The Apple Of God's Eye

November 24, 2010

Proving The Existence of God’s Law

gpcw.org.au

Consider the all-encompassing magnitude of God’s law. It outlines, in broad detail, our right relationship with the true God to receive needed guidance, help and blessings; and also our right relationship towards human neighbours – including parents, children, husband or wife. This law provides for every human need for our own good in a living, active, continuous relationship with the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God.

When we mediate fully on the ten commandments, we can see that God provides the means for mankind to have pure religion, happy families, a right social life, and wealthy economies. Never did God intent that His law be oppressive or destructive. In fact, the law can be summed up in one powerful word – love.

Our loving God has given us a law only forbids those things that harm us. God will never force us to keep His law because He has made us free moral agents. God wants us to choose to follow Him and His ways. It is all for our good. Yet, many who call themselves Christians teach that Christ did away with the ten commandments under the New Testament. However, that does not square with Christ’s personal example. (more…)

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December 21, 2009

Grace: Do You Really Understand It?

inspiks.com

Few professing Christians really understand what grace is. And no wonder, because rather than searching the Bible on the subject, they get bogged down in debate over whether it does away with God’s law, as God’s unmerited pardon for sin.

The New Testament Greek word translated “grace” is charis and holds a variety of meanings not dealing directly with the grace of God toward man. It can denote pleasure towards someone (Luke 2:40), kindness or goodwill toward another (Acts 7:10), favor (Acts 2:46-47), or express thankfulness (I Corinthians 15:57). Finally, charis can also be used to denote a gift or favor done as an act of goodwill (Acts 25:2-3).

But the New Testament writers applied this word in a new sense to describe what God is doing for humanity. Those whom God calls (John 6:44) are given the chance to repent and accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Then, upon being baptized, they are given God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), which enables them to develop godly character and ultimately be born into the very Family of God (I John 3:1-2). Charis is an all-encompassing word for this whole process of conversion that is being accomplished by God’s power.

Why is grace necessary?

Grace essential to salvation because it is the free gift of God, through faith (Ephesians 2:8), and all efforts to earn salvation are futile (verse 9). This is because of several obvious reasons:

  • First, “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) — sin being the transgression of God’s law (I John 3:4) — and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We have all earned the death penalty. And just as any government today realizes, the violation of law cannot go unpunished, or anarchy would ensue. Similarly, our regret and subsequent good behavior can never pay the penalty for sin, because the penalty is death. And God’s laws are enforced. God does not compromise with sin by allowing a way of life that leads to unhappiness, misery and death to go unpunished. The penalty for our sins must be paid.
  • Second, not only have we sinned, but man by himself is incapable of overcoming sin. Paul said in Romans 8:7, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Our best efforts are futile unless God gives us the help we need.

God’s grace toward us begins when God begins calling us. Unless God opens our minds, we cannot understand His purpose (John 6:44). Paul commented, “God … called me through His grace” (Galatians 1:15).

The very fact that one understands the truths of God as revealed in the Bible is because of God’s grace. But being called is just the beginning of grace.

The process of conversion requires more than understanding. It requires change, or repentance. We must freely choose to obey God — and unless God shows us what to repent of and the importance of obeying Him, we cannot repent. “The goodness of God leads you to repentance,” Paul explained in Romans 2:4.

But being sorry for sinning, and changing, is not enough. So God’s grace continues with Jesus Christ’s sacrifice: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation [an atoning sacrifice] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness” (Romans 3:23-25).

Jesus Christ paid the penalty of sin, which is death, in our stead. Christ’s sacrifice is the supreme expression of divine grace. It is totally unmerited (Romans 5:6-8).

Christ’s sacrifice frees us from the penalty of breaking God’s law. But it does not do away with the law! Think: Would God now allow the violation of laws that necessitated the death of His own Son? Of course not.

Grace does not nullify God’s law. Rather, grace is necessary because God’s law is eternally binding. As Paul explained: “Shall we continue in sin [the transgression of God’s law — John 3:4] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) Continuing in sin would mock Jesus Christ’s supreme sacrifice.

Unmerited but not unconditional

Here is where many misunderstand. Grace is unmerited but it is not unconditional. There are two conditions: repentance and faith (Mark 1:5, Acts 2:38). Although we can never earn salvation, God does set certain requirements for receiving His grace.

