Thursday, February 28, 2013

God's Pronouncement

Well known wars of history often have had significant battles such as Gettysburg of the Civil War and the Battle of the Bulge of World War II.  In our study of Spiritual Warfare the personal clash between Jesus and Satan is significant in several areas. 

First, it was just after the wonderful experience of Jesus' baptism that He was led by the Spirit into this battle. Interesting how a spiritual "high" is followed by a spiritual struggle. 

Second, there is the question of what is the purpose for Jesus to face these temptations. Was it to exhibit Jesus' sinlessness and power in the Spirit?  Was it for our encouragement in His relating to our struggles and showing us how to have victory?  

Third, the question arises as to whether Jesus could have yielded and sinned.  If that was not possible - were the temptations truly tempting?  Either way one sees it, we know that He did NOT sin!  AMEN! 

Fourth, we see the 3 temptations Jesus faced as classic examples of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16 KJV).  Some see these 3 temptations as invitations to selfishness, sensationalism, and an unscriptural shortcut! 

Fifth and finally, we learn of the power of God's Pronouncement = the Word of God that can give victory over temptation in spiritual warfare.  We learn that the Bible is a directive, a defense, and a deterrent vs. sinful temptation.

See you Sunday!

1.  Why do you think the Spirit would lead Jesus to do battle with Satan?  Matthew 4:1

2.  Compare the first temptation with the first temptation.  Matthew 4:3; Genesis 3:1-6

3.  In the second temptation the devil actually quotes Scripture to Jesus to bolster his temptation.  Matthew 4:6: Psalm 91:11-12   Can you think of any ways the Scripture can be misused?

4.  Why do you think the devil said "If you are the Son of God..."  (Matthew 4:3.6)?  Is it to make Jesus doubt or to tempt Him to "prove it'?  Do we ever give way to doubt or the pride of "proving it"?

5.  Jesus came to benefit the world. (John 3:16)  Some see the third temptation as an attempt on Satan's part to give Jesus the chance to help the world without going to the cross. (Matthew 4:9-10)
Would that truly have helped the people of the world?

6.  Three times Jesus wins the victory by declaring "It is written...” and quoting Scripture. (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10 Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:13, 6:16)   How can you and I make the Bible a real weapon of victory in our lives when fighting temptation?


Friday, February 22, 2013

God's Proof

Years ago I was visiting a university chapel with a large stained glass window above the chancel.  As I stopped to stare at that window, the clouds racing across the sky played tricks on me.  At first, all I could see was my own reflection.  The sky outside had darkened, turning the window into a mirror.  Suddenly the clouds moved and the mirror dissolved. Then the light shifted, and I could see through the glass to the outside world.  Turning to leave, I glanced back at the window once more.  This time I saw something I had missed earlier, the full stunning stained glass portrait.  That afternoon I had looked at the same stained glass window in three different ways:  as a mirror, as a window, and as a picture.

In much the same way the Holy Spirit leads those who study the Old Testament stories to see the text in three different ways, a mirror, a window, and a picture.  First, to see the text as a mirror one employs what’s called thematic analysis.  Here we treat Old Testament stories as mirrors that reflect our own interest and concerns.  This is the kind of examination for which Charles Spurgeon was famous.  He would read I Samuel 12:17, for instance, “Is it not wheat harvest today?” and use that question as a jumping off point for a sermon on evangelism.  Thematic analysis is arguably the most common lens through which most “application-driven” preachers view the Scriptures.  However, thematic analysis offers but one glimpse of the full portrait and meaning of the text.

Another kind of analysis is historic analysis where we see the text as a window to historical events and cultural mores.  Historic analysis is a synonym for examining the historical context of the text to better understand the culture of the times.  The third type of analysis is literary analysis where we look at an Old Testament story as a picture, appreciating the forms and content that we find there.  As we seek to understand all that God is saying in a text, we must employ each one of these interpretive approaches influences.  Rather than operating independently, each type of analysis depends on the other.

