Sunday, 31 May, 2015
LOOKING FOR HIS APPEARING
Titus 2:11-13: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world,
Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity …
2 Tim. 4:8: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing.
We all need something to look forward to. Life with its setbacks and disappointments can be as depressing as the ever more evil world that surrounds us. Importantly, the above scriptures tell us what to look for as the antidote – his appearing.
You see, we who have been saved by the Lord’s grace are called for two purposes of God. One is to live rightly before God as an example to others in this world. The other is to look for his appearing because, by doing so, we shall be given the same crown of righteousness the Apostle Paul was certain he would receive.
But how can you look for something if you don’t know when it will appear? Yes, we know the Lord’s shining forth (which is the meaning of appearing), as the one and only King of heaven and earth, is the next thing on God’s dispensational agenda. But, please Lord, when will it occur?
Thanks be to God, He has not left without a clear indication of the time from his Word. But before we look at chapter and verse on that, let me offer a word of explanation. The appearing of Jesus Christ as ‘the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (1 Tim. 6:14-15) ushers in the Day of Christ (Phil. 1: 6, 10, 2:16). And the Day of Christ is a new age, or dispensation which shows forth grace and fulfils prophecy, both at the same time. It is described as the ‘times of the restitution of all things’ (Acts 3:21) an event spoken of ‘by all the prophets since the world began’.
Accordingly it is to the scriptures of the prophets that we turn to find when the appearing and the Day of Christ, that is, the blessed time when Christ shines forth and rules from heaven, will begin. We get excited when we read in Psalm 72:2-4 and elsewhere that in this new day there will be a new earth and a new world in which:
He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgement. The mountains (i.e. governments) shall bring peace to the people and, and the little hills by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
Can’t come soon enough for me but, again, just when will it come? Well I believe that already we are living in the very times the Bible pinpoints as those in which the Lord will appear. Which means that those of us saved by grace have called to a special purpose which is given to us in Christ Jesus before this new world begins (2 Tim. 1:9). It is to tell the world of two things. First Christ’s appearing in grace to save (2 Tim. 1:10). Second, His imminent appearing in glory to rule heaven and earth (Titus 2:13, 2 Tim. 4:1). However, it seems the timing of ‘when’ is only revealed to those believers willing to serve Him in this regard. Certainly organised Christendom knows little or nothing of this call. May I ask, are you one who is called by his grace to take hold of it?
To cut to the chase, the key to understand when the appearing will take place occurs in Daniel 2:44:
In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other peoples, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
In verses 42-43 we learn that ‘these kings’ are ‘the toes of the feet’ which are part of iron and part of clay. And when I last counted my feet have 10 toes. Do yours? Notice that this prophecy (verses 41-43) three times mentions clay or miry clay and also stresses feet. Both feet and toes are important because together they describe the nature of the fifth kingdom mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy of the ‘great image’ of gold, silver, brass (or bronze) and iron with its feet of iron and clay.
At this point I can almost hear someone say, but I thought there were only four. Not in my Bible there aren’t, and if you check yours carefully you will find there are five (see verses 41-43).
The fifth kingdom is the kingdom of the feet and ten toes, in the days of which the Lord’s appearing and the ushering in of his heavenly kingdom (in which rules earth from heaven) will occur. This kingdom is described as:
And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potter’s clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided, but there shall be in it the of the strength of iron, inasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
Now a potter uses wet, slippery, slimy clay to form vessels on the wheel. Furthermore miry clay and mire run through the Bible, depicting the deep trouble God’s people (and people in general) find themselves in. For example, the Prophet Jeremiah was lowered into a dungeon sewer of miry clay, the Psalmist (Ps. 69:2 and 14) sank into deep mire and prayed to be delivered, Earlier in Ps. 40:2 he had been brought up out of the miry clay.
Now notice where miry clay comes from. Isaiah 58:20 says ‘The wicked are like the troubled sea … which casts up mire and dirt’. So miry clay is the product of sinful humanity. Mark also that God comes in judgement upon those who oppose Him as ‘the potter treadeth upon clay’. Thus in Jeremiah 38:22 rebellious King Zedekiah was told, ‘thy feet are sunk in the mire’. And in Micah 7:10, she who mocked the remnant of Israel and, prophetically the Messiah, saying ‘where is thy God?’ is told she will be ‘trodden down as the mire of the streets’.
Speaking of treading down, didn’t the Lord in Luke 21:24 say of the Israel He came to and which rejected Him:
And they shall fall by the sword and shall be led away captive unto all nations and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled?
What then is the fifth kingdom of Daniel 2:41-44 and who are the Gentiles Jesus referred to? Are they just ordinary pagans, the heathen in general, or a more specific people? Clearly the fifth kingdom is not Rome since that is the fourth kingdom (Daniel 2:40) and Rome ceased to control Jerusalem in 636AD, having ruled it for precisely 666 years from the Battle of Actium (31BC) until Moslem seizure of the city.
Ever since then Jerusalem has been trodden down of the Arab Muslims. What’s more in God’s view it deserves to be, for its streets are full of miry clay, that is, refusal to accept Jesus Christ as her rightful Messiah. And the so called Christian world is little better since it refuses tom fully recognise the special message of grace and the mystery proclaimed by the Apostle Paul and remains willfully ignorant of the Day of Christ and his appearing. It too then is sunk in the mire.
