For Thy Sake

Genesis 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Sometimes we read a Scripture that just doesn’t seem to make sense and may even seem contradictory to how we understand life.  One such verse is found in the above verse in Genesis 3:17.  It all seems okay until we get to the highlighted portion of the verse.  We expect God to judge man for his sinful acts of disobedience so the curse of the ground seems right, but the addition of the phrase “for thy sake” just doesn’t seem to fit.  It is because of what we do not know that makes it seem like a displaced phrase.  It would seem that if God wanted to do something for man that He would have made it easier, yet God did just the opposite and made it harder.

In order for the verse to make sense you need to put it in context with God’s plan for man.  Go back to Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  God did not intend that man would be completed by simply forming a body and breathing life into him.  His plan is far more complex and wonderful than that.  The making of man’s body was but a part of the creation of man.  Remaining was the completion of his soul and spirit.  Notice the different words used to describe His work.  First, He “created time and space” (make something out of nothing) and then He made man (fashioned a body out of the dust He had already created.  We know that because the Scriptures uses different words to describe His work (Created and made).  Further, we know that because of the description of the finished product.  Man would be made in the image of God, that in the similitude of God, or in a similar way.  The Bible teaches that God is a Trinity which means that God is known in three persons (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit), yet there is only one God.  The best illustration that I know of a trinity is that we are also a trinity.  I have a body, but that is not all there is to me.  I also have a soul containing my mind and will, yet that does not include all there is to me either.  Thirdly, I have a spirit and yet that is not the whole of me.  It takes all three; body, soul and spirit, to describe the whole of the person I am.  I am body, soul and spirit, yet there is only one of me.  I am made in the image or similitude of God.

Secondly, God said that we were to be made in the likeness of God.  We know that Adam and Eve sinned and that event changed man from a man without sin to a slave of sin.  His will was no longer to serve God but it had been changed to serve himself because the very nature of sin is to reject the authority of God and to make ourselves the authority that governs our lives.   God is great enough to make a way when there was no way to redeem man.  The damage was done and now God had the task of redeeming fallen man and then to complete His image and likeness within man so that his conduct would be in complete agreement with the nature of God. 

To complete God’s likeness will require man to undergo a complete overhaul from a rebellious selfish being into a new creation of God (2 Corinthians 56:17).  Man now must be confronted with his sin and see it for what it is.  The truth of sin is horrible for sin is a degenerating, destructive, degrading, deforming, decaying, and deliberate attack on the authority of God. That nature must die in order for new life to begin.  We will not reject sin until we see it for what it is and reject it like a poisonous snake. 

At this point we are now ready to choose for ourselves who and what will reign over us.  Just as in the garden of Eden there are two choices, The Tree of Life (Jesus) or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Satan).  You will choose one or the other as there is no other choice (Romans 6:16).  To choose Jesus you will follow Him by faith in Him and His Word.  Once this choice is made, God promises to lay all the charges against you on Jesus; you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide you and to teach you; and you receive the promise of New Life through this world and for eternity.

So getting back to the original question of why is the curse for our benefit.  It is because it is the problems of life that God uses to teach us His ways and His truth.  Without them we would have no way of discovering the consequence of sin and turning from it.  I learn more from my mistakes and failures than I do from my successes.  As I build my life on truth, righteousness and knowledge I begin to take on the appearance of my new life.  Without the struggles we would never let go of sin.

Getting to Know God – Part 3

God is Holy

Ps 99:9 Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy.

In getting to know God, we must understand that God is Holy. What that means is that He is not like man.  A huge mistake that we make in considering what God is like is thinking that he is like us.  While it is true that man was made in the image of God, God is not in the image of man.  There are a number of major differences.  First of all, man is a created being but God has no beginning.  He is the creator but He was never created, Himself.  Our understanding comes from things that we know and our perspective is from within time and space and not outside of time and space.  Man was made in the similitude of God so that we could get some idea of what God is like but it is a mistake to equate man to God.  Man is finite while God is omnipotent; man is limited in knowledge but God is omniscient; man is contained within time and space while God is omnipresent; and man is under constant change while God is immutable, or unchangeable.  These differences are a great chasm between God and man.  That chasm was created by sin leaving man estranged from God and God estranged from man.  On the one side is Holy God and on the other is sinful man.  God cannot become less than holy or He ceases to be God.  Once man became sinful, he became incapable of making himself holy, righteous and good.

