March Memories: Just A Piece of Wood.

Hezekiah broke in pieces the brass serpent which Moses had made; for until that day the children of Israel burned incense to it, and he called it Nehushtan (a piece of brass), 2 Kings 18:4.

Nearly 700 years (!) earlier, Moses had made this brass serpent in obedience to God’s instruction, Numbers 21:1-9.  The people had sinned and poisonous snakes had come among them as judgment.  Those who looked at this serpent of brass held aloft on a pole were healed.  In John 3:14, 15, the Lord Jesus used this incident as a picture of His own coming death and of the salvation of sinners.

By Hezekiah’s time, the brass serpent had become an object of superstition, as if it had the power to heal.  When Moses destroyed it, how do you suppose the people felt?

What do you suppose would happen some Sunday morning if a pastor, holding up a wooden cross, would stand before his people and, after announcing, “This is just a piece of wood,” would break it into pieces?  It might depend on the church, but we suspect a ripple of shock would sweep through the congregation, much like the shock when a priest tore up a picture of Pope Benedict after Benedict announced his retirement.

We’re so used to hearing about “the cross.”  But the cross itself has no more power to save than that brass serpent of old.  Even the cross on which Jesus died was “just a piece of wood.”  Other men may have died on that same piece of wood.  Their deaths held no meaning.  Why did His?  Scripture gives three reasons.

1.  The death of Jesus was a SACRIFICE.

From the very first, sin has brought death.  Even Adam and Eve were taught this.  Death had been promised them “the day” they ate of the forbidden fruit.  Yet they did not die, at least physically, that day.  Instead, animals died and Adam and Eve were clothed with their skins, Genesis 2, 3.  Further, every time an Israelite brought an animal to the altar, he put his hand on its head.  This was a symbolic confession that he deserved to die, but the sacrifice of the animal meant that he could continue to live.  So Jesus came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26.  We live because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

2.  The death of Jesus was a SATISFACTION.

God has instituted physical and moral laws which govern all life.  Breaking these laws has consequences.  If you jump off a tall building, the consequence for breaking the law of gravity is serious injury or death.  To break God’s moral law brings only death.  The soul that sins shall die, Ezekiel 18:4.  The wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23.  God’s justice is as inflexible as His love is immeasurable and must be satisfied.  God cannot and will not overlook or ignore sin.  The penalty for sin – death – must be paid and there are no exceptions.

Isaiah 53:10, 11 brings these two thoughts together.  V. 10 speaks of the offering – the sacrifice – of the Lord Jesus, and v. 11 says that God was “satisfied” with that offering.

What does this mean to you and me?

3.  The death of Jesus was a SUBSTITUTION.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 says that Jesus took the place of those for whom He came to die.  Though sinless Himself, He took their sins as His and, dying, paid the penalty for those sins.  So completely did Jesus satisfy God’s justice that it is impossible for a single person for whom He died ever to come under condemnation for sin.  Jesus was their Substitute.

Sin will be punished.  Your sin will be punished, and mine.  Either we will be punished for them, or we must find a substitute.  The Lord Jesus came as a Substitute.  Though sinless, He took a place as a sinner, to die for sinners.  Have you taken, will you take, your place as a sinner?  Will you confess that you are guilty?  That you deserve to die?  That God would be just and fair if He punished you?  Will you turn from your sin and turn to the Lord Jesus for salvation?

Do you in this way believe on the Lord Jesus?  Do you rest in His sinless life and sacrificial death as your only hope and confidence before God?  You see, the cross is more than just a pretty piece of jewelry, or a decoration on a building.  It’s more than just a “sign.”  It’s the instrument on which Jesus died for sinners.  It is His death and His death alone which gives any hope for sinners like you and me.

Do you believe like this on the Lord Jesus?  If so, God’s Word says you have been saved from your sins, Romans 3:21-26.  If not, consider….  Are you willing to stand before God on your own, Hebrews 9:27?
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(originally published May 13, 2013.)

 

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March Memories: Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve, Genesis 1-3.

[As we continue our “March Memories,” we think it’s good to back to the beginning – of everything.  On every side, atheistic science and materialism tell us that there is no God, and there is nothing that we can’t figure out in a laboratory or raise in a petri dish.  I just watched a TV show that asserted that Noah could never have built the Ark the Bible describes because he didn’t have the technology to build such a craft.  We still haven’t figured out for sure how the Egyptians built the pyramids, but we know for sure that Noah couldn’t have built the Ark!  There’s lots of stuff “back there” that we haven’t figured out how they did it, or even in some cases what it is, but they still did it!]

