The First Human Death

“Has God indeed said …” Genesis 3:1

These are the first recorded words of Satan and their echo is still reverberating around the world as strong as on that first occasion. People around the world are showing open rebellion and defiance against their Creator. Sin has made people more willing to shake the fist of defiance at God.

Satan chose to discredit God through Eve most likely because she had not heard the original command from God (2:16-17) She received it second hand from Adam. This is a good reason why everyone should hear from God first-hand and personally. This made Eve vulnerable, as it will any person who does not read God’s word for themselves, and Satan knows it.

Apparently Eve chose to accept Satan’s criticism of God without consulting Adam and she ate of the fruit. This put Adam in a place that he could not have envisaged. He would have to choose between his relationship with God and his relationship with Eve. For how he should have responded, refer to Numbers 30:8. In full knowledge of what he was doing Adam accepted Satan’s criticism of God and so sin and death entered the world. The first human physical death was Adam and Eve’s son, Abel, murdered by their firstborn, Cain (4:8). Abel’s death must have caused immeasurable grief and shock to Adam and Eve. Seeing this terrible consequence of their sin would have been horrific.

The record of the Bible is one of God speaking to people, through the prophets and through the Lord Jesus Christ, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Even so Satan still finds numerous willing ears to his question. Since he spoke to Eve through the serpent he has continued to ask of men and women, “Has God indeed said…” The response is evident all around us. God allows Satan to serve Him by continuing to test the hearts of men. But there is the voice of Jesus calling men to repent, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

Each person will make their own choice as to whether they will believe Satan’s lie or God’s truth. Receiving Satan’s lie as truth is to call God a liar and a deceiver. Satan is a murderer and a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

To choose to believe what God has said is the opposite of what Adam did in the Garden and opens the grace door (John 10:9-10) to salvation purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.

The Book of Life

“Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20:15

This unambiguous statement was written by John as a description of what God was revealing to him. The purpose of the occasion was that John record this for people to read, understand, believe and act upon. If the statement is not true then God is a deceiver and not to be trusted. No wonder John wrote at the beginning of this book, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

Since the lake of fire is the destiny of all whose names are not in the Book of Life and only those whose names are in this Book will enter the new creation (Revelation 21:27) it is a matter of highest priority and greatest urgency for every person to be sure their name is in that Book.

In John 3:18 we read, “He who believes is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Twice in this verse it says that the dividing factor is faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone’s name is written in the “books” as condemned but upon exercising faith in Jesus Christ one’s name is written in the Book of Life. Jesus called this being “born again” (John 3:3, 7). Paul called it a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Condemnation is God’s sentence upon sin and since condemnation came when Adam sinned we are all born in sin and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), all are condemned and God’s wrath abides on us. However, the one who believes is no longer condemned because he has trusted that Jesus Christ died for his sin (John 3:36; Romans 5:8; 8:1). This is the reason Jesus came (John 3:17).

Only in Jesus Christ can condemnation for sin be removed because He bore the sentence for our sin on the cross. Forgiveness of sin and deliverance from wrath is only through Jesus Christ who died in our place (Hebrews 9:22, 26-28).

Anyone who denies this truth reveals that their name is not yet in the Book of Life. Their destiny is the lake of fire but that is not God’s desired destiny for anyone. Jesus bore the sin of everyone so that all might be saved but only those who believe Him will have their names written in the Book of Life.

Again I write, this is of the highest priority and the most urgent concern to anyone who is not assured that their name is written in the Book of Life.

In His Image

“Adam called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living” Genesis 3:20

In the first chapter of Genesis we learn that God created man in His image, “Let Us make man in Our image” (v 26). Since God is a plurality of Persons yet one God He created mankind in that image, a plurality of persons yet one flesh (Genesis 2:23-24). Lest we fail to grasp this it is repeated in 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” To be in the “image” of God means to be a physical expression of God. We read this of Jesus in Hebrews 1:3, “who being in the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person …”

As the Persons of the Godhead are equal in every respect except role, so are the man and the woman equal in every respect except role. As the Persons of the Godhead are complementary, so are the man and the woman (Genesis 2:18). Marriage and parenthood are God’s means of revealing this and other aspects of His glory in the world. It should not surprise us that Satan is doing his utmost to mar or destroy this revelation of God.

