If I only (fill in blank) God would approve of me more, right?

There’s one concern that ought to outweigh all others – and that is this: To be able to answer the question, “How can I be right with God?”

How can a person know that they stand in God’s favor and not under His judgment?

How can they be confident that when this life is over, they’re accepted and not condemned before the Heavenly Judge?

What is righteousness? It simply means to BE in the right; being in the place where God approves us.

Under the Mosaic Covenant, righteousness was conditioned on obedience to the Law. For ancient Israel, being right with God was about what a person did or didn’t do. It was based in their works, how well they performed in light of the commands and statutes of God. The blood of the sacrifice provided a covering to hide their guilt from God. As soon as they sinned, they were no longer right until they brought another sacrifice and once more covered over their guilt.

The only time they could be confident they were okay with God was when the smoke of their sacrifice ascended to heaven. But how long would it be before they sinned once more & another sacrifice would be needed?

While Israel’s righteousness was based on their performance of and obedience to the law, ours is based, not in our performance, but in Christ’s.

The only way a person can be right with God is to obey Him. For Israel, that obedience was to the Law; our obedience is to believe in Christ – who lived a life of perfect righteousness before God.

Being right with God is all about works – the only issue is whose works we stand in – ours or Christ’s! Either we come to God in ourselves, bringing our own merit and effort, or we come to God in Christ, standing in His merit.

The prophet Isaiah tells us what a righteousness based on our works is like. In Isaiah 64:6 we read, “We are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”

The Apostle Paul was someone who went through a radical transformation when he realized that being right with God was not about what he did but by believing in what Christ had done.

Philippians 3:4-9
4bIf anyone thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Paul was a standout among his peers when it came to morality and keeping the rules of his religion as a Jew. When Jesus met him on the Road to Damascus, Paul came to realize that the righteousness he needed wasn’t based in his works, his performance, but came through faith in Christ who had already performed FOR him.

He goes on to say in Philippians 3:8-9 “8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.

There it is right there…we can attempt to gain acceptance and righteousness with God through our own works, or we can be right with Him through the One He’s already accepted.

Which do you choose?

Psalm 27:4 “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”

David knew the only way to enjoy fellowship with God was to be right with Him, and the only time he felt truly right with God was at the tabernacle, offering sacrifice to Him.

The same is true for us – our confidence in fellowship with God comes through sacrifice, but not the offering of a goat or bull; our sacrifice is Jesus Christ, and what He offered on the cross was enough for all time.

His is a perfect sacrifice that forever cleanses those who come to Him. Our righteousness, and so our fellowship with God, is not the see-saw experience of the Israelite under the law, it’s a confident expectation that because Jesus is eternally right with God and we are in Him, then we too are right with God & can enjoy the most intimate communion with Him every moment of every day, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

Now we have the answer to that most important of all questions – “How can a person be right with God.” Through faith in Jesus Christ; that what He did in living a sinless and perfect life, then dying for us and rising again from the dead, provides the ground upon which we can stand accepted by God for all eternity.

Christian, God already accepts you completely in Christ! You cannot make God accept or love you more!

Your fellowship with God is not based on your performance, on whether or not you’ve been a good boy or girl. your fellowship with God is based on your new relationship with God through faith in Jesus and what HE’S done.

In other words, the Father looks at you in the same way He looks at the Son, with full and unreserved acceptance and love. YOU now are His son, His daughter, and as such,your standing before God is based on relationship, not performance.

Many of us base our approach to God like a service based on our efforts instead of realizing we are His sons and daughters. We think that it’s all up to us, that we have to perform and that our closeness to God is based on how well we’re doing. We think God’s acceptance and blessing is based on what we do.

What God would have us know today is that because of what Christ HAS DONE, we cannot make ourselves more acceptable to Him! The great secret of intimacy with God is to let go of self-effort in earning our way to His favor, and instead, taking by faith what is already ours.

