Sovereignty of God

Throwback Thursday ~ It’s ONLY Natural?

Originally published January 6, 2009

I admit it. I can be pretty nerdy when it comes to watching TV. While I occasionally enjoy a show whose plot is merely entertaining, most of the time I like to watch things that challenge me intellectually. Such was recently the case when I watched a very interesting program on the Discovery Channel.

The program was an attempt to give a naturalistic explanation for several of the miracles cited in the book of Exodus, mainly the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-5), the plagues (Exodus 7:14 – 11:10), and the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-31).

The Nile River turning to blood, proposed the program, could have been an algal bloom (of red algae). This would have killed all the fish, but, according to the scientists’ theories, created an environment ideal for the proliferation of frogs in plague #2. The flies in plague #4, they believe to have been biting flies whose bites left open sores, which, when infected by a bacteria which had been carried by the gnats from plague #3, could have killed livestock in plague #5 and caused the boils in plague #6.

Personally, while there were several holes in some of their theories, I found this all quite fascinating. God being God, there’s no reason He couldn’t have done things the way these theories suggested if He had wanted to. And, whether the water was infested by algae or turned to blood, the end result would have been the same: all the fish died and the water was undrinkable.

At one point, the narrator interjected a comment which has been rolling around in my mind ever since. He said that many atheists don’t like to find physical evidence that supports Biblical accounts because this evidence shows that there is a God. Conversely, many Jews and Christians don’t like to hear theories of naturalistic explanations of how miracles could have occurred because they are afraid this takes God out of the equation.

While the former is undoubtedly true, I firmly believe that Christians and Jews have nothing to fear from naturalistic theories which attempt to explain the way God may have acted in some circumstances. Certainly, some scientists have tried to explain everything naturally in order to remove the need for God, but at some point there is a hole in each one of those theories which only God can fill, precisely because

…all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:16-17

If we think about it, could not God’s working through the natural order of things which He had already set up show Him to be even more powerful and knowledgeable? Is it possible He set up the laws of biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, etc., in certain ways as He was creating the universe because He foreknew every single circumstance that would ever happen on earth and the way in which He would work through those laws rather than around them in order to bring about His desired result? Is not the logic and order we see in His creation evidence that He might work in a logical and orderly way within the framework that He Himself had already set up? Couldn’t God’s working through natural law be even further evidence that nothing is a surprise to God? That nothing backs Him into a corner in such a way that He has no choice but to perform a “magic trick” in order to direct things? Certainly, in some circumstances God does suspend the laws of nature for His own purposes, but He doesn’t have to. He’s God. He can do whatever He wants in whatever way He wants. And working through the natural laws that He established rather than suspending them in whatever circumstances He may choose takes absolutely nothing away from His power and deity. Indeed, it proves He is God over the natural and God over the supernatural.

It’s within the realm of possibility that there will someday be plausible scientific theories (which don’t conflict with Scripture or what we know to be true of God’s character) for some of the mysteries and miracles in the Bible. If that happens, will God cease to be God simply because He worked through His laws rather than around them?

Hundreds of years ago, it was believed that the earth was the center of the universe. When Copernicus, and later Galileo, began to circulate their research on heliocentrism (that the sun was the center of our solar system and the earth revolved around it), the church branded them as heretics. Who turned out to be wrong? The church.

Did God cease to be God when it was discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe? Of course not. In our modern world, we would be wise to take a lesson that the church in the 16th and 17th centuries should have learned: God is God. He does as He pleases for His own glory. He has ways of doing things that we have never even dreamed of.

At the same time, the scientific community would be wise to catch up to the faith community and surrender to the fact that no matter how they think the world came into being, how they theorize all the miracles in the Bible happened, or what scientific explanation might be behind any phenomenon in the universe, when you distill everything down as far as you can go, you’re going to run into the least common denominator of every particle of matter or unit of energy in existence: God.

To go back to the plagues for a moment, even if there is a reasonable scientific explanation for each and every one of them, that only explains the how, not the why. Why is it that each plague started when Pharoah refused to let the Israelites leave? Why did the plague of frogs stop on the specific day Pharoah requested (Exodus 8:9-13)? Why did the plague of hail start at the precise time Moses stretched out his arms toward the sky (Exodus 9:23)? And finally, why did the plagues stop as soon as Pharoah let the Israelites go? To believe that any of the dozens of “why” questions that could be asked about the plagues alone (never mind all the zillions of other things God has done throughout history) could be answered by the comically flimsy explanation of “coincidence” would require infinitely more faith than believing the simple fact that God’s hand was behind it all.

