Sep 192014

Fruit of the spirit joyGod wants us to be joyful. It reflects His own character and it reflects well on Him when His people are full of joy. In John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”. He is not talking here about happiness, which is more of an emotion dependant upon how you are feeling. Jesus is talking about true joy, which is deep and found only in God: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures for evermore”. (Psalm 16:11).

Some Christians often appear so miserable and yet try to convince us that they are full of joy. I’m sorry but I for one am not convinced. I know that joy is a deep feeling but it is also a feeling that is hard to suppress. When you really know joy you can’t help but have a smile on your face. Jesus would have been a joyful person. I know He was called a ‘man of sorrows’ which is true, but this title mainly refers to His last traumatic week on earth. If Jesus had been sorrowful all the time, nobody would have wanted to spend any time with Him. This was clearly not the case as even the miserable Pharisees invited Him to dinner many times. Jesus was full of the joy of the Holy Spirit and it was infectious.

As I was preparing to write about this subject I listened to a really good sermon from one of my favourite preachers, Andrew Wilson, entitled ‘fight for joy’. Andrew makes a number of really helpful suggestions on how we can increase our joy:

(1) Make joy in God your first priority

The evangelist and preacher George Muller said “My first duty every morning is to get happy in God because until I am, I am no use to anybody”. Great advice indeed!

(2) Know yourself and make the joy of God a discipline

Find out what helps you connect with God and make a discipline of it. You may find it easier to read and pray at certain times of the day, by going for a walk and looking at creation or anything else that helps you personally connect with Him.

(3) Put Jesus before all other things in your life

(4) Give yourself to others

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10). It’s amazing what a mutually beneficial discipline encouragement and service for others is. It’s one of God’s mysterious laws that as you give yourself to others, you receive so much more in return.

(5) Use electronic media wisely

On the internet nowadays you can pick up some amazing worship music and listen to great sermons that feed your soul, but on the flip side there are many unhelpful sites that will quickly rob you of joy. Wisdom is the key.

(6) Choose to spend time with people who increase your joy in God

There are some people who you can spend time with and then come away feeling encouraged, built up and strengthened. Make sure you spend enough time with them; there are others that can suck the joy right out of you!

(7) Get the relationship of body and soul the right way round

This is particularly true of British Christians. What I mean by this is: don’t just wait until you feel great to praise Him. Sometimes you need to say “bless the Lord O my soul”. It comes down to a decision of the will. The feelings will come later but we are not to rely on them.

(8) Read, meditate on and memorise scripture

(9) Fast occasionally

Jesus assumes we will fast (Matthew 6:17), but not at all out of a sense of duty as this would have the opposite effect, stealing our joy rather than increasing it.

(10) Speak positively

What we say has enormous power. Many of our problems in life are caused by listening to ourselves rather than talking to ourselves.

(11) Get baptised in the Holy Spirit again and again.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a ‘one off’ event to help you when you start out your Christian life. We need the Holy Spirit’s power and anointing every day!

(12) Remind yourself of the weight of glory

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Keep your eye on the prize! When we look to Jesus and trust Him our troubles never seem so bad. When we fix our eyes on what is to come, the things we struggle with now will be seen in a right perspective.

I hope you have found these points useful. If you have anything else to add, please feel free to make a comment in the box below. Let us be those who glorify God by being joyful and showing our complete devotion to Him. Share the joy!

 September 19, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, joy 1 Response »
Sep 122014

FruitoftheSpirit01LoveTitleIt is generally accepted that the English language contains more words and is richer than almost any other language. It is believed that Shakespeare alone invented (or used for the first time in print) more than 1700 words. It is a shame then that we only have one word for “love”. Love can mean a multitude of things. It is sad that we find ourselves saying “I love you” in an amazing moment of intimacy with the person we have committed our whole life to, yet in the same breath saying “I love pizza”. The meanings are worlds apart.

