Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Great Conversation

"The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Dr. Edwin P. Elliott

I. God Converses with People

A. People who come to God believe the effort is possible and valuable. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

B. Conversation with God leads to understanding and in turn that becomes eternal life. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3)

C. Conversation is natural when dealing with Someone Who describes Himself as the Word. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:1-3)

D. Understanding of reality begins in conversational encounter with God. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

II. God Speaks in Scripture

A. God communicates hope through Scripture and reveals Himself in the process; Scripture is different from all other literature or information. "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20:31)

B. The first generation after the resurrection, the missionaries who had known Jesus described themselves as Bible-believers. "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:" (Acts 24:14)

C. God keeps some things to Himself, but what He discusses with His people is theirs to know, understand, and obey. "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)

III. Life Worth Living Emerges through Scripture

A. Knowledge of God generates changed lives. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26) "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

B. God speaks His mind so that people can live lives of meaning; believers who know Scripture do not have the terrible search for meaning which characterizes so much of life for nonbelievers. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8)

C. The conversation is so perfectly designed by God that it inevitably displays what is in a person’s best interest. "Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest." (Joshua 1:7)

D. The entire pattern of church life and Christian institutional and cultural development flows from the heavenly conversation. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20)

E. Jesus promised an interpreter to continue the conversation. "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26) "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21)

F. People may write many things about God but until they speak the language He speaks and begin to hear what He is saying, everything in the Bible is in an unknown language. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The Heavens Opened and the Spirit Spoke

Isaiah 42:1-9; Mark 1:9-13 / Psalm 2:1-12
Dr. Edwin Elliott

I. Jesus Began His Ministry Humbly

A. Jesus avoided pomp and circumstance when He began; the story opens with lowliness and humility. "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan." (Mark 1:9)

B. Jesus shared the difficult existence of sinful people, submitting to all the complications of life. "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." (John 17:19)

C. The ministry opened with Jesus’ public testimony that He had come to substitute for sinners, receive what sinners deserve, and in exchange give sinners grace and fellowship with God; eventually Jesus would experience the baptism of blood on the cross. "But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50)

II. God Confirmed Jesus’ Ministry

A. Through a visual presentation and a verbal declaration, God introduced the Savior and His work. "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:" (Mark 1:10)

B. The Father acknowledged Jesus. "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed." (John 6:27)

C. The descending dove draws the mind’s eye to Noah’s dove at the start of the post-flood world; Jesus is the One through Whom God begins again. "But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;" (Genesis 8:9-10)

D. God announced the things Jesus came to do. "And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11)

1. God was offering His only Son as a substitute as He had provided a substitute when Abraham faced the sacrifice of his only son; the message is substitutionary atonement. "And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." (Genesis 22:2) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

2. Jesus is not only God’s Son, but He is God’s Only-Begotten Son. "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." (Psalm 2:7)

3. The Savior will be the Spirit-filled Suffering Servant promised through Isaiah. "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." (Isaiah 42:1)

4. God was confirming that Jesus would be the promised Redeemer. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)

III. From the Start Jesus Undid the Sin of Adam

A. Adam failed and sin entered the world; Jesus resisted all the temptations to use sinful methods for taking charge of life. "And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him." (Mark 1:13)

B. Paul explained the connection between Jesus and Adam. "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven." (1 Corinthians 15:45-47)

C. The gospel story must follow the pattern of the Fall to undo the Fall and make a way for people to return to the tree of life in the Garden of God; 19 times the New Testament says something must take place to fulfill Scripture. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come." (Romans 5:12-14)

D. In Jesus God reverses the Fall and takes people into a marvelous future. "For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)" (Romans 5:17) "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:21)

E. The story introduced at the Jordan will lead to the New Heaven and the New Earth. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4)

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