Monday, April 3, 2017

The Amazement of "ALL"

The word “all” appears in the Bible over 5,000 times. Here are just a few of the “alls” of the Scriptures:
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. (Gen. 2:1)
And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life. (Gen. 6:17)
Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five? (Gen. 18:28)
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt. (Gen. 41:41)
The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. (Ex. 7:21)
And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. (Ex. 12:29)
Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Ex. 33:19)

I gave you just eight examples from just 2 books of the Bible. In those 2 books, Genesis and Exodus, “all” appears over 500 times. One of the most important things about God’s Word is its universal truth. Here are some major ways the word “all” applies to what we read in the Scriptures:

--The God of the Bible, who appears in the first verse of Genesis as the Creator, is the only God that is. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists besides Himself.
--Therefore, all creation--every creature that exists--owes its love, worship, thanksgiving and service to the God of all.
--Our first parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed the Lord, and because of their sin, God brought the curse of death and judgment upon all of their offspring--including you & me.
--Because God Himself is the Truth, all truth flows from Him. All the words of God are true, and therefore, all the words of the Bible are divine truth.
--The Scriptures are true for you and for me, they are true for all people, in all places, at all times, for all generations, through all of history, and to all eternity.
--The Bible declares that the Son of God--Jesus Christ--became the only Savior for all people. He claimed: “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
--Those who turn from their sins and fully trust in God’s Son to save them, receive forgiveness and cleansing from all their sins. Jesus Christ paid for all their sins on the cross of Calvary 2,000 years ago. So, believers have no more payments to make for sin!
--That brings us to my main topic for this article: Our risen Savior Jesus reigns today, right now, in Heaven, and is in sovereign control over ALL THINGS.

Everyone knows that the Bible is all about Jesus--the people of Israel anticipated Him as their coming Messiah, the prophecies of the Old Testament foretold His coming, His ministry, His sacrifice and His everlasting kingdom. Then, the New Testament Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--give the story of His incarnation, His life and ministry, His miracles and teaching, His betrayal and arrest, His trial and crucifixion, and then His resurrection and ascension.

But Jesus’ followers had their Master’s promise that the Holy Spirit would lead them into “all the truth” about Him. This was accomplished as Christ’s Apostles received direct revelation from the Son of God through the ministry of the Spirit--revelation that was written down by both the Gospel writers, and by the writers of the New Testament epistles. One of the most important of these letters to the churches was the book of Romans, authored by the Apostle Paul.

No other book of the Bible gives such a complete explanation of what makes the coming of Christ such good news for all people. And Paul himself was such an enthusiastic preacher of that gospel message for a very surprising reason: he started out as one of Christ’s biggest enemies!

The gospel is so amazing because it is good news for sinners--sinners like you and me, those guilty of the smallest sins and the biggest sins, those who admire Jesus and those who hate and despise Him, rich and poor sinners, foolish and wise sinners, young and old sinners, Jewish and Gentile sinners. All sinners in the world can receive Paul’s message as “good news”!

The good news Paul describes to the Christians in the church at Rome is all about receiving. When Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus, he was a Jewish Pharisee, committed to keeping God’s law as strictly as possible, and counting on his own strict obedience to make him acceptable in God’s eyes. His religion was based on doing, on offering, on giving something to the Lord that was demanded of him.

But when he finally met God’s Son on the road to Damascus, Saul found out that salvation from his sins was all about receiving. Jesus Christ had come to provide a free gift of forgiveness and perfect righteousness that is offered by grace and through faith alone. He discovered that all of his law-keeping put together could never earn the favor of a holy God. God is so high and holy and perfect, that no one’s obedience is good enough.

Isaiah 64:6 tells us that “all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags” in the eyes of the Lord! So, how many “filthy rags” would it take to make our holy Creator pleased with us--pleased enough with us to allow us into His perfect presence? Our only hope for salvation from God’s judgment would have to be based on His mercy and grace. We must trust in a God of mercy to save us.

So, Paul explains to the Roman believers--and to you and me--that “the righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17), that Christ offers us a “righteousness apart from the law” (3:21), that faith in Christ is “credited as righteousness” (4:22), that believers are identified with Christ so that “we too might walk in newness of life” (6:4), that our freedom from sin makes us “slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (6:19), that the Spirit of God dwells in us to help us in our weakness (8:26). All of these benefits are love-gifts of grace from our heavenly Father.

Of course, our faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t end as soon as we become Christians. The challenge and the power of living out our life in Christ requires that we go on trusting Him. Jesus’ ministry to His people didn’t end after He died and arose and ascended to His heavenly glory. The risen Lord Jesus is ruling and reigning on the throne of the universe. Romans 8:28 is one of the most reassuring verses in Paul’s entire epistle: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

For believers in Christ, faced with the weaknesses of our own fallible flesh, a fallen world full of persecution and temptations, and the craftiness of the devil and his fallen angels, Romans 8:28 is a source of strength, comfort and confidence. Our progress on the path to heaven doesn’t depend totally on our effort, our faithfulness, our strength of willpower. No, our Savior and King is always providing us with supernatural help. He is in control of all things. And He causes all things to work together for our benefit. The good purpose of making us like Jesus Himself!

