Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Choose life!!"

Day #352:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 15th

Scripture Reading:  Deuteronomy 29 - 31 ...

Given the choice, who would choose death over life?  The answer will surprise you, because millions have done and continue to do just that.  God offers life to all who obey His Word ... who love Him with all their heart, but every day people who know in their hearts that they are doing wrong make the choice to reject what they know is good and right and do the opposite.  That's sin, disobedience to the God who created us to be like Him:  holy and righteous - perfect.  You and I are sinners and as such we deserve eternal death.  "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).  We have "earned" God's judgment.

God had made a covenant with Abraham, a covenant that has been called the "Covenant of Grace."  This covenant was made with Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 12 - 17.  God entered into this covenant with Abraham and his descendants some 800 years before God gave the Law to Moses and to Israel.  And as you read these chapters you discover something interesting:  God KNEW they wouldn't keep His Law!  Read Chapter 31, verses 16-29 ... God even told Moses to write a song and to have the people sing it as a witness against them (31:19).  God said, "I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath" (31:21).

Then why did God make His covenant with Abraham and why did He give Moses and the people of Israel the Law?  To fulfill His purpose to gather for Himself a people who would live with Him forever in a new heaven and a new earth.  You see, when God chose Abraham and his descendants to be His people, He had a plan that required the sacrifice of His own Son on a cross more than 2,000 years later.  Everything that would happen over the coming centuries would point toward the coming of the Savior. As we come to the end of the book of Deuteronomy, God had kept His promise to make a great nation of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and now He was bringing them into the land He had promised to give them.  So why the Law, given to Moses at Mt. Sinai?

The Law and all the sacrifices and ceremonies and all the rest pointed to two things:  the need for forgiveness and the need for a Savior.  The Law was NEVER intended to bring salvation, for the simple reason that no one could or would keep it.  Moses called the people together and said to them, "You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the LORD your God, a covenant the LORD is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, to confirm you this day as His people, that He may be your God as He promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (29:12-13).  God's covenant with Abraham was NOT based on obedience to the Law!  This is a crucial thing to remember in understanding the Bible.  The Law was given to lead people to see their need for a Savior!  God's covenant with Abraham was based on GRACE!  The Bible is all about GRACE ... salvation is all about grace ... LIFE is all about GRACE!!

God's covenant with Abraham, and thus with his descendants, was based not on them earning salvation, but rather receiving salvation by FAITH!!  We read in Genesis 15:6, "Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness."  And the Apostle Paul explains in Galatians 3 that "The Law ... does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise" (Galatians 3:17).  And he continues, "The Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).  As you read these chapters in Deuteronomy, remember that it is all intended to point to man's inability to save ourselves and our need for the righteousness that can only be ours by faith ... in the promised Savior ... in Jesus!

Moses called the people to obey, promising "when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all you soul ... then the LORD your God will have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations ..." (30:2-3).  God anticipated their sin and their rebellion and had made a way for salvation to come:  "The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live" (30:6).  GOD would do what THEY couldn't!  That's GRACE ... undeserved favor!!  God created us with the ability to obey Him, but because of sin, His law testifies against us.  It says, "Guilty!  Guilty!  Guilty!!"  We need GRACE!!!

In words quoted later by Paul in Romans 10, Moses says, "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach ...  The Word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it" (30:11,14).  Paul explains what Moses was doing:  "Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law:  'The man who does these things will live by them.'  But the righteousness that is by faith says:  'Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' or 'who will descend into the deep?'  But what does it say? 'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.'  THAT is the word of faith we are proclaiming:  that if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:5-10).

As the Spirit led him, Moses was "preaching the Gospel" 1400 years before Christ came!!  You have to BELIEVE that GOD will make a way ... and that way is FAITH ... receiving the righteousness of Christ by faith.  God will change your heart and your mind and move you to have faith in His promise - the only promise that has the power to save you from the judgment you deserve.  Salvation is by grace through faith.  It was NEVER by keeping the Law because "through the Law we become conscious of sin!" (Romans 3:20).  So Moses declared, "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life ... For the LORD IS your life, and HE will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (30:19-20).

There it is:  the choice!  Belief or unbelief?  Obedience or disobedience?  Life or death?  What would they choose?  As God tells Moses that Joshua will take over leading the people into the promised land, He also predicts that these people "will forsake Me and break the covenant I made with them" (31:16).  Yet, God will fulfill His covenant through these people as God says through Ezekiel centuries later, after these people had proven God's point through their disobedience:  "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Who will make the right choice?  Those whom God chooses; in whom God is at work by His Word and Spirit!  Paul explains in Romans 2:28-29:  "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code."   God has the same plan today that He had when He made His covenant with Abraham, when He made a great nation of his descendants, when He gave them the Law, when He brought them into the promised land ... when He prepared the way for the Savior, when He sent His Son into the world, when Jesus went to the cross, rose again and ascended into heaven and then, when He sent His Spirit to do what He had told Moses He would do.  And He isn't finished!

God is still offering the way of life through faith in the Savior all over the world through His Word, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And those who receive His Spirit, from every people, tribe, nation and tongue, are now able and willing to make the right choice ... to choose LIFE in Jesus!  Have you chosen life?  Have you heard God's law and felt guilty, only to find His grace and forgiveness in Jesus and then, by the power of His Spirit within you, to learn to obey your Father in heaven because you love Him, not because you're trying to be good enough to earn His favor?  This is the covenant God has made with those who are His people, Jews and Gentiles alike.

"By grace you have been saved, through faith (and that not of yourselves), it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one may boast!" (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Thank God for His Word and celebrate grace every day, knowing that His Word is near you, in your heart and in your mouth, the word of faith that declares, "Yes!  I believe!!"  Choose life and rejoice in the amazing grace of God!

"Almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, You have offered me LIFE through Jesus and by Your grace and Your Spirit at work in me I CHOOSE LIFE!!  Giving thanks to You, my Creator, my God, my Lord, my Savior, consumes my life, for in You I find all I need ... ETERNAL LIFE!!  Help me daily to so live that my hope, my peace, my joy is found in You, O Lord God Almighty, my Savior and my God.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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