Staying on the Path to Salvation: Through Humility and Forgiveness

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Staying on the Path to Salvation through Humility and Forgiveness’ 

© January 21, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 21, 2018

Based on lessons shared with BLCF on February 28, 2010 and  July 20, 2014

BLCF Bulletin February 28, 2010

BLCF: Bulletin July 20, 2014

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:     

Opening Hymn#248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain; Choruses                                  

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings  

Responsive Reading 667: Humility and Exaltation (Philippians 2 and Matthew 23); Prayer

 

 

Let Us Pray…

I would like to begin today’s lesson with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice. 

If you picked up a newspaper yesterday morning you may have read the following headline and news story:

Las Vegas Police Say Motive For Shooting Rampage Still Elusive

By Wesley Lowery and Mark Berman
Posted: 01/20/2018 9:18 AM

Authorities have not yet found a motive for the October 2017 Las Vegas massacre, but have concluded there is no evidence of any political or ideological radicalization that would explain why Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music festival from a 32nd floor suite at the Mandalay Bay resort.

While the investigation remains active, the Clark County sheriff’s office on Friday released a preliminary 81-page investigatory report about the Oct. 1 shooting rampage, which left 58 people dead and more than 850 injured. Paddock, who had checked into two rooms at the Mandalay and spent days bringing in bags of assault rifles and ammunition, shot down into the crowd for more than 10 minutes in what investigators have described as a well-planned attack.

Authorities have concluded Paddock acted alone, and the sheriff said police do not anticipate bringing charges against Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who received large cash transfers from Paddock just before the shooting and was questioned in the days after.

“We have done a lot of work trying to piece together what happened,” Sheriff Joe Lombardo said during a news conference Friday. “This report won’t answer every question, or even the biggest question, as to why he did what he did.”

Paddock, 64, who had no prior criminal history, stockpiled weapons in the year before the shooting, ultimately purchasing 55 rifles and other guns in addition to scopes, cases, bump stocks and ammunition, according to the report. But it remains unclear why he targeted the concert, the central mystery that has gone unsolved since he opened fire on the Route 51 Harvest music festival in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

“No suicide note or manifesto was found,” investigators wrote. “There was no evidence of radicalization or ideology to support any theory that Paddock supported or followed any hate groups or any domestic or foreign terrorist organizations. Despite numerous interviews with Paddock’s family, acquaintances and gambling contacts, investigators could not link Paddock to any specific ideology.”

The report later concludes: “Nothing was found to indicate motive on the part of Paddock or that he acted with anyone else.”

Unlike many of the other mass killers who have attacked churches, nightclubs, workplaces, schools and other public spaces across the U.S., Paddock apparently left no explanation for his attack.                          

https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/world/las-vegas-police-say-motive-for-shooting-rampage-still-elusive-470271453.html

Much of today’s news media contains a litany of stories describing the sadness of when innocent lives are lost or to quote a well-known book:

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow. Since its original publication in 1981, When Bad Things Happen to Good People has brought solace and hope to millions of readers and its author has become a nationally known spiritual leader.

My younger sister, Rhona Mickelson, died from blood poisoning related to an abscess bedsore. The loss was very difficult for my dad. No one wants to outlive his or her child. Rhona’s last words to dad were: “I am not ready to die.” I believe that the whole family was surprised by her untimely death at age 42, as she successfully represented the disabled and elderly segments of Toronto’s talent through her Star Tracks Talent Agency (Star Tracks © 1998 Estate and Heirs of Rhona Winifred Mickelson – All Rights Reserved).

When a child dies, the surviving parents and family are not only struck by their own mortality, but are distinctly aware of the loss of someone close to them with whom there will be no more conversations, no more laughter nor jokes. For a parent they sense a loss of someone who was to carry on with the family name. Lost are the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that the parent had for the child.  Such a loss can be very difficult to accept, the causes are often hard to reconcile, and for those outside the family, such loss may be hard to understand.

Such was the case in Nickels Belt, Pennsylvania, when Charles Roberts, a 32-year-old milk truck driver, burst into an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania on Monday, October 2, 2006 and killed five schoolgirls execution-style and then shot and then killed himself. Initially, the public viewed the tragedy as another case of a disturbed individual acting out his psychosis by killing innocent victims. It was just another school shooting by a man who was described by neighbors as a soccer dad, a seemingly good husband, and hard worker who just snapped. A rambling letter written by Roberts prior to his death blamed his emotional state upon a personal loss, some years previous.

