Jesus’ life better than Adam’s sin

In Romans 5 Paul states something a bit obvious – Jesus life is more powerful than Adam’s sin in its effects.

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.  Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did.

Bad news, it only took one man’s sin for death to enter the world and for everyone to die. We see that around us all the time. The inevitability of physical death stares every man in the face no matter how good they are.

17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

I find it difficult to understand how the free gift of new life for everyone can be greater than Adam’s sin if, in fact, it doesn’t apply to everyone. What I mean is, death applies to everyone so therefore life must also apply to everyone for it to be greater. That seems obvious enough.

So I would argue from this and from Scriptures concerning the Book of Life, that the default position of every man is that they are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life because of Jesus’ death on the Cross. You have to have your name erased from the Book of Life to lose that life. Only Overcomers are guaranteed that that won’t happen to them (see Exodus 32:32 and Rev. 3:5).

However if you want to appropriate and see the effects of that life in this world then you need to receive it now. Actually, if you are reading this don’t take the risk and presume you are there. Make sure you are experiencing the reality of the love of Christ in your life now. The only people who can really be assured they are in the Book of Life now are those who can hear God the Father’s whisper in their heart to which they respond: “Abba, Father”. No amount of thinking it can give that assurance.

But let God be gracious in your heart, He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Who knows, perhaps the exclusive evangelical doctrine which says that every man must believe the way we do to be saved is not quite right after all?

Let us not think that everyone around us is going to hell just because they don’t go to our church. God knows their hearts, very often we don’t.

Faith

“If we emphasize faith does that mean we can forget about the law?”  Paul asks at the end of Romans 3. And then he answers himself:  “Of course not!  In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”

It seems to me that the first 4 chapters of Romans are primarily about sin, law and faith and the relationship between all three. And up to now we have learned that we all sin, that the law doesn’t help but instead just makes the sin more obvious and that faith is somehow the answer to it all. Paul has also introduced the concept of grace/ undeserved favour. In chapter 4 Paul tries to explain faith using Abraham as an example.

First of all it is as well to establish that Abraham was a sinner. He mistrusted God on at least two occasions we know of and put Sarah in a compromised position, he had a child by his wife’s servant – as well as several other liaisons. He also committed murder on several occasions – or at least he was involved in war – and would have killed his own son if God hadn’t stopped him (Genesis 22). By the way, it looks like Sarah had had enough after that incident since we don’t see her with him again until she is dead. You wouldn’t blame her for not wanting to stay with a man who said God told him to kill their son.

But the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” Romans 4:3). Abraham, just like us, needed a saviour – a God who forgives sinners. And it was the trusting relationship with God that enabled God to pass on that forgiveness to him. There was no way he could be with God, believing God, and not be forgiven since he couldn’t stand before God’s holiness except in a place of forgiveness.

“Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin!”  as David says (Psalm 32: 1-2 quoted in Romans 4:7.8).  Another man who needed a saviour.

The death of Jesus looks back as well as forward in its effects.

None of us

“No one is righteous – not even one.

No one is truly wise;

No one is seeking God.

All have turned away; all have become useless.

No one does good, not a single one.”

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands.  The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  And this is true for everyone who believes no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous.  He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.  People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood.”

The above is extracted from Romans 3 (NLT in case you didn’t recognize it). It seems Paul wrote the first two chapters of Romans to make sure that he set the standard of God’s requirements out of reach for both the irreligious and the religious alike. As he says later on: “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.” (Romans 11:32 NLT). Which must surely be one of the most mind boggling statements in the Bible. No wonder Paul goes on to say: “How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!”

But understanding it all is not where it is at. Believing and trusting in Him is.

Having said that Paul gives understanding its best shot in Romans. I personally like that.

Hypocrisy

As I’ve mentioned in at least two of my other blogs (if not more) it is clear that Jesus reserves His harshest words for religious hypocrites. Paul does something similar in Romans 2. To make it perhaps more relevant I’ve changed a few of the words while attempting to retain the spirit of them.

But first of all have a good read of the whole chapter – there is nothing untrue about any of it. None of it is abrogated by Jesus’ death on the cross even in the context of what later chapters say. The key word is “continue”. If you continue in sin and refuse to repent of it you will suffer punishment no matter what your experience has been or what you think you have believed in the past.

