Posts Tagged ‘need for Jesus’

Numbers 22:1-20

Balak Sends for Balaam

All roads lead to heaven. Your beliefs work for you and that’s alright with me as long as your beliefs don’t infringe on what I believe. Believe in Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, they are all the same. As long as you believe in something! This is the way we talk today. We combine the belief systems of all religions. You see it everywhere. We don’t talk about God anymore. We talk about the universe. The universe is god. We pride ourselves in being tolerant of all belief systems. The cry of tolerance echoes through the land. As John Funk said in his article, The Religion of Tolerance,

 

“Tolerance has become a very powerful word in the common vernacular and the idea it conveys is that society will grant each individual the opportunity to experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the burdens imposed by bias, discrimination or societal condemnation.  It is believed, or at least propagated, that the lifting of these barriers to personal development will result in the advancement of mankind not just on a personal level but also on a societal level.  Without the artificial guidelines imposed by intolerance, people will be healthier and happier.  At least that is what we are told is the truth.”

 

What we have is a society where anything and everything goes. There are no moral absolutes and everything is relative. This campaign of secular relativism has been successful. What I do is good for me and you have no right to tell me what I am doing is wrong. What were once considered sinful behaviors are now loosed to operate out in the open and to be glorified as us finally getting to the point of human development where everybody can be what they want to be. We pick and choose from the Bible what we want to believe. We pick and choose from the Koran what we want to believe. We blend in eastern mysticism and Hinduism. We throw in a dash of Buddhism and we have the world we want to live in. We now live in an age where we believe in ourselves and use bits and pieces of religions to support our take on life. We mix and match religious thought to suit our needs just like a woman standing in her closet deciding what killer outfit she wants to wear today. In the name of tolerance, anything goes and there is nothing out of bounds. If anyone stands against this tide, they are considered old fashion, bigoted, and Archie Bunker dinosaurs in the high-tech age.

 

We have made ourselves god and we determine what is right and what is wrong not some external force. We decide on what is acceptable and what is not. We do that on an individual basis now. Therefore, what is good for me is good for me and leave me alone about it. I don’t judge you and you don’t judge me. It all sounds really good does it not? I determine what’s right for me in the privacy of my video game, computer-assisted world. As long as I don’t hurt you then we’re OK, right? And vice versa? That means as long as I don’t infringe upon your rights to express yourself, I can believe as I choose and I define what is acceptable and what is not. As well, as long as I do no harm to the people and the world around me and do more good than bad, I will go to whatever is my reward in the post-earthly existence. We don’t want to call it heaven or nirvana because that might offend. So, we go to some higher positive existence after death when we have been more good than bad. There is no hell because that would be judgmental. All of us go to his positive energy afterlife. Hell is old-fashioned (and even we Christ followers shun away from preaching it or discussing it) because it means that some of us did more bad than good and we just cannot believe that in our modern age of tolerance. How can a person who means no harm by their actions be condemned to a place of eternal pain? We want a more neat and tidy world. Reincarnation is appealing in this sense because it provides some sort of universally guided, impersonal justice system where our next life is governed by how much more good than bad we did or vice versa. There is no permanent justice in our belief systems of today.

 

It was this thought of mixing and matching belief systems, dabbing in divination and God at the same time, the ancient Middle Eastern version of today’s world that came to mind when I read today’s passage, Numbers 22:1-20. Let’s read it together now:

 

22 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.

 

2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.

 

4 The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.”

 

So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said:

 

“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. 6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”

 

7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.

 

8 “Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.

 

9 God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”

 

10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”

 

12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

 

13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

 

14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

 

15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:

 

“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”

 

18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.”

 

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

 

There is enough negative press for Balaam within the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 23 and Joshua 13) to know that Balaam, though seen almost in a positive light here, comes to a just end. Even the New Testament speaks negatively of Balaam (see 2 Peter 2, Jude 1). Here, he is almost seen positively, but he is seeking self-gain in all of it. He is doing what is best for Balaam. He is mixing and matching belief systems to suit himself. Sound familiar? Balaam reminds me of the world we live in now. Balaam wants a little of the Jewish God and little bit of his beliefs in divination. Whatever will work out best for his desires! It reminds of that classic line from Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby says, “Help me Jesus! Help me Jewish God! Help me Allah! AAAAAHHH! Help me Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off me!”