The scope and scale of the tragic loss of life at the Amish schoolhouse paled in comparison to the reaction given by the families of the five victims towards the killer Roberts and the Roberts family. Though the act of violence against the children in the Amish schoolhouse by this outsider had shaken the community to its core and in spite of Amish community’s feelings of shock, disbelief and then grief, the reaction of the Amish community to the deaths was not what others had expected. Members of the Amish community sought to support all of the families who had suffered a tremendous loss; both Amish as well as Roberts’ family. Within a day of the shootings, members of the Amish community, friends and family of the slain girls called upon the parents, widow and children of Charles Roberts to embrace the shooters family, to show forgiveness towards the killer and to support the Roberts in their time of personal loss and grief.  This reaction of forgiveness stunned both the public and the media.

Dr. Donald Kraybill co-authored: Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, and wrote the following:

One of the fathers who lost a daughter in the schoolhouse and had another one seriously injured said, “Our forgiveness was not in our words, it was in what we did.” What did they do? How did the Amish enact forgiveness?

Two days after the shooting the Amish formed the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee to disperse, with fiscal integrity, the financial gifts of goodwill that were suddenly coming from people around the world to help the suffering families. Composed of seven Amish leaders and two outside businessmen, the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee decided to give a proportion of the funds they received to the widow and children of Charles Roberts. In time, the committee received about $4.2 million from generous donors around the world.  

One of the most striking expressions of forgiveness occurred at Charles Roberts’s burial on the Saturday after the shooting. Roberts was buried in the Georgetown cemetery, about a mile from the school, beside his firstborn daughter whose premature death nine years earlier he blamed on God and gave as the reason for his murderous acts. Over half of the people in attendance were Amish. They spontaneously decided to attend. Some had just buried their own daughters the day before. After the burial they hugged the widow and the parents of Charles Roberts. It was a remarkable act of grace. The funeral director supervising the burial said, “I realized that I was witnessing a miracle!” The Amish families bestowed other gracious acts of kindness on the family of Charles Roberts. Some sent meals and flowers to his widow. At Christmastime children from a nearby Amish school went to the Roberts home to sing carols.  

Another remarkable facet of the Amish response was the absence of anger and rage. One Amish woman said, “When I saw the bodies of one of the little girls at the viewing it just made me mad, mad at the evil, not at the shooter.” In my interviews, I probed for anger toward Charles Roberts but I detected only deep sorrow, not anger. When I asked about Roberts’s eternal destiny, one Amish minister said, “I can only hope for him what I hope for myself, that God will be a merciful and loving judge.” Deep pain and sorrow seared the hearts of the Amish parents. Even months after the tragedy, the memory of the event brought tears to the eyes of many Amish people. “I couldn’t preach in church for several weeks because when I tried, I just cried and cried,” said one grandfather, a minister who lost a granddaughter in the schoolhouse. The Amish are not stoic people; they experience the emotions of pain and suffering like the rest of us.

For all the Amish, as well as for fellow Christians at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship– BLCF Church, the strength to forgive is found through humility and by God’s grace.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, well known for his Christian walk, once said: “Forgiving is one of the most difficult things for a human being to do, but I think it means looking at some slight you feel, putting yourself in the position of the other person, and wiping away any sort of resentment and antagonism you feel toward them. Then let that other person know that everything is perfectly friendly and normal between you…One of the most basic principles for making and keeping peace within and between nations. . . is that in political, military, moral, and spiritual confrontations, there should be an honest attempt at the reconciliation of differences before resorting to combat”

C. Ryle on the subject of humility and love said: “Humility and love are precisely the graces which the men of the world can understand, if they do not comprehend doctrines. They are the graces about which there is no mystery, and they are within reach of all classes… [The poorest] Christian can every day find occasion for practicing love and humility. “

To understand the reaction, we must understand the Amish. There are about 200,000 Amish who live in 27 states and 350 geographical settlements. They came from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries and have lived lives largely separate from mainstream American society ever since.  They have a Biblically based understanding of their way of life, and they seek to apply their unique ways in terms of their selective use of technology, the way in which they interact with the outside world. Because the Amish are pacifists, they see the school rampage as a test of faith. Part of their faith practices includes not only reciting daily The Lord’s Prayer, but actually incorporating the message of the prayer in their everyday life. As one member of the Amish community stated, “There’s strength and forgiveness and not having the kind of bitterness that we think possibly caused this terrible tragedy.”

