Thursday, February 25, 2016

Defining Sin in Terms of Faith, Hope and Love

I was listening online this week to a Southern Baptist preacher and seminary professor preaching at a metropolitan First Baptist Church. He spoke on reasons believers ought to "abstain from sin." I often multi-task listening to online preachers, but it was the manner in which the preacher said "sin" that caused me to cease all other activities and listen intently. Some preachers, such as this one, have the habit of turning the single syllable word "sin" into multi-syllables such as "si-un" or "si-in." It seems the exaggeration of sin's pronunciation serves as their declaration of sin's abomination.

Hearing "sin" dramatically pronounced is when I began to listen closely. "How," I thought, "would this preacher describe sin for his congregation." I didn't have to wait long for an answer. Sin was described as 'viewing internet pornography, cursing someone who cut you off on the road, not obeying authority in your life,' and a "list" of other activities that gave the listener - at least me - the distinct impression that "sin" was something easily identified and measurable in other people. That's what lists do. Lists label to enable.

There's a big problem when it comes to "labeling" sin for the Christian. When I was a kid, sin was defined as "transgressing the Law of God." It was explained to me that "transgression" was to "cross the boundary," and that the Law of God was a boundary "not to be crossed." All well and good; except for the fact as a kid I was very confused with what God's Law was for me as a believer in Jesus Christ.

The Jews set down 613 Commandments in the Old Testament that were not to be crossed, and they call these Laws of God the Mitzvot. I knew better than to argue with people who can read the Old Testament in its original Hebrew. These Laws were real. The Sabbath Laws, the Festival Laws, the Dietary Laws, and all the Laws of God in the Old Covenant were to be kept. Blessings came for obedience and punishments came for disobedience.

However, as I grew in my faith in Jesus Christ, I came to understand that "all the Law and the Prophets" were beautiful shadows and pictures of the Person and work of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27). I came to see that "Jesus fulfilled the Law - every jot and tittle of it" for me (Matthew 5:18). Through Christ's active obedience to the Law in His life and through Christ's passive obedience to the Law in His death (dying in my place), "I am justified" (i.e. "treated by God just-as-if-I-never-sinned and just-as-if-I-fully-obeyed") through my "faith in Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). God takes my faith and "credits it to me as righteousness" (Romans 4:22).  When I look at the Law of God, I only see Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the Law and then "set it aside for a new agreement" (Hebrews 8:13). That New Covenant in His blood is a promise that those who "kiss the Son" through faith have the full pleasure of God. The Law and its observance became obsolete and abandoned through the destruction of the Temple  in AD 70. I rest in the fact that God's love for me is freely and forever mine through my faith in Jesus Christ.

Free from the Law—oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.

So, with all that said, what is "sin" as a Christian? How do I "define it" or how do I "describe it." In my opinion, if we make lists as to what is sin is for other people, then we will always emphasize the things we don't do as sin, and keep off the list the things we do. For example, you rarely hear a message on the sin of "eating-too-much" or "speaking-too-much" or "thinking-too-much-of -yourself" because those are the things preachers do! Laughing. But it's sure easy to speak against "homosexuality" and "adultery" and "gambling" and "drinking" because those are things that preachers don't do!

The problem is the creation of a list. The Law of Israel is gone - fulfilled in Christ. But for some reason churches create new lists of 613 "Christian Commandments" like "tithing" and "not running in the house of God" and "obeying the words of the preacher/God's prophet" and  .... well, you get the idea. The lists change according to the denomination and the preacher-in-charge (like the one to whom I was listening), but the lists are there. That's the problem.

I propose that as a New Covenant believer in Jesus Christ, I may frame my understanding and description of "sin" around the things which "abide" or "continue on" in the New Covenant era (i.e. "this side of the cross.") Those three things which abide in this age are "faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love" (I Corinthians 13:13)


"Whatever is not of faith is sin," says the Apostle Paul (Romans 14:23b). If I think that by my activity I earn the favor and blessings of God (i.e. eating meat offered to idols/or not eating meat offered to idols), then I am "sinning" due to my lack of faith! Faith leads me to believe that God's favor rests on me because of my trust in "the righteousness of His Son" and not because of my obedience to "any Law" (Philippians 3:9). Whatever is not of faith that the blessings of God are secured for you through the obedience of Jesus Christ is sin. 


