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Paul and the law?including the Sabbath

In Hebrews 1, Paul instructs how the Old Testament is still normative for New Testament Christians?the inspired norm for truth and ethics. He writes, ?God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds? (Hebrews 1:1, 2).

Jesus is not in opposition to the Old Testament because the same God is the Author of both. The Sabbath is upheld as a distinctive aspect of faith. Because Jesus is now High Priest, much of the Old Testament system of faith is replaced/fulfilled in Jesus?but not the Sabbath! It remains. Neither Jesus nor Paul were innovators. Rather, they took up all the prophecies, types, and symbols embedded in the Old Testament and demonstrated their fulfillment in Jesus. All pointed to Him and His great salvific mission. The Sabbath is not prophetic. It is not symbolic. It is not Jewish. It is just what is written about it: a memorial of Creation, the sign of salvation, and a promise for rest. 


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The Prayer of Humility

Meekness is what places us in a position where we pray according to God?s will; it leads us to conform ourselves to the mind of God and not rebel against the instructions of His Word. Such a humble state is an absolute condition for answered prayers.

We live in a puffed-up world. Pride shows itself in every area of life. We want to take credit for what we perceive as rightfully ours. We cling to positions and possessions. We go through life like puffed-up kernels of cereal, only to be eaten by the unforgiving pain and cruelty of human existence. We are like the grass in the field, mowed down at the end of the season for animal fodder.

The only competition that really matters?the spiritual journey? is not against others. Growth happens inwardly in the indwelling gifts of grace, wisdom, love, and virtue. Meekness toward God manifests itself in meekness toward others. Like the Ten Commandments, it speaks of a vertical connection with God and a horizontal connection to others.


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Praying for the Sinner

If we are conscious of doing wrong but continue to do it, ignoring the whisper of the Spirit to stop or to give it up to God, eventually it leads to the sin against the Holy Spirit. The sin that leads to death?or the sin, literally, that goes toward irreversible death4?is the one we hold on to, no matter how many times the Spirit convicted us we should abandon it. This is like a man swimming in a lake while holding on to a very heavy rock, his unwillingness to let it go will eventually cause him to drown. And how do we know whether the person we wish to pray for has already committed the sin against the Holy Spirit or not? (We are told not to pray for such a person since it is already too late.) We don?t know! That?s the point: God wants us to pray for every sinner, regardless of their circumstances, since we cannot possibly know whether that person is beyond redemption.


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The Sin Principle

It is a law of the human mind that by beholding we become changed. Man will rise no higher than his conceptions of truth, purity, and holiness. If the mind is never exalted above the level of humanity, if it is not uplifted by faith to contemplate infinite wisdom and love, the man will be constantly sinking lower and lower. The worshipers of false gods clothed their deities with human attributes and passions, and thus their standard of character was degraded to the likeness of sinful humanity. They were defiled in consequence. ?God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continu­ally. The earth also was corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence.? God had given men His commandments as a rule of life, but His law was transgressed, and every conceivable sin was the result. The wickedness of men was open and daring, justice was trampled in the dust, and the cries of the oppressed reached unto heaven.?Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 91.


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The origin, consequences, and spread of sin

The Bible reveals that sin had already invaded the universe before the fall of Adam and Eve. This preexistent satanic power manifested itself through the serpent in the Garden of Eden and seduced the first man and woman into sin. Genesis 3 unfolds the tragic story. ?The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise? (Genesis 3:6). But sin did not begin with a physical or sensuous lust or even with a lust of the eyes. Such a concept of its entry into this world fails to come to grips with the genius of Satan?s assault and the deception by which he ensnared Eve. Satan directed his attack against the integrity and truthfulness of God (verse 4) and seduced Eve by assuring her that she, like God, would know good and evil (verse 5). To be like God means to no longer have need of God. The problem of sin in the Garden of Eden was that Eve gave to Satan the place that belongs only to God; and Adam, in turn, gave that place to Eve. Adam and Eve?s transgression meant repudiation of God?s authority and doubt about His goodness and wisdom as well as rejection of His justice and contradiction of His truthfulness.


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Why Should They Believe?

If some people who actually saw Him in person, in the flesh, struggled to believe, what about the millions, billions, who never saw Him in that manner?

Why should they believe?

Yes, it?s written in the Bible, and Christians accept the Bible. But, still, they are asked to believe and trust that their entire hope rests upon a single supernatural event that unfolded in a three-day period that (for us now) was almost two thousand years ago.

That takes faith, yes.

But what if Christ?s bodily resurrection and the hope that it offers is not only the most logical explanation for what happened but the only logical one? What if it?s so logical and heavily laden with evidence that the great leap of faith comes, not in believing in His resurrection but, actually, in denying it?


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What's the Problem?

No one biblical writer, no one verse, no one chapter, no one biblical book contains or presents exhaustive truth?all that can be known or apprehended. Nor does any biblical writer contradict himself or any other biblical writer in either the Old or New Testament. One must take the entire collection of sixty-six books in its entirety as an all-inclusive unit?comparing all sixty-six books to one another when seeking to understand what Scripture is teaching. I like to think of each biblical writer and/or book contributing to a beautiful mosaic: looking closely, one sees the many distinct parts. But all have been designed to contribute to a larger, comprehensive picture.

