Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

After answering recent questions on the Age of Accountability, I concluded that the Q & A format doesn’t lend itself to providing a comprehensive answer. Here’s the rest of the story.

 

Becoming An Adult

In the Jewish culture, becoming an adult is one of the watershed events in a person’s life. At age 12 for girls and 13 for boys Jewish children reach the age of accountability. It’s a point in their life that has both spiritual and physical significance, because they’re approaching puberty at the same time. So as they make the transition from child to adult they also become responsible for their own sins.

They acknowledge their accountability in a ceremony called bat mitzvah for girls and bar mitzvah for boys. Now it’s not that children don’t sin before puberty, it’s that they’re not held accountable for their sins. Judaism teaches that fathers are responsible for the sins of their children until they come of age. That’s why in the bar mitzvah ceremony, the father will often pray in effect, “Lord thank you for giving me this son, and thank you for relieving me of any further responsibility for him.”

We see hints of this transition, and its consequences, in Romans 7:9. Being a Jew who was obviously still alive at the time, Paul wrote, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died”.   (The word for without also means “apart from”.)  Since he was physically alive he had to have been referring to the spiritual, or eternal life for which he had been qualified before coming of age.

The phrase “The commandment came, sin revived, and I died” means that as soon as Paul became old enough to be accountable for his sins he was scheduled for death, it being the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). The Greek word for revived indicates Paul’s sin nature had always been there, but for accountability purposes it’s like it was dormant while he was a child. As soon as he came of age, it woke up again, immediately disqualifying him from eternal life.

No official written references to the method for conducting bar or bat mitzvah ceremonies existed during Paul’s time. But the practice was obviously well known enough that Paul could expect his Gentile readers to understand what he was talking about. Since Paul was adamantly opposed to following tradition for its own sake, he must have known that belief in an age of accountability was legitimate from God’s perspective.

Reaching the age of accountability transformed children into adults but also robbed them of eternal life. Since there was no longer someone else upon whom to place the burden for their sins, they became responsible themselves and an execution order was immediately entered against them from Heaven. It took their obedience to the Law and their annual participation in the ceremonies of Yom Kippur to delay this execution, and then only if these were accompanied by the belief that God would send the promised Messiah to redeem them for good.

Becoming A Child

We get the rest of the story from the New Testament. For Christians the watershed event is likened to becoming a child. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3) What He meant was unless adults can somehow unburden themselves of the responsibility for their sins, there’s no way for them to enter God’s Kingdom. Since children are not held accountable for their sins, adults have to become like children.

In the very beginning of his gospel account John explained how we do that. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

Believing that the Lord’s death paid the full penalty due us for our sins gives us the authority to become God’s children, and in that way we unburden ourselves of the responsibility for our sins. This is what it means to be born again.

Adoption

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Both this passage and Romans 8:15-17 convey the idea that adoption into the family of God is truly the most important event of our lives. God sent His son to die for our sins so we could receive the right of adoption. According to John 1:12-13 belief in Jesus gives us the authority to claim this right and when we do God adopts us as His children and we become heirs to his estate. When this happens the execution order is canceled (Colossians 2:13-14). The responsibility for our sins is transferred to Jesus (Isaiah 53:5) and once again we’re not responsible. At that point we’re born again as a child of God and have eternal life. According to 2 Cor. 5:17 we actually become a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. This is what happened to Paul, and has happened to every other born again believer as well.

This is not a new idea and was first acted out in the garden. Adam and Eve were created with eternal life. God told them if they disobeyed (sinned) they would die. But they disobeyed and were scheduled for death. God promised a redeemer to save them, and by believing God they were born again and restored to eternal life.

The Law is the story of death, because it wasn’t given to save anyone, but so that in trying to obey it man could see his need for a Savior (Romans 3:20). Being perfect it actually served to condemn imperfect man to death (Romans 7:10-13).

Grace is the story of life because by faith in the Redeemer man can be born again into eternal life, even though he doesn’t deserve it (Ephesians 2:8-9). By the power of the Holy Spirit, David understood this 1,000 years ahead of time when he wrote,

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him, and in whose spirit is no deceit (Psalm 32:1-2). Only by God’s Grace can we qualify for eternal life again after losing it when we reached the age of accountability.