 

That is the world we live in now. Balaam would fit right in. Mixing and matching to suit ourselves. Believing in whatever is most advantageous to our desires. Morality on a sliding scale of today would suit Balaam just fine. It is all just Satan lying to us. More good than bad and go to heaven or whatever your perfect afterlife may be called. It sounds appealing. It is appealing. It takes all the pressure off. Without moral absolutes, I can rationalize away my transgressions against universal good and minimize them while I glorify my self-righteous nature. We control and barter out the value of our transgressions against an impersonal universe, the universe god, that is simply an impersonal ledger of rights and wrongs. We negotiate away our bad deeds through justifications and explanations. Sounds like us today, right?

 

The New Age amalgamation of beliefs plays right into Satan’s hands. We are drawn away from God to believing in ourselves. There is ample evidence that man is sinful and when left to his own devices that we will spiral out of control. We are sinners, plain and simple and there is no amount of extra good that we can do to replace our innate badness. As CARM.org says,

 

“The Bible has much to say about the nature of man, the world, purpose, truth, morality, etc., and so does the world. More often than not, the secular world view is in conflict with the biblical one.  For example: Where the world asserts that man evolved, the Bible says he was created and ultimately responsible to God.  Where the world says that morals are relative, the Bible says they are absolute.  Where the world says that there is no need of salvation and redemption, the Bible clearly states that all people are in need of deliverance from their sin.  The contrast is obvious and profound.  Both cannot be true.”

 

The truth is that there is a God. He is holy, perfect and pure. He reigns over the universe He created. He created the laws that govern how the universe works and He created the Laws of our we should live in relation to Him and one another. He requires perfect holiness for us to abide in His presence forever in heaven. We, however and realistically, have failed to keep his commands because we cannot by nature be holy 100% of the time for our entire lives. That is what is required, 100% holiness all the time for a lifetime. We are incapable of that. We are sinners. When we commit our very first sin, whether it be in thought or deed, we are immediately disqualified from heaven. Done. That’s it. It’s over. Not to mention the lifetime of unholy thoughts and acts of sin that we commit daily each and every day of our lives. We are done. We are condemned to hell by our own sins. We are not perfect and never can be. We need an intervention if we can even remotely think of going to heaven. We need the perfection of Jesus Christ. Jesus reconciles us to the Father through His perfect, sinless life which was sacrificed on our behalf. God poured out his wrath against sin, all sin of all time, against Jesus on that cross that day. It is up to us to have the faith to believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and that His sacrifice on the cross was for our sins. He paid the price for the sure judgment that is to come for our sins in the absence of our belief in Jesus Christ. That is the truth that is eternal and not subject to moral relativism. This truth will stand regardless of how much man tries to discount it and put himself in charge of his own destiny.

 

There will be a reconciliation of all this moral relativism when the earth’s history is drawn to a close by its Creator. Are you willing to be blinded by secularism and get it wrong when that day comes? Are you willing to bet your eternity on it? Regardless of our current moral relativism, the truth of God has stood for eternity. Are you saying that it’s all wrong now? What has been universally true for eternity is now false and the product of a non-reasoned mind? Wow. We will find out at our own deaths or when Jesus returns whether we believed in mystery and you all of a sudden have a hold on the truth? I think I will take my chances with the truths of the Bible and my belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for my sins and who arose from the dead to give me evidence of a hope and future.

 

Amen and Amen.

