Nov 272015
 

Teaching the commandmentsTherefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)

The 4 verses that we are currently looking at (verses 17 to 20) are a little introduction to what Jesus is leading on to talk about in His next part of ‘the sermon on the mount.’ They are very important but also hotly debated. I will set out my viewpoint this week on what I believe that Jesus is teaching. You may disagree, but we won’t fall out will we? I’m open to being shown where I may be wrong (as long as it’s in a loving and gracious way).

Jesus is speaking to the crowd in response to the Pharisees’ accusation that He was trying to abolish the Law of God. Jesus refutes this accusation, saying that actually He is not abolishing it but fulfilling it. He is not talking about any specific part of the law, like the 10 commandments, or He would have clarified that in verses 17 & 18, but He is talking about the whole of the Old Testament (law and the prophets).

He is not abolishing what has gone before but fulfilling or complementing them, filling them out and finishing them. Jesus completes the Law and the Prophets, the Old Covenant Scriptures, in three ways:

1) He completes their predictions or the prophecies given about Him and His work

2) He fulfilled the righteous requirements

3) He brings a new reality to the Old Testament shadows, He brings clarity to what they were pointing towards and suggesting.

That is why He is not abolishing them, because after all they are perfect.

I have read many interpretations of this verse which say that Jesus is still asking us to keep the requirements of the law, especially the moral code, such as the 10 commandments. He has just gotten rid of the rest but left those.

It is so important though, that we balance this scripture with other scriptures which speak about the law not ruling us anymore. For example, Romans 7 is very clear about this. In verse 4 it states that a Christian has ‘died to the law’ and verse 6 that we have been ‘released’ from it. That means the whole lot, not just part of it. If that is the case, what does this verse mean?

It is quite possible that when Jesus says ‘These commandments’ he is referring to the principles he is going to set out in the rest of His sermon. This could be what is referred to as “The law of Christ.” Jesus is about to set out some principles and ways of living that will please Him. We don’t have to do anything, but as those who are following Him, if we have truly repented and had our hearts changed, our desire will be to please Him. The Old law was a list of regulations we had to keep through a sense of duty. This new way is entirely different because it has been written on our hearts.

Notice that it doesn’t say that the person who relaxes any of these commandments would lose their salvation. It says that they would be considered least. A true Christian cannot lose their salvation but they can miss all that God has for them through all sorts of reasons. The person who teaches others well and gives themselves to Christ’s kingdom will receive rewards. This is clearly shown in many bible verses, such as:

Colossians 3:23-24, Romans 2:6, 1 Corinthians 2:9, 1 Corinthians 15:58, Hebrews 11:6 and many others.

I hope you count yourself blessed that you are living on this side of the law. We are living in the age of Grace where Christ has paid the full penalty. He has done it all for us and we can just live in the good of it. Praise His name.

 November 27, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 202015
 

HeavenAndEarthFor truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)

Last week we looked at the statement of Jesus; that he had not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them. The law and the prophets is another way of saying the whole of the Old Testament. The reason why Jesus made this statement was because He was aware that He was making some very provocative and radical statements and His listeners could well have thought that He was going to do away with all that had gone before. Actually it was quite the opposite, there was nothing wrong at all with the law, it was the people who were trying to obey it who came up short.

Jesus didn’t abandon the law, He actually defined what it really meant. In the process He even raised the bar by saying it wasn’t about outward appearance but what was in the heart. It was no longer necessary to just avoid murdering someone for example, you now had to not even have anger in your heart!

Jesus goes on to further define in verse 18 what he meant by fulfilling the law in verse 17.

Firstly He starts with a phrase that Jesus often used, “truly I say to you”. This can be translated in many ways; “Verily I tell you”, “I tell you the truth”, “for I assure you”, “Amen I say to you”, “I can guarantee this truth”, “for most certainly I tell you.”

Do you get the point? Jesus is saying something that He wanted His listeners to take notice of. We know that whatever He says is true, but His hearers, who were perhaps unsure, needed to sit up and listen.

Secondly, what did He mean by saying “until heaven and earth pass away”? Well this refers to the future when all has been wrapped up. All prophecies have been fulfilled and everyone has been judged. The former things have finished and the new heavens and new earth are upon us. Death has been defeated, sickness and sorrow is no more. Every Christian has their glorified bodies which are not subject to decay. At that time there will be no more need of the law. We will live in the presence of God with any thought of sinning a distant memory extinguished from our minds.

Until that point not an iota or a dot will be changed. So what are an iota and a dot? Well an iota is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet. The dot or as it is sometimes referred to as the ‘tittle’ refers to a tiny mark used in Hebrew letters that is shaped like a hook. As small as the dot on an i. The point is that there is nothing wrong with any of it, even the tiniest part. It was all instigated by God as His perfect standard. How could it be anything but perfect?

