Minor Prophets with a Major Message: Joel

Following a devastating locust invasion – unprecedented in its scope of damage – God instructed Joel to use the locusts as a living illustration of the judgment to come on Judah if they did not repent of their luke-warm, indifferent approach to God.

In Joel 2:25, God says to Judah,

“I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.”

This is an extraordinary statement because God doesn’t say he’ll restore “stuff”, but “years”.

Can God actually restore joy to our lives that pain and heartache have stolen from us over time?  What about the broken-hearted spouse who’s just ended a 20 year marriage?  Or, the guilt-ridden addict who, after spending most of their adult life in chemical bondage, has finally decided to get clean?  Or, the grieving family whose son took his own life after losing his battle with depression?

Can God “restore” the “life” we’ve lost.

God says, emphatically, “I not only can – I will.”

From the moment we put our trust and faith in Christ, the “restoration” is put into motion. 

Some of us see tangible evidence of “restoration” here on planet earth.  (Job’s livestock and wealth were restored to him twofold on earth.) Others of us won’t see restoration until we leave this planet. (Job’s children who were lost in 1:18-19 were restored to him in heaven.) But the promise of restoration remains – and is in effect.

Because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, our redemption and restoration is now possible.  The risen Jesus Christ – restored to glory after being broken for us on the cross – was our preview of the restoration to come.

Hallelujah!  Nick

 

The Relationship Between the Old Testament Law & the New Testament

From time to time I am asked the following question:

What the heck is the “Old Testament Law” and how does it relate to the New Testament?

Here’s the “short” answer: (I realize the following response is not “short”, but it’s definitely shorter than it could be.  🙂 I’ll expound on this topic in a later post)

Very few believers can answer the question posited above.  And for good reason.

The Old Testament book of Leviticus is normally where folks get bogged down after attempting to read the Bible through, beginning with Genesis. Why? Because it’s packed with seemingly arbitrary rules given by God, through Moses, to Israel. (There are 613 levitical laws.)

Nonetheless, this was God’s Law. But what does that mean exactly?

The Law was never intended to be a means of salvation. Rather, as Paul states repeatedly in the New Testament, the Law served as a “guardian”, or teacher, to show Israel how sinful they were in relation to a holy God.

Or, put in a different way, the Law served as a “mirror”, of sorts, to reflect the sin of mankind i.e. our anger, bitterness, gossip, lust, pride, the list seems endless.

Simply put, if city and state governments didn’t post laws – speed limits, for instance – we would have no clue if we were breaking the law since no law existed. Through his servant Moses, God “posted the law.”

Now, to be clear – the Law is subdivided into civic laws, health laws, etc., to guide Israel in ancient times. This is why we no longer are bound by those portions of the Law.

However, the moral Law – the 10 Commandments – and other Old Testament laws referring to morality are forever in play.

Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but the fulfill it.” (More on what this means in a later post.)

Here’s the point I want to highlight in this “brief” post: keeping the Law (following the rules) not once saves us from sin – rather, it reflects our sin and exposes our complete and total failure to live up to God’s standard.

And this is precisely why we were so desperately in need of a Savior – someone who was human – yet able to satisfy the Law. This is why Jesus was able to say from the Cross, “It is finished.”

It was the religious leaders of Jesus’ day – and sadly, in modern times as well – who perpetuated the lie that only when we can “check off the boxes of keeping the rules” will we be acceptable in God’s sight.

This is nothing more than legalism, crippling mankind under the weight of a mindset that asks, “Will I ever be good enough for God?” The answer to that question is an emphatic “no.” But, that’s what makes the “good news” the “good news” – and why the angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy…for to you this day is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

The New Testament unveils what the Old Testament was pointing to, and preparing us for, all along:  we humbly acknowledge our depravity and joyfully profess our faith in the One who lived a perfect life, making himself the perfect, holy sacrifice to God. God confirmed his acceptance of this sacrifice by raising Christ from the dead, forever providing salvation “by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10)

Parenthetically, our discussion up to this point begs the question: If salvation is by faith since the cross, how were people saved before the cross, in Old Testament times?  The short answer is: salvation has always been by faith alone (cf. Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3 – I’ll address this more in a later post.)

