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Posts Tagged ‘Romans 10’

“The Debt” is a solid film that not only was insanely intense but it moved me and got to me a bit. The acting was fantastic – the doctor made me loathe him, Sam Worthington (David) made me empathize with him, Jessica Chastain (Rachel) seemed very tortured internally, and I believed Stephan’s hardness both in the past and the present. The twists were superb. I appreciated seeing the ending first and then being drawn into how the pieces come together. The key theme: every sin has consequences but sometimes the lie about the sin is worse.

Beware: lots of spoilers ahead! I cannot get to the heart of this film without digging into all of it.

The Lie

As is likely with most folks who saw this film, I did not anticipate that the doctor would escape. I thought they would torture and kill him and then lie about that. I thought Stephan would carry out some form of justice and then they would lie about the circumstance. I never had a thought in my head that the doctor would get away and they would be left empty-handed. Once he got away, the choice was obvious: face and accept failure and admit their mistakes, or cling to their reputations and tell a lie. Tell a lie and become heroes, keep their careers and live a sham. They choose what many of us would: to perpetuate the lie. They choose to live a façade and seek the praise of men.

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:3 ESV)

This hit home with me because I’ve been convicted lately of how much of an idol my own reputation is. After reading “Jesus + Nothiing = Everything” by Tullian Tchividjian, I had to ask myself the question: What do I cling to that I would rather die than have God take away? God likes to answer that question and through an interaction with my wife, I realized that I cling to my reputation. How I am perceived in the eyes of others is vastly important to me. My own name is much more valuable to me than God’s name. This is wrong and will not lead me to freedom and does not lead to joy in Him. But, wow, is it difficult to kill. This is the choice they made and the shame eventually crushes David, breaks Rachel, and Stephan has to sear his conscience for the rest of his life. David knows the path to freedom: speak the truth. But he will come forward without the consent of Rachel and takes another path in killing himself.

The lie is what is at the center of the film but the lie and the escape of the doctor is triggered and set in motion by one seemingly inconsequential act of sin.

One Night Sets it All in Motion

You know what exactly what night that is if you’ve seen it. David and Rachel obviously have affections for each other but David exercises restraint. In one moment, he chooses not to yield to emotion. However, Rachel, initially rejected by David, seeking relief from the pain and intensity of pursuing the war criminal doctor in communist East Berlin, yields to the lust driven seduction of Stephan. That night changes absolutely everything. For one fleeting and regretful night of pleasure, Rachel gets pregnant and truly cuts off the potential for something better with David. This then leads right into the doctor’s hands and gives him an avenue to break David and Rachel with his words, with David eventually giving way to anger and brutalizing the doctor.

David’s anger wasn’t just about the doctor’s killing but, of course, over Rachel. Sometimes, Satan doesn’t need to speak lies to us to bring hurt and further temptation, he merely needs to tell us the truth. We know what happens next. The shards of the plate on the floor. David needing to be calmed by Stephan leaving Rachel vulnerable. The escape. The lie then leads to more shame, more pain, and living a life outside of grace and freedom.

Choose the Cross over Sin, Choose the Cross Again over Shame

We are not very different than David, Rachel, and Stephan. We are faced with the same temptations and daily choices: confess sin or hide it? Run to the cross for relief or trust in the fleeting damaging pleasure of sin?

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21 ESV)

Jesus died and suffered on the cross to bring you to him, to crush the power and temptation of sin, and to bring about your justification. In Christ, we are free! There is now no condemnation! We have nothing to hide! We need not cling to our own façade and reputation – Jesus is our reputation. He is our righteousness. We will fail. We will sin. We will err. He died for it all. Many times, we lie or choose sin simply because of a mistake we made that is not even sin itself! Jesus came to free you from that to walk in the light, to be yourself, to know Him and be satisfied in him. Freedom is not found in the dark but in the light, in Christ.

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23 ESV)

I’m thankful for the film, “The Debt,” in how it so powerfully illustrates the consequence of sin and the shame and torture that lies lead to. Thank God for sending his son to bring us freedom. May he work in us to give us a deeper understanding of our justification and his deep, deep love for us, that we would not hide but come to him more and more.