Yet it is in the days of these kings that his appearing will take place. The fifth kingdom is described as the feet that tread down Jerusalem. Muslim feet in fact today trample the site of the very Holy of Holies in the temple of Jesus’s day and woe betide any Jew who seeks to pray there. Remember that to God it is the temple itself that is Jerusalem per se.
So who or what are the ten toes that make up the fifth kingdom. Note that in Daniel 2:42-43 they are divided, that is among themselves and although they mingle themselves with the seed of men (as Islam is infiltrating and gaining control of almost every nation) in the end they (the Muslims) and the rest of us do not cleave to one another.
To my mind the above is a very accurate description of the world in which we live today. The west is in decline. America and Britain no longer have the will to fight ISIL which will proceed to conquer the Middle East and go on to subjugate the world to its evil ideology. Who then are the 10 kings? May I suggest Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, the Gulf States and Jordan as candidates? As Daniel prophesied these Muslim nations are divided and cannot cleave together. Nor, for that matter, can the west.
Nevertheless, it is in the days of these kings that that God of heaven shall set his kingdom, the heavenly kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Potentate, the Prince of Peace who shall bring peace to the earth.
Are you ready for it? Are you called to tell others about it? Are you looking for his appearing?
Sunday May 3 2015
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF GOD’S TOMORROW
Most of us are glad to be alive, and so we should be, for God Himself has given us life. We are glad to live because Christ saves us from sin and keeps us through His grace. But it is an evil world that we live in (Gal. 1:4). How good to know then and Christ not only died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3) but also to save us from this ‘present evil world’ (Gal. 1:4), ruled as it is by the devil (Eph. 2:2,).
It is also a terrible world, n that wars persist, hurricanes destroy, idolatry and hatred of Christ is rampant and Christians are being persecuted and killed in many lands. Billions suffer in dire poverty and no matter how well we live in the meantime suffering and death comes to us all.
Any thinking person who believes in Almighty God must ask: Why does it have to be like this? Couldn’t God banish evil and create a better world? And the answer is: Yes, He could. But the really good news is that He definitely will.
In fact it was this good news – the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:17) that Jesus was born to preach. It was and is the message that God has a whole new world, a far better world coming. We find the Apostle Paul preaching it in Rome in Acts 28:31 and telling Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:1 to preach the word of Christ’s ‘appearing and his kingdom’.
Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:19 that ‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable’. But we hope and fervently believe in a new world to come, both in the heavens and on earth which will be so good it’s really beyond our wildest dreams, too good for us to imagine. As 1 Cor. 2:9 says: ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them who love Him.’ And those things include a far better world.
I am indebted to my friend, able Bible teacher and right divider Tom Ballinger, for some of the following exciting thoughts about just how different this truly brave new world will be.
But to start with let us see what God says about the world to come:
Isaiah 65: 17: For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered nor come to mind. Yes, the new heavens and earth will be so good, so much better the bad old days of the bad old world will be completely forgotten.
It was to reaffirm this statement that Jesus was born and preached to Israel. Romans 15:8 explains that his mission was to ‘…confirm the promises made unto the fathers’, the above prophecy being among the most important of them.
The Apostle Peter also confirmed this promise in Acts 3:21, saying that the Lord Jesus Christ must be received by heaven ‘until the times of restitution of all things” – that is the making if new heavens and a new earth - an event, the apostle says, ‘spoken of by the mouth of all the prophets since the world began.
All this is to happen in the soon coming Day of Christ, the next great thing on God’s agenda. How different will this new world be? Answer: much in every way:
- There will be long life, as there was in the days before Noah’s flood. Isaiah 65:20: There shall be no more an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his year, for the child shall die being an hundred years old and.’ Isaiah 65:22: ‘.. for, as the days of a tree are the days of my people and mine elect shall long enjoy the works of their hands’. Some trees live for thousands of years.
- Instant answer to prayer. Is. 65:24 ‘…before they call I will answer’.
- Animals will no longer eat each other. Is. 65:25: ‘The wolf and the lamb shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock … they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.’
Scriptures foretell millions will be resurrected in Day of Christ. They are the ‘children of the resurrection’ (Luke 20:35-36) who neither marry nor die in the new world to come. But if few, if any, die how will the earth accommodate such a number, you might ask?
Good question. The answer is that it will be hugely expanded to accommodate a far greater population. Not only will it be returned to the glorious state when trees fruited year-round and grain grew on the mountain tops before the flood, it will also be greatly altered. Consider Isaiah 40:4-5:
Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain (or smooth). And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
This literally means that all hills and mountains will be flattened and every valley lifted up to create a vast plain. This alone would add 40 per cent more living place. But there’s more.
In the Day of Christ, as part of the restitution of all things, God will restore the firmament which was poured out as water on earth when ‘the windows of heaven were opened’ (Gen. 7:11) in the great Flood. Originally (Gen. 1:6) the firmament divided ‘the waters above from the waters below’. In the flood they were flooded the earth and water also gushed up from the ‘fountains of the deep’. In the restitution much of the present seas will be evaporated into the heavens to form again an ice canopy some 11 kilometres above the earth, thus creating ‘greenhouse effect’ equable climate from pole to pole. Therefore no more gales, floods and storms. The sea will once again be ‘gathered into one place’ (Gen. 1:9), that is, mainly under the earth. The consequence will be that the surface of the earth is stretched (as when a balloon fills with water) and the sea, which now occupies 75 per cent of the earth’s surface will largely disappear.