No place in either the Old or New Testaments is the exact age of accountability specified. The ages of 12 and 13 I mentioned above come from Jewish culture and were chosen for reasons that have more to do with tradition than the Bible. But from both these sources it’s clear that we’re all born as children of God, not responsible for our sins, and having eternal life. When we’re intellectually mature enough to understand the sin/salvation issue we become accountable for our sins and are subject to spiritual death. When we accept the Lord’s death as payment in full for all our sins, we are born again and go back to being children of God, no longer responsible for our sins, and are restored to eternal life. We’ve come full circle.

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This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley

The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. (Leviticus 25:23)

 

When God brought Israel into the Promised Land He explained that they were His tenants, forbidden from selling or giving the land away (Lev 25:23).

He also commanded them to let the land rest for one year out of every seven (Lev 25:4), the so-called Sabbath for the Land. But for 490 years they failed to do it.  So while the root cause of the 70-year exile to Babylon was their fall into idolatry (Jere. 25:7-11), its duration was determined by the number of times they had ignored the mandatory year-long Sabbath for the Land (2 Chron 36:21). 490 divided by 7 equals 70, so they “owed” His land 70 years of rest. True to His word, when the 70 years were ended He sent the Persians to defeat Babylon and release the Jews to return to their land.

An Everlasting Possession

The world would do well to remember that episode. In giving the land to Abraham’s descendants, God had made it their “everlasting possession”(Gen 17:8). But at Mt. Sinai He explained that in order to live there and enjoy its benefits they had to obey the covenant He was making with Moses.

Several times they’ve either lost their independence or been evicted for violations of this covenant, but only temporarily. He always restored them, and that’s the part of their deal with God the rest of the world seems to forget. The reason they’re in the land today is because He remembered His promise to their forefathers and brought them back (Ezekiel 36:22-24).

Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews bemoan the fact that Israel has agreed to trade land for the promise of peace … land the Bible says they have no right to trade. But if unbelievers, whether Jew, Arab or Westerner agree on anything, it’s that the provisions outlined in “some ancient book” are not going to govern their actions today. We’ll see.

Land For War?

A strong contingent among Israel’s neighbors has always opposed the Mid-East peace plan and tries do anything they can to stop it. They don’t want to share the land with Israel, they want it all.  Every time this contingent has seen Israel trade land for the promise of peace they’ve reacted with violence. The more land involved the more violent they’ve become.

In his first term as Prime Minister, Binyamim Netanyahu slowed down the transfer of land begun under Yitzhak Rabin and continued with Shimon Peres, and the violence subsided. Under intense pressure from Bill Clinton, Netanyahu’s successor Ehud Barak agreed to give Yassir Arafat 97% of the land he wanted, including East Jerusalem, in return for peace. Arafat turned it down and then went home to start the 2000 Intifada. After Ariel Sharon was elected, Israel got tough again and the violence subsided once more.

Predictably, the result of Sharon’s abrupt abandonment of the Gaza Strip was an escalation of violence.  Moreover, with the frightening array of war materiel now being smuggled into Gaza and Lebanon (also part of the original Promised Land) it’s hard to see how anything but total disaster can come of it.  Incredibly, the world is now demanding that Israel trade more land for peace.  How can they expect anything but war as a result?

The latest ruse being foisted upon the Jewish people is the claim that the US has offered some fighter aircraft (which won’t be delivered until 2020) and some future diplomatic support, but only after the two-state proposal has been successfully implemented, and then only for one year.  Israel, of course, must agree to give up its land in advance.  It’s still unclear whether the US actually made this offer, and even if it did, whether it would be acceptable to all parties.

But the contrast between levels of terrorism during conservative and liberal administrations is apparently lost on both Jewish and Gentile observers, because they  seem unaware of the fact that agreeing to yield more land has always brought increased violence from Israel’s enemies. This time it will likely bring the fulfillment of Psalm 83.