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This post is a rough transcript of the message I had the privilege of giving on May 29th. Skip down to the bottom to watch.

Genesis 27 is a chapter with a familiar account to most of us. Jacob stealing the blessing from his brother Esau. The wearing of goat skins. A conspiracy to deceive a blind father. But there is a lot more there to this passage.

First Impressions

Read the whole chapter. What hits you? How hokey the deception is? I think about Jacob maybe trying to imitate Esau’s voice and  wearing those freshly killed goat skins. How hairy was Esau? Also, why was the blessing so important? Wasn’t it just a prayer? Let me call attention to one big impression that I had. What is missing from this chapter? Between these interactions, whose voice is missing?

Genesis 25: Rebekah feels the wrestling inside of her and inquires of God. God responds and speaks to her.

Genesis 26: God reiterates the promise to Isaac not once but twice. Isaac praises God.

Genesis 27: God’s voice is absent. No one inquires of God. The sin that pervades this chapter is not disconnected from this truth.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12

Genesis 27 breaks down into the 4 people you get a glimpse of: Isaac (v1-4), Rebekah (v5-17), Jacob (v18-29), and Esau (v30-40). The aftermath is then seen in v41-46.

Isaac (v1-4)

There are a few key truths to help us understand Isaac’s choices. First, he is most likely recently blind. He feels near to death. This affects how he responds to the deception as he is probably extremely disoriented. Jacob even asks him later to sit up – Isaac has simply been lying there. Second, he has to know of what God spoke to Rebekah in Genesis 25 – that the older would serve the younger, meaning that Jacob would receive the promise. Isaac knows this but ignores God’s word to his wife. He’s always preferred Esau – the man’s man, the outdoorsman, the avid hunter and man of strength. He’s never favored the homebody and momma’s boy Jacob. He knows Jacob should receive the blessing but doesn’t proceed that way. Everything from v5 on didn’t need to happen if Isaac obeys. Third, look at how often the words delicious, tasty, or game are used. In the ESV, “delicious food” is spoken 3 times. The NIV translates it: “tasty food I like” but “delicious food, such as I love” is more accurate. The word for like or love is a Hebrew word not typically used for food but for people! I love my wife or I love my kids. Isaac here says he loves this “delicious food.” On top of his preference for Esau and ignoring the word from God through Rebekah, Isaac is almost literally making this decision with his gut.

Rebekah (v5-17)

Had Rebekah already been thinking about her plan prior to Isaac’s words to Esau? I don’t know. Either way, she plans to subvert and deceive her husband and manipulate Jacob. Why would she do this? Maybe cause she thought she was right. She saw Isaac ignoring God’s word to her and felt the need to jump in. Her husband is intent on not listening to her or to God so she takes control.
Remember – Isaac is freshly blind and likely feeling very scared and untrusting of his senses. Rebekah knows this and completely exploits it. It is actually quite discouraging how much Rebekah knows exactly how to manipulate every single one of these men – Isaac, Jacob, and even Esau and does it.

Now let’s go back to Genesis 26. Isaac does the same thing his dad did. Now, many probably remember when John talked about the 2nd time Abraham does this – right before the birth of Isaac. Sarai’s faith and trust of her husband was unbelievable. Abraham sells her out a second time and then they leave and Isaac is born thereafter. Sarai seemed to be very forgiving. But I’m not sure with Rebekah. I think she struggled a bit. I think there might have been some carryover into this chapter of their life. In her conversation with Jacob she keeps calling him “Your father.” Three times she says it that way. Look at the interactions. Isaac and Esau. Jacob and Rebekah. Isaac and Jacob (who he thinks is Esau), Isaac and Esau, Rebekah and Jacob, then Rebekah in a very manipulative conversation with Isaac. Rebekah never speaks with Esau. Esau and Jacob never speak to each other. I think this is a very divided family and a stagnant marriage. Rebekah and Isaac are not not communicating.

