Sunday, December 28, 2014

Grace Lesson 2 - Forms of Grace



The Church of Divine Guidance (CDG) Sunday morning adult bible study group is in a study on grace. These posts are my notes for each session. Please study with us. You can participate by asking your questions or making comments in the comments below. We welcome your thoughts
and prayers.

Foundation scripture

Ephesians 2:8-9 (HCSB)8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—9 not from works, so that no one can boast.

Last week we defined grace as:

  • unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
  • a virtue coming from God
  • disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
Why did we say that the word grace appears many more times in the New Testament over the Old?

The Old Testament or old covenant was a covenant of law whereby in order to be justified by God you had to obey the law to the letter in other words you had to work got gain favor or grace. That was done away with when Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for mankind and his blood sealed a new covenant or New Testament. That covenant came into effect after Jesus was sacrificed and He presented His blood in heaven to atone for the sins of those who accept that sacrifice as being made for them.

Hebrews 9:11-14 (HCSB)11 But the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation),12 He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,14 how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?

We compared Adam and Jesus who both represented mankind.

Adam introduced sin and with sin death and they were passed on to his descendants. In the sight of God Adam represented mankind and when he sinned it was as all of mankind sinned because we are his posterity.

But Jesus came as a second Adam and he also represents mankind, and with Him came the grace of God and with grace righteousness. . Through His sacrifice God gives His grace to all who believe.

Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV)9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Introduction

God’s grace may be most difficult thing for our natural minds to really understand. We all understand the law. It’s pretty simple really it says “do this” and “don’t do that”. You don’t even need to be a Christian to understand that and many ‘good, law abiding, unsaved people’ will tell you that. In fact they will often point to things that Christians do which are against the Mosaic law and say I’m better than that. Everybody understands the law but we can’t keep it. So when we say that we are saved God’s grace through faith it takes more than the natural mind to understand it. We can’t understand, with our natural minds, why a righteous would allow His Son, who was able to keep the entire law, be punished in the place of those who could not keep it.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV) But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

I know that last week I said that this week we would talk about the nature of God’s grace but in my I study found that His grace takes several forms so that’s what I want us to talk about this week, the forms of God’s grace.

Grace takes many forms in the Bible

Common grace


The kindness or favor God give to all mankind believer or not.

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Acts 14:16-17 (NKJV)16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."

He grants grace also in delaying judgement on mankind giving them a chance to accept His gift of eternal life.

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Saving grace


The provision of salvation through  Jesus

Romans 1:5 (HCSB)  We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name,

Romans 3:24 (HCSB) They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:2 (HCSB) We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:15-17 (HCSB)15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.16 And the gift is not like the one man’s sin, because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification.17 Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Securing grace


The favor of God by which the Christian's salvation is kept secure in spite of sin.

John 10:27-29 (NKJV)27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

John 3:16 (NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

I could go on and on but as you have often heard me say, you didn’t have anything to do with your salvation.   You are saved by the grace of God by and through faith, so there is nothing you can do to “un-save” yourself.  Salvation is obtained and maintained by grace alone.

Sanctifying grace


Sanctifying grace works within the true believer causing them to grow and mature and progress becoming more Christ-like. If you remember from our Winning the War Against Worry study God is working, through His grace to conform us the the image of His Son Jesus.

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV) but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Serving grace


Are the Spiritual Gifts that believers have been given by the Holy Spirit. Remember I said, last week that the Greek word translated grace charis (pronounced cars) is the root of the word charisma which is the word Paul used for spiritual gifts.

Serving grace enables us to minister in a way that we manifest the life of Jesus as members of His body, the church.

Ephesians 4:7 (NKJV) But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

1 Peter 4:10 (NKJV) As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Sustaining grace


Grace given at special times of need, especially during adversity or suffering.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

James 4:6 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

In Conclusion 

God’s grace is manifested in a variety of ways. Grace seeks us and saves us; grace keeps us secure; grace enables us to serve and to endure the tests and trials of life. Grace will bring about our sanctification in this life and will ultimately bring us to glory. From beginning to end we are the object of divine grace.

Next week I promise we are going to look at the nature of God’s grace. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Overwhelmed Challenge - Lesson 3 - Things That Cause Stress



In the late summer and early fall of 2014 the adult bible study group did a study titled "The Overwhelmed Challenge". It was the prelude to a much longer study, "Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry". This is the third of the five lessons to that study. If you liked the first study they you will enjoy this one because it was the reason that we did the more detailed study. I recommend that you get the book prompted me to do these two studies, Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry by Noble Perry. You can get it at Amazon by clicking this Link or the image of the book at the end of this post.

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Last week we talked about the challenge of dealing with critical people causing stress and anxiety. We should ask ourselves when faced with a critical person and or criticism:
  • How Well Does This Person Know Me?
  • What Attitude Does The Person Criticizing Have? Is it condemning or
    Criticism 
    loving?
  • Does What The Person Is Saying Pass Through The Filter Of Scripture? Context is important
  • Is This Criticism Personal Or Shared By Others?
  • Is This Worth My Time? 

I used to try and fight every single ounce of criticism that came my way…and I realized I just can’t. In the end, we all have good things in our lives we need to focus on. So don’t spend your time fighting the critics, spend your time focusing on Jesus and the blessings He has given to all of us. He is the one we will spend eternity with in heaven, and His opinion is the only one that really matters.

Introduction and Definition


The dictionary defines stress as “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.”

