Acts 4:12 | Focused Courage

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If asked to describe yourself in one word what word would be used? If others described you what word would be used? At a funeral today for a relative that I did not know as closely as I would have liked there were several words about this person’s life that stood out from those who knew the individual well. Determined, driven, lived for the spotlight were a few. Funerals are a sobering event and I am reminded of the biblical wisdom about funerals.

Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2 NLT

The life finished and the life complete is an event that will overtake all people rich or poor. So take to heart that maybe we waste precious time in vain pursuits, selfish ambitions, and pointless unforgiveness. The disciples understood the gravity of a funeral and that knowledge fueled a focused courage. When their lives were done the one word used to describe them was disciple. They embraced Christ the first born of all creation and truly lived the words they shared to all people rich and poor.

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 ESV

Salvation is an eternal treasure. Money is temporary. Salvation is final success. Liars gain for but a moment’s advantage. Salvation is a secured hope. Sexual lusts apart from God’s design secure lonely despair. Salvation serves the triumphant King of Kings. Politics serves a selfish movement that will eventually fail. The disciples grasped these truths and submitted to the one name under heaven that is in complete control. Jesus is the only name that saves.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Courage is what the disciples demonstrated when they told their jailers that they would obey Jesus and not the jailer. The author of Hebrews drawing from their example tells me a would be disciple to take courage in the name of Jesus. Set aside the politics, the sexual identity, and the selfish ambition that are all fleeting and temporary. Throw off those chains and look to the one name, the one identity, that brings Glory to God and salvation to those who have placed their hope upon his eternal salvation.

16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” Acts 4:16-17 ESV

I pray for courage, and wisdom to speak the name of Jesus. There is no other name or identity only Christian. There is no other group to be called into fellowship only fellowship as a Disciple. What will you dear reader do when confronted to speak no more this name? I pray you are running the race now in such way that the answer will be Christ only always.

Acts 3:6 | Divine Appointment

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Have you ever crossed paths with a person in a random setting or situation and that interaction changed your life forever? An introduction to a future spouse? Introductions to someone that later provided entry to a job opportunity? Introductions to someone that fixed a lifelong issue? Was this all fate or randomness?

God’s workings are a mystery. The people I have been drawn into relationships with are part of his design for my life. Some people have caused me pain but most people have been an encouragement and a blessing. In the same way I have caused pain to some and encouragement to others along the way.

Gladly we desire even expect God to give us blessings, but I have found what I desire from God rarely works out the way I expect. What I mean by that is that God’s gifts and God’s plan for my life is perfect even when I don’t understand or find it painful. Take for example Peter and John the beloved disciples making their way to the temple to worship when they are encounter a beggar who is clearly disabled. This beggar is doing his part asking for money, for charity, from the people headed to the temple. The worshipers need to do their part by providing money, charity, to the beggars they find on the way. The beggar’s life is not glamorous. Yet on this day his request for money is rejected for something greater.

5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:5-6 ESV

Americans collectively give more than a billion dollars a year to Charities. This is in addition to the billions the US government pays out in food, housing, and medical subsidies each year. We are generous with money because we have it in abundance. Many people want the government to provide all needs to all people (free education, free healthcare, free jobs) but the world and the government cannot offer what God has freely given to all who would receive it. This beggar has crossed paths with two men who give him something greater than charity and greater than any earthly government.

8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:8-10 ESV

God used Peter and John in a random interaction to change this beggar’s life for the better. What about this divine appointment from Peter and John’s perspective? This beggar now healed provided attention and an immediate platform for them to preach Christ to the temple worshipers. How great is that? Read what happened next.

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4 ESV

Peter and John were able to share Jesus to a large crowd many of whom believed in the message from God. But the disciples were also thrown into prison that night. Do you think Peter regretted the pain this beggar caused him? It was not the beggar’s fault but the outcome remained that a night in prison was the result this miraculous act.  Whatever hurt Peter and John received in their service to God seemed like nothing because they were excited, emboldened, and grateful for the opportunity to heal this beggar in spite of the night in prison.