Jacob (v18-29)

Let’s go back to v11-12 first. He is no innocent manipulated victim here. Jacob does not balk at the wickedness of the plan but merely points out a flaw and then points out the risk to himself. He has no issue with the deception, nor with lying to his father. Think about what they do here. Then and even now, it’s pretty disgusting how they just take advantage of a blind and not well man. Jacob tells him to sit up so he can eat – he’s just been laying down in a pretty rough state. They just use Isaac. Of anything in this chapter, that’s pretty reprehensible, let alone planning and carrying it out against your husband and father.

Now go to verse 20. Jacob says “The Lord YOUR God.” This is practically mocking God but it betrays Jacob’s heart also – Jacob has always been rejected by his father. He doesn’t know God yet but knows where Isaac stands. You know what also makes this stand out? This question: What do you think Esau would have said? I doubt he would have even mentioned God, as he never does.

Esau (v30-40)

If you take a look at all of Esau’s words from his birth to his reunion with Jacob, it’s very telling. Not one mention of God ever. In their later reunion, Jacob is profuse in his gratefulness to God, Esau almost seems to ignore his words. But that is later.

You really have to feel for Esau first though. He makes an “exceedingly great and bitter cry” and he weeps. He gets used just like Isaac does. He gets deceived and schemed against by his brother and mom. But is that all there is to it? Is his anger against Jacob fully justified? At the end of chapter 25, Jacob swindles Esau out of this birthright. I think part of why Esau tossed away his birthright is because he knew he had his dad’s favor and that the blessing mattered more. He shows it here – he thinks the two are disconnected. Are they? To answer that, we need to go to Hebrews 12:15-17.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace and he of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17 ESV)

Indeed the birthright and the blessing are connected. Esau had no faith, married foreign wives – a direct insult to the legacy of his father, and he simply tosses away his birthright. Sorry. He’s not an innocent victim either. Esau wanted to be his own man. He didn’t need his father. He wasn’t riding anyone’s coattails. He was ultimately rejecting his father. He was despising his father’s dreams for him, his dad’s love, and ultimately his father’s God. Esau wanted the blessing, the prosperity without faith, without the responsibility. This is what Isaac blindly ignores. Esau wanted the blessing but not God. Genesis 27 is not the last of Esau but he never seems to have faith or turn to God.

What’s the point of Genesis 27?

Is the point of this story simply a few moral examples of a family that you do not want to be like? An example of a husband who passively ignores God’s word to him, a wife who subverts and circumvents him to get her way, an older son who could care less about his father and tosses it all away for pleasure, and a younger son who cheats and lies and will seem to do anything to have his father’s approval and blessing? Is that why God has given us this account? Is that why we have this text? Or is it to show that blessings are something that can merely be stolen?

Think about the aftermath in v41-46 and what happens moving forward. We never hear from Rebekah again. She is only mentioned inconsequentially 4 more times in this book, only once more after that in the book of Romans. That’s it. As far as I can tell, she would never see Jacob again. Isaac? He actually seems to repent. Think about his moment of trembling and I think it hit him in that moment that even though he’d just gotten lied to and tricked, he knew he was the one in sin for favoring Esau. At the beginning of chapter 28, he seems to understand and trust that God has chosen Jacob and that’s how it’s always been. Esau? He hates Jacob and wants to kill him. He never has faith, and never acknowledges God, even in coming to peace with his brother later.

What about Jacob? He was worried about taking on a curse for his actions. Isn’t that what happens? He has to leave home. He never sees his mom again. Death in the form of his brother is after him. He relegated to a pretty lonely existence of deceive or be deceived.

Is there one faith driven choice in Genesis 27? Sin seems to reign. However, absent God may feel in this chapter, there is a whisper, a spark that I believe begins to scream out. What is the most used word in this chapter? BLESSING!!!! It’s used at least 20 times in this chapter! Now think about it. All this scrambling. All of Jacob’s lying and deceit and theft. And guess what? Something didn’t change. THE BLESSING IS STILL HIS JUST AS IT WAS APART FROM THEIR SIN! AND YOU KNOW WHAT? IT’S OURS TOO.

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

THERE IT IS: BLESSING. Remember, what were God’s words to Abraham?

