Monday, February 24, 2020

The Transition: "Therefore"

Romans - "transitional verse" = Rom. 12:1

From ... "here's the information..."  ie:  what God has done  (Chap. 1-11)
to .... "here's instruction"  ie:  what you should do!!  (Chap. 12-16)

This is common to Paul - example:  Eph. 4:1

Illustration:  think of a house.  First you lay the foundation, then you build the house!
The foundation = information - this is what you build on
The house = application - things you should do

Most look at Christianity and see the house.  (what we should do)
Few recognize the foundation beneath   (why we should do it.)

Another way to view this:  1 Cor. 6:9-11
Romans Chapters 1 - 11 - Positional Righteousness  (mentioned 41 times)
Romans Chapters 12-16 - Practical Righteousness (mentioned once.

So, the text;  the transitional verse - Rom. 12:1


(1)  "therefore" - because of what's been said in prev. 11 chapters
(2)  "in view (light) of God's mercy" - (in light of God's pity, compassion, favor
this mercy ... (1) Revealed in the gospel:  ie:  bad news, good news
                    (2) Received by you  (the reader)

NOTE:  Pagans in Paul's time - sacrificed to obtain mercy of their gods
             Christians sacrifice in response to God's mercy
(the secularist sees no need!  for sacrifice OR Mercy!!)   "I'm OK, you're OK!"

(3)  "I urge you" = halfway between commanding (command) and begging (plea)
ie:  (a)  God does not demand/command (salvation/service)
     (b)  neither does He beg you!!!   (plead)

Rather He calls, woos, invites, urges  ("beseech!)
(this = God's way, Paul's way ... "should be our way also!!)

(4)  "brothers" - (includes ladies!)  "desires all men to be saved
Point:  this word/passage = for Christians!!
On one hand it is good for any/all people
However, can't expect them to live by our instructions!

(5)  "your body"  (text = plural/my challenge=singular ... ie You)
This (body) = literal traslation
However, often used figuratively (as it is here)
Point/Idea = "offer your whole self" - head, heart, hands

(6)  "a sacrifice" - (ie:  an offering to God)
that is... (a)  holy   (set apart for Him alone)
             (b)  pleasing/acceptable   contrast, Cain, Isa. Chapter 1, Malachi
             (c)  Living!!  .... Application is obvious!!

Note:  this sacrifice is not a 1 time event!!
Because we tend to forget  (our vows)  Illustration:  when
                              neglect (our vows)  fire in altar
                              revoke (our vows)  gets hot!!
Living sacrifices have free will!!!

Which is your??
(7) Spiritual Worship??   or
     Reasonable Service?
Problem = can be correctly translated either way!!  (literal or metaphorical)

So.. could be ... "your spiritual act or worship" because we Sacrifice, but it's not literal (animal on an altar)
As the Jews sacrificed literally to Worship, so we offer symbolic offerings in Worship!

OR:  could be ... "your reasonable service" because this = intelligent, rational, logical commitment!!
And it goes beyond head and heart ... to HANDS!!
So... Both translations fit!!  compare:  Deut. 10:12  (emotion) fear and walk - (action)
                                                                             (heart)  love and serve  (hands)

(8)  "offer/present" - because Sacrifice is something You Bring, you offer, you present!!
For the Christian, "offer self" = (1) a Spiritual act of worship
            and                             (2)  a very reasonable service

Summary:  What God (Paul) is calling you to is...
                 (1) Radical  (sacrifice of self??)  (submission to Unseen Lord?)
but            (2)  Reasonable  (in light of His Mercy) (your Redemption)
and           (3)  Effectual  (ie:  it Makes A Difference (M.A.D.) / Makes An Eternal Difference (M.A.E.D.)  (it works!!)

Closing Scripture:  Heb. 12:1

Monday, February 17, 2020

What About Israel?

On one hand, they were chosen to reveal God, to channel the Messiah
So - Abraham -->12 tribes -->Nation established in Promised Land --> Christ

On the other hand, Israel (largely) rejected God's Messiah  (at the time Paul was writing Romans)

Now what?  is God done with Israel?
OR, is Israel still a major part of God's plan?