Some think, “Oh if I only read the Bible more often…or prayed more often…or evangelized more…that God would love me more and His favor would shine upon me more”. No! Christian, because of Christ, God loves you and accepts you just as much now as if you did all those things…those things are good, but those things will not incur more favor with God. Since God has fully accepted Christ, since you are IN Christ, God has fully accepted you! By saying these things to yourself, you are creating your own works based righteousness, not God based. Essentially telling yourself that if you do these things under your own effort, that God would accept you more.

There are those who say that a message like this is dangerous because it sounds like it doesn’t matter what we do – that because God accepts us in Christ, obedience doesn’t matter.

Can the Christian live a morally careless life and still be right with God? Can a believer live IN sin and be righteous In Christ at the same time? Of course not!

The evidence we are truly God’s sons and daughters is a growing family resemblance – we will look ever more like our Father. The fruit of genuine faith is not perfection but growth toward it.

As you stand before God, do you come in yourself, or Christ? If you come in Christ, then know this, God fully accepts and loves you without reserve. God yearns for you to just bask in that love and acceptance and that you would forever be free from fear and worry.

As Christopher quoted a few days ago, 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”

If you come in yourself, and think that you can be right before God in your own works, you are tragically mistaken. You see, you’re basing your ideas on what God accepts by comparing yourself to other people instead of God’s standard. God doesn’t measure you against other people, grade on the bell curve – His standard is perfection.

Since no one but Jesus meets the criteria, no one gets in any other way but through Him.

Christ: The Ultimate Priest

Hebrews 7:23-25 “23Another difference is that there were many priests under the old system. When one priest died, another had to take his place. 24But Jesus remains a priest forever; his priesthood will never end. 25Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save completely everyone who comes to God through him. He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf.”

-God never intended the Judaism of the past to be the final or full revelation of His plan or will for them. Judaism set the stage for a new covenant, which would be brought in by the Messiah. Until Messiah came, Judaism came short of the bar and was confined to rituals and laws which all pointed forward to the Word of the Messiah who would bring full growth and allow them to enter into what Judaism could only point toward and prepare for.

-Here in chapter 7 of Hebrews, the writer is showing how Jesus serves as a priest from an order of priests which is vastly superior to the priesthood of Israel. One of the reasons Jesus is a superior priest to the priests who had served Israel is because He has risen from the dead and so serves continually, which is not something the Israeli priests were capable of doing. As John MacArthur states, “The . . . priests had what might be called the ultimate disqualification for permanent ministry: death! None of them could serve indefinitely. Each died and had to be succeeded in order for the priesthood to continue.”

-For the Jews under the Old Covenant, their approach to God was only through a substitutionary sacrifice that would be offered by a priest to God on their behalf. But the problem with that were the questions of what if the priest took their offering to God with a distracted mind or cold heart, or what if the priest was tired or ill or just out of sheer boredom used shortcuts in the procedure that would dishonor the holiness of God? Also, not all the priests served with integrity, some were corrupt and defiled the office, thus the priesthood changed from priest to priest, and as a result, the quality of spiritual life among the people changed as well!

-The writer of Hebrews is saying here that because Jesus has risen from the dead, never to die – his priesthood continues on, unchanging. What makes this especially comforting is that His priesthood, His service as our high priest is perfect! The sacrifice He brings before The Father on our behalf isn’t merely the blood of some bull or goat, which just covered over sin temporarily, it is His own precious blood which purges and washes us as white as snow and removes our sin as far from us as the east is from the west!

-Jesus is serving even now as our great high priest and as Christians we can have full assurance that the service He performs before The Father is totally acceptable to Him. Therefore because Jesus continues forever and abides in the office of our Great High Priest – from that office and position – He is able to save! To what extent does His salvation go? To the uttermost, all the way, completely, entirely, without distraction, with nothing left undone. It doesn’t matter WHO you are or WHAT you have done, Jesus is able to save you, completely!
He who framed the universe with one word He is able to save you and I.

-He has the power to affect all that that word salvation means, to heal, to deliver from danger, to protect and preserve, and to make complete and whole.

-The moment we turn from our sin and put our faith in Christ, we are saved from the penalty of our sin. Now, as we abide in Christ, we are being saved from the power of sin and when Christ comes again, we will be saved from the very presence of sin! What a hope and a freedom we have!

