Friday, July 20, 2012

A Love story

Many of us I’m sure, are familiar with the story of Ruth in the Bible. This story I believe as many others do, is a message to the Church today. There is an application in the story that God wants us to hear and understand. Before I come to the application, I will summarize the story.
There was a man named Elimelech who had a wife named Naomi and two sons. They left the promised land because a famine had come upon it. They did not seek the Lord, as many did in the times of the Judges, but they went out of the land and settled in Moab. As time passed by, Elimilech died and Naomi was left with her two sons Mahlon and Chilion.
These two sons married Moabite women, named Orpah and Ruth. After some time both of their husbands died. Naomi was heartbroken about the loss of her sons. She lost her faith and joy and decided to return to the promised land.
So the three went out towards Israel, the promised land. But when they came to a bend in the road, Naomi told her two daughters in law to stay in the land of Moab and their gods. She said, I have no more sons to give you, return to your homes. Orpah turned around and went back to her land and her gods, but Ruth clung to Naomi.
She was not going home and she was determined to go with her Mother in law into the land of Israel, to the hometown of Naomi which was Bethlehem, Ephrathah in Judea. So she petitioned Naomi and said some of the most beautiful words written in the Bible.
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.” Ruth 1:16-18.
Ruth had fallen in love with Naomi and the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Both of them set their eyes towards the promised land and went on their way to Bethlehem.
One day Ruth was gleaning the fields and she met Boaz who was very kind to her because he had already learned about her and how she was a good daughter in law to Naomi who was a relative of Boaz. As Ruth was coming home, Naomi was amazed at how much Ruth had gleaned. She asked her which field she was gleaning in and she told her that it was the field of Boaz.Naomi was beside herself and thanked the God of Israel who had shown favor on her.
Long story, short, Naomi became the match maker and Boaz married Ruth. They had a child together who’s name was Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of the future King of Israel, David.
What can we as the church learn from this story? How is it relevant for us as believers who believe in the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob? What is the application for us today?
In the ancient Jewish culture the names of people had meanings. The name Elimilech means “God is King” and Naomi means “pleasant.” Ruth means “friend or friendly” in the Hebrew and Orpah means “to turn the back of the neck.”
That is what Orpah did, she turned her back of the neck towards Naomi and went back to Moab and her gods. Not so with Ruth, she embraced the Jewish people and the true and living God of Israel and God blessed her beyond her wildest imagination. She became the great-grandmother of King David. From the line of King David came Jesus the promised Messiah i.e Yashuah which means “salvation.”
Just as Orpah turned her back on Israel, so today many of the churches have turned their backs on Israel. They teach a replacement theology and that all the blessings and promises that God gave to Israel are now belonging to the church. At a time that Israel needs us most, many have turned their backs.
But there are some within the body of Christ that want to bless and support Israel. The Land of Israel is God’s land. It belongs to Him and no one else. It is the Land where He gave His only begotten Son and it is the Land where Jesus will return to rule as King from Jerusalem. It is the Land where God will reveal His Son to the Jewish people.
Just as Ruth loved the Jewish people, so we as the church need to love and support them. We need to pray for them and help them to return to the land given to them so long ago by God through a promise to Abraham.
God is fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant today and all the unconditional blessings that come with this covenant. He wants to bring back His people to the covenant of faith, not of the law. The law was given to Israel 430 years after Abraham because they had left the faith and went after other gods and everybody did what was right in their own eyes.
The law was a Tudor, showing people that they can never live up to the righteousness and Holiness of God. Now that God has brought them back into the land, in unbelief as prophesied in Ezekiel 36 and 37, He will one day open their eyes and they will see Yashua. The will believe, just as Abraham believed and it was accounted to him as righteousness.
We as true biblical believers are not sons of Moses and the law, we are the sons and daughters of Abraham by the grace of God through faith.
We need to bless Israel and the people of Israel and worship the LORD in spirit and truth. Israel is not out of the picture and God has not cast them aside. Israel is the apple of His eye. We as the church have a role to play in these last days. If we want to be blessed by God, we need to stand with His chosen people.
Ruth chose to go with Naomi to the land and she loved the God of Israel and He blessed her there. This is what God wanted all along, the Jew and the Gentiles coming together as one, which was and is part of the unconditional covenant with Abraham in Genesis chapter 15.
“I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”Genesis 12:3.
“…just as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” Galatians 3:6-9.

