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We Can’t Earn Our Way to Heaven

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cropped-252095743_1411fd77cb_o.jpgToday’s Bible reading: Genesis 13:5-18, 14, 15; Matthew 5:27-48; Psalms 6:1-10; Proverbs 1:29-33

Back in Chapter 12 of Genesis God told Abram to leave his country and relatives. But for some reason Lot, his nephew, goes with him. God told Abram to go alone for a reason. Obviously God knew Abram would be better off without his relatives. Here in Chapter 13, we see the relationship between Abram and Lot gets strained.

Abram understood that he and Lot must separate in order to preserve their relationship (Genesis 13:8). If they stayed together things would probably only get worse between them. Abram allowed Lot to decide where he (Lot) wanted to dwell. Lot looked around and chose the land that would provide the most economical benefit. While this land was fertile, it was closer to wicked cities that did not fear God. I think this is  a good lesson for us today. Sometimes an opportunity looks enticing because it will provide some obvious benefit such as money, prestige, or power. But these opportunities often lead to trouble including a broken relationship with God. Sure enough Lot gets into trouble in Chapter 14.

Nevertheless, God reiterated His promise to Abram (Genesis 13:14) so I don’t think Abram was too upset about not getting the most fertile land. He knew God would watch out for him and that he would be blessed no matter where he lived. Abram put his trust in God, not short-term success.

Abram seems to have wanted a son for a long time and expressed this desire to God (Genesis 15:2) who then promises Abram that he will have a son. And not only that, but Abram descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the sky. Because Abram believed God and had faith in Him (Genesis 15:6), God considered Abram to be righteous. This is one of the earliest references in the Bible that salvation does not come from good deeds. It comes from faith. We don’t enter heaven because our good deeds outnumber our bad ones. No one can earn their way to heaven. Heaven is “achieved” (for lack of a better term) through faith in God and nothing else.

Its amazing to me how specific prophecies are in the Bible. God filled the Bible with dozens and dozens of prophecies to prove that the Bible came from Him. These prophecies are  not vague Nostradamus-like predictions that can be applied to any number of subsequent events. They are very specific. Case in point: Genesis 15:13-16.

Here God predicts that Abrams descendants will live in a foreign land as slaves for 400 years. They will then return to the land Abram is now standing on and take possession of it. Sure enough, Abram’s great grandchildren went down to Egypt where things started okay but later they became slaves. We’ll see that story later in Genesis.

I found God’s comments in Genesis 15:16 to be very interesting. He was not yet ready to destroy the Amorites because their sin did not yet warrant it. I began thinking about the United States and our blatant sins against God. I’ve wondered why God has not yet brought destruction on us.  Although without a doubt, God is certainly trying to get our attention with recent hurricanes, economic crises, and attacks against our country here and abroad. If we don’t change our ways (repent) God will destroy us I am sure.

Jesus gives some radical teaching in Matthew. It can all be summed up by “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44). It is certainly not human nature to live this way. But this is  how God lives. God loves even those who speak out against Him or who deny His existence, as I used to. But He still wants a relationship with those people and will never give up on them. I’m sure glad He never gave up on me.

Psalm 6 is a plea by David for mercy from God. For some unstated reason David was suffering. Whatever it was it had been going on for some time and David asks God to stop it. The key part of this psalm is verse 4. Here David appeals not to his own goodness but to God’s love. So often we see advertising on TV or in print or on the Internet telling us that we “deserve” something. No we don’t. None of us deserve anything. David did not “deserve” to be rescued by God. He asked God to rescue him out of His (God’s) goodness and nothing more.

The verses in Proverbs today tell us that when we reject wise advice and refuse correction we will end up making bad choices and reaping unwanted results. God wants to help us, not hurt us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows the future. He wants us to follow His advice not because He is vain and controlling, but because He loves us and knows that living our own way will not lead to the abundant life that He wants for us.

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