The second fact about the holiness of God is that we cannot make that crossing on our own.  God alone has the power, knowledge, presence, and will to reach across this chasm to make a way for man to cross to Him.  That way to God is Jesus Christ.  John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  That way was opened when Jesus died on the cross and thereby opening the way to God.  Man must now be changed or transformed by the new birth experience which is also known as being born again.  God joins His Holy Spirit in the same way that the sperm is joined with the egg to make a new life; this new birth completes the transformation of the spirit.  The metamorphous must also happen to the soul in a process that we know as sanctification where our mind and will are transformed to be like the mind of Christ and a heart of love.  It is also where we take on the attributes of God, such as longsuffering, patients, etc.  It takes a lifetime for God to complete this change.  Finally, the body is metamorphosed or changed into a new body that is eternal and is like that of the resurrected Christ.  This is called glorification and happens at the rapture or catching away, where we are fully and finally completed in the image of God.

The third and final thing that we should learn about the holiness of God is that we must approach God in reverence, respect and awe.  This is the Biblical response of all who ever came into the presence of God.  It is not a requirement to be met by some merit and cannot be faked.  It is the natural response just as dry ground absorbs the rain.  It is the result of the discovery of who God really is.  It is the spiritual response of a child that has come home.

The Flaming Sword

Occasionally, I like to address a Scripture that is commonly misunderstood.  Today is one of those days.  The Scripture is found in Genesis 3:22-24 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:  23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

A common understanding is that since man sinned, he was driven out of the garden where the tree of life was located because he couldn’t be trusted any more and the angel with the flaming sword was stationed there to protect the tree of life by preventing man from ever returning. 

There are several things wrong with that interpretation.  First, God was not protecting the tree of life from man but rather He was protecting man from the tree of life.  Had Adam taken from the tree of life, he would have sealed his own doom because that would have sealed his eternity in the fallen state and God had greater thing planned for man.  It would have destroyed God’s plan of man being completed in God’s image, likeness and authority.  Man needed time to be changed into that likeness.

Second, it was not an angel that was placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, but a Cherubim, which means spiritual enforcer.  This was not to prevent man from taking from the Tree of Life, but to restrict man until he would come restored to a right relationship. 

Thirdly there are two directives as to man’s exodus.  In verse 23 states that the Lord sent him forth from the garden to till the ground from whence he was taken.  The ground was cursed for man’s sake (v. 17)  He needed to see the effect of sin in order to turn from it and back to God.  Then in verse 24 we see that man was driven out.  Man had willfully gone against God and he needed to understand that thereare consequences for sin.  God will not lower His standards and wink at our sin.  It will take God’s intervention to deal with sin and it was pictured in the slaying of the animal for their new coverings or clothing.

Fourthly,  the flaming sword is described in Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: as the Word of God.  We know it as the Scriptures or The Bible.  It is further described in Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  You cannot fool God and He will know you to the depth of your inner most being.  Entrance is restricted to only one way, the way of the cross.

Finally, the phrase “to keep the way” does not mean to keep the way closed, but just the opposite, to keep the way open.  Though it is kept open it is still restricted to meet God’s standards.  There is hope for man to complete God’s plan for man by entering in the manner that God is pleased with and that is the was of Faith in Jesus.  However, we must come repentant of our self-government and surrender our will to the Lord Jesus for it is His blood the brings our sin into submission.  Without that blood there is no remission.

Update 11.23.2019

Thank you for praying for me as I have been going through some real struggles.  It is not health for the Lord has been quite gracious to me.  I have lost a few pounds which I needed to do and am feeling fine.  It is not a financial or social or personal problem either.  It has been a spiritual battle within me.  I find myself wasting time on lesser important things and not doing the things that are of eternal value.  One of the things that I have neglected is posting here on the website and I felt that I needed to address it openly and honestly.