Now, I can say all of this because on Sunday we will be examining one of the high watermark stories in Old Testament history.  It’s the story of Abraham and Isaac at Mount Moriah.  The events recorded in Genesis 22:1-19 are as prominent in Old Testament history as they are in New Testament history.  For what happens in Genesis 22 is nothing short of the proof of God’s plan of victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.

However, as is the case in so many biblical accounts, the story of Abraham and Isaac is often viewed through only one lens, the thematic lens where God’s testing of Abraham is all that is in focus.  By using thematic analysis alone, many preachers focus solely on the obedience angle and thus promulgate messages such as: “Abraham’s Surrender”, “Passing the Test”, and “Raising the Knife.”  But to look at this incident from only one vantage yields only a glimpse into its meaning.  While the text starts out by saying, “God tested Abraham” as a kind of theme sentence, there’s another more compelling way to look upon the story that yields far greater insight into what God is doing here.  This is the approach we will be taking this Sunday.  Rather than focusing on father Abraham’s perspective, we will be focusing on another Father’s perspective; a Father who is called to do even more than Abraham.  In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Where is Abraham when he gets this order?

2.      Where is this land of Moriah?  What does Moriah mean?

3.      How is Isaac Abraham’s only son?

4.      How long does Abraham have to think about what he’s going to do?

5.      What are the ages of Abraham and Isaac?

6.      What is the nature of a burnt offering?  How does it differ from other offerings?

7.      What is behind Abraham’s answer in verse 8?

8.      How do you compare Isaac’s question in verse 7 to the discovery in verse 13?

9.      What parallels exist between Isaac and Jesus?

10.  How does what happens at Moriah foreshadow Jesus’ total victory in the Spiritual War?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

God's Pledge

It’s a strange childhood pledge:  “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”  You’d think that one’s death would be enough!  So what’s the needle in the eye business?

Well, in earlier years the custom of undertakers was to stick a needle in the eye of the alleged death victim to make sure they were really dead before lowering them into the ground.  There’s no record that I could find of anyone ever screaming out in pain due to a misdiagnosis.  In fact, when you think about it, it’s a crude way of confirming one’s death, but effective!  Here in Sunday’s text, Genesis 15:1-18, we find a much more dramatic and effective way to determine the seriousness of an oath than a needle in the eye.  Indeed, here in the third chapter of God’s presentation of the life of Abram, we find the most monumental oath ever made.

There’s an old adage that is quite apt when you come to a text like Genesis 15:  The New Testament is in the Old Testament contained; the Old Testament is in the New Testament explained.”  And what is contained in Genesis 15 is nothing short of the solid rock on which our victory over Satan is confirmed.  Indeed, what God does for Abram in the aftermath of his victory over the coalition of kings is nothing short of a mirror image of what He does in Christ for every child of Abraham who He’s claimed as His own.

In verse one, the Bible says, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram…”  This is the first time in the Bible that we read of the word of the Lord coming to someone.  It’s an expression that we will read well over a hundred times in the balance of Scripture, but this is the first time we hear of it.

And what is it that the Lord says to this man Abram?  And what is the context for Him saying it?  What relevance does God’s Word have to Abram’s circumstances?  And how in the world does God prove to Abram and us that what He says He means?

Years ago I preached on this same text in our year-long series on “Themes from Genesis.”  In that message I mentioned a man whom I revere, an exceptional student of the Scriptures, who once said in my hearing that if he were imprisoned at the end of his life and could have one chapter of Scripture in his possession, that chapter would be Genesis 15.  Now I will elaborate on Sunday, but think about that.  Why this chapter?  How is this chapter the ground on which we can stand confidently at the end of life, with all our questions and concerns?

We embark on a new section of our series Jesus Wins this Sunday.  This section entitled, “The Ground of Victory”, will carry us all the way through Easter.  In preparation for Sunday’s message, “God’s Pledge”, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      What does verse 1 tell us about Abram’s state of mind and emotions?