Thankfully (in this instance) the New Testament was written in Greek rather than English. There are at least 4 different definitions for the word “love” in Greek. The passage we are concentrating on for the fruit of the spirit is Galatians 5:22-23. Here the Greek word for love is ‘agápē’. This type of love is not based on feelings but on a choice to love, not expecting anything in return. It is commitment and it is sacrificial. Our society focuses on the other kind of love, the love translated as ‘érōs’. This is the passionate physical attraction, the romantic love full of desire and longing. This is the sort of love referred to when we say ‘love at first sight’, which by definition cannot be agápē love. For this reason we can get very confused. Sadly we often hear married couples talk of ‘falling out of love’. This cannot be agápē love either. If love is a commitment and self-sacrificial you cannot carelessly ‘fall out of it’.

The love we are talking about in this passage is God’s love. It is not just a description of God; it is the very core of His character. Of course you can describe Him in a myriad of ways, but His essence is love.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”. (1 John 4:8)

The very description of this kind of love is beautifully summed up by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, one of the most famous passages of love:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

This passage is very popular at weddings because it sounds so wonderful, but of course this sort of love is very difficult to attain. It requires dedication and commitment and a constant preferring of the other person.

As I said last week (and will probably repeat right throughout this series), we cannot make fruit grow. We cannot, by will power or effort, produce the fruit of love in our lives. It is a fruit of God the Holy Spirit, a supernatural fruit that can only ripen when we are fully submitted to His will and are ‘abiding’ in Him. God’s kind of love is very difficult to achieve without Him. We do sometimes see people who don’t believe in God give this kind of sacrificial love in society and I believe this is because we are all made in His image. There is something inside of us that recognises that this kind of love is a beautiful thing and therefore people will try to replicate it.

This self-giving love is clearly God’s love, as we read through the pages of the bible it is in evidence again and again. But the clearest indication of God’s love is plainly seen at the cross. God’s ultimate act of self-giving was made when He Himself came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a humble sacrificial life and died a hideous death. He did this when it was impossible for us to save ourselves, He did it even when we were His enemies and didn’t want to know Him:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NIV)

And this most famous passage of all:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16)

Because we are now children of God and have been given a new nature, we can now demonstrate a degree of our Father’s love, again not from our own efforts but because He has changed our hearts. Consider the following passages and whether you would ever be able to live up to these standards in your own strength:

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35).
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

It is very apt that we start this series with love, not simply because it is the first one listed but because it is really necessary to be in evidence for the rest of the fruit to function and grow. I can’t imagine any of the other fruit working without love being apparent. Let’s this week spend lots of time in God’s presence so that His love and desires rub off on us. In the same way as plants spend time in the sun-they are fed and cannot help but grow, so as we spend time in the Son we too shall be fed and growth will naturally occur.

 September 12, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, Love No Responses »
Sep 052014

fruit of the spiritI hope you enjoyed my series on the names and titles of Jesus. I had no idea how long it was going to last and in the end it was 36 blogs, a full 8 months. I’m thinking of adapting them into a kindle book but that’s for another time. I quite like doing series on a specific topic and so whilst I was chatting with my wife Liz about what I should do next, she suggested “why not do the fruit of the Holy Spirit?”. I thought that would be a great idea. So for the next 10 weeks we will look at each of the 9 fruit in turn and hopefully our socks will be blessed right off! (Incidentally, if you have an idea about anything you would like me to cover, why not contact me by clicking on the ‘contact me’ button at the top? It would be great to hear from you).

The fruit of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…”

I hope you’ll agree that this is a good list to spend some time on. It’s important to understand where this list comes in context with the rest of the chapter (and the book). The apostle Paul is writing and at the very start of this chapter he sums up the essence of what he is about to talk about:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

This chapter is all about choices. We can either try to do everything in our own strength, relying on ourselves (referred to here as ‘the flesh’) or we can walk by the Spirit-fully relying on God’s strength. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you will know that these two desires are constantly at war within us. Before Paul gets onto the fruit of the Spirit though, he contrasts them with the works of the flesh:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Not a very wholesome list as I am sure you will agree. But we are warned that if we don’t walk by the Spirit, some of these unsavoury characteristics will become evident in our own lives. If we are closely walking by the Spirit it is therefore much more likely that the good fruit will start to develop within us. As is so often the case, what is true in the natural is often mirrored in the spiritual. So just as a plant develops lovely fruit when there is good soil and water and is tended correctly, so these 9 spiritual fruit will grow and develop as we are richly nourished and watered by God’s Holy Spirit. (Have a read of John 15:1-11 to see Jesus explain this concept.)

