Friday, April 10, 2020

Genesis 3:14-19 Understand the Curse to Understand the Cross

Genesis 3:14-19 ESV  The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  (15)  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."  (16)  To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."  (17)  And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;  (18)  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  (19)  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

It is all over the news.  In fact, you can hardly find an escape.  It is indeed everywhere and now they’re telling us it was here before we knew it was here.  They have us quarantined at home aside from essential trips to find groceries and such.  Why?  The coronavirus outbreak referred to as COVID-19.  This pandemic has certainly got our attention as it wreaks havoc across the globe with hundreds of thousands expected to lose their lives.  This, while the best scientists in the most advanced institutions in the world wrestle to gain the upper hand.

On this Good Friday when we remember the day of Christ’s crucifixion it brings us to the obvious question of why?  Why did Christ have to die on the cross and why is this coronavirus doing its best to kill us?

The answer is found in the passage referenced today referred to as, “The Curse”.  This act of God cursing his own creation was the result of the fall of Man.  Please review the passages preceding where the perfection of the garden was infected by the temptation of the serpent (Satan) resulting in the sin (something less than holy) of Adam and Eve.  That willful disobedience of the first man stained his kind.  That’s you and me.  We now have the nature of sin within us because of what Adam did.  And with that comes our inheritance of the curse.

In fact, the world from that point forward is living under the curse.  The curse of creation has actually been at work attacking through the ages and having a greater and greater effect.  A review of the patriarchs reveal a steady decline in the age to which they live.  Methuselah lived 969 years the oldest recorded living man.  But all of these early men lived for hundreds of years many more than 500.  As the curse persisted so did the decline in the age to which a normal man would live.

Only with the introduction of modern science, our deeper understanding of the pathogens of the curse have we been able to push back.  But are we pushing back successfully?  I mean real success.  Not just incremental improvement.  I would say, no.  Median lifespan is now in the high seventies approaching eighty.  That’s a far cry from 969.  And by the way, that life span of nearly 1000 years was not God’s design.  Man was created to be an eternal being.  Death was introduced with the curse.  None of us were ever supposed to die – full stop!

But with the curse came death and all the means toward death including yes, the coronavirus and this present COVID-19.  It is the result of the curse and it will be defeated by the scientists and our own immune system which God too created.

So what is the tie to this day; Good Friday?

Well, why would it be called “Good” when such a terrible thing happened?  How is the crucifixion of Christ “Good”?

Frankly, it was the only way.  In fact, it was the very purpose of Christ’s coming to this earth in the form of Man living in this cursed creation but doing so perfectly.  Living a sin free life.  That set him up to be the perfect sacrifice.  Not for himself, a sinless man requires no sacrifice.  Just go ahead, live a perfect life and find out.  Ooops, no you cant.  It’s not possible since you come from Adam and were born into the lineage of sin. 

So on this day some 2000 years ago the perfect was sacrificed for the imperfect.  His act of giving himself up on the cross as a holy sacrifice enables the restoration of mankind.  A reconciliation of the cursed back into the presence of a holy God.  His act breaks the curse.

But, whoa, hold on, you said that happened 2000 years ago.  Why do we have a pandemic today?
Well, that is simple to answer but hard to understand.  The simple answer is that God is merciful and full of grace.  You see the impact of the act of Christ on the cross is dependent on our faith.  We must believe what Christ did and believe He did it for us.  In order to do that, some of the generations prior to Christ looked forward to the cross anticipating the Messiah.  There are numerous examples of faithful people believing the promise of a deliverer and that faith being reckoned as righteousness.  Since the cross we look back with the same faith.  God’s grace has provided the time for this message to reach us.  In fact, He is providing time for all to hear and respond to this good news.
So what?  All this blather about reconciliation and sin and etc. etc.  Why does this all matter?  People are sick and dying.

Yep!  They are and they will continue to.  The coronavirus COVID-19 is a blessing in one simple way.  It has our attention.  It has brought the stark reality of life and death literally to our front door.  There is no escape from the cursed world in which we live.  That is, no escape other than through Christ.  Even then, we will all still die.  Well, except those who are still here when Christ comes to bring us home.  But that’s a story for another day.