As we come to the book of Genesis, we find that it tells us where everything came from, not from some random cosmic explosion, but from the power and wisdom of God.  So Genesis is the real Origin of Species, long before, and in opposition to, Darwin.  It tells how the earth came to be, and where man came from.  It accounts for the entrance of sin into the world, revealing that man is a moral being, different from all other earthly creatures, in contrast to evolution, which tells us that he’s just a highly-developed version of them.  It accounts for the nation of Israel, as well as for the origin and distribution of many of the other nations of the world.

Genesis is also the “foundational” book of the Bible.  It tells of sin and redemption, and forms the basis for most of the rest, if not all, that the Bible says on these subjects.  Its first redemptive promise contains in a verse (Genesis 3:15) the whole of prophecy given in the rest of the Bible.

Here are some ways Genesis might be outlined:

1.  The Beginning of Human History, chs. 1-11.
2.  The Beginning of Hebrew History, chs. 12-50.

or –

1.  The Beginning of Man’s Residence on the Earth, chs. 1, 2.
2.  The Beginning of Man’s Rebellion on the Earth, chs. 3-11.
3.  The Beginning of Man’s Redemption on the Earth, chs. 12-50.

or the more familiar –

1.  Creation, chs. 1, 2:  Preparation for Man.
2.  The Fall, chs. chs. 3-5:  Presumption of Man.
3.  The Flood, chs. 6-9:  Punishment of Man.
4.  The Tower of Babel, chs. 10, 11:  Perversity of Man.
5.  The Patriarchs, chs. 12-50:  Preference Among Men.

As we look more closely at the opening of Genesis through this outline, we see:

Creation, chs. 1, 2: Preparation for Man.

A.  It opposes many errors, among them:

1.  Atheism.  “In the beginning, God…,” Genesis 1:1.  NOTE:  the Bible was written to people who already believed in God, and, in many cases, who had had personal dealings with Him.  The Bible never attempts to “prove” the existence of God, though His creation (“nature”) has many proofs for those who will see them, Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:18-20.

2.  Pantheism.  That is, God is everything, and everything is God.  There is a modern version of this called “panentheism,” which, while maintaining that God is everything, also maintains that He is greater that everything.  Creation is “contained” within Him.  Scripture shows that God is indeed the Supreme Creator and Sustainer of everything, but also that He is distinct from everything.  He IS everyWHERE; He IS NOT everyTHING!

3.  Materialism.  That is, “matter” is eternal and, as such, has always existed.  This begs the question, “Where did matter come from in the first place?”

4.  That everything came unintentionally and spontaneously into existence, i.e., “The Big Bang.”

B.  Genesis reveals the origin of the universe and of the earth.  It doesn’t particularly tell us “how” or “why.”  Theistic evolution, in a sincere but misguided attempt to align Scripture with atheistic science, doesn’t see what the Bible says about origins.  I have no difficulty with the idea that the earth is more than 6,000 years old; I just have trouble with the idea, as we’ll see in a moment, that it’s billions of years old.

Herbert Spencer, an eminent scientist who died in 1903, taught that everything exists in one of five categories:  time, force, action, space or matter.  Moses already knew that, millennia earlier.

1.  time – “In the beginning”
2.  force – “God”
3.  action – “created”
4.  space – “the heavens”
5.  matter – “and the earth.”

C.  Genesis has many features which don’t agree with evolution.  Among them are:

1.  It has an intelligent Creator, not a mindless cosmic catastrophe, followed by aimless and random development.

2.  The earth was created before the stars!  They were made on the fourth day, when the earth already existed.

3.  Plants were created on the third day, before the Sun, which was created with the other stars on the fourth day.  If the “days” are geologic ages, as evolution claims, then how did vegetation survive without the Sun to nourish it?

4.  On the first day, God created “light” as something distinct from Himself, Who is light, 1 John 1:5.  On the fourth day, creating the Sun, He created “time.”  Our concept of time would have relevance nowhere else in the universe.

5.  Each kind of animal was created fully developed.  It had no need for further “development,” apart from adaptation to climate or environmental changes.  There are many instance of such development within species; there is no evidence for development between species.