Number 10:1-10

The Silver Trumpets

When you are in school, bells are a trained part of life. Bells ring. You react. There are bells to warn you that school is about to start. It is a warning that you better be heading to where you are supposed to be. There are bells to signify the start of a class. There are bells to signify that the class period is over. More bells to warn you that you best be where you are supposed to be for the next class. Bells to signify that the next class has begun and so on and so on throughout the day. Then, there is that final bell at the end of the day that signifies that the last class of the day is over. And after the last bell, the chaos of unrestrained youth begins. At school, there is order. After school, we are on our own to make our own way. At school, there are the bells that give organization to our day. After you have been in school for a while, you hear bells. You react. You don’t really have to think about it. You hear the bells and you respond by moving toward where you are supposed to be. Even Pavlov’s dogs would react with salivation when they were trained to understand what the sounding of a bell meant. At school, we hear the bell and we must respond with action. We must stop what we are doing and recognize that action is required when we hear the school bells ring.

 

Here, in this passage, Numbers 10:1-10, trumpets were fashioned at the direction of God to sound the alarm to the people of Israel that the pillar of smoke or the pillar of fire was about to move. It was the job of the priests to sound the trumpets. They were to constantly watch the cloud and announce when it was about to move. The trumpets were also sounded to signal the need for the leaders of each clan to assemble at the entrance to the Tabernacle. The trumpets were sounded in a different way when it was time for all the tribes of Israel, not just the leaders, to gather at the entrance to the Tabernacle. It was the job of Aaron’s descendants, the priests, to signal to the people what the needed reaction was. When God moves, they were to sound the trumpet to Israel that it was time to look up to the pillar of smoke and fire and see it move.

 

Let’s read through the passage today and think about how pastors and Christians in general are to bells and trumpets to the world:

 

10 The Lord said to Moses: 2 “Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. 3 When both are sounded, the whole community is to assemble before you at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 4 If only one is sounded, the leaders—the heads of the clans of Israel—are to assemble before you. 5 When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out. 6 At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out. 7 To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets, but not with the signal for setting out.

 

8 “The sons of Aaron, the priests, are to blow the trumpets. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you and the generations to come. 9 When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies. 10 Also at your times of rejoicing—your appointed festivals and New Moon feasts—you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the Lord your God.”

 

The final piece of information given to Israel before departure from Sinai concerned two silver trumpets to be sounded by the priests, both to call the community to worship and to announce that it was time to break camp and move on to a new location. As such the use of the trumpets would be restricted, at least partially, to the wilderness sojournings. However, their use as a prelude to battle (v. 9) guaranteed their use even after Israel enters into its own land. It was not enough that the rising cloud signal advancement. To the divine work the human response was added.

 

All of this reminds me of school bells as I said. Even after a few weeks in school, little kindergarteners learn what the ringing of school bells mean. From then on, a ringing of a school bells causes automatic responses from school age kids. Bells ring. Response required. Just as school bells signal to us that a response is required, we, too, as Christians are the school bells, the trumpets, to the world around us. We are to remind the world that God is there and sometimes that He is about to move or that we need to come to Him and hear what He has to say. This takes on two forms. Pastors are our school bells and our trumpets sounding. As Christians laypeople, we are not only to hear the pastors trumpet and react but we are also to be trumpets and bells ourselves out in the world.

 

We rely on our pastors as Christians to be the trumpets to us, God’s people. They are to teach us about God. They are to point out to us that we need to pay attention to God and how He moves in our lives. They are to sound the trumpet for us to analyze our lives and see where we have lost sight of the pillar of God’s presence in our lives. They are to signal to us that we are not watching the pillar of smoke and fire – that we are not watching God. As Israel, when they were camped, might get all caught up in their daily work and family life and just the details of life that they were trying to control, the trumpets were sounded to look up and look toward God. Our pastors do the same for us today. They remind us to look toward heaven and to remind us that it is God that is in control of our movements. We can get so caught up in controlling our own little worlds that we forget to look up. We forget to give God his just attention for who He is and how He is the one that created all things and created us. We are signaled by our pastors to be look up to God. We are reminded by them to praise the Lord. We are reminded by them to follow God wherever He leads us. We are to be obedient to Him. Our pastors trumpet us to see why we are here. Our pastors remind us to look to God and remember that we are His people and that it is He that has freed us from our slavery to sin through Jesus Christ. Our pastors signal to us that we serve a mighty and awesome God whom we must look to for our direction and our protection. Our pastors trumpet to us that God is moving. We must be reminded sometimes that God is on the move and we must see how He works in our daily lives. We must be signaled to see that He is not some distant remote God but that He is right here with us working in our daily lives. Trumpet sounds. We remember and see how God moves.