Just think about it:
~ All of the circumstances of your birth, your family, your physical traits and talents,
~ All of the events of your past, your upbringing, your education, your victories & failures,
~ All of the relationships you’ve made, your spouse, your children, your friends & enemies,
~ All of the problems in your life, your disappointments, your diseases, your weaknesses,
~ All of the situations you worry about, your doubts, your fears, your joys & your sorrows,
~ All of the lessons you’ve learned, are learning, or have yet to learn,
~ All of the local, national, or world situations we read about or see in the media,
~ All of the decisions made by those who have authority over you, those who care about you or don’t care at all,

All things are under the control of your good God, Lord and Savior, who plans them for your good.

At the same time, you and I must keep in mind that knowing about Romans 8:28 and believing it are two different things. Many of God’s most precious promises are some of the most difficult to fully accept. The world, the devil, and our own weak flesh can cause us to doubt God’s sovereign control over life’s circumstances. When we doubt His loving power over all things, we can start to lose the peace, the joy, and the hope that sustain us through the storms and trials of life.

Believe me, Paul certainly understood that this earthly life is filled with storms and trials, especially for Christians. Chapter 8 of Romans is concerned with the sufferings and weaknesses that take place in our world. Paul writes that the whole creation is “groaning,” as if it is in labor, waiting to be delivered. You mothers know what the pains of labor are like. Paul goes on to say that we Christians have a “groaning” in our souls as well. It is a longing for our heavenly home, for the pure, beautiful, eternal state where we will leave all suffering behind, and dwell in the glorious presence of our Lord Jesus forever.

Mothers, when your baby is born, I’m told that the memory of your labor pains quickly fades away--there is such overwhelming joy and relief that your new child has arrived safe into the world, the agony of the delivery process all seems to have been worth the effort. In fact, isn’t it true that the joy is actually ALL THE GREATER because of the part you played in bringing the son or daughter into the world--painful though it was?

That is very much like the suffering we go through as believers. At times it is extremely hard to see the loving hand of a sovereign God at work in and through those difficult, painful trials. When we lose a job...when fire or violent weather strikes our property...when a loved one leaves...when our bodies grow tired and weak...when we get confused, depressed or frustrated…

All of those hardships, the Bible assures us, are the pains leading up to our DELIVERANCE into glory! And when we trust our heavenly Father to cause our pains and sufferings to “work together for good,” we are following the example of our Lord Jesus. Remember, HE took on our weak, limited human flesh when he became a man. HE experienced poverty, hunger, thirst and physical pain. HE suffered the loss of loved ones and the misunderstanding of his own people. HE was accused of being false, demonic and guilty of crimes he didn’t commit. HE was nailed to a terrible cross to pay for sins that were not his own!

Paul describes Jesus in Philippians 2: He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” All that Christ suffered as a man, led up to the glory that He received in Heaven from His Father--glory that will be His forever. Glory that you and I will share in when we see Him face to face!

Paul writes: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Our sufferings are being worked by God together for our ultimate good. In fact, our sufferings make us more like our Savior, who suffered so much for us!

And think of the great scope of the “good” God is preparing for those who love Him! The pains and struggles of this life are only for that long: “this life.” But the glory and blessings of the life to come will NEVER END. The inheritance that awaits all of God’s children will outweigh this life’s sufferings so much, we will think it strange that we ever doubted or complained about them.

Think of the “good” God accomplishes through our hardships even IN this life: They cause us to pray more often and more fervently. They strengthen our faith as we lean on Christ. They increase our desire and expectation for Heaven. They make us more humble and less self-dependent. They give us more sympathy and compassion for others so we may comfort them. In other words, trials and sufferings make us more like Jesus. They sanctify us.

“Every human tie may perish; Friend to friend unfaithful prove;
Mothers cease their own to cherish; Heaven and earth at last remove;
But no changes Can attend Jehovah’s love.

In the furnace God may prove thee, Thence to bring thee forth more bright,
But can never cease to love thee; Thou art precious in His sight:
God is with thee, God, thine everlasting light.”

At the end of chapter 8 of Romans, Paul gives a frightful list of things that might conceivably make our Lord “cease to love” us. “Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” “In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (v. 37).

All things work for our good,
We are more than conquerors over all that threatens us.
All that we suffer cannot be compared with the glories of Heaven.
Because God loves all those who are called according to His purpose,
And His love is eternal. It will outlast it ALL!


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