18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. Acts 4:18:22 ESV

Divine appointments from God are available each day. Will you be the beggar or the disciple today? Your path may have already crossed with someone that changed everything. That beggar who was healed was a catalyst that saved thousands of people. If God changed your life would God be glorified and would others be saved? Are your prayers for blessings from God for selfish reasons or that God would be glorified? What about the other side of the perspective? Do you want to serve God if there is a downside that the world would be so angry that it might cost you freedom or friends?

This life is short. Healing all the beggars or ending poverty is not God’s purpose at the moment. God’s purpose is to bring glory to himself that we his children might be saved. War, death, famine, evil, hunger, and sin will be removed when Christ returns. However right now God’s divine plan and purpose is to call sinners to repentance for eternal salvation. Would you slow down to engage with others for God’s glory and blessing?

2 Timothy 2:10 | The Task Ahead

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Ever have one of those weeks where the schedule is so full that the calendar is hour by hour events that must be attended, work to be completed, or deadline that overshadows life? Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into these situations. Bring on the panic attack and the disappointed friends. If I can just endure and push until after this last event or deliverable then I can relax. The problem being that time to relax most likely is weeks away. Non-essential time like sleep, time with the kids, or maybe even food will be pushed aside. Even then the work accomplished is sloppy. I hate when the schedule backs up like that. Most of the time this kind of crazy is my own fault. Saying yes when I should have said no.

The problem is that there are so many things that I want to accomplish. There are things I want to see my church, my business, my kids, my community, and my friends accomplish. All of this, all of it, requires my participation, engagement, and love. Paul when he wrote to Timothy said much of the same.

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:10 ESV

There is a task that Paul desperately wants to see accomplished. His task is urgent and his task is life consuming. Paul wants to see others fall into the saving grace and eternal glory that only Jesus provides. The difference between Paul’s need to endure hardship for his task differs from my over-packed schedule in three ways. First Paul’s task and desire has eternal ramifications. His overriding desire is to share Christ with everyone. My task and schedule do not rise to that level nearly enough if at all. Am I prioritized the right way? Second Paul unlike me has nothing but time on his hands. He reveals in the verse right before this that he is bound by chains. Most of my life is consumed by frivolous time wasters. Paul’s time was consumed by the knowledge that he could not freely execute the passion in his heart. This most urgent task of preaching Christ was outside of his ability to accomplish in the way he would have liked. My most urgent tasks are outside of my ability most of the time but my tasks are not nearly so urgent as Paul’s. Finally Paul gladly endures prison and even eventual death because he knows God is going to accomplish a great work through Paul’s obedience. Paul is walking in a long line of Godly examples as found in the prophets who endured all kinds of hardships to proclaim God’s message of salvation.

10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:10-11 ESV

How the Lord is merciful indeed. My scheduled is consumed by things that are of importance to me even though most of those things are temporary. God wants me to focus more time on the primary task, for the sake of the elect, that others may see eternal glory and salvation in Christ. While Paul is imprisoned his task, given by God, falls to me, even in some small measure. Do I adjust my schedule to make it God’s schedule for my life? Do I slow down and listen to God’s direction for today? Would I remember the main thing when I interact with people today? Would the thought that the cranky and rude person I bumped into may need and want the gospel of Christ today get in the way of my current distraction and waste of time?

Creation, Laws, and Christ

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God, the maker of heaven and earth is present and draws men and women to himself. He is drawing people to himself because in our rebellion we have distanced ourselves from His perfect holiness. But God made a way and He…

4 desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:4-6 ESV

The knowledge of truth God wishes is for all people to know Him. Understanding God’s desire from the following facts may lead to a restored relationship with God. These truths while boiled down to the following statements here does not mean an easy answer and there is no simple prescription when it comes to God because each person is unique in how they react to these truths. In fact, Jesus claimed few people will navigate this narrow road.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

To know God and reconcile with Him the following three key truths must be understood, believed, and embraced. Each of the following facts are progressive and many reading this may find each successive truth more difficult to agree with but Christianity and salvation require all three.

Where there is a Creator there is a creation.

Creation is an irreducible truth it is not an accident or a random occurrence. The humanist champions of science worship the order and the repeatable laws that make up the scientific method. But those same worshiper’s state that random nothing created the perfect order of science. An atheist worldview is such an odd paradox. And truth be told most people assume and accept some type of Creator be him personal or impersonal.