-There is no salvation from sin but faith in Jesus Christ! Not only is Jesus the only hope, the only way of salvation, but now that He has risen from the dead, He lives on, making continual and constant intercession for us before the Father. Unlike the priests of old who entered the presence behind the veil, performed their service then left, Jesus has sat down at the right hand of God and from that position of favor He intercedes on our behalf. Romans 8:34 “Who then will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus? No, for he is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us.”

-There’s a story I heard about a mother who told her son to go into the garden and pick some flowers to make a nice arrangement for his father when he got home from work. The boy collected everything that caught his eye and returned with a mass of both flowers and weeds. But when the father come home, he was greeted by a beautiful bouquet! You see, the mother’s tender care had removed the weeds and arranged the flowers. This story is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus does with our prayers. How often we bring “weeds” in with the “flowers” of our prayers before God, but Jesus knows our hearts and knows the Father’s will, so He arranges our requests and presents them to the Father in a manner the Father is both blessed by and moves to answer. How fortunate we are to have such a wonderful high priest acting on our behalf!

-We need not be so concerned about the wording of our prayers because Jesus intercedes for us always and He takes our prayers and presents them to the Father as a beautiful bouquet!

-Jesus not only makes intercession for us with His words; He also intercedes for us with His wounds! If you went to the house of a former great sports player, like Joe Namath, and you sat on his couch and he said, “I was a great football player,” there would be no debate…all the trophies surrounding him would prove that. In the same way Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father; His wounds the evidence He is a great Savior!

-Jesus makes intercession for more than just our prayers, He intercedes for us! when we fail, when we fall and sin, He is right there at the Father’s side to ensure we may obtain mercy and find grace. So, Christian, embrace this freedom and this intercession and praise and thank Jesus for His wonderful sacrifice and His continuing work on our behalf!

The New Temple during the Millennium

Many people do not know this, but do you know the Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt during the Millennium, when Christ comes and establishes His kingdom on this earth after the Tribulation? Yes, and even animal sacrifices will be reinstituted. I found an interesting commentary on this that i would like to share with you…explaining what the purpose of the Temple will be and why animal sacrifice will be reinstituted.

“Ezekiel 33-39 dealt with the new life Israel will experience when she is gathered back into her lan and restored to fellowship with God [this is speaking about after the Tribulation….Christ will gather His people from their hiding places back to Jerusalem]. The last nine chapters of the book explain how Israel’s new order will be established. A new temple will be built as a sign of God’s presence among His people (Ezekiel 40-43), and a new service of worship will be established so the people will have access to their God (Ezekiel 44-46). Then a new division of the land will be made for the people (Ezekiel 47-48).

God has promised to rebuild His sanctuary among His people (Ezekiel 37:26-28); Ezekiel 44-46 give the plans for the temple to be rebuilt. Three interpretations of Ezekiel 40-43 are held by bible students: 1) Ezekiel predicted a rebuilding of Solomon’s temple after the Babylonian Captivity. 2) Ezekiel was prophesying about the church in a figurative sense; he did not have a literal temple in mind. 3) A still-future literal temple will be built during the millenial kingdom. The first view must be eliminated because it suggests that Ezekiel was mistaken when he wrote. No prophet speaking under God’s authority ever uttered a false prediction (cf. Deuteronomy 18:21-22; Matthew 5:17-18). Also the remnant that returned to Israel after the Exile did not follow Ezekiel’s specifications. The second view must also be eliminated because it violates the normal meaning of Ezekiel’s words. Those who hold this view are inconsistent for the interpret Ezekiel’s earlier, now-fulfilled prophecies literally, yet interpret his yet-unfulfilled prophecies symbolically. Why did Ezekiel take so much space to describe the millennial temple? Here are two reasons: 1) the sanctuary was the symbol of God’s presence among His people. The prelude to Israel’s judgment began when God’s glory departed from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8-11). The climax to her restoration as a nation will come when God’s glory reenters the new temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel43:1-5). 2) The new temple will become the visible reminder of Israel’s relationship to God through His New Covenant. Since God gave detailed instructions for building the tabernacle to accompany His inauguration of the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Exodus 25-40), it is not unusual that He would also supply detailed plans for His new center of worship, to accompany the implementation of the New Covenant. This temple will be the focal point for the visible manifestatioin of Israel’s new relationship with her God.

