Your Relationship with God, Part 2.
On Saturday, November 6, 2004, J. Edwin Pope will be giving the sermon, titled, “Your Relationship with God”, Part 2.
The services can be heard at
www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
Who Leads Us?
by Dave Harris
This week much of the world has watched the presidential elections in the United States. People understand that the leadership of this nation will influence the course of events for the entire planet.
History is in many ways a chronicle of leaders: emperors, kings and queens, presidents, premiers, popes, priests, ayatollahs, chancellors, governors, generals, mayors–these and many, many more have shaped this world.
Entire generations have hung their hopes–indeed their very lives–on the promises or the commands of someone who holds a powerful or influential office. A new leader can electrify the hopeful with grandiose promises, but, as history has so often shown, the old leader once stood for these same unanswered dreams.
Bad leadership is the rule–it is certainly not the exception! There is a reason for this, and that reason falls on the shoulders of Satan the devil and his angels, the demons. They are the spiritual rulers of this age (Compare 2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:14-15). Consider what Satan boasted to Jesus Christ: “‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I WISH'” (Luke 4:6).
Jesus recognized that, for the time being, Satan was “‘the ruler of this world'” (John 16:11). However, Jesus also made this remarkable statement about Himself: “‘…be of good cheer, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD'” (John 16:33). When asked by Pilate if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus answered: “‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world…'” (John 18:37). At the same time, He mentioned to Pilate that he “could have no power at all” against Him, “unless it had been given to [him] from above” (John 19:11). God is in overall control, and although He has not yet replaced Satan as the ruler of this world, He will intervene in human affairs, to appoint, at critical times, over the kingdom of men whomever He chooses (Daniel 5:21; 4:17, 32) — to see to it that prophecy is being fulfilled. You might want to listen, in this regard, to our sermon of July 3, 2004, titled,
“Who is in Control?”
Jesus pointedly told His disciples that “‘I WILL COME AGAIN…'” (John 14:3). Two of God’s faithful angels proclaimed the same message to the stunned disciples following Christ’s resurrection and at the time of His ascension to the Father: “‘This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven'” (Acts 1:11).
This good news is the only true hope for this world! As “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), we proclaim this hope in the continuing work of the Church which Jesus Christ now leads (Compare Matthew 24:14). As representatives of Jesus, we also follow His lead–we no longer follow the lead of Satan and those to whom he gives authority and who practice his deeds.
As Christians we are to pray for the humans who now rule and to submit ourselves to their laws (Compare 1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1-7). Foremost, this kind of approach is how God requires us to act if He is ruling in our lives. The only exception is if man’s laws are against God’s laws (Compare Acts 4:19; 5:29).
Who leads the nations of this world at this time is not the most important issue facing Christians. God has preserved a warning for those who are called to His way of life: “‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues'” (Revelation 18:4). This is a message for all of the people of God throughout the ages and leading up to the promised return of Jesus Christ.
Until then, it might be good to regularly check up on where we each stand, and to ask ourselves, “who leads us?”
This Week in the News
The 2004 U.S. Election
The U.S. election — the arguably most important election in this generation — has been decided. President George W. Bush has been re-elected for another four-year term. International reactions to this result were mixed. While most politicians and commentaries stated a desire for peace and reconciliation between the power blocs, caution and concern were expressed at the same time. AFP ran the following headline on November 4, 2004: “World leaders hail Bush’s re-election, call for healing of global divisions over Iraq.”
The article stated: “World leaders rushed to congratulate US President George W. Bush on his re-election to a second four-year term and pledged cooperation with Washington to heal deep divisions over a host of international issues, notably Iraq and the Middle East. In Brussels, the European Union’s executive arm extended ‘warm congratulations’ to Bush on his re-election and pledged Europe’s renewed commitment to the transatlantic link.”
