Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Promise of the Woman's Seed

Part 1 of B.C.: Before Christmas

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The Protoevangelium 

“I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring [seed] and her offspring [seed]; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

This prophecy is often called the protoevangelium, which means “first gospel.” In the midst of all of the bad news of Gen. 3 (the fall and the curse), God revealed good news.

Unfortunately, some of the gifts we give this Christmas will soon break (especially toys). And they will be thrown away.

When we became broken because of sin, God had a plan to restore us. 

Who are the serpent and the woman’s seed? (1) The serpent is Satan. Satan is called the “ancient serpent” in Rev. 12:9. (2) The woman’s seed is Christ. According to biology, a woman does not have a seed, so there is a hint of the virgin birth in Gen. 3:15. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal. 4:4).

The word “offspring” (or “seed”) can refer to one descendent or many descendents. Paul pointed out that God’s promise to Abraham regarding his “offspring” was fulfilled by one person: Christ. “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). The same is true of God's promise in Gen. 3:15.

The woman’s offspring also refers to the children of God. Throughout history, there has been “enmity” (hostility) between the children (followers) of Satan and the children (followers) of God. This hostility was first demonstrated by Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, the first two children in Scripture (Gen. 4). 

Crushing the Head of the Serpent 

[Christ] himself likewise partook of [flesh and blood], that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14).

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

Christ’s victory of Satan comes in two stages:

1. Satan’s doom was guaranteed by Christ’s death and resurrection. 

“The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it” (Rev. 12:4). Satan attempted many times to sue people to kill Jesus (e.g., King Herod). Finally, Satan succeeded when Jesus was crucified. He crushed His heel. But through the cross, Christ defeated sin and death and crushed Satan’s head (a fatal blow).

2. Satan’s doom will be completed by Christ’s second coming. 

We will join Christ in His victory. Paul writes, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20).

Restoration Through Christ 

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

“So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Num. 21:9). Why was Jesus pictured by a serpent on a pole? Because when He was on the cross He was made to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).

Because Christ was broken for our sin, we can be restored.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Christmas Greetings from Poland

Ben & Krista Taylor are missionaries serving in Poland. Our church recently began to support them financially. Here is a Christmas video they sent us.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bibles for Christmas

This Christmas, three people in our family are getting a Bible as a gift. All three are in the English Standard Version (ESV), which I've been using recently. If you are considering to purchase a Bible for yourself or someone else, here are three that I would recommend.

(If you're wondering if I have spoiled the surprise of these gifts, don't worry. Marsha already knows she's getting this Bible, and my boys don't read my blog.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Series: B.C.

This Sunday, I am beginning a new 4-part Christmas series called "B.C.: Before Christmas." This series will examine four different OT prophecies and how each were fulfilled by the birth of Jesus. And over the next four weeks, I will also share this series here on this blog.
  1. The Promise of the Woman's Seed (Gen. 3:15)
  2. The Promise of Immanuel (Isa. 7:14)
  3. The Promise of the Birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  4. The Promise of the Righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Faith and Love

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A Personal Letter 

Do you look forward to checking your mail each day? I do. Unfortunately, all I usually find in my mailbox are bills and junk mail. In this age of email, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s rare that you ever receive a personal letter.

A quick introduction to the book of Philemon:

