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Tag Archives: sin

Bringing Others To Jesus (Mark 2)

“…Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.” (Mark 1:45b)

Thus the closing statement of Mark 1 reveals that great crowds were coming from all over the region to see Jesus. And why were they coming to Him? It would seem that a great majority were coming in order to be healed of some affliction or disease. It was the testimony of the cleansed leper (Mark 1:45a) which made it nearly impossible for the Lord to travel anywhere without being mobbed on all sides. Yet the real purpose of Jesus’ ministry was not to heal the sick or cast out demons; for what do we find Him doing when He does finally come back after several days into Capernaum?

And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.” (Mark 2:2, emphasis added)

Though we seldom read of the Lord going anywhere that He did not heal the sick and cast out evil spirits, His focus was ultimately on preaching the Word of God and proclaiming the Gospel. The mission of Jesus Christ was to declare the Good News of Salvation, the reconciliation of man to the Lord through the death and resurrection of the Son, and to bear the penalty for the sins which separate the sinner from a holy God. He was not simply a thaumaturge alleviating the temporal ailments of the poor and downtrodden for the entertainment and curiosity of the masses. Back in Chapter 1 of Mark, we read that Jesus “…came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (v. 15)

However, an interruption occurs as our Lord is sharing the Word with the crowd inside the house. Suddenly, there is a noise on the roof of the home as four men begin to tear the thatching apart. Unable to get their friend into Jesus’ presence by any other means, the desperate men can see no other way than to rip the top of the building off and lower their companion directly before Him.

And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)

It seems that many of the Bible commentaries on this incident put a lot of focus on the details of what these four men actually did in order to remove the roof and bring their friend into the Lord’s presence. Descriptions are given concerning how the roofs of the homes in that place and time were fashioned to be easily opened for various purposes and that peeling them back would not have been seen as a destructive or bold action. Be that as it may, it sure seems that their decision to do so got the Lord’s attention as well as that of every other person present. Jesus commended their faith for intrepidly doing whatever was necessary to get their sick companion to the Great Physician.

Obviously, it was ultimately not the faith of the four men holding the stretcher which saved the man, but his own. Faith in Jesus Christ can never bring Salvation to someone else by proxy. But then again, it certainly can contribute to someone else’s Salvation, can it not? What would the fate of that paralyzed man have been if his friends did not believe strongly enough that the Lord could heal him? What if they had not believed that it was worth the risk of embarrassment and rebuke and they had decided to just go on back home. There was no room through the doorway, there was no entry through a window, only by dismantling the roof could the men bring their friend into Jesus’ presence.

What can we say about the faith of others and what their contributions have brought to our own Salvation? The mother who diligently prays for her wayward son, the neighbor who cares enough to drive the lonely widow to church each week. There are those who risk much and sacrifice greatly for the benefit of another; they are willing to do whatever it takes just to get that person into the presence of Jesus Christ. Though they encounter difficulties, blocked doors and barred windows, they persevere both through prayer and through action, and they stop at nothing in order to bring the one paralyzed by sin to the only One Who can say, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” (Mark 2:7-11)

There are those who assert that Jesus Himself never claimed Divinity and some who suggest that only the Apostle John recorded Him declaring that He is God incarnate. But those who do so fail to grasp the significance of His words in passages such as the one before us. For the scribes were absolutely correct in their second premise: who can forgive sins but God alone? But they were in error concerning their first: He is blaspheming. Only God can forgive sins and yet Jesus forgave sins. The only conclusion we are left with is that either Jesus mistakingly believed that He was God or else He truly is God. But to deny that He ever claimed to be God is completely fallacious.

The scribes were left with one or the other of these conclusions (as, indeed, are each of us). By accusing Jesus of blasphemy, they were implying that He was incorrectly asserting His own Deity. Thus the Lord lays out for them a dilemma. Which is easier to do, to say that this man’s sins are forgiven and assert His Deity, or to say to the man to rise up and walk? The first, of course, would be easier apart from any verification. Any madman can claim to be God. But what if He proves it by doing that which no other man can do? Who else but God could make the paralyzed rise to their feet in an instant?

It is no wonder that all who were present (except, I would imagine, the scribes themselves) glorified God and declared, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:12). Again, we should understand from the Lord’s own words that it was His identity as God incarnate, His position as the Son of God sent to take away the sins of the world, that was of supremacy in His ministry. It was not the miracles and healing and wonders that should be at center stage. These were done out of compassion by the Lord Jesus for His people and to authenticate His message. Part of Jesus’ “credentials” were His miracles and it was His wonders and signs which proved that He was and is exactly Who He claimed to be.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published Mar. 12, 2015]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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God Meant It Unto Good

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

If a person completely unfamiliar with the Book of Genesis sat down and read the first two chapters, then skipped ahead and read the final two, they would likely have the overwhelming feeling that something had gone horribly wrong in between the two sections. Perhaps unable to put their finger directly on it, they would sense that something catastrophic had occurred in between. Genesis 1 opens with God moving upon a barren planet, filling it with life and light. Genesis 50 ends with the burial of Joseph. Genesis begins with the birth of everything and ends with the burial of the final personage covered in the narrative. In short, Genesis begins with life and ends with death.