 

For those of us who are not pastors to a flock of believers, we too must sound the trumpet. Our pastors disciple us to recognize when the cloud is on the move, and we are then sent out into the world to tell the world that God is on the move. We are the daily touches to the world around us that God does exist, that God sent His Son, and God is on the move in their lives even though they do not see it. We are the trumpets, the school bells, to the world. God is on the move. Wake up world and see God. He is right there! We must warn the world that they must react to God through His Son Jesus Christ. We are the clarion call to the world that ignoring God does not make Him not exist. We must be the trumpets to the world that just being more good than bad is not the answer. We must ring the bell to the world that we must react to Jesus Christ. We must tell them that not all roads lead to heaven. We must be the trumpet sound that gets their attention. We must be the school bells that cause a reaction. In the absence of school bells ringing, school children will not move toward where they need to be. They will stay right where they are playing and be happy with that and not realize that they need to be someplace else. We must ring the bell and cause the reaction. The ringing of bells at school are annoyingly loud and cause an irritated reaction to the stimulus. We must be loud bells to the world that causes an irritation. We must cause an irritated reaction. Too often, we do not want to disturb the world because we know that ringing the bell or sounding the trumpet will indeed cause a reaction. People are happy in their obliviousness to their need for Jesus Christ and react strongly to the forceful sound of the bell. But we must cause a reaction. A bell that can’t be heard in the school yard will not signal a reaction from students. We, as Christians, must sound the bell and the trumpet so the world will actually hear and react. We cannot stop ringing our bells and sounding our trumpets just so people can continue unabated playing their games on their playgrounds. Look up, world! God is there and He is moving. You must react, world! If you do not react, you will be left behind.

 

Once day the trumpet will sound that will signify the end of school. Jesus Christ will return one day with the loud blast of a trumpet sound in the eastern sky. School will be over then! Time to account for our day at school. Are you ready for the final trumpet sound? Or are you still looking down at your own little playground and not looking up toward God and following Him? There will be a final trumpet sound. There will be that final bell. Are you ready?

 

As Christ followers, are we shaking people’s shoulders and telling them to look toward God? Are we sounding our trumpets? Are we sounding them loudly? Look up. Look toward God. The trumpet is sounding! The school bell is ringing!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 9:1-14 (Part 3)

The Second Passover

If there was one word that I would describe my dad’s parenting of me, it would be consistency. Don’t get me wrong, my dad was a loving dad and he was as much fun to hang out with as he was consistent when it came to discipline. My brother, RT, and I knew what our boundaries of behavior were. We knew the limits. The limits to our behavior were more than lines in the sand. They were boundaries set in concrete.  Immutable. Unchangeable. No negotiating away punishment when those boundaries were crossed. When we were young and relied on bicycles for our mode of transportation, Saturdays meant freedom to do what we wanted. We and our buddies would set out on Saturday morning and be gone all day on bikes. We were the classic 70’s kids with the raised handle bars where you reaching out not down to hold the steering of your bike. The banana seats were a must. The big thick back tire for sliding when you put on breaks was a necessary part too. We rode the devil out those bikes. All over town. We had one rule that we had to observe though on our freedom Saturdays. We had to be home before the street light in front of the parsonage in Rembert, then Hartsville, then Elgin, SC came on. Simple immutable rule. There was no negotiating about where it was completely dark yet or not. It the street light was on in front of our house and we were not in the yard at the time it came on, we were late. We would suffer the consequences regardless of the excuse. Street light on. Not in the yard. Punishment. That was the rule and nothing, no amount of begging and pleading, would change it. Not even if me or my brother had an excuse that we were almost there. Not even if one of us had a flat tire. Didn’t matter. We should have planned our day better so that there would be no crisis when it came to getting home before the street light came on. If we were not there, there would be punishment. Extra chores. Or we would not be allowed to do something we wanted to do or our freedom Saturday would be restricted somehow.

