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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Authentic Christian III

Note - This lesson was prompted by a Bible study I'm in by Erilynn Barnum in the Call To Discipleship ministry, "Authentic Christianity". She is a wonderful teacher!  For my previous studies on Authentic Christianity see Authentic Christian I and Authentic Christian II.

Peter 1:1-11 (Amplified Version - AV) 1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Confirming One’s Calling and Election 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We've learned the context in which this letter to Roman Christians was written by Simon Peter. We've learned that the same faith that the Apostle Peter had is the same faith we have and all have had throughout the two thousand years since he wrote it. This faith is a gift from God. We also learned that He gave us His Holy Spirit to help us. Once we are saved and our spirit has been born, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us and help our new spirit to grow and mature. It doesn't happen overnight, it's a process throughout the rest of our life. We call it sanctification. It's learning and growing in the things of God. So we have been given faith and the Holy Spirit worked at reaching that seed of faith that is planted in us all. Once we hear and obey the call of God on our lives, that seed of faith gives birth to our new spirit. It's why it's called being "born again". Now the Holy Spirit moves inside us to take up residence. We become a living temple of God. The Holy Spirit begins the process of sanctification leading to godliness. So God has provided the faith, the indwelling and divine power of the Holy Spirit (the representation in us of His Divine Presence).

He has also given us His "very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.".

Another translation helped me to understand this verse.

2 Peter 1:4 (Contemporary English Version - CEV) God made great and marvelous promises, so that his nature would become part of us. Then we could escape our evil desires and the corrupt influences of this world.

The word "promises" means a declaration or assurance that one will do what they say they will do. It is to assure someone that one will definitely do what they say they will do. When someone promises us something then we have good reason to expect they will do what they say. It is an oath or pledge and can be legally binding as in a contract. In this sense it's a covenant. A covenant is a contract or agreement between two or more parties. In a covenant with God, He is the initiator of the covenant and He makes the promises and then He follows through to make the it happen. Although we are one of the parties in the covenant, we are totally unable to do anything within this contract. But God knows that and He did it all.

Let's say that a builder comes to you and offers to build you a dream home. He initiates the contract by coming up with the idea and coming to offer it to you. He offers to build you a 6,000 sq foot home with an indoor, heated swimming pool, a gourmet kitchen, 4 bedrooms, 6 full baths and 2 half baths, etc. He will locate it on a perfectly located lot of 5 acres and landscape it to fit your family in every way. He also offers to pay for it and then convey the title to it all to you. All you have to do is accept it, move in and live in the house. It sounds too good to be true, so you waffle around trying to make a decision. Finally, you say, OK, let's go for it and you enter into the contract with the builder and you find that he fulfills every promise and you end up with your perfect home and it didn't cost you a cent! Wouldn't you be happy?

Guess what? God did this for us. He initiated a covenant. He came up with the plan. He provides everything you need and He paid the price. All you have to do is accept His offer and live in it!

Maybe you have a hard time believing in promises because you have had so many promises broken. Maybe that spouse, who promised to love you til death do you part didn't fulfill their promise and broke your heart as they walked out the door. Maybe your parents broke promises to you. Maybe you've had legal problems where contracts were broken. It can be devastating. In the old days, people would say, "My word is my bond" and they were known in their community for being a "man of his word". That has little meaning to us today because most people have no problem breaking promises. In fact, it's not a promise when someone doesn't have the desire and intent to fulfill their stated obligations. If someone accepts your invitation and says, "I'd love to come to dinner Saturday night at 6pm" then you expect them to come. You buy the food, spend time preparing it and wear yourself out getting the house cleaned, Finally, they take their shower and get dressed up and wait in anticipation of your arrival. Meanwhile, someone else has invited them to a dinner and movie so they blow off their previous commitment and go to the dinner/movie. They have broken their promise to you and left you sitting at home waiting. This is so rude but it happens every day. People will accept invitations but only in so far as if nothing better comes along. They don't care that it hurts or offends someone they made a promise to. Why? Because it's all about themselves. Their selfishness supercedes anyone else.  If you have 100 selfish people in a room, they will all do only what they want to do without regard to how it affects the other 99. In essence, you will have a room of chaos, confusion and hurt.

I believe it's why so many people don't get married. It's not only, "why buy the cow when you can get the milk free". It's also about how people don't want to make promises that they don't intend to keep. They don't mind living with someone as long as everything is easy and fun. But once it begins to cos them something, they have second thoughts. They are selfish and have no intention of doing anything that costs them. They aren't going to sacrifice or compromise or cooperate or learn to adjust because it's all about them. As long as their partner meets their expectations and gives them what they want, then they will stick around. But they are gone as soon as reality steps in and the rubber meets the road.

