Friday, January 01, 2010

God's Final Word
In the past,
God spoke to our people through the prophets.
He spoke at many times.
He spoke in different ways.
But in these last days…
He has spoken to us…
through his Son.
There is a television show where contestants are asked questions, and with each successful answer the amount of money increases for the next question. But as they contemplate their answer to each question, and when they give an answer, the host asks them, “Is that your final answer?” The verse I quoted above gives a short history of how God dealt with and spoke to His people, and the entire world, in the Old Testament. Let us for a moment examine the wonder, the glory, and indeed the mystery of the Old Testament.
There were many prophets who God used to communicate many different truths in the past. Some, and probably most, were never completely aware of the future implications of their words, as well as the eternal weight that some of their words carried. Many prophets spoke words that dealt directly with the nation of Israel but embedded in those words were glorious truths of a coming Messiah. And sometimes God used the actions of His prophets to provide a visual metaphor for that same coming Messiah. And sometimes God spoke through a prophet with words that exclusively foretold the coming of His Messiah.
And then there were the priests. God institutes the priesthood through Aaron and they are given a priestly office and role within the nation of Israel. Their duties were many, but their central calling was the sacrificial system of the blood offerings, of which the Day of Atonement was paramount. But it is safe to assume that although the priests understood that through the blood there was forgiveness, they certainly had no knowledge of the coming sacrifice offered through the Incarnation. The thousands upon thousands of gallons of animal blood all spoke of a few pints of blood that would offer forgiveness to all mankind.
And there were many things that God did in the Old Testament that seem almost incredible. God destroys all but eight souls in the flood because violence and debauchery consumed the earth. God kills the sons of Korah because they questioned the authority of Moses. God strikes a man dead for attempting to steady the Ark of the Covenant. God smites a king with leprosy just because he lit some incense to honor God. God destroys entire cities for various reasons, and God instructs Israel to kill every man, woman, and child in some circumstances. Moses labors for decades and endures the sufferings of leading the Children of Israel, and yet just because he struck the rock twice God forbids his entrance into the Promised Land. These are just a few ways in which God communicated with His people in the Old Covenant.
The dealings by God to His people and mankind in general in the Old Testament are a mystery to be sure. The violence is shocking, and even many of the things in the law are bewildering. People were forbidden to wear clothing made with two or more kinds of material, and even picking up sticks on the Sabbath was forbidden. Rebellious children were to be stoned to death. The law was detailed and seemingly cruel. When the entire panorama of the Old Testament is viewed without the prism of the New Covenant and its Author, Jesus, we are left with quite a portrait of who God is. But I want to give you a little illustration that may aid us in understanding the seemingly incongruous revelation of God in the Old and New Covenant.
A 14 year old girl falls over a ten foot wall and goes into a large lake. This girl cannot swim and she is wearing a heavy coat. She sinks immediately and begins to drown. A man sees what is happening and he jumps in after her. He swims down and searches for the child, and after feeling her flailing legs hit him he grabs her. She resists and he has to wrap his arm around her neck to try and bring her to the surface. She continues to display amazing strength and pummels the man with her arms and legs, and he is forced to hit her, not once, but several times in an effort to knock her out and allow him to bring her to safety. After much battle he drags her by her neck to the surface.
On the ground the girl is revived. After coming to her senses she is introduced to the man who saved her. He kneels down and strokes her hair and speaks gentle words of comfort to her. The girl bears bruise marks on her body from this man’s fists and from the event in general, but now as she meets this man she realizes that he is kind, gentle, and was willing to risk his own life for her. The actions he took were not meant to hurt her, they were meant to save her. But the man she has now met on the surface is who the man really is.
And we must understand our Master in this way. The actions God took in the Old Testament were meant to bring mankind to who God really is, Jesus. Paul calls the law God’s “schoolmaster” which was solely designed to bring us to Himself, namely Jesus. And God used many extreme measures in His mission of reconciliation. But as we journey past the cross, gone are the tactics of the Old Testament in this age of God’s gospel of grace. And after God has spoken and communicated with people in the Old Covenant through various methods and people, He now gives His final Word. And that final Word is Jesus. That final Word is Himself.
But meditate upon this cross. In the natural, it is the death, albeit excruciating death, of a man. And many hundreds of thousands and even millions of men have died painful deaths, even the death of crucifixion. In the natural it is unremarkable. But in the supernatural, and with the understanding of Who this Person was, this cross becomes something infinitely greater and more expansive than one man’s torturous death. This death brings life. Yes, this death brings life…eternal.
Just who is God? Like the blind men who each assessed the elephant by feeling different parts of his body, the human race has attempted to describe God through the prisms of their limited knowledge. And when Jesus comes He claims that He is God, and the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “express image” of God. In other words, although God is a spirit and cannot be seen, when He decides to reveal Himself to mankind He comes as Jesus. Jesus is God, and He is God’s final word to the human race.
Let us prune away all the other words that religion attempts to place into God’s mouth. Politics, morality, wealth, and everything else are lies that smear the image of Christ to this world. After a sinner has been born again by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, then are the teachings of morality and behavior modifications through the power of the Spirit applicable. But to the world of darkness where men and women wander aimlessly and with little more than an insatiable desire to fulfill their own desires and lusts, the word of Almighty God is Jesus. There is no other word than Jesus, and in fact all believers are to obey God’s Word, which in essence is to emulate Jesus.
Our mission is Jesus. Our calling is Jesus. Our lives are Jesus. And what does it say about us when we are “persecuted” for moral and political issues? What does it say about us when we complain about taxes and social entitlement programs? What does it say about us when sinners recoil from us because we have openly and aggressively condemned them? And what does it say about us when we demand that the Ten Commandments be placed upon school walls and not John 3:16?
All those things and more say that we do not know Jesus in His fullness. It says that we as believers have discarded Jesus as THE means of evangelism and are using the law, the words of Moses, and the corrupt political machine as our power to save. That, my friends, isn’t Christianity, that is moral religion with a sprinkling of Jesus dressed in Old Testament vestments. There is no more Old Covenant, it is dead. And the Old Covenant was nothing more than an incubation of faith that would one day die to make way for the greater glory of Christ.
God’s final Word to mankind is not the pro-life movement; it is not about gay rights; it is not about capital punishment; it is not about rock music; and it is not about the culture of America.

God’s final Word is Jesus, Who IS the Word.
Believe Him and you will have life everlasting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is very beautiful. I am saving it. Copying it to give to others. This is a beautiful sermon about our Beautiful Saviour.
Thank you, Rick, my e-pastor.