.

"I said hi to the person staring back at me because I did not recognize myself," Abedini wrote. "My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown." 
The pastor explained how, despite his situation, he is trying to focus on "forgiveness." He said he forgave the "interrogator who beat me" as well as the doctor who "did not give me the medication that I needed."

Abedini wrote that a nurse would not provide him with treatment because she said "in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean." He wrote that he could not fall to sleep one night because of the pain, as he listened to the sound of "dirty sewer rats with their loud noises and screeches." *

This is a picture of the love of God in our times.  This is what God calls us to do.  This story is receiving worldwide attention.  This man is reaching people through his forgiveness of his persecutors.  People are seeing God’s love through him and his actions.  This is what we are all called to do.  This is part of being Christ-like.  It’s easy to love those who love you, but it’s much more difficult to love those who are your enemies. 

These days,  forgiveness is difficult.  Recently, we met a young woman who is battling severe depression.  Ken told her that depression comes from unforgiveness.  She knew that, she agreed that it does.  When Ken told her, “Then forgive that person and be healed.”  She said, “No. I hate them!” 

This is not an uncommon story in our day and hour, but what would God require of us?  Nothing more than what He has already done.  Forgiving those who killed His Son, forgiving and loving His enemies.  Can you forgive and love yours.

* http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/22/american-pastor-jailed-in-iran-says-was-beaten-refused-treatment-because-his/#ixzz2OL4waTFW

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