The article continued: “‘Together, Europe and the United States face many critical challenges in the years ahead. As in the past, our best hope for success lies in common action,’ EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana said in a statement. Congratulatory messages also poured in from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and leaders from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and South Africa, among others. Annan said… that he was ‘committed to continuing to work with President Bush and his administration on the whole range of issues facing the United Nations and the world.'”
Reactions by International Leaders
AFP expressed the following on November 4: “French President Jacques Chirac, a strong opponent of the US-led war in Iraq, expressed hope that Bush’s second term ‘will provide an opportunity to reinforce France-American friendship’ and the transatlantic partnership. ‘On behalf of France, and on my personal behalf, I would like to express to you my most sincere congratulations for your re-election to the presidency of the United States of America,’ Chirac wrote in a letter to Bush. ‘I hope that your second term will provide an opportunity to reinforce the Franco-American friendship.'”
In spite of these words and letters of congratulations, concern and worries remain. As the article continued to point out: “Many countries remain worried about Bush’s foreign policy and its implications for the Middle East … especially given fears of international terrorism. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said from Bonn that he hoped the new US government ‘would help to bring peace to the Middle East.’… Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a wary neighbor of Iraq, expressed hope that the Bush re-election would contribute to world peace. In Madrid, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said his government ‘wishes to contribute to effective and constructive cooperation with the Bush government.’… In Israel, a top foreign policy adviser said: ‘Israel and the free world has every reason to rejoice over this result.’… ‘The Americans have made a clear choice,’ Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Monteiro told national news agency Lusa. ‘For Portugal there is no change. We would work with any US administration although with this one we have come to establish a very close working relationship.’ In Italy, President Carlo Ciampi reaffirmed the need for renewing ‘the spirit of transatlantic solidarity’ because ‘terrorism is far from weakened.’ ‘Italy is at the side of the United States in …the struggle against the common enemy, in the determination to work together for the security of our nations and the stability of world order,’ he said in his message to Bush.”
Before Senator Kerry gave his concession speech and President Bush declared his victory, Associated Press had reported the following, on November 3, 2004:
“President Bush’s allies in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cautiously welcomed signs Wednesday that he could be re-elected in America’s tight presidential race. But on the streets outside the United States, many people were disappointed. Most foreign governments took care not to make comments that could be interpreted as favoring one candidate over another… ‘This is a catastrophe for the rest of the world,’ said Syafii Maarif, chairman of Muhammadiyah, a mainstream Muslim group in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Islamic country. ‘We have already seen that Bush has made a mess of the world over the last four years.’
“In Europe, governments said that the election was a chance to repair ties strained by Bush’s decision to go to war despite opposition from European powers such as France and Germany. ‘I hope that a re-elected President Bush would use the chance offered by his re-election for a new beginning in European-American and German-American relations,’ German Foreign Ministry official Karsten Voigt told ARD television. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said: ‘We have lots to do on current crises: Iraq, the Middle East, Iran, the challenges of the African continent, to rebuild, to renovate trans-Atlantic relations.'”
In a related article, Associated Press added on November 3, 2004, prior to the declared victory of President Bush:
“As President Bush edged close to an election victory against Sen. John Kerry, France, Germany and other European countries he alienated during his first four years promised Wednesday to work with the new U.S. administration. Some European leaders expressed hope that Bush would reach out to the continent in his second term. But others gloomily forecast no major tack in White House policy and continued trans-Atlantic bickering…
“Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Bush as a ‘predictable partner’ and said that if his slim lead in the U.S. election is confirmed, it would mean the American people had not given in to the threats of international terrorists. ‘If Bush wins, I would feel happy that the American people have not allowed themselves to be scared and made the decision they considered reasonable,’ Putin said… [According to Putin,] U.S.-Russian relations have improved under Bush’s presidency ‘for the benefit of our peoples and global security.'”