Everyone suffers from stress at one time or another. In fact, research indicates that children who live in a stressful home environment are at greater risk to become highly stressed by life’s challenges. Stress can cause us to do things we would not normally do or cause us to shut down completely. Anything that causes stress is called a “stressor.”

Stress can be caused by either processive stressors or systemic stressors. Processive stressors are those that elicit what is called the “fight or flight” reaction. Systemic stressors are our bodies’ automatic physiological responses to stress. Stress takes its toll on all of us to varying degrees, and how we deal with it depends in large part on who we are. It is no wonder that many days we struggle trying to cope with the stresses that come from our jobs, our health or family issues. God has created us and knows that, because of our fallen natures, we can sometimes allow stress to rule our lives.

Stress of all kinds is a natural part of life


Job 5:7 (HCSB) 7 But mankind is born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

 Job 14:1 (HCSB) Man born of woman is short of days and full of trouble.

1 Peter 4:12 (HCSB)  Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (HCSB) No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.

But how we deal with it is up to us. If we choose to try to do it on our own, we face a long, uphill battle that will not end well. The only way we can deal with stress is with Jesus Christ, first by believing in Him. Without believing in Him we are on our own, and success in coping with stress is almost impossible. Second, we need to trust Him and obey Him.

Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-stress.html#ixzz32jVTx3WP


10 most common things that can cause stress

1. The belief that I am in control of my life rather than knowing that God is in control of EVERYTHING (including my life)!

2. When I do not trust the people who I delegate authority and responsibility to and
Stressed
actually begin to believe the lie that, “If I want something done right then I must do it myself.”

3. When I know without a doubt what God has told me to do but I begin to listen to the “experts” who tell me that the very thing God has told me to do is impossible.

4. When I try to explain myself to those who don’t really want an explanation; they just want to argue.

5. When I refuse to take some time to disconnect and rest, claiming that the devil never takes a day off while not understanding that the devil isn’t supposed to be my example.

6. When I begin to take on the “Messiah complex” and begin to think about how much I need to do and how Jesus needs me rather than how much I actually NEED HIM!

7. When I worry about results more than obedience!!!

8. When I focus on the size of the problem rather than the size of God!

9. When I fail to share my worries and concerns and admit my mistakes to others for fear that it may make me seem weak and stupid. (The opposite is actually the case. Those around me actually love and respect me more when I ask for help!)

10. When I become unaware of HIS presence every single minute of my life!

The starting point for dealing with stress is Jesus Christ. Jesus offers us great encouragement in

John 14:1 (NKJV) 1 "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.

We desperately need Him in our lives. We need Him because He is the only one who can give us the strength to cope with the troubles in our lives. Believing in Him does not mean that we will have a trouble-free life or that we will not succumb to stress in our lives. It simply means that a life without Jesus Christ makes coping with stress an impossible and often debilitating task.

Believing leads to trusting.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) 5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
 Leaning on “our own understanding” often means adopting the world’s ways of relieving stress—things like alcohol or drugs or mindless entertainment. Instead, we are to trust His Word as our ultimate guide to a stress-reduced life.

Psalm 34:4 (NKJV)
4  I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.

David knew that by seeking the Lord and sharing his troubles with Him that perhaps he would find favor with Him. The Lord in turn answered him and calmed him down.

Perhaps no passage in Scripture better captures how to handle stress than

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) 6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The Lord tells us not to be anxious about anything, but rather to turn everything over to Him in prayer. Lifting our burdens and concerns to a holy and righteous God daily will mitigate or eliminate the stress in our lives

Psalm 55:22 (NKJV) 22  Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Jesus Christ offers peace if we come to Him with our worries and concerns.
At Peace


John 14:27 (NKJV) 27  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.


Psalms 118:5-9 HCSB 
5 I called to the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and put me in a spacious place. 6 The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 7 The Lord is my helper, Therefore, I will look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord

Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV) 25  "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28  So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
29  and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31  Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV) 11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Please remember and be encouraged that His plans are greater than any plans we could have for ourselves. So don’t worry, God’s got this.

Books on overcoming worry with the Word of God.






Sunday, December 21, 2014

Grace - Lesson 1




The Church of Divine Guidance (CDG) Sunday morning adult bible study group is in a study on grace. These posts are my notes for each session. Please study with us. You can participate by asking your questions or making comments in the comments below. We welcome your thoughts
and prayers.

God's grace.  What is it? Why is it so important? How do you get the grace of God?

These questions are key for understanding Christianity.  Christianity and the grace of God go hand in hand. No one can call themselves a Christian without accepting the grace of God, a free gift from God to all mankind

Foundation scripture 


Ephesians 2:8-9 (HCSB)8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—9 not from works, so that no one can boast.

Introduction


Dictionary definition from dictionary.com 

(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. (dictionary.com)

Merriam-Webster Dictionary 

a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b : a virtue coming from God

The word grace is used in the Old Testament, depending on which translation or version you read, between 4, in the New Revised Standard Version, and 39 times in the King James Version. I don’t know yet why such a wide range. I didn't have time to do the research before this lesson but I will keep looking and find out. The other translations are very close in the number of times ranging from 4 in the Revised Standard Version to 9 in the American Standard Version. In the translation that I like the Holman Christian Standard Version the number of times in the Old Testament is 13 times. 
There must be some word the the King James Version uses for the Hebrew word ḥēn (pronounced khane). My guess is that where the King James uses grace the others use favor but that’s just a guess.

