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Keys to A New Beginning (9)

God Has Rolled Away Our Reproach

Joshua 5:5-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 2:9-12

Jim Davis

A woman was driving her boys to swimming lessons, Michael, age eight, saw a book her husband had left in the car. He picked it up and read the title.

"What's this book about?" he asked.

"It's a book to help us become authentic Christians," She replied.

He said, "Oh yea, that's what we are, right, Mom! Pathetic Christians!" (Connie Schmotzer, Bellingham, Wash., Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart.")

Many think Christians are pathetic; they look upon Christians with reproach. Many Christians feel that they are pathetic; they bring reproach upon themselves by accepting the world’s view of themselves.

Some use religion to make others feel pathetic. In the cults many use religion to keep others enslaved to them through humiliation and reproach. They use the concept of sin, and one’s struggle with sin from within to overcome sin, to keep them enslaved to a religious system that never brings relief of anything better. A sure way to keep others enslaved to reproach is to constantly remind them of their humiliation and disgrace through ostracism. You can’t motivate a person to live a Christian life because of their shame and disgrace.

God seeks to motivate us through divine grace—not through sin’s disgrace (John 3:17). God’s grace is not extended to us because we are pathetic, but because of his gracious love.

God Rolled Away Israel’s Reproach

The 430 years of bondage in Egypt had brought reproach upon Abraham’s descendants in the eyes of the world. Their reproach had done untold damage to their psyche. In Egypt they had been humiliated and ostracized to the point that they thought that slavery was the natural way of life. They often pleaded with Moses in the wilderness to be allowed to go back into bondage rather than suffer the wilderness experience. The reproach of the world sought to draw them back into slavery. They had suffered such a great loss of self-esteem that it was all but impossible to lead them to a better way of living. The road ahead of them was difficult but it was the road that would lead them to share in God’s glory.

God had led the Israelites as they were kicking and screaming through their forty-year wilderness journey. The forty years of bondage had convinced them that there was nothing better ahead of them. They couldn’t imagine that a gracious God was seeking to take away their reproach. As Israel approaches the land of promise after their forty years of kicking and screaming in the wilderness, God reveals his plan to roll away their reproach.

Joshua 5:2-9
At that time the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.’ So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.

Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt-all the men of military age-died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.

Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ So the place has been called Gilgal to this day" (NIV).

God seeks give Israel a new identity as he rolls away the reproach of Egypt. God’s rolling away their past was an important aspect of Israel’s inheritance of the Promised Land. Israel was ready to claim God’s new identity for them.

Overcoming our past is the most difficult part of a new beginning. The world won’t allow us to forget our past. Often we think God imposes the reproach of guilt and shame upon us, but these are things the world’s system imposes upon us. Guilt and shame enslave us to further guilt and shame through self-hatred and self-rejection.

This is why God’s rolling away the reproach of the guilt and shame of sin is an important part of our salvation. It signifies the new identity God has given us. It is no accident that the Bible speaks of those enslaved to sin. Satan’s world order of things seeks to enslave us to the reproach of this world.

Most of our problems in life result from the way we feel about ourselves. If we don’t feel that we deserve God’s blessings we won’t live so as to avail ourselves of his blessings. How do we look upon those who have been disgraced? More importantly, how do those who have been disgraced look upon themselves? Disgrace means to fall from a place of honor. It is to lose favor or standing. It is accompanied with humiliation and a loss of self-esteem and enduring reproach. It is usually accompanied by ostracism.

The Israelites were circumcised at Gilgal. Circumcision was indicative of God rolling away their past. It was to give them a new beginning as they crossed over into the Promised Land. Their circumcision typified what baptism does for us as God takes away our sin.

Colossians 2:9-12
"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (NIV).

Our initial step in receiving salvation is about God rolling away the reproach of our sin. Do you see that new identity God is seeking to give us as he rolls away the reproach of our enslavement to sin as we are baptized into Christ? God removes the sin, shame and guilt of our past at baptism. He gives us a new identity as we are resurrected with Christ out of that watery grave, which baptism represents (Romans 6:3,4). He rolls away the reproach of the world.

God gives us a new identity in Christ as he seeks to fill us with the fullness of Christ, which in essence is the fullness of himself. You can’t follow God without sharing in his glory as it is revealed through Christ, and you can’t share in his glory without being made new.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (NIV).

It is important for us to see ourselves as children of God rather than slaves to the guilt and shame of sin. Children inherit the blessings of the Father as heirs who are being recreated into the image of God’s son.

Overcoming the Reproach of Egypt

Israel’s greatest struggle was overcoming the effects of Egyptian bondage. For the Israelites overcoming the lure of Egyptian bondage is like us overcoming the lure of sin. Bondage had destroyed their self-respect. They felt as though they didn’t deserve anything better. We may think God want help us because we are less than perfect.

C. S. Lewis writes, "I find a good many people bothered by ... our Lord's words, "Be ye perfect." Some people seem to think this means ‘Unless you are perfect, I will not help you’; and as we cannot be perfect, then ... our position is hopeless. But I do not think he did mean that. I think he meant ‘The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less.’"(C.S. Lewis, Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 5.)

God’s reward requires diligence not perfection. "It is no disgrace to Christianity . . . that its counsels of perfection have not made every single person perfect. If, after centuries, a disparity is still found between its ideal and its followers, it only means that it still maintains the ideal, and the followers still need it." (G.K. Chesterton, Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 3.)