Science and faith do not need to be at odds with each other. In fact, many of the earliest scientists began their studies as a way to bring glory to God by discovering more about His creation. This paradigm continues today in the studies of scientists who are Christians, as well as in the many scientists who have come to know Christ as a result of their studies.

Whether God chooses to work within the confines of natural law or to supersede it, His goal for us is the same as it was for Pharoah:

“…that [we] may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.”
Exodus 8:10b

Worship

God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship

Social media is a strange universe to live in. There’s a lot of stupidity, but there’s also a lot that can be learned from various trending issues.

Such was the case recently when Christian social media was up in arms (and rightly so) about Cory Asbury’s worship song Reckless Love, and whether or not churches should use it in their worship services. Discussion centered around the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love for us and whether or not that was a semantically and theologically appropriate adjective. “Relentless” was suggested as an alternative lyric. “Reckless” was defended as an appropriate lyric. And then Cory Asbury’s explanation of the song came to light and did further injury to his doctrinal cause.

It was all a very interesting and helpful discussion, but, to some degree, it was a rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

‘Cause we’ve hit the ice berg, folks. And the ship is taking on water.

Focusing on the word “reckless” missed the point – at least the big picture point. You see, Reckless Love was produced by Bethel Music. And Cory Asbury is a “worship leader, songwriter and pastor” with the Bethel Music Collective. Prior to joining Bethel, he spent eight years as a worship leader with the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Why is this important? Because Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, and IHOP are, functionally, ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy. Heresy. Not, “They just have a more expressive, contemporary style of worship,”. Not, “It’s a secondary theological issue we can agree to disagree on.” Heresy. Denial of the deity of Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrably false prophecy that the head of IHOP, Mike Bickle, has publicly rejoiced in (He estimates that 80% of IHOP’s “prophecies” are false.) And that’s just the tip of our metaphorical ice berg when it comes to the NAR.

IHOP and Bethel are, by biblical definition, not Christian organizations and certainly not Christian churches. They are pagan centers of idol worship just as much as the Old Testament temples of Baal were. The only difference is that, instead of being creative and coming up with their own name for their god, they’ve stolen the name Jesus and blasphemously baptized their idol with that moniker.

The point in this whole debate is not the word “reckless”. The point is that Christian churches should not have anything whatsoever to do with idol worshiping pagans as they approach God in worship. Yet Sunday after Sunday churches use Bethel music, Jesus Culture music, Hillsong music, and the like, in their worship of God.

And it’s not just that churches are using music from the temples of Baal in their worship services. We have women who usurp the teaching and leadership roles in the church that God has reserved for men – many even going so far as to preach to men and/or hold the position of “pastor”. We have men setting themselves up as pastors who do not meet the Bible’s qualifications. We have churches that let anyone – Believer or not – participate in the Lord’s Supper. We have pastors who welcome false teachers and their materials into their churches with open arms and castigate anyone who dares point out the false doctrine being taught. We have preachers who have forsaken God’s mandate to preach the Word and use the sermon time to talk about themselves, deliver self-help tips, or perform a stand up comedy routine.

And everybody seems to think God’s up there in Heaven going, “Cool! Whatever y’all want to do in the name of worship is just fine and dandy with Me. You do you.”

Well, He’s not.

God demands – and has every right to do so – that He be approached properly. In reverence. In awe. In holy fear. With clean hands and a pure heart.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6

Let’s take a stroll through Scripture and be taught by those who learned that lesson the hard way…

Cain

Most of the time, when we read the story of Cain and Abel, we focus on the fact that Cain killed his righteous brother. But we tend to gloss over the event that precipitated the murder. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.

Scripture doesn’t tell us why God found Cain’s offering unacceptable. The Levitical laws delineating offerings and sacrifices hadn’t yet been given, and even if they had, grain offerings and other offerings of vegetation were perfectly appropriate if offered at the right time and for the right reason. Was it because Cain had a wrong attitude or motive when he gave his offering? Or maybe because he offered God leftover produce instead of his firstfruits? We don’t know. What we do know is that God had a standard of how He was to be worshiped, Cain violated it, and God expressed His displeasure.

Aaron and Israel

It’s shortly after the Exodus. The Israelites have seen God perform ten – count them – ten plagues on Pharaoh for his idolatry and failure to bow the knee to God’s command to let Israel go. They saw God destroy the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea. And now, their fearless leader, Moses, has trekked up Mount Sinai and is late getting back. The people are worried and restless.

Does Aaron lead them to pray? Trust God? Be patient? Nope. He fashions an idol for them – a golden calf. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he wasn’t even creative enough to come up with his own name for this idol. He stole God’s character and work and blasphemously baptized the idol with that moniker. He led the people to worship the false god as though it were the true God. (Does that ring any bells?)

“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.

Surely God gave them a pass, right? I mean, Moses broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments when he came down from the mountain before they even had a chance to read the first and second Commandments that prohibited what they were doing.

Uh uh. God told Moses to get out of the way so He could fire bomb Israel off the face of the Earth and start over with him. It was only after Moses pleaded with God to stay His hand that God relented and allowed for the lesser punishment of having the Levites kill 3,000 of them with the sword and sent a plague on the rest of them.

Doesn’t exactly sound like an “anything goes in worship” kind of God, does He?

Nadab and Abihu

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

Are you seeing a pattern here? God is so not OK with people approaching Him irreverently, via idol worship, or in any other way He deems inappropriate that He’s willing to kill them.

Saul

God sends Saul and his army on a mission to defeat the Amalekites. His instructions are simple: completely destroy everything. “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

But Saul’s a smart guy, see? He knows better. He goes in and destroys all the worthless stuff, but saves the good stuff for himself. It’ll be OK with God, he reasons, because he’s going to take some of the really nice sheep and make a big, showy sacrifice. Like a rich man pitching pennies to an urchin shoeshine boy.

And when Samuel confronts Saul about his rebellion, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”, Saul has the temerity to say, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.” Because he was going to perform an act of worship. And the fact that he was doing it his way instead of God’s way didn’t matter. In Saul’s mind, it was the outward act that counted and God should have accepted it.

God didn’t see it that way:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

God is not pleased with worship offered by hands dirtied with sin and rebellion. Saul paid the price: his throne and God’s favor.

Uzziah

Uzziah started off well as king of Judah. He listened to the counsel of Zechariah, obeyed God, and prospered. But after a while, prosperity can make you proud, and that’s just what happened to Uzziah.

He became so proud, in fact, that he took it upon himself to enter the sanctuary of the temple and offer incense to God on the altar. That was a position of leadership restricted to the priests. Uzziah had never been installed as a priest because he wasn’t biblically qualified to hold the office of priest, much like many who take on the role of pastor today.

Bravely, Azariah and eighty of his fellow priests stood up to the presumptuous king – at the risk of their lives, but in defense of proper worship as commanded in God’s Word – rebuked Uzziah, and kicked him out of the temple. “You have done wrong,” they said, “and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”

Well! Uzziah was hot with anger. How dare these mere priests stop him – the king whom God had blessed and prospered – from worshiping God any way he wanted to!

Guess who God sided with? The priests who were upholding His Word and His standard of worship. God struck Uzziah with leprosy for the remainder of his life, which exiled him from the palace and a royal burial, and effectively ended his reign.

The Pharisees

Hypocrites! Blind guides! Fools! Blind men! Greedy! Self-indulgent! Whitewashed tombs! Lawless! Serpents! Brood of vipers! Murderers!

How would you like to be dressed down like that by Jesus? You’re teaching the Scriptures. You’re tithing to the nth degree. You’re traveling over land and sea to proselytize. You’re behaving with outward righteousness. You’re memorializing the prophets. As far as you can tell, you’re doing pretty well with this holiness thing.

And here comes the Messiah – the One you’re (supposedly) doing all of this for – and He shames you. Publicly. He exposes your blackness of heart to the commoners you want looking up to you. All because God’s way is for you to worship Him in spirit and in truth, but you insist on doing it your way- for all your deeds to be seen by others, and because you love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

You’re approaching God in arrogance and selfishness, and He will have none of it. You won’t die to self, so He – if only temporarily – kills your pride.

The Corinthian Church

You’ve probably never seen a Lord’s Supper as messed up as the way the Corinthian church was doing it. Some people were going without while others were getting drunk. The “important” people got to go first while the poor and lower class went to the back of the line. People were using the Lord’s Table as an opportunity for selfishness rather than putting self aside and focusing on the fact that the purpose of this meal was to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

That wasn’t acceptable to God. He didn’t want the church observing the Lord’s Supper just any old way. It was dishonoring to Christ and shameful to His church.

So God declared that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

 

“But all of that was back in Bible times!” you might protest. “God isn’t killing anybody these days for worshiping Him improperly. In fact, some of the worst violators of God’s Word are rich ‘Christian’ celebrities!”