"We give thanks for the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel" (Colossians 1:5). The hope of these believers in Collosae  was everlasting happiness because of the inheritance reserved for them as co-heirs with Jesus Christ (see Titus 2:13 and Galatians 5:5). This is why they kept "their minds on things above, and not on the things of this earth" (Colossians 3:2).  This inheritance, which all believers receive by faith in Jesus Christ, is called "the object of our hope" because it is not yet possessed. Receiving the rewards Christ earned - as a co-heir with Him (Romans 8:17) - is future, Whatever in this life causes you to lose sight of this hope stored up for you in heaven is sin. 


"But the greatest of these is love" (I Corinthians 13:13). For "by this love will all know that you are My disciples" (John 13:35). The Royal Law of the New Covenant -- the greatest Commandment given by the New Lawgiver (Jesus Christ)-- is so clear it cannot be misunderstood. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you" (John 13:34). Jesus loved me selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditionally. To whatever extent I don't love others as Jesus has loved me, then I sin. 


Rather than making "a list" of sin for other people, maybe we'd be better off by examining our own lives for sin, and defining and describing sin for us as "a lack of faith in Christ, a lack of hope in heaven, and a lack of love for others." 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Eight Dates that Prove the Bible Is Christocentric

Possibly only a few of you will take the time to read this entire post. I concede its length is a detriment, but I believe its content is a delight. When you have some time, pull out a Bible, a notebook, and a pen, and make your way through this study on the eight dates that will help you see the beauty of God's Word and more importantly, the glory of His Son, our Savior, the Seed of Abraham. 

Date #1 
1877 B.C.
Abraham's Call
In 1877 B.C. God called Abram his home to leave to come to Canaan where he was to believe, that through him God would bring His eternal Seed, in Whom God would meet mankind’s need.
"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring (Seed). It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the Law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God (the promise God made to Abraham that all nations will be blessed through His Seed), so as to make the promise void” (Galatians 3:16–17)

God's promise to bless all the nations through Abraham in Genesis 12:1-4 is a promise that "Abram believed." An amazing thing happened because of Abraham's faith. "God credited Abraham's faith to him as righteousness" (see Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3). The good news of Abraham coming into "right standing before God" (i.e. righteousness) because of his faith in God's Promised Seed is the same good news we share today with people in need of right standing before God.  When one trusts God's promises that are in Jesus Christ, God will take that "faith" and credit it to the believer as personal righteousness!

The Apostle Paul argues in Galatians 3:16-17 that God's plan to bless those who trust Christ was "not made void" by the introduction of the Law 430 years after the promise was made. Rather, the Law entered in order "that sin may abound" (Romans 5:20a), or in plain English, "that people might know the depths of their problem with sin." God gave the Mosaic Law to expose man's sin, but where sin abounds, "grace much more abounds" (Romans 5:20b). In the Law we see mankind's need (forgiveness of sin), but we also see God's grace to sinners in Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham. Jesus is the subject and theme of all the Law and the prophets.
"And beginning with the Law of Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27).
As an aside, Abraham was seventy-five years old when God called him to leave his home in Ur (Genesis 12:4). Twenty-five years later, when Abraham was 100, Sarah gave birth to Abraham's "son of promise" (Isaac). Isaac is the son through whom the Promised Seed would come. Unfortunately, before Sarah gave birth to this "son of promise," Abraham had taken for himself an Egyptian woman named Hagar and she bore for him a "son of the flesh" they named Ishmael. When Isaac was five and "being weaned," and his half-brother Ishmael was twenty years old (in 1847 B.C.),  Ishmael "mocked" Isaac. That mocking began "four hundred years of Israel's affliction" (1847 B.C. to 1447 B.C.) by the Egyptians, for Ishmael was the son of an Egyptian handmaid. God had told Abraham, "Know for certain…that your offspring will be afflicted for four hundred years.” (Genesis15:13).

The important number to remember is 430 years. The 430 years began when God calls Abraham and makes to him the promise of a Promised Seed that would bless the world. Abraham's miracle son  was born when Abram was 100 and is named Isaac.  Abraham's son Isaac then has twin sons named Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:19-34).  Jacob, not Esaucontinues Abraham's line through whom God's Promised One would come. Jacob wrestles with God and his name is changed by God to Israel (Genesis 32:28). Israel has 12 sons who become the 12 Tribes (Families) of Israel. There are 430 years from the giving of "The Promise" to the giving of "The Law." God gives the Promise in 1877 B.C.), and God delivers Israel (the nation) out of Egyptian bondage and gives them "The Law" (1447 B.C.)  and enters into a covenant with this chosen nation. God says to Moses at Mt. Sinai when He gave the Covenant of Law to Israel,  "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Exodus 3:6). In other words, He is the God of the Promised Seed.

