What Relevance does the Old Testament have to Our Lives Today?

The Bible is a unique book among all of the writings in this world. It is without a doubt unequaled by any other book. The Bible speaks to the central questions of humanity. Sometimes we may not be ready, or willing, or able to hear the answers that it gives, but it does indeed speak to our questions.

While this list may be guilty of oversimplification, it is my attempt to identify a main question that is addressed in each of the books of the Old Testament. Expect a similar list for the New Testament next week!

Genesis: Who is God, who are we, who is Satan, and where do we all fit?
Exodus: What is the nature of our deliverance from bondage?
Leviticus: What is the nature of sacrifice?
Numbers: What is the importance of faith?
Deuteronomy: How can society be blessed, rather than cursed?
Joshua: What happened to the Jewish people in their early history?
Judges: How do humans tend to behave?
Ruth: What is an accurate and pure definition of love?
1 Samuel: What does the LORD desire?
2 Samuel/1Chronicles: What is God’s heart like?
1 Kings: What was Israel like at it’s all time high, and how did it decline?
2 Kings/2 Chronicles: What happens when we forsake God?
Ezra: Where to start when thing are in shambles?
Nehemiah: How should we go about doing important work?
Esther: How can we be brave in dire circumstances?
Job: Why do we suffer?
Psalms: How should we pray and how should we sing?
Proverbs: What is true wisdom?
Ecclesiastes: What is the meaning of life?
Song of Solomon: What does God have to say about courtship, marriage, and sex?
Isaiah: What should concern us, and what should give us hope?
Jeremiah: What does God say to those who know and love Him, but then drift away?Lamentations: Is there any hope for those who suffer the grave consequences of sin?Ezekiel: What are God’s past, present, and future plans for His rebellions people?
Daniel: How can we remain faithful in a world that does not share our beliefs?
Hosea: How much does God love us?
Joel: What is “the day of the LORD” and how should we feel about it?
Amos: How should we feel about injustice?
Obadiah: What happens to those who hurt others?
Jonah: What if I don’t like God’s instructions?
Micah: What does God say to a nation that is corrupt?
Nahum: Just how bad can things get when we stray from God entirely?
Habakkuk: Why does God let injustice happen?
Zephaniah: What does it mean that God’s people are a remnant?
Haggai: How can we give God first priority in our lives?
Zechariah: How can God’s people prosper?
Malachi: What is the nature of acceptable worship?

The (Prosperity?) Gospel

There are many manmade adaptations of the true Biblical gospel, and some of them are quite popular today. Among these false gospels is one, often referred to as the “prosperity gospel,” which basically teaches that if you follow Jesus, He will bless you with financial, social, and physical wellbeing. The idea is that if you will follow God the way He wants, He will give you all of the earthly blessings you desire.

This prosperity gospel is completely incompatible with scripture itself. Many have spoken out against it in no uncertain terms, insisting that in fact life often becomes harder, rather than easier, when we follow Jesus.

In some sense there is truth to the idea that following Jesus makes life harder. Look at the life of Paul as a prime example. He was a promising Jewish Pharisee with a bright future as a leader of the people, yet when he gave his life to Jesus, he traded all of that for a life full of beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, and all manner of hardship.

But let us make sure that we do not overreact to the prosperity gospel so extremely that we insist that following Christ is worse than it actually is! Paul, even after all he went through, stated plainly that he was happy about his decision to follow Jesus. In the ways that mattered most, following Jesus still made his life better, not worse.

“If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3)

I would argue that the quality of Paul’s life did not go down, but rather it went up as a result of his dedication to Christ. He may have given up a lot, but he would do it all again in a heartbeat, for what he has gained is something of “surpassing value.”

Did not Jesus Himself say “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”?

Maybe there is some truth in the prosperity gospel after all… Not because God will make our way prosperous from a worldly standpoint in terms of material health or wealth, but because God will indeed teach us to prosper in our souls.

In his third epistle, John stated: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”

In 2 Corinthians Paul said: “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Will following God make you physically healthy and materially wealthy? It might. Or it might not. But what we do know, is that following God is the pathway to a prospering soul, full of the fruits of the Spirit.

