Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"standing" and "state"--part 1

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 3, 4

1 Corinthians is absolutely loaded with spiritual answers.  At the same time, it raises just as many spiritual questions!

Stand in the Rain has been waiting for 1 Corinthians, because it's the perfect place from which to launch a series of articles that will (we hope) sort out some of the Bible's paradoxes.

Ten years ago, I stumbled across a reprint of the original (1909) Scofield Reference Bible. (When the revised version of 1917 became the standard Scofield, the 1909 version was largely forgotten.)  Printed in the back was a lengthy article called "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth." The article "rightly divided" these topics:

The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God
The Seven Dispensations
The Two Advents
The Two Resurrections
The Five Judgments
Law and Grace
The Believer's Two Natures
The Believer's Standing and State
Salvation and Rewards
Believers and Professors

As I read it, so many of scripture's internal "contradictions" melted away.   And so, leaning heavily on Scofield's original, we present this abridgement to you.  We hope, pray, and expect that some concepts which once seemed logically irreconcilable will start to make seamless sense!


We're grappling with questions about the wayward Corinthian church.  There were factions, drunkenness, deviant sexuality, and fruity philosophies.  Just like watching NBC!

But, then and now, the church is supposed to be different from the world in general.  When we aren't, why aren't we?  Here's why:

            1.  Some in the church, then and now, are professors, but not believers.  (We focused on that situation yesterday.)
            2.  The lives of all believers exhibit a discrepancy between our standing (our position in Christ) and our state, or "walk." 

Today, we will contrast the believer's standing with his state in order to understand both more clearly.

Until we understand the distinction between a believer's standing (or position) and his state (or "walk") the New Testament letters are impossible to comprehend.

Our standing is the result of the work of Christ, and is perfect and complete from the moment we first believe.  Nothing in the believer's subsequent life adds anything to his standing.  Faith alone confers standing in God's sight, and before Him the weakest and most fallible believer has precisely the same standing as the most illustrious saint.

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior but you aren't entirely sure of your standing before God, then hold on to your hat, because it's about to be blown away:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God... (John 1:12)

And if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ(Romans 8:17)

To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith.  (1 Peter 1:4-5)

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  (1 John 3:2)

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father. (Revelation 1:5-6)

And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.  (Colossians 2:10)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  (Romans 5:1-2)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16)

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.  (1 John 5:13)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6/NKJV)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  (Ephesians 2:13)

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.  (Ephesians 1:13)

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Every one of these marvelous things is true of every one who believes in Jesus.  Not one item on this inventory is gained by prayer, or service, or church-going, or giving, or self-denial, or any other good work.  It is all is the gift of God through faith and therefore belongs equally to all believers.

At the moment (s)he receives Christ by faith, the believer becomes a son of God, a joint-heir with Christ, a king and priest, the owner of an incorruptible, unfading inheritance.  We have peace with God, eternal life, and we are accepted to the full measure of Christ's own acceptance.  We are sealed with the Holy Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, clothed in the righteousness of God, raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenlies.  That's the position we find ourselves in!

What our actual state may be is quite another matter; certainly it is far, far below our exalted standing in the sight of God.  It is not all at once that our conduct equals our standing. 

Tomorrow, we will see how our standing and state are constantly contrasted throughout scripture.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

believers and professors

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16

1 Corinthians is loaded.

There's only so much space in a Bible blog, and there is so much essential truth in 1 Corinthians that it leaves a Bible teacher awestruck and wondering: what to leave in, what to leave out?

The first thing we must reckon with is a subject we alluded to yesterday:

The "carnal Christian" in chapter 7 of Romans is a microcosm of the church in 1 Corinthians…

They believe in Jesus' death and resurrection and thus are "saved," but by looking at them you wouldn't know it. There is dissension in the ranks and divisiveness over doctrine: some follow this teacher while some follow that one.  There is drunkenness and deviant sexual immorality.  Marriages have gone asunder.  There is pride (or envy) over the spiritual gifts they had (or wished they had.)  Worldly philosophies are making inroads into their outlooks.  

All of which begs the question: how can their lives be so disconnected from the standards of the faith they profess to believe in?