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 ESV

Where there is a Law there is a Law Giver.

Accepting a Creator is an easy first step with religions and people the world over finding peace with this truth. Where the specific truths of Christianity become complicated and many find objection is in man’s relation to the law. The scientific method assumes natural laws are in effect. Force and friction are mathematically measurable. Violating those laws of nature will not allow society to create the combustion engine. In the same way God of the creation has put in place laws of human nature and violating those laws causes death and failure of the engine, our body and soul. The well-known Ten Commandments are a perfect representation of God’s laws and the recognizable effects of their violation. Do not steal, or lie, or kill. Also worship God and God alone are examples and yet people break these laws and know in their heart what they have done is wrong. All men and women have fallen short of God’s standard (be honest) and Paul writes the penalty is death. Sinners (you and me both) deserve death because all have broken the laws of God. Each person has a broken fellowship with the Creator and He sits in judgment on our crimes.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 ESV

Where there is Christ there is Salvation.

While most people accept “god” in the first truth about creation few agree with the second point that they have broken the laws of God and are therefore guilty sinners deserving of death and punishment. As stated in the intro being Christian is not an easy road. Sadly, people in a dwindling percentage agree and accept the second truth about sin and law breaking. Because of that even fewer will listen for the final truth the best truth of the three which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus resurrected from death and Peter’s first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago states the final key perfectly. If you accept God and you acknowledge you are a sinner breaking God’s laws then listen now to the greatest news ever told.

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:36-39 ESV

Judges 10:13 | God Stopped Saving

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Something that I fear personally happened to the Israelites. They rejected God for such a long period of time that God refused to hear them when they finally called out to him.

13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” Judges 10:13-14 ESV

“I will save you no more” is such a devastating response. Topped with a burning challenge from God to them… “cry to the gods whom you have chosen”.

There are two key words that must be addressed that highlight the gulf between these people and God. The rebellious people are so selfish and shortsighted that they are oblivious to the eternal picture that God operates from. God created life to be enjoyed and to delight in Him as the Creator, but people want to enjoy what is right in front of themselves to the extent that they become slaves to that desire and then fail to enjoy what would have been wonderful.

4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

God turned away from their cries for help and he tells them that he will not “save” them this time. Moses is not here to stand in the gap to advocate on their behalf.

Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them. Psalms 106:23 ESV

The first key word from God is that he would no longer “save” them. Salvation is not secured and because of their rejection of God for so long God is giving them what they wanted by their choice and life without need of him. A common but incorrect idea is that God in the Old Testament is unforgiving and the God of the New Testament is loving. It is not true because God is unchanging. He is the same then as he is now. He was loving and merciful to these people but he is not to be taken for granted and he will not force himself on anyone.

22 “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! 23 You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense…But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. Isaiah 43:22-24 ESV

Why should God save them? Is he obligated to them to be there like the rich father who is always bailing a spoiled ungrateful son out of jail? God created us the only obligation is ours to be amazed by a God who is loving, just, and powerful. God does not need me. I need God and only He can save.

The second key word from God is that he tells them to ask the gods they have “chosen” to serve for help. Obviously the gods of man-made material will not save however for the contemporary reader don’t think this does not apply to you. What do we serve? What do we put our trust in? Money, scientific advancements, power, sex, drugs, work, or what? Will they save you? Will they provide joy, contentment, and love? For a short period of time maybe, but what then when you get old or tragedy strikes? At some point in this temporary life our obligation to the creator will be called on. Will any of your man made gods that you have chosen to serve save you?

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:33 ESV

God resolved the problem in that Moses could only intercede for that generation of his time God provided a perfect king and priest. Jesus came that he would stand with the father and advocate on our behalf. God will listen to those who he has “chosen” and those who have “chosen” Christ because Christ is interceding for us. Do not be consumed by the temporary pleasure, power, and money that is right in front of you. God calls us to see the big picture. The eternal picture. God did eventually save the Israelites because they repented in a real way.

