Friday, January 16, 2009

Spiritual warfare and legalism

Let's look at snapshots in the life of Abraham (Gen. 12-22). In Gen. 12:1-3 Abraham is called by God (his matriculation in the school of faith). The promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) was that he would be blessed of God so that in him all the nations (or families) on the earth might be blessed. This was the Old Testament "Great Commission." Abraham was chosen, and, through him, Israel was called as the people of God. The initial choice of Abraham, however, was for the benefit of all the nations (see Gen. 22:18). In Gen. 12:10-20: Abraham forgets Who is in control and instructs Sarah to lie about their relationship (an unexpected pop quiz which Abraham fails). There are no explicit instructions given to Abraham about God's provision in the famine, so he goes on his own initiative to Egypt. Fearing the Egyptians, and forgetting God's ability to save, he lies about his relationship with Sarah to the Egyptians, Pharaoh's rebuke of Abraham's lie is unanswerable. God is not beyond using unbelievers to teach us about the faith. In Gen. 15:1-6: Abraham believes God, and his belief is credited as righteousness (his mid-term exam, which he aces). Abraham had not yet produced the child that God had promised, and he was questioning whether this would be fulfilled (Gen. 15:1-3). God assures him that it will by taking him outside and showing him the splendor of the universe. The One Who created the stars is the One Who made the promise (Gen. 15:4-5). Abraham's response was to believe (Gen. 15:6), he stopped looking for the gift and started looking at the Giver of all gifts. Abraham "believed in the Lord." This faith did not come as a result of Abraham's work or emotions, but as a response to God's display of His power and majesty. Abraham placed his complete certainty in God's ability to accomplish His purposes. It was reckoned to him for righteousness. God reckoned (credited, hesheb), this Hebrew word is used 121 times in the Old Testament. The basic root of this word refers to using the mind in thinking activity. It has six clearly distinguished variations, including planning, making a judgment, meditating, imputing, inventing and accounting (bookkeeping). Imputing, or counting, is the sense here. Faith is not righteousness, but the reason for it. Righteousness is given to Abraham as a result of his faith. In Gen. 16:1-6: Abraham and Sarah (another pop-quiz and another failure). Abraham has just been declared righteous for believing God will provide descendants-and now he chooses his own way to bring about the fulfillment of God's promise. God is determined to eliminate every possibility except the miraculous in providing Abraham with an heir. It is important to see here that Abraham is guided by the voice of Sarah, not the voice of God. In each character can be seen false pride, false blame, and false neutrality. In Gen. 20:1-7: Abraham again does not trust God (learning another failure). Even so, God protects him. Just before the story of Isaac's birth we once again see Abraham lying to protect himself. Again we are reminded that it is by the grace of God that Isaac is to be born. In Gen. 22:1-18: Abraham's ultimate test: the sacrifice of Isaac (his final research paper, which he passes with flying colors). This is the most significant test of Abraham's entire life. Can he trust God to provide even though Isaac be slain? Who comes first in Abraham;s life-Isaac or God? The parallel between what Abraham was asked to do and what God actually did is obvious-the offering of a son as the ultimate sign of commitment and love. Please read Galatians 4:19-31. The Gospel is a huge threat to Satan's kingdom, because it takes lost souls out of the kingdom of darkness and places them in God's Kingdom of Light. In response the evil one stirs up false teachers to pervert the Gospel. These heritics are called the Judaizers, who appealed to the law, Paul accepts their challenge and uses the law to prove that Christians are not under the law. he takes the familiar story of Ishmael and Isaac and draws from it basic truths about the Christian's relationship to the Law of Moses. I. Let's do a quick recap of the historical facts. At age 75 Abraham was called by God to go to Canaan; at this time God promised him many descendants. At age 85 the promised son has not arrived and Sarah becomes impatient. She suggests that Abraham have a son by Hagar. At age 86 Abraham impregnates Hagar and Sarah gets jealous. At age 99 God speaks to Abraham and promises again that he will have a son by Sarah. At age 100 the son is born. At age 103 at the feast of weaning Ishmael mocks Isaac. II. The spiritual truths taught. Isaac illustrates the believer in several particulars. He was born by God's power. He brought joy to his father. He grew and was weaned. He was persecuted. Hagar, illustrating the Law, was added. Hagar was a slave. Hagar was not meant to bear a child. Hagar gave birth to a slave. Hagar was cast out. Hagar never married. God did not give the Law to any other nation or people, including the church. III. The practical blessings. The law and the old nature want to persecute us and bring us into bondage. We can try to change them, however flesh can't change flesh, this strategy will always fail. We can try to compromise with them, this leads to double mindedness. We can cast them out. "Put off the old man." "Walk in the Spirit and do not obey the lusts of the flesh." Paul said "I die daily." We are not under the Law, but under grace. The new birth we received is just as much a miracle as when Isaac was conceived. The Law brought condemnation, Jesus through the new birth brings life. "He came to give life and that more abundantly." The Law did not give you life and the Law will not sustain life. Paul said "Christ is our life." Don't fall under the spell of a modern day Judaizer.

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