Over the next couple days we're going to answer that question as thoroughly as space allows.  But first the answer in outline:

Q.  How can their lives be so disconnected from the standards of the faith they profess to believe in?
A.  1.  Some in the Corinthian church (and in your local church) are professors, but not believers.
      2.  The lives of all believers, in the Corinthian church and in your local church, exhibit a distinction between our standing (or position in Christ) and our state, or "walk."


Today, we will focus on the issue of believers and professors

The people of God have always been vexed by those among them who professed to be, but were not, true believers.  Jesus told of the wheat and the tares:
Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"  (Matthew 13:24-30)

Genesis spoke of Cain and Abel (1).  Exodus tells of a mixed multitude (2).  Nehemiah, typically, didn't talk about them; he threw them out (3)!  The Apostle John waited them out, knowing they'd eventually 'out' themselves:
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)

It is impossible to distinguish true believers from the formalists, hypocrites, and legalists who are working for their own salvation, instead of working out a salvation already received as a free gift.  (See Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:12-13; Romans 5:15-17; Romans 6:23.)

Any church has a mixed multitude; wheat and tares; Cains and Abels.  Recall that Cain enthusiastically brought an offering!  He was as outwardly "religious" as Abel. 

Abels bring the offering prescribed by the LORD God: a lamb, which points to the sacrifice of Christ.  Of Abels, the Bible says:
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me. (John 10:14)

But the solid foundation that God has laid cannot be shaken; and on it are written these words: "The Lord knows those who are his." (2 Timothy 2:19)

Cains bring "the fruit of the ground," trusting the works of their own hands.  There is nothing outwardly wrong with their offering.  But their faith is in themselves.  Of Cains, the Bible says:
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'  (Matthew 7:22-23)

Outwardly, apparently, Cains and Abels might as well be twins.  The Corinthian church and (your church here) are stocked with "brothers" of both kinds. 

Lord, Lord.

(1) Genesis 4; (2) Exodus 12:38; (3) Nehemiah 7:63-65; 13:1-3

Monday, November 28, 2011

when I met myself in carnal Corinth...

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 1:17

The last time we were in the New Testament, we were in the towering spiritual treatise of Romans.  Romans tells us how things could and should and (ultimately) will be.

But embedded in Romans is one chapter--chapter 7--that sticks out like a sore thumb.  It tells us about a man who, despite his faith in Christ, is personally powerless against the onslaught of sin:
I am carnal, sold under sin.  I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  (Romans 7:14-15, 22-24)

That man was the Apostle Paul and that man is I and maybe that man is you.  He was what we call a carnal Christian--a person who is saved through faith in Christ, but lives a life that doesn't look like it!

That man in chapter 7 of Romans is a microcosm of the church in 1 Corinthians.  They believe in Jesus' death and resurrection and thus are "saved," but by looking at them you wouldn't know it.

There is dissension and division in the ranks; some follow this church leader while some follow that one.  There is sexual immorality, and drunkenness, and worldly philosophies are making inroads into their outlooks.   There are marriages gone asunder and divisiveness over doctrine.  There is pride (or envy) over the spiritual gifts they had (or wished they had.)

And that was all within the church!  Outside of the church, they had to contend with Sin City itself.  Corinth was a wealthy, worldly, and boisterous place in perpetual pursuit of pleasure. 

Its population (nearly a million) was second only to Rome's.  It was the center of the worship of Venus--a religion whose "priests" were prostitutes--along with any number of crazy cults and "new" religions.

And it was influential.  Because of its crossroads location and its reputation as the place least likely to convert to the Christian faith, Paul knew that if the gospel could make it there, it would make it anywhere.


So as we read through First Corinthians and (starting just after Christmas) Second Corinthians, make sure you meet yourself in these scenes.  You will certainly recognize me there, and you will be astounded how Paul could know so much about the church you currently attend!

