Who chooses slavery when they are born to freedom?

The deception of religious human effort

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 4:21-5:1

It is a perfectly normal human tendency to want to earn what we get. We don’t like to be objects of “charity.” However, when it comes to our relationship with God, we should probably rethink that posture. Paul lays out an allegory that carries us all the way to the end of chapter 5. It is a story of freedom and slavery. Given a choice, who would be a slave? (more…)

He made two into one dwelling place for God

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:11-22

The Apostle Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. He makes that clear in many passages in the New Testament. One of the issues that had to be often addressed in his ministry was the relationship between Jewish believers and Gentiles. The Ephesian church had this problem of a division among the believers over the distinction between Jews and Gentiles.

The previous section of Scripture ended with the marvelous truth that we are the workmanship of the Father, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which the Father prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Now Paul, as Peter did on occasion, makes a strong statement to remember something. (more…)

How to see God’s purpose fulfilled in your life

Doing what you can't do apart from Jesus

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another. – John 15:1-17

Wouldn’t it be great if whenever we prayed for something we would see the answer we want right away? Our God is sovereign and can do anything; he could answer prayers that way. It is in his power to do so. But it isn’t in his purpose to do so. This section of John’s gospel contains two of the favorite pro-prayer passages in Scripture:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

These seem to be pretty straightforward promises to give us whatever we want and ask for…until, of course, we take into account the context. Nonetheless, they are still powerful promises that are beyond human belief. (more…)

Security: the power of the eternal covenant

What God did before he did anything

I used to think that before God created, he was inactive. He just sat there and did nothing. After all, there was no creation to care for. What was he doing? I know better now.

Before the beginning...there was covenant

I certainly don’t know all that God did, but he has made some things known.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29

Eternal Covenant

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The source of loyalty: what every relationship needs

One of my favorite words in the Bible is the Hebrew word, “hesed,” or “Chesed.” Probably one reason I like it is the fact that it is a very nuanced word that can’t be translated into English with a single word. It is translated variously in different translations and different contexts as “lovingkindness,” “steadfast love,” “mercy,” “faithfulness,” “loyalty,” “love,” “goodness,” and “covenant faithfulness” or “covenant love.”

Of all the translations, I have a special affinity for the “covenant love” or “covenant faithfulness” translations. The inclusion of covenant into the word clarifies the fact that God’s love and faithfulness are related to his covenant. It is not a vascilating emotion but a commitment to the object of his love that is founded on a covenant. (more…)

Unlocking the Jesus code in the Bible

Exodus 34 

The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” …

10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you…

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.

 

The people were afraid to go up the mountain close to God because of the thunder, the smoke and fire and the shaking earth. Understandable! So, they said, Moses, you go up for us. He did.

When he came back down, they discovered another source of fear. The face of Moses shone because he had been with God. Moses had somehow “absorbed” something of the glory of God so much that his face shone with that glory. (more…)