Date #2
1447 B.C.
The Exodus and The Law

In 1447 B.C. by God's powerful hand, Moses led his people out of Egypt to their own land, giving to the nation of Israel the Law, designed by God to expose mankind’s flaw.
God said, “Now therefore Israel, if you will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant (the Law) then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you will be to Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5) Israel responded “all this we will do!” (Exodus 24:7).

The Promised Seed of Abraham who would bless the world was coming, but before He came, God made a conditional agreement (covenant) called "The Law" with the nation of Israel. This covenant of Law is deemed "obsolete" by New Testament writers, and that's why believers in Christ now call it "The Old Covenant" (see Hebrews 8:13). The Old Covenant ("The Law") was an agreement whereby God promised the nation of Israel "blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience" (see Deuteronomy 28). It was a conditional covenant. If Israel kept the Law perfectly, then Israel would be perfectly blessed by God. But if Israel broke the Law, God would allow foreign nations to come into the Promise Land to destroy Israel's cities, to impoverish God's people, and take captive the Jews. 

The entire narrative of the Old Testament is one of Israel "breaking covenant" and forsaking the Law, thereby experiencing the righteous judgment of God. The Law typifies in "shadow form" both the need for--and the work of -- Abraham's Seed,  Jesus the Messiah, the Promised One. Through Him – through Him alone – all the nations of the world would be blessed.

Date #3
1051 B.C. 
The Kingdom of Israel

In 1051 B.C. Israel sought to be like other nations around, and chose Saul their first king to be crowned, so Israel changed from a unique theocracy into a nation like others ruled by a monarchy.
"Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us,  that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the Lord’s hearing. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.” (I Samuel 8:19-22).

When Israel became a nation during their "bondage" in Egypt, God raised up a leader for Israel named Moses. Moses lived for 120 years (Deuteronomy 34:7). The 120 years of Moses can be broken into three forty year time spans.

The first 40 years –  Moses is born and raised in Egypt in Pharaoh's court.
The second 40 years – Moses kills an Egyptian in defense of fellow Hebrews and flees to Midian.
The third 40 years  – Moses leads Israel out of the bondage of Egypt and to the border of Canaan.

But God told Moses that he would die and not be able to enter the Promised Land “Because you have not believed Me…therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them" (Numbers 20:12). God told Moses to "speak to the Rock" for life giving water, but Moses "struck the Rock" rather than speak (Numbers 20:11). Of course, Jesus is the Rock from whom life-giving water comes, and you are called to "speak to Him." The consequences for not trusting Abraham's Seed are severe – just ask Moses. 120 years is a significant number in Scripture, representing God's judgment for unbelief.

When Israel became a monarchy, they had a United Kingdom (12 united tribes of Israel) for the same duration of time that Moses lived on earth (120 years). The length of the United Kingdom of Israel can also be broken down into three time periods of forty years. 
  • Birth of the Kingdom and King Saul (1051 -1011 B.C.)  – Saul reigns 40 years (Acts13:21).
  • Saul dies and David is King (1011 - 971 B.C.) – David reigns 40 years (I Kings 2:11).
  • David dies, Solomon is King (971 to 931 B.C.) – Solomon reigns 40 years (I Kings 11:42).
 Why did the United Kingdom of Israel come to an end?
"And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded.  Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen" (I Kings 11:9-13).
Just like Moses, the Israel's kings (Saul, David, Solomon) struggled with trusting God. As a result, the Kingdom of Israel would last only 120 years, the same duration as Moses' life. Israel would split in two Kingdoms (North and South) after the death of Solomon (931 B.C.). But before Solomon dies, he builds for God a permanent Temple where all the ceremonies of the Law (sacrifices, feasts and festivals, and all the Law rituals) could be observed.

Date #4
967 B.C. 
The Building of the Temple in Jerusalem
In 967 B.C. Solomon began building for God a permanent dwelling place, but Israel would never be permitted to see His Face, for God's glory was hidden behind a veil, and only the High Priest could approach and live to tell.
"In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the Temple of the LORD" (I Kings 6:1).

In 967 B.C. – the fourth year of Solomon's reign as King over Israel, Solomon began building for God a Temple. The Temple – a building designed by God (II Samuel 7, I Chronicles 17) –  represents in every function, form, feast and festival, sacrifice and ritual, the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The Temple was simply "the dwelling place of God" where sinners dared not approach without a proper understanding of the demands for sacrifice, priestly intercession, and a healthy respect for the One who dwelt inside. Remember, 120 years was the time period representing God's judgment on Moses and God's judgment on the Kingdom of Israel. 480 years is 120 four times over, and the Temple is built 480 years AFTER God entered into covenant with the nation of Israel. Like Moses, like Israel's kings, the entire nation of Israel had fallen into severe disbelief

When you read the history of Israel from the Exodus (1447 B.C.) to the construction of the Temple (967 B.C.), you get the sense that Israel completely failed in living up to their end of the Covenant. The Temple in Jerusalem becomes the place where the "Shekinah" Glory of God descends, and where the High Priest, once a year on "The Day of Atonement," petitions God on behalf of Israel. Through the sacrifices that foreshadowed  the coming of the Promised One, the Seed of Abraham, God would refrain from executing judgment on His people.