2.      What is Abram’s principle concern here?

3.      What does God mean when He says that He is Abram’s shield and his exceedingly great reward?

4.      How long has it been since God first promised Abram descendents?

5.      How many ways does God reiterate His promise to His descendents?

6.      How is Abram’s belief (verse 6) different from any other description of “faith” prior to Genesis 15:6?  (Note: This is the first time in the Bible that we read that some believed the Lord.)

7.      What does the word “believe” mean?

8.      Why does Paul labor this in Romans 4?

9.      How does God answer Abram’s question in verse 8?

10.  What relevance does His answer have to you and me in the midst of spiritual warfare?

11.  Why would that man, in jail at the end of his life, pick Genesis 15:17 as the one verse he’d keep if he were down to one verse?

 See you Sunday and plan on staying for Hebron’s Vision Team Report!  Where God’s leading us is exciting!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Handling the Choice"

For years critics of the Bible have laughed at the fourteenth chapter of Genesis.  Encyclopedias of a hundred years ago do not even mention the existence of Amraphel, king of Shinar.  This chapter was named as proof against the inspiration of Scripture.  But then in 1901 an Egyptian archaeologist made a discovery in a remote town in Israel.  He discovered a set of cuneiform tablets and suddenly the positive identity of Amraphel was made.  He is none other than Hammurabi, the first king of Babylonia.  Together with his set of laws, called the Code of Hammurabi, this discovery not only affirmed the historicity of Amraphel, it erased one of the major weapons of attack biblical critics had in their dwindling arsenal.

This week we will dig deeply into Genesis 14 and find not only solid evidence of biblical inspiration, but a dramatic revelation that will bring substantial clarity to our understanding of spiritual warfare.  Here on the pages of chapter 14 we find the first biblical record of human warfare in which a coalition of four kings swoop in and defeat five kingdoms in ancient Palestine.  One of these defeated kings was the king of Sodom.

Now it’s instructive to note that these kings operated more like mayors. They had few standing armies so when Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and his cohorts defeat Sodom and the other towns; they not only capture the spoils, but the important people as well.  The Bible tells us that Lot and his family are captured by this coalition and taken away.  When the news comes to Abram in the hill country around Hebron this Abram who exhibits meekness and kindness in chapter 12, suddenly turns militaristic.  He marshals 318 of his trained men and takes off to defeat this kingly coalition and save his nephew and his family.

In this story of Abram’s exploits we find an amazing revelation of God’s design to defeat the prince of this world, Satan.  Here in Genesis 14:10-24 we find the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the answer to the question, “What role does the believer play in spiritual warfare?”

It’s tempting to launch into a full exegesis of the text right here, but I’m determined to wait until Sunday.  Suffice to say that what we find in Genesis 14:10-24 is a perfect prelude to the communion elements that will be distributed then.

In preparation for our study you may wish to consider the following:

1.      What are the circumstances of Abram’s life at this point in time? (How old is he?  Where does he travel to fight?)

2.      Who are these 318 trained men?  What is their military training?

3.      How do the words of verse 20 capture the essence of Abram’s exploits?

4.      How is it that Melchizedek is called the greatest figure of the Old Testament?  (Note the companion text for Sunday: Hebrews 7:1-10.)

5.      Where is the Valley of Shaveh?  What role does this valley play in future biblical history?

6.      What does the name Melchizedek mean?

7.      What does the Bible mean when it says that someone is righteous?

8.      What is the significance of the name of God used in verses 18, 19, 20, and 22?  Have we heard this name before in this preaching series?

9.      What is the significance of this name to Abram?

10.  What is the meaning of the Bible’s juxtaposition of the King of Sodom and the King of Salem?

11.  What is the significance of Melchizedek’s gifts to Abram?

12.  What is the meaning of Abram’s words in verses 22 and 23?

13.  What lessons are here for us in our fight against Satan and his forces?

Can’t wait for Sunday!