Even the most hardened atheist must concede that there seems to be something very unnatural and even unfair about the cruel, nearly mechanical cycle of life and death. All living things die eventually, but why is this so? Why is it that the human body, so resilient, so able to reproduce and revive its own cells, finally ceases all of these processes and ultimately surrenders to the cold grasp of death? How is it that everything which God created and called “good” has become otherwise?

Man has within his heart an instinct for survival, a desire to live, and an expectation of immortality. We know within our own hearts that we ought not to die, that this is not the way things were intended to be. And in reflecting on the Book of Genesis, we see that God never intended for it to be like this. Yet sin entered in; and with it, death (Rom. 5:12). This is what went horribly wrong in those chapters between the Second and Forty-ninth of Genesis: sin. We tend to blame all of our woes on external forces, but they originated within ourselves. Man has defied the Law of God and has brought death upon himself as a result.

Yet another theme is woven into the pages of Genesis, a theme that would be overlooked by the person skipping over all of those intermediate chapters. Redemption. What man has defiled, God desires to cleanse; what man has broken, God desires to fix; and what man has lost, God desires to restore. In other words: what man has thought for evil, God has meant for good. Even the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, which led to the death, both spiritual and physical, of every person who would ever live can be overcome by what God has done through Jesus Christ on man’s behalf. Evil intent darkened the hearts of Adam and Eve in that Original Sin, yet God brought something good in the Redemption made available by the Blood of Christ, the Redemption offered to all men whereby they might be saved.

And so it is with the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers when they sold him into slavery. What they intended for evil, God meant for good. For this single sinful act of the brothers would set into motion all of the events that would one day bring them alive into Egypt. Though by no means alleviating their responsibility for their actions, God would bring something beautiful from the ugliness that the brothers had done. Even so, we know that the brothers of Joseph repented of the wicked deed they had done and did what they could to make things right. Fearing retribution from Joseph’s hand after their father passed away, they threw themselves upon his mercy and even appealed to Jacob’s final wishes to save them. But Joseph, his eyes fixed steadfastly on the perspective of God upon the entire matter, holds no such purpose as their destruction in his mind. He deeply loved his brothers and had forgiven them. Besides this, how could he wish harm against them when what they intended for evil, God meant for good?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 19, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Who Sent Joseph Into Egypt?

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7-8)

The implications of this statement made by Joseph to his bewildered brothers must have been as perplexing and astounding to them as it has been to generations of Bible readers since it was first spoken. As believers, we tend to just sort of skip right through such profound statements with the unspoken understanding that, naturally, all things are under God’s control and He is in control of all things. Skeptics enjoy reading such statements as opportunities to impugn the character of God; assigning to Him full responsibility for the entirety of man’s errors. But what exactly do such statements really mean? More directly: was everything which we have read about occurring in the life of Joseph a part of God’s perfect plan?

Before we are too quick to answer this, we should consider what it would mean if all of these things were, in fact, the plan of God. First of all, it would imply that it was God’s plan for the brothers to commit sin by selling their brother into slavery. James tells us in his epistle that God never entices man to do evil (James 1:13) and consequently could never plan or intend for anyone to commit sin. Sin is, therefore, never a part of God’s perfect plan. Yet we are told that God sent Joseph into Egypt, i.e., that He planned for Joseph to go there. How is this possible if God did not intend for the brothers to sell him into slavery?

This is an area of disputation that has historically resulted in all sorts of theological dilemmas, calling into question where the line is drawn between God’s will and the free will of man. Does God or does He not ever step across that line in order to accomplish His perfect will? My simple answer to this is that He does not. What God does do is to take the opportunity to use even the sin, errors, and shortcomings of man (believers and unbelievers alike) to bring His will to pass. It was not God’s intention for the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery, but He chose to use that as the impetus that would put Joseph into the land of Egypt. God did not plan for Potiphar’s wife to make lewd advances toward Joseph nor to falsely accuse him of misconduct; yet He used those very things to facilitate Joseph’s delivery into prison — a place where he would come into close contact with the chief butler and baker of Pharaoh.

How God would have brought His will to pass apart from the sins of these people is anyone’s guess, but we can be assured that God did not need the sins of man to help His plans along. He never does. It speaks volumes about the sovereignty of our Lord in that He is able to accomplish His will in spite of man’s sin. What a profound reminder that God is in complete control!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 11, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

The Sins Of Judah

“Judah recognized them, and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not have relations with her again.” (Genesis 38:26)

Chapter 38 is another one of those sections in the Book of Genesis that seems out-of-place. Chapter 37 leaves off with Joseph being sold as a slave to Potiphar in Egypt and Chapter 39 picks up in the same spot. Chapter 38 spells out the sordid misdeeds of one of Joseph’s brothers, namely Judah, and seems to be an irrelevant parenthetical account; an unnecessary interruption in the narrative which has been focusing on Joseph.