And remember, as you read through these sometimes-sordid scenes, that Paul was the perfect person to help these new believers, because he'd come all the way through scriptural Sin City--chapter 7 of Romans--and lived to tell about it.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

picky, picky

(by Pastor Joe)

The Word for Today: Exodus 39 & 40

How limited is your palate?
What I mean is, how many items of food will you simply refuse to eat?
Each of us have certain items that, rightly or wrongly, we will not consume.
There are myriads of reasons why we would automatically say no before we even try some form of food.

My son is that way. Describing his palate as limited would be an understatement. I couldn't bear to sit next to him on Thanksgiving and watch him reject dish after beautiful dish, most without even trying them. That kind of shameful treatment of cuisine cuts me deep.
You see, I have yet to meet a buffet that I didn't like. I love food, in all its various flavors and textures and spices and incarnations. If I won't eat it, chances are very good that its not worth eating (I'm talking about you, Hot Pockets!)

I suppose I pride myself on being not very particular. When someone asks, what do you want to eat? or what radio station?, or what board game should we play, or what restaurant to go to, I honestly don't have a huge preference. Most of the time, its all good. Don't make a fuss, don't be picky, don't make a big deal over something so inconsequential.

While this attitude may help one in life, it really cuts against everything we've been reading for the last two weeks. It seems to me that if anything has come through, its the message that Moses and the Israelites really did need to sweat the small stuff and the finer points of the Law. God was certainly particular when He said "Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you(1)." There was zero room for approximation or artistic interpretation. There was no rounding to the nearest number. Close enough was not close enough.

The measurements- "so long, so wide, so high" were precise. The details on everything from the Ark and Table and Lampstand (2), to the hooks and clasps for the curtains were spelled out (3).
Think about all the specifics that went into all the instructions that dealt with the Tabernacle in chapters 25-40; the word cubit is used 56 times! And yet, after the incident with the golden calf, the account of the actual construction of the Tabernacle and its related items is also included in the Word of God. Didn't we just go over this!?! As I read, it felt like deja-vu: five chapters that could have been summed up with a half verse. "The Israelites did everything just as the LORD commanded Moses (4)."

To all of us, removed some 3500 years from the events at Mount Sinai, it can seem a bit much. What is the big deal? Why was God so concerned with such minor details? What is He getting at?

I guess it boils down to this question:
Is God picky?
The answer: yes and no.

Certainly not in the same way that anyone of us might refuse to eat our vegetables. God is not some petty tyrant who makes up all sorts of strange and arbitrary rules and prohibitions. He is not a disgruntled IRS worker looking to confuse and humiliate us via arcane codes and procedures. After all, we know that this whole entire covenant with Israel was one of love (5), for their redemption and deliverance and blessing.

But God is certainly particular. There's lots of stuff we cannot grasp about God, but one thing is clear is that He is not a fuzzy, wishy-washy, sentimental and absentminded old grandfather type figure. God is exact. God is precise. God has no half-measures or "good enoughs". If you need examples, talk to Nadab and Abihu, or Uzzah, or Ananias and Sapphira (6).

Something that we must all fight is the tendency we have to water down that particularity. We love to soften His commands, to take away some of the rougher edges of His Word. We don't want to bother with the specifics, we don't want to sweat the details, we want everything smooth and non confrontational. That is a fatal mistake, because the God of the Bible is indeed particular, and He accepts no substitutes: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men(7)."

(1) Exodus 25:9
(2) see Exodus 25
(3) Exodus 27:17
(4) Exodus 39:32b
(5) Deuteronomy 7:12
(6) see Leviticus 10, 2 Samuel 6, and Acts 5
(7) 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Saturday, November 26, 2011

all the way from here to there

The Word for today:
Exodus 37:10-38:31

Yesterday, we entered the Most Holy Place-- into the presence of God--through the torn "curtain," the torn flesh of Jesus Christ:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

When we enter the Most Holy Place, what do we find there?  We find a gleaming chest made of wood. 

Which might prompt you to wonder how a wooden box can gleam.  Here's how:

The Ark of the Covenant.
The ark was a chest covered inside and outside with gold. It was a perfect symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ in His deity and humanity.  His deity was represented by the gold; his humanity was represented by the wood.

The ark could not be spoken of as merely a wooden chest because it also was a gold chest. It could not be called a gold chest because it was also a chest of wood. It required both gold and wood to depict Christ as the Son of God/Son of man.