Grace is in the English translations in the New Testament between 118 times in the Revised Standard Version to 131 times in the King James. Much closer.

The Greek word that’s used most in the New Testament and translated grace is charis (pronounced cars) a) objective - that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard; it is applied to beauty, or gracefulness or person, or speech.

The root word for charis is word Paul uses to express God’s grace in salvation. He uses throughout Romans. Romans is the book that really describes God's plan and purpose for saving us.  Here is a sample of where Paul mentions God's grace:

Romans 1:5 (HCSB) 5 We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name,

Romans 3:24 (HCSB)24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:2 (HCSB)2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 12:6 (HCSB)6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith;
The word grace appears many more times in the New Testament over the Old. Why do you think that’s the case?

The Old Testament or "Old Covenant" was based on rules and regulations or the "Law".  In order to be justified by God you had to obey the law to the letter in other words you had to work got gain favor or grace. That Old Covenant was done away with when Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for mankind and his blood sealed a "New Covenant" or "New Testamen"t. That covenant came into effect after Jesus was sacrificed and He presented His blood in heaven to atone for the sins of those who accept that sacrifice as being made for them.

Hebrews 9:11-14 (HCSB)11 But the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation),12 He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,14 how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? 

Grace and Our Salvation or Justification


Romans 5:12-21 (HCSB)12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.13 In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to a person’s account when there is no law.14 Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression. He is a prototype of the Coming One.15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.16 And the gift is not like the one man’s sin, because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification.17 Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.18 So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone.19 For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.20 The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Explore It


1.What did Adam introduce into the world and pass on to his descendants? (5:12)

He introduced sin and with sin death they were both on to his descendants.

What Paul is saying here is that all men sinned when Adam sinned.

How is that possible?

Think of it this way.  Let's use an example from the bible to show how that works.  The example is about a man named Achan and what he did after the Hebrews destroyed Jericho.  This is in the seventh chapter of Joshua

If you remember the Hebrews were not to take certain for themselves from Jericho.

Joshua 6:18-19 (HCSB)18 But keep yourselves from the things set apart, or you will be set apart for destruction. If you take any of those things, you will set apart the camp of Israel for destruction and bring disaster on it.19 For all the silver and gold, and the articles of bronze and iron, are dedicated to the LORD and must go into the LORD’s treasury.”

But here's what happened during the battle.

Joshua 7:1 (HCSB)1 The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart, and the LORD’s anger burned against the Israelites.

Because of Achan’s disobedience the Hebrews lost the next battle to a rag tag group from the town Ai and they were disheartened.

After the Lord pointed out Achan as the reason that they were defeated when the punishment was made, not only Achan but also all his property, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his asses, his sheep, his tent were destroyed. Everything connected with Achan was blotted out of Israel. Although the disobedience was all Achan and he admitted it.

Joshua 7:21 (HCSB)21 When I saw among the spoils a beautiful cloak from Babylon, 200 silver shekels, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, I coveted them and took them. You can see for yourself. They are concealed in the ground inside my tent, with the money under the cloak.”

Another example, this one doesn’t have anybody dying and nothing destroyed but still an example of how Paul could say when Adam sinned all men sinned.

Go to

Genesis 14:18-19 (HCSB)18 Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High.19 He blessed him and said: Abram is blessed by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,

Now to

Hebrews 7:9-10 (HCSB)9 And in a sense Levi himself, who receives tenths, has paid tenths through Abraham,10 for he was still within his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

So you see , as in the case of Achan, his family was considered guilt and thus punished because of Achan, and in the case of Abraham,  how Levi, one of his grandsons, was considered as paying tithes. Just like Achan represented his family and Abraham represented his family so Adam represents his posterity, which is mankind.  Mankind then is looked on as having acted in disobedience with him. 

 I had always struggled with explaining this but because of this study I now understand and can explain it to others.


2. What is the root cause of death?  (5:12)

Sin.

Romans 6:23 (HCSB)23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This verse can be interpreted to mean both spiritual and physical death. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they eventually died physically. Sin, which is breaking the law of God (1 John 3:4  Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law.), brings both physical (Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.) and spiritual death (Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide ⌊His⌋ face from you so that He does not listen. ). So, Romans 6:23 can legitimately be interpreted to include both spiritual and physical death when it speaks of "the wages of sin." - Matt Slick, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

3. How did the coming of God’s law affect the presence of sin in the world? (5:13)
Law


Adam's sin was charged to his account and to that of his posterity because he broke an explicitly stated command of God. Men from Adam to Moses without such explicit laws could not have sin charged to their account in the same way as Adam had. They did not have definite, specific statutes, such as those later given in the Mosaic code. After the law then every person could be charged themselves with breaking specific commands or laws. Before the law man couldn't be charged with a specific instance of breaking the law although they were still considered to have disobeyed because Adam did. 

Now they can have something charges to their account because of the law.

4. How did the coming of God’s law affect our understanding of what sin is? (5-13)

It is spelled out in specific things and if we don't abide by them we are guilt you breaking the law which is sin.  In other words if you do or don't do specific things then you have broken the law.

Paul is not saying that there were no God-given commands known to men between Adam and the Law, in fact when God reaffirmed the covenant that the made with Abraham to Isaac he said;

Genesis 26:4-5 (HCSB)4 I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring,5 because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My mandate, My commands, My statutes, and My instructions.” .