And, even if they go through with a wedding, how many couples really know what they are doing? To many, a wedding is nothing more than a big party in honor of themselves. They get to be the center of attention; spend a lot of money on themselves; get gifts; and, have a big party at someone's expense. They don't really care about the promises they are making or the covenant relationship that they are creating before God and man. To them it's just a big party. So, once the party is over, and they have to start really living with someone else, the honeymoon is over. And, when things get tough, they bail out with a quick divorce. Promises and covenants mean nothing to them. They want what they want, when they want it and don't get in their way or they will push you out of the way to ge it. God calls it a marriage covenant. You promise to love, honor and keep your spouse until death. Through sickness and health, whether richer or poorer. You solemnly make these promises before God with people as your witnesses. So if your spouse gets fat, loses their job, grows old, becomes ill, has a bad habit... none of these are good excuses for breaking your marriage covenant promises. God only gives 2 reasons for divorce and that is abandonment and adultery. Has your spouse abandoned their role as husband or wife? Have they left you or abandoned their position or responsibilities as husband or wife? Have they committed adultery? Then you have grounds for divorce. But even that was because we are human and there are extremes that humans cannot take.

But God is not like that. His Promise is unalterable. It is rock solid. His Word means it's a done deal. You can trust His Promises. This means if you were in a marriage covenant with God you would never have to worry if He is running around on you, committing adultery, or lying to you. You would never have to worry if you got old and ugly, that He would find someone younger and prettier and leave you high and dry. God is NOT man. He is not human that He should fail. There are no circumstances, no matter how extreme, that He cannot handle. You can trust His Word. You can "take it to the bank". His word is His bond. You can stand on it! All the persons of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, stand behind God's promises.

So we've established that God's Promises are sacrosanct (extremely sacred; inviolable; not to be changed or interfered with; too sacred to be criticized) and immutable (incapable of being changed). We can trust whatever He says.

God made covenants with Old Testament leaders. His first was with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 (Adamic Covenant). It is the first prophecy of Jesus Christ as Savior when He says, "And I will put enmity between [the serpent, satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." (Genesis 3:15 Modern King James Version - MKJV). Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit so Jesus was perfectly God and wholly human. He was the Seed of Eve mentioned in Genesis 3:15. Although satan would "bruise His heel" (which is a wound but not a mortal wound), Jesus would "bruise your head" (which is a killing and mortal wound).

God also made a Covenant with Noah in Genesis 6, especially 6:18, called the Noahic Covenant. God made a Covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 called the Abrahamic Covenant. He made covenants with Isaac, Jacob, Israel, King David (Davidic Covenant) and Moses (Mosaic Covenant). Each were solemnly made and the promises of God were fulfilled.

Jeremiah 31:31-37 English Standard Version - ESV) "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (32) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt (Mosaic Covenant), my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. (33) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (34) And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (35) Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name: (36) "If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever." (37) Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD."

You can see that God makes a promise and then lets you know that there is no way it can be broken. We know the universe is infinite and God says, "If the heavens above can be measured" (which they can't) then will the promise be broken. I.e. His promise is a promise that cannot be broken.

What does this promise have to do with us today? Wasn't it made to the Jews? The kingdom of Israel had broken into two realms: the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah which is why God mentions them both. They are both equally Jewish or Hebraic (Hebrew and Jew denotes the same). But that was for the Jews, what about us today. I'm a gentile because I wasn't born of Jewish parents and yet, this promise is for me today!

If we read Romans, we find out that Abraham (the Father of the Jewish nation) was given covenant promises by God because he believed in God. He trusted God and trusted Him so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, when God asked him to. Abraham knew God well enough and trusted Him so much that he knew that if he did sacrifice Isaac, God was able to raise him from the dead. Isaac had been promised to Abraham and Sarah by God so he was the promised son. Therefore, God had plans for Isaac and Abraham knew that as long as he trusted God and withheld nothing from him, Isaac would live to fulfill God's plans and purposes. As it happened, once God saw that Abraham was willing to obey, God stopped him before he actually killed Isaac. So God loved Abraham and made the promise to Abraham based on his faith in God.

Romans 4:3 (ESV) For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."

Romans 4:13 (ESV) For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

Romans 4:20-25 (ESV) No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, (21) fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (22) That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." (23) But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, (24) but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, (25) who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Also in Romans we find out that God considers those of us who also believe and trust in Jesus as our Savior are spiritual descendants of Abraham. So we can also partake in the promises of God.

Romans 9:6-8 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, (7) and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." (8) This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Romans 9:24-26 (ontemporary English Version - CEV) Whether Jews or Gentiles, we are those chosen ones, (25) just as the Lord says in the book of Hosea, "Although they are not my people, I will make them my people. I will treat with love those nations that have never been loved. (26) "Once they were told, 'You are not my people.' But in that very place they will be called children of the living God."