The ark had a covering.  Called the Mercy Seat, it reminds us of our forgiveness through Christ.  It was made of pure gold with cherubim on each end.  With their wings spread, the cherubim looked down upon the cover of the ark where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice. It was the blood that made it the mercy seat, symbolic of the work of Christ.

The Glory of God (the “Shekinah Glory”) rested on the Ark of the Covenant, first in the Tabernacle and later in Solomon’s Temple.   The Glory departed just before the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians (Ezekiel 8-11).  There is no record that it ever returned—until Jesus came.  At the Transfiguration (Matthew 17) Jesus for a brief time was seen in all his glory.  (See Exodus 33:7-23 & Matthew 17: 1-8.)


The Tabernacle is a picture of the way to God.  When Thomas asked Jesus to point out the way, Jesus pointed to the real Tabernacle--himself:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."  (John 14:6)

That verse is the Bible's summary of the Tabernacle.  And the Tabernacle is the Bible's summary of itself:
And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.  (1) 

(1) John 1:14 / Amplified Bible & Young's Literal Translation

Friday, November 25, 2011

on the other side of the curtain

The Word for today:
Exodus 36:8-37:9

Q. What is Jesus doing right now, at this very moment?

A.  He's praying for you and for me.  In fact, according to the Book of Hebrews, he prays night and day for us:
Therefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.  (Hebrews 7:25)

Q.  Where is Jesus right now, at this very moment?

A.  He's praying at the altar of incense in the heavenly tabernacle.  (Incense is a symbol of the sweet savor of prayer (1), ascending to the Father.)

Q.  "The heavenly tabernacle?"

A.  I don't want you to get seasick, but the Tabernacle has tipped!  When it was down here, it was horizontal.  But now it's vertical.  The gate is down here, but the Most Holy Place (where Jesus is) is up there.

And we're up there with him--in him--on the other side of the curtain that only the High Priest can enter!

This is illustrated by the fact that in Exodus, the altar of incense was outside the curtain (or veil) that encloses the Most Holy Place (2).  But in the New Testament book of Hebrews, the altar of incense has moved inside (3).  Jesus took our prayers, and us, in with him!

Through the death of Jesus on the cross, we entered through the veil, which is his flesh:
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. (Matthew 27:50-51)

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.  (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Now, because of Jesus our High Priest, we can come boldly into God the Father's presence:
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens…let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Before Jesus died for our sins, we were on the outside of the curtain, still separated from God.   But now, through him, we can go right in.

These concepts may seem a little far out, but that doesn't mean they aren't real.

In fact, the tabernacle on earth was just a copy of the real tabernacle in heaven (4).  And the High Priest, Aaron, was just a shadow of our real High Priest, Jesus.  

If you want to get real and stop living in Shadow Land, then you've got to start to see that the tabernacle is tipped on its end, the High Priest is Jesus, and you're with him on the other side of the curtain...

(1) See Psalm 141:2; (2) see Exodus 26:33; (3) Hebrews 9:4; (4) Hebrews 8:5

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Please pass the bread.

The Word for today:
Exodus 35.1-36:7

Wouldn't you know it.  Today, on Thanksgiving, our tour of the Tabernacle just happens to be stopping at the Table of Showbread (1), which is a pictorial prophecy of Jesus, the Bread of Life…

Most importantly, of course, the Table of Showbread is a prophetic picture of the Savior:
On the night in which he was betrayed he took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body which is broken for you…"  (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

But we sometimes forget that the Table of Showbread is also a preview of our Creator/Sustainer:
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. (Matthew 14:19)


Scripture records that when Jesus fed the 15,000 (2) he gave thanks.  But I wonder how many of them thanked him?

Thanksgiving, where I come from, is the day between the biggest bar night of the year and the biggest shopping day of the year.  It's sort of a rest between a doubleheader of conspicuous consumption.

I once watched the entire Macy's Parade just to see if anyone would say thanks.  I must have heard the word "Thanksgiving" a hundred times.  But not once did I hear thanks given.

