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âBut 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.â (Isaiah 59:2)
Beloved, This week we need to see a lesson about Godâs holiness that every one of us should take seriously. Several of the Bible studies we have undertaken together this last year have contained this verse from Isaiah. It tells us that sin is serious enough that we should take every opportunity to see if there is any sin in our lives that is separating us from God. According to this verse sin is such a serious subject that it creates a separation, a barrier between us and God. When we study prayer we see that this sin barrier hinders our prayers so that God does not hear us when we cry out to him. When we study worship we see that this sin barrier prevents us from entering into Godâs presence where true worship occurs. When we study what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount we see that this sin barrier is what prevents us from entering into eternal life; that is it prevents our very salvation. Now as we study 1 John, we have seen that this sin barrier is so important that God has given us very clear and to-the-point instructions about how we can know if we are living in sin or not. Does God take sin seriously? Yes, absolutely! Why then do so many people allow unrepentant sin in their daily lives? I think it is because they donât really understand what is at stake. You see, your rebellion before God, that is your sin, violates God Himself. Regardless of how blatant or how subtle the sin is, it is an affront to God who is holy and perfect. It does not matter what form the sin takes, it tangibly separates you from God. Perhaps you have never seen your sin in this way before. Perhaps you have never been told that your sin is separating you from Godâs presence. Isnât it the perfect time for you to be as serious as God about the very thing that separates you from Him?
Word for the weak
Separation, (914) בָּדַל [bawâ˘dal] v. translates as separate; divide; severed; separation. To divide, separate; sever; to separate, divide into parts; to withdraw from; to be excluded. Used this week in Isaiah 59: 2.
âFor the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face.â (Psalm 11:7)
Beloved, Last week we saw that our sin creates a barrier or separation between us and God. This week we see that those who are âuprightâ will enjoy the very presence of God. What does it mean to enjoy the presence of God? Can I enjoy God now or do I have to wait until after I die? Not only can we enjoy the very presence of God in our lives now, I would submit to you that if you are not currently enjoying Godâs presence in this life you will certainly not experience it after death. In that famous passage in John 10: 10 where Jesus says that He has come to bring life abundantly, Jesus also speaks about the sheep that do not follow other people but only follow the Shepherd. Jesus says this is because the sheep know His voice and follow Him simply because He is their Shepherd. By contrast, sheep that are not His do not know His voice and do not follow Him. If it is true that the shepherd is the one who cares for the sheep, wouldnât it be true that while the sheep are in the shepherdâs presence they would enjoy the benefits of the shepherds provision and protection? Isnât it true that the sheep would recognize this fact and be drawn to the one who cares for them? It is true that in every life there are times of trouble when we feel as though we are all alone. There are days when we feel like we have been forsaken by everyone we know. In those days we may not sense the presence of God but make no mistake about it, these moments should be the exception as opposed to being the rule. If we do not sense Godâs presence in our lives it is wise to ask why? It might be the sin problem we talked about last time but it might also be a righteousness problem. The verse above says God is righteous and He loves righteousness. It also says that the righteous will see Him. What does this tell you about what you have to be to see God? Yes, you have to be righteous. Can you achieve this on your own? Is there something about you that God finds attractive? Can you somehow rely on your family name, your church membership, your good works (that is all the things you have done for God)? No. The kind of righteousness required to see God is only available through the shed blood of Jesus Christ which is only applied to those who in repentance fall on their face at the feet of God and beg for His mercy. Only those who with a brokenness and humility confess their rebellion before God will see His face; that is be in His presence. Does God desire for you to be in His presence? Yes, but we all have to come before God in the way He says; in righteousness. No other way will work.
Word for the weak
Righteousness, (7404) צַדִּיק (ṣǎd∙dĂŽq): adj.; righteous, upright, just, i.e., pertaining to being a person in accordance with a proper standard, guiltless, i.e., pertaining to not having sin or wrongdoing according to a just standard. Used this week in Psalm 11: 7.