Too many are looking for a perfect church. The glory of the church is found in the routine, not the exceptional. The search for the perfect church is an illusion. One sits and serves with the same people week after week, receiving and being received, disappointing and being disappointed, hurting and being hurt, caring and being cared for. Church people are in it for the long haul, not the short term. The ordinary is more crucial than the extraordinary. (C. John Weborg in The Covenant Companion (Nov.l989). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 1.)

Many seeking to come to Christ are trying to live good enough lives to deserve a better standing before God. They think they have to be good enough to deserve what God wants to give them. This leaves them feeling the reproach of the world.

The world’s system convinces many they don’t deserve or need the blessings of divine grace. The world’s system is designed to only give us what we deserve, or to give us what it thinks we deserve, and if we are not careful the world will rob us of what it says we deserve. It tells us that everything must be earned and deserved. We are very suspicious of those who seek to give us something we haven’t earned and don’t deserve.

Ephesians 2:1-10
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (NIV)

The natural order of things—which is actually Satan’s order of things—seeks to make us the object of Satan’s wrath. To overcome the lure of bondage the world seeks to impose upon us we must understand who is the prince of this world—Satan. He has reconstructed the thinking of this world in such a way to convince us that we are not deserving of divine grace—that we don’t deserve anything better. He seeks to impose upon you the reproach of this world.

The reproach the devil places upon us through guilt and shame is designed to make us feel excluded. Satan seeks to rearrange our lives by implanting negative things in our minds about how we feel about ourselves. He reinforces those thoughts about ourselves by arranging situations in which we feel the rejection of others. He brings negative things into you mind when you are trying to make progress in an attempt to keep you under the reproach of his system of things.

David Gable wrote, "I can't think of anything I do but what somebody I know does it better. Joe is more disciplined to exercise, Bob plays better golf, Hymman is more organized, Powell sings better, G.L. tells funnier stories, and everyone on our block keeps up his front yard better. And those are just the local comparisons.

"Television puts excellence in every living room, so we see national or world best. Pity the local preacher whose flock stacks his sermons against the nation's finest communicators. Or the hometown soprano who feels she must compete with the extraordinarily gifted and trained television singers.

"If excellence comes by comparison, by excelling among my peers, I quit. Ordinary is my ceiling." (C. David Gable in Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 2.)

Salvation is by grace and not by works. Salvation is not getting what we deserve; it is accepting what we don’t deserve—the righteousness of Christ that makes us sons and daughters of God. God is not out to give us what we deserve. He is seeking to give us what we don’t deserve—divine forgiveness—as he rolls away the reproach of our sin and gives us this new identity in Christ.

Claiming Our New Identity

God is seeking to give you a new identity by making you his child as you accept the sacrifice of Christ for your sins. That identity is seen in the righteousness of Christ.

Galatians 3:26-29
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (NIV).

Galatians 4:6-7
"Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir" (NIV).

Israel had to claim her identity before she conquered the Promised Land. Israel had to accept God’s willingness to roll away their approach--they lined up and were circumcised at Gilgal. We must claim God’s new identity for us at baptism. It is there that make a commitment to walk in this new identity as God raises us up in Christ. It is there that God rolls away the reproach of racism, slavery, sexism—these are things Satan’s world order imposes upon us. We roll these away as we come to Christ.

You can’t come to Christ and continue to live under the reproach of this world. To do so will only bring disgrace. It is absolutely essential that you understand your new standing before God in Christ—you are a child of God. If you join a church without understanding and claiming what God is seeking to do for you personally through Jesus Christ, you will never discover a new beginning. You will never walk in victory. You are a child of God; this is what the church is about—human beings becoming God’s children—what a great standing from a heavenly perspective.

We are no longer slaves to sin; we cannot continue to serve sin without denying our new identity in Christ. You can’t improve your standing before God by being good. Faith in God simply requires us to accept this new standing we have as a child of God. As you think about the kind of self-image your shame and guilt project for you, you must understand that God looks at you through the righteousness of Christ. If you haven’t come to Christ, God looks at you in light of what he wants you to be. He wants to salvage you from the reproach the world has brought upon you.

Conclusion:

Satan wants to make you his child by imposing the reproach of the world upon you. Satan seeks to destroy our self-respect to convince us that we don’t deserve anything better. Most of our problems in life stem from the way we feel about ourselves. Many times we end up punishing ourselves through our misbehavior as a means to self-justification.

Divine grace is much different; it gives us a new identity as it rolls away the reproach of sin. The realization that I don’t have to be perfect should strengthen my faith in God.

It is faith in God that gives a right standing before God.

Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (NIV).

God only rewards those who have faith in him. It is not our works that give us a right standing. Works—or righteous living is only proof of our faith—of our new identity; they are not a means to earning our standing before God (James 2:14-26). There are the means of claiming this new identity.

Satan convinces us that God only rewards the perfect person that never makes a mistake, but God rewards those who place their trust in him, regardless of their imperfections. Paul Harvey said, "Many Christians set their sights too low. They tend to deify men, and no man can measure up to that." (Paul Harvey, broadcast of March 25, 1987, reprinted in the Charlotte Observer (Mar. 27, 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 18.)

God thinks you deserve sharing his glory despite your imperfections.

 

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