Ezekiel 4:38-43 At the sides of the inner gates tables were set up for slaughtering the sacrifices. Four tables were on one side of the gate and four on the other–eight tables in all. The sacrifices prepared on these tables would then be offered on the altar in the inner court. Many have objected to the thought of animal sacrifices being reinstituted during the Millennium. Since these sacrifices, it is argued, revert back to the Levitical sacrificial system, they would be out of place in the Millennium. This has caused some to take the passage symbolically rather than literally. However, no difficulty exists if one understands the proper function of these sacrifices. First, animal sacrifices never took away human sin (it only covered over it temporarily); only the sacrifice of Christ can take away sin (cf. Hebrews 10:1-4, 10). In Old Testament times Israelites were saved by grace through faith, and teh sacrifices helped restore a believer’s fellowship with God. Second, even after the church began, Jewish believers did not hesitate to take part in the temple worship (cf. Acts 2:46;Acts 3:1; Acts 5:42) and even to offer sacrifices (Acts 21:26). They could do this because they viewed the sacrifices as memorials of Christ’s death.

Levitical sacrifices were connected with Israel’s worship of God. When the church supplanted Isreal in God’s program (cf. Romans 11:11-24) a new economy or dispensation began. The Levitical sacrificial system, which looked forward to Christ, was replaced by the Lord’s Supper (or communion), which looked back to His death and forward to His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:24, 26). At Christ’s second coming Israel will again assume her place of prominence in God’s kingdom program (cf. Romans 11:25-27). The Lord’s supper will be eliminated, because Christ will have returned. It will be replaced by animal sacrifices, which will be memorials or object lessons of the supreme sacrifice made by the Lamb of God. The slaughtering of these animals will be vivid reminders of the Messiah’s suffering and death.

The millennial sacrifices will differ from the Levitical sacrifices though there are some similarities. Other passages also refer to a sacrificial system during the Millennium (Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 66:20-23; Jeremiah 33:18; Zechariah 14:15-21; Malachi 3:3-4).

The priests to preside over the sacrifices will be descended from Zadok (cf. Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:15; Ezekiel 48:11), the high priest in Solomon’s day (1 Kings 1:26-27).”

Is War Wrong According to the Bible?

I. IntroductionII. The Power of the Sword

Romans 13:1-7 “1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise
from the same. 4For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

-As Christians, whose citizenship in the Kingdom of God takes precedence over our citizenship as Americans, our views ought to be based, not on political loyalties, but on the unchanging truths of God’s Word. We should base what we believe on God and what He has said because Truth does not change, whereas cultural and political views and movements do.

-The aim of this article is to see what the Bible says about the right use of force and when, if ever, war is justified.

-Generally Christians fall into 2 camps when it comes to the subject of war
1)Those who support the idea of a just war because they read in the Old Testament of God’s command to Israel to make war, specifically the command to make a conquest of the land of Canaan.
2)Those who oppose war based on the 6th Commandment not to murder, and on Jesus’ teaching and modeling of non-violence in the New Testament.

-The governing authority at the time this verse was written was Rome.

-Paul recognized the God-ordained role of civil government and called on Christians to honor and submit to it. (verse 1)

-Paul is saying that civil government is ordained by God. God appoints the office of rulers over others because there is a need for it. That need exists because of the advent of sin during the Fall.

-Without an authority structure in place, the sinfulness of man, manifested in his
selfishness, will result in constant conflict.

-Paul equates a refusal to submit to the authority of civil rulers as nothing less than opposition to God Himself. (verse 2) Why? Because God ordained the civil rulers to maintain order. It is part of His Will for us on earth to answer to these governmental authorities.

-It is the duty of the ruled to be subject to the God-ordained authority of civil rulers.

-God ordains civil government to support what is morally good while suppressing evil. (v. 3)
-Authority is empty if it is not backed up by force.
-The sword is the “compelling power” to authority.