Continuing my experiment, I watched the Detroit Lions football game.  I heard the word "Thanksgiving" another hundred times, but I still never heard thanks given.

Finally, I watched the Dallas Cowboys football game.  I figured that someone from the southern so-called Bible Belt might hold up a sign saying, "Thanks, God."  I figured wrong.

This is no holier-than-thou appeal to remember to "say grace" (whatever that means).   I'm not asking anyone to parade his piety.  It just seems to me that God, as Creator, provides all food for man and beast.  So whether we like it or not, we eat every day at His table in the physical realm.  All holy hokum aside, it's just downright rude and crass not to give thanks to God.

Maybe thanking the Savior of our souls, whose body was broken for our redemption, can be classified as a spiritual exercise--as a matter of prayer.

But saying thanks for our physical food isn't anything more than simple table manners.

Anyway--How 'bout them Cowboys...

(1) Most modern versions translate "Showbread" as "Bread of the Presence" (2) The number of woman and children accompanying "5000 men" would have at least tripled the crowd.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the Light is always on

The Word for today:
Exodus 34

The Tabernacle is God’s picture book, illustrating the great doctrines of the Christian faith. And Stand in the Rain has been commissioned by God Himself (Matthew 28:18-20) to be your official Tabernacle tour guide…

The most beautiful article in the Tabernacle was the golden lampstand. It is the tabernacle's most perfect picture of Jesus, the true light that shines on everyone. (John 1:9/CEV)

The lampstand held seven lamps filled with oil. The oil is representative of the Holy Spirit, who takes the things of Christ and makes them known to us. (John 6:14-15)


I love light. Nothing is as exquisite.

I love light so much that I sometimes try to think of words associated with it, and I say them out loud:


Colors are reflected fragments of light.

Diamonds cause light to echo and bounce.

Mirrors send the light back where it came from.

Nothing is quite as lovely as light. Nothing is as delicate, or as powerful, or as practical, or as poetic.


When I think of God, I get a mental image of Jesus. But it's important to understand that in order to translate the eternal Word into flesh, Jesus had to empty himself (1), divesting himself of what is called Shekinah glory. That's the dazzling light that emanated from the Holiest Place in the tabernacle; the light that was a pillar of fire in the wilderness night; the light that burned, but did not consume, the bush; and the light that he is clothed in right now (2).

One time, and one time only, God let some Apostles glimpse Jesus in full Shekinah array. We call that moment the Transfiguration:
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:1-2)

Moses got a glimpse of this Shekinah glory when God hid him in the rocks of Mt. Sinai:
While my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (Exodus 33:22)

The light was so substantial that it clung to Moses' face even after he descended the mountain.

Ezekiel 1 shows us a vision of God that, as far as I can tell, resembles the shifting luminescence you'd see if you took my list of light-words (above) and mixed them together in a kaleidoscope:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. (Ezekiel 1:4, 27-28)

Revelation shows us that while Jesus is now the spiritual Light of the World, he will also be the physical light of the eternal cosmos:
And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.  (Revelation 21:23)


Of all the beautiful verses in the Psalms, none is brighter, more beautiful, or more illuminating than this one:
In your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)

What that means is that when God said, "Let there be light," he wasn't creating it. Light had forever been with him at his right hand. "Let there be light" was a command to reveal the Light of the World, to pull the veil off of our benighted eyes so we could see the Light that always was and always will be.

I know the darkness too well, but perhaps not as well as you do. And neither of us knows darkness like the Light of the World does. In the Psalms, the saddest line of all consigns Jesus to the dark:
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (3)

But God was there (4).  Jesus just couldn't see him for the while that our sin was upon him.

Darkness, you see, is a lie told by limited eyes, limited imaginations, and limited faith. When it seems dark, it only seems that way:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

The Light is always 'on.'

(1) Philippians 2:7/NASB; (2) Psalm 104:2; (3) Psalm 22:1; (4) see 2 Corinthians 5:19/NASB

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

salvation doesn't stop at the cross

The Word for today:

Exodus 33

The best way to avoid biblical misunderstanding is to understand the elements of the tabernacle.