In order to achieve forgiveness, the Amish live a life of humility. Their manner of dress is simple and unassuming. They shun modern technology, preferring to travel by horse drawn carriage than by automobile. They live off the power grid; don’t have gas lines, any phones, any radios or televisions, any computers or internet. They have no commercial insurance policies; say for life or property insurance, no credit cards, no loans. If an Amish suffers a loss, his support network is the community of fellow believers, who draw close to the person to provide care and support. The Amish learn the Way of humility from the Scriptures, 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV):

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) Christ’s Example of Humility

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.         

Footnotes: a. Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b. Philippians 2:7 Greek bondservant

But you may ask: “Does God really command or require us to be humble”? We find the answer to this question in Micah 6:8 (ESV):

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love

kindness,[a]     

and to walk humbly with your God?             

Footnotes: a. Micah 6:8 Or steadfast love

Just as our weakness and imperfections are made strong and perfect through the power of the Holy Spirit; a humble believer will become the greatest proponent of the faith in the Lord:

Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV)

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Steve Marshall in an article on overcoming depression entitled: How forgiveness has healing power over depression states the following:

Healing through forgiveness and growing through humility. Accepting your depression and finding that it is no more than a curtain on the stage of life, your life. What is the real spiritual connection between depression and forgiveness? Is there a causal connection? Can depression be alleviated from a “heartfelt connectingly” deep forgiveness of myself and of others made by myself? Forgiveness always helps because to forgive is to embrace the loving option. Love heals depression by allowing it’s healing “of the opening up of yourself to yourself and of the opening up of yourself to others” to take place. For essentially depression is a sign of your closing down to yourself and to life. The way to allow growth through and past your depression is to start forgiving yourself for having allowed this degree of closing down of yourself to yourself and to life to have taken place. Depression is a really deep, painful and lonely place to be, but it’s very deepness is what allows you to grow. It is true in life that you grow most from the deepest pain and the deepest feelings and that your most penetratingly painful experiences will often teach you the most. And so depression as I have just said allows you to feel feelings more deeply and this then will open the other side of depression in you and which is forgiveness. When you are feeling any feeling other than happiness or experiencing any state other than love, it is time to think about forgiveness. Forgive yourself first by just accepting yourself, for acceptance is the always the first step of forgiveness. The second step is to acknowledge that depression is a part of life and of your life and to look for the hidden jewels hiding within the darkness of depression. Forgiveness is the candle or the light in this darkness that will allow you to see the jewel and which is your soul sparkling and shining with a glimmering hope. That hope is that real hope that you will at last contact your real self as soul and that this contact will now begin to turn you around, and then after that the next step is humility. It takes true humility to forgive, and true forgiveness makes you humble. It goes on from there, and you will find that when you can touch yourself as soul, and feel a little of your true value, and accept that you have indeed a unique purpose and unique gifts and that you are a part of God’s overall plan for all of life, you will maybe realize then that your part in it all is just simply to be you.

And you may ask what Christ said we may expect if we do not forgive those who have wronged us? Let us read from Matthew 25, verses 31-46 for the answer let us look to Matthew 25:31-45 (ESV):

The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

In other words, we will be judged according to how we have treated others. We cannot expect forgiveness and salvation if we do not forgive others. And we cannot forgive others if we have not humbled ourselves in the eyes of the Lord. Or to put it a little more clearly:

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

And if we must remember Christ words, while nailed to the cross, through His anguish and pain the words He spoke were of suffering but forgiveness:

Luke 23:34 (ESV)

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[a] And they cast lots to divide his garments.                                                                          

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:34 Some manuscripts omit the sentence And Jesus… what they do

So we can see that one of the requisites for our Salvation is humility and in order to be forgiven, we must first forgive. These are not guidelines but a path which we may walk. Like the Amish, a way of life. The scriptures become alive for you and me only after we chose not just to speak the scripture, but to live the scripture. To demonstrate by our actions humility before the Lord and forgiveness to others who have wronged us.

Danish philosopher, theologian, and psychologist Soren Kierkegaard once said: Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity … is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men’s lives.

Humility and forgiveness are the sacrifices we must make to be worthy in God’s eyes so as to receive Christ’s gift of salvation. His sacrifice for our forgiveness was great. What we must sacrifice is relatively small, we must be humble, be forgiven and receive the gift of salvation.