For those who continue to listen to Satan’s lie that we can somehow earn salvation through human effort, Paul said, among other things,

“But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.’ …But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing…”

Paul continues, “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Galatians 3:10-13)

Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, wrote that those who continue to teach the lie that salvation is not by placing our faith in the work of Christ on the cross, and, instead, believe and/or teach salvation is received by continuing to somehow earn God’s favor through human effort are “possessed by devils and then those devils are possessed by more powerful devils.” And these devils are more than happy to imprison mankind under backbreaking legalism.

“So Christ has truly set us free,” Paul wrote. “Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (Galatians 5:1)

Author, Philip Yancey, rightly wrote,

“There’s nothing we can do to make God love us any more; and nothing we can do to make God love us any less.”

God’s love for us is fixed, inexorably, due to the work of Christ Jesus on the Cross.

This, my friends, is true freedom.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

 

 

Where is Christ in the Old Testament? (Everywhere)

“When (Apollos) arrived [in Corinth], he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the [Old Testament] Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”  (Acts 18:27-28)

Where does Jesus show up in our Bible?  The Gospels?  Nope.  How about Genesis 1…    Paul wrote in Colossians 1:16, For by [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

The disciple, John, began his gospel this way:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made…”  (1:1-3)  Later, in verse 14, to make certain his readers understood he was writing about Christ, John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

In his classic, “Christ in the Old Testament,” Charles Spurgeon wrote, “To the disciples on the moonlit road, the Master, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded the things concerning Himself.  He is everywhere in Scripture; patriarchs and kings are types of Him who is the Ancient of Days and the Prince of Peace; the Law was but a shadow of good things to come, and the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.  The Old Testament was Christ’s Bible, and it is a Bible full of Christ.”

The early church fathers championed the axiom, “Christ is, in the Old Testament, concealed; and in the New Testament, revealed.”

Christ is Genesis through Revelation – the Living Word made flesh; the Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Christ in the Old Testament

christ-in-ot-4

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Christ] interpreted to them in all the [Old Testament] Scriptures the things concerning himself…These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:27, 44)

Can you imagine hearing these sermons from Jesus, Himself, expositing the Old Testament (the only Testament at the time) concerning Himself?? It’s no wonder the once dejected disciples became known as the courageous “community of the resurrection.”

In his preface to his Christ in the Old Testament, Charles Spurgeon writes,

“[Christ] is everywhere in Scripture; patriarchs and kings are types of Him who is the Ancient of Days and the Prince of Peace; the Law was but a shadow of good things to come, and the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The Old Testament was Christ’s Bible, and it is a Bible full of Christ.”

God, the Son, shows up not in the Gospels, but in Genesis 1:1 where He speaks the cosmos into existence. How do we know this? Because the disciple, John, offers the following commentary on Genesis 1:1: Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)  In addition, Paul offers the following: “For by [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:16-17)

The early church fathers described the Bible this way in regard to Christ:  “Christ is in the Old Testament concealed; and in the New Testament revealed.”

Interested in further study on this doctrine? Here are some great resources…. nw

Christ in the OT

What Does the Old Testament Say About Christ’s Resurrection?

This blog is by my good friend, Jonathan Mansur, youth pastor serving just outside Ft. Worth.

Paul gives us the “gospel in a nutshell” in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. After each truth, Paul adds “in accordance with the Scriptures.” So….if a church member, or stranger off the street, asks us, “Ok. Tell me where in the Old Testament (the “scriptures” to which Paul was referring) does it talk about the resurrection of Jesus?” Mansur gives a great response.

http://jonathanmansur.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/the-bridge-the-crucifixion-resurrection-prophesied/