What was God doing before he created the world?
What we make reveals something of who we are and what we’re like. Calvin said the created world is like a mirror in which we ought to behold God. If we want to rightly understand the Bible, we need to make sure we ask the right questions of it.
What does creation reveal about God?
He creates out of nothing. God is by nature creative. There are three days of forming followed by three days of filling. Day four parallels with day one. He fills the universe with stars and the seas with life. The God of the Bible is lavish. At the end of each day, it was good. God is relational. He created mankind in his own image. He created them for relationship with him and each other.
Who is this God who creates?
He is plural. God is by his very nature trinity. He loves. What was he doing before he created the world? He was loving. He loves eternally because he has eternally existed in one loving community. It’s that love that motivates everything else in creation. He is one. God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct yet inseparable.
What does it mean for us?
Unity in diversity is good. God created a united yet diverse universe. The gospel is bigger than a ‘Get out of jail free’ card. God’s love for his Son is so great that it bursts out in the diversity of creation. Mission is exciting.
This section is critical of Judaism and Jews. As far as being right with God is concerned, Judaism is useless.
God’s law condemns the Jews (2:17-24)
The terms Paul uses were found in Jewish documents. The Jewish people were intensely aware they were privileged. What have they done with their spiritual riches? They’ve spoken against theft and adultery. They have done those things. 500 years ago Isaiah said that God’s name had been dragged through the mud by God’s people. Paul is saying that each Jew isn’t guilty of minor infringements but breaking God’s law. Even the pagans can see they haven’t kept it.
God’s circumcision proves Jews aren’t really Jews (2:25-29)
This was ancient even when Jesus was walking around. Circumcision was the sign of an intimate personal relationship between God and his people. Paul says it misunderstands the symbolism. It has value if you obey the law. They’ve mistaken the sign for the reality.
God’s faithfulness is not to the Jews but to himself (3:1-8)
God promised he would be faithful and just to his own character. God would always be seen as truthful and righteous. Paul identifies himself with the Jews. God’s judgment brings out his righteousness.
Christianity is not like Judaism so thank God for Jesus. Under this covenant, God doesn’t give you a bunch of rules. God makes a promise that we will save you from death forever through the death and resurrection of Jesus. There’s not set of rules that if you break them, God will cut you off.
Christianity is just like Judaism is heed God’s warning. The covenant requirement is to trust in Jesus. God requires faith in Jesus. Having the Bible or communion won’t save you. We have to keep the covenant. It isn’t a bunch of rules.
A man with a mission (v35)
Matthew is summarising unbelievable activity. Today, we know the mission because the book ended. It remains his mission today because he died for us.
The motive for mission (v36)
He had compassion on the crowds. When God sees a nation, what does he see? He sees crowds of people and his first instinct is compassion. When Jesus looks at us, he sees leaderless people. He doesn’t see need either (first). Sheep without a shepherd. You’ve got to think clearly.
The theology of mission (v37-38)
He really cares. He has compassion for you. The gospel is that the ketchup stains are wiped off and you’re white before Christ. Go there with your gifts and use them. We don’t have to pull it off. If you trust in Christ he will shine through you. It’s his harvest.
The strategy for mission (10:1)
What strategy did Jesus use to change the world? 12 muppets, one of whom was a traitor. The boss came up with a strategy. He loves you like he loved you the day you started.
Jeremiah is talking to a group of people who want to give an impression that they’re doing the right thing. The God that we know is personal. He is the God who gives, who shares, who loves.
Intimacy rejected (v1-11)
Jesus’ loincloth isn’t the first one we come across. Jeremiah’s mime is about his own dirty underwear. He has to get a new loincloth. People were made for God’s honour. They are bound to his waist. He is offering us through Jesus the closeness of relating to him. You may choose independence. It results in ruin.
Stuff accepted (v12-14)
Jesus had described his kingdom as a big party. He’s offering a family occasion where no one is left out. When we plead with God for a blessing we really want, he gives us what we ask for. It’s his judgment on us.
What does Jesus’ cloth have to do with this story? Jesus’ ripped and dirty clothes are there because he is taking our place. It was all put on him. You can walk away from God or you can belong with him. If you do walk away, God will have every reason to be angry.
Jeremiah makes a complaint about the way he’s been treated.
He is angry with God (v7). We think we’re great. He’s not pious about it. He says holding it in is worse than the consequences of letting it out. All his friends are waiting for him to slip. We are torn. It’s two cannots against each other.