It will be a huge new earth of peace and plenty for God’s redeemed to enjoy. They will see the glory of the Lord revealed as He creates this new earth. They will see Him revealed as the great God and Saviour ruling from heaven in love and truth and peace.
Sunday, Mar. 1, 2015
KNOWING THE GRACE OF
GOD IN TRUTH (Col. 1:6)
Is grace just the wonderful truth that Christ died for our sins? Is just that Christ now saves both Jews and Gentiles on equal terms? Listen to some big-time preachers and you would think this is the case. But actually there is more, much more to grace than this.
Recently this week a televised Seventh Day Adventist preacher r spoke about how believers can overcome sin. He maintained they could do so by the ‘Holy Spirit’. To back this up he asserted that Jesus was born in sinful flesh but overcame it by the ‘Holy Spirit’ that dwelt within Him. Believers, he said, also have the ‘Holy Spirit’ and should therefore do likewise.
Was Jesus born ‘in sinful flesh’, in the ‘image of fallen Adam’, as this preacher alleged? No. The Bible is clear. Man is ‘conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity’ (Ps. 51:5) but Christ was not. His was a holy conception. Luke 1:35 clearly teaches that the Holy Ghost ‘overshadowed’ Mary and the angel told her that ‘that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’.
Phil. 2:7 says Christ Jesus was made in the likeness of men. Rom. 8:3 states that in ‘sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, (God) condemned sin in the flesh. Yes, Christ was ‘tempted in all points like as we are’ (Heb. 4:15), ‘yet without sin.’
Jesus as the God made man who walked on earth was inherently and utterly holy. And the only way that we as sinners can be holy too is by being made one in nature with Him – by grace. For it is only by knowing and believing the fullness of God’s grace as proclaimed by the Apostle Paul in his latter epistles that we can come into this blessed union.
You see, believing that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3) is important but it does not make us holy. Knowing that we are ‘justified by faith’ (Rom. 5:1) does not in itself stop us from sinning (read Rom. 6:1). Something more is needed to make us fully right with God. And that ‘something’ is the ‘the riches of his grace’ (Eph. 1:7), the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’, (Eph. 3:8).
Revealed only in the prison epistles of the Apostle Paul, it is this ‘fullness’ of grace (Eph. 1:23) and only this fullness of grace that makes believers who are sinners by nature ‘complete’ in Christ (Col. 2:10) and thus totally acceptable to God.
Eph. 2:4-6 explains the great grace given to us Gentiles by the Father, not ‘the Holy Spirit’, in this way:
But God, who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved). And hath raised us up together and made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Please understand. This is the first time in scripture anyone is ‘quickened together with Christ”. It is the first time ever that God announces he has raised up sinners ‘together with Christ’. The words ‘together with’ and ‘in’ Christ open the gateway to heaven for the first time. There is not a word in earlier scripture of any believer being quickened with Christ, raised with Christ, still less being ‘seated together in heavenly places in Christ’. It comes only in the Pauline revelation of the fullness of grace, found in full orb in his epistles, Ephesians to Philemon.
Here in Ephesians then, for the first time ever it is announced that by a stupendous miracle of his all-powerful, all-loving grace God the Father has made sinners by nature one with Christ. And it is this act of grace that not only saves us who believe but also sets us free from sin.
We need to see that the important matter of setting us free from sin and making us holy is accomplished by the Father’s grace alone. Thus in Col. 1:12 we find the Apostle Paul:
Giving thanks unto the Father which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son
It is not the ‘Holy Spirit’, nor even the Holy Ghost, that accomplishes this great feat of love. It is the Father Himself in love making available to all the full redemption won by his Son Jesus Christ in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Importantly, He does so in grace and love by including us in Christ at every stage of this process.
Why not ‘the Holy Spirit’, you ask? Fact is the words ‘holy’ and ‘spirit’ are used only twice in Paul’s prison epistles (Eph. 1:13 and Eph. 4:30). The ‘h’ is not capitalised in either case, clearly indicating this not the third person of the Godhead but a spirit sent by God for a specific purpose, namely to seal grace-saved believers until the day of redemption.
Today preachers on every hand talk of Christians experiencing ‘the Holy Spirit’ in sanctification but the truth is that no such person can be found in your King James Bible. Cruden’s Concordance confirms that while ‘the Holy Ghost’ is mentioned nearly 100 times, the words ‘holy Spirit’ appear just seven times, each time with a small ‘’h’ for ‘holy’, indicating that a spirit from God is meant, not ‘the Holy Ghost’.
In the Bible ‘spirit’ with a small ‘h’ denotes the essence of something or someone. For example in Eph. 1:17, Paul prays that God the Father would give Ephesian believers who had yet to come into the fullness of grace ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (that is, the Father)’. That spirit is the essence of the revelation of the Father’s love and grace. And it is the Father, not ‘the Holy Spirit’, who quickens us out of being ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1).