6.  Each creature was made with the ability to reproduce according to its kind, 1:11, 21, 24, not mutate into another, entirely different, kind.

7.  Sea creatures were created on the same day as birds.  Birds did not evolve eons later from the dinosaurs.

8.  In a separate act, man was created from the dust of the ground, 2:8.  He did not “evolve” from “lower” animals, nor did God simply choose one or two from a number of already existing hominids with which to form a special relationship.

The Fall, chs. 3-5:  Presumption of Man.

1.  Note that man fell because of a discussion over whether the Word of God was to be accepted “literally” or not.  That discussion is alive and well today.

2.  Note that man fell because he decided to replace God as the moral authority as to what was “good” or “evil.”  The essence of sin is the disagreement with God over jurisdiction:  who decides “good” or “evil”?

3.  Because of his sin, man fled from God.  Left to ourselves, we’re still fleeing.  This doesn’t mean that men and women can’t be “religious;” witness the number of religions in the world, but how many of them, even those who claim to believe the Bible, actually follow the Bible, or believe it’s authoritative?  How many people even read the Bible and have any real idea about what it says?

God must seek us, if we are to “find” Him, Isaiah 65:1.

4.  Man was taught that, because of his sin, the only way he could continue to live physically was through the substitution and death of an innocent sacrifice.  All religion revolves around this central issue:  how may a man or woman live before God, regardless of how “live” is defined, or whomever or whatever God is said to be.

5.  Because of man’s sinfulness and God’s holiness, God’s justice bars the way to the tree of life, Genesis 3:24.  All religion seeks to answer the question asked very early in Biblical history, “How can man be righteous before God?”  “…Or how can he be pure who is born of woman?”  Job 9:2; 25:4.

To put it another way, how can I satisfy God’s justice and the holiness His word and nature require?  How can I escape the penalty for the disobedience I’m guilty of?  It is only Biblical Christianity (for there is a great deal in “Christianity” that is not Biblical) that proclaims the answer foreshadowed by the slain animals and coats of skin.  The only way God’s justice has ever been or ever will be satisfied is through the sinless life and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  By His death He paid forever the penalty demanded by a broken Law, and by His sinless life He obtained that righteousness imputed to believing sinners, by which and only by which they and we will ever be able to stand before God uncondemned.

Friends, if we have committed even one sin, and who among us wouldn’t have to admit to that, we are lost and undone without the Lord Jesus.  O blessed life, that did what we could not, and blessed death, that did what we dare not!
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(originally published, April 9, 2013) edited and new material.

 

“The Kindness of God.” Part 1: “What is Man?”

Why “kindness”?  We’ll take a closer look at this later.  For now, consider 2 Samuel 9:3 and Ephesians 2:7.

I.  The Necessity of Grace.

Before the Renaissance, it was believed that the proper study of mankind was God.  With the Renaissance and the rise of humanism came the belief that the proper study of mankind is man.  This is alright up to a point; we should know as much about ourselves as possible, but as it has developed, too many believe that when you are studying man, you are studying God!

What does the Bible say about Man?  Why is grace necessary?  Is it necessary?  We start at the beginning.

A. The Creation and Fall of Adam and Eve, Genesis 1-3.

 Our Lord accepted the Genesis accounts of creation and the Fall as historical events.  So did Paul.  So do we.

1.   The creation of Adam and Eve, Genesis 1:26-31; 2:8-25.

We can in these lessons do little more than touch the surface.

a.  their responsibility, 1:26, 28.

They were to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it; …have dominion over…every living thing that moves on the earth.  In other words, they were to explore their new home and put it to good use.  In a sinless context like the Garden, the word “dominion” carries the idea of stewardship, not “domination,” as it so often does in a sinful context, like ours.  Adam was to till the ground, not just lie around in idleness.  Even in “paradise,” there was work to do.

b. their resources, 1:29; 2:16.

They were given to eat freely of every tree in the Garden except one.  There was no miserly rationing of things they might need, but all was freely given, even access to the Tree of Life.  If they’d’ve been smart, they would have rushed right over and eaten of it.  It should have been their first meal!  Of course, they had no way of knowing the future, or what was at stake.

c.  their restriction, 2:17.