Once God, by His grace, reveals to us the need to repent and humbly accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice as payment for our sins, we must do our part. We must voluntarily yield ourselves to God, admitting where we have been wrong, and make the necessary changes. Then we must be baptized as an outward expression of our repentance and faith (Romans 6:3-6).

Don’t misunderstand — God’s grace is free and unmerited, but if we refuse to change our lives — to obey God — He is under no obligation to bestow His grace upon us. God will not allow Christ’s sacrifice and His grace to be taken lightly.

The process continues. Peter tells us we must now “grow in grace” (II Peter 3:18, Authorized Version). Grace is unmerited pardon for sin, but it is much more. For if grace were merely the unmerited forgiveness of sin, how could we grow in grace except by sinning more? No, we must, while coming under God’s grace, overcome sin.

If you are truly under God’s grace, you will be striving diligently to obey God’s commandments. Paul said: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

We are to develop godly character by growing and overcoming in order that we can ultimately be born into the very Family of God. But we cannot do this alone (Matthew 19:25-26). We need God’s Spirit. And His Spirit, by His grace toward us, is a gift (Acts 10:45, 11:17).

God’s Spirit gives us the power we need to develop character. But we must work at it. Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10).

To grow in grace is to overcome sin through coupling God’s Spirit with our own efforts. Without God’s help, overcoming sin would be impossible.

Finally, after we have developed godly character through God’s Spirit, one final act of grace is bestowed upon us — eternal life! We deserved death, but will receive life eternal. As Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The world is deceived into believing in a shallow, limited concept of God’s grace. True grace is more than the forgiveness of sin; it is the total process of salvation.

Peter summed it up beautifully: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen…. I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand” (I Peter 5:10-12).

June 16, 2009

Ezekiel’s Vision: God’s Spaceship Identified!

Of the many fascinating scriptural descriptions of heavenly things, chapters 1 and 10 of Ezekiel is by far the most stunning and complex. Ezekiel had to describe in the Hebrew language something he saw – something so incredible and foreign as to defy description. Yet describe it he did, though the account leaves modern commentaries equally confused, with some indulging in various allusions on the subject.

If we really want to understand what Ezekiel experienced, we need to allow the Bible to be our guide. Ezekiel begins by describing an incredibly fiery spectacle. “And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself [a fire inside a fire], and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire” (verse 4).

This was some of the most intense brightness you can imagine — a mass of fire concentrated in a vast cloud, so that the flames might be more distinctly observable. Yet the fire never escaped from the cloud (Adam Clarke’s Commentary). The fire “infolding” forms a circle of light, with flames moving round and round and following each other in rapid succession (Barnes’ Commentary). The color of amber in the center of the cloud is from the word ηλεκτρον, translated as very bright, and  made of gold and brass. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible).

The living creatures – Cherubims

UFO enthusiasts describe the vision as a perennial example of ancient contact with extraterrestrial beings — supposed alien astronauts who visited the Earth in antiquity. However, they gloss over some important facts in trying to tie down this vision into the physical sphere. Let’s consider the living creatures within the flaming cloud. Though having the form of men, they have two sets of wings, four faces, and feet like calves’ hooves. Our aficionados believe that the four faces are the faces of different alien beings looking out of different windows of the spacecraft. This however is a somewhat crude and simplistic description, especially in light of Ezekiel being very precise and particular in describing what he saw.

“Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle” (verses 5-10).

By comparing the description of the living creatures in Ezekiel to that of the living creatures that surround the throne of God in Revelation 4, one quickly realizes that the scenes witnessed by Ezekiel were visions of God and His spiritual host of heaven..

“As with the cherubim flanking the Holy of Holies, the wings of the living creatures in Ezekiel’s vision touch each other. Solomon overlays the cherubim with gold, while the living creatures sparkle like burnished bronze. The four faces of the creatures in Ezekiel’s vision too hearken back to the cherubim and to Solomon’s temple. Lions and bulls are frequently mentioned as part of the imagery of the temple interior (1 Kings 7:25, 29, 36). Cherubim were often depicted as having men’s heads, the bodies of either lions or bulls — sometimes a lion’s fore parts and a bull’s hindquarters (hence the calf’s feet of living creatures of Ezekiel 1:7) — and the wings of eagles sprouting from their lion or bull shoulders.” (engforum)

The ordinary angels apparently resemble men. But cherubim (Michael or Gabriel) are not ordinary angels—“every one has four faces.” So the living creatures of Ezekiel’s vision were not bizarre four-faced space aliens. Nor were they a depiction of different alien species looking out of the portholes of a spaceship. They were cherubims.