But an absence of a code of law—of a divinely given norm—affects the way sin is reckoned against men.  Before the law man was included under the penalty of death because of Adam they were not charged with any specific things because there was no knowledge of specific things.  After the law each individual could be charged with specific things themselves so they had personal ownership of their own disobedience.

That was the law now comes grace


5. What came into the world through Jesus Christ? (5:15)

GRACE!! and the gift which is righteousness or right standing with God.
Grace

"The many", in verse 15 is the same group who were affected by Adam's transgression and therefore died. God's grace and the gift in the sphere of Christ's grace abound to all men. Adam's act brought death. Divine grace abounds to those affected by Adam's act. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary

6. What is God’s solution to the inevitable problem of sin and death? (5:16-17)

The sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, through which God gave His grace to those who believe.

Many transgressions brought God's gracious gift into operation, and its outcome or goal is acquittal. The reign of death, because of the trespass of the one, is contrasted with the reign in life—on the part of those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. The abundance of grace has to do with all that God has accomplished and promised to do in Christ. Those who are receiving God's abounding favor toward them in Christ and the righteousness which he provides will reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Because of what the one man, Jesus Christ, accomplished, death no longer reigns, but men reign in life. Why are there not as many who reign in life as there were under the reign of death? Because the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness were rejected by many rather than received. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary
7. In what ways are the acts of Jesus and Adam similar? (5:18-19)

Their acts affected all mankind. Adam’s act brought sin and death, Jesus’ act brought God’s grace and the gift of righteousness leading to eternal life.

Through one transgression the verdict or sentence of judgment came to all men. So through one righteous deed the gracious gift of redemption (see Arndt, charisma, 1, p. 887) caome unto all men for the purpose of acquittal that brings life. Paul asserts clearly that the effect of Christ's righteous deed extends just as far as the effect of Adam's transgression. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary
8. What is the relationship between the amount of sin and grace in the world? Which is the more powerful—sin or grace?) ( (5:20)


Although righteousness by faith is central in human history, the Law has an important place. The Law came in order that the transgression might abound (increase in number, multiply).

Grace did much more abound. Or, was present in greater abundance. Grace is much more powerful than sin.

9. What effect did God’s righteous law have on rebellious people? (5:20)

It increased their transgressions by establishing a written code pointing out their disobedience and rebelliousness.

10. What does sin in this world produce? (5:21)

Sin is connected with death in this verse just as it was in 5:12 (Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.)

11. What does grace given by God to this world produce? (5:21)
Grace produces righteousness. The fact that the righteousness of Christ is bestowed upon those who believe means not only that they are declared righteous but also that they belong to the reign and the triumph of grace. Grace reigns with a goal in view-eternal life. Eternal life is a quality of life; it is living by God's life and for God. Believers have this life now. But eternal life means not only living by God, and for him, but in an environment that he has made perfect—free from all sin. Hence eternal life is the believer's destiny as well as immediate reality. How will this life be achieved? It will be achieved through a person—through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We can’t measure God’s grace because our sinfulness has limits but God’s grace has no limits. 

 Let’s end by reading this;

Romans 5:15-17 (HCSB)15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.16 And the gift is not like the one man’s sin, because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification.17 Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Got It


12. What effect did God’s grace through Christ’s death on the cross have on your life?

13. How can knowing you are forgiven and righteous before God through Jesus Christ affect your attitudes and actions?


14. How can knowing you are forgiven and righteous before God through Jesus Christ affect your attitudes and actions?

Apply It


15. In what ways can you thank God today for the grace He has bestowed on you?

16. What can you do this week for unsaved friends still suffering from the consequences of sin?

Next week we are going to talk about the nature of God’s grace.



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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Overwhelmed Challenge - Lesson 2 - Dealing with Critical People



In the late summer and early fall of 2014 the adult bible study group did a study titled "The Overwhelmed Challenge".  It was the prelude to a much longer study, "Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry". This is the second of the five lessons to that study. If you liked the first study they you will enjoy this one because it was the reason that we did the more detailed study. I recommend that you get the book prompted me to do these two studies, Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry by Noble Perry. You can get it at Amazon by clicking this Link or the image of the book at the end of this post.

Unfinished Business From Last Week


Last week we ended with the question does God punish? We agreed, I think, that God does discipline

Job 5:17-18 (HCSB) 17 See how happy the man is God corrects; so do not reject the discipline of the Almighty. 18 For He crushes but also binds up; He strikes, but His hands also heal.

1 Corinthians 11:32 (HCSB) but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Hebrews 12:5-8 (HCSB) 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, 6 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives. 7 Endure ⌊sufferin⌋ as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

But does He punish. In the case of believers I say no unless you see discipline as punishment. I see it as consequence of sin. But, and I think you will agree with me that the bible says that the punishment of sin is death right? Well if you agree with that then what did Jesus’ death accomplish? We believe that he took that punishment for us, the believer. Yes non-believers will receive the punishment for sin but not believers.

Introduction to This Week's Lesson


Last week in our study we discussed our foundation.

Romans 8:28 (HCSB) 28  We know that all things work together for the good of those who love
God: those who are called according to His purpose. 

We concluded that those all things working for good are conforming us to Jesus.   So when we face overwhelming situations and stress we should look at God and not the situation. We passed out a list of things Pastor Perry reminds himself of about God when he becomes overwhelmed, and Michelle shared her Gratitude Diary.