There was only one tree which they were forbidden to eat from, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This restriction served a two-fold purpose:  1).  Even though, in a sense, Adam was lord of all he surveyed, yet he was still just a creature and, as such, subject to the will of the Creator.  2).  Adam and Eve didn’t need to know about “good and evil.”  They had full access to God.  He determines what is “good,” and what is “evil.”  In their lives just now, there was no “evil.”  If there were any questions, they had only to ask Him.

2.  The conduct of Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:1-6. 

a.  they listened, vs. 1-5.

Even in the Garden, they made bad choices:  Eve to listen to the serpent, and Adam to listen to his wife.  Though perhaps humorous, this last really isn’t funny, because from these few minutes in the Garden have come millennia, indeed, even an eternity, of sin and suffering.  Notice how Satan turned the generosity of God into an intolerable restraint, implying that He was keeping something good from them.  Furthermore, he said, they wouldn’t “die” if they ate the fruit.  To the contrary, they would become like God, and by this, he implied, they wouldn’t need Him to be their moral and spiritual compass.  They could decide for themselves.

b.  they looked, v. 6.

We say, “They,” because the verse says that Adam was “with her.”  We believe he was there all the time.  She didn’t have to go looking for him.  Now, the tree looked beautiful and its fruit, she was told, was beneficial.  In her defense, Eve had no experience with deceit, it not having become part of the daily fabric of life.  So she picked a delicious-looking fruit – probably not an apple, and ate it.  Then she “shared” with Adam.

3.  The consequences to Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:7-24. 

a.  they died, (Genesis 2:17).

What does they “died” mean, since Adam lived well over 900 years outside the Garden?  Seeing this, some have looked at Psalm 90:4 and its repetition in 2 Peter 3:8, and misreading it as if it said 1000 years is one day to the Lord, have said that this is what God meant.  However, the only “day” Adam likely knew, never having read Psalm 90:4, was the “day” of 24 hours.  Besides, there is a certain immediacy in God’s warning – in the day you eat of it [the fruit], you shall surely die” that is lost if all God meant was that Adam would live less than a thousand years.

Before the Sun went down on that fateful day when they disobeyed God, Adam and Eve had died.  As we’ll see shortly, the primary effect of death is separation, and we read no more of any fellowship Adam and Eve had with God.  They were now afraid of Him and tried to hide.

b. they tried to do something about it, Genesis 3:7.

The world with its warped thought jokes about “the oldest profession in the world,” but they’re wrong.  The oldest “profession” is that of tailor.  Mankind still has no understanding of its condition before God, Romans 3:11, yet knows something is “wrong,” and so is still making “loincloths.”

c.  they shifted the blame, Genesis 3:12, 13.

Ultimately, Adam blamed God:  “the woman You gave me….”  Eve blamed the serpent. Yet the responsibility had been given to Adam to keep the Garden.  He failed in his primary responsibilities to God and to protect (another meaning of the word translated, “keep”) Eve.  After all, she was part of what God had entrusted into his keeping.

d.  their relationship were disrupted.

Their primary relationship was with God.  Before the Fall, and we don’t know how long that took, they had enjoyed fellowship with God, Genesis 3:8.  I’m sure, for example, that it was a festive occasion when God brought Eve to Adam.  However, after the Fall, there is no record that they ever again had such fellowship with God.  They were thrown out of the Garden.  They had died spiritually.

Their relationship with each other deteriorated, as well.  Gone forever was the innocence with which they had reveled in each other’s company.  I use the word “revel” deliberately.  There was no sin to cloud their happiness together; everything was perfect and holy.  We cannot imagine what it must have been like, although those who are blessed with a happy marriage have a small taste of it.  But now their memory was of what had happened – how they had failed God and each other, to say nothing of the curse under which they now lived:  evicted together from paradise, multiplied and painful child-bearing for Eve, as well as subordination to her husband, and, for Adam, increased and frustrating toil.

Paradise had truly been lost.

e.  they lost the right to eternal life, and their ability to obtain it.

Being evicted from the Garden barred them from the Tree of Life.  To make certain of that, God placed cherubim and a flaming sword in the way to prevent access to it, Genesis 3:22-24.  The lesson for them, and for us, is that if you want eternal life, you have to do something about your sin and the justice of God.  What they could have freely taken at any time before their sin was completely denied to them after it.

f.  their descendants were affected.

Though we see this relatively soon in the murder of Abel by his jealous brother Cain, we’re more concerned about descendants further along the line, like us.  What effect, if any, did the Fall have on us and our children and grandchildren?  We’ll explore the answer to this, Lord willing, in the next lesson.