"Done" view - Matt. 21:43-43  - another reason why He was crucified
"Not Done" view - Gen. 12:1-3, 6-7
In between all kinds of ideas regarding this.

Today's Text:  Rom. 10:1-3
                      Rom. 11:1-5, 7-8, 11-12, 17-32
Christians find their roots in Judaism

For the pastor --- the text doesn't answer my questions!!!

So.... history of Israel that's not in the Bible.

AD 33 - Jesus crucified

AD 55 - Paul writes Romans, Israel still under Roman rule
(Paul executed in 64 AD)

AD 66 - the (great) Jewish Revolt
(ie:  Jewish uprising against Roman occupation)

AD 67 General Vespascian (an amazing Roman general) was dispatched to Judea with his son, Titus.

AD 69 After quelling the rebellion in North Judea and outlying areas, Vespascian was called to Rom to become emperor.  Titus (a general in his own right) went to Jerusalem.

AD 70 - Titus began siege of Jerusalem - 7 month siege

(July) AD 70 Jerusalem falls - city is destroyed - temple destroyed
According to Josephus:  "1 million died in the siege --- battle, starvation, disease.   97,000 sold into slavery."

Jews were dispersed, Judaism outlawed, name changed from "Judea" to "Syria Palaestina"

Jews were scattered throughout the world but without a homeland!!!.

(many Christians escaped this because the fled Jerusalem before the siege!!  Matt. 24:15-16

19th. Century = Rise of Zionism - an organized effort to re-establish Israel/Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people - effort of Jews/Christians AND non-religious advocates

1917 - "Balfour Declaration" - Britain declared intent to establish a Jewish homeland n Palestine

WWI = fall of Ottoman Empire (Islamic Turks who ruled Palestine for 400 years)

Britain was given control of Palestine - charged by League of Nations (1922) to establish both Jewish & Palestinian states in Palestine.  (constant opposition kept this from happening)

WWII & holocaust - fuel notion of a Jewish homeland in Palestine!!

1947 - United Nations approve a plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

May 14, 1948 - Israel officially declared an independent state (after 1878 years) British forces leave!!

Next day = a joint attack by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq

Israel seized territory during war and expanded!! (U.N. brokered a cease fie, left Israel in control of the conquered territory)

Additional wars, expansion,
and so Israel today!!
On one hand this is not necessarily a miracle!!  (by definition requires God's direct intervention -- example=Lazarus)

On the other hand, it is Remarkable!!

Add this to God's word, covenant promises, Israel's history --- no wonder --- 80% evangelicals believe
  (1)  Israel's regathering = fulfillment of Bible Prophecy
  (2)  God's promises to Abraham = for all time.
And ... (3)  69% believe Jews have "historic right" to the land.

Hence --- common View among Evangelicals (Bible believing Christians) =
   (1)  God is NOT done with the Jewish nations.
   (2)  Israel will play a big part in end times.

Somehow (views vary) in last days ...
   (1)  Jews will turn to Christ as Messiah
   (2)  Christ will return to Mt. Zion
Example:  Zech. 12:10

So.... what about Israel?  Will God use them again?  (last days?)
On one hand - don't know.  wait and see!
On the other hand - keep eyes on Israel!

With this in mind --- Rom.11:33-36

What is the takeaway?  Application?

Could be  (1)  God is Sovereign - can do as He will -- even what (appears to be) impossible!!
Example:  Ezekiel's dry bones!

                (2)  God is Faithful - to His word, Promises
                                              - to His Plan
                                             - to His People!!

               (3)  God is (Transcendent) - Beyond us!! beyond our understanding = "mystery"

BUT ... whatever we see here ... it leads to ...
Rom. 12:1 - Paul writes to inform - Inspire - Instruct
Chapters 12 - 16 (mostly) Instruction!!!

So... Rom.12:1 -  (1)  therefore  (in light of all that's been said)
                            (2)  present 'self - Again - not just for salvation but for Lordship!!
                            (3) as a living Sacrifice - more that dies for, = lives for Him
                            (4) = Reasonable Service  (is logical, right, appropriate)

From now on, focus is on instruction.



