“I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” – Genesis 17:2
Was reading this morning in Genesis, and I was struck by this verse… The Lord says to Abram, walk faithfully before me and be blameless… THEN I will make my covenant with you. This is AFTER he has received numerous promises from God about the land he would inherit and the number of descendants he would have. The covenant was the covenant of circumcision – the cutting away of the flesh near the male reproductive system, and God notes that it would be an eternal covenant.
So God gives Abram a series of promises – and these promises came for free. Abram didn’t have to do anything to receive the promises. But in order for him to walk in the promises and see them outworked would require something – a blameless walk and faithfulness – outwardly symbolised in the act of circumcision.
Fortunately (especially for the guys) – physical circumcision isn’t required for entry into the promises of God today. The Scriptures show clearly that the outward act is no longer needed, just as the death of Jesus replaced the need for the outward act of sacrifice. Yet this eternal convenant is far from over.
We receive the promises of God by faith, and for free. God speaks to us about our lives and future and shows us the plans he has for us. We don’t have to do anything to receive the promise of God. But to walk in that promise, and see it come to pass – something is required, which is circumcision of the heart.
Just as the Old Testament circumcision was a cutting away of the flesh near the male reproductive system, the circumcision we embrace as Christians now is a spiritual one – the cutting away of our own abilities to bring about our desires and dreams. It’s no accident that the covenant of circumcision follows the account of Hagar and Ishmael, where Abram heard the promise of God, but plunged in and tried to bring it about through his own wisdom and strength.
We receive the promises of God for free. But the price we pay to walk in those promises is a holy life, with our abilities and wisdom surrendered to the will and mind of God. What we can accomplish in our own strength remains the greatest enemy to what God can accomplish through us, if we will simply trust and believe.
“When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God….. When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image…”- Genesis 3:1-3
When Adam and Eve were first created, they were made in the likeness of God – formed in His image. Perfect and powerful, every part of them – body, soul and spirit – replicated the glory of their Creator.
But sin entered the human race, and like a disease it infected not only Adam and Eve, but their offspring as well. So it’s noted here that the sons of Adam were born ‘in [Adam’s] likeness’, not in the likeness of God. Sin had contaminated mankind, and every generation of people since that time has lived with the consequences of Adam & Eve’s decision .
There’s a couple of things I take from this:
1) We must be born again. Perhaps you’ve seen a photocopy of a photocopy? With each generation the quality decreases. It’s a lot like that with the human race. In order to walk in the fullness of who we’ve been made to be, we must be born again – a Photoshop touch up is not enough – we need a complete regeneration. This is what Paul talks about when he describes us as ‘a new creation in Christ’. The moment we confess our sins to God, and hand the keys of our lives over to Him, we are born again by the Spirit of God. It’s a whole new page, a clean sheet to start from.
2) As leaders, we must be committed to forming people into Christ’s image, not ours. Even the best, most inspirational leader is still only a reflection of who God is. Every person has been uniquely made, and our responsibility as leaders is not to make people like us, but to make them like Jesus. Paul said “I am in labour until Christ is formed in you”. He wasn’t looking to make a bunch of Paul-clones, but rather like a great father – he was seeking wisdom from above as to how to encourage and form his ‘children’ into the shape that God had called them to be.
Acts 13:39 – and by him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
There’s a few words that the Bible uses that aren’t usually a part of our everyday language – words like sanctified, justified, redeemed etc. But when we understand what these words mean it can really help us grasp what God has done for us.
In this verse we read that by Christ, everyone who believes is JUSTIFIED from all things, and that we could not be JUSTIFIED by the law of Moses. What does it mean to be justified?
Most word processing programs like Microsoft Word have a series of buttons that let you align the text. You can centre it, or push it left or right. But there’s one button which is called ‘justified’. When you click, it pushes out the edges of your text to the margins, giving a nice even flow down the page.
It’s not a bad illustration of what it’s like when God justifies us. The page margins are like perfection, and the words we type are like our thoughts and deeds. They don’t measure up to perfection, often falling short. But when God justifies us, it’s like He makes up the missing difference to make us perfect.