Questions.

 1.  What bars man from eternal life?

 2.  Why is grace necessary?

 3.  What does “kindness” have to do with it?

 4.  Are the Biblical accounts of Creation and the Fall reliable.  Why?

 5.  What responsibility did Adam and Eve have in the Garden?

 6.  What resources?

 7.  Were there any restrictions?  Why?

 8.  What did Adam and Eve do?

 9.  What does it mean:  “they died”?

10. What other results were there from their eating the fruit?

“Just A Wife”

“One time when Eva inquired about my long-term prognosis, a nurse told her, ‘Honey, you don’t need to know all of that.  You’re just a wife’.”

This is a quote from Don Piper’s book, “90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN,” 10th anniversary edition, p. 147.  If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend that you do.  I picked it up the other day at WalMart while I was waiting for my wife.  I read it through at one sitting.  I’m not ashamed to admit that the tears flowed freely.

The quote comes in the middle of a section in which Don explains what happened when he was finally able to come home after many months of lying immobile in a hospital bed and how those long months had affected his wife.  I’ll not go into all that because you can read it for yourself.

But the quote really struck me.  I’ve often made the comment that no woman is ever “just a mother.”  I’m going to have to expand that to say that no woman is ever “just a wife.”

I’m sure the nurse didn’t mean her remark as an insult.  She probably was just trying to spare Eva Piper some of the painful details of her husband’s recovery.

At the same time, though, it’s a reflection of current attitudes towards women and marriage.

“Just a wife.”

How little, sometimes, we clunkers of husbands value the women God has been gracious enough to put into our lives.  Oh, I know they’re not perfect…

Neither are we.

Like Hannah’s husband Elkanah, we’re so often unable to understand the heart needs of the woman who shares our life, 1 Samuel 1:8.

If any man does think he’s perfect, he needs to ask his wife about it.

When Adam was by himself in the Garden, God said that it wasn’t good that he should be alone.  So He did something about it.

He made a wife.

Not simply a woman, though that’s how we think of her, and, indeed, how Scripture describes her.  But she was so much more than that:  she was a wife.

It’s true that things happened we wish wouldn’t have and their perfect harmony and happiness was disrupted.  Paradise was lost and has never been regained.

Nevertheless.

It just occurred to me as I was thinking about what to write next, that marriage (and family) is the one of the few things Adam took with him from the Garden.

He still had Eve.

There’s a lot more that I could write, how Christ’s love for us is pictured in marriage, how that love is the pattern we husbands are supposed to follow as to how we view and treat our own wives.  How Adam was made complete by Eve.  She was in no way “inferior” to him, but he was incomplete without her.

Let me just close with this – a loving wife is the greatest blessing, short of salvation, that God can give a man.

Her worth is far above rubies, Proverbs 31:10.

Voices of Christmas: The Promise

Beginning with this post and going throughout the month of December, Lord willing, we plan to do a series of posts on “the voices of Christmas.”  This will have nothing to do with Santa or Rudolph, but will look at both the Old and New Testaments to see what they might have to say about this time.  It will by no means be an exhaustive look at the season through the eyes of Scripture.  We just want to focus some attention on what it’s really all about.

In Genesis 3:15, the Lord said to Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

It really struck me for the first time as I was just reading this verse that God gave the first promise of redemption, at least that we have any record of, to the one who made it necessary, namely, the Devil.  I know many refuse to accept the Genesis record as anything more than an allegory or a myth or just the ignorant thinking of primitive people, with no more historical reality or value than Santa himself.  I can’t help that.  Such people probably won’t pay any more attention to what I have to say about it than they do to what the Scripture says about it.

We’re not given a lot of detail about what happened, just enough to know that it did and the results of Adam’s foolish act.  No doubt, Satan thought he had foiled God’s plan for humans.  He knew what happened when one disobeyed God; he’d experienced it himself.  He probably thought that if he could get Adam and Eve to disobey, that God would judge them, as well.  

He was half right.

Satan knew about God’s justice, but he didn’t know anything about God’s grace and mercy.

Adam and Eve did disobey and God did judge them  Adam was given increased labor and so was Eve, although of a different kind.  Their paradise was closed to them and they were thrown out of their home.  We have no record that they ever had fellowship with God like they had enjoyed before their sin.