If those who want to see the living creatures as space aliens would read more of Ezekiel they would find an almost identical vision in Ezekiel 10:20. There the prophet clearly identifies the beings as cherubim, and says in verse 15 that they were the living beings he saw in his first vision.

“This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubim.”  All four were intertwined as one for “their wings were joined one to another” (Ezek 1:9).

The appearance of these living creatures (cherubim), was apparently highly impressive—they were lit up like fire, with lightning coming out of the fire! Not an ordinary sight.

“….their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning” (verse 13).

Now, these cherubim had a job to perform, which meant they transported this vehicle, evidently at the speed of light.

“And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning” (verse 14). “And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings” (verses 14, 24).

Ezekiel saw this great, luminous vehicle with wings and revolving wheels moving at lightning speed. It never had to turn; it would move instantly in any direction—like lightning darting around. This vehicle was so awesome Ezekiel had trouble even explaining it.

Vision contained throne and appearance of God

Now focus on the next couple of points, because they are truly breathtaking!

Ezekiel’s vision included a view of God’s throne. “Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne” (Ezekiel 10:1).

Look closely at what was on top of God’s amazing transportation system.

“…. and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it” (Ezek. 1:25-26).

Imagine – the great God of Ezekiel1- sitting on His throne on top of this amazing transportation system, looks like a man. Study Genesis 1, and you know that mortal man was made in the image and likeness of God. Is there a connection?

Do you want to know what God really looks like? Read on closely.

“And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain [a rainbow], so was the appearance of the brightness round about.

This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (Ezekiel 1:27‑28).

Compare this description with Revelation 1 to get an idea of how impressive God is to behold! This is the God of the Bible. This is not some nebulous cloud, or little Lord Jesus in a manger. This is the God of the Bible! This is what He looks like and how He travels. Do you know this God?

Wheel within a wheel

Beside each Cherub a wheel was set with another ” wheel in the middle of a wheel”.

So what is the significance of the wheels?It may be that it is unusual for a wheel to be associated with our modern view of a throne. The Commentaries make it to be one traversing inside of the other. They determined four directions to which the Spirit beings were darting to whatever direction they were commanded (Ezek. 1:16, 17), without turning. As for the “engineering” aspect of the wheels, our human understanding can’t help much since we are dealing with supernaturally-composed matter.

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary gives this description:

” . . . each wheel was composed of two circles cutting one another at right angles, ‘one’ only of which appeared to touch the ground (“upon the earth” ) “.

The biblical description, “a wheel in the middle of a wheel”, however, would indicate the one inside to be smaller than the other.

Two more important facets are depicted. The first facet is that the “rings were full of eyes” (verse 18).

The other facet of the wheel was their rings (rims) were high and dreadful (verse 18). As far as the geometrical shape is concerned it is not clear whether it means a fantastic size of spokes (wheel diametrically large) or the depth of the ring.

Conclusion

It’s easy to speculate on the subject of this vision because we really don’t have all the answers. It is only when the vision is rendered in translation, rather than in the original Hebrew, that makes it possible for us today to mistake angels for spaceships. What we do know is that God gave the vision so that we could visualize somewhat in our minds eye the glory associated with this great Being, His appearance and His mode of travel.

If anyone has doubts that Ezekiel’s vision is of God enthroned upon the cherubim, consider what Ezekiel says in the final description in this passage (verse 28): “Such was the appearance of the glory of the LORD.”

Then, a few verses later in chapter 2, it was said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me” (2:3). It is ironic that Ezekiel recognized this vision to be a message from God, yet over 2,500 years after this vision, modern-day UFO hunters want to “reinterpret” Ezekiel’s original understanding of what he saw. Ezekiel’s description of the vision ties in perfectly with other apocalyptic writings such as Daniel and Revelation.

The entire vision is not something taught in modern denominational religions. It should be though, because it would make God distinctively more real than the fuzzy image portrayed by most pastors and ministers, as well as UFO enthusiasts. Meditate on the description of the spectacular vehicle God rides in. This is God’s spaceship, and this vision should make the God of the Bible come alive to you.