Date # 5
722 B.C. 
The Northern Kingdom of Israel Falls to Assyria
The Law demanded obedience or a curse, and a curse the Northern Kingdom could never reverse. Israel rebelled against God time after time, and in 722 B.C. Assyria brought Israel to the end of their line.
After the Kingdom of Israel split into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) in 931 B.C., the Northern Kingdom of Ten Tribes (all but Judah and Benjamin), established the city of Samaria as their capital, and built for themselves Temples at Dan and Bethel (I Kings12:26-33). Of the nineteen kings of the northern Kingdom, every one of them "did evil in the sight of the Lord" (II Kings 17:2).

Hosea, a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, was told by God in a very visual way that Israel had become "Lo-Ammi," which means "no longer My people" (Hosea 1:9). Because of Israel's disobedience to the Law, God divorced Israel. He told Hosea, "I will soon punish (Israel) and put an end to the Kingdom of Israel" (Hosea 1:4).

In fulfillment of the judgments outlined in the Mosaic Covenant for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28), God raised up the Assyrians, the world's first empire, to desolate northern Israel's cities, take captive Israel's fighting men, and bring in pagan men to "intermarry with the Hebrew women who remained. "The descendants of these mixed marriages were called "Samaritans" and they were despised by the Jews (short for "Judah"), the people of the Southern Kingdom for being "half-breeds." The 10 Israeli tribes of the north were "lost."

However, when Abraham's Seed, the Promised One from Jehovah, came to earth to redeem mankind, "He must needs go through Samaria," and it was there that He met a "half-breed" Samaritan woman at the well and gave her "the Water of Life" (John 4:4). The Promised One is for all peoples in all nations.

Date #6
586 B.C
The Southern Kingdom of Israel (Judah) Falls to the Babylonians and the Temple Is Destroyed
The Jews of the Southern Kingdom resisted the prophets' call, and finally they themselves suffered a terrible fall. In 586 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came, and Jerusalem and the Temple never again would be the same. 
The world's first empire (Assyria) could never conquer the Southern Kingdom. But after Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon defeated the Assyrians and Egypt (609 B.C.), and he turned his sights on Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

There were 20 Kings of Judah from the time Israel's United Kingdom divided in 931 B.C. to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Only seven or eight of these kings of Judah were good kings. Like their brothers in the north, the Jews (i.e. Judites) of the Southern Kingdom of Israel disobeyed the Laws of the Covenant. God raised up prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel to urge the Jews "to repent" and return to the Lord, but the kings and the people imprisoned the prophets and sometimes even killed them. The history of the Southern Kingdom, with its capital of Jerusalem, is one of rebellion and sin.

God took the prophet Ezekiel into the "basement of the Temple" in Jerusalem shortly before the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and took Jews into captivity. God showed Ezekiel all kinds of profanities scrawled on the walls, a picture of Judah's rebellion to the Law. Ezekiel saw in a vision "the glory of God" depart from the Temple (Ezekiel 10). From that moment until the coming of the Promised One (Jesus Christ), the glory of God was never seen again by the Jews. Worship still continued, but rituals without the Spirit always leads to legalism or liberalism. During the time "between the Testaments," that is the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, the Jews would see the rise of Jewish religious sects called the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Babylon attacked Jerusalem in three phases:
609 B.C. the first attack – The Babylonians carried off young men like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Most people date "The 70 Years of Babylonian Captivity" from this date to 539 B.C. when Cyrus, King of Persia, defeats the Babylonians and issues a decree that the Jews could be released to return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem and the city (Daniel 5 and Daniel 9).
597 B.C. the second attack – Nebuchadnezzar took more Jewish artesians to Babylon (Iraq) to help build the walls of the city, the ammunition for the army, and the famous "Hanging Gardens" of Babylon. It was during this second attack that Nebuchadnezzar deposed the Jewish king Jehoiachin and replaced him with the puppet king Zedekiah.
586 B.C. the third and final attack – After an 18 month siege by the Babylonians, Jerusalem's walls are finally breached. The Jews run into the desert, but King Zedekiah is captured and taken to Nebuchadnezzar where Zedekiah's boys (all under age ten) were killed in front of him and then King Zedekiah's eyes were gouged out (see Jeremiah 39).

