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From Tamar to Christmas

Last week I indicated that as we approach Christmas, we will look at some stories of Jesus’ descendants which are not beautiful at all. The main aim of this study is to remind us of God’s greatness, grace and faithfulness as we marvel at how God is able to overcome evil with good.

The story of Tamar which is recorded in Genesis 38 interrupts the wonderful story of Joseph.  It is an ugly tale of cheating and unfaithfulness.  Yet from it, we still see God accomplishing His will. Please take your time to read it.

Briefly, Tamar pretends to be a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law, Judah to sleep with her. The child that is born from this adulterous union, Perez, happens to be a great grandfather of Jesus Christ.   Could God have stopped this from happening? Yes, He could. But why did He allow it? He alone knows best.

However, we can still see from the story that God can use the imperfect things of the world to bring out something perfect. Tamar and Judah were sinful and failed miserably to reach God’s standards. But God stooped in his grace and reached out to them and through them brought out a perfect savior. Those who are in this Savior including Tamar and Judah are counted perfect and righteous basing on the Savior’s righteousness. This is the amazing grace of God.

 

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The ‘Roots’ of Christ

Some have accused Christians of always trying to paint a good picture of Christ. These people have even gone to the extreme of ‘exposing negative stories’ about Christ which they say Christians have always kept under the carpet.

However, this is a sad accusation because Christianity or the Bible does not hide anything about Christ including those incidents that seem embarrassing. Therefore, God willing, from this week, as we look forward to Christmas, we will dwell on the genealogy or the descendants of Christ whose life stories are not all that beautiful. These include Tamar who seduced her father-in-law,  Judah, to sleep with her, Rehab who was a prostitute, and Manasseh one of the most evil kings of Judah.

When we read and reflect on the life stories of these people, we are amazed at how God could allow such people to be the descendants of Jesus. It only confirms that God’s ways are not indeed our ways.

Furthermore, the stories of some of these descendants assure us that God’s grace is indeed amazing for it transforms sinners into saints.  These stories also show us that God is not limited or controlled by our sinfulness.  We might not be faithful, but He always remains faithful and he can accomplish his good will even through our unfaithfulness.  We might have evil intentions, but he overcomes them with his goodness.

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What About Good Works?

If salvation is solely by the grace of God and not good works, what then will happen to those who practice good works only?  Will God not consider their good works at all? Imagine with me, those non-Christians who risks their lives to save others. Those unbelievers who sacrifice everything they have to help the poor, the needy, orphans and widows. Will God not be merciful to them on judgement day?

This is the question I was asked last week and I would like to respond in this way. It is indeed true that salvation is by grace alone and not good works (Ephesians 2:8, 9). What we need to know is that when our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned, all of us sinned (Romans 5:12) and the only way for salvation is by believing in Christ (John 14:6) and this happens by God’s grace.

Therefore, even if we can do good works, if we have not believed in Christ for salvation, our good works will not be counted at all because behind those good works lies an evil and sinful heart that is in rebellion against God.

You will agree with me that no matter, how beautiful a poisonous snake looks, inside it is venom which kills. Similarly, no matter how beautiful our good works might be, inside us lies an evil and sinful heart that does not love God at all.

Unless Christ comes in and changes our hearts from enemies to the friends of God, our good works remain filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6 )

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