Weekly Seed of Faith 2/29/2020

Seed of Faith – Lent, Create In Me A Clean Heart O Lord   By Pastor Dave  

Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  John 11:30-36

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.”  Luke 19:41

Dear Friends and Family:

We have begun the season of Lent–a time for reflection, repentance and renewal.  It is a time for fasting and, even, feasting.  It is a time to prepare your heart and home for the Cross, the crucifixion, and the empty tomb. Lent is a call to be filled with the Holy Spirit wisdom and guidance. Didn’t we just prepare our hearts and our homes for Advent and Christmas? And here we are again–preparing those very same hearts and homes for Lent and Easter.

Lent is the 40 Days (without Sundays) leading up to Easter.  Easter is April 12th.  Lent does not count Sundays; we have six days to fast with Sunday to feast.  The 40 Days is symbolic: Noah had rain,  day and night, for 40 Days, Moses was on Mount Horeb receiving the 10 Commandments for 40 Days, for 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, Jonah gave the people of Nineveh 40 Days to repent and Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted after He was baptized.

This past week, I took the red-eye flight to Florida so I could be with my wife and her dad as we walked “Mom” to the gates of Heaven to meet Jesus. To say the least, there were a lot of tears over the past few weeks. My mom, aka Mother-in-love, was 86 and she loved the Lord. I have known my mother-in-love for over 40 years.  She has been like a mom to me, since my mom died twenty years ago.   As I was flying back home, I journal-ed on John chapter 11. I will spare you all of my notes and reflections, but, if you have never read this chapter, I encourage you to take a moment and read of Lazarus’ death and resurrection.

I want like to reflect on two little words and on one of the shortest passages in the Bible:  JESUS WEPT!  Two little words, three syllables.  But, oh, how these two little words speak volumes.

“Jesus wept.”

There are two passages in Bible that speak of Jesus our Lord actually weeping. What is truly amazing is that both of them take place on the Mount of Olives opposite Jerusalem. On the eastern slope of the mountain, in the small village of Bethany where we find Jesus weeping over the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35). On the western slope of the mountain, we find Him on Palm Sunday weeping over the sins of the people. (Luke 19:41).

I have to tell you that a “so what?” question comes to my mind right now: I wonder if Jesus is still weeping today. (I’m pretty sure He is still weeping today. What do you think?)

“Jesus wept.”

I’ve studied this passage a lot. These two little words pack a powerful punch in the Bible. I have to be honest and say that I don’t think that Jesus wept because Lazarus was dead. Jesus is all knowing. He knew that in a moment He would raise His best friend, Lazarus, from the dead. But I do believe that Jesus wept when He saw and heard Lazarus’s sisters crying. Mary and Martha were heart broken. And they were crying. Tears touch the heart of our God.  The sisters’ hearts were broken. Their brother was dead, and Jesus had arrived too late. They held no hope. They were hurting, weeping with deep sobs and wails. When Jesus saw this sight, He wept.
My wife’s mom had fallen on Sunday, January 19th, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Jac and I had been worried about her parents prior to this and I had already booked a flight for Tuesday. I arrived and went to see Mom. She was in ICU and she was really hurting. Dehydration, lack of electrolytes, kidney failure and a 3x4″ tumor in her lung. I stayed the week, bringing Dad to see his wife of almost 70 years in the hospital. The hospital was 20 miles away–too far for Dad, 88, to travel alone. We found mom a local rehab in The Villages. I returned home knowing that my wife had to go see her mom. With Jac’s lead poisoning, she is allergic to an enzyme in jet fuel. She hasn’t flown in 4 years because going into anaphylaxis at  30,000 feet was just too scary for her. We talked and prayed about whether we should drive from California to Florida or if she should brave flying.  Friends in our church bought Jac a mask that has a respirator on it. Jac did a great job of wearing it at the airport and for the first two hours of her flight! (She said it was kind of fun to explain through her mask to the others that she’s allergic to jet fuel!)

Jac met her little sis at the airport and off they went to The Villages. Mom was safely at the rehab now and the two sisters did all they could to make Mom happy while carting Dad to and from rehab. It broke down to 6 days in ICU, 12 at the rehab, and 20 days at home. On February 25th at noon, Mom made heaven her permanent dwelling place.   Jac was alone with both of her parents for the final 12 days of Mom’s life. Mom was on Hospice and Jac could not leave her. As Jac would report daily to me, it became clear that Mom was not going beat cancer for the third time, ovarian at 51 and breast at 71. I decided Jac needed relief and flew out again on Saturday night, leaving our daughter to preach for me. I flew all night and walked in at 7 a.m. Mom had struggled to breathe all night and Jac was so weary from staying up and trying to get Mom help. A day and a half later, Mom’s heart gave out. So many tears were cried during this past month, and continue to this day. Here is the main point of today’s SEED OF FAITH:

We have a God who weeps WITH us!