Monday, February 10, 2020

The Bridge that God Built

Rom. 9:1-4 "..... the people of Israel" = introduction to Chapters 9-11
Which = (1)  God's chosen people (the Jews, Israel) Rejecting His Messiah
and therefore
              (2)  cutting themselves off from God's church (gathering) - those God has called out.

Using the Bridge Illustration:   

Here = Israel saying (1) of course we need a Bridge
But (2) that's no bridge!!! (person onf Christ, work of Christ)
And (3) We'll build our own bridge! by our works and righteousness!!! (according to the Law!)

Rom. 9:4-5 - ".....theirs is....." promises and privileges that were theirs and should still be theirs!!

BUT ... they refused the Bridge (the Messiah) and therefore forfeited their special place.
Currently, God's people are the church!!

Rom.9:6-8 - made simple: "God receives those who receive Him ... ON HIS TERMS!! regardless of gender, lineage, heritage, claims, works

BUT ... = accepting and receiving His Son; His Messiah

God foresaw this rejection and the prophets (therefore) predicted it. 

Example: Hosea - Rom. 9:25 and also Isaiah

The result??? Rom. 9:30-31

Why did this happen? Rom. 9:32-33

(1) they sought right standing based on WORKs, and 
(2) stumbled at God's Christ (Savior, Messiah)

So.... Rom. 10:1-2, 3,4 - they wanted right standing but would not accept God's plan.

Paul's point (anguish) = God Sent His Promised Messiah (Savior) 

AND ... His Chosen people ... Rejected Him!!!

Jesus' own words on this ... John 14:6

On one hand, God = Very Inclusive!! - "whosoever will may come..."
However, also = very exclusive "ONLY by THIS Bridge" (ie: the Bridge that God Built)

(as stated) the Jewish Community (largely) Rejected that Bridge, BUT ... they are not the only ones!!

So... lessons ... from this passage - to all people(s) concerning this Bridge

#1) don't assume that blessings are evidence of good standing. (ie: things going well with me therefore God = pleased with me)

Example: their blessings vs. their standing Rom. 9:4-5
(obviously (1) true of salvation!
but also true of(2)Christian walk Example: Solomon, health and wealth

#2. Don't assume sincerity is sufficient - Rom. 10:2

their "zeal" said NO Sabboth healing, harvesting

Note: Matt. 7:21-23 - not condemning Zeal, but advocating Zeal Plus Knowledge!!!

Application: (obviously) = (1) Salvation!

However, also true of (2) the Christian Walk

#3. Don't try to build your OWN bridge - Rom. 10:3, Luke 18:9-14

On one hand, works are necessary tot he Christian Walk! However, NOT to obtain salvation.
Note Rom. 10:3 - ... to "submit to God's righteousness" - (bow the knee, surrender to) is to submit to ... His Bridge!!

#4.  Don't try to re-design God's Bridge

Examples:  (1) a Christ who died for all therefore Universalism - "I'm OK, you're OK, we're all OK because Jesus died for everyone"
                 (2)  A Christ who is "Love" therefore no judgment, no condemnation, no wrath!!

Note:  This is the Bridge that God built!!

Back to where we started:  John 14:6

On one hand, very inclusive - "whosoever will ... MAY come."
However,  very exclusive - "I am THE way..... no one .... Except by me"

IF you accept and embrace this message, then that sets you apart from Typical American.

BUT ... it sets you on a Very Firm Foundation because this (and only this) is the Bridge that GOD Built!!!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rom. 9 - 11 - Pre-Determined/Free Will

Romans 1 through 8 = bad news/good news.  (see previous posts)

Now whole mood changes here:  Rom. 9-11 - shifts to Jewish people, nation of Israel

On one hand, the Jewish people were Chosen!! - (to reveal God via specific revelation, to channel the Messiah, biologically, literally)

On the other hand, they (largely) Rejected God's Messiah.  So... the blessing of the gospel went (largely) to the Gentile world.

If they (Israel) were the chosen people and they rejected Him,
Question??  How much of this is Pre-determined?
VS.  How much = consequence of Free-choice(s)?  by the individuals, by the nation?

