Love Fulfills the Law

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah 13:19

This promise of prophecy is a prediction to be fulfilled in history.

H. M. S. Richards, the founder of the Voice of Prophecy, tells of a time when he was walking over the ruins of Babylon. There they were, the foundations of the ancient palaces, the hanging gardens, the impregnable walls, the great temple, or ziggurat, the great avenues of victory. But they were all a great ruin.

Richards’s stated, “I found exactly what Isaiah had prophesied. Babylon, the golden city of a golden age, lay in vast disorder with no human inhabitants within its ancient walls. Its worldwide commerce was gone, and its terrible armies vanished into the mists of time.”

King Nebuchadnezzar had looked out over his world capital and said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty” (Daniel 4:30)? But now, it is only a memory and a name. The history of this world is really “a tale of two cities,” Babylon and Jerusalem. Ancient Babylon declared war against God’s people and God’s city, Jerusalem. But Babylon collapsed and is forgotten in its grave of the past, from which no Gabriel of future history will ever call it forth to pleasant memories. It is indeed like Sodom and Gomorrah. Any nation, any city, any man that forgets God and opposes God’s plan for this world is on the road to ruin.

Babylon was built upon the ruins of another great structure. The Tower of Babel. The tower was built to elevate humanity to the level of God. It was built to allow humans to reach into heaven and take from God what they desired. Babel became the place where human’s attempted to elevate themselves and their accomplishments above God himself. It became the place where humanity showed it wouldn’t trust God and placed its trust in itself to accomplish by its own hands whatever it desired.

Every false teaching in Christianity can be traced back to the tower. And every false teaching in Christianity today results from not fully trusting in God and elevating self to achieve salvation.

When we look at the Great Pharoah’s hosts with tossing plumes, like echoes now in empty rooms, each Pharoah’s dreams of greatness echo as a voice in an empty room.

All of Assyria’s march of death as it conquered the world is but a fading memory upon the pages of time.

Nebuchadnezzar echoed the words of all great kings and Pharaohs when he said, “Look what I have built and done.” But now, Babylon and her golden strands are the places of drifting sand.

The words of Daniel two tell the stories of passing kingdoms, all built upon human strength and wisdom. None built upon God, but upon mistrust of God.

But Daniel two leaves us with hope. From the mount of Israel, a stone would be cut. This stone is cut out without hands. Unlike the kingdoms before, it was not built upon power and oppression. It was not built upon mistrust of God. This rock, cut out without hands, is based upon trust in God. It is based on love, understanding, and reliance, not upon oneself, but only on God.

Daniel chapter two tells us that this kingdom, cut out without hands, is based upon love. A kingdom that is different than all other kingdoms is a kingdom built upon trust in God and will supplant all other kingdoms. Not with or by might or force, but by love and its reliance upon God.

Two thousand years ago, Christ came to model what this kingdom is like. He came to show us what trusting in God looks like and how it can be accomplished. Christ never elevated himself. He never reached into heaven to help himself to what He felt He deserved.

Heaven freely gave to Jesus all that it is willing to give to you and me when we fully and completely trust and love God as Jesus did.

When I attempt to keep the law, I am building a tower as the builders on the plain of Shinar did. My actions say I do not trust God to do the work of salvation for me, for I must accomplish it myself.

Paul tells us in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Paul is echoing the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 19:18, 19, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27 and written by Moses in Exodus 20:13-17, Deuteronomy 5:17-21, Leviticus 19:18.

As Paul says, “Love for God, Love for Others is the fulfillment of the law.” The only way to fulfill the law is by loving God, trusting God, and then loving others. (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Our desire should be and our observation that of the Psalmist, when he says, “But you O God, shall bring them down into the pit of destruction; bloody and deceitful humanity shall not live out half their days, but I will trust in you” Psalm 55:23.

Trust breeds love, and love is the fulfillment of the law!

God Stirred Cyrus’s Heart

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing saying.

Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah.   Ezra 1:1, 2

“The LORDS stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.” The Lord can still stir the hearts of kings. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1).

We may not have access to the king or the ruler of the land, but we may pray as Daniel did, and God can touch the heart and spirit of the king on his throne.

According to the historian Josephus, Daniel had read Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies to King Cyrus. He pointed out how God had named him a hundred years before he was born. It must have stirred the young king to hear his name read out in the ancient scrolls of the prophet Isaiah and Jeremiah.

But we may ask, “what caused Daniel to instruct the king?” What allowed Daniel to speak with Cyrus. Yes, indeed, Daniel was a high official in the Persian government. Daniel’s close work with the King allowed him to talk about many different situations and subjects. The king was undoubtedly impressed with Daniel and the wisdom Daniel possessed from His years in the Babylonia Court.

But instead, it was the result of Daniel remaining faithful during one of the most challenging and trying times of his life that opened the door.