16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. Judges 10:16 ESV

They put away those things that kept them from serving God and they chose to serve him and because of that God once again heard their cries and provided someone to save them. Ask God for the desire to choose him, to serve him over the idols of today. Repent from self-serving evil that consumes today. Christ will intercede and God will save you today and for eternity.

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24 ESV

Genesis 8:21 | God’s Plan is Working

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Genesis 8 is a transitional chapter that concludes the flood event. The pre flood world has been judged and destroyed. As the flood waters fall away and Noah takes his first steps off the Ark into a new land. He is about to be introduced to a new post flood world has yet be explored. In reverence and obedience to God who saved Noah and his family Noah offers a sacrifice, a burnt offering, of clean animals to God. Just as Abel’s offering (Genesis 4:4) was pleasing to God so too Noah’s faith to God the savior is received and God makes an interesting but paradoxical promise to all of men.

21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:21-22 ESV

This verse sets the stage of transitioning between the old destroyed world, the harsh realities of the existing world, and the promise of the new Heavens and Earth. God promises to not add additional curses the Earth because of men. Twice in the history of mankind God has cursed the earth. First with Adam in the garden and then again because of Satan and Men colluding to prevent God’s promised salvation.

17 And to Adam he said…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life Genesis 3:17b ESV

13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Genesis 6:13 ESV

God is now giving Noah a promise that applies to contemporary peoples all over the earth today. A promise that no more will God curse the earth because of our evil and because of our sin. Oddly enough His reason for making the promise is because we are evil. He says that “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth”. The word intention יֵצֶר (yetser) means the very framework of man is evil. It is our nature and who we are from even our youth. This may be shocking news to those who think they are good people, think people are mostly good, and all working hard to please their god. The Psalmist used the same word “intention” יֵצֶר (yetser) to describe how down to every fiber of our being God knows who we are. There is nothing hidden from him. He is our creator and while we can put up a front before other people or we can compare ourselves with others to project a good person God knows who we really are.

14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:14 ESV

The good news for you, me, and every person is that God understand our intention and that we cannot overcome it without His intervention. Because our nature is so corrupted because of Adam’s sin God is prepared to take upon himself the necessary steps to restore His creation. The same Psalmist that acknowledged God knows our every evil intention also wrote why God would even care to restore us.

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:10-13 ESV

As His creation we are his children and his compassion on those who humble themselves and acknowledge who He is so powerful that He, the Creator, will not repay what we owe because of our sins. He will remove our sins and the debt from us. It is not for people to figure out or work toward. He has already done it. Salvation, Restoration, and Justification are complete in a single act not a lifetime of work.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 ESV

God’s plan to save and reconcile His creation to Himself is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God working to undo the evil of who we have become. Jesus is God’s answer to what we cannot do for ourselves. There is no work or being good that can accomplish what God has already done.

This promise of God in Genesis 8 completes the curses and destruction of the old world, the promise provides a salvation in the current Earth, and the promise also points to the completion of all things in a future new Earth where people will no longer be evil at their very being. Those who have submitted and allowed Jesus to be their substitutionary payment for sin will be part of the conclusion and new Earth that God has promised.

13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13 ESV

Genesis 4:7 | God’s Mercy to a Murderer

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God after the fall continued his fellowship with Adam, Eve, and their Children. I imagine that the relationship was similar to that of the days in the garden where God would be present in some form building a relationship with Adam and Eve. This side of the fall and curse however resulted in need for an offering for sin and an acknowledgment of how one’s sins break the relationship with God. Eve’s first two sons Cain and Abel are recorded providing offerings to God as I would assume Adam and Eve had been doing as well. Their offering may have been modeled after what God did for Adam and Eve after the original sin where God himself killed an animal to provide skin covering for their shame.

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Genesis 3:21 ESV

The outcome of these offerings from Cain and Abel should remind all of just how quickly sin escalates in the heart of men and how it impacts their family and God’s relationship with the creation.

6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. Genesis 4:6-10 ESV

Cain and Abel both provided offerings to God however Abel’s offering was accepted by God and Cain’s offering was not. The acceptance of Abel’s offering resulted in fellowship with God the Creator. In fact the next time this kind of offering is mentioned within the Bible is when God was setting up the regular rules of engagement to Moses and Aaron.