The comprehensive picture formed by the biblical writers is the ?system of truth? that God the Author created. Recognizing this is crucial for ?rightly dividing the word of truth? (2 Timothy 2:15)?as Paul admonished the young pastor Timothy. It is the fundamental principle that must be acknowledged to understand what the Bible is teaching about any doctrine.  


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The Pain of Unworthiness

You and I are poor in spirit. The only thing we bring to the salvation equation is our own wretched selves?full of pride, perpetually self-centered, manipulative, conniving, empty. Here, repeat with me: ?I am lacking. I am spiritually bankrupt, I am morally unclean, I am unworthy before God.? Difficult, isn?t it? The answer to spiritual poverty is not better self-esteem. Jesus doesn?t offer platitudes to calm our sense of worthlessness. He doesn?t tell us, ?You are good; you are somebody; you can do it!? Instead, He says, ?My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness? (2 Corinthians 12:9).

It?s that simple. It?s all about Him. He is rich; we are poor. He is the ?Father of the heavenly lights,? from whom flow all ?good and perfect? gifts (James 1:17); we are like the Canaanite woman who aspired only to the crumbs falling from the master?s table (Matthew 15:21?28).


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Not Deceived

An ancient Chinese emperor had prohibited all mention of death in his presence; violation guaranteed execution. Instead, those in the court had to create and sing odes to his immortality. ?On once hearing that graffiti suggesting he would soon die had been found in a distant part of the empire, the emperor sent officials to find the culprit; when they failed, he had all the people living in the district put to death. He was not a man to take intimations of mortality lightly.?

Most of us don?t either. We shouldn?t. But killing people to stamp out the idea of death?

Yet the good news of the gospel is that because of the resurrection of Jesus?that is, because of His victory over death?believers will share in that victory as well. They close their eyes in death, and the next thing they know, ?in the twinkling of an eye,? at the second coming of Jesus, they ?will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed? (1 Corinthians 15:52)?that is, changed into immortality.


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The Role of Prayer in Evangelism

It is impossible to underestimate the role of prayer in evangelism. It is like breathing. Without it, many convicted souls would never make the decision to trust Jesus and His Word. When the apostles healed the paralytic at the temple, the Lord used the miracle to lead five thousand more to faith in Him (Acts 3:1?4:4). Peter and John were subsequently arrested. In the meantime, the rest of the apostles prayed earnestly for them, ?fearing that the cruelty shown to Christ might be repeated.?2 Once released, Peter and John joined the rest, and they prayed, fully conscious of the great controversy being waged over souls (Acts 4:23?31). ?The disciples prayed that greater strength might be imparted to them . . . for they saw that they would meet the same determined opposition that Christ had encountered when upon the earth.?3 This may be a reason why Jesus explicitly asked His followers to pray for more laborers willing to be involved in the work of evangelism (Matthew 9:36?38). Note that Jesus never asked us to pray for more souls. He knows many more people are ready to respond to our message than we imagine (John 4:35). What is needed are members willing to ?harvest? them.


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Covenant Primer

There must be no withholding on our part, of our service or our means, if we would fulfill our covenant with God. The purpose of all God?s commandments is to reveal man?s duty not only to God, but to his fellow man. In this late age of the world?s history, we are not, because of the selfishness of our hearts, to question or dispute the right of God to make these requirements, or we will deceive our­selves, and rob our souls of the richest blessings of the grace of God. Heart and mind and soul are to be merged in the will of God. Then the covenant, framed from the dictates of infinite wisdom, and made binding by the power and authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords, will be our pleasure. It is enough that He has said that obedi­ence to His statutes and laws is the life and prosperity of His people.

The blessings of God?s covenant are mutual. God accepts those who will work for His name?s glory, to make His name a praise in a world of apostasy and idolatry. He will be exalted by His commandment-keeping people that He may make them ?high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour? (Deuteronomy 26:19).?God?s Amazing Grace, p. 150.


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God ? the Initiator of the new covenant

In Jeremiah 31:31? 34 we find the Bible?s most profound and exciting promise of the new covenant. This marvelous new-covenant announcement contains in its first sentence the key theme of God as the divine Initiator of the new covenant, ?I will make a new covenant? (Jeremiah 31:31). This reveals that the new covenant, in some way, is in continuity with the previous covenants. The divine fellowship that was God?s design for His previous covenants is to be realized in the new covenant, ?I . . . will be their God, and they shall be my people? (verse 33).

This covenant of grace initiated in the mind of God long before the foundations of the earth were laid was the covenant that God established with Adam in the Garden of Eden. ?The covenant of grace was first made with man in Eden. . . . To all men this covenant offered pardon and the assisting grace of God for future obedience through faith in Christ.?9 This covenant of grace made with the first sinner in the Garden of Eden was the same covenant that God established with Abraham. ?This covenant, made from eternity, was given to Abraham hundreds of years before Christ came.?10 The fact that Scripture contains good news for life now and good news for the life to come is the best news for all humanity.


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