For today, take a moment to reflect on the cross.  The sacrifice made for you.  Make the decision that this gift of grace is indeed for you and accept it.  You can do that right there where you are.  Just talk to God – in your head or out loud.  He’ll hear you.

And with me and the other Christians around the world anticipate with great joy the celebration of Easter on Sunday when we celebrate the victory of Christ as he conquered death and rose from the tomb.  Like Christ, we who believe will rise and join Him to live forever as originally intended.

The Curse is Broken!  AMEN

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mark 15:12-15 Pilate's Really Bad Day

Mark 15:12-15 NASB Answering again, Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?"  (13)  They shouted back, "Crucify Him!"  (14)  But Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify Him!"  (15) Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”

Men, have you ever been in that “No Win” situation?  You know, when your wife says something like, “Do you like this dress”? Or “Does this outfit make me look fat”?  What are you supposed to say about that?  Any answer may be the wrong answer and – you’re in T R O U B L E.  No win here.
Just maybe that is the situation Pilate found himself in after Jesus came on the scene in Jerusalem so many years ago.  The trumped up charges the chief priests accused Jesus of which they had no authority to enforce were dumped on him, Pilate. 

Who was Pilate?
"The pagan historian Tacitus (Ann. 15:44) writes: "Christ, while Tiberius was emperor, was capitally executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate." The procurator was generally a Roman knight, acting under the governor of a province as collector of the revenue, and judge in cases arising under it. But Pontius Pilate had full military and judicial authority in Juda, as being a small province attached to the larger Syria; he was responsible to the governor of Syria. Archelaus having been deposed (A.D. 6), Subinus, Coponius, Ambivius, Rufus, Valerius Gratus, and Pontius Pilate successively were governors (Josephus, Ant. 18:2, section 2)."

So, all that to say – Pilate (Pontius Pilate) was large and in charge.  He was the ultimate decision maker appointed by the Roman Emperor – Tiberius.  It was this Pilate that the Jewish leaders turned Jesus over to for punishment.
Pilate had been witness to the throngs of people cheering Jesus just days before as he rode in to town.  This man’s reputation was large and the last thing Pilate needed was some insurrection stirred up because he upset the populace.  It didn’t help th
at these Jewish leaders were so adamant about the desired outcome for this man Jesus.

Pilate had to be very uncomfortable as he begins asking questions.  Mark 15:2 NASB  Pilate questioned Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And He *answered him, ‘It is as you say.’"

Pilate makes no judgment but, Mark 15:3 NASBThe chief priests began to accuse Him harshly.”

Mark 15:4-5 NASBThen Pilate questioned Him again, saying, "Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!"  (5) But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.”

Amazed – indeed

We are not given what additional accusations were presented here nor the specific questions Pilate asked but we know this – Jesus was done answering pointless questions.

Pointless?  Yes, there was no point in giving truth to a bunch who had no interest in hearing the answer but were simply using questions to make a point of their own.  To trump up charges before Pilate.

“Jesus made no further answer” and because of that, “Pilate was amazed.”

What to do – what to do thinks Pilate.  I don’t want a riot.  These Jewish leaders are ticked but I don’t see anything in this man Jesus that warrants punishment.

Then it hits him.  Once a year we release one of the condemned at the request of the people.  I can implement that loophole right here – right now for Jesus.

So he puts it to the people giving them the choice to release a known murderer or Jesus.  He had to be thinking – these people that welcomed Jesus with such enthusiasm will surely ask for his release NOT the murderer Barabbas.  WRONG – the crowd having been riled up by the chief priests asked for Barabbas’ freedom and when asked – said, “Crucify him” regarding Jesus.

CRUD!  Now what do I do?

Mark 15:14 NASB  “But Pilate said to them, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify Him!’”

Well that was unexpected but I have my way out – the people want this even though he is innocent so far as I can see.