The law of Moses can only point out our sin, showing us where we fall short. It has no power to make us righteous or to clean us up. But through His sacrifice on the cross, Christ now JUSTIFIES us – and even if we fall short – by His grace and mercy HE makes up for it and presents us before God the Father as perfect.
Matthew 8:28 – When he came to the other side, into the country of the Gergesenes, two people possessed with demons met him there, coming forth out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no man could pass by that way.
Consider this from the disciples point of view. They’ve only just finished facing death out on the water – and now they land and there’s two demon-possessed guys waiting for them! It sounds like a script from a video game!
So much of what we deal with in life is about perspective. One perspective would be ‘We’ve only just escaped from the sea with our lives intact – and now we’re facing demon-possessed people’! Another would be ‘God just showed His power over the winds and the waves! I wonder what He’s going to do with this situation’!
We have to understand that as followers of Jesus, He will ABSOLUTELY lead us into impossible situations – because He wants us to display His power in them. Our part is to learn not to fear, but to trust and believe – no matter what we’re staring down.
How can you change your perspective today to see the obstacles in front of you not as roadblocks but as opportunities for God to show His power?
Matthew 8:27 – The men marveled, saying, "What kind of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
It is the reality of the power of Christ that moves people from considering Him to be ‘a great teacher’ to seeing Him as something more. When Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves and they are immediately calm, the disciples start to twig that they’re dealing with someone who is ‘supernatural’ and ‘superhuman’.
They ask – ‘what kind of man is this’ – we haven’t seen someone with this kind of power before, that even the wind and the sea respond to His bidding!
The awesome thing about this is that none of the miracles that Jesus performed or the power that Jesus displayed were done as God. They were all done as a man, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. This means that WE TOO can do the things that He did. God wants to give us that same power that He gave Christ and move through our lives in a way that will make the world around us say ‘what kind of people are these’?!
Matthew 8:24 – Behold, a great tempest arose in the sea, so much that the boat was covered with the waves, but he [Jesus] was asleep.
What is funny about this situation is that in the previous verse the disciples all ended up in the boat because they were ‘following Jesus’. Jesus then promptly falls asleep, right at the moment that a huge storm blows up!
The disciples must have been wondering ‘what was Jesus thinking’?! We didn’t ask to come on to the boat – He led us here, and now He’s asleep!
There will be times when it feels like God leads us into difficult or dangerous situations, and then ‘falls alseep on us’ – doesn’t seem to respond to our prayers or cries for help. Like the disciples, we have been obedient and simply followed him and trusted Him!
What they didn’t realise was that they were in the middle of a training exercise! Jesus had led them there to display His power to them. Your boat will not sink if the King of Kings is in it! The more we come to see and understand that fact – the more peace we will have when confronting even the most difficult storms that we face in this life.
Luke 19:33-34 (NIV)
As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They replied, "The Lord needs it."
Seriously – does God NEED anything? The short answer is no. God has all resources, all power, all knowledge, all wisdom – he doesn’t need anything from anyone. He’s the only person in the universe who can lay claim to being totally ‘self-sufficient’!
But the Jesus needed a colt, a donkey to ride on. Although He had access to unlimited supernatural power and probably could have made one appear at will – instead He asks for it from those who have one.
Most of the time we live with the illusion that we actually own stuff in this life. If we think about it, we realise that everything that we have actually already came from Him. You may have bought a new LCD TV. But the particles that make up that TV were originally created and put together by God. Humans have never ‘created’ anything – we’ve only ever modified what God put there in the first place! The earth and everything in it really is the Lord’s!
So these owners have a donkey – a prized possession for a Jewish household. Jesus asks for it – and they give it willingly and without complaint. Then Jesus rides in to Jerusalem on their donkey. Imagine how proud they would have been afterwards… ‘this’ is the donkey that Jesus rode on!
We never lose anything when we put it back into God’s hands. It might seem like we do for a while, but in the end – whatever we invest into the Kingdom of God will bless a multitude of people, as well as us!