âBut the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.â (Isaiah 5:16)
Beloved, Have you ever wondered what the Lord thinks of you? I realize that this sounds incredibly self-centered but may I challenge you to not pass over this question with hypocritical disdain. What God thinks of each and every one of us is of vital importance. First off, this question presupposes that God knows you. In Mathew 7:23 Jesus says, âI declare to them, âI never knew you; depart from me.â Who does Jesus say this to? He says it to those who have outwardly and openly professed Him as Lord but have failed to back up their profession with actions that are in keeping with what they say. In short they talk the talk but donât walk the walk. Secondly and closely related, if God does in fact know you is He pleased with what you do? This is where I want to be more personal. It is true that every child of God fails to live up to Godâs standard but what are you doing when you fall short. Now before you too quickly think that you donât sin, 1 John 1: 8 says, âIf we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.â Certainly John was not referring to those who are so ignorant of sin that they would claim to have not sinned? No, John knew that we all tend to deny our sinful actions thinking we somehow have the right to do and say the things we do. On the other hand, if we continue to read the next verse (1 John 1: 9) we see that when a child of God sins, it is his responsibility to confess that sin, allow God to both forgive him and initiate the process of removing unrighteousness. Why does God do this? It is because He is holy, righteous and just. Isaiah says that God is exalted in justice. Simply put, God not only upholds justice, He is justice and when anything attempts to violate who He is, He must judge the violation in order to maintain His character. When we are ignorant of Godâs instructions or worse yet willfully refuse to follow Godâs commands, we are violating Godâs character by violating His justice. Now I ask you, are you pleased when someone refuses to do what you have instructed? Are you pleased when someone misunderstands what you have said and does not follow through with what you intended them to? If this displeases you, what do you think it does to God? Think about that the next time you find yourself saying or doing something that is displeasing to the One who is justice.
Word for the weak
Justice, (4941) מִשְׁפָּט (miĹĄ∙pāṭ): n.masc.; judgment, i.e., the act. of deciding a legal dispute or case; court, i.e., a place where a legal case is decided; lawsuit, i.e., a legal action taken in court; decision, sentence, i.e., an official proclamation in a legal verdict; justice, i.e., a state or condition of fairness in disputes; law, regulation, prescription, specification, i.e., a spoken or written command which is to be obeyed, often with penalties for non-compliance; plan, formally, prescription, i.e., a graphic or verbal description of how to build something; see also domain, share, i.e., what is a just amount of a whole; practice, i.e., a behavior which is more or less fixed and accepted as a normal practice Used this week in Isaiah 5: 16.
âGod is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow;â (Psalm 7: 11 - 12)
Beloved, This week I want us to take a look at something that is seldom talked about in the present day church; Godâs indignation and judgment on those who do not repent. Many today are quick to say that God is a loving god, and that is true but God is also a just god that must judge sin and impose the penalty for rebellion on those who refuse to turn from that rebellion. The psalmist picks up on this truth when he says that Godâs hatred (indignation) of sin causes Him to sharpen (whet) His sword and draw His bow against those who do not repent. I realize that the idea of God actively striking individuals for unrepentant sin may be unsettling to many but that is exactly the point. People throughout history have found it alarming that God is angry with sinners; the difference is that today we attempt to ignore this truth and pretend that it will never happen. We have distorted the correct view of God by making Him a grandfather or Santa Clause who only wants to give us good gifts and who would never do anything to harm people. After all, God is love isnât He? Yes, precisely and that is why God in His word has told us in advance that He will unleash His sword and bow upon all those who do not turn from their wickedness and rebellion before Him. God is giving us every opportunity to stop living sinful lives and seek Him while He may be found. However; there is quickly coming a day when all the chances to repent of sin will be over. In that day, God will show Himself as the righteous judge of all creation who deals justly will all people either by His mercy given to those who live in obedience to His word or by righteous judgment of those who have continued to refuse Godâs call to turn from sin in lieu of self-centered rebellion. The question is not will this happen, but rather what side will you be found on when it does?
Word for the weak
Justice, (2194) זָעַם (zā∙ʿǎm): v.; express wrath, show fury, i.e., have feelings of displeasure with (but not necessarily out of control passion), justified or unjustified, with a focus on the acts of anger and punishment toward the object of oneâs anger; of wrath; as âaccursed,â denounce, curse, i.e., speak words invoking harm toward another, with a focus on the hostility toward him. Used this week in Psalm 7: 11 - 12.