How sad it is that people who are the objects of God’s love serve Satan’s interests and hatred of God. No matter what people may try to do, they cannot change that part of the role that God has given them by His determining their sex. Eve had the unique position of being the first mother; she is the only mother without any precedent to follow. She had no mentor or role model, no mother or mother-in-law to comfort and help her – or to tell her she was doing it wrong!

Adam honoured her position and role by the name he gave her. She is the mother of all persons who live or have ever lived on earth (except for Adam and herself, of course). She is the ultimate mother of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. On Mothers’ Day we reflect on the special place and role that mothers have within the family and society. Mothers are God’s gift, and they share with fathers the joy and privilege of revealing the glory of God into the world. Since we are corrupted by sin that revelation is marred; but as we allow Christ to live in us God’s glory is revealed, even if a little dimly. Many men and women, who have achieved much, credit their mothers as being the primary earthly reason for their achievements.

Let us give glory to God for this wonderful expression of Himself in His creation revealed in our mothers.

Partakers of His Holiness

“God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten.” Hebrews 12:7

The men and women of the Old Testament have parts of their lives recorded for us as witnesses to us of God’s ways and the sinful nature within us. This is for our benefit not amusement. The key phrase in chapter eleven is “By faith.” Their experiences were as diverse as ours will be. We should never expect that God will take us along the same disciplinary path as someone else or that they will travel the same disciplinary path as us.

God’s grace may also be revealed in quite different ways. For some the grace of God in response to their believing His word brought about wonderful and miraculous miracles (11:33-35a). For others God’s grace in response to their believing His word brought horrendous trials, suffering and persecution (11:35b-38) but He delivered them out of them all. Under threat of fiery furnace Daniel’s three friends said, “… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from your hand” (Daniel 3:16-18). Whether by burning or preservation they knew they would be delivered from the King’s hand.

The writer exhorts us to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us. Anything that drags us back from realising God’s purpose, revealed in 12:10, should be cast off. The sin that so easily ensnares us is no mystery. This whole part of Hebrews deals with it. If believing God’s word is faith then unbelief is the sin that turns us from faith. The fact is that we become ensnared in the sin of unbelief all too easily and may thereby invoke a disciplinary action from God. This action demonstrates that we have a special Father – son relationship with Him. The absence of it may seem good but it may also reveal that we are not sons of God.

There is a huge consequence to us individually and corporately (church) when we do not take God at His word and act upon it. Matthew tells us this consequence: “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).

Ignorance of God’s word will produce the same effect but love for Jesus will compel us to study the Bible for ourselves. No one enjoys discipline even though the outcome is good. We also know that discipline can be avoided if we study God’s word, believe it and act upon it (the evidence that we believe it).

God’s wonderful purpose in this is that His holy Divine Nature given to us (2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 12:10) may be worked out in our experience for His glory. The O.T. record shows us many examples of God achieving this in the lives of men and women just like us.

Withdrawal of Service

“He threw down the thirty pieces of silver in the temple and departed and went and hanged himself” Matthew 27:5

Many years ago the union of which I was a member demanded that all members withdraw their labour in order to obtain higher pay. This action is a form of blackmail and contrary to God’s word, “Be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5). I refused to go on strike and withdrew my membership from the union.

What do we do when Jesus does not come through as we think He should? Judas went to the extreme of taking his own life. That is the ultimate and supreme act of rebellion against God by a total and permanent withdrawal of labour.

What many Christians do when they sense they have failed, they didn’t get their way or Jesus did not intervene or act as they thought He should, is that they withdraw labour. When some withdraw their service to Jesus Christ they become either spiritual policeman or spiritual advisors. The former considers it his service to Jesus to criticize those who actually do as Jesus taught (Matthew 28:20) and the latter believes he is serving Jesus by telling others how and what they should be doing. In both cases they have withdrawn their labour from Jesus Christ and replaced it with the appearance of service. It may look spiritual, and may feel spiritual; but it is an act of rebellion against Jesus Christ. This is similar to the kind of response that we observe in Judas. He withdrew his labour in one final act of rebellion from which there was no opportunity of repentance.

Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). When we fail to openly identify with Jesus we are identifying with the spirit of anti-christ and Satan. When we read of Peter’s failure to identify with Jesus we observe a much different response to that of Judas. Peter grieved in his heart that he had betrayed and hurt Jesus by not identifying with Him. In spite of this failure he pressed on proving a great depth of repentance and love. In spite of his past failure Peter pressed on and Jesus restored the relationship (John 21:15-19).