In Daniel chapter 1, Daniel spearheads a movement by himself and his three friends to remain faithful to God. Late in his life, Satan directs certain officials in the Persian court to become jealous of Daniel. They trick Darius into passing laws making it illegal for Daniel to worship his God.

Daniel follows through on the commitment made in Daniel chapter one by remaining faithful in Daniel chapter six. As a result, the situation looks hopeless as Daniel is reported to Darius, the king. The law states that those failing to comply must be thrown to the lions.

As a result, Daniel spends the night talking with lions. The following day, having received protection from God and fulfilling the requirements of the law, Daniel is rescued from the lions. Who could have accounted for his surviving a night with the lions?

Soon afterward, Darius dies, and Cyrus becomes king over all of Persia.

What an impact Daniel had through his experience with the lions. Note this passage from the book “Prophets and Kings.”

“The deliverance of Daniel from the den of lions had been used of God to create a favorable impression upon the mind of Cyrus the Great. . . . . And now, just at the time God had said, He would cause His temple at Jerusalem to be rebuilt, He moved upon Cyrus as His agent to discern the prophecies concerning himself, with which Daniel was so familiar, and to grant the Jewish people their liberty.” PK 557.1

“Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I have hold of.” “He shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, says the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 45:1, 13).

“That the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” Daniel had learned by studying the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah that the time allotted for the exile was to end after seventy years. He believed God’s word and began to pray earnestly to fulfill the prophecy (see Daniel 9). When Daniel began to pray, God began to work. Is God’s “doing” dependent upon our “asking?” Yes.

We need to understand that God’s work often allows us to be placed in uncomfortable circumstances. A figurative type of “lion’s den.” These experiences may come in the form of “loss of personal wealth or the financial health of a business. It may come as the loss of our health, home, family, and friends.” It might mean the people we dearly love suffer this same loss of money, health, or family. These three, money, health, and family, are Satan’s favorite ways to test the people of God.

As with Daniel, people are watching, looking to see how you respond to your “Lion’s Den” experience. As a Christian. Your response can mean the difference between those around us seeking Christ or rejecting Christ.

As Daniel did, determine in your heart to always remain faithful to God, no matter the difficult circumstance you might find yourself in. It may not be a “den of lions,” although it may feel like it at the time. As Daniel, determine in your heart to remain faithful. It could cause others to seek God.

Born Again

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” John 3:3

And he spake unto them a parable, saying, “Two medical students went off to school to study medicine. One of the first things they were introduced to was the anatomy lab. In this lab, there was a heavy silence. It was kind of cold, and things were really dead there.

But these med students were anxious to make a good showing, so they analyzed the situation. They noticed a good deal of unity there in the lab. There didn’t seem to be any fights going on; no one way vying for the highest place. They were all in the same position.

As the med students considered the situation, they became convinced that what these patients needed was improved health. They tried introducing the patients to a new diet, but nobody cared about eating.  They told the patients about the benefits of exercise, but no one seemed interested. These students determined there must be an even deeper problem.

They wondered if the problem was a lack of fellowship. But that turned out to be a dead-end street. The patients refused to be sociable. They tried to develop a statement of mission – it was ignored. They considered the lack of resources and took up an offering – no one gave.

In the end, and to their dismay, the med students discovered people in the lab all had a common problem. They were not breathing.

In my late teens, I developed a friendship with Lori.  She was a fun, attractive girl; it was great being around her and her friends.  Me and my friends and her and her friends would all hanging out together.

All our friends suggested Lori and I should date, but it never felt quite right. We were just good friends, that enjoyed hanging out together.  A few times, we even went on “real date.” It just seemed awkward.  It wasn’t awkward for just one of us, it was awkward for both of us. We decided dating wasn’t for us, and we remained good friends.

About a year later, my wife and I started dating. There was no awkwardness. The chemistry just seemed to be there. It was like we were a perfect fit. Unlike Lori, we didn’t try to make it happen; it just happened naturally. We just clicked. It was easy. And 38 years later, we still naturally fit together.

The difference between those two relationships was a “click” that transformed the second into love. Breathless cadavers and self-willed romances have something in common with the message Jesus gave to Nicodemus.

Do you remember Nicodemus? He is the Pharisee that came to Jesus in the dark. Since John’s book is about light and darkness, John wanted us to see the condition of Nicodemus.  Yes, he did come to Jesus in the dark of night, but darkness was also in his heart.

Jesus and Nicodemus were talking about “Second Birth” Jesus had said it was necessary to have a “Second Birth” before anyone could see the kingdom of heaven.

Nicodemus asked an important question.  He stated it sarcastically. Nevertheless, it is an important question. How does this second birth happen?