 

In order to get freedoms, we had to observe certain unchangeable and unflinching rules of my dad. There were other boundaries of behavior. There were other requirements and duties that we had to perform that were unchanging. There was structure and expectation. There was no freeloading as a member of dad’s home. We had to participate. Before we were free on Saturday mornings, there were chores that had to be done first. No excuses. No exceptions. RT had his duties. I had mine. We knew what those duties were and we had to get them done. No reminding or cajoling us to get our chores done. We knew what they were and we had to do them. Consequences would result if the chores were not done right or if not done. There was no outlet to the “I forgot about it”. That held no sway with my dad. He and my mom provided the home we lived in, the clothes we wore, the food we ate, the TV we watched, the bikes we rode around town. He provided it all and because of that we had some weight to carry around the house. No exceptions. No talking your way out of it. Discipline would result for disobeying family rules and those rules were known and understood by both RT and me.

 

I did not really care for my dad’s hard and fast and unpenetrable rules when I was a kid at home. But, as I grew up and entered the working world where there is no tolerance for whining our way out of things and from raising kids myself, I appreciate what my dad did for me. He prepared me for being a man in the adult world where you have to grin and bear it sometimes. Where you try to raise your own kids to understand that the world is a whole lot less impressed with us as we are with ourselves and that the world does not revolve around us (surprise, surprise!). Thanks, dad, for the consistency in your discipline of us growing up. Didn’t like it then but appreciate it now.

 

It was that thought of consistency and the unchanging nature of God that jumped out at me as I read through this passage a third time today. Let’s read through the passage, Numbers 9:1-14, for the third time this morning and for this morning, let’s concentrate on vv. 6-14 today:

 

 

9 The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2 “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3 Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

 

4 So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5 and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

 

8 Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

 

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

 

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’”

 

The issue here was that several men had come in contact or had come into the house of where there was a dead body and thus had become ceremonially unclean. As a result, they could not participate in the Passover Meal. The thing that is striking to me here today is that we must take notice that God did not adjust the requirements of the Passover. The standards of holiness of our God remained unchanged. The men were not allowed to participate, plain and simple. God did not make an exception. He allowed them to celebrate at a later date but the official Passover Meal, from it, they were disqualified. It is like the street light test between two sons and their dad. It did not matter that we might have had an excuse. If the both tires of our bikes were not inside our property lines when the street light came on, we were automatically disqualified from certain freedoms as a child in my dad’s house.

 

That is the thing that we must take away this morning as we leave from reading this passage. God standards of behavior as laid out in the Bible are immutable and unchangeable. It must be that way. He is holy and perfect. That which is perfect is complete. That which is perfect cannot be wrong. That which is perfect cannot be changed. If it were to be changed then it would not be perfect. God is perfect. Therefore, his expectations of us are unchangeable. What was unacceptable in Old Testament times cannot all of a sudden be acceptable in the 21st century. We cannot change the truth of God’s Word to suit our 21st century desires. We cannot ignore the Old Testament or the New just so as to validate what was once abhorrent to God as being acceptable now. God is unchangeable. God is perfect. God is complete logic and understanding. He has all knowledge. He then as a result cannot be inconsistent with Himself. He cannot allow now what He has never allowed before. He cannot bend His own rules. It is us that is trying to excuse ourselves from His unchanging law. It could be no other way. He is the perfect and righteous Judge. We cannot argue our basic goodness in front of Him and say that although we violated these laws it is offset by the fact that we obeyed these laws. How would that work in our own legal system? We would be in chaos as a society. The laws we make are intended to be evenly applied to all citizens and if you break them, you suffer the consequences.