Fact is everybody and every living thing gets a spirit from God (Num.16:22, Acts 17:25). It is breathed into us at birth, and since it comes from God it is ‘holy’. But ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23) and through sin we have all killed the spirit God gave us. The one exception is the Lord Jesus Christ who kept his spirit holy throughout his life on earth until He was ‘made sin for us, He who knew no sin’.
Thankfully, when we are quickened by the Father our spirit is made alive again by ‘the renewing of the Holy Ghost’ (Titus 3:5). This means that our spirit is made holy again as it was when God first breathed it into us. The Apostle Paul calls this spirit ‘the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us’ (2 Tim. 1:14).
Let me stress again that it is grace that saves and grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9). It is also grace that makes us right with God, not the Holy Spirit, nor trying to be ‘holy like Jesus’. In fact grace both saves and sanctifies us in the following ways:
- In his grace the Son made us one with Him in his death on the cross, thus making in Himself of twain one new man (Eph. 2:15). This so that He could reconcile both (that is, us as sinners and He as the one made sin, who knew no sin) unto God in one body – i.e. that of the ‘one new man’.
- The Father applies this process to quicken us out of death in sin ‘together with Christ (by grace ye are saved)’ – Eph. 2:5.
- By the Father putting off from us ‘the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ’ (Col. 2:11).
- By the Father raising us up together with Christ (Col. 2:12, Eph. 2:6).
By grace ye are saved.
Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015
MURU – FORGIVENESS AND REDEMPTION
Waitangi Day in New Zealand this year was a good reminder of the huge power of the gospel to change lives, indeed to vastly improve the world around us.
For example, in his very name, Maori Anglican Bishop Muru Walters exemplifies the huge change wrought among Maori by the forgiveness and redemption of the gospel in the 19th century.
In a recent address he said Maori tribal culture was driven by muru. He went on:
“The traditional meaning of muru was ‘to act with absolute brutal ferocity and domination against all those not related to us by blood. Face to face killing, revenge killing and cannibalism, all to maintain and assert muru, mana (prestige), power and rangatiratanga (chiefly rule).
This muru, mana, rangatiratanga, was perceived as the only authentic, cultural way to manage and sustain the well-being of our culture.”
Then came the gospel, spread largely by Maori themselves. Preaching salvation through Christ brought about such a change that very word muru was entirely changed in meaning. Bishop Walters explains:
“When my Maori Natanahira Rarawa ancestors were transformed by following their new religious life (i.e. the gospel) … muru became transformed too.”
From meaning brutal revenge killings muru became the Maori word for forgiveness, as used in translating the Lord’s Prayer, for example. ‘Forgive (muru) us our debts as forgive (muru) our debtors’ (Matt. 6:10).
An important point was made by New Zealand High Court Judge Sir Eddie Durie speaking at the Waitangi Day church service marking the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori chiefs and the British Crown. (The treaty is founding constitutional document of New Zealand.)
“Let us put paid,” he said,” to the notion that we Maori were ‘colonised by Christianity’. Oh, no, we went out there to get it and spread it among ourselves’.
It was not Europeans who brought the gospel to New Zealand; rather, says Sir Eddie, an enterprising Northland Maori, Ruatara, sailed to Europe to discover what gave the British their strength and power. Ruatara concluded it was their belief in Jesus Christ. He then searched Australia for a man to preach this gospel to Maori. That man was Samuel Marsden who at Ruatara’s invitation on December 25, 1814 on a Northland beach preached ‘good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people’ (Luke 2:10) to Maori for the first time on New Zealand soil.
The Judge recalls that when British missionary Octavius Hadfield first arrived to minister to the Otaki tribe, Ngati Ruakawa, “we already knew, understood and could recite large passages of the gospel, learnt by heart”. Similarly when the first European missionary trudged over the hills into Poverty Bay he found several bible reading, hymn singing and praying churches had already been established among the Ngati Porou by themselves. The ‘missionaries’ in this case were uneaten slaves freed by the Nga Puhi and taught Bible by this country’s earliest mission school in the Far North. From there they took “the glad tidings” back to their own tribes.
A documentary screened by First Light recently recorded the explosion of Christianity that took place among Maori in the first half of the 19th century. After a slow start so wholeheartedly was the gospel of salvation of Christ embraced between 1820 and 1850 that it is estimated more than half of all Maori in New Zealand became avid Bible students.
Then came a counter attack. Many Maori returned to the old gods. Others derided the gospel saying Europeans preached Christ to steal the land from under Maori feet.
Why was Christianity so attractive to Maori? Sir Eddie says the preaching of the ‘gospel of peace’ brought in the concept of forgiveness and “broke the cycle of vicious, hateful, intertribal warfare”. He asserts that introduction of muskets “let war get out of hand”.
But history tells another story. Long before guns arrived Maori had systematically slaughtered and all but eradicated the peaceful, original inhabitants of New Zealand, the Patupaiarehe, the Urekehu and the Waitaha who for centuries before the Maori came had lived at peace without warring against one another. In short, Maori by their belief that they were the progeny of fallen angels going in unto women (Gen. 6:4) (as documented in their writings and carvings), were indeed devil-driven to commit unspeakable bloody atrocities, often, apparently, for the sheer love of doing so.
You see, without forgiveness, without a biblical respect for the right of all who will do so to live at peace, there can only be strife, hate, bloodshed, destruction and war. Thus to forgive instead of to fight burst upon Maori as a blinding flash of light, as a divine revelation, which indeed it is.
