September 16, 2015

Don’t let the bad news keep you from the Good News!

Micah 4:1–6:16, Acts 14:8–15:21, Job 23:1–17

The gospel is an offense to human pride. Too often I think I can be good, do the right things, even please God. But the gospel says I am a sinner, unable to obey God apart from Christ, and no one else can please God either. This is offensive, but it is also comes with an incredible hope.

In the OT, the good news of redemption from sin was often acted out in the drama of history. God depicted sin in events like Israel’s bondage in Egypt and their captivity in Babylon. He depicted their deliverance by taking them out of Egypt and bringing them from that later captivity. He also gave incredible promises for their future, and for the future of all sinners who put their faith in Him. One OT prophet puts it this way:

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.” (Micah 4:1–5)

Because I believe in Jesus Christ, I will join those who walk in the name of the Lord forever and ever.

Job’s faith was in the same God, even during the testing of his faith. His life was filled with loss and pain, yet even in his distress, he continued to seek the Lord.
Most of the time I am aware of God’s presence, but at times, like Job, it seems as if He is hiding. Job experienced that sense of emptiness during his suffering, but he also declared his faith. God would bring him through this . . .

“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me . . . . Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:3–5, 8–10)

Job was confident in a positive end to his situation, not because he deserved it, but because he knew the faithfulness of his God. He was afraid, yet he could still speak of God’s consistency and power: “But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; yet I am not silenced because of the darkness, nor because thick darkness covers my face.” (Job 23:13–17)

Paul and the other apostles also knew that despite their trials, God would bring them through. Paul had been stoned almost to death, but continued to speak of the believer’s hope and the promises of God. “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21–22)

Later, Peter told how God first visited the Gentiles to win them to Christ. He quoted the OT prophets to show them that God was now beginning to fulfill His redemptive promises.  “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,’ says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.” He then encouraged the Jewish believers to “not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.” (Acts 15:14–19)

God promised salvation for sinners, not just the people of Israel, but whosoever will come to Him. No matter what anyone goes through or how dire their circumstances, those who believe in Him are saved. This salvation is not based on anything we can do, but on the faithfulness of God – as proven in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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