Tuesday, April 27, 2010

THE GOSPEL STORY


From Genesis through Revelation, the Bible speaks with a divine authority which calls every man, woman, and child into accountability to their Creator. Man has never been free to do his own will. God’s command to Adam not to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil marked the beginning of man’s responsibility to submit to His Sovereignty: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17). Unfortunately, Adam did not comply with the Lord’s command and his rebellion brought immediate and long-term consequences: “Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23,24). Paradise was lost for the pleasure of a moment and a desire which could never be realized--the desire to be like God (Genesis 3:5). This was the greatest lie of Satan, the Archenemy of God, and the New Age religions of our day perpetuate this delusion. As for the once-perfect environment known as Eden (Genesis 2:8), it was cursed: “And unto Adam he (God) said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee” (Genesis 3:17-19). New Testament revelation confirms the present state of the natural order: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). The hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and fires which create so much property damage and claim human lives bear witness that all is not well on Planet Earth.

As the progressive revelation of God’s Word unfolded, students of Scripture can easily discern that all suffering, sickness, violence, pain, and death experienced in life throughout human history finds its source in Adam’s sin: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Who could ever have imagined such dreadful consequences for a single sin? Would you and I have fared any better? Would we have chosen God’s will over our own? I think not. And now, as the descendants of Adam, we follow in his footsteps; we are sinners by nature and sinners by choice. David brought this to light when he said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). King Solomon agreed: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

Biblical theology affirms that the human condition is one of alienation from God, just as Adam tried to hide from the Lord: “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Sinners must be sought out by God before they can be converted, just as the Lord called to Adam to confront him with his sin (Genesis 3:9). Feeling the sting of a guilty conscience (Romans 2:15), Adam and Eve covered themselves with garments fashioned out of leaves: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7). How foolish they were to think that garments made with human hands would be adequate. Only God can provide that which is necessary for sinful men, and so we read, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). Behind the garments that God made for Adam and Eve is the reality of sacrifice and death. An innocent animal had to die. This clearly pointed to a sacrifice that must be made for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16) which the Lord had spoken of a few verses earlier in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This was the first gospel proclamation that foreshadowed Christ’s victory over Satan and the forces of evil on the cross of Calvary. Without the proper sacrifice for sin, the ultimate penalty imposed on humanity is death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). This death affects not only the physical body, but also the eternal existence of man. The Scripture speaks of a second death, which is separation from God to hell, a place of everlasting suffering for the unrepentant sinner: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). What more shall I say of the doctrine of hell but that modern man, even the professing Christian, finds it offensive? Sinners who are being coddled by popular preachers seek comfort in their sin, not the condemnation of their sin. Repentance is considered a word best left to a bygone age when people were believed to be less educated and more gullible. However, no amount of wishful or positive thinking can alter the judgment that awaits those who know not God and His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:27).

Dark as the prospect of eternal judgment may be, all is not hopeless. God’s answer for mankind’s spiritual need is found in Jesus Christ. Born of the Virgin Mary, He came to earth to die as a Divine substitute for sinners, in order to satisfy the judgment on sin demanded by a Holy God: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Whereas Adam sinned and brought about death both physically and spiritually, Jesus died and conquered death, offering salvation to Adam’s descendants-- not by their own efforts (good works)-- but as a free gift: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The fact that biblical salvation is a gift from God is seen also in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast”(Ephesians 2:8,9) . If the consequences of a single sin, that of Adam, seems unimaginable, how much more the blessing of Christ’s act of obedience in dying on the cross: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). What does all this mean to you? It means that the gift of eternal life is available to anyone who, being convinced of his sin by the Holy Spirit, calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus for forgiveness: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). God desires that every man born in the likeness of Adam comes to the knowledge of the truth in Christ (1 Timothy 2:4-6). This is the gospel story, the good news for all mankind. The invitation issued by the prophet Isaiah still stands: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6, 7). What a promise! God not only pardons, He abundantly pardons. Not only does He abundantly pardon, but abundant are His promises toward those who believe: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). I pray that this is your destiny. It can be! Examine your heart and seek to determine, with the aid of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), if you are trusting alone in Christ’s death on the cross for your salvation or in some inadequate human substitute--the fig leaves of your own righteousness. God is willing to clothe you with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith in the blood He shed for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28). If you look to Jesus, He will not turn you away, for He has solemnly promised, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Further assurance to this effect is offered in the promise, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). This is the guarantee of life without end in the presence of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). This is what God is willing to give to you if you will give your life to Him and ask Him to take away the debt and burden of your sin for Jesus’ sake.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

Jesus is the way; without Him there is no going.
Jesus is the truth; without Him there is no knowing.
Jesus is the life; without him there is no living.
- Anon.

May God give you wisdom and the joy of knowing Jesus Christ,

Pastor Tom


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