Other leaders did not agree. A.P. continued:
“Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson predicted that Bush would not revamp his policies, and the sniping between Europe and the United States would continue. ‘This means that we could have a very dramatic situation ahead of us, not least in Iraq,’ said Persson, who opposed the Iraq war. ‘Sweden and Europe will continue to criticize Bush the same way as earlier. But I do not believe that he will be more willing to listen to it.’ Finland Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, whose country also opposed the war, said a growing number of international issues will require trans-Atlantic and global cooperation. ‘General stability, terrorism, environmental issues, energy, social development and similar issues will come increasingly to the fore and to solve them we need good companionship between Europe and the United States,’ Vanhanen said.”
Reuters elaborated on November 3, 2004:
“‘Terrorism has to be rejected in today’s world and in this respect George Bush is a very decisive leader who is right, simply right,’ said Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. ‘From Poland’s perspective continued cooperation with George Bush is really good news.’… Germany… opposed the Iraq war. There, Interior Minister Otto Schily said: ‘Despite the issue of our differing positions in the past, we all have to contribute to ensuring that the situation in Iraq stabilizes.’ But Karsten Voigt, Germany’s top official on relations with Washington, called on Bush to move toward the Europeans. ‘I hope for gestures, for offers to work together,’ he said.”
In a related article by the Associated Press, dated November 3, it was stated: “Europe Allies Extend Olive Branch to Bush.” It continued: “European allies alienated by President Bush’s first four years in power offered Wednesday to let bygones be bygones, saying they want to work with the new administration and seeking, right from Day 1, to get the new White House to listen more to overseas opinion… German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who… clashed with Bush over Iraq, wrote the president a congratulatory letter expressing ‘great expectations’ for renewed cooperation. ‘The world stands before great challenges at the beginning of your second term: international terrorism, the danger of weapons of mass destruction, regional crises – but also poverty, climate change and epidemics threaten our security and stability,’ Schroeder wrote. ‘These challenges can only be mastered together.'”
On the other hand, as stated above, Schroeder’s recent statements don’t coincide with political views of his own party members. As the Independent pointed out, “several German politicians reflected widespread popular dismay at [the] result. Michael Möller, the deputy parliamentary leader of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s ruling Social Democrats described Mr Bush as a ‘fundamentalist’ and added [while the election results were still being counted]: ‘If he wins it will be neither good for the world, nor for democratic America.'”
The article also stated: “Election interest in Europe was intense, as was the disappointment many felt over Bush’s victory. Some saw it as proof that Europe and the United States are farther apart than ever… [Some] worried that Bush, strengthened by a bigger win than in 2000 and backed by a Republican Congress, would turn a deaf ear to world concern
AFP added on November 4, 2004: “Prime Minister Tony Blair warmly congratulated his war ally US President George W. Bush on being re-elected, saying he hoped the ‘unique bond’ between their countries would prosper over the next four years. But Blair also served notice that he plans to pressure the American leader over the Middle East during Bush’s second term, calling peace in that region ‘the single most pressing political challenge in our world.'”
Reactions by International Press
The German press voiced cautious optimism, combined with a stern warning directed at President Bush. As far as can be ascertained, the only major influential daily newspaper, which reported positively about Bush’s re-election, was the weekly tabloid, Bild. The paper published a commentary by Lord George Weidenfeld, who, according to Bild, “is viewed as one of the most brilliant thinkers in the world.” The commentary stated:
“Beginning of a New Chapter. The people in America have spoken, the new President is the old one: George W. Bush. The nation has given him a clear mandate. The believing Christian Bush has worked out his victory, but he also prayed for it: ‘God bless America,’ as it is also stated in the National Anthem. Bush should give his best in this hour of his triumph, so that the old coalition can be resurrected with old trust. We in Europe must finally take the President seriously. We must cease to defame him, make fun of him, or libel him. Europe and the USA must work together, in order to build a new and free society in Iraq. We must open a new chapter of reconciliation on both sides of the Atlantic — without winners and losers. As was once the case with Ronald Reagan, who had been underestimated and belittled during his first term in office, George W. Bush has now received a mandate for a second term from the American people. He has now — just as Reagan — the chance to become one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the world.”