That's why we are taking our sweet time as we make our way through.

Today we move past the altar of burnt offering (representative of the cross) to the laver.

The laver was just a big basin of water. It represents our ongoing need for cleansing from sin.

Q. But I thought our sins were forgiven at the altar of burnt offering/cross.
A. They were, totally and forever.
Q. Then what do we need a big basin of water for?
A. Cleansing from sin.
Q. I don't get it.
A. Neither did I--until I saw the pictures of our salvation, in their proper order, in the Tabernacle:

Salvation is a big, all-encompassing word.
It includes justification--which happened at the altar of burnt offering/cross.
It includes sanctification--which happens all the way from the laver to the ark of the covenant.
It includes glorification--which will happen when we are in the presence of God (represented by the ark.)

At the altar/cross, we were justified. There, the penalty of sin was removed.

But the power of sin and the presence of sin remain. That's why saved people still experience sin. Sometimes, in fact, the newly saved can be overwhelmed by the power of sin!

Bother, bother.
This happens because the saved are suddenly more sensitive to sin, bothered by things that didn't much bother them before.
This also happens because until they were saved, they didn't bother the satanic forces! But the saved are a threat to the dominion of darkness and so they are under attack.  The onslaught begins immediately upon conversion and intermittently thereafter.

At the laver, we begin the process of sanctification, during which the power of sin gradually diminishes as the saved believer becomes in experience more and more like Christ.


This table shows the contrast between justification and sanctification:

Justification                                                  Sanctification
took place the moment you trusted Christ…    is God’s lifelong process in you.
is an act of God…………………………...     is a work of God.
is for us……………………………………     is in us.
declares the sinner righteous………………    makes the sinner righteous.
removes the guilt and penalty of sin……...     removes the growth and power of sin.

The sanctifying, cleansing agents represented by the laver filled with water are--

1. The Word of God:
“Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.”  (John 15:3).\
"Sanctify them by your truth: your word is truth.”  (John 17:17)

2. The Holy Spirit,
who administers the washing of water by the word.  (Ephesians 5:25-26)

3. Confession of sin:
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)


The Tabernacle teaches us that salvation doesn't stop at the burnt altar/cross. We are born again at the cross, but there is still a lot of growing up to do!


Monday, November 21, 2011

the unconsumed

The Word for today:
Exodus 32

The Tabernacle is God’s picture book, illustrating the great doctrines of the Christian faith.  And Stand in the Rain has been commissioned by God Himself (Matthew 28:18-20) to be your official Tabernacle tour guide…


We've come through the Tabernacle Gate, but we did not come in empty-handed.  We brought the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (1).

Directly ahead of us is the altar of burnt offering, where the fire of judgment will consume sin.  This altar of burnt (totally consumed) offering is the primary Old Testament picture of the cross.

In a real way (not allegorically or figuratively) Jesus Christ became sin on the cross (2).  It is important to understand that the sins were not his own, but they belonged to (your name here).

At the same time, (your name here) became the righteousness of God in him (2).  It is important to understand that the righteousness is not yours, but it belongs to Jesus.

But we "wear" his righteousness like a garment, and so we can approach God.  Without Jesus' righteousness, we could not proceed any farther.  We would, in fact, get tossed from the Tabernacle! --

Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.'   And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.  But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?'   And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.'  (Matthew 22:8-13)

Note that the man without the imputed righteousness of God was not only tossed out, but he was speechless!  This illustrates that we cannot approach God, even verbally through prayer, unless we come in the Name and righteousness of Christ.  For if we approach God in our own "righteousness"--which God views as filthy rags (3)--God's holiness would (because it must) totally consume our sin.

So totally consumed would we be, that there would be nothing left but the ashes that were left when an animal was sacrificed in place of the sinner at the burnt altar of the Tabernacle.

But if by faith Jesus took your place at the altar of burnt offering/the cross, then you can forever join in with the forgiven, who will forever say--

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.   (Lamentations 3:22-23)

(1) John 1:29 (2) 2 Corinthians 5:21; (3) Isaiah 64:6

Sunday, November 20, 2011

you can't come in empty-handed

The Word for today:
Exodus 30, 31

The Tabernacle is God’s picture book, illustrating the great doctrines of the Christian faith.  And Stand in the Rain has been commissioned by God Himself (Matthew 28:18-20) to be your official Tabernacle tour guide…


We've come through the Tabernacle Gate, but we did not come in empty-handed. 