Dealing with critical people


All of us deal with criticism in our lives. And it’s typically given to us without us asking for it. Perhaps it’s a co-worker, a neighbor or maybe even your mother-in-law who is always willing to give
you their unwelcomed opinion.

Jesus dealt with criticism

Matthew 15:1-2 (HCSB) 1  Then Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem to Jesus and asked,
2  “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands when they eat!”

Matthew 12:1-2 (HCSB) 1  At that time Jesus passed through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick and eat some heads of grain. 2  But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

Luke 6:6-11 (HCSB) 6  On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching. A man was there whose right hand was paralyzed. 7  The scribes and Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He would heal on the Sabbath, so that they could find a charge against Him. 
8  But He knew their thoughts and told the man with the paralyzed hand, “Get up and stand here.” So he got up and stood there. 9  Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to destroy it?” 10  After looking around at them all, He told him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. 11  They, however, were filled with rage and started discussing with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Mark 3:1-6 (HCSB) 1  Now He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a paralyzed hand. 2  In order to accuse Him, they were watching Him closely to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath. 3  He told the man with the paralyzed hand, “Stand before us.”
4  Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5  After looking around at them with anger and sorrow at the hardness of their hearts, He told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6  Immediately the Pharisees went out and started plotting with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

The Apostle Paul dealt with lots of criticism  (we have talked about this in our studies in Colossians, and in both 1 and 2 Corinthians). 

We are not exempt.    Sometimes these cynical remarks are discouraging. They can cause us to doubt ourselves and create unnecessary worry in our lives. So whenever criticism starts coming your way ask yourself some questions.

1 - How Well Does This Person Know Me?


One of the things that we have to learn is that just because someone has an opinion about something does not make them an expert.

You need to understand WHO is doing the criticizing. People will often act before they think and make snap judgments on your character or actions based on one line you said in passing, when in actuality, they don’t know the background of your story or the reasoning in which you made that decision.
These are the people that we can’t take the time to listen to. Chances are, you probably don’t have time to try to convince them you’re a good person and explain your intentions and even if you had the time it wouldn't help.

BUT, you can (and should) listen to those closest to you. These are the people whose encouragement and rebuke you welcome.  You’ve got to have people around you who are willing to tell you the truth.


2 - What Attitude Does The Person Criticizing Have?


If someone comes at you with a negative, condemning attitude, write it off. The Bible says that we are called to speak the truth, but we are called to do so in love.

Ephesians 4:15 (HCSB)  But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. 

Be wary when people come to you and the first thing that they say is "I'm telling you this in love".  If they are people that you know love you then they wouldn't need to preface their comment.   Remember what I said in the first question that you should ask yourself.


3 - Does What The Person Is Saying Pass Through The Filter Of Scripture?


Scripture in context is something we should all listen to.   Here's and example that Pastor Perry gave;

For example, a few weeks ago, a friend and I had some differences and I did not speak to this person for several days. Things were tense because we work around one another. She confronted me on this and said, “The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 that we are not supposed to let the sun go down on us while we are angry…I would say you have done that.” I was busted—she was right. She had confronted me with a non-judgmental attitude and used Scripture in context, and I repented because I was wrong.


4 - Is This Criticism Personal Or Shared By Others?


Sometimes after something goes seemingly well (a successful presentation at work, the home completely in order when you get home, your kids were perfect at that restaurant with friends), you get praised and complemented by many. But often you will get ONE negative comment from someone, and ignore the positive comments, focusing on that one negative remark! And this negative remark probably isn’t even true! We cannot allow ourselves to dwell on that negative comment.


5 - Is This Worth My Time?


I used to try and fight every single ounce of criticism that came my way…and I realized I just can’t.

Now, there are some things that are worth my time, and I do address those. But often times, I am NOT going to change the person’s mind and “friendly debate” is out of the question, so it’s best to just move on.

In the end, we all have good things in our lives we need to focus on. The best thing being Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (HCSB) 16  Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18  So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

So don’t spend your time fighting the critics, spend your time focusing on Jesus and the blessings He has given to all of us. He is the one we will spend eternity with in heaven, and His opinion is the only one that really matters.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Faith - Session 7


The Church of Divine Guidance (CDG) Sunday morning adult bible study group is in a study on faith. These posts are my notes for each session. Please study with us. You can participate by asking your questions or making comments in the comments below. We welcome your thoughts
and prayers.

Before we get started today I want to read something the I read this week about faith.  It's taken from a devotional on the Christian Quotes website.

6 Key Truths About Faith

Faith requires you to look with God’s eyes

God knows everything. His ways are not our ways. Unfortunately, human beings tend to be very, very limited and quite shallow with what we see. But real faith requires you to look at your situation through God’s eyes, and that is reflected in his promises.
Human limitations don’t limit God

It’s very important when trying to understand faith that it can be easy to get caught up in our limitations and to define what’s possible based on human definitions. The great news is that none of that matters much to God because there is no limit to him. He is completely powerful and limitless.

God looks past conventional wisdom

In human reality, there are actually several layers to reality. There is the empirical reality — what you can see, touch, smell, feel, and hear — and then there’s human reality. In short, we tend to agree that certain things are real not so much that we can perceive them but because they are agreed upon realities. A lot of science is like this. A lot of the law is like this. God looks past conventional wisdom. God often exceeds or overrides conventional wisdom regarding what’s possible.
God’s vision reveals God’s glory

God has a vision for you.  You have a destiny in God’s eyes. And this vision is tied closely with God’s common vision for his children, which is salvation. Salvation reveals God’s glory and it reveals his infinite love for all of us.