-Authority refers to the legal right. Force speaks of the ability to do so. For example, a policeman has a badge showing he has the legal right to enforce the law, and he has a gun which serves as the means by which he enforces it. His gun makes the authority of the badge effective.

-God ordains civil government both authority and the power to back up that authority.

-We must recognize and honor the expressions of God’s authority, and that is what civil rulers are.

-Since submission to civil rulers is seen as a submission to God according to the Bible, then a defiance of civil rulers is likewise a defiance toward God.

-What about those civil rulers who hate God and place terrible demands on people?

It is interesting to look back at the persecution of early Christians and notice that those who were being persecuted did not defy the authority and become full out protestors; the early Christians instead displayed a quiet, gentle humility toward the executioners who were abusing them. Although the Christians disobeyed the law by refusing to worship and call Caesar god, they were obeying the spirit behind the laws given…a spirit of humility and submission to the laws of God. As a result of their quiet, yet strong spirits, many of their executioners became Christians also because they saw how good and upright the Christians were and how they humbly submitted to the sentence given them by the government as opposed to non-Christian law breakers.

-Christians not only owe a debt of submission and respect to civil rulers, they owe them support. This support is shown through the paying of taxes.

-Taxes are us affirming the God ordained role of government and showing our recognition of God’s authority through government.

-What about governments who misuse taxes? Should we stop paying taxes because we do not agree with what the government is doing with them? No, we should continue to pay our taxes regardless of what the government does with the money because God is the ultimate judge and these civil authorities will ultimately be judged and held accountable for their actions when we all will stand before His throne.

-Our duty as Christians right now is to obey the laws of God given through civil government.

The Use of Force

-Paul sees the proper or just use of the “sword” as being the restraint and punishment of evil.

-Because we live in a fallen world, force is necessary to restrain those who are doing evil, and when they perpetrate evil, to punish them.

-God will spiritually judge individuals for the evil they do by eternal means.
But He also judges evil in the here and now through human agents.

-Justice and Love are not mutually exclusive. True justice always comes to bring out the most perfect virtue: love. True justice seeks to restrain evil so that love and peace can prevail.

-God is NOT opposed to the use of force if it is used to a just end. In fact, Jesus will judge with a “rod of iron” in the Millenium where justice will be perfect and swift (no lawyers, no juries, no long drawn out trials…Jesus will use force swiftly to bring about peace and justice).

The Doctrine of “Just War”

The “Just War” must…

1) Have just cause (ie. restraining evil or punishing evil doers; or preventing imminent evil harm from occurring).

2) Be declared by a proper authority (not just anyone can declare war).

3) Possess right intention (ie. to redress an injury or prevent one from occurring).

4) Have a reasonable chance of success (there must be a good enough reason to risk the lives of troops)

5) Have as its ultimate goal the establishment of peace in a region.

6) Be waged with means proportional to the end.

7) Use weapons and methods which discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.

-What about what Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount? Matthew 5:39 Or what about Luke 6:35, Exodus 20:13, Psalm 34:14, and Matthew 5:9?

-In Romans 13, Paul is identifying the God-ordained role of civil government and the way believers relate to it. The previous verses, on the other hand, deal with interpersonal relationships, not the role of the civil government….it’s apples and oranges.

-The 6th commandment prohibits MURDER, not killing. Murder is the premeditated, purposeful taking of a life (or lives) without the legal justification or authority to do so.

-Civil rulers have a God-ordained task with the delegated power to back it up–the protection of those they serve by leading them. Police are delegated to do this on a local level, and civil government is authorized to do this on a national and global level.

-A strong and capable military acts as a restraint to evil.

III. ConclusionSometimes War is Necessary!

War that’s waged to protect a nation’s citizens from imminent harm is the proper function of civil government.

Our Calling

No matter how good the world may be doing, it is ever the role of the church to stand as a prophetic voice, separate from the world and separate from the government, calling the world to an even greater degree of righteousness.

-Churches should NOT buddy up with any political view or movement. Our duty as Christians is to stand to the side calling others to the cause of the Kingdom of Christ. We are not Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or Green Peace in God’s eyes; we are Christians and should act likewise.