“All is accomplished” means literally “until all has occurred or everything is completed.” This is going back and emphasising what Jesus said in verse 17 about fulfilling the law. It does not merely refer to Jesus’ role as a teacher of the law, but as a fulfiller of prophecy and one who obeyed the moral law completely. He came to realise every prophecy and pass every test, to lead the way and accomplish every last stroke of the pen on the law’s statute books. He has fulfilled it all perfectly.

The question to leave you this week is “Do you trust Him? The one who has accomplished everything necessary in the law so that you don’t have to, or are you trying to fill in the gaps?

 November 20, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 142015
 

As I sit here and watch the tragic unfolding events of violence and mayhem in Paris, I feel compelled to write something. We all react to such events in many different ways; anger, despair, sadness, indifference or just a sense of relief that it didn’t happen to us.

When I glance through social media, I see many ‘over’ reactions, often quite hurtful and unnecessary.

As a Christian for many years now, I have discovered that the bible offers many answers and wisdom about how to react to tragic events that happen. I want to humbly share some of these observations now in the hope that it will help you come to terms with this heart-rending event and others that will inevitably happen in the future.

Firstly, this event is no surprise to God. Not that He agrees with these barbaric acts, but he uses them in an amazing way to fulfill his own purposes. It is comforting to know that God knows the end from the beginning, He sees the big picture. We may not understand, but the fact that He does is really comforting.

When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (Mark 13:7)

Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. (Isaiah 46:10)

The second hope I can give you is that evil will not prevail. Sometimes it seems that it is prevailing rather too much, but again, God is in control. King David says it well in Psalm 21 v 8-11

Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man. Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.

That brings me to a third point – The battle is not ours. Unless we are in the armed forces, we are not to fight against people. It is not people we are fighting against anyway;

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

As followers of Jesus, He is our supreme example. We are to be like Him in our reactions. Jesus showed love to His enemies and that is to be our reaction too. I don’t know how people can call Christianity a crutch for the weak, because it is one of the hardest things to do; to forgive perpetrators of evil, to turn the other cheek, to seek to bless our enemies, but those are the things we are called to do.

Our natural, fallen reaction is to speak against people who we perceive to be behind these atrocities, to spit bile and vent our fury. We might even be tempted to speak angrily against Muslim’s, but that is not the way. We need to be people who are above all of that. We don’t have to agree with Muslim’s to love them. We should love them as our neighbours and seek for ways to be kind because we are representing Jesus. Have you ever thought that they may be just as ashamed and embarrassed about radical Muslim’s as we are about money grabbing Tele-evangelists from our own camp?

Finally, we are called to pray. The hashtag #prayforparis is trending massively on twitter at the moment and the majority is used by people that I wouldn’t even have thought would believe in God. It shows the desperation in the human soul, a reflection that we are made in God’s image, that we need to do something to help these poor souls who are suffering.

Christians who are reading this – If people who don’t even know God are trying to contact some nameless benefactor in the sky, how much more should we, who know this father of compassion and mercy, be praying? We know He acts, we know He is the only hope, we know those desperately searching for comfort will receive His care. We know that He is the only answer.

I can understand being overwhelmed by the enormity of what is happening and wondering what to start praying about, so here are a few pointers:

(1) Pray for peace – In the hearts of those who are suffering, grieving families, those who have had their lives turned upside down. Pray for peace in the hearts of those who are hell bent on revenge and would seek to take it from inappropriate places.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

(2) Pray for world leaders – For the French government and for those governments that advise them. Pray that they would receive wisdom and look to how their reaction will affect future generations in 5, 10, 20 years from now.

Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:2) (NLT)

(3) Pray that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

(4) Pray for the police and intelligence services that they would be led to potential threats before they even happen

(5) Pray for radical members of ISIS that their eyes will be open to the evil they are committing. Pray that the brainwashing would cease to be effective, that those in authority in the Muslim community would speak out.

(6) Pray that God will bring comfort and healing

(7) Pray that the will of God will prevail, that He will turn this evil on its head and bring good out of this desperate situation.

It’s very easy to switch off and pretend it is not happening, to turn off the TV and block it all out, but we are called to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world and to bring good in the face of a whole lot of evil. Be ready to speak to those with questions, to bring comfort to the anxious and peace to the troubled. To be like Jesus to those around us.

As I was considering what to write, I started meditating on Psalm 37, which is a great Psalm to consider in this present climate. Why not look it up?

God bless, Adrian.

 November 14, 2015  Posted by at 1:32 pm Paris attacks, Peace, Pray for Paris No Responses »
Nov 132015
 

Abolishing the lawDo not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

In our ‘Sermon on the mount’ series we are now changing tack and looking at Jesus’ next point. We have looked already at ‘the beatitudes’ and then following on from that the fact that Christians are to be salt and light in the society we live in. Now we look at a subject that has caused the Christian world much consternation for a very long time…. ‘The law’. Opinion has been sharply divided on a scale of 2 extremes. At one end of the scale we are still to keep all the law, sliding through keeping certain parts of it, until you get to the other end of ignoring it completely, it has no relevance!