Romans 10:9-13 (CEV) So you will be saved, if you honestly say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death. (10) God will accept you and save you, if you truly believe this and tell it to others. (11) The Scriptures say that no one who has faith will be disappointed, (12) no matter if that person is a Jew or a Gentile. There is only one Lord, and he is generous to everyone who asks for his help. (13) All who call out to the Lord will be saved.

Romans 11:13-17 (CEV) I am now speaking to you Gentiles, and as long as I am an apostle to you, I will take pride in my work. (14) I hope in this way to make some of my own people jealous enough to be saved. (15) When Israel rejected God, the rest of the people in the world were able to turn to him. So when God makes friends with Israel, it will be like bringing the dead back to life. (16) If part of a batch of dough is made holy by being offered to God, then all of the dough is holy. If the roots of a tree are holy, the rest of the tree is holy too. (17) You Gentiles are like branches of a wild olive tree that were made to be part of a cultivated olive tree. You have taken the place of some branches that were cut away from it. And because of this, you enjoy the blessings that come from being part of that cultivated tree.

God's covenants are always perfect and fulfilled. And with Jesus, God made a New Covenant. The Old Testament Covenants were not broken by God. Each Old Testament Covenant was a build up to the New Covenant of the New Testament. The Jews were not able to keep the covenants. God can, but man cannot. This time the New Covenant wasn't just for the Jews, it was for all believers. This time it was an eternal covenant made using the body and blood of His only Son, Jesus Christ called the Messianic Covenant. How much more shall He keep a covenant made with the sacrifice of His Son!?!

What are the New Covenant promises of God? The Covenant of Grace, or New Covenant, is to save men on condition of their believing in Christ and receiving him as their Master and Saviour. This is an everlasting covenant, the last of covenants made with man. Despite our sins, we can be forgiven and given eternal life in Heaven with God. It is a promise, a covenant that God made and which was ratified by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 8:6-13 (ESV) But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (7) For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. (8) For he finds fault with them when he says: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, (9) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. (10) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (11) And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (12) For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (13) In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrews 9:15-28 (ESV) Therefore [Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (16) For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. (17) For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. (18) Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. (19) For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, (20) saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you." (21) And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. (22) Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (23) Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (24) For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. (25) Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, (26) for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (27) And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (28) so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Galatians 3:13-18 MKJV) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone having been hanged on a tree"); (14) so that the blessing of Abraham might be to the nations in Jesus Christ, and that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (15) Brothers, I speak according to man, a covenant having been ratified, even among mankind, no one sets aside or adds to it. (16) And to Abraham and to his Seed the promises were spoken. It does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, "And to your Seed," which is Christ. (17) And I say this, A covenant having been ratified by God in Christ, the Law (coming into being four hundred and thirty years after) does not annul the promise, so as to abolish it. (18) For if the inheritance is of Law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by way of promise.

The promises found their fulfillment in Christ, as did the Jewish Laws of the Old Testament, for He fulfilled it for us that He might be "the Lord our righteousness," "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth". The eternal plan of redemption entered into by the Godhead, and carried out by them. His blood was the seal of the New Covenant.

Matthew 26:26-29 (MKJV) And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is My body. (27) And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink all of it. (28) For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (29) But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.

Isaiah 42:5-9 (MKJV) So says Jehovah God, He who created the heavens and stretched them out, spreading out the earth and its offspring; He who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it. (6) I Jehovah have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a covenant of the people, for a Light of the nations; (7) to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness out of the prison house. (8) I am Jehovah; that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images. (9) Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they happen, I cause you to hear.

Ephesians 3:6 (ERV) And this is the secret truth: that by hearing the Good News, those who are not Jews will share with the Jews in the blessings God has for his people. They are part of the same body, and they share in the promise God made through Christ Jesus.

Titus 1:2 (ERV) This faith and knowledge make us sure that we have eternal life. God promised that life to us before time began--and God does not lie.

Now we have learned about God's covenant promises and how they are ours! We can trust that what He promises, He will fulfill and it's for us today! Not just for people in ancient times, not just for people of a certain ethnicity. It doesn't matter how sinful or good you are; what color or race you are; what nationality or age or gender your are; how rich or poor, smart or mentally handicapped, young or old... the offer of forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven are for any who will accept the offer. Once you accept the offer and become a Christian, God has provided everything you need to fulfill the promises He makes to you. He reconciles us to Himself through the work Jesus did on the cross. Jesus is God's Promise made manifest. God's love, power, mercy, grace were all shown through Jesus Christ. His Promises are exceedingly great, precious, costly... no, priceless! He promises us salvation through the Messiah. He promises that the Holy Spirit will come alongside and enable and empower us to grow and mature in Jesus. He promises that our sins are forgiven and therefore we have access to Jehovah God. We can come into His Presence and live eternally in the ages to come with God!

You can believe God's Promises. You can trust Him. I invite you to do that!

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