Interestingly the Greek word for ‘fruit’ here is ‘karpos’ which is singular; it is “fruit” not “fruits”. There is unity connected to this fruit, it doesn’t grow in isolation-one fruit big and juicy and another next to it, withering. No, walking with the Spirit makes them all grow, you can’t pick and choose (if you’ll pardon the fruit picking pun!).

Another thing to consider is that we in ourselves cannot make fruit grow. There is an element where we get all the conditions right but we can’t ‘make’ it grow. It is God the Holy Spirit who does all the work. Compare this with the ‘works’ of the flesh, whereby we walk in the flesh and by doing so, ‘weeds’ grow through our sinful actions.

As we look at each fruit in turn and discover what each one means and looks like, consider this: when we became Christians each of these fruits were placed like seeds within us. When we were placed within Christ our whole nature was changed. The seeds are all there within us; it’s now time to walk by the Spirit and see them develop and grow. Are you ready?

 September 5, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Fruit of the spirit, Holy Spirit No Responses »
Aug 292014

SaviourThe concept that Jesus is a saviour is one of the most fundamental ideas in the whole of the bible. Becoming a Christian means you have acknowledged your need of a saviour in the first place and recognised that Jesus is the only one who can save you.

I would imagine that most people who read this blog are already Christians, but if you are not and are interested in discovering more, then this blog should explain some of the basics of the Christian faith. If you are a Christian, then it’s never a bad idea to go back to the reasons why you followed Jesus in the first place.

A saviour is somebody who rescues a person who is in big trouble and is unable to save themselves.

Every one of us needs a saviour because we are all in big trouble. We have placed ourselves in the wrath of God because of our sin, which means we basically go our own way with no regard to God. We haven’t just ignored God; we have been wilfully disobedient. The bible says that because of this sin each one of us deserves death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is the payment for our disobedience. Earlier on in Romans it also makes clear that we are all in the same boat: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are no exceptions, we are sinners in our very nature, our whole bias is towards disobedience and the choices we make on a daily basis prove that bias within us.

We would never be able to save ourselves even if we wanted to. We would need to lead a perfect life from the start to stand any chance of achieving our salvation. As the old saying goes ‘nobody is perfect’- and here lies the problem. And here is precisely where Jesus comes in. Jesus is God and is therefore perfect. As God, He stepped into history and became a man. God put flesh on. In the most supreme sacrificial and loving act of kindness in the whole of history, God ‘picked up the tab’ for our sin. He went all the way and died a brutal death on a cross for us. He was dead and buried until the third day when He rose again, proving His victory over death and sealing our salvation.

However, this salvation only becomes a reality when we believe what God has done for us and repent of our sins. This great news is called the ‘gospel’ and in Romans 1:16 it says that this gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This great news is something far too great to keep to ourselves and so our saviour commanded us in Mark 16:15-16 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

There are 3 main points I want to make about Jesus as our saviour:

· For everyone – His offer of salvation is for everyone: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoeverbelieves in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

· Only through Jesus – There is no-one else who can save us: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

· Safe and secure – He is not going to let you go: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25). “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

If you have read through this and wondered whether to accept Jesus as your saviour I urge you to follow Him now:

For he says, “In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

If you have made a commitment through this blog, I would love to hear from you and help you follow Jesus more closely, so please contact me.

This seems to be a really good place to finish on this ‘names of Jesus’ series. We have been looking at this topic for about 9 months now and there are still many more aspects of His character to discover, but I hope, like me, you have learned a whole lot more and have come to appreciate this wonderful Jesus, the God/man, in a whole new light.

 August 29, 2014  Posted by at 12:21 pm Names of Jesus, Salvation No Responses »
Aug 222014

Lamb of God John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. He appears in the New Testament but he was the last great prophet of the Old Testament, in the mould of Elijah, Jeremiah and Isaiah. The first we see of him is in John’s gospel, where he makes an amazing statement which later on it appears he has not fully understood himself. But in a moment of divine inspiration he calls out: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He uses this same statement again the next day in John 1:36. These are the only two times in the whole bible where Jesus is addressed directly as ‘The lamb of God’ but that being so doesn’t take away from the fact that this title, in relation to Jesus, is absolutely packed with meaning and significance.

