redemption

The Opposition

The people who had moved into the land were tolerant of the Israelites who returned to rebuild Jerusalem, but once construction began on the Temple, conflict broke out.

In this message, we evaluate why the people of the land opposed the construction of the Temple, and how that correlates to Satan’s opposition to our daily lives today. This chapter illustrates how Satan actively opposes you and tries to sabotage you as you try to live out God’s purpose for your life.

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The Art of Redemption

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Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

-Colossians 1:12-14

Redemption.

For some, it means validation. For others, it means to be set free. For others, it is the chance to go back and correct a wrong, or to try again after a failure and achieve success.

Redemption.

While these elements can accompany the Biblical meaning of redemption, true redemption goes much further. When the Bible tells us that God redeemed us through Jesus Christ, it tells us that he did more than validate us, set us free, or give us a second chance.

Biblical redemption carries with it the meaning of restoration.

In Old Testament times, slavery was a practice used to settle debt. If a man was in debt without any hope of being able to repay it, he could be sold into slavery. In order to make this dark practice more humane, and in order to teach us about salvation, God wrote into His law several provisions that would free slaves, one of which was redemption.

If a man were sold into slavery for, say, $50,000, and his brother learned that he had been sold into slavery, his brother could go to his master and buy his brother back. The slave master was obligated to sell the slave back to his family at the price he paid, without collecting a profit.

That process was known as “redemption.” The man would return home, a free man, no longer a slave. He would be reunited with his family and be able to farm his land and work his vocation. He was redeemed. He was restored.

Notice that the redeemed man did not become a slave to his brother who had purchased his freedom. Notice also that the man no longer owed the debt. He was completely free, and his life was restored. What an amazing feeling that must have been.

Scripture teaches us that, just like Old Testament slaves were redeemed by their families, God has redeemed us.

Just as that man in the Old Testament was sold into slavery, owing a debt he could not repay, we begin life as slaves to sin, owing a debt we cannot repay. Just as the brother of that man in the Old Testament purchased his brother out of slavery, Christ purchased us from sin, paying our sin-debt by giving His life on the cross.

And just as that man in the Old Testament was reunited with his family and set free, Christ has restored our lives and set us free. Restoration. Without it, there is no true redemption. Freedom. Without that, there is no redemption, for if you have not been freed, you have not been redeemed. You’ve merely been sold.

Therefore, when Christ redeems us, He has made us free indeed! Then, He begins the process of restoring our lives by transforming us into the persons He intended on being.

This concept is illustrated in countless ways in scripture. The redemption Christ offers us teaches us a few things.

First, we should accept the redemption. A man in the Old Testament who was set free could choose to remain a slave. Or, he could take his freedom and return to his family. Have you accepted the redemption offered by Jesus Christ? Have you turned from your sins and trusted Him for salvation? Or do you cling to your sins and trust your servitude?

Secondly, the Biblical concept of redemption rules out the notion that any works are necessary to achieve salvation. The Old Testament slave who was redeemed by his brother owed his brother nothing for his redemption. Nothing. Obviously, he should have been grateful and expressed his gratitude, but as a matter of obligation, owed his brother nothing.

When Christ redeems us, we owe Him nothing for our redemption. Obviously, we should be grateful and express that gratitude in obedience and service, but we have no contractual obligation to Christ in exchange for our redemption. This means that any religion that teaches that one has to live holy, be baptized, speak in tongues, be a faithful church member or give tithes in order to enter Heaven has no understanding of true redemption.

Any religion that teaches that salvation can be lost does not understand redemption.

When Christ redeems you, He sets you free, and you have eternal peace and security from Him that cannot be revoked. Learn to rest in that assurance, and serve the Lord with gladness and not fear.

And finally, this redemption teaches us about how much God loves us, and how priceless we are to Him. A man in the Old Testament would have to love his brother very much to make the financial sacrifice to redeem him from slavery. God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us from the slavery of sin.

The world may have rejected you. Others criticize and judge you. You may feel like society has marginalized you and cast you out of the gates of the city. However, God loves you, sees the things which make you unique, gave His Son to redeem you, and has a place for you at His table. Will you turn to Him?

God paid the price for your redemption. That redemption becomes effective when you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.

May God bless you today.

The Altar (Ezra 3)

It is significant that when the people began to rebuild the Temple in Ezra 3, they began with the building of the altar, because it was the altar that symbolized their redemption and peace with God.

In “The Altar,” we discuss how the altar symbolized redemption, what that entailed, and how we should respond.

Putting the past where it belongs

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The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers… Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye unto me, … and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.

-Zechariah 1:2-3

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the child of a notorious criminal?

What would it be like to be the child of Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, Al Capone or Charles Manson?

Think about it. Wherever you went, your father’s name and sins would come up, no matter how hard you tried to separate yourself from his dubious legacy. You could have become a successful businessman and philanthropist, but the second anyone figured out who you were, they would suddenly act awkward, or want to talk to you about your father’s legacy, and what it’s like to be the son of ___________.

