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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas = God's restoration project

You can go to Florin Street website to order the song.  I did!

Jesus Christ, we celebrate His birth today.   I want to make a statement about His ministry.

Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem and lived in Israel and Egypt (briefly) and then back in specifically in Nazareth.  His ministry and life and death and resurrection are recorded and are a part of human history.  But why is His existence as a man and His mission so important?

God made the world approximately 6,500 years ago and He made it good.  No sin, no death, no problems but the possibility of disobedience by Adam and Eve.   They were given free reign to do whatever they pleased and in innocence they lived and were in daily contact with the Creator of all.   There was only one prohibition in their life and that was they were not to eat the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of evil and good.  With no death and no concept of sin, the Garden of Eden was certainly paradise on Earth.   All creatures were subject to man.  Everything was in peace and harmony.   We see from the language of the Bible that man was given every plant to eat and there is a possibility that insects are also included in the foods allowed for all creatures.   Even if not, all creatures could subsist on vegetation and we even today have proven that carnivores can and will subsist on vegetation if necessary.   Certainly in a world where fruits and grains and plenty was everywhere there was no hunger and no predation animal to animal amongst what God included in the animal world.

But Eve was tempted to disobey God by the clever half-truths of Satan and Adam, although not fooled, also ate of the fruit.  Perhaps he feared life apart from Eve or perhaps he thought God would take from him the right to have a mate should Eve die?   Whatever the motivation, Adam willingly shared in the sin by eating of the fruit and both then had a consciousness of sin and therefore lost innocence.   In disobeying God they had brought sin into their lives and the guiltiness of that sin became inherent in mankind.   God could have slain Adam and Eve immediately, He could have remade everything, He could do what He willed to do.  But God's will was to allow man to face the consequences and yet give mankind a chance to be redeeemed.

God performed the first sacrifice by killing animals to make clothing for Adam and Eve from the skins.  I refer you to Genesis Three for the telling of the incident.

Man was aware that blood sacrifice was the price for sin.   Man also became aware that to trust in God would give him by faith an opportunity to receive God's forgiveness and solution for his sin. Genesis Four.
After Cain and Abel and the first murder, at the end of the chapter, we read this in verses 25 and 26:

" Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”  Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.
   At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD." 

Thus men and women who trusted in God would call upon Him for salvation by faith.   In the same way, it is said of Abraham in the book of Romans, "What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  This is verse 3 of chapter 4.  Paul was quoting Genesis 15:6 "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness"   Romans then summarizes the faith of the people of God before Christ and the Hope they looked forward to at the end of chapter 4, beginning with verse 18...  "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,  being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”  The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone,  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead."

God  made the world "good" and good it was until man allowed sin to enter in.   But how can you argue against this?   If God had made robots with no free will, there would be no freedom, no self-awareness, no joy or fear or any and all of the experiences of living as sentinent beings with body, soul and spirit.   

We know from the fossil record that many creatures buried by the Flood were far too large to be sustainable today.   No creature such as the most massive of the Apatasaurus type could reach such giant sizes without an atmosphere far richer in oxygen.   We also know that man began with a remarkable lifespan.   If man and creature alike did not have a switch that "turns on aging" then man could live until a few hundred years of falls and accidents finally accumulated to bring on his death.   Dinosaurs could live long ages as well and we know that typically the reptiles alive today tend to keep growing until death.  

Unfortunately, long lives also brought about people who became jaded and wicked beyond the norm, and the general wickedness of the world was painful to God to the point that He determined to erase the blackboard, reboot the system, replace the old OS with a new one...start over.   However, there was one family who kept faith alive, one family who called upon God and so God gave Noah's family the instruction and means to build a massive Ark (with remarkable engineering, as the Ark's dimensions are ideal for a cargo vessel subject to the high seas even at their worst) and He himself sent the animals to the Ark that Noah was to keep.

I've written multiple posts on the subject of the Ark, it was large enough to accommodate all "Nephesh" life and in fact if insects had been included there would have been room enough for them and food enough for all.  The Ark was massive and the eight person crew could have maintained the floating zoo working shifts.   God probably sent young specimens to the Ark and very likely allowed for hibernation of most or all of them.  We do not know for the scripture does not go into great detail.   But God knew that fish and insects and plantlife would be able to find homes on rafts of floating debris and of course microorganisms not hitching rides on the inhabitants of the Ark would find living pretty easy in the Flood environment.   So God gave man around 2,000 years to prove himself to be evil and wicked above measure and God destroyed that world to begin a anew, with one family of believers and with the various animal kinds (baramin) preserved and given a chance to multiply and grow and speciate as they would.