Fig Leaf Religion

Once again I had someone argue with me on my Facebook page about salvation after reading my blog “Faith or Works?”  This person believes as does his church that works are required in order to be saved. He cited of course the passage in James chapter 2, which some believe contradicts Paul’s writing in Ephesians chapter 2.
Paul and James do not contradict one another. Paul writes about salvation from God’s perspective and James from a human perspective.
Saving faith in a person should be evident in their lives by the fruit they bear. As Jesus said, by their fruit shall you know them. A genuine believer that is saved by faith should bear good fruit for the kingdom.
It amazes me that there are so many people that cannot and will not receive the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  They think that there must be something that they have to do to be saved. I guess some of of it is our human nature, but I have witnessed and seen numerous people spending years to argue that works need to be included. They argue that faith in God alone is not enough and that we have to do something more than just believe.
I don’t see how anyone can come up with a works based salvation message. I cannot find that anywhere in the pages of scripture.  It is all God’s work and nothing that we have done. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He send His only begotten Son.  (John 3:16)
We are all declared sinners before God, not one is righteous on their own. “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.” Rom 3:10, 11.
God has declared that ALL of mankind has fallen short of His perfect Holiness.  “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23.
It started in garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and they ate from the forbidden tree. That one act of disobedience caused sin to enter the world and the result was a spiritual separation from God. Adam and Eve who once were in perfect harmony with God found themselves separated and soon after witnessed what their disobedience had brought forth, the first recorded murder when Cain slew Abel.
I can only imagine what Adam and Eve must have felt on that day when they saw the outcome of their sin. The result of sin is death. They did not die physically, but they died spiritually. There was nothing that Adam and Eve could do to atone for their sin. They tried to cover up their disobedience with fig leafs, thinking that God would be ok with that. But it was not ok, God clothed them in animal skins, signifying that blood was required to atone for their sins. The blood of an innocent animal could only cover their sins but not take them away. Later when we come to the time of Moses, God instituted blood sacrifices as part of the law.
Just as Adam and Eve covered themselves in fig leafs, so are many people today have a fig leaf religion. They think that they can appease God on their own merit. They think that by their “good works” God will look at them as righteous before Him. That is a false hope, there is absolutely nothing that any of us can do to please God with our works. God provided one way and one way alone and we must receive that way.
The only way provided is through the precious blood of Christ. The shed blood of Christ on the cross was sufficient and acceptable for the Father. Jesus is our propitiation, the passover lamb. He that knew no sin became sin for us and died for us, so that we may live eternally with Him.
To all those who think and teach that faith in Jesus alone is not enough and that certain works are required to earn salvation are gravely mistaken. The law could not justify anyone and no one was or is able to keep the law perfectly. If any of us were able to keep the law, than Christ died in vain. People that want to live a life of bondage to the law are destined to fail. The law is perfect and breaking one of them means breaking all of God’s law.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Rom 3:20.
Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:22-26.
Yet there are those who insist that works are required, the write books about it, they preach from the pulpit and keep their congregation under legalism and bondage. Christ came to set us free from all of that. We are no longer under the law but under grace. The gospel i.e. the good news is so simple, but people have to make it complicated and the put heavy burden on others. This is not what Christ came for and it is not what God wants.
Jesus came to die on the cross for us. He left His place in Heaven to become one of us and to take our sins upon Him. He didn’t have to do that, but God so loves us that He send His Son Who willingly gave His life. That is something to rejoice in and to be thankful for. But what do so many denominations and churches do? They overlook or don’t understand the true meaning of God’s grace and teach others that the have to live by certain rules and regulation in order to be saved.
They have teachings that are not biblical and not be backed up by the scriptures. They twist and turn verses or built their whole theology around a couple of verses, failing to compare scriptures with scriptures. It is no wonder that non-believers sometimes mock Christianity. There are so many denominations and branches of churches out there, teaching different viewpoints and are convinced that the are the only “true church.” There is a lot of confusion out there among the various denominations.
No wonder that Christians look divided, rather than being of one mind. They follow the teachings of men rather than what the word of God teaches.
The only way someone can be saved in by believing in Jesus by faith. It is not Jesus plus, it is Him alone and only through Him and Hid finished work can we be justified before God. It is not our righteousness that God looks at but His righteousness that was imputed onto every true believer. Thank you God for Your mercy and for Your grace. Thank you Father for giving Your only begotten Son.
Thank you Jesus for setting us free from the bondage of law and that you have broken the wall of separation so that we may come boldly before the throne of God.Thank you for giving us Your perfect peace.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom 5:1, 2. 
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Rom 3:21-28.

Faith or Works?