While the incidents surrounding the sins of Judah do very little to advance the story now before us, they do serve as a very enlightening background and explanation for what will follow.  We caught a glimpse in Chapter 37 of the level of depravity that the sons of Jacob had fallen to, now we get a more detailed, up-close look at one son in particular. Perhaps it is intended that we consider him as an example and his wickedness recorded here but an illustration of the great sinfulness which characterized the entire family. Nevertheless, there are at least three main reasons why we are told about Judah’s actions here:

Judah’s Sin Shows The Need To Get The Israelites Out Of Canaan

First and foremost, the sinfulness of Joseph’s brothers (we saw another example in the lives of Simeon and Levi back in Chapter 34) demonstrates the need for God to get the family out of the land of Canaan. Here we are only three generations removed from Abraham himself and the family has already so adopted the practices of their pagan neighbors that they are morally no better than the inhabitants already living in the land. Everything about Judah’s dealings with Tamar was typical behavior of the Canaanites. Even his grave, hypocritical double-standard as recorded in Verse 24 is characteristic of the worldly, man-of-the-flesh. The vilest of heathen is indignant when confronted with the sins of others, though he himself sees no injustice in his own.

If the family of Israelites had become so utterly corrupted by the influence of those living around them in just three generations, how much greater would the contamination have been had they remained in Palestine all along? Thus God chose for them to dwell in the incubator of the wilderness of Egypt, removed from the corrupting influences of their neighbors. Even the Egyptians’ contempt for all keepers of sheep served the purposes of God, for it allowed the family to be further segregated in the land of Goshen within Egypt.

Judah’s Sin Shows the Contrast Between Joseph’s Character And His Brothers’

It is not likely just a coincidence that we are told of the sexual impurity of Judah just before we are told of the chaste behavior of his younger brother, Joseph. It is safe to conclude what Judah’s (and probably every other brother, except Benjamin) response would have been to the advances of Potiphar’s wife. As we began to see in Chapter 37, Joseph is different from his brethren. Joseph fears God and respects others while his brothers seem to simply take whatever they want and mistreat others for their own selfish interests.

Judah’s Sin Characterizes The Line Into Which The Lord Jesus Will Be Born

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.” (Matthew 1:2-3)

Chapter 38 of Genesis serves as a profound reminder of how great humanity’s need for a Savior really is! We see that even those who were in the lineage of the Lord were sin-stained, imperfect people. Perez was the illegitimate son of Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Yet he became the father of Hezron and ultimately an ancestor in the line that led to the Lord Jesus. The sordid deeds of Judah show us that God did not choose the noblest, the most morally upright, or the most righteous of the sons of Israel through which to bring the Lord Jesus into this world. He used sinners to bring about His purposes. If men like Judah fit into the plans of God, maybe He can use the rest of us sinners, too.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published September 16, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

 

A Legacy Of Deception

“But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.” (Genesis 34:13)

Before Genesis 34, we are told very little about the children of Jacob. This chapter, however, records a very sad and sordid incident that will serve as the first of many blights on the family. We saw a genuine turning to God in the life of Jacob in the last two chapters, but it appears that deception and trickery are still the order of business in this household and that Jacob the Deceiver has passed this legacy on to his sons.

Sadly, although Jacob has come around and is now walking uprightly, the time spent growing up in this household and in the household of Laban have made a very unfortunate impact on his sons. Is it any surprise that these young men would conduct their affairs in the same manner as their father and Uncle Laban had? So often we do not think about the consequences in the lives of our little ones when we model less than admirable moral behavior. Even when we tell them to do better, even when our words teach them to make better choices than we have; it is our actions which prove the most convincing.

I am in no position to suggest what the best course of action would have been for Jacob’s family when confronted with the news of the sin committed against Dinah. I do not think any of us are privy to knowing what the Lord desired for them to do. We can be sure that intermarrying with the Shechemites was not God’s intention for them. But we can also be certain that He did not intend for Levi and Simeon to deceive them and then proceed to slaughter every man in the city! Nevertheless, this is what they did because this was the method of doing business that they had grown up with. When Jacob protests against what they have done (v. 30), I believe that they were genuinely surprised. Is this not something he himself (that is, the old Jacob) might have done in their position?

It is unfortunate, but it is not always possible to undo the negative impact that we have had on others, particularly our own children, which we made before we came to God. Sometimes the damage lingers. All that we can do is pray that we are able to influence them enough in our new walk with Christ and that our new nature will affect them all the more. For most of Jacob’s sons, well, we see in Genesis 50:16-17 that they were still relying on deception and trickery at the close of the book, so it may be that even after all of the uprightness they would behold in their father’s life hereafter (as well as the graciousness of their brother Joseph) that they would never fully overcome the “lessons” of their formative years.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published July 21, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

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