The God who created the universe and everything it is touched by our hurts and broken hearts. Tears have a language all their own. Tears speak louder than words. Tears really do not need someone to interpret or translate them.. The psalmist says that God keeps our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). Can you only imagine that God collects all your tears.

“Jesus wept.”

In Luke 19, Jesus entered Jerusalem with cheers and shouts of Hosanna, Hosanna!  But before Jesus entered the town of Jerusalem, Jesus stopped to weep over the city and the people of Jerusalem.  “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it  and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.'” Luke 19:41-42

What I found interesting is that the word  that Luke uses for “wept” in Greek has a different meaning.  It means to wail, and cry out.  This kind of weeping is the kind that shakes your shoulders and comes from the bottom of your gut.  You cry with big sobs and tears.  Jesus was weeping uncontrollably for the people of Jerusalem because they did not know and did not receive Jesus as their Messiah.  I was taken by Luke’s words — “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace …”   Do you know the ONE who will bring you peace?

Remember this: We have a God who weeps WITH US AND  FOR US!

So What?
“Jesus wept.”
I don’t know what you are facing.  I don’t know what is troubling you. I don’t know know where you have been hurt, rejected, abandoned, mistreated, misjudged, misunderstood and defeated.  But I do know the One who weeps with you and weeps for you. The Lord Jesus is touched by our broken hearts and troubled by our blinded eyes.

The last time tears are mentioned in the Bible is in Revelation 21. Chapter 21 is the second to last chapter in the Bible.  I encourage you to go and read at least the first seven verses.  This chapter reveals a beautiful scene in heaven: God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  (Revelation 21:4)  As my mother-in-love was dying, I sat at her bedside during the nights and  read Scripture to her.  Chapter 21 of Revelation was one of those comforting passages.  No more tears — no more pain, no more suffering — no more death.

This is our hope. He is preserving all of our tears in a bottle, and one day He will wipe them all away. King David said it best, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

The Lord Jesus is not far off and removed from us. Jesus is very near. He is the One who is touched by our broken hearts and weeps WITH us. Jesus is the One who is troubled by our blinded eyes and weeps FOR us.

This season of Lent, let these tears prepare your heart and home for the joy of the resurrection! These two little words speak volumes: “Jesus wept.” It is okay to cry.  Jesus weeps with us!  Jesus weeps for us!

Earlier in the week, Mom had been asking my wife for the verse on the sting of death. At noon on 2-25, I turned to 1 Corinthians 15:55 and read, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” At that very second, the most glorious smile came across Mom’s face. She lifted up her face, and she was gone. Perfect peace in Jesus replaced all of mom’s tears.

He will do the same for each of us. My prayer is that this Lent will find you preparing your heart and your home…for a God who weeps with you and for you and who, one day, will hold all of your tears in a bottle.
See you Sunday!

God loves you and so do I,
Pastor Dave
www.theseedchristianfellowship.com

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Romans 5:18-21 The Reign of Grace

 

In the previous study we have been studying the subject of God’s grace. In verse 18 Paul speaks “of one act of righteousness (God’s grace) was justification that brings life for all men.” This is what is called “justification by grace.” But I wonder if that sounds right to you. We already know about “justification by faith.” It was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther having said that it is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. But if that is so, why should we speak of justification by grace? The answer is that both statements are parts of the same truth, since the justification that is received by faith alone is also by grace alone. A full statement of the doctrine would be: “Justification by the grace of God alone, received through faith alone.” Justification is an act of God as judge by which He declares us to be in right standing before Him so far as His justice is concerned. We are not just in ourselves. So the only way by which we can be declared to be in a right standing before God is on the basis of the death of Jesus Christ for our sins, He bearing our punishment, and by the application of Christ’s righteousness to us by God’s grace. This grace is received through the channel of human faith, but it is nevertheless utterly grace.