June 1, 2009

Could The Universe Contain An "Uncountable" Number Of Stars?

From time immemorial, man has been fascinated by the beautiful, and awesome spectacle of the stars of heaven. Many centuries before the birth of Jesus, David observed that “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork” (Psa. 19:1).

Even today, the seeming myriads of stars and nebulae continue to be a breathtaking and inspiring panoply. Yet at any given time, despite one’s initial impression, the actual number of stars distinguished by the naked eye is less than 3000. This means that you could easily count them all in less than an hour!

By contrast, the Bible states in Jeremiah 33:22 that “the host of heaven CANNOT BE NUMBERED.” During the thousands. of years before Galileo’s invention of the telescope, such a statement was considered to be either false or at least a gross exaggeration. The stars uncountable? The universe, they said, was too small to contain that many stars!

However, astronomers have estimated that there are billions of billions of stars in the visible universe. More specifically, astronomers estimate that their number is equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or one sextillion. Is this an “uncountable” number?

To find out, let’s suppose that every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth were employed in an “all-out” effort to count the stars. Every, person is given a giant telescope, capable of “seeing” all the stars in the direction it is pointed. Each telescope is limited to a certain part of the sky so that no star will be counted twice. Further, the sun is darkened so that the stars can be seen even during “daylight” hours. When the signal is given, everyone on earth begins counting — quickly — each person recording one new star every second. They work diligently hour after hour with no periods of rest. How long would it take to “count” the stars of heaven? A day? A week? A month?

No, it would take everyone on earth — over 8 thousand years to count the stars in the visible universe. But 8000 years is longer than man has been on the earth! So the term “uncountable” is indeed a very appropriate description of the number of stars, in the observable universe.

But is the number of stars literally “uncountable” in the sense of there being “infinitely many”? Some have assumed that if the term “cannot be numbered” is taken literally, then the Bible must be unscientific. They reason that astronomy knows only of an estimated sextillion stars — and that is a finite number and, hence, countable.

Ironically, the assumption that there is only a finite number of stars is often based on the Biblical statements that “God tells the number of the stars and calls them all by their names”. (Psa. 147:4) and “God brings out their host by number” (Isa. 40:26). These scriptures supposedly “prove” the universe is finite, for “even GOD could not give names to an INFINITE number of stars.” Actually, the fact is, that ALL objects in an infinite set may STILL have a “name.” For example, all the natural numbers (1, 2, 3, 4 ..) have a “name,” even though they comprise an infinity. Furthermore, the infinite mind of God would surely be capable of assigning names to an infinite number of stars. Thus, the Scriptures do not claim that the universe can only have a finite number of stars.

Moreover, astronomers readily admit that they cannot determine if there are “infinitely many” stars, because man is limited to observing the visible universe. Note that the size of the visible universe is NOT determined by how large a telescope man can build. Rather, it is determined — according to most astronomers — by a fascinating property of the universe itself! No matter where in the heavens astronomers look, they find the stars and galaxies “retreating” from us. The farther away these celestial objects are, the faster they appear to be traveling.

Now light reaching us from a receding object “looks” redder (lower frequency) just as the pitch of a train whistle drops in frequency as the train passes us by. Scientists know that at a certain velocity (near that of light itself, i.e., 186,000 miles per second) this “red shift” will be so great that man cannot detect any light coming from the object — not with his eyes, not with any known instrument — even using the largest telescopes available.

In other words, there are certain absolute limits beyond which physical man cannot go — and one of these is the boundary of the limit of detection of the visible universe. What is on the “other side” of this boundary? What lies beyond the limits of man’s perception? Man as a physical being does not know.

Yet there is a Great Plan by which man can know the size and scope the vast, unfathomable expanses of the universe — a plan instituted by the very Being who created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1), who designed the lights of the firmament to divide day and night and to serve as signs for seasons, days and years (Gen. 1:14), who calls the stars by their names (Psalms 147:4), and whose understanding is infinite (Psalms 147:5; Isa 40:28).

No, the universe is not “too small” to contain an “uncountable” number of stars. In fact, even if the universe were much “smaller,” it would still be humanly impossible to count or number all the stars. And considering the possibility that the universe may be infinite, what better description could one give than that there is, as the Bible states, an innumerable number of stars?

Source: Tomorrow’s World, October 1971

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