We're often told to "come to God with empty hands, so he can fill them."  But when we hear that, the "WRONG" buzzer should go off!

Because while it is true that we have nothing of our own to give him, it is also true that we can't bring nothing!  Man cannot approach God without a sacrifice.  

And because the wages of sin is death, only a blood sacrifice is acceptable (Romans 6:23; Leviticus 17:11).

The sacrifice is a substitute for the sinner:
And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. (Leviticus 1:4)
The Israelite killed the sacrifice at the side of the altar with his hand placed upon its head, thus identifying himself with the sacrifice.
By faith he placed his hand upon it and God accepted this arrangement, looking to the time when the Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world, “for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:4).
Way back in Genesis, God wanted Abraham to understand the awful price of sin.  So he told Abraham to offer his son Isaac.

But God never intended for Isaac to die.  He stopped the execution, and provided a ram, whose horns were caught in a thicket, to be sacrificed in Isaac's stead.

God wanted Abraham to understand that the only acceptable sacrifice was the Son that God, not Abraham, would provide.


The same holds true with prayer.  Unless and until we offer Jesus, verbally by Name, our prayers do not find God. 

The Name is not a magic incantation.  As the Son of God/Son of Man, He is the mediator of the covenant (the terms of a relationship) between God and Man.  We simply can't connect without Him.

Apart from Jesus, in terms of salvation and prayer, we are disconnected from God.  In any situation, throughout all eternity, we will not be admitted without Jesus.

So if you come to God empty-handed, that's the way you will always stay.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

all you've got to do is turn around

The Word for today:
Exodus 29

Yesterday, we entered the Tabernacle through its single gate:
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  (John 10:9) 

My Picture Bible.
God sent a picture before He sent the Person. The Tabernacle is God’s picture book.

ABC’s of salvation—
The Tabernacle presents the great doctrines of the Christian faith in picture form.

Salvation is on the move.
The sentence above should read: ‘The Tabernacle presents the great doctrines of the Christian faith in moving picture form.’

As we proceed through the Tabernacle, let's remember that the Tabernacle isn't an art gallery with still pictures in frames.  These pictures depict your very own pilgrim's progress toward eternal life with God.

So don't let these pictures remain remote and static and lifeless.  Don't let these pictures be "theology."  Instead make them an outline of the story of your new life with God.  As we proceed through the Tabernacle, personalize each step with the details of your own life…

Can you remember when you decided to "go through the gate?"  Can you recall those first steps--perhaps halting and hesitant steps--towards faith in Jesus?

There's a well-loved Bible story that depicts one man's decision to go back home to his Father.  (Many of you knew, halfway through the previous sentence, that I am referring to Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15.)

The young man went to a far country where he led a life filled with sin.  Then one day he came to his senses and decided to go back home.  Here's the moment when he "entered the gate" to his father's estate:
And he arose and came to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  (Luke 15:20)


Remember that the Tabernacle is the Tent of Meeting.  As you made your way back to God, he was waiting and watching and hoping to see you come through the gate.

In fact, in Exodus, the Tabernacle is described from "the inside out"---from God's point of view as he looks from within the Holiest Place out to the gate.

If, as you read this, you are still in the far country, the gate is always open and God is waiting and watching and hoping for prodigals like you to come back home.

All you've got to do is turn around.


Friday, November 18, 2011

you gotta go in through the door

The Word for today:
Exodus 28

mark this:
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  (John 10:9)

Going back to the tabernacle is the spiritual equivalent of going back to the basics.  Whether you're an All-Pro Bible commentator or a rookie believer, the Tabernacle should be visited and revisited--first to teach us the basics of our salvation, and continually thereafter to make sure we're staying on track as we teach others.

Over the coming days we're going to take a tour of the tabernacle, from its single gate to the Ark of the Covenant.