“Better a little with the fear of the Lord
Than great wealth with turmoil.
Better a small serving of vegetables with love
Than a fattened calf with hatred.”
(Proverbs 15:16-17)

Am I Walking In Darkness – Austin Gonzales

So when we’re saved from sin, we are supposed to repent, right? We need to change from our wicked ways; and when we learn that we’ve been doing something wrong, correct it. Okay, that sounds great. But no one is perfect, so obviously it must be a continual cycle of renewing this commitment. Okay, well that’s doable. But what about the days when we fail to make that commitment, and we can feel the guilt of what we’ve done – at what point might Jesus’ blood cease to cleanse away our sins?

1 John 1:6-9 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So according to this; as long as we are walking in the light, Jesus’ blood continues to cleanse our sins away. But that is kind of our question, isn’t it; at what point are we walking in the dark, rather than the light? Well one point is in the next sentence. The Lord will forgive us if we confess our sins, but if we pretend that we simply have no sin – keeping ourselves “in the dark” – then that’s one case where we no longer have forgiveness. This makes sense, because how you one repent of something that you don’t believe needs to be repented of?

Another situation in which Jesus’ blood no longer cleanses us is if we try to live by the Old Law. Galatians 5:2-5 says, “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”

Why is this? Well, keeping in mind that no man is perfect – a fact backed by Romans 3:23 – James 2:10-12 explains this for us: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” Then, even if somebody could follow the Mosaic Law perfectly, Hebrews 10:4 tells us that “…it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” After all, it was Jesus Who died once for all (Romans 6:10).

The last example that I could find of walking in darkness is in Hebrews 10:26-29. “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

This third situation is obviously a blatant rejection of God’s commands and of His sacrifice, after receiving grace previously. This is when a brother or sister has ceased to believe in the Lord, or when they have given up the attempt to turn their life around for God. Applicable here are also the verses about church discipline; giving multiple chances for a brother in sin to change his ways before deciding to reject him (Matthew 18:15-18). I suppose that included in this category would be a divisive person or a false teacher, causing havoc and heartache in the Lord’s church.

So, rather than walking in darkness, “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Things God has Done for Us

Given us life: “For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’” (Acts 17:28)

Formed us in the womb: “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (Proverbs 19:13)

Allowed us to live until this day: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15)

Provided us with food and goods: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mathew 6:32-33) “And yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

Sent His Son to Suffer as our Savior: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Sent out His word so that we can hear it: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Allotted to us faith: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

Granted us repentance: “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18)

Shown us grace and mercy: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Given us spiritual gifts: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.” (Romans 12:6)

Granted us what wisdom we have: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Given us the Holy Spirit: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”(Luke 11:13)

Given us absolutely everything: “For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Do Christians Have Blind Faith?

A Biblical definition of faith is given in Hebrews 1:11, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

It is certainly true that Christians feel sure of many things, even though they have not yet come to pass, and that we are convicted of many things that we cannot currently see. Take Christ’s resurrection from the dead for instance. We have not physically seen this event, but we are sure that it happened. For that matter, consider the very existence of God. John 1:18 says plainly enough of humanity, “no one has seen God at any time.” And yet we believe.

So does this mean that Christians have blind faith? After all, you would have to be pretty stupid to believe something without any evidence, right?

Not so fast. There is a big difference between not being able to see something, and not having any evidence for it at all. Did you see George Washington in person? Yet we believe he existed based on historical evidence. Can you see gravity? Yet we believe in gravity because we can see its effects all around us.

Very well, someone might say, but we can prove those things and you cannot prove that there is a God.

Do you believe that other minds exist outside of your own? There is actually no way to prove it. Do you believe that the past actually occurred? It is impossible to prove that the entire universe, including the memories in our brains, did not pop into existence one second ago.

Faith is the conviction of things not seen. But it is also a conviction that is based on reasonable evidence.

Romans 1:20 states, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” We may not be able to physically see God, but we can see all of the signs that are pointing in His direction. Signs pointing to God are all over our world, in nature, human history, science, philosophy, art, psychology, personal experiences, and the Bible.

Of course, if you do not want a God telling you what to do, there is always a way to convince yourself that He either does not exist, or does not care what you do. John 3:19-20 puts it this way, “this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

When you point out that the universe is fine-tuned for human life, atheists theorize that there are actually an infinite number of universes, so one of them was bound to be just like ours without a creator making it that way.

When you point out that life could not have arisen from non-life without a creator, they suggest that aliens may have put life on earth, but certainly not God.

