We were exploring some reasons it is important to read the Old Testament.
They weren't in any particular order - just what popped into my head.
Reason #1 - Read the Old Testament so you will understand the theological concepts in the New Testament. (Reason #1 to Read the OT)
Reason #2 - It is fascinating! (Reason #2 to Read the OT)
Reason #3 - Read the Old Testament for encouragement and comfort. (Read the OT Reason #3)
Another reason to read the Old Testament is to take hold of the promises of God.
Let's be brutally honest here. This grace thing sometimes seems too good to be true. God's grace is a gift to us. But like any gift that is given, the recipient must accept it. All we have to do is receive His gift. We don't have to earn it. We can't buy it. We don't have to be from a certain race, or class, or have a certain job, or act a certain way, or accomplish something. All we have to do is be broken and receive His grace.
Grace. It is a mind blowing concept. One that is quite mysterious. One we can't really wrap our head around.
What is this grace thing?
As Paul tells us for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin (Romans 3:9) and for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) What is this sin? People focus way too much on certain sins, but have you ever gossiped, been ungrateful, been unkind, lied, loved money, cheated, boasted, prideful, selfish, been immoral, envied, hostile,...? (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:29; 1 Timothy 6:10;...) You are a sinner. I am a sinner. I found a list on the internet of over 600 sins which are mentioned in the Bible. I'm sure you and I have done some of these and are going to do some more of them until the day we die. Yep, we are sinners deserving death. Unworthy of being in the presence of a holy God, unless...
Paul also tells us For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
And Paul tells us for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." (Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32) and being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24)
God's grace on us is a gift.
I'm probably not telling you anything you haven't heard a bunch of times before. But for some reason we doubt it is this easy to be saved. There has to be some strings attached. It just seems too good to be true.
So those doubts start to fester. Am I really going to heaven? Am I really saved? How could God forgive me for the sins I have committed and the sin I just committed?
I have had friends tell me of people in their family who were quite elderly, nearing death, who had gone to church all of their lives, and were unsure of whether they would be with Jesus in heaven. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to have a loved one say that. One woman told me she wasn't raised in the church because her mother smoked cigarettes and suffered from depression and thought she wasn't "good enough to go to church." So she never took her children to church. Folks, the church is made up of a bunch of broken sinners! We are all sinners in need of His grace. And then I had a woman who had been in many Bible studies with me send me an email that she still has doubts and isn't sure she is going to heaven.
I have tears in my eyes as I type this.
What is holding people back from fully grasping God's promises to us?
His promises are true though. This grace thing, well, it is remarkable. It is what sets Christianity apart from any other world religion. That a loving merciful God would send His only Son to suffer and die in our place and raise Him from the dead so that we might have life. And not just any life, but an abundant life.
And what does this have to do with reading the Old Testament?
Have you ever thought about what is in the New Testament? The New Testament tells us about Jesus - about His birth, His life, His ministry, His death and His resurrection. It tells us about how Jesus founded the universal church to go out and spread the gospel message. The epistles/ letters tell us how to live as Christians. The New Testament tells us how there is a great spiritual battle going on and one day Jesus and His army of angels and saints will battle the evil and they will win and be victorious and usher in the New Jerusalem.
But what about who God is? Where do we learn that? We learn about God in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament we learn God is powerful. He created the heavens and the earth. He created us. He loves us! He rules the nations. He blesses good and punishes evil. He is full of abundant lovingkindness towards those who walk in His ways. We learn what He expects of His people. We learn we are sinners in need of a Savior. We learn He is holy and we must adjust our actions and our thoughts to be in His presence. We learn He is mighty to save. We learn He is just. We learn He is sovereign. We see a consistency in His nature.
We read the Old Testament and we take hold of His promises to us. We realize who we are in relationship to Him. We see Him work throughout the centuries to bring about His redemptive plan for us. We grasp it. We believe it. We trust it. We trust Him. This belief settles into our heart and souls and minds.
Where do we learn about the grace of God? We learn about it in the Old Testament and we see if fulfilled in the New Testament.
We cross that line from partial belief in His grace for us, to taking hold of it.
And nothing is more joyful than that - to truly believe, to truly know our eternity is sealed - that we will be with Jesus forever. And I'm smiling as I type that.
Reason #4 to read the Old Testament: To take hold of His promises.