God Is The Same, Yesterday, Today, And Forever

God has often used His enemies to accomplish His purpose (Jer. 25:9) and promises to do so again (Ezekiel 38-39). So, are we missing something here?  I don’t pretend to be a political analyst or commentator. But I am a student of prophecy and delight in overlaying the proven strategies of our Lord upon current events.  And in the current affairs of Israel, I see a definite pattern.

God is opposed to trading land for peace and I believe He’s using Israel’s enemies to say so. I believe He’s trying to dissuade Israel from giving away land that isn’t theirs to give, and to convince them that in their own strength, however formidable it may be, they are not equal to the task of defeating their enemies. The upcoming Psalm 83 scenario will initially appear to be a military success for Israel, but in truth it will only set them up for another even more forceful attack to follow.

After all it was God Who said, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My Face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). You can almost hear Him repeating those words as He gives His people sign after sign that it’s time to stop giving away His land and come back to Him.

Will He Ever Quit Trying To Convince Them?

Let’s ask Him.

This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name:

“Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.”

This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:35-37)

If those who subscribe to replacement theology (the heresy contending that after the cross the Church replaced Israel in God’s plan, and therefore there’s no place for the Nation of Israel in the world today) are correct, then the Lord has broken this promise to Israel, because the sun shines every day, and the moon and stars every night.  And anyone near a seacoast can hear the constant roaring of the waves.

So What’s It Gonna Take?

One day in the not too distant future an international coalition of Moslem forces will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting Israel with overpowering force, and when that happens the King of the Universe will come roaring out of the Heavens with warfare on His mind and vengeance in his Heart, for whoever touches Israel touches the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8).

When the dust has settled the invading forces that had covered the land like a cloud will lie slain in their tracks, food for the vultures. “I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them. From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God. (Ezek. 39:21-22)

All these things must come to pass because God has seen the end from the beginning and has revealed it through His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).  The fact that they seem to be coming soon is another sign that the End of the Age is upon us. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.

First of all, in some passages God seems to tacitly sanction rape. In the Old Testament Moses encourages his men to use captured virgins for their own sexual pleasure, i.e. to rape them. After urging his men to kill the male captives and female captive who are not virgins he says: “But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” (Numbers 31: 18). God then explicitly rewards Moses by urging him to distribute the spoils. He does not rebuke Moses or his men (Numbers 31: 25-27).

Second, when rape is condemned in the Old Testament the woman’s rights and her psychological welfare are ignored. For example: “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father fifty skelels of silver, and she shall be his wife, and he may not put her away all of his days” (Deuteronomy 22; 28-29). Here the victim of rape is as treated the property of the father. Since the rapist has despoiled the father’s property he must pay a bridal fee. The women apparently has no say in the matter and is forced to marry the person who raped her. Notice also if they are not discovered, no negative judgment is forthcoming. The implicit message seems to be that if you rape an unbetrothed virgin, be sure not to get caught.

In the case of the rape of a betrothed virgin in a city, the Bible says that both the rapist and victim should be stoned to death: the rapist because he violated his neighbor’s wife and the victim because she did not cry for help (Deuteronomy 22:23-25). Again the assumption is that the rapist dispoiled the property of another man and so must pay with this life. Concern for the welfare of the victim does not seem to matter. Moreover, it is assumed that in all cases that a rape victim could cry for help and if she did, she would be heard and rescued. Both of these assumptions are very dubious and sensitive to the contextual aspects of rape.

On the other hand, according to the Bible, the situation is completely different if the rape occurs in “open country.” Here the rapist should be killed, not the victim. The reason given is that if a woman cried for help in open country, she would not be heard. Consequently, she could not be blamed for allowing the rape to occur. No mention is made about the psychological harm to victim. No condemnation is made of a rapist in open country, let alone in a city, who does not get caught.
Answer: In these paragraphs there appears to be a series of complex questions which, in reality, really involve a mistaken understanding and misinterpretation of God’s Word. First, it is incorrect to interpret a sanctioning of rape by God (tacitly or otherwise) being that it is unfounded in light of His character and Laws. The verses cited as examples are not properly interpreted and therefore cannot be used as an argument for such. Let’s look at the first reference used: Numbers 31:18. The context of this particular Scripture involves the distribution of captives of war. In study of the battles that were taking place during this time, God had often required the total extermination of all. In this instance, God allowed the taking of women and children unto themselves. It has nothing to do with rape.