This brings us to another important idea: the obedience of Jesus. Paul mentions this in verse 19, and it’s the first time he has used the word. In discussing the obedience of Christ, theologians usually distinguish between what is called the active obedience of Jesus and the passive obedience of Jesus. The active obedience of Jesus refers to His submission to and active conformity to the law of Moses. Do you remember how in Galatians 4:4-5 Jesus is described as having been “born under law, to redeem those under law?” This means that when Jesus became man He deliberately subjected Himself to the law of Moses, so that when He went to the cross to die for our sin, it might be known that He did so as a perfect sin-bearer, “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). The passive obedience of Jesus Christ is something else. It refers to His submission to the cross. This is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of “the obedience of the one man” through which “the many will be made righteous.” Christ’s active obedience qualified Him for this role. But it was His one act of passive obedience, corresponding to Adam’s one act of disobedience that atoned for our sin and made it possible for the Father to credit Jesus’ righteousness to our account.

Let’s now explore Paul’s illustration of what grace is about and show that the drama of “God’s Grace” – Paul would call it “The Reign of Grace” – is as serious as it is real (vv. 20-21).The illustration Paul uses is of two rival kingdoms, and the way he gets into his illustration is by personifying the power of sin, on the one hand, and the power of grace, on the other. The one king’s name is Sin and his rule is death for all persons. The other king’s name is Grace and He has come to save us from sin and bring us into a realm of eternal happiness, eternal life.

This illustration tells us something about grace that we may not have considered. It tells us that grace is a power. We tend to think of grace as an attitude; and of course, it is that. But grace is more than an attitude. It is also a power that reaches out to save those who, apart from the power of grace, would perish. This means that grace is more than an offer of help. To use the illustration of the two rival kingdoms, it would be possible to say that grace is an invasion by a good and legitimate king of territory that has been usurped by another. The battle is not always visible, because this is a matter of spiritual and not physical warfare. But the attack is every bit as massive and decisive as the invasion of the beaches of Normandy by the Allied Forces at the turning point of the Second World War. The Allies threw their maximum combined weight into that encounter and won the day. In a similar way, God has thrown His weight behind grace, and grace will triumph.

What can we say about the nature of the reign of God’s grace? (1) Grace is bountiful. The first thing we can say is that the reign of grace is bountiful. This means that it is overflowing with benefits. Grace sees us staggering and comes alongside to help us and bear us up. Grace sees us destitute and pours the inexhaustible riches of Christ and the Father into our laps. Grace sees us dying and imparts eternal life. Grace says, “What do you need? Tell me. Tell me anything at all.” And then grace provides that need in accord with God’s perfect wisdom, invincible power, and ultimate supply. “Grace always gives, whereas sin always takes away.” (2) Grace is invincible. In this life it is not always true that the good triumph and the evil are defeated. Looking at this life, we might ask, “Can anything as good as grace really triumph in the end? To be sure, grace offers everything. But how can we know that in the end sin will not somehow still be there to assert its rule and snatch God’s bountiful gifts from our hands?”

Ah, but that would be possible only if we were speaking of grace in human terms. If it were only my grace or your grace that we are talking about, sin would snatch our gifts away. We could not stand against this powerful adversary. But it is not my grace or your grace that is reigning. It is the grace of God, and God is the Almighty One. Who or what can stand against God or His purposes (see Rom. 8:31-30)? We can be assured of salvation because, through Christ, we have gained permanent access by faith “into this grace in which we now stand” (Rom. 5:2). For the reign of grace there is no defeat, there can be no end. Let grace triumph in you. Yield to it. Yield to the grace of God in Christ. Open your arms to grace, and let grace draw you to the winning side.

Romans 5:18-21 Reflection Questions:

How do verses 18-21 summarize the entire letter of Romans so far?

The idea of a beautiful and good world, spoiled at one point in time by human rebellion, remains basic to all early Christian, as to all Jewish thought. The picture of humankind in a state of sin is indeed a sorry one. In what ways do verses 18-21 contradict the view of humanity that society today holds?

Think about an area of your life, your community or the world that demonstrates the brokenness of sin. What would that area look like if there was a “reign of grace” instead of a reign of death?

Romans 5:15-17 Three Great Contrasts

 

The paragraph to which we come now, Romans 5:15-17, is one in which Paul develops the differences between our being in Adam and our being in Christ. Paul’s point in verses 13 and 14 is that we were condemned by reason of our union with Adam, just as we have now been saved by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ. It is an important and great similarity. In verses 13 and 14 he has explained how we have “sinned in Adam.” In verses 15-17 he digresses further to explain how union with Christ is greater in its nature and effects than our original union with Adam. This study is called “Three Great Contrasts,” because of the way Paul sets out his contrasts in our verses we are studying here (vv. 15-17).