When you point out that objective morality is evidence for God’s existence, many admit that they believe murder and rape are not actually objectively wrong, they are merely unpleasant and unhelpful.

When you point out that consciousness is not explainable by physical phenomena, they insist that consciousness is really just an illusion.

Yes, there is always a way to get out of believing in God if you want to. But you will have to be an Olympic level mental gymnast to jump through the necessary hoops. In the meantime, the God who is love patiently offers you His hand.

Living with Passion

A few years ago I read “Miracle in the Andes,” written by Nando Parrado, one of the 16 passengers who would ultimately survive a plane crash and 72 days of isolation in the Andes Mountains at high altitude. After two months stranded, Parrado and another man named Roberto Canessa trekked ten days through the mountains to ultimately find help.

The most moving part of Parrado’s account, which I will never forget, is the feeling he had very early into that ten day trek, when he finally got to the top of a high ridge, expecting to find Chile, and salvation, on the other side. Instead, there was nothing but more mountains as far as the eye could see.

All of the anxiety, the anticipation, the crushing weight of responsibility for the other passengers, and the desperate hope for the preservation of his life, was lifted from Parrado’s shoulders, and he describes an immense feeling of joy and relief. Parrado says that in that moment, he became certain that he would die in the Andes, and in that certainty he found a peace and a freedom.

Of course, Parrado was wrong. He went on to find help. But that feeling of peace never left him. He describes living each day to the fullest, with complete gratitude for the time that he has. In Parrado’s case, the old adage is true, life can only be truly and fully lived in view of death.

Another account of a terrible situation that has affected me deeply is a talk online by Journalist Sebastian Junger that seeks to understand “Why Veterans Miss War.” Junger personally spent time in heavy combat, and describes the paradoxical, but common scenario in which a soldier comes home from war, only to find him or her self longing to go back. His conclusion is that the connection of brotherhood felt by men in combat is a force of incredible power, and is so unequaled by the petty connections that dominate modern society.

Both of these accounts, and so many others like them that are based on true events, emphasize to us the reality that sometimes the most dramatic circumstances draw out from us something very deep and powerful. Deep within ourselves, men and women long to be a part of a cause that matters, to have an important reason to get up in the morning, and to feel the full depth and weight of a life lived to the fullest.

Contrast that with much of what goes on in the Lord’s church today.

Friends, the Bible tells us that we are at war (Ephesians 6:10-17). The Bible tells us that we have an adversary who stalks around like a lion eating people (1 Peter 5:8). The Bible tells us that we have the opportunity to save souls from death (James 5:20). The Bible tells us that we will suffer and be reviled (1 Peter 4:12-14), and hated my all (Mark 13:13), as we strive for a prize that far outweighs our afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Do the problems of social or economic or political injustice that fill so many with passion not have their root in the necessity for the hearts of the world to find and savor Jesus Christ? Do the family problems that tear lives apart and leave so many so deeply and tragically wounded not fall under the authority of the Divine Author of the family itself?

Is there not a war raging in your heart over whether life is even worth living, and if so, what it is worth living for? Is the world not full of suffering that God calls us to address? Do you actually believe even a fraction of what you say about how much of the world is lost and truly hell bound?

Jesus came that we might live life and live it to the fullest (John 10:10).

If God in Christ is not drawing out from deep within us the strivings of hearts that are truly living and fighting with passion, it is not because He has not issued a call to arms. It is only because of our pathetic, hypocritical apathy.

Scriptures and thoughts about: “Word”

Our church is embarking upon a weekly study, with a particular word being the focus of each week.  The second word we devoted our attention to was: “creation.”

We have had several requests to make the scriptures and brief notes from these studies readily available online.  Hopefully this can be a helpful resource.

Question/Discussion topics in bold: scriptures and thoughts follow.

Psalm 33:6-9 – words had power to create
John 1:1-5, 14 – Jesus is Word
John 5:21-24 – Words give us life
John 12:44-50 – Words Judge us
Revelation 12:10-12 – Words overcome the accuser

Inspiration:
2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is inspired by God (God breathed)
2 Peter 1:19-21 – not of private interpretation, men were moved by Spirit
Ephesians 6:17 – and the sword of the Spirit; is the word of God
John 14:26 – Holy Spirit will remind you of all I said
Deuteronomy 18:18 – I will put my words in His mouth

Jesus as the Word:
Philosophical History of term Logos
Philosopher quotes
John 1
Colossians 1:19

Do we have the original words of the Bible?
Thousands of manuscript at CSNTM.org

Why Koine?
Widely spoken over a huge area, the common language of the day uniting countless cultures. Also, very highly inflected and specific language.

