Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"God's choice, God's promise ... and YOU!"

Day #7

Scripture Reading:  Genesis 24 - 27 ...

Every time I read of God's promises to Abraham, then to his son, Isaac, and to his son, Jacob, I think of the first two verses of the New Testament:  "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:  Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah ..."  And I think of the Apostle Paul's explanation of God's promises to Abraham in Romans 4 and Romans 9, and in Galatians 3, where the Bible teaches us that God never forgets a promise He has made or fails to keep it.  Understanding God's promises to Abraham and the fulfillment of those promises ultimately in Jesus is the path to understanding, accepting and rejoicing in God's gift of salvation, eternal life, to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Though it is not "politically correct" today in some circles to speak of Israel and their right to the land in which they are living, the truth is, God gave that land to Abraham and his descendants more than four thousand years ago.  Some theologians today declare that God never promised the land to Israel specifically, but the Bible clearly teaches that God did!  The battle over this land in our day is more than a battle over land; it is a battle between God and Satan, a battle that God will ultimately win!!  And the land is only part of it.

As He had said to Abraham, God said to Isaac, "To you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed" (26:3-4).  That included the land of the Philistines (Palestine - Gaza).  God chose Abraham, then He chose Isaac (not Ishmael) and then He chose Jacob (not Esau).  Even though Jacob and his mother, Rebekah, went about getting Isaac's blessing in the wrong way, God had predestined the destiny of Jacob and Esau when He said to Rebekah BEFORE the twins were born:  "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23).

Paul explains God's sovereign choice in Romans 9 this way:  "Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad - in order that God's purpose in election might stand:  not by works but by Him who calls - she was told, 'The older will serve the younger'" (9:11-12).  God's PURPOSE in election ... God's purpose in choosing Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob ... AND, God's purpose in choosing some from all nations to believe in Him, was that the very source of salvation for those who believe is GOD, not ourselves.  People without the Spirit of God do not even WANT to save themselves from God's wrath and judgment, because they don't believe in God's wrath or judgment.

God’s sovereignty over the events of this world and His election of some to be His people is a truth repeated throughout God’s Word.  Either God is in control of all things or He is in control of nothing, because one thing affects another affects another.  That does not mean that God CAUSES all things to take place, but simply that He knows the end from the beginning and that He determines where He will allow sinful mankind to go their own way and when He will intervene by His sovereign wisdom and power to overrule the power of evil, of Satan himself, in order to accomplish His eternal purposes ... in order to save those whom He has chosen and to bring glory to Himself.  A God who is NOT in control, who is not sovereign, who is not ruling over the affairs of mankind and the nations of the world is not only unworthy of worship, but is totally incapable of keeping His promises!

From the account of God choosing a wife for Isaac, to the deceitfulness of Rebekah and Jacob in “stealing” Esau’s birthright, God was looking ahead toward the coming of the One who would be the “Seed of Abraham,” who would be a blessing to some from every nation.  Unless you understand the Bible as the progressive unfolding of God’s plan to redeem for Himself a people throughout all history through His Son Jesus Christ, the promised “Seed,” you will never realize the privilege of being “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

While those in other religions, and many in the visible church, reject this teaching, the Apostle Paul explains it in one sentence in the verses quoted earlier from Romans 9, verses 11-12.  God’s “purpose in election” was to show that salvation is by GRACE, not by works.  No other religion teaches this!  NONE!!!  So many make the mistake of thinking that people can actually be good enough to deserve a place in God’s eternal kingdom, but God says otherwise.  Either you are saved from His coming judgment by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, or you are not saved at all.  There is no middle ground!

The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God sent His own Son to be the payment for sin for all who believe.  Those who reject that message are not children of Abraham ... not because they didn't have a chance, but because they have chosen to reject whatever revelation God has given them, so that they are "without excuse" before a holy God (Romans 1:20).  In the Gospel God offers life and by His Spirit moves His chosen ones to receive His offer of grace by placing their faith in Jesus.

God’s sovereign election forms the very basis for faith, for the assurance of the fulfillment of all of God's promises for those who believe in Jesus Christ.  Reading through the Bible in a year must be more than an intellectual exercise.  It must be part of your desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, part of your goal to know God, to love Him and to serve Him, and part of your calling to make Him known to those around you, praying that others, too, might put their faith in Jesus and find life!

These things, and so much more, are revealed in God's unchanging Word for all who will take the time to seek and to discover all that God has promised to His children.

"Almighty, everlasting God, to know You and to believe Your promises is the greatest gift known to mankind.  We who believe in Your Son, Jesus, rest in Your grace, knowing that it is not by our own works that we are saved, but by Your grace and Your call to us by Your Word and Spirit.  May our lives be an offering of thanksgiving to You, now and forever.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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