The popular German weekly, Die Zeit, stated: “We have to wish that Bush ceases to be Bush. This means: less aggressive and self-righteous, more willing to listen, even in his own interest. For, whatever America is trying to accomplish within the next four years, close and true friends will be needed. Those friends want not only an open ear, but also respect.”
The “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” wrote: “America has become strange and hard to understand for many Europeans. The current election has only confirmed this impression… Bush represents the majority of his country, which has adopted political division as their goal… The world should not become affected by this explosive atmosphere.”
The Bonner General Anzeiger wrote: “It is now the duty of Europe to deal sensibly with [that approach of] America, which has been chosen by the Americans… Europe has to be able to live with America — even an America under George Bush.”
The “Rhein-Neckar Zeitung” (Heidelberg) wrote: “George Bush convinced his American [followers] with simple and partly false concepts, that Iraq had been the logical result of September 11, 2001. And so, he was re-elected — the strong man, the commander-in-chief, who is not to be replaced during a war, the one who stands for determination and security. Fear voted, too.”
“Neues Deutschland” (Berlin) wrote: “The majority of the voting Americans chose war… Bush is no longer the president of the minority. This makes the result of this election so frightening.”
“Kieler Nachrichten” stated: “Most Germans would have preferred Kerry… No other American president is viewed here with so much disfavor as George W. Bush.”
Der Spiegel Online asked in its lead article: “How could it happen?” It continued: “That America voted the first time for George W. Bush… is explainable and excusable. But twice?” The liberal and highly influential weekly magazine stated that most observers did not realize how “unique” Americans are: “America is a foreign country, with its own values… They [the observers] did not realize how much the Americans want a strong leader who gives clear direction in times of fear, and who follows that direction, even if it is the wrong one. And they have underestimated how easily simple messages can become highly effective.”
Especially much of the British press voiced disappointment and consternation. The left-wing Daily Mirror asked on November 4, 2004: “How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?” It ran several articles about the “U.S. Election Disaster,” stating, “On the world stage, we can expect some sort of showdown with North Korea and Iran over nuclear proliferation – and who knows where that will take us. In the Middle East we can only hope that Bush finds his way again on the Road Map to Peace… Polls show Bush won Florida largely through the Jewish vote, because of his strong backing of Israel. But he mustn’t show any favours if he is to live up to his promise of the establishment of two separate states, one Palestinian, one Israeli. On the environment, Bush’s record is terrible and don’t expect it to get much better. Apart from kissing goodbye to the Kyoto global warming accord, you can also expect Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge to be opened up for oil drilling. Clean air laws will be scrapped and moves to cut pollution from power plants left to the ravages of the market place… But the most worrying thing for most people will be what [Bush] will do about terrorism. Nobody knows where his policy of ‘staying on the offensive’ against al-Qaeda will take us. ‘Axis of Evil’ countries like Syria, Iran and North Korea are still out there, defying Washington to whip them into line. The one consolation is that with Iraq in such a mess, America just doesn’t have the troops to get bogged down in another theatre of war. If you think Iraq was bad, it would be a picnic compared to Iran.”
In a possible response to those allegations, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that it would be “inconceivable” that the US “would attack Iran over its nuclear programme,” according to AFP of November 4.
Bild Online published a summary of the most telling comments of the international press. Here are a few excerpts:
“Basler Zeitung, Switzerland: ‘Against the rest of the world’… Berner Zeitung, Switzerland: ‘After this election there is reason for concern’… Gazetta Wyborcza, Poland: ‘Bush’s victory not good news’… Blikk, Hungary: ‘Four more years, four more wars?’… The Daily Telegraph, Great Britain: ‘Triumph of freedom…’ La Repubblica, Italy: ‘Bush is finally grown up…’ Adevarul, Rumania: ‘Bush has won out of defeat.'”
