Sep 262013

Personal holinessI hope you have been finding my series on having a relationship with God useful. We have looked at prayer and bible study and more recently, worship. These are all excellent ways to develop our relationship with God.

This week I am going to look at how our personal holiness helps us to connect with God in a wonderfully personal way, as we pray, read our bibles and worship.

We have been created in God’s image and likeness. As His ambassadors to the world He wants us to reflect His image to all those we come into contact with.

As we get to know God and understand the impact of His grace on our lives, our desires change and we want to become more like Him. We want to ‘take off’ the things that He doesn’t like and ‘put on’ the things that please Him.

Personal holiness can be described as being set apart and devoted to God. It is the determination and commitment to allow these disciplines of prayer, bible study and worship to change us to become more like Him.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

God’s desire is that we grow in holiness. He commands in Leviticus 11:45:

I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.

He doesn’t ask us to do anything we are unable to do. He has given us His Holy Spirit. The consecration process happens as we willingly follow His ways and rely on Him to make us holy.

Devotion requires effort, not in order to win His favour or any other such thing, but out of a desire to please Him and give Him glory.

There are 3 things to consider when we look at the subject of “Personal Holiness”:

  • Personal holiness is a choice.
  • Personal holiness requires commitment.
  • Personal holiness is a lifestyle.

It’s a Battle

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The world is vying for our attention. Having become Christians we still find ourselves struggling against sin and temptation. In fact when you gave your life to Christ you entered into a war zone. (Take heart- you are on the winning side!)

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

We also see the warning that Jesus gives to Peter: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Reading these verses it is obvious that God holds us responsible to make the effort to be holy, but it is comforting to know that Jesus is praying for us and will help us, and of course as I have mentioned before, He has given us His precious Holy Spirit. Let’s invite Him this week to fill us and help us as we draw ever closer into this wonderful relationship with Him.

 September 26, 2013  Posted by at 10:33 pm Holiness, Holy Spirit No Responses »
Sep 192013

Worship-In-Spirit-And-In-TruthOver quite a number of weeks now we have been looking at how we can have an intimate relationship with God. We have looked at prayer and bible reading and this week I am going to continue with the whole subject of worship. I could talk for a long time on this topic, however I am going to simply highlight a few points to help us as we draw near to God.

Worship is a direct expression of our ultimate purpose for living. The Westminster shorter catechism says that ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.’

Because God is perfect, it is the most loving thing for Him to do to allow us to worship Him. The more we worship the more we are blessed. We become more complete as we worship and become to an ever increasing degree more like the one we are worshipping. We can’t of course ever reach His heights but we can take on more and more of His character as we spend more time with Him.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Worship has two key components, as we see in John 4:

■ Spirit

■ Truth

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 NIV)

Worship is not just a good idea or a nice thing to do, it is actually commanded in scripture. When Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness to worship him, Jesus replied swiftly:

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Not only does He command us to worship Him but He forbids us from worshipping anything or anyone else. Not obeying God’s command to worship Him is idolatry because the rejection of God as ruler stands at the base of every sin: we are by default rejecting God and lifting up something lesser in His place.

There are a great many worship CD’s that you can listen to and sing along to. You can download songs onto an MP3 player and worship in your lunch break, or play in the car when travelling to and from work.

(If you are not sure what music is good to help you worship, please contact me in the box below and I will send you some suggestions.)

You don’t have to be able to play an instrument or even to sing particularly well to be a worshipper; simply sing out to God what is in your heart. You will connect with Him like never before because that is what you were created for.

There is more healing joy in five minutes of worship than there is in five nights of revelry” (AW Tozer)

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose” (William Temple)

 September 19, 2013  Posted by at 11:34 pm Worship No Responses »
Sep 122013

Intimacy with God through worshipThis week in my series on developing a relationship with God, I will be looking at the whole subject of worship. This is a huge topic so I won’t be able to cover everything, but I hope to reveal how important worship is if we want to go deeper with God and know Him more intimately.

When you think about it, everybody can be considered to be a worshipper, whether they are religious or not. Everyone has something or someone they worship.

The object of peoples’ worship can be fairly obvious when we observe the tell-tale signs:

· What do they talk about most often?

· What do they spend most of their time doing?

· What do they spend all their money on?

The answers to those questions tell us what is being worshipped. It could literally be anything; a family pet, a car, a sports team, sex, even a political philosophy or something equally abstract.

Worship is in our DNA, we were made for it.

We were made to worship God. Worshipping God brings the greatest fulfilment, but conversely, worshipping other things will ultimately not satisfy. We can never get enough of what we are worshipping. We can spend ever more time, resources and energy pursuing personal satisfaction but if God is not the object of our affections there will always be something missing.