Starting in v. 17:

“You who call yourselves Born-Again Christians are relying on the Bible and you boast about your special relationship with Him.  You know what He wants; you know what is right because you have been taught by your pastors.  You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness.  You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God.  For you are certain that the Bible contains all the knowledge and truth that is required.

“Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself?  You tell others not to steal, but do you steal from the Government in tax evasion or your employer or the Church by not contributing to it’s programs or God by not bringing Him your tithes?  You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery every day with your eyes?  You condemn idolatry, but do you watch TV programs and DVDs glorifying pop bands and models and take selfies all the time?  You are so proud of knowing the law but you dishonour God by breaking it.  No wonder the man in the street blasphemes the name of God because of you.

“Being baptized by full immersion in water or in the Spirit has value only if you obey God.  But if you don’t obey God you are no better off than anyone else.  And if the man in the street obeys God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? In fact the average joe who keeps God’s law will condemn you born again believers who have been baptized in the Spirit and possess a bible but don’t obey Him.

“For you are not a true disciple just because you were born of Christian parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of full immersion baptism.  No a true Christian is one whose heart is right with God.  And true baptism is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit.  And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

And if you think I’ve gone too far just read on further into the New Testament – 1 Corinthians 13, Hebrews 6 & 10, 2 Peter, Jude. There is no shortage of places where mere religion, no matter how holy sounding, is condemned as useless before God.

But if your heart condemns you, remember that God is greater than your heart and He knows all things (1 John 3:20).

Here is the original:

17 Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

Romans 2:17-29 (NKJV)

The Descent of Man

It is several decades now since the popular BBC documentary series called “The Ascent of Man” was aired. Not for the first time it shows evolutionary ideas at odds with the Scripture.

Romans 1:18-32 speaks about the descent of man. Man starts by knowing God but then starts the descent. First of all men suppress the knowledge of God, they do not worship Him and do not even give Him thanks. Then their minds become dark and confused as they begin to think up foolish ideas of what God is like. They traded the truth of God for a lie and they worship idols and created things rather than the creator.

As a result God abandons them over to their heart’s desires.  So they do vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies including homosexuality.  Then comes a long list including: greed, envy, quarreling, deception, gossip, disobeying parents, refusing to understand and breaking promises.  God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:18-31

So count me in, I too deserve to die.

Thankfully it doesn’t end there.

Wrestling Jacob

Jacob wrestles with God in Genesis 32.

Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”

But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

27 So He said to him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Jacob.”

28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”

And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.

Genesis 32:9-12, 22-32

Jacob was desperate. God had told him to go in a certain direction and it seemed to him like certain death and loss to do so. He had obeyed and now, it was the night before he was to die, he thought. But God appeared to him and he held Him tight until God saw he couldn’t win the wrestling contest and so He permanently weakened him. However Jacob still held on and would not let Him go.

Many years ago Charles Wesley, similarly reliving the experience of the war of the flesh against the spirit, wrote a wonderful hymn that captures the whole process in emotive, experiential detail. The next time you are striving with sin that seems to be the very essence of who you are maybe you also will find this hymn helpful.

As it turned out Jacob didn’t die. But he never did walk the same way again. This event was the pivotal point in a process that changed him from a schemer to a prince.

Judgement?

Some years ago, some people came up to Jesus and asked him about cause and effect. They were wondering if the people who had died in a recent building collapse were worse sinners than those who died a natural death.

Jesus’ response played down the manner of the physical death and drew attention to the state of the questioner’s hearts. If you don’t repent, he said, then you also will die in like manner. 

13 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Luke 13:1-5

In another incident Jesus’ disciples ask him about a man that had been born blind. Again they were wondering about cause and effect. Was this man the sinner or his parents that he was born blind? In this case Jesus said neither but that he had been born that way to glorify God. He then healed him.

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.

John 9:1-7

In both cases Jesus repudiates the idea that there is a direct link between a man’s (or woman’s) circumstances and his (or her) sin. This is one of the main reasons Jesus also tells us not to judge.

Sometimes there is a link between a person’s lifestyle and an early death or a sickness or condition. Man’s heart so easily judges in those circumstances. One of the main reasons Jesus confounded the religious people of his day was because he was happy to be in the company of such people, sinners. He saw a bigger picture and knew that the hearts of the ones who had fallen into various immoral or harmful lifestyles were more humble than the ones who prided themselves in not having lived that way.