âfor all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,â (Romans 3: 23)
Beloved, So far on our trip together we have looked at the holiness of God and His justice in judging sin. Today we need to switch gears and begin to look at who we are. There is an erroneous idea that all people are born basically good and that we learn to commit evil deeds. It is proposed that men perpetrate wickedness as a result of childhood abuse, social or environmental conditioning or in response to some sort of inappropriate model of behavior. Lately, this philosophy has become a bit more sophisticated by claiming that certain behaviors are encoded into our DNA and that people are born with these biases that are beyond their control to change. This representation of man is neither biblically based nor is it even accurate. It is only an attempt by men to justify themselves before a holy and perfect God. It is in fact the same âgameâ that has been played since Genesis 3: 12; blame someone else for your rebellion (sin) before God. The truth is that every last person who has ever been conceived by a human father and born into this world has rebelled against God and done what he wanted to do instead of obeying God. The apostle Paul is undeniably clear on this point, âall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.â This verse is not simply a cool intro to some evangelistic tract but rather an unambiguous indictment of all mankind. We all are guilty of treason toward Godâs kingdom. It is claimed by some evangelism training that before you can save someone, you must first âget them lost.â While I understand the intent of this statement I think the way it is presented is in need of some very significant clarification. That is, the natural man who has not been regenerated by Godâs Holy Spirit doesnât at all need to âget lost;â He Is LOST and in complete rebellion before God. What he truly needs is not another excuse for his behavior but rather the truth that unless he repents and turns from his wickedness he will be condemned to a literal place of torment as a rightly deserved judgment for his sin and wickedness by a pure and holy God who is completely just in this pronouncement.
Word for the weak
Fall short, ὑστερέω (5302) [hustereo /hoosâ˘terâ˘ehâ˘o/] v. from a basic meaning come too late in time, come after in space; (1) active; (a) as coming too late through oneâs own fault miss, fail to reach; be excluded; (b) as having a need be in need of, lack; (c) as falling short, behind someone else be less than, be inferior to; (d) as falling short of expectations lack, fail in, be wanting; (2) passive, with the genitive of the thing come short of, come behind in; absolutely go without, be in need.
âWe have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment...â (Isaiah 64:6)
Beloved, Accepting that everyone has failed to live up to Godâs standard is a hard pill to swallow. Many of us try to soften the blow by keeping score; that is we attempt to keep a running count of the good things we have done and then either compare this list to a smaller list of bad things or compare ourselves to others whom we know are worse off. Our intent is to claim acceptability before God with our âgood works.â Fortunately for us, God does not keep score this way. God has without any hesitation told us that not only have we ALL fallen short of His standard, but anything that we esteem as good or acceptable is disgusting in His sight. In short, what we believe to be worthy of keeping score nauseates God. So, how is that good? Simply, because God has exposed this about us, we donât have to try and live up to a standard that we will never achieve. We donât have to keep score, manage how many âgoodsâ we have as opposed to how many âbadsâ or continually search for someone who is worse off than us; we just have to accept what God says about us. Furthermore, we cannot please God with what we do, no matter how good we think it is. We can, however; be pleasing to God by who we become; that is by asking God to adopt us as His child. Make no mistake, God does this simply because of who He is and not because of whether we are good or not. Frankly, as far as God is concerned we are already bad, so donât even try to ignore this fact. But, God does tell us that if we will repent (turn back to Him from our lifestyle of prideful rebellion) that He will regenerate us into something brand new! By the way, new means thoroughly NEW in that we will have no more uncleanness or filthiness, only the righteousness that the blood of Jesus provides for those who will accept these things. Do you still think that there is something good in you? If there is, it is because God put it there and not because you did it on your own.
âFor as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, âCursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.â (Galatians 3:10)
Beloved, I have spoken at various times about the sense of entitlement that many church goers have. Many people believe that God is pleased with them because of their âdoing,â that is their good works. They believe God will take notice of what areas they serve in, what positions they hold or their membership in a particular fellowship. They believe their doing makes them acceptable to God and in fact they claim an identity as Godâs chosen people by presenting these works as evidence of their right standing before God. Of all people in history, Paul probably knew best what it meant to claim justification before God through works. His lineage and background placed him in a unique position of âdoingâ as a form of righteousness. However, Paul realized that doing was not good enough. God does allow doing as a means of righteousness or acceptance in His sight but only if the record is perfect, 100% completion with zero defects. For those who accomplish this, God is truly pleased; however, is there anyone who is perfect? Iâm certainly not and I think if you are honest you will see that you arenât either. So, what happens if we are not perfect? Does God grade on the curve? According to Paul, we are cursed; that is we cannot achieve acceptance before God. Even if we manage to make it through our entire life with a 99.999% record, the .001 that is not perfect disqualifies us as being acceptable and being unacceptable means that we cannot be in Godâs presence; not now, not never. Is there any hope? Absolutely, real, genuine hope is found through utter dependence. By âutter dependenceâ I mean that you are at your greatest point of need when you have no other options. In short, there is absolutely nothing you can do; all other options are gone. If God does not act on your behalf, you will die and go to hell. At that point, Godâs grace is applied as a merciful gift that draws you into repentance and confession resulting in being acceptable to God. Otherwise, your bank account of âdoingâ isnât big enough to pay back the debt you owe God.