However, though He judged them, God didn’t disown them, like He had Satan, or destroy them.  He clothed them with coats of skin, thus foreshadowing the truth of redemption: that sinners can only live through the sacrifice of an innocent substitute.

This, then, was the promise to Satan – that instead of destroying God’s purpose, he had simply turned it against himself.  God would do for humanity what He wouldn’t do for angels, namely, provide redemption for them.  Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.  …For verily, he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham, Hebrews 2:14, 16 (KJV).  Though Satan would successfully “bruise the heel” of the coming Seed of the woman, that would only serve to “bruise”, or crush, his own head.

In the midst of the shambles and ruin of our first parents’ first sin came also the first promise of redemption:  the first “voice of Christmas”.

The First “Bible Study”

Genesis 3:1-4

It’s interesting to me that the first “Bible study” in Scripture was initiated by Satan.  Granted, Adam and Eve didn’t have “Scripture” as we understand it, but they still had words God had given them – and I don’t suppose that we have a complete record of everything that was said.

Anyway, the tactics Satan used were so successful, as he thought, that he’s used them ever since in his attacks against the Word of God.

1.  Doubt.

“has God said,….”? (NKJV)  The NASB has it, “Indeed, has God said,…?”

So, we hear:

“The Bible was written long after the events it supposedly tells about.”
“The Bible was just written by a bunch of priests to oppress the people.”
“Jesus never existed.”
“A God of love would never do that.”
“That’s just Paul’s Rabbinic prejudice showing through.”
“Paul took the teachings of Jesus and turned them into something Jesus never intended.”
Etc., etc.

We might ask a question ourselves.  Why DID God give the restriction against the one tree?  There are several reasons.  The main one, I think, was to remind Adam, though he was, in effect, lord of all he surveyed, was to remind him that he was still just a creature, and as such, was to obey his Creator.  This was a very simple restriction, nevertheless.  Some will say that the most important reason was so that Adam could have a choice.  That is also true.  Adam and Eve were the only human beings who ever truly had anything approaching “free will.”  They knew nothing of evil.  They had no sin in themselves, and their wills hadn’t yet been corrupted by the Fall.  If anything, they were disposed toward good, that being all they knew.  Still, God didn’t create robots or puppets.  The final reason for the prohibition was what happened whey they did eat of that tree.

2.  Distortion.

Satan presented God command negatively:  …you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?  That’s not at all what God said.  In 1:29, He said to them, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; for you it shall be for food.”  In 2:16, 17, we have more of the conversation, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat; for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” 

Adam and Eve were given a whole world as their pantry.  Everything was theirs for the enjoying, except one lone tree.  But Satan focused on that one tree, as if that prohibition were the whole conversation.

So, today, people have the idea of Christianity that it’s all about giving up fun and good times.  It’s all dreary church services and long faces.  As one man told me, “God forbids all the things we want to do.”

The Scripture says that God gives us all things richly to enjoy, 1 Timothy 6:17.  The Christian has found that to be so, and that all the things the world enjoys, those “good times”, just last for a while, cf. Hebrews 11:25.  When they are over, they leave in their place only heartache, headache, and life-ache, to say nothing of their eternal consequences.

3.  Deviation – although this was Eve.

She added “touching” to God’s command.  Here was the first legalism – the first “list” of “don’t”.  Some have suggested that this was Adam’s idea.  Who knows?  Perhaps it was just to “protect” God’s Word, to make it less likely to disobey.  Still, it was presumption, as if the Word itself weren’t enough.

4.  Denied.

“You shall not die,…”  A blatant denial of God’s plain statement.

But you can’t just deny God’s Word; you put something in its place, which leads us to

5.  Dismissed.

Satan gave a totally different meaning and message that what God had given.  He said that not only would they not die, but that they would become godlike themselves.  The idea is implicit that they wouldn’t need God, they could decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, what is good or evil.

He neglected to mention that they would become powerless to do good, at least as God defines it, and programmed, as it were, to do only evil – again, as God defines it.

Mankind today, even though it may deny any such being as a devil, has certainly bought into his lie.  Pornography, abortion, marriage equality, immorality of all kinds, violence, bloodshed, the list could go on and on.  Greed and injustice in business.  Political malfeasance on all levels.  Deceit, false advertising – “this product will make you look young and beautiful.”  Why don’t such advertisers use models who aren’t already “young and beautiful”?  Youngsters killing each other.  On and on.  The Bible has pretty much been thrown out, and the devil’s lie put into its place.  With pretty much the same result as the first time it happened.