41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. Exodus 29:41-42 ESV

The offering that Abel provided allowed him to meet and speak with God and God accepted the offering. Cain’s offering was rejected but still in God’s mercy and grace he continued the relationship with Cain speaking directly to him to encourage him to do the right thing if he wanted acceptance. Most likely God rejected Cain’s offering because of a heart and motive issue and he warns Cain that sin is “crouching at the door”.

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15 ESV

What Cain should have done is repent of the anger in his heart and turn toward God to do what he knew would be the right thing to do. God clearly indicates that He would have accepted Cain. Even after Cain had killed his own brother God in a display of undeserved mercy gives Cain an opportunity to repent for what had happened, but Cain rejects the grace of that moment by claiming to not know about what happened to Abel. God knew what happened so the questioning from God to Cain is an opportunity for Cain to turn away from the sinful path and to restore the relationship.

God provides that same opportunity for people today. While we are all sinners that deserve death because of our rebellion, God has provided his own substitutionary payment. He provided an offering we could not provide ourselves so that we can be like Abel standing before the Creator accepted and in fellowship. God’s advice to Cain is still true to people today and even more so because God has revealed his saving grace from sin in Christ.

7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him… 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:7-8; 14 ESV

 

Genesis 3:17 | The Curse with a Promise

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Genesis chapter three is a pivotal entry into the history of creation. It is the event that changed the course of mankind and explains why the world is the way it is today. Without Genesis chapter three it would be impossible to understand the evil and hardships of this present world. What happened then that directly links to now is that the first man and woman living in a perfect habitat broke fellowship with their Creator. Two people without a care or want found the one thing that was off limits and started a rebellion that is still ongoing today.

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:2-5 ESV

Why is there evil in the world? Why is life hard? Why is there death? Why are so many relationships difficult or strained? Why is there war? Why would a loving God create such a world that we see today? The answers to these and many like them are found here in chapter three as the consequence of what happened on that day at the beginning of the created world.

As a result of what our grandparents Adam and Eve did on that fateful day God leveled out three curses one to each participant in this first transgression. I will cover the First curse to Satan and Third curse to Adam in this post and leave the second curse to Eve for another time. The Third curse that was leveled that day was on Adam and this curse impacts all of the created world.

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; 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.” Genesis 3:17-19 ESV

In this curse there are three parts that impact humankind in general and make up the order of the fallen world we live in. First is that Humans would live in pain and hard work all the days of our lives. The ground will not give to us without work and perseverance. Even then what we work for will be fraught with thorns and disease. Imagine the created world that God had looked at in the beginning and saw as good has now become a source of pain and toil for all that live in it.

20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. Ecclesiastes 2:20 ESV

Second Humankind will face death itself. We once were created to live forever with God in the perfect world, but now it is a guarantee that we will return to the dust from where we came. I can’t imagine the weight of such a concept on Adam since before this moment death would have only been an abstract idea and not a reality in the perfect world that God had created.

For the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23a ESV

Third this curse impacts more than just Adam and Eve it impacts all of creation including the universe itself. The weight of sin and rebellion to the Creator is so serious and is so destructive that the entire universe has fallen. A sun that was created to live forever will one day fail. We see evidence of the failure when looking out into the universe and see stars that have exploded causing destruction in all directions. A current fear of mankind is that one day an asteroid could crash into this planet ending all life. What had once been created for perfection and eternity is now temporary.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Romans 8:20-22 ESV

However devastating this curse was to Adam and to everyone reading this post the First curse God made was to Satan and in this curse we find the present hope we have Christ.

14 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.” Genesis 3:14-15 ESV

There are two curses in this section that we should take note of. First is the curse that all animals must endure along with everything else. Have you ever wondered why God made the mosquito? They are irritating and they carry disease. Why would God have looked at the mosquito and thought to himself this is good? The result here is that animals and insects are all under the curse. Whatever their original purpose they are now only twisted curse infused replicas of the original. Animals were not originally created to kill and hunt each other. There was no death before these curses.

The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. Isaiah 65:25 ESV

Second and take note of this is the promise of God to undo the harm Satan intended. Through the offspring of Eve God will strike a crushing blow to Satan’s head and while the blow will be painful to the offspring of Eve it will not be fatal to this future person of promise.