Why use men to write His words?
Colossians 4:16 – They provided a means of circulating it.
1 Corinthians 16:21 – I Paul, with my own hand – lend credibility

Power of Words
Acts 2:24-27 – God said, so it had to be
Hebrews 4:12 – sharper than a sword

Jesus’ literal words recorded?
“Talitha Cumi”
Mark 15:34 – “Lama Lama Eli Sabacthani”
Consider Inspiration by Spirit, sent by Jesus – John 14:26

Most powerful words?
John 19:30 – it is finished!
Genesis 1:3 – Let there be light!
Matthew 11:28 – Come and I will give you rest

“Words are ambiguous!”
1 Corinthians 14:33 – Not a God of confusion
2 Peter 1:19-21 – not of private interpretation, men were moved by Spirit

Why Do the Right Thing?

It is no secret that God asks us to give up our sins, some of which may be very dear to our hearts. He asks us to change our lives in ways that can be difficult or painful. He asks us to give up our pride. He asks us to step out in faith and do things that get us out of our comfort zone. He asks for a lot.

So why should we do what He asks? Why do the right thing? Here are some possible answers:

So that life will be better for us here and now. After all, God’s commands are designed to protect us from harm. There can be no question that following where He leads is beneficial. In Mark 19:30, Jesus says of anyone who gives something up for Him, “he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age.”

So that we can go to heaven. In Matthew 6:20, Jesus encourages us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Romans 2:6-7 tells us that God “WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” Some day we want to hear Him say “well done.”

So that we won’t go to hell. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 says plainly, “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” For those who really believe all that the Bible says about hell (and the Bible says a LOT about it) this is a real motivation to do the right thing.

There are many other possible reasons to do the right thing. To be a good example to those younger than us. To avoid hurting family and friends. To keep a clear conscience. To maintain personal credibility.

But there is one primary reason to do the right thing that we must not forget.

We do the right thing because, as Christians, we don’t have a choice. God owns us. We gave up our rights when we died with Him through baptism (Romans 6). We signed up to be slaves of righteousness (also Romans 6). It is not we who live but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Our lives are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

We live in a society that esteems personal freedom over duty. Others may give us advice, but they are not to control us. No one can tell us what to do, we get to weigh the pros and cons and decide for ourselves. But the relationship between the Christian and his God is not this way.

God can and does tell us what to do. If you want to follow Him, you only have one choice: submit. We don’t get to pull out a list of pros and cons every time we want to sin, assess the situation, and decide whether discipleship seems personally advantageous. God either owns you or you do not belong to Him at all.

“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

“God’s Rules Take Away My Freedom”

Barbed Wire Prison

One portrayal of devout Christianity popular today is an image of grumpy, controlling individuals who want to impose their opinions on everyone else. To make matters worse, their opinions are no fun, and require us to give up all kinds of personal freedoms such as drinking, partying, swearing, or unhindered sexual expression, among other things.

Yes, there are many things that God commands us to abstain from doing. And yes, in many cases Christians believe that the wellbeing of their fellow countrymen will be benefited by the incorporation of God’s will into their laws. They may vote or even campaign to that end.

But we should remember that the message of Christianity is not one of compulsion. God makes His will clear to us, but then He leaves us to make our own decisions. His appeal to us is an appeal of a loving Father who wants to give us the things that we most desperately need, while freeing us from the petty and unhelpful passions that are ours in our ignorance.

The heart of the issue is a consideration of what it means to be free. We hate rules because they take away our freedoms. But what if the greatest freedom is only achieved when one honors one’s own true nature and the nature of the Creator?

Jesus did not come to take away our fun. On the contrary, He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). He came so that we could be born again (John 3), and walk in newness of life (Romans 6). He came that we might be partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). He came to gather us under His wings as a protector (Matthew 23:37). He came to free us from our slavery (Romans 6). He came that we could be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Christianity is not ultimately about giving up the things that we desperately wish we could have, it is about finding things even better that are ours for the taking.