Because

as much as man denies it,

The wages of sin is death, Romans 3:23.

Just A Piece of Wood

Hezekiah “…broke in pieces the brass serpent which Moses had made; for until those the days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and he called it Nehushtan (a piece of brass)” 2 Kings 18:4 (NKJV).

Nearly 700 years (!) earlier, Moses had made this brass serpent in accord with God’s instruction, Numbers 21:1-9.  The people has sinned against God, and poisonous serpents had come among them as judgment.  Those who looked on this serpent of brass held aloft on a pole were healed.  The Lord Jesus, in John 3:14-15, taught that this incident was a picture of His own coming death and of the salvation of sinners.

By Hezekiah’s time, the brass serpent had become an object of superstition, as if it had the power to heal.  How do you suppose the people felt about this destruction?

We wonder what would happen if, some Sunday morning, a pastor holding up a wooden cross would stand before his people and, while announcing, “This is just a piece of wood,” would break it into pieces.  It might depend on the church, but we suspect that a ripple of shock might sweep through the congregation, much like the shock that followed when a priest tore up a picture of Pope Benedict after Benedict had announced his retirement from the papacy.

We’re so used to hearing about “the cross”.  But the cross itself has no more power to save than did that brass serpent of old.  Even the cross upon which Jesus died was “just a piece of wood.”  Other men, before and after, may have died on that same piece of wood.  Their deaths had no meaning.  Why did Jesus’?  Scripture gives three reasons.

1.  The death of Jesus was a SACRIFICE.  From the very first, sin has brought death.  Even Adam and Eve were taught this.  Death had been promised them “the day” they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Yet they did not die that “day”.  Instead, animals died and Adam and Eve were clothed with their skins, Genesis 2, 3.  We can’t greatly enter into this teaching, but every time an Israelite brought an animal to the altar, he put his hand on its head.  This was a symbolic confession that he deserved to die, but the sacrifice of the animal meant that he could continue to live.  So Jesus came to “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” Hebrews 9:26.  We live because of the sacrifice of Jesus.

2.  The death of Jesus was a SATISFACTION.  God had instituted physical and moral laws which govern all life.  Breaking these laws has serious consequences.  If you jump off a tall building, the consequence for breaking the law of gravity is serious injury or death.  To break God’s moral law brings only death: “the soul that sins shall die,” Ezekiel 18:4; “the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23.  God’s justice is as inflexible as His love is immeasurable and must be satisfied.  God does not and cannot ignore sin.  The penalty for sin – death – must be paid and there are no exceptions.

Isaiah 53:10, 11 brings these two thoughts together:  v. 10 speaks of the “offering” – sacrifice – of the Lord Jesus for sin, and v. 11 says that God is “satisified” with that offering.

What does this mean to you and me?

3.  The death of Jesus was a SUBSTITUTION.  2 Corinthians 5:18-21 tells us that Jesus took the place of those for whom He came to die.  Though sinless Himself, He took their sins as His, and, dying, paid the penalty for those sins.  So completely did Jesus satisfy God’s justice as the substitute for sinners that it is impossible for a single person for whom He died ever to come under condemnation for sin.  Jesus was their Substitute.

Sin will be punished.  Your sin will be punished, and mine.  Either we will be punished or we must find a substitute.  The Lord Jesus came as a Substitute.  Though sinless, He took a place as a sinner, to die for sinners.  Have you taken, will you take, your place as a sinner?  Will you confess that you are guilty?  That you deserve to die?  That God would be just and fair if He punished you? Will you turn from your sin, and turn to the Lord Jesus for salvation?

Do you thus believe on the Lord Jesus?  Do you rest in His sinless life and sacrificial death as your only hope and confidence before God?  You see, “the cross” is more than just a pretty piece of jewelry or an ornament on a building.  It’s more than just “a sign.”  It was the instrument on which the Lord Jesus died for sinners.  It is His death and His alone which gives any hope for sinners like you and me.

Do you thus believe on the Lord Jesus?  If so, God’s Word says you have been saved from your sins, Romans 3:21-26.  If not, consider….  Are you willing to stand before God on your own account, Hebrews 9:27.