Seeing with eyes of faith means seeing God’s strength

When you choose to see your situation with eyes of faith, you choose to tap into God’s strength. You gain that sense of possibility that enables you to transcend whatever is limiting you.
Faith and trust go hand in hand

It’s impossible to have faith without trust. It’s impossible to trust without faith. They go hand in hand. They are different from each other, but they are closely interwoven.

You can only unlock faith if you choose to trust, and faith continues to unfold because you continue to trust.

Foundation Scripture


Hebrews 11:1-2 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. –

What two things does faith enable us to do?

  1. Enables us to realize that God does exist because we see His creation and realize that things that we see were created by Him who we can’t see but know that He exist.
  2. Faith enables us to please God.
Hebrews 11:3 (HCSB) By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.

Why is faith and essential part of our relationship with God?

Because without it we can’t please God

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

What is the evidence that our faith is not irrational or blind faith?

Creation and the Word of God.

How do we grow in faith?

The Word of God

Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Introduction


Last week we finished the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. We ended by with the people that were not named.  Women received their dead raised to life again; and we talked about some women that fit that description who the writer of Hebrews may have been thinking about. We talked about men the who had been tortured but maintained their faith.

What did we say was the difference between those who were unnamed and those whose names were mentioned in the chapter?

The named heroes all died but the bible doesn't indicate, other than Samson, that they died violently. Those whose names were mentioned were leaders and held positions of importance. Those unnamed don’t appear to have been leaders yet they are still portrayed as heroes and heroines of faith. Today we say that survivors are heroes and less often that those who perish are heroes unless they perform what we call heroic acts. Hebrews makes clear that those who perished were also heroes and heroines of faith.

And the lesson for us?

The real hope of our faith in God is to obtain eternal life and resurrection of the body. Other blessings are wonderful and God promises an abundant life through Jesus.  Faith in God doesn't always lead to material and physical blessing. We still live in a fallen world that is out of the perfect order that God intended when He created it and man. The example here with the unnamed people is that they all had faith but they died tragic deaths so  today when a believer is going through difficult times either materially or physical it is not necessarily because of a lack of faith. 

What the believer looks forward to in faith is what the writer of Hebrews says that these heroes looked for;

Hebrews 11:13-16, 35, 39-12:2 (HCSB)13 These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth.14 Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15 If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return.16 But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. 35 Women received their dead—they were raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, (Emphasis mine)


Some of my biblical heroes of faith 


All of these people acted in faith.  I want us to talk about these people because their faith caused them to act  in the face of difficult situations.  They didn't just believe but they believed and acted.  They and all the people we talked about from Hebrews 11 are examples for us when we face difficulties and don't know which was is up.  Some of these people are just ordinary folk like us who because of their faith they are mentioned in the Bible as examples for us.  

We'll talk a little bit about them and what the did in faith and then the results of those actions.

Caleb


When the Nation of Israel was near the border of the Promised Land Moses sent twelve men into Cannon as spies to check it out and report back to him. When they returned  ten of the spies gave a bad report. However two of the spies gave a different report even though they saw the same things. Joshua was one of them and Caleb the other.

Numbers 13:30 (HCSB) Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!”

They both trusted God and because of their faith in Him being able to do what He said he would do. They were the only two people, who were adults at that time, to enter the Promised Land. Read the entire account in Numbers 13.

The result of Caleb’s faith

When the people entered the Promised Land and had won many battles and routed the people of the land; Over 40 years after Caleb said we must go up and take the land, because of His faith in God, he received his reward.

Joshua 14:7-9, 13 (HCSB)7 I was 40 years old when Moses the LORD’s servant sent me from Kadesh-barnea to scout the land, and I brought back an honest report. 8 My brothers who went with me caused the people’s hearts to melt with fear, but I remained loyal to the LORD my God. 9 On that day Moses promised me: ‘The land where you have set foot will be an inheritance for you and your descendants forever, because you have remained loyal to the LORD my God.’ 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as an inheritance.

Esther


Most of us know the story of Esther, the young Hebrew woman who kept the knowledge of her heritage from King Ahasuerus, the king of the Medes This was during the exile of the Hebrews in
Esther and Mordecai writing the first letter of Purim by Arent de Gelder
Babylon.

When she learned of the plot to annihilate, through genocide, all of the Jews in the kingdom she stepped out in faith and went to the king without being summoned, could have resulted in her death.

Esther 4:11, 16 (HCSB)11 “All the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summoned—⌊the⌋ death ⌊penalty⌋. Only if the king extends the gold scepter will that person live. I have not been summoned to appear before the king for the last 30 days.” 16 “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, day or night. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.”

