February 27 Esight, 2008

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.—Colossians 2:13–14.I meet many people who are confused regarding what God’s thoughts and feelings toward them truly are. I find that much of this confusion is the result of a common misunderstanding regarding God’s forgiveness.

As in the above texts, the Bible states that God, through the cross, has forgiven every man, woman, and child of every sin he or she ever has or ever could commit. God is not harboring any ill feelings toward any of his children, faithful or wayward.

And yet, I hear many say, wait Herb, what about repentance, confession, and faith. Aren’t these necessary? Yes, absolutely! But here is the rub. The Bible speaks of two very different—related, but different—truths. They are different, but in English we have only one word to describe them both. That word is Forgiveness.

What are these two truths? First, that every person has a conscience. Thus, when they sin, they set in motion the effects of shame and guilt, the full weight of which, if they were left to bear it alone, would crush out their life. The Bible calls this cleansing of the shame and guilt transpiring in us forgiveness or, in the Greek, apheimi. And this change in us takes place through repentance, confession, and faith.

But the second truth is that God, in His heart, is not harboring any ill feelings toward any member of the human race. He has taken all our “debt,” “all” our “transgressions,” and nailed them to His cross. From His perspective, because of the cross, all charges have been dropped for every person who has ever lived or ever will live. The Bible calls this glorious good news of what is truly in God’s heart toward every person, repentant or rebellious, by the same word—Forgiveness or, in the Greek, Charizomai.

One experience takes place through faith and repentance; the other, called by the same word, has taken place in God’s heart toward all regardless of whether they repent or not.

The question arises, “Well, if God has forgiven everyone, then why will some be lost?” That is the million-dollar question.

“There is not the slightest reason why every man that has ever lived should not be saved unto eternal life, except that they would not have it. So many spurn the gift offered so freely” (Waggoner on Romans, p. 102).

“”What! Do you mean to teach universal salvation?” We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches—that “the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” Titus 2:11, R.V. “God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it, and throw it away. The Judgment will reveal the fact that full and complete salvation was given to every man, and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession” (Waggoner, Glad Tidings, p. 23).

“The common idea is that when God forgives sin the change is in Himself, and not in the man. It is thought that God simply ceases to hold anything against the one who has sinned. But this is to imply that God had a hardness against the man, which is not the case. God is not a man; He does not cherish enmity, nor harbor a feeling of revenge. It is not because God has an angry feeling in His heart against a sinner that he asks forgiveness, but because the sinner has something in his heart. God is all right, the man is all wrong; therefore God forgives the man, that he also may be all right” (Waggoner, The Power of Forgiveness).

Meditate on these themes this week and see whether God’s great forgiveness not only sets you free, but also awakens in you that same Forgiveness toward others as well.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

Have a great week!

February 18 Esight, 2008

“…Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day…”—Colossians 2:13-23Let the full impact of the following statement rest upon your heart.

“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through the cross.” (emphasis added)

The above is quite possibly one of the most profound statements ever made by the apostle, Paul. It is as though God is saying to this world, through the medium of the cross, that all charges have been dropped. And it is on this basis that Paul wrote the very next statement.

“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.”

What does “food,” “drink,” “festivals,” “new moons,” or the “Sabbath” have to do with the great accomplishments of Calvary? With our being forgiven of all our transgressions? With having all our debt cancelled out?

The answer is quite astonishing.

First, the Sabbath is a holy day (Exodus 20:8-11). And holy days in the Old Testament were to be kept much like we celebrate holidays in our modern culture. “Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This is the same spirit in which the Sabbath is to be celebrated. The Lord’s Sabbath is commemorative of not simply creation, but Redemption as well, along with all its accomplishments. (For more on this subject, please listen to A Rest That Remains from our sermons/downloads page at https://renewedheartministries.com/resources.asp?t=sermons)

Second, the situation in Colossia was much different than in Galatia. In the Galatian church, Judaisers were secretly stealing from and seeking to defraud the Galatians of their assurance by trying to add certain requirements of the law in addition to their receiving the grace of God through faith as conditions for their salvation. However, here in Colossia, it was not the Judaisers stealing, but the early Gnostics. The Gnostics believed in many things, yet one of their central beliefs was that the body was evil and a person’s soul was immortal and holy. In order to free or redeem his or her soul, a person needs to abase his or her body through severe treatment. They believed that any sensory pleasure, for any purpose, was wrong. This would strike right at the heart of celebrating Calvary. How could a person eat the fat and drink the sweet every Sabbath in celebration of the cross if all sensory pleasure was forbidden?

Paul continued, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

This week, stand fast in the glorious accomplishments of the cross. Let no one be your judge in regards to:

Food;

Drink;

Festivals or New Moons;

but especially, the Sabbath.

