Saturday, January 06, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Nothing Can Stop The Story

Galatians 4:4-5

Time won’t permit me to give you all the verses that tell this story, but suffice it to say, the whole Bible tells this story; this is what the Bible is about (Hebrews 12:2 / Revelation 1:8).

In Genesis 3 we see the fall of mankind, and yet God gives the promise of redemption (Genesis 3:15). In Genesis 4 we see that the sin of Adam is passing to and through his seed when Cain kills Abel. In Genesis 5 Lamech kills another for wounding him, and boasts about it. At the end of chapter 5, Seth is born, and because of him, men begin to “call on the name of the Lord”. Yet by Genesis 6 the whole world has become so totally corrupt, God must destroy all mankind.

Genesis 6-9 is the story Noah, his family, and the flood. God destroyed a world that was already too corrupt to allow continuing, but He spared Noah. There is still hope as God makes a covenant with Noah, and all seems well. But Noah became drunk and Ham, Noah’s son, and Canaan, Ham’s son was involved in sin, which brought another curse on them and on their seed.

In Genesis 11 we come to the tower of Babel, only about 100 years after the Flood, and things are looking bad for mankind. But, in Genesis 12 God makes a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3 / Galatians 3:8). God specified that the salvation and blessings that He had promised Adam and Eve would be fulfilled through the “seed” of Abram and Sarai, who were elderly and who had no children. Yet as the story unfolds we watch them endanger this plan by Sarai representing herself as unmarried, because of Abram’s request that she lie about her identity, and at least two pagan kings try to take her for their wife. It was looking like the child would be the seed of someone other than Abram. Not only does Abram endanger the purity of his wife and their “seed”, he also tries to raise up a seed through his wife’s servant, Hagar, at Sarai’s request.

But God protects this couple from their own efforts, and Isaac is born. Then we read that God commands Abram to sacrifice him. How can God’s promise be realized through the death of the promised “seed”? Fortunately, God stopped Abraham from killing his son, and He provided a ram to die in Isaac’s place. It seems the plan of God is finally under way (Genesis 22:18).

But the “seed” of Abraham prove to be a sinful lot. Isaac had two sons, and he did everything he could to reverse God’s choice of Jacob over Esau. Jacob was a deceiver, and one wonders how he even survived. By God’s grace, Jacob did survive, and he ended up with twelve sons, by different wives. These sons were not only willing to kill one another they were also willing to intermingle with the Canaanites. Were this group of Abraham’s “seed” left to themselves, they would have either killed each other off, or they would have intermingled with the heathen so that there was no distinct “seed” of Abraham, through whom God’s salvation would be accomplished. God still had His plan for His seed (Genesis 49:8-12).

God had revealed this plan in Genesis 15:12-17: He would send His “seed” into captivity in Egypt, to protect His “seed” from themselves and from the corruption of the Canaanites. After 400 years, the nation had grown so strong that the Egyptians oppressed them. God delivers the nation from their slavery and began to bring them into the land He had promised Abraham.

God’s promise to Abraham seems to be coming to pass. But this nation began to grumble and to rebel against God’s rule. They even wanted to overthrow Moses, and to go back to Egypt. While Moses was receiving God’s laws for them, they persuaded Aaron to make an idol for worship. For a moment, it appears to be all over. It looked as if God were going to wipe out this whole nation, this “seed” and start out all over. Moses reminded God (not that He needed reminding) of the covenant, and that His character necessitated His keeping it, in spite of the sin of His “seed”. God gave this people His law, and promised that the seed would blossom (Deuteronomy 18:15).

That first generation of Israelites never made it into the land, because of their rebellion and unbelief. They thought that the people inhabiting the land of Canaan were too strong, and that God was not able or willing to deliver them over to His people, and so they rebelled. It was necessary for another 40 years to pass, and for this generation to die off, so that they next generation of Abraham’s “seed” could possess the land of promise.

Once in the land, however, the people of Israel were only as godly as their leaders, the judges. With judges like Samson, things did not look too good for the nation. By God’s grace they did survive, but they wanted to have kings, just like the nations around them. Their first king, Saul, was Israel’s kind of king. He was, as it were, tall, dark, and handsome. But he was not a man after God’s heart. And this king had to be removed. Then God appointed David, not as promising from outward appearances, but a man after God’s heart. God made a covenant with David, promising him an eternal throne, and indicating that it was through his “seed” and his dynastic line that Messiah would come (2 Samuel 7:12-13). In spite of this David sinned greatly, taking the wife of one of his men, and then the life of Uriah, to try to cover his sin. God disciplined David, but forgave his sin and reiterated His covenant with him. The “seed” of Adam, and of Abram, and of Judah, and now of David, would be both the Savior of the world, and its King.

But many of the kings who followed David were wicked men, who led the Israelites into idolatry and other sin. Things went well when good kings reigned, but they went badly when wicked kings ruled, and the wicked kings outnumbered the good ones. To make matters worse, David’s son, Solomon, who seemed to offer such promise, was not at wise at the end of his life as he was at first. By his own foolishness, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, split the one united kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms. There were never again to be reunited in the history of Israel.