We're going to keep it simple, concentrating on just a few of the furnishings per day.  By the time we're done, you should be able to visualize your way through the tabernacle like you can visualize your way through a house where you once lived for twenty years.

First, a view from the outside:

The tabernacle was a portable temple, a "Tent of Meeting" within a movable courtyard.  It was constructed after the pattern that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, and was continuously assembled/reassembled in the desert as Moses led the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land.

It wasn't big.  Nestled at the very center of the Israeli encampment--more than a million people--it was a little jewel of a place.The enclosed courtyard was 150 feet long--about half the length of a football field.  The covered Tent itself was about 45 feet long.

The Tent of Meeting was not a place where man met man, but where man could meet God.  From the beginning of creation, God's plan was to allow people the joy of fellowship with him.  However, the entrance of sin into the world (Genesis 3) caused the separation of God from man, for if sinful people were to come into God's presence, his holiness would consume them.

The Tabernacle provided a temporary means by which the Israelites could enjoy God's presence without being destroyed by it.  And it remains invaluable for us today, for it shows us in tangible ways what is required to meet God.


We'll start our tabernacle tour at (where else!) the gate.

To set the scene, let's consider the words of a beloved gospel song:

"So high you can't get over it
So low you can't get under it
So wide you can't get 'round it
You gotta go in through the door…" (1)

The thing to remember about the gate is that there's only one!

The entire tabernacle complex had but one entrance--because there is only one way to approach God.  The Bible never wavers on this issue.  It is the First Commandment of the Old Testament:
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:2-3)

And it is the "First Commandment" of the New Testament:
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.  (Matthew 7:13-14)

This concept bothers many people.   They find it narrow-minded and exclusive, when its intention is to point to a Savior who can actually save.  Thus what some hear as "Thou shalt not" is really all about what thou shalt do to be saved:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."  (Acts 4:12)

(1) lyrics from "Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham"

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Gentlemen, this is Jesus."

The Word for today:
Exodus 26, 27

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi started every season with a team meeting. Surrounded by veterans and rookies alike, he would hold a football high above his head so that each player could see it. With all eyes on him, he simply said: "Gentlemen, this is a football."

This was Coach Lombardi's way of reminding all of his players that success begins with a clear understanding of the basics. While it may have been a little simplistic, it succinctly illustrates the need to understand the fundamentals before moving on to more advanced tasks.

Going back to the tabernacle is the spiritual equivalent of going back to the basics.  Whether you're an All-Pro Bible commentator or a rookie believer, the Tabernacle should be visited and revisited--first to teach us the basics of our salvation, and continually thereafter to make sure we're staying on track as we teach others.

Over the next ten days we're going to take a tour of the tabernacle, from the east gate to the Ark of the Covenant.

We're going to keep it simple, concentrating on just a few of the furnishings per day.  By the time we're done, you should be able to visualize your way all the way through the tabernacle like you can visualize going through a house you've lived in for twenty years.  We'll be resorting to pictorial aids--pictures and diagrams--as we make our way "from the door to the core."


Which came first, the Bible or Jesus?

The answer, of course, is Jesus:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

That beginning (John 1:1) is the oldest beginning in scripture, because no matter when you think it was, it was before that!

(The Bible's second oldest beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, is found in Genesis 1:1.  The Bible's third beginning, the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is found in Mark 1:1.)

Jesus is the original Word, which God has proclaimed in multi-media:

The Bible is a paper expression of the original Word.

The Tabernacle is an architectural expression of the original Word.

Finally, we witnessed a human expression (an incarnation) of the original Word:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)


So I've always wondered (silly me) why they don't build churches according to the plan given for the tabernacle.  Then "the church" would actually be doing what the church is supposed to do--proclaim the Word of the LORD.  

But instead the first thing encountered upon entering our current churches is some lame and dippy "Koinonia Café" where the biblically ignorant can miraculously manage to stay biblically ignorant during the entire thirty years of their church membership!

What a stark contrast to the sparsely appointed Tabernacle, where God allowed just a handful of furnishings which powerfully bespoke his Word…

Now we're nearing the Door.  I'll meet you right here tomorrow.