It’s not that I haven’t had time, for I get the same allotment that you and everyone else get, 24 hours a day.  Not even a second more or a second less but exactly 24 hours a day.  It is not how much time I have but how I manage it.  Lately, I have been letting it manage me and that was my sin.  Just as you can just sit in a boat on a river and remain in one position, life is constantly moving like the river and either you let it carry you down river or you paddle to go upriver.  If you try to anchor yourself in one position you will eventually sink because the river is constantly changing.  Not only is it always moving but sometimes it has more water and sometimes it has less.  Sometimes the wind blows and sometimes it is at rest.  Also, the seasons are constantly changing and bring various types of debris that affect your travel. 

 Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  Itis not alike I was doing something that was sinful or immoral.  I wasn’t being productive in my stewardship.  It doesn’t have to be a sinful activity in order for it to be a sin.  Any old weight will do.  Weights are unnecessary activity that consumes your attention and resources so that you are not effective in doing the will of God.   James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 

I do not offer excuses, but rather, I ask from you forgiveness.  We are all on a journey to eternity and the decisions we make determine not only the journey now but also how we are completed for eternity. 

Crises of Faith – 6

As I listened to the news this morning, I heard that there was over 500 tornados in our nation during yesterday’s storms.  This is unprecedented numbers.  My wife and I had to shelter from a potential tornado for the first time ever.  I got the sensation that God is trying to turn us as a nation, but I don’t sense that we are getting the message so here it is as I hear it from God.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  We have adopted a lifestyle of religion without faith in Him.  We are similar to the Pharisees in that we are careful to dot the I’s and cross the t’s in our form of worship, without ever realizing we are in the presence of Almighty God.  We struggle and work to “do good” and to “be good” on our own, but God is saying to us that such religion is an insult to Him.  We need to get this right.  God is not pleased with a religion that does not place us in a position of trusting in Him and will judge us for not turning to Him. 

The situation is this:  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  We are not guiltless, we are guilty of sin and will face judgment unless we turn from sin.  According to Romans 14:23 living a life of not trusting in Him (faith) is sin.  Do you get it?  Faith is the missing ingredient.  That is the only thing that will please Him.  We must own our sin.  It is not because we are so bad and fail so much, but because we refuse to live by faith in Him.

I can just hear the response of “I trust in God.  How dare you question my faith?”  My dear friend, I am not judging you.  I am sharing the truth of what the Scripture states about our condition.  Jesus Himself said that most people will travel the Broad Way that leads to death.  Only a few will find the narrow way that is restrictive and corrective but they will find life.

That brings us to the second truth about our situation.  There is a way to please Him and turn away His wrath.  Instead of insulting Him by our rejection of the truth of our sin, we need to own up to it and confess that we are desperately in need of His forgiveness.  We can’t do it without Him, whether we understand it or not.  God is well aware of our plight.  It is even worse that we know, so His plan is to take our sin on Himself, suffer the consequence of it, and deliver us from its consequence.  I remember a time when I was about four or five years old that there was a forest fire near our home and Dad was fighting the fire with other neighbors.  Dad had placed my older brother and I in a fairly safe place at the edge of the forest with a couple burlap sack to put out little spark fires that would break out from the airborne cinders.  Sure enough, one broke out near us and my brother put it out.  Soon there were others and I got involved but I didn’t know much about what I was doing.  I was wearing a pair of sandals and kicked at the fire but my sandal flew off and when I stepped down in the leaves, I stepped on a thorn and I let out a scream.  I stood there on one foot, with fire coming closer and fire between me and my brother and I cried out in desperation.  Then I heard a sound come rushing toward me and when I looked up I saw my Dad come running through the fire to me.  He spotted my sandal and in full stride, gathered it up and then grabbed me up and carried me out of my situation.  This is what our heavenly Father wants to do for us.  He is our solution and not the sum of our best efforts.

The final truth of our situation is that all God requires of us is for us to continue to walk by faith in Him.  He is not concerned with us looking good in His eyes.  His love for us is enough.  He is not pleased with our good works, but he is pleased with our faith in Him.  When Jesus was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”  The word “believe” and the word “faith” are exactly the same word in the Greek language so that it could be translated that ye have faith in Him. . .   God is not concerned with your mighty works but he is infinitely concerned with your faith in Him.  God will do the work, but you are required to do the believing.  Faith in Him is our work.  Sadly, we have it turned around today and are focused on the works, omitting the faith and that is what defines the Crises of faith today.

It’s Just A Little sin.