At times we will fail through ignorance, disobedience, or not identifying with Jesus – but what we do afterward will demonstrate whether we really were serving Jesus or merely serving our own ambitions and goals. Anyone who does not persevere, evidenced by a withdrawal of service to Jesus, gives evidence that they have been serving their own ambitions and goals, not Christ’s. They have been living in the realm of the flesh, serving the spirit of anti-christ, and not the Spirit, serving Jesus Christ.

That is failure but there is still the opportunity to confess that sin and have a change of heart. That is what Jesus desires. Persevering after failure reveals true faith in, and love for, Jesus and is evidence of His working grace. This will lead to reconciliation and success in glorifying Jesus by bearing spiritual fruit.

The Truth Exchanged for a Lie

“It was too painful for me until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” Psalm 73:16b-17

The writer of this Psalm noted the prosperity of people who gave no thought to their Creator; the One who gives them life and provides their sustenance in gracious abundance. He observes that they are full of pride and count pride in themselves as a blessing (v 6), they oppress others (v 8) and boast in wickedness and blaspheme against God (v 9). They are at ease in the earthly riches (v 12) that God has provided for them.

The psalmist then asks himself what the advantage was of him living a righteous life in which God has frequently chastised him (v 13) when the ungodly appear to suffer no chastisement (cf. Hebrews 12:5-8).

We live in such a world as the psalmist observed. There are many who deny God’s existence and are proud in themselves for their material success. Such blessings were meant to turn their hearts in thankfulness for God’s grace. Instead they boast that they have done it by their own ability and strength.

Those who walk with the Lord Jesus Christ do suffer at the hands of the ungodly. Many have their earthly lives ended prematurely at the hands of the ungodly. All Christians will suffer some form of persecution and oppression.

The psalmist then records that as he entered the sanctuary and bowed before the Lord praying about these matters, the Lord reminded him of the destiny of the ungodly.

The world is still going blindly on in unbelief and instead of receiving the truth the truth is suppressed. By God’s grace there are still many people turning to the Lord Jesus daily but that is against the tide of ungodliness. We live in an age of people “who [have] exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the creature [man] rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).

As he waited before the Lord the psalmist realised that those people who have rejected God and refuse to have a change of heart have no expectation other than the wrath of God. He understood that such people are in dire need of mercy and forgiveness and that it was he who was in the most blessed state.

Jesus related an account of a certain rich man and a beggar named Lazarus to give us understanding when we observe these things (Luke 16:19-31). The most necessary thing for people is to hear and believe God’s word. Jesus said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). At Easter we give special attention to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is another opportunity God has given us to share the truth with family, friends and acquaintances.

Closed Bible = Closed Heart

“The Word of God … is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart” Hebrews 4:12

On their way from Egypt to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants Israel neglected the Word of God. They heard it but left it out of their lives. As a consequence of not believing God’s Word they did not act upon it or obey it. The further consequence was that they never experienced the rest that God had for them in the land of promise; they never even entered that land and therefore did not know what they missed.

It isn’t unusual to hear comments that produce fear when people speak of governments becoming “big brother.” We don’t like someone else peering into our lives especially when it is someone who has authority over us.

As we read the passage above, and its context, we may be inclined to think that God is up there somewhere with a big stick looking forward to an opportunity to use it. However this is opposite to reality as the context of this verse shows.

The intent of God’s Word is to show us where we have attitudes and behaviour contrary to or out of kilter to His own. Such attitudes and behaviour prevent intimate fellowship because God is holy. “God is light and in Him is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). The Divine Nature is such that God can have no fellowship with any nature that is not exactly as His own. This is why we are helpless in ourselves to enter into fellowship with God.

For each of us the “eyes” of Scripture searching our thoughts and inner-most being is painful but there are two possible outcomes. Either we will close the “eyes” of Scripture by closing our Bible or we will embrace the truth and reality it reveals however horrid and wicked it may reveal us to be. God’s intent is that we see what He already knows us to be so that we will agree with Him that this is what we are. He will then forgive and cleanse us from our sin through the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

The writer of Hebrews writes, “Let us therefore come boldly (with confidence) to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He means that when the Word of God reveals the evil thoughts and intents of our heart we may come, by God’s grace, to the throne of grace and obtain mercy and find grace even though we are what the Bible has revealed us to be.

When the Bible reveals sin in our heart it is not time to close our Bible, it is time to pour out our heart to God, agreeing with Him, and accepting His forgiveness and cleansing. We can do so with confidence because Jesus Christ died for our sin.