But more. Sir Eddie says redemption “through His blood” also hugely changed Maori thinking and belief. “In the Maori spiritual system prior to the gospel you could commit a ‘hara’ (wrong) without knowing it. For accidentally treading on someone’s grave, for example, you could be put to death.”
The gospel brought to Maori the important truth that despite having done wrong you could be redeemed through trust in Christ. For the first time they could be saved from the penalty of utu (payback) and tapu (violating the sacred), by the power of forgiveness and the redemption of putting away sin and its consequences by the washing away of sin.
Eph. 1:7 In Whom (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
Sadly the emphasis in Maori Christianity today is more on forgiveness and redemption as practiced by themselves, than it is on the quickening grace of God in forgiving and redeeming us through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. The original missionary stress on individual salvation by ‘trusting in Christ’ after hearing ‘the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’ (Eph. 1:13) has been replaced by a more social gospel, as indeed it has widely elsewhere in Christendom.
But, as believers, we can never overrate the huge power of forgiveness, nor the utter tragedy among people when it is absent, indeed proscribed. Islam has no doctrine of forgiveness; result: it is hell-bent on a global war to exterminate Christians. Hinduism also has no concept of forgiveness which is why it is massacring, persecuting and driving out believers in Christ in several states. In western society too there is no forgiveness in sport (winner takes all), business (it doesn’t take prisoners), academia or economics.
Col. 2:13: And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh hath He (the Father) quickened (i.e. made alive) and with Him (Christ) HAVING FORGIVEN YOU ALL TRESPASSES.
What a wonderful thing it is to know that no matter what sin you have done, do now or will do, you have already been forgiven. That’s grace, the message the world most needs to hear right now. Sadly, un-forgiveness is right now driving war and persecution throughout much of the world.
At an individual level even believers can find it hard to forgive others. Yet God would encourage us to do so:
Eph. 4:32: And be ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER, even as God for Christ’s sake hath FORGIVE YOU.
You see, forgiveness is the key to redemption – the ‘putting right’ – for both victim and perpetrator. In fact failing to receive God’s forgiveness and to forgive others often leads to a place where we find we can’t forgive ourselves.
But you and I can forgive others and ourselves when we know and believe with all our heart that God, for Christ’s sake, HATH FORGIVEN YOU ALL TRESPASSES.
Sunday, 1 FEB 2015
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFESSION
Only dead fish go with the flow; live fish swim against it.
Today’s message focusses on John 12:42:
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men rather than the praise of God.
My bible notes that to ‘confess’ means to ‘publicly acknowledge’ and that is just what these closet Israelite believers in Jesus as the Christ were afraid to do. Fact is it takes courage to take a stand for Jesus, to confess He is your Lord. It may cost you friendship and the approbation of society.
But in John 12:42 it is above all a religious issue. These rulers would have liked to acknowledge the Lord as Israel’s Messiah but their ‘church’ – the synagogue – wouldn’t let them. So rather than lose fellowship with the God defying, Christ-denying and truth suppressing synagogue they publicly denied the Lord instead.
Today it’s much the same. In most churches you can go with the flow of the socially compromised gospel, but don’t ‘confess’ right division, grace or the mystery, or they will show you the door.
Confession of sin is good for the soul but that’s not what scripture is talking about here. No, it’s taking a public stand for the truth of the gospel of the grace of God, the complete and completed ( in us) salvation of the mystery revelation to the Apostle Paul – a stand which will make you an outsider both in this ‘present evil world’ (Gal. 1:4) and in Christendom. Like the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, Paul and the ‘faithful in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 1:1) you will be an outsider.
But with God you will be an insider and those who confessed Him in the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry had the words of Jesus Himself for that. Luke 12:8.
Also I say unto you: Whosoever shall confess me before men him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of heaven
You see, you cannot be a true believer and faithful to Christ and not confess Him wherever you go, whoever you are with. Confession in fact is God’s witness to the world – and to the principalities and powers, ‘the rulers of the darkness of this world’. Consider these scriptural examples:
The blind man who saw
John 9: 22, 25, 31, 34(b). This man whose sight was restored ‘confessed’ that Jesus had healed him. His parents who should have rejoiced at this blessing of their son kept silence rather than be put out of the synagogue. The man himself confessed and was reviled and ejected … but Jesus found him (John 9:35).
And friends, when you and I confess the latest word from God revealed through the prison epistles of the Apostle Paul and are cast out for confessing it – the Lord will ‘find’ us too. Significantly, the last view we have of this man who now ‘sees’, is that he confesses ‘Lord, I believe’ and that ‘he worshipped Him” (John 9: 38). Fact is that only an honest confessor can truly worship the Lord. Frankly, much co-called worship is hypocrisy.
Confessors of Christ will have their reward on resurrection day; closet believers who keep silence when they should speak out will not. When the Lord comes to ‘judge the quick and the dead at his appearing’ (2 Tim. 4:1) they will not appear with Him. This is because ‘if we deny Him He will also deny us’ (2 Tim. 2:12).
1 Tim. 6:13: (Paul to Timothy) I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession. Read what that confession was before the high priest in John 18: 19-23 and before Pilate in John18:33-38.
Acts 24:14: Paul is on trial for his life before Felix the Governor. This what he says: But this I confess unto thee that after the way they (i.e. the Jews) call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets.
Confession in the Acts period Church of God
Rom. 10:9: If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thy heart God hath raised Him from the dead thou shalt be saved.
Confession in the dispensation of grace and the mystery
Phil. 2:14-17: Do all things without murmurings and disputings; That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (New Zealand?), among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life (i.e. confessing); that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain
Confession in the day of Christ
Phil, 2:10,11: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
A word of encouragement
When you do ‘confess’, that is tell someone who probably doesn’t want to know, of the love of Christ and God the Father and their wonderful saving grace, you may be ostracised for doing so, but one thing is certain; you will be respected for it. Why? Because you had what it takes to speak about who you really are in Christ, when so many who name the name of Christ won’t.
Sunday, Jan 18, 2015
WHO DO YOU BELONG TO?
In Acts 27:23 despite three weeks of raging storm at sea, in which he and 275 others were blown helplessly across the Mediterranean, the Apostle Paul still had no doubts about who he was and who he belonged to:
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not Paul: Thou must be brought before Caesar and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Sadly in the world today there are many who belong to no-one. Think of African orphans left as sole survivors from families wiped out by AIDS or Ebola. They just wish they had someone to belong to. By contrast most Western people insist they belong to no one. “I am my own man, my own woman. No-one owns me or tells me what to do,” is their cry.
As Christians we can thank God somebody does own us. God Himself owns us and we belong to Him because the Lord Jesus Christ bought us at a very costly price. He ‘purchased us with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Other scriptures confirm this:
1 Cor. 6:19-20, for example, informs us that ‘ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price, there glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s’.
For those called to followed Christ ‘belonging’ may seem a matter of choice, but is it? In Rom. 1:1 Paul announces himself as ‘a servant of Christ called to be an apostle…’ The Greek word for servant is doulos, meaning a bond-servant. In bible terms, and the meaning of the word in 17th century context of the King James Bible, it means a servant who belongs to a master, is at his beck and call and does what he is told. There is no thought here of independence of life of action. A servant is bound to his master.
So, it seems the only choice we have is whether to belong to the Lord as a servant, or to not really belong to Him at all. Consider the following verses:
2 Cor. 5:15: And that He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him which died for them and rose again.
Phil. 12: Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
2 Tim. 2:19: The Lord knows them that are his.
Evidently for us to be servants of the Lord entails not only obeying the Lord but also the Apostle Paul whom the Lord sent with the wonderful message of grace. And there is little doubt that Paul saw himself as the bond servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore he was willing to be such a servant in order to be fully belong to Christ.
Paul was willing to be ‘made conformable unto his death’ that he might win Christ and be ‘found in him”. Paul had been a slave of the devil; now he chose to be servant of Christ instead. What’s more he urged believers following him to do the same.
In fact right from the start Paul (then Saul) committed himself to obeying the Lord for the rest of his life In Acts 9:6 his response to seeing the Lord in glory was, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” And we should do the same. Every day, in every way, whenever there is an issue, a question, a decision to be made, we should ask, ‘What wilt thou have me to do?’
A prisoner in bonds.
What does it mean to be a bond servant? It is to find yourself bound to do the will of your master. Paul was literally bound with chains. He was ‘the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles’ (Eph. 3:1). He was locked up with no way out to learn, as you and I must learn, that in Christ the true ‘bond’ is that of the ‘peace’ that comes from obedient submission (Eph. 4:3) and that love for the Lord and his saints is ‘the bond of perfectness’ (Col. 3:14).
Amazingly, it was while in prison that God gave Paul the most wonderful good news mankind has ever received. The dispensation of the grace of God and of the mystery was revealed to the prisoner Paul ‘for you Gentiles’ (Eph. 3:1). But how could the prisoner, the bond-servant, get the message out while in chains? Answer: By trusting in God’s grace and writing letters as God told him to. Did this work? Well, you are reading the result in your Bible today, just as the whole world has been able to read it for most of the last 2,000 years.
Trace the fact being a prisoner was essential to Paul’s mission to ‘preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ’ in Eph. 3:1, 3:8, 3:13, 4:1 and that he calls us as believers also to be faithful and to:
… walk worthy of this vocation wherewith ye are called in meekness and long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.
Do you want to belong Christ the Lord, irrevocably and forever, and to serve Him faithfully in the here and now? In Col. 3:22-24 the Apostle Paul sets out the pattern we should follow:
Servants obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance for ye serve the Lord Christ.
Exodus 21:2-6 is precious in this regard. For at times we are unwilling servants; we may even want to be ‘let out’ from our bonds, to ‘go free’. But as his earthly apostles said to Christ, ‘to whom else shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life’ (Jn. 6:68).
Should you desire it, then here, spiritually speaking, in this passage is set out the way to ensure you remain bonded to Christ, that you belong to Him forever.
If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he were married then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife and she have born him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out by himself.
And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife and my children: I will not go out free: Then his master shall … bring him to the door or unto the door post and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever.
Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014
THE SCRIPTURES THAT SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
Romans 16:25-26: …the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now is made manifest and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.
The scriptures of the prophets – graphe prophetikos in Greek – literally means the scriptures that speak for themselves. It means the whole revelation to Paul of grace and the mystery and the heavenly kingdom is a talking book – one that can be read plainly, that means exactly what it says and one that is ‘made manifest’ to all nations by the commandment of God.