With respect to forgiveness and the Christian walk, author CS Lewis observed: To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

Let us conclude this morning’s lesson with the same quote from Mahatma Gandhi that used at the beginning:

Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus 

Benediction (Romans 15:5-6): May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Sin Forgotten and Forgiven through God’s New Covenant

BLCF: John_7-8

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Sin Forgotten and Forgiven through God’s New Covenant‘

©January 26, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin January 26, 2014

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:  Responsive Reading #640 (Redemption in Christ – Romans 5); Prayer                                                                                                                                                                 

Opening Hymn #96: Praise Him! Praise Him!; Choruses 

Scriptures: Leviticus 20:10 and John 8:1-11                                                                                     

Let us pray…

Last Sunday, at BLCF, our Sunday message included the lesson of the Lord healing of a man who was blind from birth; a miracle challenged by the Pharisees. And two Sunday’s ago, the message dealt with what the Lord meant when he referred to himself as being the “Bread of Life”, warning his disciples to beware of the “Leaven of the Pharisees” and “leaven” being used as euphuism for the “teachings” of the Pharisees.

This Sunday, we have in John, Chapter 8, the account of the women caught in adultery, who was brought to the Lord, as he taught in the temple. We touched upon this account at last Wednesday’s Bible Study and little more in the message that I shared at the BLCF Café community Dinner. Today, I hope to conclude the topic, by looking at the involvement of the Pharisees, who sought the Lord’s opinion of a woman, who had committed the sin of adultery, as an opportunity to challenge Jesus and even have him arrested. But before we examine the Scriptures, let us go to our Wiki Bits definitions, to find out just who these miscreants of Christ, who were known as the Pharisees.

BLCF: Mark_7_6

                                         Pharisees – (wikipedia.org)                                                      

Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought in Judea during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE) in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism (commonly known as simply Judaism).

The Pharisees appear in the New Testament, engaging in conflicts between themselves and John the Baptist and with Jesus, and because Nicodemus the Pharisee (John 3:1) with Joseph of Arimathea entombed Jesus’ body at great personal risk. Gamaliel, the highly respected rabbi and defender of the apostles, was also a Pharisee, and according to some Christian traditions secretly converted to Christianity. There are several references in the New Testament to Paul of Tarsus being a Pharisee.

The New Testament, particularly the Synoptic Gospels, presents especially the leadership of the Pharisees as obsessed with man-made rules (especially concerning purity) whereas Jesus is more concerned with God’s love; the Pharisees scorn sinners whereas Jesus seeks them out. (The Gospel of John, which is the only gospel where Nicodemus is mentioned, particularly portrays the sect as divided and willing to debate) Because of the New Testament‘s frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers (see also Woes of the Pharisees and Legalism (theology)), the word “pharisee” (and its derivatives: “pharisaical”, etc.) has come into semi-common usage in English to describe a hypocritical and arrogant person who places the letter of the law above its spirit.  Jews today who subscribe to Pharisaic Judaism typically find this insulting and some consider the use of the word to be anti-Semitic.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees

Now back to today’s lesson. Let us begin by reviewing today’s Scripture verse, taken from John’s Gospel, Chapter 8, verses 1-11.

BLCF: John_8

                                                      John 8:1-11 (ESV)                                                           

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

BLCF: John8-11

So by what authority did the Pharisees, who were legalists with respect to the Scriptures, avoiding any spiritual interpretation of the Mosaic Law, and in some regard removing God involvement from the law. And without Spiritual discernment or guidance, the Scriptures become documents that can be best understood in a strictly literal way. It is not surprising therefore, that the Pharisees took the rules found in Leviticus 20, as their authority to be judge, jury and executioner of anyone who violated any of the Ten Commandments that Moses brought to the People of Israel.

And for women caught in the act of adultery, the punishment was quite clear, as we see in today’s second verse, which is from the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 20; Verse 10.

                    Leviticus 20:10 (ESV) Punishments for Sexual Immorality                      

10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of[a] his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.                                                       

Footnotes: a. Leviticus 20:10 Hebrew repeats if a man commits adultery with the wife of

If you look at the end of Leviticus 20, you will see the prescribed punishment being death by stoning. But there is something about implementing the sin of one commandment, “thy shall not kill” as a punishment for another, “thy shall not commit adultery.” Does this make sense? Who is supposed to judge such sins?  What about God’s plan for forgiveness, through Jesus?

God's Law

God’s Law

One may argue that Jesus had not yet died on the cross, and so the Pharisees were justified in expecting to kill the adulterous women, as forgiveness from sins would only be possible after Christ’s crucifixion. But wait a minute; there are a couple of “Old Testament” verses that we need to take into account.

 If you read Ezekiel, Chapter 33, verses 14-19, we read that the punishment of death can be commuted.