Time will tell what the future holds. According to Biblical prophecy, this world will not become a safer place, prior to the return of Christ, and wars and rumors of wars will increase. It is also clear from Biblical prophecy that the relationship between Europe and America will consistently deteriorate. We need to watch and pray that coming events don’t surprise us and find us unawares.
In your new book, "Jesus Christ — A Great Mystery," you state on page 91 that Jesus Christ became sin and a curse for us, when He died on the cross. I understand that Christ paid the penalty for our sins, thereby taking away the curse for breaking the law, but how could He have BECOME sin or a curse?
The Bible specifically states that Christ became both sin and a curse for us, when He died on the cross. Notice 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Galatians 3:13, in the New King James Bible:
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13).
These two passages are correctly translated from the original Greek. The Interlinear Literal Translations renders the two passages as follows:
“For him who knew not sin for us sin he made… Christ us ransomed from the curse of the law, having become for us a curse…”
Christ became sin for us, in that He carried our sins, as Isaiah 53:6 explains: “And the LORD has put on Him the iniquity of us all.” He was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Likewise, He became a curse on our behalf, by paying for us the penalty or curse for our breaking of the law. As the Ryrie Study Bible explains, “Christ… was made a curse for us. The crucifixion brought Him under the curse of the law, as explained in the last half of the verse (quoted from Deut. 21:23).” The New Bible Commentary:Revised adds the following thought: “Sin’s penalty was borne in a substitutionary way. He bore our curse, the curse cited from Dt. 21:23, which is equivalent to the wrath of Rom. 1:18 and 2:8.”
Some, since they can’t understand how Christ became sin for us, attempt to interpret this passage by claiming that He became a sin offering for us. Although it is true, of course, that Christ became the perfect sacrifice or sin offering, the addition of the word “offering” detracts from the full meaning of the passage. The Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, explains:
“…sin — not a sin offering, which would destroy the antithesis to ‘righteousness,’ and would make ‘sin’ be used in different senses in the same sentence…, but ‘sin,’ i.e., the representative Sin-bearer (vicariously) of the aggregate sin of all men past, present and future. The sin of the world is one, therefore the singular, not the plural, is used; though its manifestations are manifold (John 1:29).’ Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the SIN of the world.'”
Compare, too, the Commentary’s note on Galatians 3:13: “Having become what we were, in our behalf, ‘a curse,’ that we might cease to be a curse. Not merely accursed (in the concrete), but a curse in the abstract, bearing the universal curse of the whole human race. So II Corinthians 5:21, ‘Sin for us,’ not sinful, but bearing the whole sin of our race, regarded as one vast aggregate of sin.”
The Broadman Bible Commentary agrees: “It is often thought that the opening clause, ‘he made him to be sin’ means that God made Christ to be a ‘sin-offering.’ The occurrence of the term sin in its usual meaning in the immediately following phrase however makes that suggestion difficult; and in any case there is little evidence in the New Testament to support this interpretation.”
Regarding Galatians 3, the Commentary explains: “Paul finds in this passage [in Deuteronomy 21:23] scriptural support for his claim that Christ became a curse in our behalf. In the death that he died he took the curse [or penalty] of the law upon himself.”