Opinion is divided mainly because the bible appears to contradict itself. I say “appears” because actually, as you might expect, it doesn’t. It depends how you interpret it.

I want to make this as simple as I can;

The law was instigated by God, therefore it is perfect. In reality it was a standard set that nobody on earth could obtain, except one man in the whole of history. The law was really there to show how perfect God is and how we cannot even begin to get near to His standard. On top of that, any falling below the standard means death. You only get life if you keep the whole thing. You might say “That sounds really cruel?” Well yes, if you left it like that it would do.

We of course know that Jesus was that one man, the only one who could keep it. The amazing part is that He kept it on our behalf. When we trust in Him and put our faith in Him, it is like we have kept it. That is why it is really silly to trust in Him and then try to keep certain parts in our own strength. If we can’t keep it all it’s no point in trying to keep some, it’s all or nothing.

This is the dangerous part, because if that is really true, we can do anything we like. Well yes we can, but in the act of handing over our lives to Jesus, when we trust in Him we get a new heart, a heart that now wants to please Him. We keep the spirit of the law because we want to. It’s no longer a set of rules and regulations but a set of opportunities to please Him.

This is what Jesus meant when He said He had not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it. He fulfilled it by keeping every last bit of it, the whole lot, He didn’t miss crossing a t or dotting an i. His life was a perfect example of keeping the law.

So the question is not now “should I obey that law or not?” but “what good things can I do to please Jesus?” A completely different perspective.

 November 13, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Nov 062015
 

Let your light shineIn the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

In the last few weeks we have looked at how Christians can be an influence in society. We looked at 2 metaphors; being salt and light. This next verse today shows how we, as the “light of the world,” should be radiating that light. We shine before others as we demonstrate those characteristics of true Christianity, ‘the beatitudes’ which immediately precede these verses.

This verse today tells us that our faith should be open and transparent. We’ve already considered the futility of putting our light under a bowl or a basket. Our Christianity is to shine out beyond the four walls of our church buildings and beyond our cosy communities. That is when we will make a difference.

Light shines best when it is in darkness, it contrasts more in dark places. Shine a torch on a bright sunny day and you won’t be able to see it, but shine it in pitch black and it lights up the surroundings. It’s all very well being a good light when we are in church but the important time to shine is in the times when we are going about our everyday lives and mixing in some dark places. Our light shines brightest when we act or react in ways that are different to the world. This involves; being forgiving, turning the other cheek, preferring others, showing kindness etc.

This is true evangelism. It does worry me sometimes that we can get so confused about ‘doing’ evangelism. We can get the idea into our heads that evangelism is something we do on certain occasions when we might knock on doors or hand out tracks in the street or go treasure hunting. We step out of our church safety net for a short time, being a bit brave for a while and then retreat back into our comfort zone again. Those things I’ve mentioned aren’t bad, they’ve produced amazing fruit, but that is not how they did it in the New Testament, nor how we should do it now. We should shine every day through a radical lifestyle that shines bright in dark places.

I’ve noticed that many Christians get quite twitchy when it comes to talking about good works. We are desperate to get away from any idea of salvation by works and so we down play the importance of good works. We hammer the point home that we are saved only by grace, through faith and this is absolutely true, but if that thought was held in isolation we miss an awful lot. The truth is that after receiving such an amazing gift, our inclination is to do good works through immense gratitude. Also, if we’ve truly encountered the gospel and the immensity of what God’s rescued us from, we must surely realise that we couldn’t even begin to pay God back. The third reason, is that this gift of salvation is far too important to keep to ourselves. We do good works to demonstrate to others just how amazing God’s love is in the hope that they will discover it for themselves.

In the bible there are commonly 2 Greek words meaning ‘good’. Firstly there is ‘agathos’ which basically means good in quality. Secondly, there is ‘kalos’ which goes beyond something that is just good, but also has the feeling of something being; winsome, beautiful and attractive. The word for good here in this passage is the second one, ‘kalos.’ The good deeds of a Christian are to be done in such a kind, selfless, merciful and loving manner that they support the message of the gospel. They are to adorn the gospel of Christ.

What an amazing thought that our humble good deeds can bring glory to God. Have you ever considered that? Every decision we make for good, every time temptation is resisted, every tongue held in control, when we calm ourselves when just about to explode, all of these occasions and many more besides bring glory to God because our light is shining that little bit brighter.

If you don’t think that one person can make that much of a difference, I’ll finish on a story that the American president Woodrow Wilson tells of a chance encounter with the famous evangelist DL Moody. He was a man who was committed to God and determined that his light would be strong;

This is Woodrow Wilson’s testimony; “I was sitting in a barber chair when I became aware that a powerful personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with what was being done to me I was aware I had attended an evangelistic service, because Mr. D. L. Moody was in that chair. I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular affect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop. They talked in undertones. They did not know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship.

Have this in your thoughts as you live your life, that a Christian’s life is a window through which others can see Jesus. You can shine as bright as you want to be.

 November 6, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »