January 3, 2015

Good news: what we have lost can be restored . . .

This year’s devotional guide (see left) presses me to fuller study, making it more difficult to use devotionally. I want to write a book instead of a devotional post. However, I will try to share the main point of what God is saying to me so that others might be edified. My hope is to see the connections between the OT and the NT, and to better understand how human ego and vanity ruin my life while humility is not thinking less of me, but thinking of me less, and more of others.

The readings are from the OT, the books of wisdom, and the NT. I’ve no problem seeing connections between the readings. First the OT tells how God created man . . .

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them . . . . When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image . . . .” (Genesis 5:1–3)

In the beginning, the first human beings were made in the image of God, but after sin entered the world, that changed. The next generation was made in the image of the first two people, which was a marred reflection. Pondering that, it seems to me that with each successive generation looking like the one before it, humanity slid into increasing deterioration. Even in my life time, I can see the changes. Fifty years ago, people knew much more about God than they do now. Today, the average person has lost that sense of spirituality that my parents had, and the average five-year-old blasphemes God as if that were a normal way to talk.

By the 10th Century BC, Solomon observed this also. He noted, I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted. I said in my heart, ‘I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.’ And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14–18)

He writes more about the vanity of life and how he feels as if nothing really matters very much. The world is a sinful place, but even the good that anyone does has no lasting value. Unless Ecclesiastes is read to the end and this wise man’s conclusions are accepted, it is a utterly depressing book.

Yet the NT brings hope. Jesus comes. He calls for a return to righteousness, a change of heart. But before that can happen, people need to realize that this change is vital. He tells them (and me) that “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

I’m in a somber mood. Millions of people have never heard this bad news that precedes the good news, and even if they know it and have heard the Gospel, both bad and good news have been maligned so much that it no longer sounds profitable to their ears.

But both are good news. The first Adam did disobey God and the entire human race became separated from Him, but the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, fully obeyed God so that the entire human race could be redeemed. The Gospel declares that sinners can be united to Him and restored to His image through a new birth and a fresh start.   Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled me to himself and gave me the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting our trespasses against us, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

“Therefore, I am an ambassador for Christ, God making his appeal through me. I implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  

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