The phrase scriptures of the prophets then does not refer to the Old Testament writings of the prophets who often spake things they were not allowed to understand themselves (1 Peter 10-12). Furthermore from the days of Isaiah through to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ the ‘law and the prophets’ were very largely a closed book; in fact a sealed book (Isaiah 29: 10-12).
BIBLE LESSON FROM THE SON
So much so that despite being with the Lord for three and a half years his disciples did not understand it and He had to ‘open their understanding that they might understand the scriptures’ (Luke 24:45) for themselves. First though He gave them a Bible lesson from Jesus (Luke 24:27).
As to the people at large, once they rejected Him as Messiah, Jesus would only speak to them in parables they could not understand (look that up in the Bible?) What’s more even after his resurrection the Lord still kept things from the disciples. ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons” – i.e. an understanding of the different dispensations – ‘which the Father has put in his own power’, He told them in Acts 1:7.
How wonderful then through Paul God now commands that the new revelation of grace and the mystery, indeed the whole Pauline corpus of scripture, should be written and be spiritually manifest in such a way that it speaks for itself.
Indeed it speaks so loudly that it is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. And you can tell just by looking at them which nations listened in any degree at all to what God said in these new scriptures and which did not. As Jesus said, speaking of false prophets, ‘by their fruits ye shall know them’.
A BIBLE LESSON FROM THE FATHER
Earlier we saw that the resurrected Jesus on earth gave a Bible lesson to his disciples. That was then. The good news now is that in grace the Father wants to give us an even greater Bible lesson from the scriptures that speak for themselves. What’s more He will give us ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him’ that the eyes of our (Gentile) understanding may be enlightened to ‘know’ all that the Father has for us both now and for all eternity through his Son as head of ‘the church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all’ (Eph. 1:16-23).
We see an example of this ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (i.e. the Father) at work in Eph.3:3 where Paul explains ‘how that by revelation He made unto me the mystery’. But it doesn’t stop at Paul; as a believer who trusts in Christ you also can have the depths and height of the mystery revealed to you.
A BIBLE LESSON FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON
The key is to see the scriptures of Paul speaking plainly and directly to you. In doing so you will indeed learn of the Father because it is He that reveals the mystery to us, and learn from Christ. As Eph. 4:21 puts it: ‘If so be ye have heard Him and been taught by Him as then truth is in Jesus”.
The point is that when you read the scriptures that speak for themselves, believing them to be true, it is God the Father and his Son Christ Jesus speaking to you direct. Of course, you receive and hear some teaching and understanding from others but to ‘press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 3:14) it is vital you learn to receive and be taught by God Himself.
Phil. 3:15 makes clear God both can and will reveal scripture unto you:
Let us therefore as many as be perfect (i.e. mature, as Timothy was in his twenties) be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded God shall reveal even this unto you.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR LIFE?
In short, everything. God will actually guide your revelation of what the scriptures really mean (which is also exactly what they say) to meet your needs in life, spiritually and materially. Studying scripture will tell you what you need to know when you need to know it. More than that it will bring everything in your life into God’s purpose: your studies, your career, your work, your marriage, your needs with the Lord guiding and leading you every step of the way.
Not for nothing does scripture, speaking of those that labour in the word, say that the labourer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:7). When one studies as ‘a workman approved unto God that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2:15) on truly is ‘working for God’. And God pays good wages that truly ‘supply all your need according to his in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19).
Sunday, 2 Nov. 2014
FROM SAMUEL TO TIMOTHY
Acts 16:1: Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess and believed, but his father was a Greek. Which was well reported of by the brethren which were at Lystra and Iconium. Him Paul would have go forth with him: and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they all knew his father was a Greek.
What do Samuel and Timothy have in common?
Both had mothers who believed and prayed for them – a godly heritage (1 Sam. 1:11, 2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15).
Both were young when called.
Both were called of the Lord for a PURPOSE (1 Sam. 3:19, 2 Tim. 1:9)
Both were ‘apprenticed’ to a man of God (Samuel to Eli, Timothy to Paul).
What is different in their respective callings?
Ministry: Eli could only help Samuel to initially hear and discern the Lord (1 Sam. 3:8-9). He was not an example to follow (1 Sam 3:12-13). By contrast Paul took Timothy with him to train him by example to be a minister of grace (2 Tim. 3:10, 3:14). Timothy was told to follow Paul.
Purpose: Samuel was a prophet and judge to Israel (1 Sam. 4:1). That included killing enemies such as Agag. (1 Sam. 15:33). Timothy like Paul was saved and called “with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his (the Father’s) own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began’. This purpose to preach the gospel of grace in which Christ Jesus who hath abolished death is seen appearing to bring life and immortality to light through the gospel’ (of the grace of God (2 Tim. 2:9-10). Timothy was to follow Paul in being ‘strong in grace’, not prophecy or mighty deeds.