                                                  Ezekiel 33:14-19 (ESV)                                                      

14 Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

17 “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this.

 God judged the violation of any of His laws subject to the same penalty: death.  But He did provide a plan for forgiveness, called “The New Covenant”, which is described in Jeremiah, Chapter 31, verses 31-34.   

   

God's New Covenant Message at BLCF Church

God’s New Covenant: Jesus Christ

                   

                        Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV) The New Covenant                                    

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Now playing the devil’s advocate, some may say that the Pharisees were able to implement God’s judgement against the adulterous women because they were without sin. Let me direct you to Jesus challenge to the Pharisees in John 8, verse 7; “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” As he spoke this, Jesus was able to avoid engaging a debate with the Pharisees or others in the crowd and tempered their anger by continuing to casually write with his finger in the ground.

BLCF: John_8_7

One by one, the accusers realizing that they were not sinless, and therefore not in a position to judge or execute the women, left the scene. And in the end, no one remained. And we read in John 8, verse 10; Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

BLCF: Has no one condemned You

Jesus communicates volumes in just a few short sentences. By challenging the group that only the sinless may cast the first stone, Jesus points out that everyone is guilty of the sin, and therefore deserving of the sane judgment: death. The older men leave first, not necessarily because of their wisdom of their years. Because they were older they had accrued more sins in their respected lifetimes than the younger men.

BLCF: Dont Judge

Jesus statement in John 8:7 challenges the authority of the Pharisees to implement any judgement that is reserved solely to God. We see this expressed succinctly in James, Chapter 4, verses 11-12.

                                                James 4:11-12 (ESV)                                        

11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[a] The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?                                                                                                     

Footnotes: a. James 4:11 Or brothers and sisters

BLCF: NO CONDEMNATION

As followers of the resurrected Christ and believers in the Way of the Lord, we are implored to exercise the same compassionate heart of forgiveness towards each other that was expressed in Jeremiah 31, this time echoed in Colossians 3, verses 12-15.

                                               Colossians 3:12-15 (ESV)                            

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

And as a reminder, again, we see in Luke, Chapter 6, verses 37-42, what our judgement will be, if like the Pharisees, we are determine to judge and not forgive.  

                                   Luke 6:37-42 (ESV) Judging Others                                               

  37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

And we conclude today’s lesson with the Scripture taken from John 3, verses 31-36, with a reminder of God’s New Covenant, through His Son, Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit without measure and eternal life, by way of obedience and faith to God, by way of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we face God’s wrath and death described in Leviticus 20.

                                                                                           

BLCF: Jesus Can

                 John 3:31-36 (ESV)    

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #308: My Hope Is in the Lord

Benediction – (Colossians 3: 15):                                                                                                                                                                                                           And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

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Deception, Disobedience and Destruction from the Mouth of a Serpent

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Deception, Disobedience and Destruction from the Mouth of a Serpent’

© April 21, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 21, 2013

Let us pray…

Good morning. For the lesson last Sunday, we briefly reviewed the significant events that occurred in Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, ending with the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave.  The message focussed on the events that took place in the Upper Chamber or Room and last but not of least importance, the significance of Pentecost and the Great Commission.

In Today’s lesson, we will take a look at both the reasons for, and the importance of, God’s Salvation Plan through Jesus Christ, and hopefully see how His plan of salvation will restore access to Paradise to all who believe. Paradise is an Old Iranian term for a walled garden. It is a higher or better place than our current existence.

 

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In order to better understand salvation, let us talk about sin in general, but specifically what is often described as the ‘original sin’.

When people talk about committing a sin, it is usually in some reference to a violation of the Mosaic Laws, which we commonly call ‘The Ten Commandments’. These were the Laws God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai to people of Israel. Jesus later simplified the ten to two, loving God with all your heart, mind and soul; and loving your neighbor as yourself. But the ‘original sin’ happened back in the Garden of Eden, before Moses, before the ministry of Jesus and is described in Book of Genesis.