The Biblical teaching is inescapable: When Christ died on the cross, He became sin and a curse, on our behalf. At that moment, when God the Father forsook Him (Matthew 27:45-46), Christ personified the sin of the world, as well as the curse [or penalty] of the law. When Christ died, all those sins as well as the curse or penalty for sinning, “died” with Him — were eradicated with Him — provided, that we, individually, claim Christ’s sacrifice, repent of our sins, accept Christ as our personal Savior, and are baptized in the Biblically prescribed manner. When Christ was on the cross, and all the sin of the world had been placed on Him, God the Father had to forsake Him, because He could not look at that much evil (compare Habakkuk 1:13), and what He saw at that time was SIN. Also, we need to obtain forgiveness for what we are, not only, for what we have done. We have sinful human nature — one might say, we ARE sin, as we are the curse. Christ became sin in that He became one of us — not, that He ever sinned — but He came into sinful flesh, with human nature (Romans 8:3), being tempted in all points as we are, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
This is not to say that God created Adam and Eve as sinful human beings, or that He created Lucifer who became the devil, and the other angels, who turned to demons, as evil spirit beings. Adam was not created sinful — he was created neutral. But — since Adam did sin, under Satan’s influence, and Satan has been tempting man ever since, every human has sinned, too (compare Romans 3:9-20). The same is true for angels. They were not created as sinful spirit beings, either — they were created neutrally, with free moral agency, capable of sinning or of rejecting sin. Lucifer sinned (Ezekiel 28:16) — nobody tempted him to sin — and the angels, who became demons, followed Satan’s evil influence, and sinned likewise (2 Peter 2:4).
Returning to the question at issue as to how Christ could BECOME sin and a curse; sometimes we just have to accept the Word of God in these matters. Exactly how all this was done–even why in the greater framework of God’s purposes–involves the deeper aspects of God’s work.
Clearly the Bible says that Jesus gave up His existence as a godly Spirit being, to come into this world as a man. The Bible also clearly states, as has been pointed out, that Christ “bore the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12); that “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6); that “He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11); and that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus did not die because of His righteousness. He died for our sins! He alone, as the Creator of mankind, through whom the Father created everything (Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16), was able to pay the price of the sin of all of mankind. He assumed our guilt, and He died in our stead. Now, as Romans discusses, we, through His obedience, and through His life in us, are also being made righteous (Romans 5:19, 10)–also spoken of as the “gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). We believe this, because God is the Author of these things. We may not be able to fully understand all the “how” of the matter, but we must accept, in faith, God’s Word.
Certainly, a great deal of faith is required, when it comes to the life and death of Jesus Christ. It is hard for the average person to believe that:
1) Christ was very God;
2) Christ gave up His divinity, to become physical man (John 1:1, 14), just as we are physical man;
3) Christ emptied Himself of His position as a glorified God being (Philippians 2:5-8), and of His godly relationship with the Being we understand to be the Father, for our benefit, to come to this earth in the flesh;
4) As a human being, Christ was now capable of sinning — when He had never known sin, personally, in His life before — but through His own choice and will, and with the help of God the Father, living within Him through the Holy Spirit, He never sinned while in the flesh;
5) Christ was willing to take our sins upon Himself, thus offering us forgiveness and giving us the potential to put on perfection in our lives (Matthew 5:48) — if we would let Jesus Christ live in us through the Holy Spirit –, even though while in that state on the cross, Christ was totally cut off from God, the Father;
6) By being sacrificed on that stake, and receiving the beating He received, we, through that sacrifice, could not only be forgiven all our sins, such that we have a chance of becoming members of the Family of God; but also, while in the flesh, we can be healed of our physical infirmities (Matthew 8:16-17);
7) God, the Father, was pleased with all that Christ did, and has now received Him back into the Godhead (Philippians 2:9-11), the First of the Firstfruits; and both now await the next step in this whole process, whereby we, too, will become Firstfruits, with Christ, at the resurrection of the just; we become then without sin, totally, just as the Father and Jesus Christ are today, and the Father and Christ will not remember our sins anymore!
It’s all a matter of faith! If we believe all of this, why should we not believe that Christ BECAME sin and a curse? God has inspired it to be written — therefore, it must be true.
Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock
A new Standing Watch program was recorded last week, and was posted on the Web last Friday. The program is titled, “U.S., Europe and Halloween.” It discussed, among other things, the U.S. election; the recent signing of the EU Constitution and its potential consequences for the world; and the steady rise of devil worship
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