Of these three verses, the hardest to understand is verse 15, because it is least explicit. In what way is the gift of salvation in Christ not like the trespass? In what sense is the gift much more? Or, what particular contrast, the unique idea, that verse 15 introduces? The contrast is found in the first key word Paul uses, after having said that “the gift is not like the trespass.” It’s the word died. The sin of Adam brought death. It brought death to all. By contrast, the gift of God brought life to many. We must not be misled by the word “many.” When Paul writes of “the many” who died because of Adam’s transgression, he means just that: the many who died in Adam, that is, all persons. And when he writes of “the many” to whom the gift of life overflows, he also means many, for surely “many” are being saved. So what is the contrast? It’s between death, which has come upon all because of Adam, and life, which has been given to every believer in Christ.

Verse 16 carries the contrast between the effects of Adam’s sin and the effects of God’s work in Christ further, pointing out that “the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. It was hard for us to see the contrast in verse 15; however this is not true of verse 16. Here the contrast is found between the “one sin” that brought condemnation, that is, the sin of Adam in eating the forbidden tree, and the “many trespasses,” which Adam and all who followed him have committed but which are atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Since Christ died for such a vast accumulation of sins, is it any wonder that Paul marvels in Romans 5 how “judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.”

The third and final great contrast is in verse 17. The key to understanding this verse is to emphasize the word abundant in the phrase “God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness,” and the thought that those who have been thus abundantly blessed are enabled to reign in life now through Jesus. To put it simply, the work of Christ in dying for us did not merely restore us to the position in which Adam stood before the fall, but rather carries us beyond that. So what does the phrase “reigning in life” refer to? It means that by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion and empowering of the Holy Spirit, we are victorious now. In this way, the gift of God in Christ far surpasses the effects of Adam’s and all other transgressions.

Now we must look at just one word: grace. “Grace” occurs five times in this passage, three times in verses 15-17, which we are particularly studying here, and twice more in verses 20 and 21. In these verses Paul says that grace is of God and that it comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s free, triumphant, and overflowing. What is grace? It’s God’s favor toward the undeserving. Grace lies behind the plan of salvation, but it is also what brings that salvation to us individually and effectively. Despite all this, there are today in most of our churches probably only a small percentage of people who really believe in grace, much less appreciate it. They pay lip service to grace; they know we are “saved by grace” apart from our own good works. But there they stop. If they were to tell the truth, most would probably say that they find the topic of “grace” boring.

If we have come to this point having understood what has been taught earlier, we know what grace is and are prepared to marvel at it, as Paul himself does in this section. I want you to see the subject of grace in its broadest context, showing how the grace of God operates. There are five main categories: (1) Electing grace. As soon as we see that grace really is apart from any possible merit in its object, we understand that God is utterly sovereign in His choices. The grace of God, like God Himself, is before all other things. It is from grace that all good comes. (2) Pursuing grace. The God of grace has been called “The Hound of Heaven,” who pursues rebellious man. We may think at times that we have sought God. But as we grow in grace and increasingly learn the nature of our own sinful hearts, we discover that we have sought Him only because He first sought us. (3) Pardoning grace. This is the very core of salvation. We are more accustomed to speak of this core as justification by faith, but that is only convenient theological shorthand. What we mean when we speak of justification by faith is justification by the grace of God through faith, according to which we are moved from the status of a condemned criminal awaiting a terrible sentence to that of an heir awaiting a fabulous inheritance. (4) Persevering grace. The Christian life is not passive on our part. We are active in it. When Christ calls us we come running. But notice: We persevere because He perseveres. We endure to the end because the grace of God preserves us. It’s absurd to suppose that we are able to keep ourselves in grace even for a single moment. If it were up to us, in the final analysis all would be lost. Grace has brought us to where we are now, and that same grace, persevering grace, will lead us to glory. (5) Saving grace. Although salvation is usually thought of in reference to our being justified or pardoned only, salvation is actually a more embracing concept. It refers to the past: God saved us from sin’s penalty in Christ. It concerns the present: God is saving us from sin’s power now. It looks to the future: God will save us from sin’s very presence when we are given resurrection bodies and are taken into His holy presence forever. How? It is by grace, grace only.

Romans 5:15-17 Reflection Questions:

Are you “in Jesus”? If Adam, who once humanly perfect fell, what chance do you have to stand, you who are corrupted by many sins and wholly disposed to unrighteousness? Your only hope is to believe on Jesus and be joined to Him.

Reflect and journal on how God pursued you.

What are some examples of God pursuing man in Scripture?