My oldest son, who lives 10 minutes from me, is building a cover for his patio and has asked me to assist him as some of the beams are 6” x  12”  x 18’ to 23’ in length.  For the last two days we have been moving the beams as well as all the other lumber to the rear yard by hand.  Along with assorted scratches and bruises, I managed to get a splinter in one of my fingers.  This morning I noticed that it had become infected and swollen so the splinter had to come out.   It was one of those splinters that was blond and not easily seen so it was not apparent that there was a splinter but because of experience I knew that it was there.  There was all the evidence; pain, swelling, infection and a puss pocket.  After it was removed there was immediate relief.  The pain and soreness quickly subsided, the puss was removed and the redness began lessening. 

So why did I wait until this morning to remove the splinter?  I suppose that there is a number of reasons.  I was in the middle of a job that had to be completed within the time I had.  It took priority over the situation so I just put it off until a more convenient time.  Then there was the fact that it didn’t seem that bad at the time.  I have had lots of splinters and they have never caused a major problem so I didn’t feel that it was that urgent.  Also, I wasn’t certain that there really was a splinter because I couldn’t see it.  Then there was no urgency as the splinter and its repercussions were not yet evident.  But by this morning all of these reasons for procrastination were gone and in its place was the urgency to do something about it, simply put – get it out now.  It would not wait even long enough to write this post. 

It is funny how something as small and insignificant as a splinter can command such attention.  It is such a small portion of the beam that its loss does not affect the strength of the beam yet when it is pricked into the skin of a person it affects the strength of the person so much as to require immediate attention.  The reason is that it brings germs with it that begin to multiply and attack the body.  Infection is the bigger problem and is more devastating than the injury. 

So it was with man.  He was created without sin and was a giver by nature.  He was in step with God and His ways.  Harmony was the order of the day and all of creation was in harmony as well.  Plants did not have thorns and were not poisonous (with the exception of the tree of knowledge of good and evil), animals did not eat each other and everything supported the plan of God in perfect harmony.  So what happened?  You know the story of the sin of Adam and Eve.  They injected their will in the order and sin (like germs) began to effect man and all of creation until now,  Ro 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  The order has been infected by sin and now instead of being a blessing, we seek to get a blessing.  We have become takers instead of givers. 

With the entrance of sin into the world comes the consequence of sin , DEATH.  (Romans 3:23)  Physical death is a certainty but eternal spiritual death is yet to be decided.  It can be averter but ONLY by the blood of Jesus our Lord. Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Just as the splinter demands its removal  for healing, so also our sin demands the blood of Christ, or there is no remission of sin.  There is no plan be or any other way.  You cannot earn it by your good works but it is offered free to those who will put their trust in Jesus as the Lord of their life.

First Word – JESUS

Early in my ministry I had a pastor who was called to preach when he couldn’t even speak a word.  He had a membrane grow across the opening in his voice box so the only sound that he could make was a grunting sound. But there was nothing wrong with his mind and he was clear that God had called him to preach.  He would try to preach but no one could understand him.  They were compassionate and considerate but they were not receiving the message.

Finally, a voice therapist discovered the growth over his voice box and thus began the process of opening up the voice box so that he could speak.  They would poke red hot needles through the membrane, cauterizing the opening so that it would not close up, and then letting it heal.  The next operation was to enlarge the opening more by the same process until the opening had been enlarged enough to allow him to speak.  Then came the final day when he would speak his first word, and he said JESUS.

I was listening to a radio preacher who was bringing a Christmas message and was speaking on an often overlooked person of the Christmas story, Joseph, Mary’s husband.  In his message he made the point that there is not one word that is recorded that Joseph ever spoke.  That surprised me so I began to search the Christmas story once again to see if that was correct.  Technically, he was correct in that he was not quoted as saying anything, however it is also recorded that he named Him, JESUS which was the direction of the angel of the Lord to so name him.  The only word that we are certain that he spoke is the name, JESUS.

 Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins

Mt 1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Since Joseph was not the father of Jesus the naming rights then would fall to the mother, Mary, who also named Him JESUS, which was also under the direction of the angel Gabriel, who was sent from God.  We can therefore conclude that Jesus was named by His Father, God; by his stepfather, Joseph, and his mother, Mary.

Mt 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Lu 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

Lu 2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

This then is the heart of the Christmas message.  A savior has come to save us from out sin, and His name is JESUS.