What a tragedy for an individual to be doomed to the dark legacy of the sins of his father. Such was the case for the people of Israel during the return from the Babylonian exile. As spoken by the prophet Zechariah, “The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.”

The good news for Israel was that God would not define them by the sins of their fathers. After telling them that He had been “sore displeased” with their fathers, the LORD exhorted the nation of Israel to “Turn ye unto me.” If they did, He would turn to them.

The LORD offered Israel a fresh start. He would cleanse them of their sin, and allow them to become His people, and He would be their God. This was good news for them, and it’s good news for us.

Just as God did not define Israel by the sins of their fathers, neither does He define us by the sins of our fathers. You family heritage does not define you. God created you in a unique way, giving you your own identity and choices.

Therefore, you are not hindered from entering God’s Kingdom just because you come from “a long line of losers.” Furthermore, you are not guaranteed entry into God’s Kingdom just because you come from a family of Spiritual giants.

Every man will stand before God alone on judgment day, with no one to hinder him, and no one to help him, with the exception of Jesus Christ our advocate. Therefore, the LORD says “Turn ye unto me.” This is God’s way of exhorting us to repent of our sin and trust Jesus Christ as our personal savior.

Just as we are not defined by the sins of our fathers, we are not defined by the sins of our past. The people in Zechariah’s day may not have been involved with the idolatry that resulted in the Babylonian exile, but Israel the nation was. Nevertheless, God offered the nation a new start that would come by their repentance and faith.

Like Israel, we can find ourselves in a state of disarray as a result of sinful choices we’ve made. We can find ourselves being chastised by God, reaping the consequences of our choices, and in an overall state of despair.

The promise that God made to Israel also applies to us. “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.”

God allows us to reap the consequences of our actions in order to teach us to turn away from sin. If we learn that lesson, and turn from our sin and put our faith in the Lord, He turns to us. When He does this, He delivers us, restores us, and reconciles with us.

As He promised, “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you.”

When you turn to the Lord, He turns to you, which means that He becomes your champion and your advocate. He restores you, protects you, cleanses you from sin, and blesses you. It’s a promise.

So, as you “consider your ways,” repent from any sin that has infiltrated your life, and renew your faith in the Lord. He will respond to you, and bless you.

God’s Laundry Mat

The only thing harder than building is rebuilding. To go back, restore something that was ruined, rebuild a structure that collapsed, or to cleanse something that was stained. These projects are often harder than starting from scratch.

Such was the case in Jerusalem ca 520 BC. Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonian army at the start of the 70-year captivity where God allowed His people to be carried away so that He could teach them not to commit idolatry. In 520 BC, the captivity was ending, and King Darius decreed that the Jews should go home. So, home they went.

Upon arriving in the Holy Land, they found Jerusalem in total ruin. The Temple was destroyed, the walls were a pile of rubble, bandits raided the area, and discouragement set in.

The Prophet Zechariah was called by God to encourage the people to rebuild Jerusalem.

In Zechariah 3, the prophet sees a vision of Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord while wearing filthy garments. His filthy attire was not from incidental contact with dust, but rather was the complete soiling consistent with rolling around in mud.

Old Testament Law required the high priest to wear clean clothing, so the fact the high priest was standing before God wearing filthy clothing was a major violation. Being the representative of the people before God, Joshua was essentially representing the sinfulness and the guilt of the nation before God.

To make things worse, Satan stood beside Joshua “to resist him” before God. Basically, Satan stood beside Joshua, criticizing his filthy clothes, and the sinfulness of the nation.

This had to be a mixed bag for Zechariah. One on hand, there’s the high priest. The priesthood and worship were being restored. On the other hand, he wore filthy clothes before God, and there was still no temple where worship could truly take place.

It was at that moment that God rebuked Satan, called Joshua (and by extension, the nation of Israel) a brand plucked from the fire, and restored Joshua to the glory of the priesthood by changing his clothes from filthy clothes, to new, clean, priestly clothes.

In this one moment, God showed the Prophet Zechariah that He not only accepted the return of the Jews to Israel, and the reconstruction of the Temple, but that He was behind it, and He would restore it, and He would cleanse the nation and reconcile them to Himself as His chosen people.

Therefore, the nation should move forward with reconstruction in faith and return to the Lord.

Often times, we wind up feeling like Joshua the high priest, standing before the Lord in filthy clothes with Satan (and the rest of the world) criticizing our weaknesses and failures. It often feels as if we stand alone, damaged goods rejected by the world.

Just as God cleansed Joshua and restored him to the glory of his position, God will restore us as well, if we (a) know Christ as our savior, and (b) turn to Him.

You don’t have to go through life defined by the scars of your past. You don’t have to go through life as a second-class citizen, or a second-hand friend. You are not some old CD single languishing in the bargain bin of a soon-to-close music store.

You have the opportunity for a new life, one where you’ve been made free in Christ, where you can grab that new lease on life, love God, and do as you please.

And we want to be a part of that with you. Come see us. Sunday School at 10 am, Morning Worship at 11 am. We meet at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial Drive, Early, TX, 76802.