The custom would be for the conquering armies to take the defeated people as slaves unto themselves. Those women who were virgins and children would be the desired ones to keep. Keeping in mind that these wars during the conquest of Canaan were wars of extermination, it was an act of GRACE to allow these heathen people to remain alive, even as slaves…

Therefore it would not be an act requiring rebuke or condemnation by God. In the other examples cited regarding the rights and welfare of the woman, we must keep in mind the context of what is being recorded, as well as the Eastern custom concerning men and women. A thought foreign to Western custom is the rights and power of the man as head of his house. In America a man can ask a woman to be his bride, and if she consents, they can proceed with their plans. It is only out of courtesy that a gentleman asks the father of the bride for the hand of his daughter in marriage.

In the East, the daughter belongs to the father and cannot be taken at will by any Romeo who comes along and finds her attractive. To this day there is a dowry required of the man desiring a young lady to be his wife in many countries of the world.

The discovery of a couple who had engaged in sexual relations outside of the institution of marriage carried stiff penalties. It could mean the death of one or both of the parties involved. (Study further the consequences of fornication and adultery.) When this act was a forced act, in the case of rape, then God gave specific instruction as to the way He wanted Moses to deal with it.
The victim of rape is always left with the shame and psychological repercussions of such a wicked act. Only God can take one who has been so violated and restore them. His grace is sufficient for anything we face. However, in Scripture, if the woman cried out for help, she would be released from any other penalty. The man who forced her would be destroyed (Deuteronomy 22:25), but the woman would be allowed to go free. The woman who did not cry out would be as guilty as the man for the fact that it appears she was a willing accomplice, and therefore not a victim. Concerning whether a couple has been caught or not, we know that ALL sin will one day be judged by a Holy God who sees all! No one will get away with hidden sin.
There are many more verses which can be taken out of context on any number of other topics to be used as an excuse by unsaved individuals for not accepting God’s free gift of salvation or surrendering to Him as Lord. As believers we cannot be distracted by such, nor should we allow this to be a hindrance in our effort to always bring them back to the important issue…. “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” John 3:3.

Psalm 38

Posted: November 20, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

O LORD , do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

 

My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.

Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception. I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth; I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. I wait for you, O LORD you will answer, O Lord my God. For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.”

For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.

Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous.
Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good.

O LORD , do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.

Do you know that the Lord cannot punish you for your sins as He did to sinners in the Old Testament? They got leprosy, poisonous snakes bit them, a plague struck them and their livestock, or the Earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up. But because of the cross, where He punished His Son for all your sins, you are free. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t necessarily escape the earthly consequences of your behavior. If you rob a Convenience store and get caught, you’ll probably go to jail, Christian or not. But you don’t have to worry about your name being erased from the Lamb’s Book of Life. Your place in Heaven is secure.

So why do we feel the way David described himself above when we commit a grievous sin? Well, there are two reasons. We may be feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit urging us to confess so we can be forgiven. If we’ve already confessed then we’re already forgiven (1 John 1:9) and the feelings we’re experiencing are caused by guilt. And that comes from another source altogether. Guilt is Satan’s tool for driving a wedge between us and the Lord.

A sure way to know which we’re feeling is to see which direction we’re headed. If we’re running toward the cross it’s conviction and if we’re running away it’s guilt. When the Lord asked Adam if he’d eaten the forbidden fruit, He wasn’t looking for information, He was looking for confession. He already knew what had happened. Adam’s guilt caused him to run and hide, and to cover himself. His unwillingness to confess (he blamed Eve) caused the estrangement Satan was hoping for and Adam had to leave the Garden.

Would human history have been different had Adam simply confessed? We’ll have to ask him about that. But will your life be different if you simply confess your sins and then rebuke the devil for trying to drive a wedge between you and your Lord? You bet it will. Confession restores fellowship and is the antidote for guilt. Because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) there is no place for guilt in the mind of the believer who has confessed. Ask forgiveness from the Lord and those you’ve wronged. (He will forgive you. They may not, but that’s their problem.) Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) Have a guilt free day.


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