The system of sacrificing animals is a constant theme throughout the bible. The concept of an animal being killed instead of a human stretches right back to ‘the fall’ where Adam and Eve first sin and then are thrown out of the garden. If you remember, to cover their nakedness, God makes garments of animal skins (Genesis 3:21). These were probably the first animals killed in sacrifice and many many more were to follow. It’s horrible to think of all these animals being killed, but it is a violent image that serves to show graphically how seriously God views sin and how tragic the consequences are.

There were all sorts of sacrifices in the Old Testament; burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings and guilt offerings. But they were all necessary to make atonement for (pay for) people’s sins.

These sacrifices all pointed ultimately to Jesus, who would be the sacrifice to end them all. In a poignant picture of that final sacrifice, Abraham was called by God to sacrifice his own son on mount Moriah. Speaking prophetically about Jesus, Abraham declares, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8). Isaac is spared as God provides a ram stuck in a thicket to be used as a sacrifice instead, but the one to end all sacrifices was still to be provided.

Another event in the Old Testament which pointed towards Jesus in a significant way was the first Passover in Exodus 12. A lamb was to be taken for each family and killed. The blood was to be spread on the doorposts and above the door and the lamb was to be roasted and eaten. The angel of death would then “pass over” each house “covered” by the lamb’s blood. This event and the ritual that surrounded it was packed full of meaning as a picture of Christ ‘the lamb of God’ and also as a picture of the event that superseded it in the New Testament, ‘the last supper’.

The picture of the coming ultimate sacrificial lamb continues in the Old Testament in the prophetic writings, particularly in Isaiah and Jeremiah:

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).

“But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” (Jeremiah 11:19).

Finally, at the end of the bible in the book of Revelation, Jesus is revealed as a slain lamb:

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain”. (Revelation 5:6).

This image is there because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Every single lamb that was killed before that event was killed in anticipation of that final momentous occasion. Jesus’ death was enough to pay for the sins of every person who has ever lived because He is God. He is the only one worthy to pay the price. He is the greatest, the ultimate, the one crowned with all glory and honour. This is why the whole of creation bows down to Him:

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

He is the lamb that we now gladly worship for all that He’s done.

There are lots of great songs about Jesus being the lamb of God, but here is one I am particularly enjoying at the moment

 August 22, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Aug 152014

BridegroomIt’s a real honour to receive a wedding invitation. It means that the bride or groom (or both) want you to share in their special day; to enjoy the food and wine, participate in all the activities and be a part of that memorable day.

Many of the titles of Jesus we have examined in this series have been those given to Him by others. ‘Bridegroom’, however, is one of the names He uses about Himself. The disciples of John the Baptist had come to Jesus asking why He and His disciples were not fasting. Jesus’ answer was that the wedding guests could not fast as long as the bridegroom was with them. However, He then went on to say that the days would come when the bridegroom would be taken away, and then they would fast (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35). It is quite clear from the context that Jesus was talking about Himself.

There are quite a few references to weddings in the parables of Jesus. In Matthew 25:1-13 we have the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. The insinuation here is that Jesus is the bridegroom they are waiting for. Along with numerous other references in the New Testament to Jesus being a bridegroom, the disciple John writes about the wedding supper of the Lamb (who is Jesus) in Revelation:

“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7)

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9)

It’s in the book of Revelation where it is made clear that the bride is in fact the church. The apostle Paul speaks of his purpose for the church at Corinth and continues this theme by saying, “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband….” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Behind these pictures of Jesus as the Bridegroom and the church as the Bride, is the rich tradition of the Jewish marriage customs. These help us to understand more fully what the bible is saying because being engaged in that culture was a lot different to how it is now.

Alfred Edersheim, a famous Jewish historian who converted to Christianity, wrote: “In Judea there were at every marriage two groomsmen or friends of the bridegroom, one for the bridegroom and the other for the bride. Before marriage, they acted as a kind of intermediaries between the couple; at the wedding they offered gifts, waited upon the bride and bridegroom, and attended them to the bridal chamber, being also, as it were, guarantors of the bride’s virgin chastity.”