To help keep Israel and her kings walking as God commanded God sent prophets to the nation (to Israel and Judah), to remind them of His law, and of what it meant. They also spoke of a future day of restoration, when God would first chasten His people and bring them to repentance and faith, and judge the nations and peoples of the earth. They spoke of a coming Messiah who would both bear the sins of the people, and who would rule as God’s mighty king, on the throne of His father, David (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7 / Micah 5:2 / Zechariah 9:9). These prophets were not received with open hearts and open arms. They were persistently rejected, persecuted, and all to often put to death. Israel did not wish to hear what God had to say.

The Old Testament shows that men were always perverting what God had provided. It becomes clear that if salvation were going to come, if Satan were to be defeated and if sin were to be overcome, it would not be by men, or by their efforts. If God were to bring about Israel’s salvation and blessings, along with those of the world, it would have to come about through a very special “seed”, because the seed always multiplied the sins of their fathers. Things only got worse. The answer was that the “seed” through whom God would save the world was to be a true man, but also true God, God incarnate, who would dwell among men, show Himself the sinless Son of God, and then die for their sins. Israel’s hope was in a man, but in a very special man, a very special seed. And that “seed” was to be Jesus, the Christ (Galatians 3:15-16).

At the Incarnation of Christ, angels proclaimed peace and good will to men. The peace was not political, there would still be and there still is war, strife, and all that, but it was mankind having peace with God thorough this Jesus that was born. It obviously doesn’t mean all people because this was definitely not good news for Herod; that is why he tried to silence it (Matthew 2:8,12-16). Herod wasn’t the first to try and stop the good news from spreading. After Jesus died they killed the Apostles but the message kept going, and the seed kept growing. Today many try and silence the word of God by killing the messengers but it does nothing but spread the message.

So this is the story. First we get the bad news. We can't make it to heaven on our own; no one is good enough to meet God’s perfect standard. In the Incarnation, we see that Jesus reveals God, and no one is as good as Jesus. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned, and all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Did you know that’s what He requires, perfection (Matthew 5:48)? It’s true. Now come on, admit it, you aren’t perfect, you may be better than a lot of people, but are you as good as God? Left to ourselves, we all will die without God, and that is bad news, indeed. However, that isn’t the end of the story.

The story is really about the Good News. God had a plan all along; he knew what he was doing. He would show his mercy and grace to a people he would call out for himself. He would send his own son, to die for those people’s sins, and give those called out people the righteousness they needed, the righteousness of his own son, Jesus. Jesus executed that plan; he came to earth and lived a perfectly righteous life, and allowed himself to die for our sins. He was a righteous man, the only righteous man ever, paying the penalty due us. His death meant that God would grant us mercy. His life meant God would give us grace. You see the mercy is God forgiving our sins because Jesus paid the penalty with his death, and the grace is God giving us a righteous standing based on Christ’s perfect life. God accounts our sin to Jesus’ account, and Jesus’ righteousness to our account. This great exchange is explained to us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – he who knew no sin (that’s Jesus) became sin for us (he paid the penalty) that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (through his perfect life we meet God’s standard). God had spoken of this plan before Jesus was even born (Isaiah 53:6), and he proved that this sacrifice and this way was what he planned all along by raising Jesus from the dead (Romans 1:4 / 4:25).

Now we obviously didn't deserve it, but that’s grace, my friend (1 John 4:9-10). God draws us to Him in a way that he knows we will respond to if we are one of his, and God gives this gift to us freely. All God asks us to do is believe (John 3:16 / Romans 10:9). When we accept Jesus sacrificial death to forgive our sins, the bible calls this being justified by faith (Romans 5:1), and God counts Christ’s righteousness as our own. But there’s more, because God also leads us into a more holy life, where we learn to truly seek after and please God, and God ensures that we will not only be forgiven of our sin, we also get the glories of heaven. Because God didn’t leave us to ourselves, because God came to earth to die for us, when we die we will be with God, and that is good news, indeed. If you will believe, you’ll make it to heaven, and that’s the end of the story.


Anonymous said...

I knew that A & E sewed fig leaves for themselves but an important detail I never noticed til now was revealed in 3:21-

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”

Any attempt to cover our nakedness before God is hopeless if we are the source of such attire; but when God Himself both fashions the Garment (Christ), & dresses us in it, we are assured of never being underdressed at any occasion.

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Is 61:10

“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” 2Cor 5:2&3

Thanks JD, this year promises many blessings as we go through His Word.

Even So... said...

Good stuff Steve...

Even So... said...

Update on JR...he is still scheduled to leave for home January 11...still getting better at walking each day, but ordered a sling for left arm, it may take quite a little while longer, but still hopeful...once again, thank you for your continued prayers...updates ASAP...God bless...

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Preach it! That was a good summary.