 Ac 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Why Did Jesus Go To The Cross?

Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Colossians 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

These are not the only verses that answer this question but they do represent the answer.  The answer is like the hand, it branches out into multiple directions but is still a part of the hand.  Galatians 1:4 gives us the overarching purpose and that is that we might be delivered from this present evil world.  This deliverance is accomplished in three stages.  Stage 1 (called Regeneration) is the isolation of the human spirit from sin.  Since we are incapable of lifting ourselves out of sins grasp, the Lord accomplishes this by placing the Holy Spirit within the person and permanently seals him as a child of God.  At this point, God has committed to bring the powers of heaven to bear on the completion of His child.  Yes, I am aware that the child of God will still act like the world because he is  not yet finished.  That is where stage 2 begins.

Stage 2 is the Sanctification (or setting apart) of the soul.  This takes the remainder of the person’s life here on earth.  It is in this stage that we learn what it means to walk by faith, and are transformed into the character and likeness of God.  We discover how right God is in every area of our life.  Our thinking is changed, our understanding is transformed, our actions take on a new purpose and our will is subdued.  Grace defines the maturity of the child of God, more and more.

1John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Philippians 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Stage 3 is our Glorification and addresses our body.  To be able to live in eternity with God we will need a spiritual body for this corruptible body cannot endure in His presence so we will be given a supernatural body like that of the Lord Jesus’ body that will never decay.   Only then is the separation from sin completed.  This is the work of the Lord as stated in Ephessians 2:10.  We were created in Christ Jesus, we are transformed by Jesus and we are completed like Jesus, that we might be presented holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:  That is why Jesus endured the cross.  The price was not to be compared with the value of God’s children.

What’s the Problem?

I have a small garden in my back yard and I harvested some beets yesterday evening.  My wife really likes pickled beets so we have been watching them grow and yesterday was the first we had harvested.  You can imagine her disappointment when we discovered that some kind of bug had eaten into most of the beets.  They looked good in the ground, the leaves were large and green and we could see the tops of the beets that they were large enough to harvest but most of the beets had to be thrown into the trash because of the deterioration from the bugs.

So it is with us, from the outside our sin remains undiscovered.  From within we are rotting and dying.  We alone, know about the inner condition of our heart and soul.  We are like David in  Psalms 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. and we need to face the truth about ourselves before there can be any remedy.  All of our efforts to appear righteous are futile until we face our sin.  Excuses will not fix it.  Works will not pay for it.  Intentions will not change it.

1John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.   
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.  8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all  unnrighteousness.  10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Lord does not ask us to pay for our sin, though we think that somehow we should and we try to make up for it.  He knows that the wages if sin is death so he paid the sin debt in full.  That means that our efforts to make up for it only frustrates the grace of God.  It is a free gift and must be received as such.  What He does ask from us is that we confess it.  At that point He will forgive our sin and His blood will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

On the other hand, if we deny that we have a sin problem then we are contradicting God and we are denying the truth of His word which says ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.

It’s like my Dad used to say, “You can’t fix it until you know what’s broke.”

Self Deceived

It has been said. You can fool some of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the people all of the time.  But of all of the people, don’t fool yourself.

1Jo 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1Co 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

To see things as they really are, is truly an art.  Few there are that can properly appraise things objectively.  We see things through the eyes of various prejudices, preferences and presuppositions.  We set the standards of acceptance and tolerance.  Our perspective is often based on half truths or even untruths in some cases.  Because of this, we are often self deceived.

Failure to acknowledge the truth about ourselves is another way we deceive ourselves.  It does not matter if that failure is because of misinformation or because of stubborn refusal to accept the truth about ourselves, the outcome is the same.  Unless and until we come to acknowledge (not just admit) the truth about ourselves we will remain with only a partial view of reality.

Another way that we can be self deceived is when we have an inflated view of ourselves.  We call it “prideful”, “a superiority complex” or even “arrogant”.  Regardless of what we call it, it remains a false and incomplete assessment of the truth.  Based upon the above scripture, we must accept the truth that we have a sin problem and humble ourselves before the Lord so that He can make us more than we presently are.  It is vital that we have a proper assessment of our condition in order for us to properly respond to the world, ourselves and the Lord.