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
(Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)

THERE IT IS AGAIN? NEED MORE? WHAT IS THIS BLESSING? GO BACK TO EPHESIANS 1 AGAIN. Remember – God said that he would use Abraham to bless the whole world. that was his legacy and the promise was passed on. Did it stop when they entered the Promised land in the book of Joshua? When Israel gained possession? No. Why? The whole world wasn’t blessed yet. yet. But who is Abraham’s grandson to 42nd generation? Jesus. And there it is. This blessing is offered to you and to me.

Jacob didn’t need to fret. It was promised. An inheritance. Legacy. Blessing through his life. A special relationship with God. It was his to receive. Just like you. We don’t have to live that way. We don’t have to fight for our best life now. The gospel is our promise that is there for the taking just as it was for Jacob. What’s that, you’re a sinner? Welcome. Remember – in spite of all of their scrambling the promise never wavered. The blessing never disappeared.

Now, some of us might be asking, Am I Esau? Is there no blessing left for me? Am I not chosen? God rejected him. God chose Jacob. What if God has rejected me? If you’re even asking that question, then it’s not too late and you are not rejected. You still have a choice. You can still seek him. You can still turn to Him. You can still ask him for the blessing. Think about Jacob. Think the blessing was conditional? No way.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 ESV)

Why has God given us Genesis 27? Why does he want us to see this account? Because God is not limited by sin, because sin can’t defeat God, and because we need to see that the promise is ours in spite of our sin. It’s ours! We don’t have to scramble. We don’t have to hide. We don’t have to find ways to daily justify our existence. For that matter, I don’t have to sin. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep stumbling – our sin runs deep. But the blessing is now ours. The promise is ours.  It’s yours. Right now. Don’t scramble for it. Rest in it.

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“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22 ESV)

I’ve been in Sacramento on business all week but Wednesday evening I caught up with an old friend of mine and we decided to give the new Thor movie a shot. It currently has a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and, apart from Roger Ebert, I’ve only heard good things about it.

In a previous post, I said the key with Thor was the question whether it was going to be Iron Man or Spiderman 3. I have to say it was definitely better than Spiderman 3 but not quite Iron Man. Kenneth Branagh does what he can with the strange locations and plot and the acting is solid – almost too good for the cheesy storyline. Hemsworth is funny and believable, Portman and Hopkins are solid, but Hiddleston as Loki practically stole every scene he was in.

Don’t even try to figure out the mythology and where is comes from. This is Marvel mythology not Greek or Norse! I think that’s where Ebert gets tripped up, he tries way too hard to read into this movie. Take it for what it is and then key on the father and son relationships.

The Tale of 2 Sons

I want to be careful to not give away too many spoilers here but what made this movie worthwhile is Loki and the contrast between him and Thor. Thor is the heir to the throne but brash, arrogant, eager to fight, and full of himself. Thor is hard not to like but his later transformation feels too sudden, too easy, and too thorough.

Loki, on the other hand, is constantly wrestling with his identity and where his place is. He feels inferior to Thor but not necessarily jealous. He has no desire for the throne merely for power but to justify himself. Loki’s drive to prove his loyalty to his father and earn his love is very striking.

Are you Loki?

Odin truly does not play favorites as their father. His reason to anoint Thor as king becomes obvious. Odin’s love for Loki is constant and caring, he never rejects him nor gives him any reason to try to earn it. Yet Loki still feels he has to. Loki does enormous damage in his process of establishing his own righteousness and justification before his father. He goes to extreme lengths to demonstrate whose side he is on and leaves a wake of destruction. Even then, Odin never wavers.

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:3 ESV)

How often do I do this myself? Do I hear God’s words to me, that I am his beloved son with whom he is well pleased? Do I walk in the freedom that I am His, fully paid for, fully his son, with nothing to prove? Or I do I seek to establish my own righteousness, trying to serve him out of a need to earn my adoption, out of a need to affirm myself on my own? The movie Thor is a great illustration of what happens when even a seemingly innocent desire to prove my place at the table leads to destruction and potentially the loss of it all. Don’t question God’s heart towards you, He is for you and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

    The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

UPDATE 5/12/11

Here is James Harleman’s Review (good thoughts):


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