There are some that firmly believe that the Bible is full of contradictions. Are they right, does the Bible contradict itself? The most common one that people use to proof their case the Bible contains contradictions are the writings of Paul and James. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians writes:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph 2:8, 9.
Paul clearly states that believers are saved through faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Saving faith is a gift and it was given by God to the believers. They cannot earn it by works or any other means. Salvation is truly by God’s grace and through faith in Christ alone.
Wait a minute some argue, what about James, he seemed to think that works are required in order to be saved. Is that what James is saying and people use it to point out a contradiction to what Paul wrote?  Paul wrote “not of works.” James mentions works. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:17, 18.
An obvious contradiction some would say. But is it really a contradiction? Let me first say that there are no contradictions in the Bible, there might be some words that got lost in translation from the Hebrew or the Greek into English where the  translators could have used a different word, but there are no contradictions.
Are these passages in conflict with each other? Did James contradict Paul when he wrote that faith without works is dead? I don’t think so at all. The most simplest way of looking at these two passages is that Paul wrote from God’s perspective or the divine level and James wrote from the human perspective, the human level.
Paul makes it very clear that man cannot save himself. No matter how hard someone might try to reach God by works or religious rituals. Salvation is a free gift of God by His mercy and grace. It is His divine action that saves the believers, not the other way around. God did what we could not do for ourselves. He made the way to be reconciled with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, our propitiation. Many times in the Bible we read “I will.” It is God that saves.
James is saying that someone can say that they have faith which cannot be seen. Anyone can say, I have faith and I believe in God, but they do not show or bear any fruit at all. They may go to church, read their Bibles, look spiritual and act holy but in reality they are unfruitful. They go through the motions and that’s what James is saying, true saving faith should be evident in the believer by how they live and how their faith in Christ produces fruit, some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.
What did Jesus say about faith and bearing fruit? There are many passages of course, I will use the gospel of John to show what Jesus said.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.: John 15:1-8.
Abiding in Christ is the key, faith in Him and Him alone saves a person, not works. Good works or bearing fruit is the evidence of faith. There are many within the Christian faith that teach that works are required and in order to be saved you have to do this or that. Those are either cults or legalistic people who do not know or understand the grace of God. They are in bondage to themselves. If anyone ever comes to you with that kind of doctrine, point them to the thief on the cross. He had no works to show for that would save him, yet Jesus told him that he would be in Paradise with Him. The thief on the cross believed Jesus and had a change of mind (repentance).
“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. 
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3.  James 2:23.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16.

Hell is for real

Many have raised the question and discussed the existence of a literal place called Hell. Is Hell for real? I believe that it is, in fact Jesus Himself spoke more about the literal existence of Hell than anybody else in the Bible. Another word for Hell is the lake of fire mentioned four times in the book of Revelation. What is that place and where is it?  
 I don't think that anyone really knows for sure. 
There are some that believe that hell is in the center of the earth, while others believe that it may be far out in the universe i.e. the outer darkness Jesus spoke off. "And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Mat 25:30. This phrase was used by the Lord  three times in the gospel of Matthew. 
The word Hell appears 32 times in all of the Bible. In the Hebrew the word hell is Sheol. According to the concordance the word Sheol can mean:  underworld, grave, hell, pit. The OT designation for the abode of the dead or: 1) place of no return 2) without praise of God.  3) wicked sent there for punishment.  4) righteous not abandoned to it.  5) of the place of exile.  6) of extreme degradation in sin.
In the New Testament which was written in the Greek the word Hell/Sheol is translated as Gehenna. Here is what the concordance list as to what it means: 1) Hell is the place of the future punishment call "Gehenna" or "Gehenna of fire". This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.
The Apostle Peter in his second epistle uses the word tartaroo to describe Hell. Concordance: 1) the name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to Gehenna of the Jews. 2) to thrust down to Tartarus, to hold captive in Tartarus.
I believe that Peter used this word because he was writing to a Greek audience and they knew what he meant by the word Tartaroo.
There are many even within Christendom that either flat-out deny the existence of Hell or fail to speak about from the pulpit. Just as many deny the existence of Satan i.e. the Devil. Universalism teaches that there is no Hell and that eventually everybody will be saved. Then there are those that would say, if God is so loving, why does He sent people to Hell? 
First of all, God does not send people to Hell, they send themselves there by rejecting His free gift of salvation which is through His Son Christ Jesus. He did not come into the world to send people to Hell, He came to set people free from sin and the white throne judgment of God that all of those who reject Jesus will have to face one day.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." John 3:16-20.
Many people know John 3:16, but many forget to read the other verses to get the full context of what Jesus was saying.  God loves us and he demonstrated His love by giving His only begotten Son, but many do not want to believe, do not care or simply reject Him. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom 3:23).  All of us have broken God's divine laws and we deserve punishment.
God by His Mercy and Grace has provided a way to avoid that judgment and that is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Those who believe by faith will be saved and inherit eternal life. Those who reject will have a different destiny; Hell or eternal separation from God.
Some may say that God does not exist, therefore Hell does not exist. Can they really be sure? Can they be sure hat there is nothing after death?  I may not be able to proof the existence of God or Hell to an unbeliever or someone who rejects God completely, but I know that I know that God is for real, heaven is for real and unfortunately Hell is for real.
God does not want anybody to end up in Hell and I believe that He makes every effort to save people from that place. He does this through His word and the witness of others that share the gospel. People have to really harden their hearts before God let's them go, just as Pharaoh did. It is not God that hardens the hearts of people. God gave Pharaoh many chances to listen to Him, but Pharaoh hardened his heart each time and rejected,  until God finally let him go.
I hope that there are many out there that have a soft heart that hear the call and the voice of God. This world as we know it is coming to an end. I don't know the day or the hour, we are on God's prophetic time clock. Looking at the world today, it's a few seconds before midnight.
I'm no expert on Hell either, neither do I want to be, I never wanna see or be at that place wherever it may be. I hope that if you are an unbeliever and read this, not to laugh it off, but to at least think about what Jesus said and what He did. Jesus did for us what we could not do ourselves. He died for you and me, taking our deserved punishment so that we can spend eternity with Him. Eternity is a long time and there are only two destinations; Heaven or Hell. Which one will you choose?
"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6.