This Friday evening, when Sabbath roles around, be like those early Colossian believers who, having received the blessings of the Cross, longed to celebrate their Savior. Set aside that holy time to eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and remember, the God of this universe has forgiven you all of your transgressions, having cancelled every last debt, having nailed them to His cross. May the meditation and celebration of these great themes truly set your heart free to run in the expanse of His grace.

February 11 Esight, 2008

“And I said, ‘I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it . . . also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side’ . . . Then he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.’”— Zechariah 4:2,3,14In Zechariah chapter 4, Zechariah sees a lamp stand with two olives trees standing on either side of it—”standing by” the lamp to provide oil for its light. The imagery here is striking!

First, there is the lamp stand. Anyone familiar with sanctuary imagery recognizes at once that this is an appropriate symbol for Christ, who is the light of the world (John 8:12), disseminating the light of truth about who God is and about His love, dispelling the darkness of lies that abound regarding God’s character.

But what are those two olive trees? Notice first that it’s through the trees, through the fruit (olives) they bear, that oil is provided for light. This is a fitting image to represent what God wants from each of us. He desires that we would give Him our life, so that He can provide “fruits” (Galatians 5:22), so that through those fruits He can shine forth the light of His love to this darkened world. Jesus taught this ever so clearly.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works [the fruit of God’s love being awakened in each of us], and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Yet in the context of the book of Zechariah there is more. The sanctuary had been cast down, God’s people oppressed, and truth trampled in the dust. Yet there were two men, two olive trees, that responded to God’s call to return to Jerusalem, restore the sanctuary, and lift up the truth of God’s kingdom of grace and love once again. Who were they? Joshua and Zerubbabel.

I challenge you this week to go back into the Old Testament and read the stories of Joshua and Zerubbabel. Let the stories of these two great men inspire you. According to Daniel 7–12, we too are living in a time when God’s heavenly sanctuary has been cast down, God’s faithful oppressed, and the truth of His character of love cast down to the ground. But this is not where the story in Daniel ends.

“And he said unto me, Until two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings: then shall the sanctuary be vindicated.”—Daniel 8:14

God is calling you, dear reader, to be an olive tree for Him! To rise up from your everyday routine. To let Him produce in you the fruits through which the light of His love is shed abroad. We are being called from our day-in, day-out monotony, to live for something greater than ourselves! To be part of something greater than ourselves! God is desiring that through our encounters with His love in a deeply relevant way, the fruits of that encounter can be produced in our lives, so that through those fruits, He might shine forth both to our world here and to the entire Universe the truth of who He really is.

The call of the ages is sounding. Will you choose to be “an anointed one who stands by the Lord” in this late hour of earth’s history? Will you be willing to spend and be spent for Him? I pray you will, for in no other pursuit will you ever find greater happiness, meaning, or fulfillment.

February 3 Esight, 2008

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. — 1 Corinthians 4:9In the above, Paul chose to use an interesting word in his letter to his fellow believers in Corinth. In most versions, the word is translated as “spectacle.” The Greek word that Paul chose was theatron. It is found only one other time in the New Testament (Acts 19:29&31), where it is translated as “theater,” a place for dramatic performances.

How appropriate! You and I are a theater of God’s grace before men and angels, fallen and unfallen. Our lives are bound up in the greatest drama that the universe has ever witnessed. For it is the story of the slander and vindication of the Character of our God before the on-looking eyes of all.

But we are not play-actors, my friends. This is real life! Not only is God holding us up as a display of His grace and love, which is poured “on” sinners (Ephesians 2:7), but he is holding us up as a theater where His grace and love are poured out “through” sinners to others, as well (Ephesians 3:10). What a testimony to the power of love, the power by which God is endeavoring to govern the universe.

“The church, being endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depository [a person with whom something is left in trust], in which the wealth of His mercy, His love, His grace, is to appear in full and final display” (CET 209).

“The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” the final and full display of the love of God” Ephesians 3:10 (Acts of the Apostles, p. 9).

This was this same method that God used with Christ. “Having undertaken our redemption, He will spare nothing, however dear, which is necessary to the completion of His work. No truth essential to our salvation is withheld, no miracle of mercy is neglected, no divine agency is left unemployed. Favor is heaped upon favor, gift upon gift. The whole treasury of heaven is open to those He seeks to save. Having collected the riches of the universe, and laid open the resources of infinite power, He gives them all into the hands of Christ, and says, All these are for man. Use these gifts to convince him that there is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven” (Desire of Ages, p. 57).

To this same dispensing of God’s unfathomable grace, we too are called.

“So that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).

May the work that Jesus began be finished in our lifetimes. May the church in these final moments cry out to this world and the unfallen universe above, “Behold your God” (Isaiah 40:9).

Have a blessed week!