That’s right, they are. Exactly like God said they would be: “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” And woe betide them when they stand before Christ in judgment. Because judgment is coming for them:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23

God is high and He is holy, and so are His standards for those who approach Him. He expects His people to obey His Word about how He is to be worshiped.

“I, the Lord, do not change,” God says in the Old Testament. The New Testament tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God hasn’t mellowed out or calmed down or gotten more tolerant. The God who poured out His wrath on those who blasphemed Him with unbiblical worship in the Old Testament is the same God we worship this side of the cross. Nothing escapes His notice. He doesn’t let sin slide. Whether in this life, or the next, or both, there will be a reckoning for unbiblical worship.

When it comes to worship, God is not a “whatever” kind of God.

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 12

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Mark 9:1-29

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Notice that verse 1 is the concluding statement of Jesus’ remarks at the end of chapter 8. How does verse 1 point to the events in verses 2-8?

2. Who did Jesus take with Him up the mountain? (2) Why do you think He took only these three and not all of the disciples? Why Elijah and Moses? (4) Why not Abraham and David or Isaiah and Noah? Hint- think about the two major categories of Old Testament Scripture, the L__ and the P_______. Which did Moses represent? Which did Elijah represent? How did the Old Testament Law and prophets each point to the coming of Christ? How did Christ fulfill both the Law and the prophets? Considering their upcoming roles in establishing the New Testament church and writing Scripture, why would it have been important for Peter, James, and John to witness the Transfiguration?

3. How does Peter demonstrate the importance of keeping our mouths shut and paying attention to the word of God when we’re ignorant or at a loss for words? (5-7) How do these verses help to show us that God loves, uses, and understands weak and imperfect people?

4. How would the Transfiguration have pointed to the deity of Christ and affirmation of His Messiahship for first century Jews? For Gentiles? For you?

5. Compare verses 11-13 with these Scriptures. How, and in whom, did Jesus say the prophecy of Elijah’s coming had been fulfilled?

6. Compare the private versus public nature of the Transfiguration and the healing of the demon possessed boy. Why would Jesus choose different audiences for these events? Which people/groups were present at the healing of the demon possessed boy? (14-17) Why might the scribes have been arguing with the disciples? (14, 17) Who was Jesus aggravated with in verse 19, and why? We know from verse 19 (and other passages) that Jesus sometimes got aggravated with people, yet we also know that He did so without sinning. Are there any circumstances in which it is possible for us to get aggravated, frustrated, or annoyed with others without being in sin?

7. Describe the effects the demon had on the boy (17-18,20,22,26) and consider how this is a glimpse of the destruction Satan brings to the life and soul of an unsaved person.

8. Think about Jesus’ words to the father (21,23) in light of His omniscience as well as the teaching aspect of His ministry. Did Jesus sometimes say things – not because He lacked knowledge – but in order to elicit a certain response or to get people to think? Do Jesus’ words in these verses indicate that He wasn’t compassionate toward the father and son? What is the father’s response to Jesus in verse 24? What did he mean?

9. The Transfiguration demonstrates Jesus’ power and authority in which spiritual realm? Contrast this with Jesus casting the demon out of the boy, which demonstrates His power and authority in which spiritual realm?


Homework

In verse 24, the father says, “I believe; help my unbelief.” Have you ever prayed a similar prayer? Is there an area of your life in which you’re having difficulty trusting God, or a part of Scripture you have trouble believing? This week, spend some time studying what the Bible has to say about it and pray every day that God will strengthen your trust in Him and your belief in His word.


Suggested Memory Verse

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
Mark 9:42

The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 13

the-ten

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Exodus 20:18-20

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”

Exodus 24:3-8

Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”


Romans 3:19-20

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 7:1-12

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Galatians 3:23-26

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.


Romans 13:8-10

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

1 John 5:2-3

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. In Exodus 20:18-19, how did the Israelites react to God’s appearance to Moses? What was Moses’ response to them? (20) What did Moses say would be two results of God testing the people? (20) How many times does the word “fear” appear in verse 20? What is the difference in meaning between the first “fear” and the second one?

2. Briefly skim Exodus 20:21-23:33. In addition to the Ten Commandments, what are some of the other laws, or categories of laws, God gave Moses? In the Exodus 24 passage above, what was the people’s response to hearing all of these laws? (3) Describe the sequence of events taking place in Exodus 24:3-8. Why did the people respond twice? (3,7) Was there any difference between these two responses? Compare the people’s response in this passage with their response in Exodus 19:5-8. What events transpired between the response in chapter 19 and the response in chapter 24?