He’s convinced that God has truly rescued him (v13). You sometimes feel angry with God and then you think you can’t. There’s amazing news that God rescues the needy from wickedness. Jeremiah prays a surprising prayer. He’s intense and inward looking. When we trust in Jesus our old life of rebellion against God dies.
Jeremiah wishes he hadn’t been born. God himself is a God who comes to be weak and rejected. Jesus bears the consequences of our rejection of him. Rejected so that we can be accepted.
Everything in this world is destined, one day, to be thrown down. The disciples ask ‘What will be the sign of the end of the age?’ so Jesus tells then what things are not the signs of his coming.
Terrible events are not a sign of Jesus’ return
When Jesus does return. It will be unmistakable. He’ll come on the clouds of heaven and all people will see it. It’ll be like lightning, illuminating the whole sky. That will happen immediately or suddenly after a time of ‘distress’. Terrible things remind us that the return of Jesus could happen at any moment but they are not ever a sign that it’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next year.
Don’t be deceived by people who prey on your fears
Ideas of understanding, not being deceived, are really important in these verses. Fear is a powerful motivation. The fear created by the terrible things that happen in the world and exploited by the false teachers and prophets will, Jesus says, be very effective. Many will turn away from faith.
Don’t be tempted to abandon your faith
For some people the thing that tempts you to abandon your faith is a big thing. Suicide of a friend. Loss of a job. Crushing of a hope. If you give in to those temptations, you won’t be alone. If you abandon your faith in Jesus you will be eternally lonely. It’s easy to abandon your faith but it’s so foolish.
Don’t be surprised by the bitterness of those who do
So often the bitterness is nothing more than hatred for people who wouldn’t let them do or believe whatever they wanted. Don’t be surprised if you follow Jesus and that attracts the dislike of other people, especially other people who started down that path and then turned aside.
Do put your trust in Jesus’ eternal words
Jesus says you should ignore any words about the end of the world that don’t match up with what he has to say. He says that the final great theological event before his return will be the destruction of the Jerusalem temple where God was rightly worshipped for 1,000 years. That happened 1,942 years ago. That means the leaves are out on the fig tree. So Jesus’ truth is right at the door. You can trust him on that because his words will never pass away.
Don’t give in to fear. Don’t be deceived. Put your confidence and trust in Jesus and his eternal word which promises that whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.
Paul has outlined the mess we’ve got ourselves into. We’re stuck trying to establish our own righteousness. Righteousness is a status word.
The problem: we can’t achieve the righteousness we really need
We’ll never fill the holes in our lives. We don’t have the power to fulfil our own desire for righteousness. Some things get us commended but the good things we do don’t open any doors with God. Every person is going to be held accountable. Through the law we become conscious of our sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Paul’s not saying we’re not like God. We’re not like we should be. God’s standard is glory. Even our most perfect day can’t take us back to righteousness. We sink further and further away. We are more and more condemned. Paul wants us to feel a bit frightened so we can appreciate what follows. It’s only when we appreciate the problem that we can really embrace God’s solution.
The solution: righteousness as a gift through Christ
This is the good news. There is a way to be righteous, to be justified, despite our sin and failure because Jesus Christ gives us God’s righteousness. You don’t have to prove your worthiness to anyone because you are justified freely by his grace.
Jesus redeems us
A slave can’t but themselves out of slavery. Someone has to rescue them. We can’t just stop doing wrong. We’re incapable. We are slaves to sin. Jesus liberates us from slavery without any charge. There’s a great cost that was paid by Jesus himself.
Jesus propitiates God
At, one, make – atonement. Propitiation – make favourable towards. God is justifiably angry with us. We’ve got nothing to offer that can satisfy his anger. In the person of his son, he takes that anger upon himself. God does it for us through Christ. He takes the judgment. God has a problem. If he is completely just and is offended when people hurt one another, how can he not punish the people who do those things? Not only is he just, he is merciful and loving and kind. How can he be both? Only if someone else can pay on our behalf. Jesus took the judgment and turned aside God’s wrath. God can declare us righteous without having to punish us for our sin. Now all the sins of all God’s people are covered.
We take the gift by faith
Faith is not a character attribute. It’s not a leap in the dark. It’s a commitment to trust what Jesus has done. There’s no hope of us justifying ourselves but Jesus offers us righteousness. All we have to do is trust him. Whatever else you trust in won’t work. Jesus offers free righteousness. He’s done everything necessary. Why wouldn’t you trust him?
