12 July 2020

Worship in Vain

"Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
Matthew 15:7-9

Jesus minced no words when He addressed self-righteous Pharisees and scribes who sought to destroy Him.  They put great emphasis on having a clean exterior according to the Law of Moses but neglected the condition of their hearts.  Jesus perceived the greed in their hearts which moved them to seek the praise of men over the glory of God.  The religious rulers drew near to worship God with their mouths but their hearts were far from Him.

The worship of the self-righteous rulers Jesus said was in vain:  empty, worthless, fruitless, and ineffective.  Their worship of God was vain because they taught as doctrines the commandment of men.  God has provided the Bible to reveal sound doctrine (teaching) concerning God and His righteous ways.  When Jesus applied the words of Isaiah to the Pharisees it must have been deeply shocking and confronting.  Jesus exposed their words as empty because their hearts did not match.

No matter how much we know or how long we have followed Jesus, there remains the potential our worship of God is in vain because of hypocrisy which blinds us to the truth.  I am grateful Jesus does not pander to those ensnared to hypocrisy so they might recognise their need for repentance.  Jesus has given us new hearts through faith in Him and He enables us to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, owning sin we never saw as sin before.  How good is our LORD and gracious to speak to the Pharisee in each one of us so our worship will not be in vain.

10 July 2020

Shut In by God

Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.  Enoch walked with God and was not (translated into heaven) and God saw fit to allow Noah to remain by His grace.  According to God's revelation and instruction Noah built an ark so people and animals would be preserved from coming judgment.

While the exact amount of time Noah spent building the ark is unknown, it spanned many decades.  He was a builder and also a "preacher of righteousness" according to 2 Peter 2:5.  He publicly proclaimed the word of the LORD a great flood was coming and his faith was demonstrated by building a massive ship on dry ground.  After the ship was completed, seven days before the flood, God told Noah and his family to enter the ark along with other animals God drew there.  Genesis 7:8-10 reads, "Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, 9 two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth."

One significant aspect of Noah and all the animals entering the ark was the door remained open for boarding for seven days.  I imagine Noah's construction project provoked great curiosity of all who saw it, and the diverse kinds of animals streaming into it was a unique event.  Noah, being a preacher of righteousness, was willing to explain the reason behind this strange phenomenon to confirm judgment from God was coming.  Because no one but Noah's immediate family was willing to enter the door of the ark, it seems his words fell on unbelieving ears.  After many decades plus seven days of invitation to board Genesis 7:16 says, "So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in."

After 120 years from the first proclamation of judgment (Genesis 6:3), God shut Noah in.  The focus is not on all the animals or unbelieving people who were shut out.  When God shut the door of the ark it meant peace, safety, and deliverance for Noah and all who demonstrated faith by obedience.  It was not at Noah's discretion but God who determined the time for judgment and brought salvation.  I am reminded how Jesus Christ said in John 10:9-10, "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  Jesus has the keys and opens doors no man can shut, and shuts doors no man can open (Rev. 3:7).  To all living today the Door to salvation is open wide, an invitation to be saved from wrath to come and be saved for all eternity by grace through faith in Jesus.

How tragic it was for people who viewed that open door for years to find Noah shut in and to be shut out themselves when the skies opened and the waters rose.  When God shut Noah in his future was set for good.  Everyone has the opportunity today to walk through the door of salvation through Jesus Christ, the One who died for the sins of the world so those who trust in Him will live.  Only God knows when our lives will end or when judgment will come, and all those who repent and rest in Jesus by faith will be preserved safe and have fellowship with God now and forever.  Praise God He shuts us in!

06 July 2020

The Way to Life

The LORD has blessed me to observe and glean truth from the Bible I have read before but never noticed.  At each reading of the Bible we, our circumstances, and our receptivity is different.  Because God's word is living and active our eyes are opened to seen new things and a fresh perspective.  At a distance a fish may appear grey and colourless, but when we examine it closer we notice individual scales that reflect the full spectrum of light with rainbow colours.

After God drove Adam from Eden for his sin to till the ground under the curse brought on by sin, Genesis 3:24:  "So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life."  God guarded the entrance to the garden of Eden with cherubim, angels who serve God continually.  There is also described a sword which turned every way "...to guard the way to the tree of life."  I suspect Adam did return to the garden God planted where he was placed by God and once called home.  The fierce angels and the flaming sword which flashed continually deterred him from attempting to eat from the tree of life so he could live forever.

The phrase which impacted me was how the flaming sword guarded "the way" to the tree of life.  It was not just the tree which was inaccessible, but the way to the tree was made deadly.  Eternal life was permanently barred to man because man disobeyed by eating the fruit forbidden by God.  Fruit pleasant to the eyes and delicious for the body resulted in bitter regret and wages of sin which are death.  Adam once lived in the presence of God and tended the garden planted by the LORD, yet was faced with the difficult task of tilling ground which resisted his efforts and bore thorns and thistles which brought pain and choked out the good seed planted.  Adam would die and his body return to dust because of the consequences of sin also passed to all men.

Praise the LORD Jesus Christ is revealed to the the Way, the Truth, and the Life in John 14:6.  He has come to us and proclaimed the Gospel so we can be forgiven from sin, saved from death, and receive righteousness and eternal life through faith in Him.  It is most fitting therefore that in His first address to the seven churches in Revelation Jesus says in Revelation 2:7:  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."  No weapons existed to overcome the cherubim who guarded the entrance to Eden, and no one could sneak or run past the flaming sword which turned every way to block all from the tree of life which and was wiped off the earth by Noah's flood.  When all hope was lost for eternal life, Jesus Christ is the Way and will supply eternal life to all who trust in Him.  Isn't God good to provide for all our needs now and forever?

05 July 2020

Freedom to Choose Life

I have been reading through the creation account recorded in the Bible.  By the power of His word alone God created the heavens and earth and spoke all thing into existence.  From the earth He brought forth plants, trees, birds, reptiles, and fish in abundance.  Finally on the sixth day God formed man from the dust of the ground in His own image and breathed into Adam a living soul.

Before today I never considered how God created countless living things to reproduce after their own kinds yet created a single human being.  When God created the human body He thought of everything and placed him in the Garden of Eden God planted.  Genesis 2:8 says, "The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed."  God gave man responsibility to tend the garden God planted and a command to eat from every tree save one in Genesis 2:15-17:  "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." 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 spoke to Adam having provided him the capacity to reason, a conscience, and to communicate using words and language--again, different to plants, beasts, and birds.

Genesis 2:18-20 continued:  "And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him."  Having given Adam dominion over the garden and the animals God created, God brought animals to Adam "...to see what he would call them" and the names stuck.  I find the freedom God allowed Adam to name the animals compelling.  How gracious is God who allows man to make decisions which having enduring consequences.

In all creation there was not a being comparable to him, so God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and from one of his ribs made woman because she was taken out of man.  From Adam and Eve God joined in marriage have all humankind descended.  How privileged we are as human beings to know God, to have been placed by Him in profitable labour, to hear His voice and receive His commands.  Even now He has graciously given all men and women the opportunity to make decisions that stick in regards to placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour.  The first Adam sinned and died, and through the death of Jesus--the second Adam, the Word who became flesh--all who were once dead in sins who trust in Him shall live forever.  Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and earth, far more than Adam ever dreamed of.

Paul expertly explained in 1 Corinthians 15:42-49:  "So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man."