Relevance = how much has God Pre-determined in Your life??  Vs. how much = result of your own choosing??

The study of this = intriguing, confusing, vexing!!!

But ... (1)  the thinking Christian must address it!
          (2)  when it covers 3 chapters, we shouldn't avoid it!!

So --- TWO sides of the coin ... expressed in the same passage!!

Rom. 9:11-13 - example -  Jacob and Esau
Rom. 9:14-16 - example - God to Moses
Rom. 9:17-18   example - concerning Pharaoh
Rom. 9:19-21 - God's actions questioned
Rom. 11:7-8

Free-Will  (man's choice)
Rom. 10:1 - do they have a choice to be saved?
Rom. 10:3 - could they submit?  free to do so?
Rom. 10:9-13 - classic gospel presentation!!
Rom. 10:21 - why 'invite' those who CAN'T respond?
Rom. 11:22-23 - can the state be reversed?  by choice?
Rom. 11:32 - mercy for all???

ADD:  On one hand Eph. 12:4-5, 11
           However, 1 Tim. 2:3-4  (same author)
                           2 Pet,. 3:9 - everyone
                           Rom. 1:16 - everyone who believes

So... (1)  How much is Pre-determined?  How much is free will?
and   (2)  IF He chooses some to salvation/condemnation, adoption/rejection, success/failure, is that Right?
Just, Fair????

Approaches and answers = legion!!!
Pastor's answer .... has it appears to me..
(1)   God is Absolutely Sovereign - (in control of all!)
(2)  He is free to choose or reject
(3)  He can do so without compromising His Righteousness  (fairness/justice)
(4)  He can do so without violating man's free will!
(5)  This is beyond our understanding  (comprehension)
(6)  This is not beyond His Ability

Additional considerations:

I.  We are hampered in our understanding of this...
we have (A) Limited Knowledge                                                           
example:  compare ALL the accumulated Knowledge of Man vs. God
and        (B)  Flawed Thinking - ie:  our capacity to reason = seriously Flawed!!
(example:  Impeachment hearings!)
AND,   (C)  A SELF-CENTERED VIEW - (all about me!)

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't think, examine, question - Isa. 1:18
Rather = we should trust His unfailing love!!
Examples:  Job   Psalmist (1/3 of the book = laments)
Hab. 3:16-18 with Heb. 11:1
The answer is not to know everything but to trust God who does know everything.

II.  Se should be aware of Progressive Hardening
(often in Scripture as not seeing, hearing, calloused heart, etc.)

Note the order of progression in scripture:
(1)  Natural hardness - Rom. 3:23 - (born sinners so hardened) to
(2)  Habitual hardness - practice and practice sin and it becomes a habit.  to
(3)  Judicial hardness - God gives you up  (which may be the natural consequence (example:  calloused hands)  (OR)  God's direct intervention

Matt. 13:13-16
John 12:37-40  "would not"  => "could not"
Rom. 1:21, 24
So ... with Pharaoh - on one hand, "Pharaoh hardened", on the other hand, "God hardened"

III.  We should consider Partial Predestination
ie:  some things that appear to be pre-determined CAN be averted.
example:  Jeremiah @ the Potters house, message, application = Jer. 18:11
   "I'm preparing disaster", therefore TURN!! (&changing outcome!!)  Example:  Jonah & Nineveh.

Illustration:  John 3:18

Takeaway from this::

(1)  God IS in Control!  we needn't doubt nor dispute that!!
(2)  He has (sovereignly) granted you some control. 
compare:  allowing Satan to test Job, was on a leash, however = long leash!!
(3)  You should examine, study, be familiar with Pre-destiny!  (it's a scriptural doctrine)
(4)  You should FOCUS on free-will!! - which the bulk of the Bible focuses on.
ie:  the area over which you have say!! (on a daily, practical basis)

On one hand this study = necessary to honest examination of scripture.
However, it changes nothing concerning your decisions about God, Christ.

Example:  Moses to the people - Deut. 30:19
                Joshua to the people - Josh. 24:15

These challenges remain for the people of God, but now they include His Christ!!