Very often the only difference between a self-righteous, judgmental person and someone who regularly sins in some other more publicly obvious way is that the latter knows he needs a saviour whereas the former doesn’t.

Very often that was the only difference that needed addressing as far as Jesus was concerned.

39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

John 9:39-41

Tainted Windows

Yesterday my teenage daughter came to me and said she was bored and needed money and could I pay her for washing the windows of our house? I explained to her that I could get a professional window cleaner to do the whole house inside and out including the conservatory for less than €50. I also explained that it was not a simple job and that it would take her several hours just to do the downstairs windows inside and out to the standard a professional would do. But she insisted and we agreed on a price and I helped her out with some tips. Only I forgot one and that was to ensure that the cloth she used for buffing was clean – or use newspapers which also works.

So she got through a lot of windows. At the back of the house is our conservatory which is mainly glass. The sun sets on that side and here in these northern climes we get long evenings of low sun. Having spent 2-3 hours cleaning windows the sun began to reveal things as it does when shining low into windows in the early morning or late evening. Every smear mark, every missed part of every window was shown up.  Needless to say she was quite discouraged.

However in the morning I came down to the conservatory. It was a bright morning but the sun was on the other side of the house. No joke, you couldn’t see any of the smears without looking very closely. All the windows looked clean!

Yesterday I also was listening to a man giving a TED talk. He had done more good in his life for more people than many a Christian man. He claimed to be a humanist and gay and had helped raise millions for charity. By some light he seemed a good man. But still I wonder, if the Son shines His gaze on his life, will it look as well as in the duller light of our understanding of good?

Isaiah said all our good works look like dirty underwear in His sight. (Isaiah 64:6)

I think I’ll trust in Jesus for my righteousness. I’ll also let Him do the judging about what that means in my life or in anyone else’s. What about you?

Naming the Stars

In Psalm 147 v.4 and in Isaiah 40:26 the bible explicitly says that God named the stars.  The bible itself contains several of these names.  They are really beautiful, try saying some of them:

The PleiadesThe Pleiades

Orion:  Betelgeuse, Rigel

Aldebaran

Sirius

Regulus.  According to Wikipedia this name means:  “Latin for ‘prince’ or ‘little king’. Regulus was known to Persian astrologers as the Royal star Venant, Watcher of the North.”  Which ties nicely into the true story of the Bethlehem Star.  If you haven’t already been there, go to that site now!

You won’t be disappointed.

Understatement

Moses does a neat job in understatement in Genesis 1.

You could choose any aspect of creation to come up with astonishing fecundity of imagination but let’s just take the plants as an example, or more specifically the flowers of plants.

Here are some pictures I took this afternoon at Russborough House. Well worth a visit by the way, and at this time of year you simply must visit the garden of Eden which is their Rhododendron Garden at the back of the house from which the following pictures have been taken.

So God says, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”

I guess He must have said a lot more also – I think Moses is given to understatement. But I guess also where do you begin?Magnolia in the Rhododendron Garden at Russborough House

Well here’s a part of the conversation perhaps: “Let’s create a sheltered beauty that, when it appears, will reflect purity and innocence, fragility and perfection all at once.”

Voila! A magnolia (and a lot of other flowers also).

Elsewhere I have written about the amazing stored program that is a seed. Flowers are part of that amazing idea that is reproduction. I think God loves that idea a lot, he seems to have reserved some his most Red Rhododendronsbeautiful creations to carry it out.

So God says: “Lets create fire and invitation, embrace and sustenance all at once.” Voila! A rhododendron.

What kind of Mind was it that thought of bees? They are beautiful in their own right and absolutely indispensable for the reproduction of many plants. And what a way to do it! They are looking for something else altogether when they come to a plant (nectar) and only take away the pollen by accident – designed accident that is. Hence the invitation, embrace and sustenance in these flowers (and in lots of others).

And so we come to the crown of His creation. For we have been created to appreciate these things. Evolutionists and atheists would try, if they could, to rob us of that.

God did it all in 6 days and rested on the 7th knowing that from then on His physical creation would run itself. This leaves Him free to rest and think about getting involved in the creation of each soul.  And relationship with them.  And the cost of that.