  • Written by: Paul. When? Around A.D. 60. The letter to Philemon is the shortest book in the NT in the original Greek (355 words). Timothy is mentioned in verse 1. Why? He is not a co-author. Paul probably mentions Timothy because he is present as Paul is writing the letter. And perhaps Philemon knows Timothy. They may have met in nearby Ephesus (see Acts 19:22). 
  • Written from: Prison. Where? Probably Rome. Paul describes himself as a “prisoner for Christ Jesus” (v. 1). Technically, Paul is under house arrest, chained to a Roman guard (see Acts 28:30). Philemon is one of the four “prison epistles.” The others are Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. 
  • Written to: Philemon. Who? A wealthy Christian in Colossae. The church at Colossae met in Philemon’s house (v. 2). This indicates that he was probably wealthy since his house is large enough to be used for church meetings. Philemon was saved as a result of Paul’s ministry: “you owe me your very self” (v. 19). Three other recipients are mentioned in verse 2: (1) “Apphia our sister” (probably Philemon’s wife); (2) “Archippus our fellow soldier” (probably Philemon’s son); and (3) the Colossian church. Philemon is the primary recipient because his name is listed first and “you” is singular in the Greek (except for vv. 3, 22, 25). 
  • Written about: Onesimus. Who? A runaway slave. At some point, Onesimus, one of Philemon’s slaves, fled to Rome after having stolen money (or property) from Philemon. Somehow Onesimus met Paul in Rome and was converted. His life was changed, and he became a great help to Paul. He had been reconciled to God, and now he needs to be reconciled to Philemon. [Note: In the sermon audio, I briefly address the issue of slavery in the NT.] 

A Man of Faith and Love 

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints (vv. 4-5).

Real Christianity is real faith expressing itself through real love

We can see a picture of salvation in verses 17-18. First, Paul was willing to pay Onesimus’s debt (v. 18). “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” Second, Philemon was asked to welcome Onesimus as he would welcome Paul (v. 17).

Christ paid the debt of our sin so that we could be welcomed into God’s family. “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ’s death on the cross made it possible for our sin to be put on Christ’s account and His righteousness to be put on our account. What must we do? Put our faith in Him.

Real Faith

What is real faith?

1. Faith is not just an intellectual thing; faith works. 

The faith you have toward the Lord Jesus (v. 5).

Jesus is our “Lord.” The Greek word for “Lord” is kurios, which means “master,” or “he to whom a person belong.” Philemon was a slave owner, but he belonged to Jesus. This means that faith includes both belief and commitment.

“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” (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is by grace through faith, not by works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10). We are not saved by works, but we are saved to do works. 

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17 NIV).

2. Faith is not just an individual thing; faith connects. 

I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ (v. 6 NIV).

So if you consider me your partner (v. 17).

The Greek word for “partnership” is koinonia and means “fellowship” or “communion.” Faith in Christ not only brings us into fellowship with God; it also brings us into fellowship with other believers. We are all brothers and sisters in God’s family.

Real Love

What is real love?

1. Love is not a selective thing; love accepts. 

Your love…for all the saints (v. 5).

Receive him as you would receive me (v. 17).

The Bible doesn’t say love some of the saints or most of the saints or all of the saints except that really annoying one. Someone named “Mark” is mentioned in verse 24. This is probably “John Mark,” the son of a woman in whose house the Christians met in Acts 12. He was a “cousin of Barnabas” (Col. 4:10). He accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. However, Mark didn’t complete the journey (Acts 15:38). As a result, Paul refused to take Mark on the second journey. This led to a falling out between Paul and Barnabas. “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company” (Acts 15:39 NIV). Eventually, Paul was reconciled with Mark (and Barnabas). About five years later, Paul tells Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11 NIV). And now—about twelve years later—Mark is working alongside Paul (Col. 4:10). It was this Mark who became the author of the second Gospel. Paul had welcomed back Mark and was an example to Philemon.

2. Love is not a sentimental thing; love acts. 

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you (v. 7).

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you (vv. 8-9a).

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18 NIV).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Faith Test: True Religion

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Worthless and True Religion

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:26-27). 

We are not saved by religious works, but we are saved to do religious works (see Eph. 2:8-10).

What is the difference between worthless and true religion?

  • Worthless religion is knowing God's Word but disregarding it.
  • True religion is knowing God's Word and doing it.

Doing the Word 

James gives us three characteristics of a “doer” of God’s Word.

1. A doer of the word controls the tongue (v. 26). 

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things out not to be so (3:10; see vv. 3-12).

2. A doer of the word helps the needy (v. 27a) 

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (2:15-16; see vv. 14-17).

3. A doer of the word resists temptation (v. 27b). 

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (4:4; see vv. 4-10).