The result of Esther’s faith

Esther 8:8, 11 (HCSB) 8 You may write in the king’s name whatever pleases you concerning the Jews, and seal it with the royal signet ring. A document written in the king’s name and sealed with the royal signet ring cannot be revoked.” ; 11 The king’s edict gave the Jews in each and every city the right to assemble and defend themselves, to destroy, kill, and annihilate every ethnic and provincial army hostile to them, including women and children, and to take their possessions as spoils of war

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego


You remember their story. They were taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar and ended up being advisers to the king. They later fell into disfavor because they disobeyed a direct order to bow down to a statue of the king. Disobedience meant being thrown into a furnace. When questioned by the king they responded;

Daniel 3:16-17 (HCSB)16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

The results of their faith

Daniel 3:26-30 (HCSB) 26  Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God—come out!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27  When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. 28  Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent His angel and rescued His servants who trusted in Him. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29  Therefore I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.” 30  Then the king rewarded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Daniel


The Bible records many instances of Daniel’s faith. I encourage you to read the first 6 chapters of Daniel. But there is the one that everybody knows

It was when he refused to obey the king’s law that everybody had to pray only to him. Daniel got caught praying to Jehovah and the penalty was to be thrown into a den of lions.

Here’s what happened as a result of Daniel’s faith
Daniel 6:19-23 (HCSB)19 At the first light of dawn the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.20 When he reached the den, he cried out in anguish to Daniel. “Daniel, servant of the living God,” the king said, “has your God whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions?”21 Then Daniel spoke with the king: “May the king live forever.22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t hurt me, for I was found innocent before Him. Also, I have not committed a crime against you my king.”23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to take Daniel out of the den. So Daniel was taken out of the den, uninjured, for he trusted in his God.


Nehemiah


Upon learning of the difficulties and opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem Nehemiah was heart broken.  When given the opportunity he asked King Artaxerxes leader of the Persian Empire to allow him to go the Jerusalem and lead it’s rebuilding efforts.
Nehemiah 2:1-6 (HCSB)1 During the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was set before him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence, 2 so the king said to me, “Why are you sad, when you aren’t sick? This is nothing but depression.” I was overwhelmed with fear 3 and replied to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”4 Then the king asked me, “What is your request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven 5 and answered the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.”6 The king, with the queen seated beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you return?” So I gave him a definite time, and it pleased the king to send me.

While that was a big act of faith that’s not all. When he got to Jerusalem he was confronted by opponents.

Nehemiah 2:19-20 (HCSB)19 When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard ⌊about this⌋, they mocked and despised us, and said, “What is this you’re doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I gave them this reply, “The God of heaven is the One who will grant us success. We, His servants, will start building, but you have no share, right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”

Results from Nehemiah’s faith ?

Jerusalem was rebuilt and there was a revial in Judah.

Job


We all know what Job went through and though he wavered he never lost his integrity and his faith in God. Job based his hope on the truth that God is God and that He is good.

Job 19:25-27 (HCSB)25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at ⌊Him⌋, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.

Results of Job’s faith

He received back double what was taken from him by Satan.

Job 42:12-13 (NKJV)12 Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys.13 He also had seven sons and three daughters.

Elijah


His name means “ The Lord is God” . He was a man who God used mightily because of his faith. Elijah’s acts of faith are legendary.  Almost too much for us to talk about today,  It would take several sessions.

There was the time that he told King Ahab there would be no rain until he said so.

1 Kings 17:1 (HCSB) Now Elijah the Tishbite, from the Gilead settlers, said to Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, I stand before Him, and there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command!”

There was the showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. The entire encounter starts at verse 20 of chapter 18 and continues until the end of the chapter but we are just going to consider two verses.

1 Kings 18:36-38 (HCSB)36 At the time for offering the ⌊evening⌋ sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached ⌊the altar⌋ and said, “Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things.37 Answer me, LORD! Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back.”38 Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.

Then the rain that Elijah said wouldn't come until he announced it.

1 Kings 18:41-45 (HCSB)41 Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a rainstorm.”42 So Ahab went to eat and drink, but Elijah went up to the summit of Carmel. He bowed down on the ground and put his face between his knees.43 Then he said to his servant, “Go up and look toward the sea.” So he went up, looked, and said, “There’s nothing.” Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”44 On the seventh time, he reported, “There’s a cloud as small as a man’s hand coming from the sea.” Then Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Get ⌊your chariot⌋ ready and go down so the rain doesn’t stop you.’”45 In a little while, the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and there was a downpour. So Ahab got in ⌊his chariot⌋ and went to Jezreel.

Then the time that he obeyed God’s command to go to a brook and live on water from the brook and
Elijah and the poor widow
food brought to him by birds.

1 Kings 17:5-7 (HCSB)5 So he did what the LORD commanded. Elijah left and lived by the Wadi Cherith where it enters the Jordan. 6 The ravens kept bringing him bread and meat in the morning and in the evening, and he drank from the wadi. 7 After a while, the wadi dried up because there had been no rain in the land.

When the brook dried up he again obeyed God when He told him to go to a village where he would be able to live even though there was a severe famine in the land. We talked about that when we talked about the widow of Zarephath last week.

Hezekiah


We talked about him in one of our studies when we were tracing the earthly ancestry of Jesus. Hezekiah was one of Judah’s best kings. During his reign there was a great reformation. One of the first things that he did was to destroy the pagan altars and places of worship throughout Judah

2 Kings 18:3-6 (HCSB)3 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestor David had done. 4 He removed the high places, shattered the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah ⌊poles⌋. He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for the Israelites burned incense to it up to that time. He called it Nehushtan. 5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD God of Israel; not one of the kings of Judah was like him, either before him or after him.6 He remained faithful to Yahweh and did not turn from following Him but kept the commands the LORD had commanded Moses.