 

Why are we expecting God to be different? He is the Creator. He made the laws of the universe. He set the standards of behavior for His people so that they could be more holy and set apart from the world. His laws are perfect and unchanging and we cannot change them just because we want to luxuriate in our favorite sin and for God to be OK with that. God is not changing. We are just justifying. We want to rewrite the laws of the universe. We want to rewrite the Bible so that we will not be convicted of our sins any longer. We, in the process, eliminate our dire need for the way out that God provided us in Jesus. It makes Jesus into a friend rather than a necessity for our salvation.

 

God’s unchanging laws are necessary so that we can see where we sin and because we sin we deserve eternal punishment in hell. When we see that immutable truth that we stand convicted before the immutable and unchangeable standards of behavior required by God instead of trying to justify our behavior, we kneel before the One we need, Jesus Christ. It is only through Him that we are reconciled to God because He took on the wrath of God and the punishment of God for our sins on the cross and in His death and burial. When we are trying to rewrite the Bible to say that it no longer says what it has always said, we are ignoring the fact that just because we say ain’t so does not make not so. Just because we say something is OK and that God did not mean what for thousands of years has been accepted as His meaning, it does not change the meaning. We may say that this means this so as to justify our sins, but that does not change God’s eternal truth. It does not change. God does not wishy wash. God does not do 180 degree turns. God does not change His mind. He is all truth eternally. He thus cannot change. We may dress it up differently, but dog poop is dog poop no matter how you dress it up. Our sins are sins in the 21st century as they were in the Garden of Eden. Face it. We change. Not God! Face it. We really, really do need Jesus as a Savior not just as a buddy. We NEED him to cover us from the unchanging law of God. We need a Savior not a buddy who is just one of a whole bunch of prophets that are the multiple lanes to heaven. He is the only way. He said so Himself. That is eternal truth that cannot be changed because being a Christian is hard and unacceptable to society. We cannot change God’s eternal truth. We must accept it and thank Him for giving us Jesus as the one and only true way to the Father.

 

Just as here in this passage, God does not change the law to suit the current needs of these men. They stand unclean before God at the time that they needed to be clean to enter into the Passover Meal. They were convicted by their uncleanness. There was no justification of why it was OK. The law stands. They were judged by it. God did allow them to celebrate at a later date when they were clean. God gave them the opportunity to celebrate in the feast when they were clean. He does that with you and I through Jesus. We stand before God with uncleanliness all over us through our stockpiles of sins against God. However, we have a way to get clean and it is through  the covering of Jesus Christ through salvation. He is our way out from the weight of conviction before God’s unchanging nature.

Where are you right now? God will turn the street light on for us at some point for us. Where are the tires of your bike? Are your tires on God’s property? Our street light will come at any time. Our death could come at any time? Where is your bicycle? Is it home on God’s turf? Or are you out there making excuses as to why your bike is not on God’s property? The street light test is immutable and unchangeable. We must be home with both tires inside God’s property through Jesus Christ. Nothing else will do. No excuses will be made. Not all roads lead to heaven. Your bike must be home through the grace of Jesus Christ. Nothing else will do. We stand convicted by the eternal truth of God. The unchanging truth of God. It is this unchanging truth by which we are judged and will be judged forever. We can argue that is not what God meant but it does not change the fact that it was what God meant. Where is your bike compared to the immutable evidence of the street light coming on? Are you home?

 

Amen and Amen.

Romans 9:30-10:4 — Why is that when you put religion in man’s hands, we always screw it up?

The Jews of first century Palestine had become so married to the law that they failed to see to whom it pointed. Keeping the law was the most important thing. It was checklist religion to them. They had a worthy goal – to honor God. But they lost sight of God and Scripture in the process. They lost sight of the spirit of the law and of Scripture. They became more dedicated to the law than to God. They built layers and layers of regulations around the law itself so that they would come nowhere near actually breaking God’s law. There was a dizzying array of regulations. You had to be a scholar to keep up with it all. They also used it to separate the “good” people from the “bad” people. It was religion. It was about performance. I am better than you because I have not violated this law or regulation but you have. I have less demerits than you. Jesus was the Messiah, the completion of the law. They didn’t even notice. He was a giant boulder in the road but with their blinders on they did not see Him. The law itself had become their god not the God who gave them the law.