The apostle Paul thought of himself in this same manner, as a sort of intermediary for the marriage between the church at Corinth and Christ. He knew that his task was to present that church in virgin purity and fidelity to Jesus Christ the Bridegroom. In Ephesians 5:22-23, Paul compares the marriage relationship between man and woman to the relationship which must exist between Christ and the Church.

However, there is another important aspect to the relationship between the bridegroom and the bride. It was customary for Jewish weddings to be preceded by a rather lengthy period of what we would call an engagement. During this time the man and woman were not married, but were betrothed, or engaged to each other. But a betrothal in Jewish culture was completely different from the period of engagement in our culture. Our society views the engagement as simply a mere promise to marry, but in Jewish society the betrothal was such a solemn commitment that it took a writing of divorce, based on the unfaithfulness of one party or the other, to dissolve. During the betrothal, it was not uncommon for the two parties to be called husband and wife (Matthew 1:18-25), and certainly to be called the bridegroom and the bride. After the period of betrothal was over the marriage ceremony would take place, and the couple would then be bound together in marriage by the laws of God.

Even in the Old Testament we see references to God’s people being the Bride of God. Hosea hears God say to Israel: “I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness, in justice, in steadfast love, (Hosea 2:19-20). Isaiah says: Your Maker is your husband; the Lord of host is his name, (Isaiah 54:5). As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.(Isaiah 62:5).

When we see how God’s people constantly followed after other gods and abandoned the one true God we can begin to realise what an act of betrayal that was and how God the father would be so angry that His son’s bride was acting like a prostitute! It also makes it easier to see what the bible means when we read that God is a ‘Jealous’ God: “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…” (Exodus 20:5. See also Exodus 34:14 and Deuteronomy 5:9; 6:15).

True love is always exclusive; no one can be totally in love with two people at the same time – no lover can bear to share his loved one with someone else. To say that God is a jealous God is to say that He loves the souls of men to the extent that He cannot tolerate even the thought of sharing that love with another.

To think of Jesus as the Bridegroom and God as the lover of the souls of mankind, sheds a flood of light on the entire relationship between God and man. Our relationship is not like being subjects to the king, or servants to the master, but like a betrothed wife to her future bridegroom. This type of relationship contains certain essential elements:

Faithfulness. God will never be unfaithful to us, and we must never be unfaithful to Him. We need to realise that in this context our sins are not just a breach of the law but a crime against love. The sinner does not break God’s law so much as he breaks God’s heart.

Intimacy.As in all strong relationships, there is closeness and oneness. This is no different to our relationship with Jesus. The more time we spend with Him the more intimately we will know Him.

Trust. We must trust the love of God as much as we would trust the love of someone nearest and dearest to us. And God expects that same kind of trust from us. Disloyalty to God and to Jesus Christ is something that should never cross our minds.

Unbreakable.The marriage relationship is intended to last a lifetime. Our relationship with Jesus should never be thought of as something that can be broken if for some reason it does not work out. It is to be considered a bond that will last throughout all eternity.

Therefore, when we see Jesus pictured as the Bridegroom and we are pictured as the Bride, we have before us one of the most loving and intensely beautiful portraits of all.

 August 15, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Aug 082014

Sun of righteousness “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”
(Malachi 4:1-2)

As I write this blog it is a very hot summers day. The skies are blue and the sun is scorching. We have to be very careful with the sun; over exposure can be excruciatingly painful and may result in various skin infections, even causing cancer. What is often true in the natural order of things can also be true in the supernatural. The sun can be a haven of warmth and brightness, accentuating the beauty of plants and water and whatever reflects its light. Or it can be an arid landscape, a furnace of heat causing pain and misery.

This contrast can also be true of Jesus. We can sometimes have a very ‘safe’ viewpoint of Jesus. We can think of Him as gentle Jesus, meek and mild, wearing hippy sandals, smelling flowers by the roadside, not capable of hurting a fly. We must be very careful of this over familiarity because the bible shows a much wider viewpoint than this narrow one. The apostle John was one of Jesus’ closest friends and followers when He walked the earth, even reclining with Him at the last supper (John 13:23). This same Jesus who John was so familiar with appeared to him a few years later on the Island of Patmos. It says in Revelation 1:17 that this appearing was so scary that John fell at His feet as though dead.