How God sees you

IMG_0774The Bible tells the story of a rich man who traveled into a foreign country and released his wife into the harem of a pagan king on two separate occasions. This same man fathered children with multiple wives, as well as one of his wife’s handmaids. What do you think God did with this man?

In two short sentences, I described to you Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, and the prime Biblical example of faith. In all fairness to Abraham, the two sentences I used to introduce him captured the worst moments of his life. In the opening paragraph of this post, I unfairly defined him by his sin, and his failures.

While I may seem like a dirty dog for doing that, the truth is we do this to ourselves and each other on a daily basis. We tend to define ourselves by our worst moments, which leads to discouragement, which leads to depression, which leads to anger and estrangement.

You may see yourself as a failure. You may see others around you as failures. However, that does not mean that’s how God sees you, nor does it mean that’s how God sees others.

How can God honor a man who sinned as grievously as Abraham? Simple. Romans 4:3 says “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

Abraham believed God. He trusted God. He took God at His word. Therefore, God regarded Abraham as righteous and saved his soul.

Furthermore, God looked at Abraham, not as the adulterous man who violated His plan for marriage, but rather as a work in progress that God refined until he was ready to receive His blessings.

You see this concept at work with Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3. Joshua the high priest stood before God wearing filthy garments, a sign of his sin, and a sign of the sin of his people. Satan stood beside Joshua, “resisting,” or accusing him, but God responded, “The LORD rebuke thee, Satan, even the LORD who hath chosen Israel rebuke thee, is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”

Joshua stood before God as a mess, but God saw Joshua for the man whom he was transforming him to be.

Your life may be a mess right now. You may be fearful to enter God’s presence. Perhaps that is why you haven’t been to church in a while. You want to at least be able to put your best foot forward, and right now, you don’t have a shoe to fit.

If you trust God, He regards that as righteousness, and He will save your soul. Furthermore, His view of you has less to do with what you are, and more to do with what He will transform you to be. He sees the best in you, and He will bring it out.

And just as scripture gives glowing praise of Abraham, if you trust God to do this work in you, you, too, will hear God’s praise on the day of judgment, when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If you don’t know the Jesus Christ as your savior, trust Him to save you today. If you know the Lord, trust Him to transform you. Then, return to His presence.

I’ll see you Sunday morning.

Motorless Mustangs Are No Fun

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In the back of every red-blooded American’s mind is a dream to take a classic car from America’s golden days, restore it, and hit the open road. Very few actually undertake this project, because restoring a classic car to its former glory is an involved process. You have to disassemble the car, all the way to the frame, and rebuild it from the ground up, replacing worn out and broken parts with new parts, and making sure all parts fit properly together.

To me, the most exciting part of restoring a classic would be the finishing paint and chrome. At that point, the final product takes shape, and that newly restored car sits in its full glory in your garage. However, if that car doesn’t run, it’s no fun. Worse, it has little value. So, the true car enthusiast will begin his restoration project by restoring the mechanical components of the car. After all of that is complete, then comes the body and paint.

If the one doing the restoration is successful, he will roll out of his garage in a car that has been restored to its former glory. That awesome moment comes only after the car has been rebuilt from the inside out.

This process is time consuming and intense to perform on a car. It’s even more intense to perform on one’s life. All too often, we get to a point in our lives where we see the need to rebuild, to start over. We look for redemption in our lives, but we don’t think about Spiritual redemption. We merely want to fix our current physical situation, whether we’ve wrecked our careers or marriage, or whether we’ve lost everything to drugs and alcohol.

The fact is, if we only try to fix the problems in our lives, our restoration will be just as shallow as putting a coat of paint on a car with no engine. We have to get to the root of the problem, and that’s our Spirituality.

In Luke 24:13-27, we meet two disciples who were disenchanted after the death of Christ. They had believed that Christ would come in and restore the Kingdom of Israel. However, when Christ died on the cross, and rose again, it appeared that the restoration of the Kingdom would never happen. So, these two disciples, disillusioned and disappointed, left town.

The mistake these two disciples made was desiring a surface-level restoration of the Kingdom while overlooking the deep restoration that would come through redemption and salvation.

However, Christ met these two disciples along the road, and began to preach to them all things concerning Himself in the scriptures. The plan wasn’t thwarted. The plan was carried out beautifully. Christ paid for the sins of man so that man could dwell with Christ eternally in that restored Kingdom. The most important thing Christ had done for them, and us, was paying for their sin, thus giving them eternal life. Once that issue was settled, then the Kingdom on earth could be addressed.

You may be struggling right now. Perhaps your life has fallen apart. Perhaps you’ve seen destruction in your life. Perhaps you’ve lost everything. Or, perhaps your setback is relatively minor. If you simply try to solve your own problem, and restore your own life, any progress you make will be temporary and superficial.

However, if you repent and trust the Lord, He will rebuild you from the inside out. He will turn your sorrow into joy and form you into the person He intended on you being. That restoration runs deep, and is eternal. The question is, will you trust Him?

See you at church Sunday. Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m., at the Early Chamber of Commerce building, 104 E. Industrial Drive, Early, TX 76802.