God’s people freely offer God’s stuff back to him (25:1-7). The gifts that the people gave to build the tabernacle and its contents were not commanded by God as a matter of law. They were not a condition of being one of God’s people. The things that the Lord was asking for in order for the tabernacle to be built were given to the people by the Lord in the first place. It’s easy to forget that all we have is a gift from him. The appeal of the scriptures is to give generously to the ministry of the church in particular.
When God’s people give, God…
Makes a place where he is present (25:10-22)
The advantage of this arrangement is entirely on the side of the Israelites because the Ark of the Covenant means that God can come and dwell amongst his people.
Shares food with his people (25:23-30)
For God’s people to be invited not only to have his presence in his own tent dwelling amongst them but to join with him in a meal was an amazing and remarkable sign of his favour, grave and desire for intimacy with them.
Brings back paradise (25:31-26:37)
Again and again, God gives signs and symbols that demonstrate that he is in the business of not just giving his people eternal life but of giving them a perfect, real, physical place in which to enjoy that life. The message of the tabernacle is quite clear; God is undertaking a great restoration project. Amongst his people, he is remaking, recreating a perfect sanctuary. Using the freely given gifts of the Israelites, God built a place where he was present, whether he could enjoy fellowship with his people and which recreated the perfect garden of creation.
In the local church, God makes a place where he is present. There is something about the people of God bringing their gifts together in a local church that manifests the presence of God. Through the work of Jesus, the church, our church, is now a picture of openness.
God lives with us, shares fellowship with us and even begins to restore his perfect creation amongst us. Let’s be part of that.
This series on John 1:1-18 could be described as the most extravagant invitation in the history of the earth. For our of love, God himself became flesh and died on a cross so that we might become part of his family.
To know Jesus is to know God
We come to Jesus empty handed offering nothing but Jesus comes to us with his hands full and of the many blessings he gives to us, the one he is most excited about is us being in relationship with his Father. The moment you trust in Christ you can be certain that you are carried to the centre of the Father’s heart.
What is Jesus like? Most clearly we saw his love on the cross. Jesus’ compassion led to him to take on our sin and so giving up the most precious thing he had – the hand of his Father so that we could have it. If you want to know how much God the Father loves his children, look no further than how Christ loves us.
To keep your eyes on Christ is key to living for God
The Son of God becoming a man and entering the pages of human history means that the Christian investment in the promise of heaven, and renewed minds and bodies enjoying God and his creation as we were designed, is worth it.
You need to gaze on Christ as often and deeply as you can. We do not trust in rumours but because we know Christ we are not fools to invest the maximum of ourselves in declaring the wonder of God to the world.
The God who takes us by the hand
The tension between wanting to know God but he’s too perfect was first felt by the Israelites led by Moses. They had created the tabernacle which was the physical place where Moses could talk to God. How long could this last? The Israelites were distrusting and angry. They made a statue of a calf and made it their new god. God was furious. He gave them what they wanted. Moses pleaded that God would stay and give them another chance. God longs to be close but the obstacle is always our sin. It matters to know that God isn’t just existing somewhere in the universe but is with us now.
Moses asks God if he can actually see him. The passing by of God is the OT’s ‘wow moment’. God revealing his glory to us is a reality for us today. The word ‘dwelt’ found its root in ‘tabernacle’. It’s a reference to when God was leading the Israelites through the desert. He’s doing it again. He’s taking people by the hand. Better than Moses, the glory of God was seen face to face as John walked, talked, spent time with Jesus. John was there when god became a man. He saw the closeness of God as he was a disciple of Jesus. Our hope is not a dream. This God will come close if we accept the invitation. We don’t have to go into the darkness alone. God will take us through the next year, through the rest of our lives, to the face of God the Father.
The God who is not fair
God, back in Exodus, kindly gave the Israelites the law. It showed where people had failed to meet his standards. The law gave them a way for them to not get what they deserved. They were allowed to bring a sacrifice. The law was a grace from God. It enabled an unholy people to be with God because they didn’t get what they deserved. The Son of God coming as a man means we have a greater gift. To trust the death of Jesus is to have confidence that you will never be treated as you deserve. You will always be treated infinitely better than you should be. At the cross, Jesus paid it all. His death on the cross is God’s justice enacted. We cannot do this year by ourselves. God’s grace is sufficient for our needs.