The subject of conversion is critical, but it is also problematic because you can’t convert yourself. You cannot do the work necessary to make you into another person. Conversion is a miracle.  But most of us think we can do it by ourselves.

Then, if someone tells you that you need to be converted and you’re not converted, what will you do about it?  You and I have no more power to transform ourselves than we can raise the dead?

Can you make yourself fall in love with Jesus by an act of your will? Can you say, “I am going to fall in love with Jesus? Does this make me fall in love with him any more than I could make myself fall in love with Lori?”  Can I simply say I am going to fall in love with Jesus? Will I appreciate Him and be filled with warm thoughts and earnest devotion? Is this how it works?

Is there anything I can do? Did Jesus give any clues to Nicodemus?

Let’s briefly look at the back story or pre-story to Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. You cannot be a member of the Sanhedrin or a Pharisee if you are not highly educated.

In John 2, when Jesus cleansed the Temple, Nicodemus was intently watching. He saw what happened after the merchants and others had been thrown out of the temple.

The crowds came in for healing and comfort.

Since that time, Nicodemus had been searching the scriptures, trying to find out more about the predicted work of the Messiah.

Nicodemus was convinced there was something special about Jesus, and there must be some link between Jesus and the prophecies regarding the Messiah.

By studying the Messiah, he began developing a relationship with Jesus even before coming to Jesus in the darkness. 

When he finally met Jesus, Nicodemus started by offering compliments. “Rabbi, we know You’re a teacher come from God.”  Nicodemus was trying to pave the way for a religious discussion.

When I look at the story of Nicodemus, it scares me, for it begs me to ask myself a very personal question. “Is it possible for me to fool myself into thinking I am a Christian because I can talk for a long time about scriptural things?”

Just because I have spent a lot of time studying and can carry on a conversation regarding spiritual things doesn’t make me a Christian.  But studying and telling others about Christ is important. 

Nicodemus is a highly educated religious leader who believes that Jesus is unique and asks to have a conversation. Jesus looks at Nicodemus and penetrates his thoughts, then says something that must have startled the highly educated Pharisee.  Jesus says, “I am going to tell you the truth unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.”

For years I assumed that is what Jesus meant. Unless you have a conversion experience, you can’t go to heaven. (See John 3:3). Yet, a careful reading indicates something different.

Nicodemus asks if they can talk about spiritual things. Jesus instantly replies that you cannot even see spiritual things unless you have a rebirth or conversion experience. Until then, they won’t even register in your mind. We can’t talk about them because you aren’t going to grasp them. You don’t have a clue. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and spiritual discernment happens only to people who have converted hearts—a rebirth experience.

We have all been to the eye doctor. They show us these panels of multi-colored boxes embedded with a number. You are supposed to be able to pick out the number. If you are not color blind, you can always see the number perfectly. But if you are color blind, you may miss seeing the number if it is in Red, blue, yellow, or green.

I never knew I was color blind until I played Racket Ball.  If the ball was blue, I had no trouble, but I sometimes had difficulty seeing the ball if it was green. It threw my depth perception off.

Yes, I can see green grass and green leaves. If the walls are painted a shade of green, I might see the bluer shades easier than the greener shades. My case of color blindness is relatively mild compared to some.

But suppose you cannot see the color Red. Others around you point out the beautiful, red-colored roses in the rose garden, but you cannot see them. Therefore, you must trust others with the fact that there are red roses in the garden.

That is precisely the problem we have with unconverted hearts. We know roses are in the rose garden, and they are red, but we cannot see them.

Then if you are studying the scriptures and can’t see it, don’t always understand it; you’re not alone. So don’t beat yourself up. We are all like the blind men who asked Jesus to open their eyes (see Matthew 20:30-34). You were born spiritually unable to see. Seeing is a miracle from heaven.

Nicodemus, you cannot see the kingdom of heaven until you’re born again. Nicodemus had come to talk theology, to talk about religious things. Jesus was telling him something we all need to understand. It is not about theoretical knowledge you need as much as spiritual regeneration.

You don’t need to have your curiosity satisfied; you need to have a new heart. You must receive new life from above before you can appreciate heavenly things.

Jesus is saying, “Until this change takes place, making all things new, it will result in no saving good for us to discuss My story or mission.”

It’s a Hard Pill to Swallow. Nicodemus is a highly educated, denominationally sound, multi-Generational church member and leader. Nicodemus had heard John the Baptizer preach, but he felt no conviction. He lived life to the letter of the law; at least on the outside, he wouldn’t think of doing anything wrong. He is noted for his generosity, paid a faithful tithe, and gave his time and money liberally to support the church.

Yet Nicodemus was struggling because He did not want to think he could be missing something. He was doing all he knew in order to have it right and thus be saved.

To be told that something was missing didn’t feel good.

But, Jesus had said, “Unless a man is born again, he can’t even see the kingdom of heaven.”

