What man meant for evil God meant for good. As we look back on our week here in the United States and see what happened in Charleston, SC we saw evil personified. But what has come out of that should fill us with hope. Followers of Jesus did not respond with hate, but with love for one another and even the perpetrator of the horrendous crime of murdering unsuspecting victims.
There has been, is and will be grieving for the loss that this whole nation feels and especially the body of Christ. The write of Psalm 116:15 reminds the follower of Jesus that “Precious in the sight of the LORD in the death of His saints.” However, it is natural to grieve over one who was close to us; even Jesus did it in John 11:35 when He wept at the death of his dear friend Lazarus.
Often times when evil rears its ugly head those who are Jesus followers retreat into a shell and allow the evil to run amok. But this does not have to be; what we must do is come together and bring strength to that link which seems to be weak after a confrontation with evil. We retaliate but not with weapons made by men but weapons made by God. Vengeance is never ours to bring down upon our “enemies” but vengeance upon evil is only and always Gods.
Paul that apostle tells the church at Rome in his letter to them: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, ESV).
We began to get a glimpse of this in Charleston when the family members of the slain and members of the church body forgave the gunman and even invited him back to the same Bible study of which he took the lives of the slain. Paul goes on in verses 20-21; “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if his thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Don not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This young man was and is definitely hungry for God and thirsty for God, but he went about finding that very wrong. But God used this horrendous incident to show who He is and what He is truly like. God so loved the world even though it was not looking for Him and all evidence points to us hating God with a passion; that is when God the Father sent God the Son to die on our behalf so that we might receive eternal life if we receive it by faith.
Though we saw evil first hand my we see even more clearly the hand of our loving Savior as He overcomes hate with love and evil with good. As we move forward let us as followers of Jesus, whether black or white, or Latino or Asian may we set aside our color differences and see with great clarity what makes us of one great race – Jesus Christ and our reception of Him as our Savior and Lord. Let the church rise up and follow our Head into a great time of witnessing His love for a lost world. Lost people matter to God and He wants them found.
Grieve yes, but only temporarily, but love always! Follow the example of Jesus and love when it does not make sense. This shows God’s love for people of the world in which He came to save.
The prophet Isaiah wrote to the nation Israel 59:1-2; “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” There is something grand here, and something devastating.
God is able to save to the utmost and He is calling to those who do not yet know Him, but they are not listening. The issue is not with God it is with man. Our sins have placed a wall between the perfect and sinless God, while we cherish our sins (Psalm 66:18) and wonder why God does not hear us. The God who created man in His own image, watches as the pinnacle of His creation seems to prefer rejecting God over the life that He promises.
Earlier in the prophet Isaiah’s book he writes: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; thought they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). God knows that we all have sin, but His desire is for us to be in an intimate relationship with our Maker.
However, the Bible teaches that no one living wants a relationship with his/her Maker. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18). This does not seem like very good news. But you must understand the bad news before you can recognize the good news.
Paul the apostle writes, 3:21; “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).
Now that is good news! All man’s sin are atoned for through Jesus Christ, but the key is at the end of verse 26; “of the one who has faith in Jesus.” This is the only way that our sins can be made white as snow… turned from scarlet to white.
Faith in the finished work of Jesus can destroy the wall we erected through our sin. This can be summed up in one verse from the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Note, God initiated the salvation of humans by sending Jesus into the world so that we might have life through Him. But it takes believing in Jesus to make the transition from scarlet to white, or from darkness to light. God loves you too much to let you go on your own to eternal separation from Him so He gives you lifeline through His Son, God in the flesh.
Is your sin keeping you from the God who created you in His image? A soul that sins shall die and spend eternity away from the presence of God, but why should this happen when God has provided a way of salvation, a way to have all your sins forgiven and to have a personal and intimate relationship with Him?
Don’t cherish your sin and run from God but instead run to Him through believing in Jesus who took on flesh and came to seek and save the lost. Come to Him now by responding to His call on your life so that your sins, though they be as scarlet, will become white as snow.
JESUS THE GOD-MAN
Last week we began to consider the concept of Jesus being both God and man simultaneously. We, as humans, have a difficult time with this because only God can is capable of such a form of existence. He isn’t bound by the strictures of time and place that order our mortal lives.
He is God, and His ways are far higher than ours and so are His thoughts.
The Bible tells us “Concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4).
First, we see that Jesus was born of David according to the flesh. God’s Son, has a mortal lineage. Another translation of the original language puts it this way: “who being born of the seed of David according to the flesh.”
So Jesus, the Son of God was born just as we were. No gimmicks, simply God becoming man the way a man becomes a man.
Job speaks of this in Job 19:25; “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.” Job knew that only God could redeem him as he is confronted by God, and that one day God would physically walk upon the earth. He didn’t know when, but he was certain of it. This is what we’re taught in Hebrews 11.
Donald Grey Barnhouse reminds us; “He was and is the God-man; in Him is absolute humanity and absolute deity.”
Galatians 3:16 states: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”
Paul is referencing Genesis 12:7 and God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a son. God was not looking simply at Isaac, but all the way down to Jesus! He would be fully human.
The prophet Isaiah also foretells of the Savior’s coming into the world in 7:14; “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” This is repeated in Matthew 1:23 at the birth of the God-man.
Another story of Jesus being fully human mentioned by Barnhouse in his commentary is Matthew 17:24-27 and the paying of taxes. Peter is approached by tax-collectors and asked if Jesus pays taxes. Peter being Peter, answered in the affirmative.
Jesus already knows this when Peter returns to where they’re staying and asks Jesus about who is to pay taxes and who is not. Jesus tells Peter to go catch a fish and to get the tax money from it.
Barnhouse shares it this way: “Go down to My Sea of Galilee, which I created. I have had one of My creatures lose a coin in the water, and My law of gravity carried it down where I had one of My fish take it into his mouth. You go fishing and I will have that fish come to your hook. You take the fish and take the coin out of its mouth, and it will be a coin of sufficient value to pay your taxes and Mine.” (p. 43)
What aspect of human existence is more mundane than paying taxes? Jesus paid taxes and yet we know He was much more than human.
Jesus also had a human lineage. In the gospel of Matthew we have one account of Jesus’ human lineage and in the gospel of Luke we have another. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah as were his human parents Joseph and Mary. This fulfilled the promises of God to Judah.
Through Solomon came Joseph, and through Nathan came Mary. Solomon and Nathan were brothers, but we know that Solomon become king in David’s place. Both were of the royal blood but only one can become king and it was handed to Solomon’s lineage. Since Mary came through the lineage of Nathan and Joseph through the lineage of Solomon it all works out. Joseph adopts Jesus as his own son thus making Jesus the oldest and the One who would take precedence.
Why go through all these gyrations? Why bother to ensure that Jesus was both man and God at once? So we, God’s children, would know that our God understands us as one of us, not only as our Lord.
Hebrews 4:15-16 says “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”