Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 28 December 20:
Here is a short video overview of chapters 1-11 of Genesis: https://youtu.be/GQI72THyO5I
Here is a short video overview of chapter 1 of Matthew Chapters 1-13: https://youtu.be/3Dv4-n6OYGI
Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning, God….”
The first thing God wants you to know is that He is the Creator, and what He creates is good, a point repeated seven times (seven — the number of completeness and perfection) in chapter one. God created the physical world very intentionally, and He purposefully created us in His image to have dominion over the earth and to do His will, in unity with Him and each other. God could have created the earth and people to be self-sufficient, but he didn’t; he intentionally created a need for interdependence to promote relationships and love. We were created by God who is love so we could love, which is our greatest commandment — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
- 1 John 4:19 — We love because he first loved us.
- 1 John 4:7, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, but He is also the creator of ethics (right and wrong), principles (how things really work), and truth (reality). When God placed mankind on earth, He gave them all that was good, and He gave them the fullness of life without pain, suffering, and death. However, as we will read tomorrow, sin, destruction, strife, death, and separation from God entered the world when Adam and Eve chose to eat from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” when they chose to decide for themselves what was right and wrong, how things really work, and what is true. In the first two chapters of the Bible, everything is good because there is no sin and there is unity among people with God. The rest of Bible records history – His Story – how God from the beginning had a plan to save us from our sins through His Son Jesus and how one day Jesus will come again and restore all things, which is described in the last two chapters of the Bible where, once again, there is no sin on earth and not pain, sorrow, or death.
The Bible gives us God’s ethics, God’s principles, and God’s truth. The Bible also describes for us how, in our rebellion, mankind has sought to replace God’s ethics (right and wrong) with morality (what we think is right or wrong, or at least acceptable); how we have attempted to replace God’s principles (how things really work) with our own values (how we think things really work or at least should work); and how we have rejected God’s truth in favor of our own theories, philosophies, fantasies, and falsehoods. The Bible also shows the inevitable, terrible consequences of attempting to “lord” over our own lives; but most importantly, the Bible reveals God’s grace and his open invitation to receive His free gift of salvation and eternal life through His son Jesus Christ.
- John 14:6 — Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- Mathew 11:28-30 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
As you begin your readings this year, I would encourage you each day to record God’s ethics, principles, truths, and revelations of Jesus Christ. In today’s readings there are quite a few of all of these – write them down. Below is just one example from each section of today’s readings:
- Old Testament: Principle: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18) It is not good for us to be alone. God made us to be in fellowship with Him and with others. We need positive, mutually supportive relationships, grounded in Jesus. Our relationships with others reflect our relationship with God, and we learn to love God by loving others – “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11)
- Proverbs: Ethics: “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely…. Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:5, 28) A person cannot discern justice, right from wrong, apart from the Lord and His word – it is foolishness to think you can. You will not get justice through secular, man-made systems – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10)
- New Testament: Truth/Revelation: “‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.’” (Matthew 1:22, 23) Jesus is Immanuel [God with us], the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, who saves people from their sins.
We should strive with all our might to live by God’s ethics, principles, and truths, but we must constantly remind ourselves of the Gospel – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) …. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16) …. but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) …. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) We can’t behave our way into Heaven, and God’s love doesn’t falter in our failures. Our salvation rests securely in God’s grace through faith in Jesus and not our efforts. When we are truly amazed by God’s grace, we will be compelled to love Him in a way which is revealed by our obedience to Him, which will fulfil the laws of love in all of our relationships. As we abide in God’s love, we are doing what we were created to do, we fulfill our life’s purpose, and we experience the fulness of joy in life.
The first thing God wants you to learn from the Old Testament is that He is the Creator. The first thing God wants you to learn in the New Testament is God’s grace through Jesus Christ is bigger than any sin. The New Testament begins with an incredible testimony of God’s grace through the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Genealogies are hard to read in the Bible but always reveal essential truths about God’s purposes and redemptive plan. If you have never studied the Bible before, you won’t recognize most of the names recorded in Matthew 1, but when you read their stories in the Old Testament this year, you will be shocked by how sinful these men and women were, yet still used by God as the lineage of our Savior. For example, you may have noticed in today’s readings that, “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” (Matthew 1:6) Yes, the lineage of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, includes adulterers and children born from adultery. The Bible further reveals that Mary’s lineage also traces back to this same adulterous relationship as she was a descendant of Nathan who was a son of David and Bathsheba just like Solomon. (see Luke 3:23-32 and 1 Chronicles 3:5) The genealogy of Jesus Christ reveals that there is hope for every sinner, even you and me, and no one’s sin is greater than God’s love and grace – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Read John Macrthur’s explanation of how the genealogy of Jesus reveals God’s Amazing Grace — https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A287/the-genealogy-of-grace
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 28 Dec 20: Invite someone to read the Bible with you this year.