Nicodemus asks the question that we all need to ask, “How can a man be born when he is old? (John 3:4).

We, like Nicodemus, have trouble wrapping our heads around this.

Jesus’s response to Nicodemus is found in verse 5. “Unless a man is born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

We, as humans, love to have control over things. We love to exercise our dominion over those around us and the things we become involved in.  It has been our human nature since the introduction of sin.  And here is Jesus telling Nicodemus, “Sorry Nicodemus, this is one aspect of your life you don’t have any control over.  Why do we not have any control over this? “Because it is a Spirit thing. It’s supernatural.”

Nicodemus, I am telling you this is not you and Me theorizing or making it a matter of theology. And Jesus didn’t make it about winning some point in a debate. He broke it down as simply as possible.

Nicodemus, you know how the wind blows? Look, the trees are rustling right now. When the wind blows, you can’t see the wind, but you can see the effects of the wind. That’s the way it is with the Spirit. You can’t see the Spirit, but when He does His work on your heart, you will then be able to see the effect. You will understand. There will be a difference. It will be your experience, but the Spirit will be the one causing it. You can say that it’s the Spirit that gives birth. It isn’t about anything you, yes, you can do.”

Would you feel better by hearing this and putting yourself in Nicodemus’s shoes? 

I can almost hear Nicodemus saying, “Well, OK then! I came here to talk about spiritual things, and You tell me I can’t see them or understand them unless I am born again. Jesus, is there anything I can do to place myself in a favorable position? A place where I am more receptive to the Spirit to do whatever it is You say He has to do (see John 3:9)?

Once again, Nicodemus is trying to control the situation.

Jesus says, “Nicodemus, do you remember the snake?” This statement is Jesus’s benchmark statement on the subject of conversion. Here is Jesus’s answer to Nicodemus’s question about whether we can do anything to avail ourselves of the Spirit’s work.

Nicodemus, do you remember the snake? It is the story found in Numbers 21:7-9. The story of a bronze serpent that effected a cure. Do you remember?

Do you remember Nicodemus that the people were dying from snakebites?

As a result, Moses was instructed to put a serpent on a pole, remember?  What happened after that?

Let’s look at the story, so turn to Numbers 21:7-9.

7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.

8 Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten when he looks at it shall live.’

9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole: and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”

What was the instruction to the people?

Look at the uplifted serpent!

What happened when they looked at the uplifted serpent?

They would be healed.

Wyoming has rattlesnakes. Suppose that you are bitten by one. You go to the emergency room to get the anti-venom. The Doctor, hearing of your condition, comes to the gurney where you lay and says, “Look at this picture of a rattlesnake in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Just star at it for just a few minutes, and you will be fine.”  We would all think the Doctor was nuts. Get me out of here. I want to go to a real hospital and see a real doctor.

What is happening in Numbers 21?  Come on, speak up! What is happening?

It is something supernatural! It didn’t matter if you had been playing with snakes when you got bit – if you looked, you lived.

It didn’t matter if you had been bitten once before and were healed, then got bit again and came back to the bronze serpent.

No, if you looked again, you were healed again – regardless of how many times you had been bitten.

It doesn’t matter if you deliberately chose to be bitten. Are playing with the snakes when you are bitten or are being bitten was simply an accident. If you look at the bronze snake, you are healed. There was life in a look. There was life in looking at the bronze serpent.

Did you do anything? No, except that you looked. The healing happened miraculously. It was supernatural. And the miracle happened only to people who did what? They looked. Therefore, if you didn’t look, you died.

Nicodemus asked if there was anything he could do? Jesus responded by saying, “Yes.” Jesus said, “If you look My direction (Lift Me up), the Spirit’s work happens in your heart, and you will experience the new birth.” You don’t have to wait for a preacher to lift up Jesus. You can do that yourself.

How often can you do that? Once? Twice? Yearly? Monthly? My friends, we can do this daily! We need to do this on a daily basis!!

As much as some of us would like to think so, the soul is not enlightened by “proof Texts, discussions, debate, or arguments.” It is only enlightened by looking to Jesus.

Jesus said in John 12:32 (NRSV), “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Jesus is saying, “If you look My direction (lift Me up), the Spirit’s work happens in your heart, and you will experience the new birth.”

Today, what each of us should want, is a “New Birth.” Yet, I can’t make it happen. You cannot make that happen.  I cannot soften and subdue my heart, but I understand that if I look toward Jesus, look at Jesus, there is something that the Spirit will do for me that I can’t do for myself.

Therefore, I am going to, and I am asking you to look toward Jesus.

Paul in I Corinthians 15:31 puts it this way, “I die daily.” Daily we need to look to Jesus. Only by looking to Jesus can we be healed from the serpent’s venomous bite.

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