We begin in Genesis 1:26-29 (ESV), with the creation, and how Adam was created and given dominion or charge over all creatures on the land, sea and air:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Footnotes: Genesis 1:26 The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam

Temptation in the garden

Satan, Eve and the Forbiddeen Fruit

So with the responsibility for the flora and fauna, God gave Adam one caveat; one item to beware of, which we might say one rule or law. We see this described in Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV):

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

original_sin

Because Adam’s descendents today know, or should understand what is good, from what is evil, or right from wrong, we could understand how a rule might be broken. If you doubt what I am saying, just put a “Wet Paint Do Not Touch Sign’ on a door or wall and watch how many people will touch it to see if it is actually wet, a sign (no pun), of our sinful nature. But, when God gave the commandment, Adam and Eve were innocent of this type of thought and had to be tricked or fooled into doing something which would judged as challenging the authority of God. That is where Lucifer, also known as Satan or the devil, the original rebel who fell from God’s Grace by challenging His authority, enters the picture, as we read in Genesis 3 (ESV),entitled appropriately, The Fall:

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 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.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

                       

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

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.”

16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

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; 18 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.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Masaccio_Adam_and_Eve_detail

Satan had enticed both Eve and Adam to break God’s rule, and in doing so challenging the Creator’s authority by telling Eve, as well as Adam who was with her, (see  verse 6), that by eating the fruit, they would become like God, having knowledge or understanding like God of good from evil, and by assuring them that they would not suffer death as God had warned. Because of the alluring appearance of the fruit, and possibly because of a naive belief that being similar to God would bring them closer to God, when just the opposite is true, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Having eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve had their eyes open and became fully aware of the significance of breaking God’s rule. Now it seems that they likely realized how Satan, disguised as a serpent, desired to have them to challenge God’s authority, and to fall from His Grace.

This is the crux, or central point, of the ‘original sin’  is not so much the act of breaking God’s rule, but more the attituded inherint in a challenge to His authority. This sin caused a rift between Adam and Eve. Because of God’s concern that this pair of rebels might eat from the ‘tree of life’ giving power of eternal life to those who had already chose to follow the directions from Satan to challenge His authority, Adam and Eve were evicted from Paradise.

But God loves his creation and desires that the human race have an opportunity to be reconciled to His Grace. Consuming the forbidden fruit lead to our fall from God’s Grace, and the knowledge of the difference between good from evil brought pain and guilt for such actions.

God’s simple solution was to remove the judgement of sin, through Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, taking upon Himself the judgement and punishment of death, and providing through the resurrection, the assurance that God’s death penalty eliminated.  A pardon from the judgement and penalty for our sinful nature. So believers, who confess their sins, and admit to a sinful nature, and who decide to follow Jesus, are forgiven their sins and granted the promise of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, as well as the assurance of their own resurrection from the grave, as we see in Romans 6:20-23 (ESV):

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.     21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We see that Jesus’ resurrection assures us of Jesus’ power over death, but what about the sinner and our return to Paradise. Some scholars argue that Paradise or the Garden of Eden in Book of Genesis is just a parable for the state of grace and not an actual physical place. I would argue that Moses, who most Biblical scholars agree, authored Genesis did not use parables in his writings.  This would allow us to conclude that the Garden of Eden, God’s place of Paradise created for Adam and Eve is an actual place. Jesus spoke of Paradise in the scriptures, a place for sinners who confess sin and ask for  forgiveness through Jesus may receive it, while being given the assurance of the resurrection, the company of the Lord in Paradise, in Luke 23:39-43 (ESV):

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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And in addition to asking forgiveness from God, we must forgive those who trespass against us. This example of agreeing to follow the two commandments of Jesus in order to be fully right with the Lord, Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV):

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Remember, that the foundation of our faith in the power of God, is a trust and belief in His promises and abilities. To nonbelievers, such actions of faith seems to be just nonsense, as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) entitled: Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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And if we choose not to turn away from Satan’s promptings; to ignore God’s authority, we remain locked in to sin and doomed to suffering and death. As beings, capable knowing right from wrong, and therefore having the ability to choose between the good, righteous path for ourselves, or the leading of Satan, God has given us control or dominion over our destinies. We may choose to continue along Satan’s way of rebellion and with Satan suffer judgement and death. Or, we may choose the Way of Jesus, confessing our sins, admitting to our sinful nature, accepting the gift and leadership of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to lead us on the righteous path. Christ said that we must not seek to elevate ourselves or others amongst ourselves to the same level as God which we read in Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV):

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Salvation from judgement

So by following the Way of Christ, we renounce the desire to be equal with God or to forsake His authority. We must choose to serve God as His servant, humbled, as Jesus had taught when he washed the disciples’ feet just before Christ’s crucifixion. We must pledge our obedience to God. As believers, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us keep our faith to the Lord on the right track and to keep us on the righteous path to Paradise and avoid the consequences of sin.

BLCF: salvation_thru_Christ

Let us pray…

Benediction (Hebrews 13:20-21):  Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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