3. In Exodus 24:6,8, why did Moses sprinkle the altar and the people with blood? How did this formalize Israel’s agreement to the Mosaic covenant? How does the Mosaic covenant point ahead to the new covenant in Christ? Are Christians still bound by the Mosaic covenant?

4. In what ways did the giving of the law and Israel’s agreement to the Mosaic covenant help officially establish Israel as a nation and set Israel apart from the surrounding pagan nations?

5. Examine the Romans 3 and 7 passages. What does it mean that the law makes us “accountable” to God? (3:19) Why can’t we be made righteous in God’s eyes by simply striving to keep His laws? (3:20) Read Romans 3:20 and 7:7-8 together. What do these verses tell us about the connection between knowing the law and sin?

6. Explain the analogy of dying to works of the law that Paul is trying to convey in Romans 7:1-6. Compare verse 6 to Galatians 3:23-26. What does Galatians say was the purpose of the law, and what is our obligation to it now? What does the latter part of verse 6 – “we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” – mean? Does this mean we no longer have to obey God’s moral laws such as the ones in the 10 Commandments? (12)

7. Study the Romans 13 and 1 John 5 passages. What is the theme of these two passages? What does Paul mean when he says, “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”? (13:8) Who are the two parties we demonstrate love for when we keep God’s commands? How does loving God and keeping His commands automatically translate into loving others? (5:2) How does loving God and our neighbors, thus keeping God’s commands, demonstrate to others that we belong to Christ?


Homework:

This week, view your sin or obedience through the lenses of love. Examine the sins you commit. How do they demonstrate your failure to love God and love your neighbor? Examine instances of your obedience to God’s commandments and think about how they demonstrate your love for Him and for your neighbor. As you pray, ask God to increase your love for Him. Increased love leads to increased obedience.

The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 12

the-ten

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Ephesians 5:3,5

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints…For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

James 4:1-3

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.


Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Colossians 3:5, 12-15

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

1 Timothy 6:6-11

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Read through all of today’s passages. What does it mean to covet? How are coveting, jealousy, and greed related? Compare the tenth Commandment to the other nine. In what way is the sin of coveting different from the sins in the other Commandments? Is coveting observable? What specific things does the tenth Commandment tell us not to covet (Exodus 20:17)?

2. How is coveting at the root of murder, theft, adultery, and lying? The Ephesians and Colossians passages say that coveting is idolatry. Why? Can you think of any other sins coveting could lead to? How could recognizing coveting and putting it to death help prevent it from snowballing into more sin?

3. Think about coveting, a secret sin of the heart, in the immediate context of the tenth Commandment (God is setting apart Israel as His own special people and establishing them as a nation). How would obedience to this Commandment have been conducive to keeping law and order in civil society?

4. Do you think the nations surrounding Israel who worshiped pagan gods had laws against coveting? Why or why not? If any of them did, what would be the difference between a false god making and enforcing a law against a secret sin of the heart and God making and enforcing such a law? How would a law against a secret sin have pointed Israel’s pagan neighbors to the one true God who sees and judges the hidden secrets of the heart? How would this have been a testimony to God’s power and omniscience?

5. According to the Ephesians and James passages, is coveting characteristic of Christians or lost people? What does James say are some of the results of coveting? How might having a covetous heart affect our prayer life? (James 4:3) What does Ephesians 5:5 say is the consequence of unrepentant coveting?

6. What role did coveting play in the parable Jesus told in the Luke passage? Explain Luke 12:15 in your own words.

7. Examine the Hebrews, Colossians and 1 Timothy passages and compare them with the tenth Commandment in Exodus 20:17. Is the Old Testament instruction about coveting singular (one part) or binary (two parts)? The New Testament instruction? What are the “thou shalt not” and the “thou shalt” instructions about coveting in these New Testament passages? Instead of coveting, we are to be c_____. (Hebrews 13:5) Why, according to Hebrews 13:5, are Christians to be content? How does it demonstrate to others that Christ is sufficient when we are content instead of covetous? Read Colossians 3:15. How can thankfulness counteract coveting?


Homework:

When we covet, we are essentially saying to God, “What You have so lovingly and graciously provided for me isn’t good enough. I deserve better.” Coveting brings with it the sin of ingratitude toward God. Spend some time in prayer asking God to bring to mind any areas of your life in which you’re coveting, and ask Him to forgive you.

Make a list of the things, people, and life circumstances God has blessed you with and keep it handy (maybe in your notes app in your phone?). This week if you find yourself coveting something, someone, or a certain circumstance, drop what you’re doing, go back to that list and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for what He has already provided for you. Ask Him to make your heart content.