Focus: Samuel’s focus was on Israel as the then embodiment of God’s kingdom on earth. He anointed Saul king, then David. Timothy’s focus, in following Paul, was to be on the Lord’s ‘heavenly kingdom’ (2 Tim. 2:4:18). But while Samuel’s ministry was restricted to Israel, Timothy’s, like Paul’s, was to all men (1 Tim. 2:1-2)
The word of the Lord: While Samuel as a prophet ‘heard from the Lord direct’ (1. Sam. 3:21, 8:7), Timothy learned the word and will of the Lord through the scriptures and from Paul, as do we today (2 Tim. 3:15, 2 Tim. 2:15, 2 Tim. 1:13). He was to continue in the doctrine and things he had learned from Paul (1 Tim. 4:16, 2 Tim. 3:14), ‘’knowing from whom he had learned them’. Thus both Timothy and all later believers are to continue to ‘know’ Paul and to not be ashamed of either the Lord’s testimony through or of his imprisonment (2 Tim. 1:8).
The gospel: Samuel’s was a gospel of judgement against idolatry in Israel. Timothy was a minister of the gospel in which God has done all things through grace (Eph. 2:5-6).
Today God is not calling anyone to be a prophet or even an apostle. We already have an apostle, Paul. But He is definitely calling many young people to be like Timothy, a minister of grace following the pattern set by the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 16, Titus 2:7).
Sunday, Nov. 30 2014
CONSCIENCE AND FAITH
2 Cor. 1:12:
Our rejoicing is the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with flesh wisdom, but by the grace of God we had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
1 Tim. 1:5:
Now the end of the commandment is charity (i.e. love for God and man) out of a good heart and of a good conscience and faith unfeigned.
1 Tim. 1:18-19:
War a good warfare … holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.
1 Tim. 3:9:
Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
We all know what happens when we disobey our conscience and sin. Usually trouble and sadness follow. Yes, by his grace we have been quickened (made alive unto God) and He has forgiven us all trespasses (Col. 2:13) but unless we by grace admit our sin and by grace turn from it we will find ourselves ‘putting away’ our conscience.
And this has the devastating effect of our going off course and ultimately making shipwreck of what we believe. Faith must be unfeigned, that is must be real, not pretended. And real faith can only be put in real truth – that is the doctrine of the grace of God and the mystery as revealed to the Apostle Paul. That is why Paul’s doctrine of grace as revealed in his prison epistles, and which Timothy fully knew along with Paul’s way of life and hoe the apostle obeyed his conscience, is described as the ‘mystery of the faith” in 1 Tim. 3:9.
How does one hold a good conscience? Answer: Believe all that God has revealed in scripture to us, especially the latest word from God to us Gentiles found in Ephesians through to Philemon, the body of the doctrine of grace. The walk of faith is an ongoing voyage of discovery with the Bible our chart and our conscience as compass. Studying scripture according to God’s command by rightly dividing and comparing it (2 Tim. 2:15, 1 Cor. 2:13), that is using ‘dividers’ to mark our course on the chart, as navigators do, will lead us into higher truths of grace.
As these are presented to us we face a choice. Either we grasp them as the latest word from God, which indeed they are, and set ourselves to believe and walk in them as our conscience would have us do, or we put our conscience away and settle instead for some ‘form of godliness, lacking the power thereof’ (2 Tim. 3:5). There we can join the big crowd, listen to self-help messages that scarcely quote the Bible and trust in a form of ritual and religion for our salvation. Paul called it for what it is, spiritual shipwreck.
However, should we heed our conscience concerning the faith we would come to see ‘the fellowship of the mystery’ as found in the verse below. The word here means fellowship with God and is so put as a translation of the Greek word for dispensation (found as such in Eph. 3:2, for example). Indeed it is by learning all that God has said in his word and particularly that which He is saying and doing now, different as it is from that which He said in the past, that we can truly fellowship with Him.
Eph. 3:8-9: Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of grace. And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.
And when we do (2 Cor. 1:12) we find that grace enables us to live in simplicity (single-mindedness of purpose) and in godly sincerity (fully obeying our conscience ,as indeed God does his) giving testimony to his goodness in the world.
For God really does want all men to see the fellowship of the mystery. Just because many believers reject the Pauline doctrine of ‘preaching Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery’ (Rom. 16:25) does not mean that God wants anyone to do likewise. Rather He ‘will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth’. For believers it’s a question of truly following their conscience.
But to do so means to be caught in a war – a battle for the truth of God’s word and his special revelation for Gentiles given to the Apostle Paul for us. Strangely, peace with God comes by taking a stand for such truth, not comprising on that which our conscience, informed by scripture, would have us hold fast to.
Other important statements and scriptures about the conscience:
Concordance compiler Cruden: The conscience is the faculty within us that decides the moral quality of our thoughts, words and acts. It gives consciousness of the good of one’s conduct and motives and causes feelings of remorse at wrong doing. It can be trained or educated to recognise good and distinguish it from evil but its action is involuntary. A good conscience has not feeling of reproach against oneself, does not accuse one of wrong doing.
Acts 24:16: And herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.
Acts 23: 1-2: I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
1 Cor. 8:7: Some with conscience of the idol eat it as a thing offered to an idol and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
1 Tim. 4:1-2: Some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their consciences seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from certain meats.
What trains and educates the conscience to be good? Ps 119:9: Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. Vs.11 Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.
Notice that in 1 Tim. 4:1-2 refraining from certain meats is a ‘doctrine of devils’. Yet it wasn’t for Israelites in the Old Testament. They were commanded not to eat of certain meats. But now such restrictions being part of the law have been abolished by Christ.