Fast-forward some 2,300 years to a world unsettled and sinful.   Ruled by Rome in the West, under rulers subject to insanity by lead poisoning and overfed egos, the nation of Israel was unhappily chafing under Roman rule.   To them came the Son of God, the Messiah long awaited by the Jews.   There was growing wonder at the miracles that Jesus performed and the words he spoke.   His wisdom and authority baffled the Pharisees and Sadducees who sought to catch Jesus either sinning or defying Roman authority but He would turn their words around on them and shut their mouths thereby.   I suppose that Judas, being one of the zealots and intent upon overthrowing Roman rule, may have told himself that forcing the Hand of God by bringing Jesus to trial would prompt Christ to assert his rulership over all and create a Kingdom on Earth ruled by the Jewish people in concert with God.   That is being kind, for in fact Judas may have simply been a treacherous thief at heart, more intent upon personal gain than anything else.   

The world did not understand what Jesus came to do.   The Romans thought Jesus was just another typical Jewish rabble-rouser unworthy of attention.   The Jewish people hoped He had come to set up a Kingdom on Earth.  The Priesthood feared for their power and position and therefore sought to rid themselves of Jesus before they were sacked and replaced by Roman fiat.  Although Jesus had made it clear to His disciples what He intended to do, they could not grasp it.    The arrest and crucifixion of Jesus was a day of fear and sorrow and distress for the followers of Christ.   

But He did not stay dead.   He took upon Himself the sin of the world, died on the cross accursed and became The Lamb of God, the Sacrifice that would be sufficient for the atonement of sin and the salvation of all mankind.   He rose again as the first reborn Son of God, the Last Adam who had undone the damage of the first.  As it is written in First Corinthians 15:12-to the end of the chapter.  I will give you 46-58 here:

"If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.  The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.  As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.  And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—  in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
   Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Jesus Christ was killed upon a cross on the hill, Golgotha, in the presence of many witnesses.   Three days later He was seen risen and living in His glorified body, able to be touched by Thomas and seen by hundreds before leaving the Earth for His home with the Father...leaving behind His Spirit to live within each and every believer.   He did not come to overthrow Rome, he came to overthrow sin and death.   Now all Christians trust Christ to be their Lord and Savior, a present help in need and the promise of eternal life with God after this temporal life is over.

It has been over 2,000 years since Christ was born, almost 2,000 years since He was risen and gave men the ability to receive the Holy Spirit within, replacing the dead spirit killed on that fateful day in Eden by the first man and wife.   God's mercy is even greater than his justice, providing all a chance to repent of sins and be restored to God.  When God decides the time is right, He will also restore the Earth by creating a new heaven and a new earth.  As Isaiah foretold in chapter 66 and verse 22:  "“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure."  II Peter affirms this in verse 13: "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells."

On Earth at this time, Christians seek to help people in need and show them the way to God.   Our church sent a mission team to Haiti right after the disastrous earthquake and did what they could, teens and adults, to bring water and food and clothing and shelter to so many homeless and needy people.   One of ours goes forth every year to take vitamins and medication to the poor.   We have three of our members going on an eleven month world tour of giving and helping in third world countries.   We know several missionaries who work and live in third world countries, some for more than two decades, giving people help and hope.  This is Christianity.  We support these and other ministries, to inner city kids, to hurting families broken by death or drugs or divorce.   This is Christianity.

You do not need to know the Genesis story of creation to be a Christian.   I became a Christian before I actually believed that story of creation to be true.   Yet I also know this, that the evidence we can observe today supports the Book of Genesis and not the Fairy of Tale (Darwinism) and that if there was no Eden and no Adam there would also be no need or use for Noah and no need or use for Christ.   Christianity in fact is built on the foundation of Genesis and every other book of the Bible.  

Sixty-six books of human history and God's wisdom stand on one side alongside a Savior holding out His hand to you offering a gift of life.  

On the other side, a cold and brutal tale of millions of years of meaningless death and suffering and a philosophy that asserts that human life is of no great importance.

I stand with Christ and on this day celebrating His birth I celebrate His life and my relationship with Him.  God is always with me and I have forgotten what it was like to be alone within.   That is fine.  It is well with my soul.  May it be well with yours!


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