I’ll disown the whole thing Pilate says to himself.

Matthew 27:24  “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.’"

With that – Pilate was done.

The question I have for you is whether Pilate’s no win situation and the solution he finally came to a valid one.  Did he effectively wash is hands of the whole thing?  Was he truly guiltless in the crucifixion of Jesus?

I think the washing of the hands is illustrative.  In fact, the washing of hands was a known and practiced ceremonial cleansing that the Jews would have recognized.

Pilate in so doing was claiming his own innocence in the forthcoming brutality and death of Jesus.  But could he do that?

Can we, hover over a basin of water, wash our hands ceremonially and proclaim our innocence?  NO!!!

Pilate could no more cleanse himself from this sin than can we.  Ironically, the death Jesus was about to endure at the hands of Pilate was the only way that Pilate could possibly have been made clean.  It is the only way this terrible sin could have been wiped away.

It is the only way ANY sin can be removed.  The death of Jesus, His sacrifice is the only washing that could have removed his guilt.  That death, some two thousand years ago is the only way any of us can be cleaned.

We don’t know the fate of Pilate.  We know some Romans even some Roman leaders came to know Jesus and his work of salvation accepting it for themselves.  Maybe he did.  Most likely he didn’t.

What is your choice?  Belief in what Jesus did as a cleansing of the blood on your hands or not?  AMEN!

Friday, March 7, 2014

John 3:3-8 My Birthday Remix

John 3:3-8 NASB  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus *said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  ‘Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  ‘The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

So yesterday was my birthday.  Many of my Face Book friends made me feel very happy and loved by expressing their well wishes on this date which rolls around annually.  For the record I reached the speed limit.  We’ll not discuss which one.  It is nice that the social media tool reminds our friends to reach out and give a thoughtful sentiment to those of us celebrating these milestones of life.

Ah, but I have two birthdays so don't put away the cake too soon. 

In Jesus' day there was a Pharisee, one of the Jewish leaders who came to see Jesus to talk about spiritual things.  Nicodemus was his name and we know he was listening favorably to what Jesus was sharing because he proclaimed, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." John 3:2.  But – He was also confused.  And I’m afraid what Jesus had to share with him during their conversation would perhaps confuse him a bit more.

You see, Jesus flat out said Nicodemus needed to be “Born again” John 3:5 in order to see the kingdom of God.  Thinking in the terms of this world that is way out there and Nicodemus responded accordingly.  "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" John 3:4.  From his perspective, he just couldn’t make sense of this wacky idea.
But what about us?  Do we get what is being said here?  What is this additional birth and why is it necessary?  Gee – loads of questions there Dale
As foundation we should understand that birth is the point of entering into life and it is from this perspective that Jesus' remarks take shape.  When we are physically born from our mother’s womb we enter into life in this world.  That’s the birth I celebrated yesterday, my birthday.  Woo Hoo!
It is entering into life spiritually that happens for those who become Christians.  They are literally born into their spiritual life so according to Jesus they are “Born again” and yes, it makes sense in those terms.  This is where the term Born Again believer comes from which is of course redundant.  Why?  Because in order to be counted a believer you must what?  ... Be born again.  So, all believers are born again. 
So what about that second birthday?
On the day when you are born again you might say you have a second birthday.  It is clear from many personal testimonies that lots of people can point to their exact date of second birth.  They remember it clearly and can provide through their personal testimonies the dramatic witness of an evangelist for example that drew them to a new life in Christ.
We’re all not that way.
Just as I don’t remember my birth into this physical life, I don’t remember my birth into spiritual life.  Just as I am alive and therefore must have been born, I am alive spiritually and therefore must have been born again.  I know of my physical birth and birthday because I was told that it occurred a speed limit ago.  I do not have anyone that specifically witnessed my spiritual birth and is able to give me that precise date.  I know however that I have that second birthday because of faith that I know to be real.
So what about you?  Do you have a second birthday?  Whether you know the date or simply know that it is true – that second birthday is truly the one to celebrate.  AMEN