âHe who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.â (Proverbs 17:15)
Beloved, Over the last several weeks we have looked at the holiness of God and the total wickedness of man. The question then becomes, âis there any hope that we can be acceptable before God?â The answer is yes but it must be done in a way that does not violate Godâs holiness or dismiss manâs wickedness out-of-hand. Proverbs tells us that for God to justify the wicked, that is dismiss our sin without dispending judgment for rebellion, or condemn the righteous, that is to maliciously condemn those who are acceptable to Him, is an abomination OF the Lord. In short, God must judge our sin to be just and uphold the righteous to be merciful. How do these two truths coincide? That is the great dilemma. How does God remain just and the purveyor of justice while at the same time reconciling rebellious people to Himself? How can I be made acceptable to God when He must dispense justice on my willful rebellion in breaking His divine law? Simply by allowing someone else who is able to pay the price take the fully penalty on my behalf. Very soon we will begin to look at who that someone is.
âFar be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?â(Genesis 18:25)
Beloved, Justice is something we donât see a lot of these days. At every turn, there seems to be something that is simply unfair, and any times we are angered by all the injustice we see in the world. If we are so unsettled by the injustice we see, how do you think the God of all creation sees His world? Not only is He displeased with what we would call injustice but He is also displeased with the injustice that we perpetrate against Him. When we break Godâs divine law we perpetrate injustice; that is we deal with God in a way that is unfair or unjust. You see, He has every right to prescribe what we will or will not do and to fully expect that we will be obedient. However, when we choose to rebel against Godâs prescriptions we treat Him unjustly. The same is true when we choose to put our wants and desires ahead of what others need. This is injustice as well. Make no mistake about it, God will judge every injustice ever committed. He will be shown righteous by dispensing justice on every lawbreaker. Isnât that what we all cry out so loudly for; justice? That means that God will judge each one of us as well since we are breakers of His divine law also. What do we do? You must trust Christ fully and completely, you must fall at His feet in utter dependence upon His mercy. Although God will be glorified in His righteous judgment of lawbreakers, He will also be glorified in His mercy upon all those who repent of their lawlessness and depend upon His mercy in forgiving their rebellion. This does not mean that we should expect God to do this for us but rather trust that if He has said He would forgive us that He will do what He has said He would; otherwise He would be unjust. Who is this Jesus and how does He provide for Godâs forgiveness? Stay tuned as we begin to explore the answer to these questions.
âfor 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 Godâs 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.â (Romans 3:23-26)
Beloved, Although God will be glorified in His righteous judgment on sin and wickedness, God will also be glorified in His divine mercy upon those who believe the gospel message and turn from their sin to embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master. This is VERY GOOD NEWS! We do not have to live under the condemnation of our rebellion before God. We can be reconciled to God but it has to be on Godâs terms and not ours. Romans 3 clearly tells us that ALL have sinned but it also tells us clearly that it is from this same group of people that God redeems those who turn to Jesus in utter dependence. The important point here is that God has initiated this transaction. It is His grace that is offered as a gift to those who believe. It is not as if we show up at Godâs doorstep ready to gain His favor like a trick-or-treater does; holding out some sort of bag, waiting for candy. No, God is already aware of our sinful rebellion that is in fact our current dilemma; however, God is also aware of our need for redemption and He is not waiting at His doorstep but He is in the middle of the street giving candy to those He chooses to give it to. And just so that we donât misunderstand the gift that was given, it is not cheap candy but rather, it is the very life of Godâs own Son who in fact died to make all this possible. The key to all this is faith. None of what has been said about Godâs grace matters without faith. Faith is the certainty of things hoped for and the assurance of things unseen and although you may not fully understand what all this means, it is the fact that you are willing to accept what God says without fully comprehending everything that is the very basis of faith. Simply put, are you willing to trust what God says and stake your life on it? That is what it means to be justified as a gift of His grace.
Word for the weak
Faith, (4102) πίστις [pistis /pisâ˘tis/] n f. faith, assurance; conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting manâs relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it. 1a relating to God. The conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. A strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. Belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same. 2 fidelity, faithfulness. 2a the character of one who can be relied on.
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