When Jerusalem was threatened Hezekiah turned to God in faith

2 Kings 19:1, 14 (HCSB)1 When King Hezekiah heard ⌊their report⌋, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the LORD’s temple. 14 Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers, read it, then went up to the LORD’s temple, and spread it out before the LORD.

The result

2 Kings 19:35-36 (HCSB)35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. When the people got up the ⌊next⌋ morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and left. He returned ⌊home⌋ and lived in Nineveh.

When he became seriously ill

2 Kings 20:1-3 (HCSB)1 In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover. 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Please LORD, remember how I have walked before You faithfully and wholeheartedly and have done what pleases You.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

The result God answered his prayer and extended his life.

2 Kings 20:5-6 (HCSB) 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of My people, ‘This is what the LORD God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I will heal you. On the third day ⌊from now⌋ you will go up to the LORD’s temple. 6 I will add 15 years to your life. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for My sake and for the sake of My servant David.’”

Ruth


Ruth left everything she had for something far more greater than anything she’d ever imagined.

Ruth 1:16 (HCSB)16 But Ruth replied: Do not persuade me to leave you or go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

What happened as a result of Ruth’s faith

She was an earthly ancestor of  Jesus.

Ruth 4:13, 17 (HCSB)13 Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he was intimate with her, the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 17 The neighbor women said, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

The 300 Who Fought With Gideon

We have talked about Gideon, a couple of weeks ago, and how he is a hero of faith but what about the 300 men who fought with him. Don’t you think they needed faith to follow Gideon with this small force against a much the larger and more powerful Midianite army? 
Gideon's Army


Judges 7:7-8, 16-23 (HCSB)7 The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and hand the Midianites over to you. But everyone else is to go home.”8 So Gideon sent all the Israelites to their tents but kept the 300, who took the people’s provisions and their trumpets. 
16 Then he divided the 300 men into three companies and gave each of the men a trumpet in one hand and an empty pitcher with a torch inside it ⌊in the other⌋.17 “Watch me,” he said, “and do the same. When I come to the outpost of the camp, do as I do.18 When I and everyone with me blow our trumpets, you are also to blow your trumpets all around the camp. Then you will say, ‘For Yahweh and for Gideon!’”19 Gideon and the 100 men who were with him went to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch after the sentries had been stationed. They blew their trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands.20 The three companies blew their trumpets and shattered their pitchers. They held their torches in their left hands, their trumpets in their right hands, and shouted, “A sword for Yahweh and for Gideon!”21 Each Israelite took his position around the camp, and the entire ⌊Midianite⌋ army fled, and cried out as they ran.22 When Gideon’s men blew their 300 trumpets, the LORD set the swords of each man in the army against each other. They fled to Beth-shittah in the direction of Zererah as far as the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath.23 Then the men of Israel were called from Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh, and they pursued the Midianites. 

Not only were they just 300 in number up against an enemy who were as grasshoppers for magnitude they were also given strange weapons to fight with.  Trumpets, pitchers and lamps. Now they definitely had faith.


Now what about some heroes of faith in the New Testament?


We can point to Jesus, Hid apostles, John the Baptist, Stephen (martyr for Christianity) and Paul and Silas, Timothy, but I don’t want to highlight them we know a lot about them and their faith.   I want to talk about some others that we don’t usually think about as heroes.

Joseph of Nazareth


God chose Mary as the vessel that would deliver Jesus the Christ and he even chose Joseph to be Jesus’ earthly father. He gave the news to Joseph by a messenger.

Matthew 1:25-25 (HCSB)  24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

Joseph took on a huge responsibility; he agreed with God and became Jesus’ earthly father.


Anna


Luke 2:21-24, 36-38 (HCSB)21 When the eight days were completed for His circumcision, He was named Jesus—the name given by the angel before He was conceived.22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord)24 and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons). 36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,37 and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers.38 At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Now we don’t know, it’s not recorded about the 60 or so years of devotion and of seeking of her God that this woman Anna had devoted except that she lived in the temple day by day and she lived as a widow for about 60 years as well.

It’s not recorded what she did, or where she came from or how she came to be in this favored position but as she steps onto the stage of life for just a short moment God the creator of the Heavens and the earth shows her his son.  Anna was a witness and a testimony to the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth.

Salome


There is a woman who is mentioned in the narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion, Salome who you never hear about.

Mark 15:40-41, 16:1 (HCSB)40 There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.41 When He was in Galilee, they would follow Him and help Him. Many other women had come up with Him to Jerusalem. 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him.

During Jesus ministry and time upon the earth this woman and others ministered to Jesus and the disciples.  She was there at Jesus' death and according to Mark with the two Marys when they went to the tomb and found it empty.


There are many other heroes both named and unnamed.

We can be inspired by these and other unsung heroes of the Bible. Many of them like us just ordinary people who because of their faith made important contributions to the plan of God and so can we. All it takes is a willingness to do what God direct us to do. If we want to know what those things are they are in his Word.

In the past several weeks we have talked about people who had victories because of obedience and others whose lives of faith led to suffering, torture and death.

Taking the path of faith and committing ourselves to obey God no matter what, in no way means that the circumstances of our lives will all peaches and cream. Faith doesn't guarantee good times. Faith guarantees our realization of the hope we have for transformation within. Through faith, we are enabled to catch from day to day a growing hint of what we will be at Jesus' return, when we will be just like Him.

1 John 3:2-3 (HCSB) 2  Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. 3  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure. 


Next week we will begin a study on Grace!







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