So, the Law came 430 years after the Promise to Abraham, and stayed in effect for 1517 years (1447 B.C. to A.D. 70), until the destruction of the rebuilt Temple in AD 70 by the Romans. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed on the Door of Wittenberg Castle the 95 Theses Against the Sale of Indulgences, and the great truth of "justification by faith" was rediscovered.

The truth Martin Luther rediscovered is the same truth Abraham knew 3034 years earlier. It's the same truth the Apostle Paul knew and taught. It's the same truth we know and teach today.
God justifies sinners by grace through faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Promised Seed of Abraham.

Date #7
4. B.C. to A.D. 30 
The Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of Abraham's Seed
From heaven the Promised One came and sought us to be His bride;  He took our place in His Name, and for our life He died.
While in Babylonian Captivity, Daniel is given by God a precise time in which the Messiah (the Seed of Abraham's Promise in Genesis 12) would come (see Daniel 9 and Daniel 11). The reason the "Wise Men" from the East (Babylon and Persia) came to Jerusalem looking for the Messiah (Matthew 2) was because these Magi were very familiar with Daniel and his scroll (the book of Daniel). Daniel is buried in Iran (old Persia) and was revered by the Persian Magi as the greatest wise man of all time.

Jesus Christ came "to fulfill the Law, every smallest letter and stroke of it" (Matthew 5:18) on behalf of His People. Once He fulfilled the Law in our place, those who "trust Him"  receive the eternal blessings that come with perfect obedience to God (i.e. "righteousness"). Never forget: The Law foreshadowed everything about the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb of God. He is the High Priest chosen by God. He is the Temple of the living God. He is the "all in all." In Him "all the fullness of the Deity dwells" (Colossians 2:9), and through faith in Him, sinners who fail God are able to be treated by God "just as if they never sinned." As an example of the Law foreshadowing Christ, the Law demanded Israel celebrate seven major holy days or festivals. Jesus Christ fulfills them all:
  1. Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, coming to earth as Emmanuel, God with us.
  2. Jesus died during the Feast of Passover for judgment to "pass over" those who trust Him.
  3. Jesus was buried during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, sweeping away your sins.
  4. Jesus rose on the Feast of First Fruits, the first fruits of resurrection, guaranteeing our own.
  5. Jesus sent His Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, and we are now the Temple of the Living God.
  6. Jesus serves as the High Priest of the Feast of Atonement, forever making intercession for us.
  7. Jesus is coming for us during the Feast of Trumpets, raising us from death to eternal life.
In essence, Jesus is the "true Israel." He is the Seed of Abraham. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

Everything national Israel did foreshadowed everything the Seed of Abraham would do. In infancy, a flight to Egypt, a crossing of water into the Promised Land (Jesus was baptized at the very spot Old Covenant Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan), a Wilderness journey measured by forty (in Israel's case, 40 years, in Jesus' case, 40 days), a Law given on a Mountain (Sinai and "The Sermon on the Mount"), and the observance of all the Festivals.

There is one huge difference between national Israel and the true Israel – Jesus fulfilled where Israel failed. "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17) said the Father, and when you embrace the Son, the pleasure of the Father abides on you too (see Psalm 2:12).

The first message Jesus ever preached was an amazing message of deliverance to those who knew themselves in trouble because of their failures before God.  Remember the curses of the Law? Jesus said He came "TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, TO RECOVER SIGHT TO THE BLIND, AND TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN" (Luke 4:18-19). 

One of the most famous stories among the Jews was how Jewish King Zedekiah's eyes were "gouged out" by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar after Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Babylonians as a direct result of Israel breaking covenant with God (II Kings 25:7). The poor, the captives, the blind, and the downtrodden were people in trouble with God because of their sin. 

Jesus came to reverse the curse. You will never understand the beautiful salvation and deliverance of Jesus the Messiah, until you fully comprehend the purpose of national Israel and the Old Covenant Law.

The Old Covenant is abrogated, abolished and absolutely abandoned because now all the promises associated with perfect obedience to the Law (e.g. to be to God a special people among all the peoples of the earth, to be kingdom of priests for the world, and to be a royal nation in the world) are all fulfilled by trusting Jesus Christ. Further, these blessings are for "all races, all families, and all language groups" (Revelation 7:9), not just the Jews.   Peter says all who believe on Christ, "are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that we may declare the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9).  

In this New Covenant that Christ inaugurated through His blood, I am blessed not because I "have a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but because of a righteousness I have which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith." (Philippians 3:9).

Until you see Jesus Christ as the emphasis and theme of the Old Testament you will never come to grips with the end of the Old Covenant Law or that God's purpose for the nation of Israel is finished.  The Law separated Israel from all other nations (Ephesians 2:12-14). The Mosaic Covenant created a barrier between the Jews and everyone else, but Jesus tore that wall down. Salvation is for any sinner, whether Jew or Gentile, and has come to us through Abraham's Promised Seed, so we respect the Jews, but we no longer believe Israel holds "favored nation status"  (John 4:22; Romans 9:4; Ephesians 2:12-14).  Those who "Kiss the Son" are God's royal nation (I Peter 2:9-10)

The ministry of Christ both abolished the Mosaic economy and fulfilled the central covenant promise to Abraham, "in you shall all nations be blessed" (Galatians 3:8). The abolishment of the Law took place in the form of a fulfillment of it all – every jot and tittle - and not in terms of the Law's irrelevance or disregard.

Date #8
A.D. 70 
God's Final Judgment on the Nation of Israel
Just as God did with the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and as He did with the Babylonians in 586 B.C., God sent the Romans in A.D. 70 to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, to forever end the Jewish religious economy.
Jesus foretold to His disciples that the Temple and the Jewish ceremonial rituals of the Law would be destroyed (Matthew 24). Many who try to interpret these verses as a prophecy regarding the end of the world have never understood the importance of God bringing to an end the Old Covenant way of worship. The Law had been fulfilled by His Son. Christ obtained for us all what we could never obtain by ourselves.

We are redeemed by the performance of the Promised One of Abraham, who has obtained for all who will trust Him the blessings of God through His perfect obedience in His life, and He has borne upon Himself the curses of the Law for those who will trust Him through his passive obedience on the cross.  We come to enjoy all the Promises of God in Christ (which are always "yes and amen") when we trust Christ for our right standing with God.

As long as you continue to make the Bible all about Israel and not Jesus Christ, you will miss the glory and beauty of the Promised One of Abraham.  The Law was inserted between the Promise to Abraham and the Coming of the Promised One to convince mankind of sin, and to show the glory of the Son. The Law and the Prophets show Christ Himself, and the gospel we have to share today is simply, "trust Christ for your righteousness before God."

The New Covenant

 As a person who has come to faith in Jesus Christ under the New Covenant, there are some things true of you that were not true of the Jews under the Law:
  1. You have a new Lawgiver - Jesus Christ (Luke 9:35).
  2. You ARE the Temple of the living God (I Corinthians 3:16). 
  3. Everywhere you go God is, for "the life of God is in your soul" (Colossians 1:27). 
  4. By your love for people, you are identified as Christ's (John 13:35)
  5. You know the Truth, and the Truth sets you free (John 8:32). 

 The Bible is all about Jesus Christ. Don't get lost in anything but Him.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Why the Earth Cracks Up and You Don't Have To

It's fun living in Oklahoma, the center of the world--at least during the early 21st century--in terms of the number of earthquakes. On Saturday, February 13, 2016, a 5.1 earthquake, the third most powerful earthquake in Oklahoma history, struck just west of Enid, Oklahoma, not far from a little community called Fairview. The residents of Oklahoma are rattled.

One of the advantages of knowing history is to be able to see "the big picture" and not get lost in current events. Next Christmas seems like a long time coming to a 5-year-old, but it's a blink of an eye to a 55-year-old. So too modern earthquakes seem frightening to the one who doesn't read history, but to the bibliophile 5.1 earthquakes gentle reminders that the rock on which we live is fundamentally cataclysmic.

I recently read Earth in Upheaval and Worlds in Collision by Immanuel Velikovsky, the greatest Russian scientist of all time. Velikovsky with painstaking and thorough scientific historiography shows that the Earth has suffered natural catastrophes on a global scale throughout mankind's recorded history.  The evidence for these catastrophes is not only in the written record of mankind, it is corroborated in the geological record. Velikovsky advocates Catastrophic history as opposed to modern Uniformitarian ideas. Velikovsky shows the extinction of many of earth's animal species has occurred catastrophically and not by gradual Darwinian means.
If you can't buy Velikovsky books, at least go to Amazon and read the reviews. Albert Einstein had Worlds In Collision open on his desk when he died.  Clifton Fadiman, the former editor-in-chief of the Reader's Digest, said that Velikovsky writings were "50 times better than most of his critics," and went on to predict that because of Velikovsky work, "99% of the books on geology, archeology and ancient history would have to be rewritten."

The Bible teaches the world has experienced major catastrophes throughout mankind's history. For example, in 2348 B.C. God orchestrated a series of cataclysms that changed the axis of the earth, forged volcanic mountain ranges, and flooded the land masses. Velikovsky, who was not a Christian, uses the writings of ancients to show that "the sun used to rise in the west and set in the east" and through catastrophes on earth caused by stellar movements (see Worlds in Collision), the seasons, the months, and earth's days changed in duration.

Does the Bible confirm Velikovsky's propositions? Well, we read that the Flood started "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month . . ." (Genesis 7:11), and that it "prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days" (v.24). "And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat" (8:4).

Between the second month's seventeenth day and the seventh month's seventeenth day were 150 days. Thus five months averaging thirty days each were involved. It may be that a very regular order of days (a consistent 30 day period for yearly months) is the "very good" and orderly arrangement of original creation (Genesis 1:31). Today's 365¼ day year very well could be an alteration of the original created order caused caused by great cataclysmic events occurring in space and on earth. What could happen to change Earth's orbit? More specifically, Who can change the Earth's orbit?

The Psalmist declares:
"You Lord  have made the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair its breaches, for it totters." (Psalm 60:2)
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah:
"Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger." (Isaiah 13:13).
Nahum declares:
"The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. " (Nahum 1:5).
When Jesus Christ died, the earth shook.
"At the moment Christ died, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split." (Matthew 27:51).
There is evidence of this great 30 AD earthquake throughout the geological record of the Middle East. It is without doubt that earthquakes are designed as reminders of God's judgment. At the cross, God shook the earth to remind us of what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:19.
"For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation."
  1. Every earthquake should remind us that this earth is a place of catastrophe.
  2. Every earthquake should remind us that the greatest catastrophe is not being right with God.
  3. Every earthquake should remind us of the cross where God gave His Son for your sins which are the reasons you are alienated from God.
  4. Every earthquake should remind us that rejecting Christ and His death is the ultimate catastrophe, for it is a rejection of the only means whereby sinners are made right with God.
  5. Every earthquake  should remind us that if we put our trust in Christ and His eternal grace, then when "the things of this world" are catastrophically gone, He and His eternal grace remain.
Earthquakes are good. They knock some sense in us all.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Shame and Imago Dei (The Image of God)

Over Valentine's weekend a few Christian couples may experience marital conflict. It is my belief that a healthy marriage occurs when a spouse can stop pointing the finger at the other person and take responsibility. The following poem was written in hopes that someone in the midst of conflict might pause and reflect if possibly personal "shame" and fear are at the root of much marital conflict.

 Shame and the Imago Dei (The Image of God)

There’s a current of fear raging within my soul
That prevents me from believing I’ll ever be whole.
It’s a suffocating sorrow that some call “shame,”
But to me it’s a deadly game of affixing the blame.

I fight to be seen as the one without error,
For allegations of fault bring me to terror;
A fear you will discover what I already sense,
“I am defective” and perfection is my defense.

When I point my finger and judge you for sin,
It is really a cover for fear flowing within.
Shame screams to me that “I am defective,”
And from this comes my painful invective.

If I’ve lost control and am full of anger,
The one you love may indeed be a stranger,
I'm struggling to grasp God’s truth of me,
Even knowing His Word can set me free.

He says I’m made in His image and bear His grace,
I’m the apple of His eye and He’s taken my place.
He'd never love and die for one without worth,
So pray I come to know my value from birth.

The demon of shame drives my inner fear,
Arguing there's no way God holds me dear,
But when I can believe God over my shame,
I can love you as is and end this deadly game.

W.W.Burleson (2016) 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Google Books and the Democratization of Knowledge

When I was a kid, I would have questions about certain things without access to an answer. The closest thing to a storehouse of knowledge was Encyclopedia Britannica, a 32 volume home encyclopedia that became the go-to source of information.

In 2004 at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the American company Google launched what they first called Google Print, now known as Google Books.

The Google Books Library Project is an effort by Google to scan and make searchable the world's 130 million books. As of October 2015, Google has scanned and uploaded digitally 25 million books. They hope to complete their ambitious project by the end of this century.

I for one am a user.

It is through Google Books that I became fascinated and a quasi-expert on world chronology through reading Isaac Newton's The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. It is through Google Books that I discovered a simple and stunning interpretation of Daniel's 70 Weeks Prophecy, written by a "layman" in 1826 called Daniel's Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks Interpreted by a Layman.  If you read it, you will realize like I that a layman 200 years ago tended to be more intellectual than the average layman today. It is through Google Books that I've read for free countless biographies that just over a dozen years ago I would had to have spent a fortune finding a print copy through Alibris or other book search companies,. One of my favorite Google Book biographies is an work on William Shakespeare which you can download for free.

When the infamous Library of Alexandria was burned in AD 642, it was an intentional act by marauders designed to limit the world's access to knowledge. For nearly a millennium previously, ships docked at the northern port of Alexandria, Egypt and presented originals of their home ports favorite scrolls (books) as a "docking fee." Scholars at the Alexandria Library would make a handwritten copy of the scroll, keep the original scroll, and send the copy home with the sailors the next time they docked in Alexandria. It was at the Alexandria Library during the 3rd century B.C. that 70 Greek scholars took some Hebrew scrolls of the Scriptures and made a Greek translation of them that we call the Septuagint (Greek for "70"). When the Alexandria Library burned in AD 642, hundreds of thousands priceless scrolls went to ash, turning the ancient world's vast storehouse of amazing knowledge into smoke. It's my opinion the prevalent notion we evolved from monkeys is a direct result of lacking access to the ancient scrolls that would have shown that the "monkeys" of millenniums past were dang smarter than the evolved monkeys of today.

The Internet is the new Alexandria Library. Google Books is the forerunner of the democratization of knowledge. It is impossible to burn a digital library, but watch out for those governments that restrict access to the Internet. Any government that limits the peoples' access to Google Books is a government of tyranny.

If I were a parent of a young child (or maybe a grandparent?), I would take advantage of Google Books by teaching my children how to use this technology to download and read for free books from around the world and from centuries past. In the next few years there will be a massive, concerted effort by governments to limit access to this knowledge, and the only people who will will fight such attempts at censorship and tyranny are those who understand the benefit of the democratization of knowledge

I'm ready to do my part to help people understand.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

By Faith the Righteous Live and Won't "Draw Back"

Four times the Bible uses the phrase "The righteous will live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 10:38). It's obvious that "faith" is important in the Bible. In fact, these four verses could be translated "By faith the righteous live." Faith sustains the righteous as much as it saves the righteous. "Kiss the Son" - that is, embrace by faith the Son of God - and He will not be angry (Psalm 2:12). In Hebrews 10:38, the fourth passage where Scripture states "the righteous will live by faith," the writer of Hebrews goes on to say that God is not pleased with the one who "draws back" from faith.
"But My righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who draws back ." (Hebrews 10:38)
The terminology "draws back" is language from the battlefield and references one who moves from a position of vulnerability to a fortress on a high place, seemingly protected.  It is the same language used by the prophet Habakkuk when he describes "the proud one, the one whose soul is not right within him." He is the one who "draws back to the high places" (Hebrews 10:38),  but "the righteous live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4).

The great 12th century Hebrew linguist, R. Moses Kimchi, comments on Habakkuk 2:4 and says,
He whose soul is not right in him places himself in a fortress or tower, to set himself on high there from the enemy, and does not return to God, nor seek deliverance of him; but the righteous has no need to place himself on high in a fortress, for he lives by his faith.  
John Gill  agrees that the proud one is he whose "soul is not right" and "places himself in a fortress or tower," drawing back into what he deems his safe place. Gill, like R. Moses Kimchi, believes the words of Habakkuk refers to proud Jews,
"...who boast of their Temple, and glory in it, and trust in their service and sacrifices at it; and trust in themselves, their religious rites and ceremonies, the traditions of their elders, and their moral works of righteousness for their tower of safety and their place of defense; neglecting the Messiah, the Rock of salvation.
Gill points out that the Temples sat on a high place called Ophel, part of the mountain of Zion in Jerusalem, and it was to that place proud Jews ran for their comfort of right standing with God.

But by faith the righteous live. 

I am often amazed at the number of people who understand that faith is important, but have very little understanding that the object of one's faith is primary in Scripture. Everyone has faith, but not everyone has faith in the Messiah. Some, like those Habakkuk calls "right in their souls,"  run to their religion, or to their commitment, or to their rituals, or to their traditions, or to their service, or to their self-righteousness -- their haughty and high mountain - for their place of defense and security.

But by faith the righteous live. 

Those who are really righteous never draw away from faith in the Messiah's Person, work and obedience. Those who are just place their faith in the Messiah's substitutionary death, burial and resurrection. The righteous trust in the Messiah's work, both His active and passive obedience, and never their own, whether it be their past or present commitments and promises.

But by faith the righteous live.

Quick. Give me twenty things for which you trust Christ. We should be able to give a thousand reasons for the "hope within us," but I'm only asking for twenty.

I trust Christ for_____________________

But by faith the righteous live.