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. Isaiah 7:14 ESV

This curse to Satan is a promise to us that God would restore what was broken. The curse that God laid out is actually a blessing because this present world must be destroyed in order to create a new heaven and new earth free from the broken relationship that was caused here in chapter three. Without the curse and the eventual destruction of what had once been perfect we would live on forever in pain and toil forever struggling without a relationship with our maker.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV

23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23 ESV

We live in a brief moment of grace that God has provided in this cursed and dying world. Turn from your rebellion against God and seek salvation in the promised savior. Our hope and our future lies only in Christ and the restoration he provides from what happened to creation so many years ago.

The Hero of Spirit and Life

1 peter 3 18

What are superheroes? Well does it not say it all in the name… Superman! They are super human. Better than humans. They have that “X-factor”. Something that makes them better. In the past these superheroes were part God, part man. Hercules son of Zeus the strongest man to ever live. Now there are people in general culture who believe we will one day evolve these super human abilities. Yes your descendants might one day be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. For me in the here and now I have only evolved the super human skill of digesting cheese (that is no joke click the link). When I watch TV or Movies then I know that every “hero” makes the superhuman look easy. Falling, shooting, hacking computers there is no limit to their pain tolerance, hand eye coordination, or knowledge. Those are heroes that are championed everywhere we look. People who can save us from the enemy. Jesus had those kinds of skills for real. 

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:14-15 ESV 

The disciples most closely following Jesus wanted him to kill the Romans and become king as well. Jesus blows up this idea because unlike the superheroes that mankind craves Jesus is not here for the temporary things of this life. Jesus refuses to use his powers the way they wanted, the way they expected, or the way they demanded. 

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:60-63 ESV 

What! The “flesh is no help at all”, did he just say that superman can’t help? Did he just say an army behind the most powerful superhuman ever to walk the earth is of no help? It begs the question then help to do what? Certainly Jesus could have kicked Rome out of Jerusalem. Jesus had another agenda for his super human skills and the people of then and the people of today do not like that agenda. The plans that Jesus had that he spoke about in this conversation with the disciples involved something more than human. These plans involved “spirit and life”. Jesus did something crazy. He did something Heroic. He allowed the evil of this world to kill him. He willingly allowed himself to die because as he said “the flesh is of no help” in solving this problem.  

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when Judas, the one out of the Twelve, showed up, and with him a gang of ruffians, sent by the high priests, religion scholars, and leaders, brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a signal with them: “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him. Make sure he doesn’t get away.” He went straight to Jesus and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The others then grabbed him and roughed him up. One of the men standing there unsheathed his sword, swung, and came down on the Chief Priest’s servant, lopping off the man’s ear. Jesus said to them, “What is this, coming after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I’ve been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. What you in fact have done is confirm the prophetic writings.” All the disciples cut and ran. Mark 14:43-50 (MSG) 

Jesus could have started a war. He could have let Peter go all Jack Bauer on those men, and Peter wanted that war. Rome could have fallen. The world could have fallen on their knees before the feet of Jesus. That moment could have been it. But Jesus refused. He stopped Peter and all the disciples “cut and ran”. What is so heroic or super human about this? Would it not be more heroic to become king and force all the world into peace ending the evil we see? Would not a King Jesus be better than the evil we see in wars of divided mankind? Let us pause before answering that question and see the birth announcement of Jesus by the angels themselves.  

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11 ESV  

Did you hear that women and men, boys and girls, workers and executives, Kings and homeless? Jesus was born to save and he saved everyone through his death. If he had become King at that moment when the world came to kill him then he would have been king over a people of death. Savior would not have been his title. Jesus came not to be a king over dead people, but to be king over a regenerated and living people. Jesus came not to be King over Rome, but to be King over death itself. 

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14 ESV 

Remember Jesus telling the disciples that he was here for “spirit and life” and the “flesh is no help at all”? Jesus knew what he was doing. His death gave me life. His death covered over my shame and my sins. His death reconciled me to God who created me. Jesus the most heroic super human savior the world will ever see died in my place that I might be made alive in the spirit.  

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 1 Peter 3:18 ESV