Have you ever known people like that in our day and age? If I do the right things! If I don’t do many bad things! If my good deeds outweigh my bad, then I will be OK. These are the unhappiest people in the world. There is such a great burden of trying constantly to do more good than bad that it leads to judging others for how we are in relation to them on the good-o-meter scale. We often think that if we keep “the law”, God will have to accept us and reject others who are not as good at keeping the law as we are. God will accept us if we just keep a running ledger of how much good we do in comparison to our bad. Ultimately, when we live this way, we are trying to control God. If I do this, then God will do that. We can make this faith thing into religion of do and don’t. Checklist Christianity. Can we not see? The Jews could not see that the Old Testament taught just as the New does that salvation comes by faith and faith alone. It does not and cannot depend on human effort (Gen 15:6).

The great rock that Paul speaks of in this passage is Jesus Himself. The Jews did not recognize Him as the one and only true Messiah because He did not match their expectations and He threaten the cult of the law that they had created. They, and sometimes we, want our relationship to be about what we can do to earn brownie points. We want to earn our way to God. It is the spiritual American Dream. With effort you can earn your way to God’s favor. With effort you can separate yourself from the pack. You can stand above others when it comes to God. Look what I did and what you didn’t! Do more. Be more. I am better than you. It is religion. Religion is man-made. And man it is very tiring to be religious. All the scorecards we have to keep! God does not want religion. God wants relationship.

People stumble over Christ because we are too busy keeping our checklists of the “right stuff” that we do. If we do more good than bad, maybe God will accept us. The law was created by God not for us to make it the center of our lives and our dizzying attempts to keep it. It was designed to open our eyes to the fact that we are utterly unable to keep the law 100% of the time for all our lives. The law was created to show us that we are condemned by its judgment. It was created to show us our desperate need for Jesus Christ as the covering that we need for our utter failure in the eyes of the law. Instead of reacting to it by making it checklist religion, it is intended to humble us that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. It is only when we are so humbled that we realize that we do not control our path to heaven by our own actions that we can come to God. Being humbled by the law leads us to see that we need a Savior. The law shows us the pits of hell because we are condemned by not keeping it 100% of the time for a lifetime. The law demands perfection 100% of the time for a lifetime. It is impossible. The law points us, humbles us, and prostrates us at the feet of Jesus. Once we are humbled and speak out our need, we forget our pride. We forget our checklists. We forget trying to make ourselves out to be acceptable to God on our own. That’s when we are ready to obey Him.

Israel rejected Jesus because they had forgotten the spirit of Scripture. They were so busy swatting at gnats that they missed the Savior. They worshiped the law instead of the Savior. Are you so busy trying to control you own path to heaven that you have missed the Savior. There is no amount of good we can do to make us right with God. Face it. Even when we try to do all the right things outwardly, our thoughts will condemn us in the eyes of the law. We come up short. We need something to get us beyond our futile efforts to make ourselves right with a perfect and just God. Doing the right things does not save us. We start off in the penalty box to begin with. We can never be perfect enough because we have sin in us. It’s existence condemns us regardless of what we do. We need an intervention!

His name is Jesus. God made it so. God said that the purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was to give us a way out of our condemnation before the law. If we believe in our hearts that God sent His only Son for the purpose of saving us from our sins by being the sacrifice for sin on the cross, then, and only then are we made right. No checklists. No doing more good than bad. Just realization that we need a Savior. Just realizing that we cannot make it about us. Humbled by the law. Begging God to relent on our deserved punishment. Realizing that we need Jesus. It’s not religion. It’s not checklists. It’s a relationship with a Savior to whom we owe everything. Jesus. We need Him. Not just something nice to add to our mantlepiece. We absolutely need Him. Need. Need. Need. Need Him. When we are in need, it means we have to have something from outside ourselves. We NEED Jesus! Not the law. Not checklists. Not religion. Jesus, we NEED Him!