Growing in intimacy

For the Christian, worshipping God should be the natural inclination for a soul who has experienced overwhelming grace and mercy. Our response is to worship this great God who loves us, has pursued us and saved us, even though He knows what we are like.

In past weeks we have looked at the importance of prayer and bible study and worship can come out of these things. We can sometimes read something in the bible that in the moment takes our breath away and the logical and natural thing is to start to worship.

The place in the bible to start reading if we want to be drawn into worship is the book of Psalms. They follow the full gamut of human emotions, from despair to ecstatic joy, and they all teach us about God and His ways and how we can come to Him whatever situation we may find ourselves in.

Much more than just singing

We can quite easily have the idea that worship is mainly singing songs, however the bible is clear that it is so much more than that. We worship with our voices, yes, but also with our bodies, our hearts, our attitudes and our thoughts. We are worshipping God just as much when we are making honourable decisions that please God, when we resist temptation, act in a kindly way etc. as when we sing in church on Sunday.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:16, 17 NIV)

 September 12, 2013  Posted by at 9:35 pm Worship No Responses »
Sep 042013

Mistakes when reading the bibleThroughout the summer we have been looking at the subject of having a relationship with God. If you have been reading these posts, I hope you have been freshly inspired to a relationship with God, which actually is the purpose of our lives and the reason we were created.

We have spent some time on the subject of prayer, last week exploring the idea of reading our bibles as a way to find out what God wants to say to us, hence deepening His relationship with us.

The bible is a very big book and large parts of it can be difficult to understand. I wonder if you have ever started reading from the beginning and by the time you have reached the book of Leviticus, really started to struggle? There are a number of hurdles we can face, along with mistakes we can make while approaching and reading the bible. Allow me to address some of these mistakes here:

1. Reading the Bible without prayer.

The bible is a spiritual book, so it is a mistake to read it like any other book. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to properly understand it, and to accurately apply it. Therefore praying for God’s help and understanding is vital and a good habit to get into both before we read, enabling us to hear God speak to us, and after we have finished reading, to help us apply His truth to our lives.

2. Getting tripped up by the things we don’t understand.

While we’re reading the Bible, it is very common to come across passages or verses that we simply don’t understand. The best thing to do is to read the whole passage through and try to get the gist of what is being said. If you are still struggling, have a look through a good commentary or ask a friend. I would avoid ‘googling’, especially initially as there are some really whacky ideas on the internet. Get your small group leader or someone you trust in the church to point you in the right direction.

We must remember that the bible was written a very long time ago and we need to understand the historical and cultural context.

3. Don’t read too fast.

You shouldn’t read the bible quickly, as you would a novel. However, some parts you can, for example when a story is being told. Other parts need to be read slowly. I have known people spend weeks on just a couple of verses. If you combine your reading with prayer (as mentioned in point 1 above) you will be amazed at what God will reveal to you, sometimes through passages you’ve read many times before.

4. Applying Old Testament laws personally.

The bible is a book where God’s plans have been given greater clarity over time and so we need to be aware of which laws are still relevant now and which have been superseded, for example, the 10 commandments are still very much relevant to today. However, many of the dietary laws, such as not eating pork, have been done away with. We are now in a new covenant. As in point number 2, if you are unsure, ask someone you trust in your church or read a good commentary.

5. Reading the Bible out of context.

This has been a huge problem throughout church history. The problem arises when people approach the bible with their own agenda. A classic example is the Jehovah’s witnesses who seem unable to come to terms with the fact that God is one and yet three distinct persons, thereby re-interpreting parts to fit what they want the bible to say. It is important that we take time to read the context and the historical setting of every book of the bible before we actually begin, in order to have an understanding of who the book was written to, when it was written, and what the surrounding context of the writing of that book was. This will go a long way to understanding what is actually being said. There will always be minor disagreements when we are not quite sure what the writer meant, but if we take the passage in the context of other passages (as long as they don’t disagree) we should be ok.

And finally . . .

6. Reading the Bible without taking it personally.

Sometimes I can read the bible in the same way I do other non-fiction books – in order to gain information. But if I start with the first point of praying before and after I read, I will be much more likely to discern what God is telling me right now. The bible describes the word of God as living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). If I come to it knowing that God’s desire is to communicate with me through it, I will be a lot more likely to take it personally.

I believe that if we take into consideration the above points we will experience far greater depths of revelation and insight as we delve into the delights that our Father is waiting to share with us through His word. Enjoy!

 September 4, 2013  Posted by at 10:37 pm Bible 1 Response »