The image of Jesus as the ‘sun of righteousness’ is much more in keeping with the vision John had than the sanitised version we sometimes imagine. The Lord is called “the LORD your righteousness” in Jeremiah 33:16. And the coming of the Messiah is pictured as a sunrise in several passages:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).

“...He dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” (2 Samuel 23:4)

“His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.” (Habakkuk 3:4);

In our passage today, the day that is coming is that great and glorious day, the day when Jesus will judge the living and the dead. It will be an ‘awesome’ day in the truest sense of the word. Jesus has always divided opinion; how much more so on that final day. It says the arrogant and evildoers will be stubble (meaning they will be burned up); they will have nothing left, root and branch gone. It will be a terrible day for them. But look at the contrast for those who fear the name of Jesus. The image is of Jesus rising like the sun. He will rise and like heliotrope flowers which lift their petals towards the sun, those who love Jesus will lift their gaze to look on His glorious face. Like the sun’s rays, His arms will be outstretched like wings, bringing healing. And not just for sickness and disease but also healing from the effects of sin. His righteousness will wipe out the effects of sin for all eternity.

“Sun of righteousness” can also be translated “son of vindication.” The Day of the Lord will be a time when God vindicates His people and judges sin. This vindication will be clear to all, like the bright light of the sunrise.

The question to ask is this: do we leap excitedly like calves from a stall, anticipating the warm embrace of our saviour and our final vindication? Or do we cower in fear in expectation of His judgement?

 August 8, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 1 Response »
Aug 012014

RedeemerThe concept of redemption occurs all throughout the bible. It is in fact one of the key themes of the whole book, but what does it actually mean?

I looked up the word “redeemer” in the secular dictionary (Merriam-Webster) and it struck me how each of its different meanings can be applied to what Jesus has done for us and why He should indeed be called our redeemer. Let me show you:

(1) To make (something that is bad, unpleasant etc) better or more acceptable.

Jesus has excelled at this, going ‘above and beyond’ this definition. We were not just bad and a little unpleasant; our sin had moved us as far as could be from having a relationship with our Holy and perfect God. Jesus did not make us better or more acceptable; He transformed us. We are now fully accepted because of His redemption. We are now counted as righteous, our sins blotted from God’s sight.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”. (Ephesians 1:7)

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22)

(2) To exchange (something such as a coupon or lottery ticket) for money, an award etc.

Jesus exchanged our sin for His perfect life. This is known as ‘the great exchange’; He exchanged our filthy rags for His perfectly spotless righteous robes. That is better than any lottery ticket!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”.” (Galatians 3:13)

(3) To buy back (something such as a stock or bond).

Through our sin, we had sold ourselves into slavery and none of us had the resources to buy back our freedom. In Jesus’ eyes we are such a precious commodity that He chose to give up His life as a ransom for us.

“….for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

“…..knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

(4) To free from what distresses or harms:

(i) To free from captivity by payment of ransom.

Sin held us captive, chained us up with no chance of escape, but Jesus has freed us from those chains.

(ii) To release from blame or debt.

The debt has been paid; we now come right into God’s presence freely, blameless in His sight.

“….even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”. (Ephesians 1:4)

(5) To atone for (expiate).

Expiate means ‘to make amends for’ which is exactly what Jesus has done for us.

This is why He is our great redeemer!

I’ve found another great song on YouTube about this very subject I hope you enjoy it!

 August 1, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 4 Responses »
Jul 252014

man of sorrowsHe was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

Famous men throughout history have had titles that they are associated with, but few as well known as this particular ‘name’ or ‘title’ of Jesus. This is because so much of Jesus’ earthly life was highlighted by sorrows of many kinds. In comparison to Abraham Lincoln, for example, whose biography dedicated just 25 pages out of 5,000 to his very famous death, large parts of the gospels concentrate on the final week of Jesus’ life. One third of Matthew and Mark, a quarter of Luke and a half of John’s gospel are taken up with Jesus’ last traumatic and sorrowful week. This amount of space devoted to Christ’s suffering and death is disproportionate to the rest of His life; there is no mention of His childhood or youth (save being left behind at the temple), nothing of His teens and nothing of His twenties either. We are only left to speculate. But when it comes to that last week we have a daily update, a full graphic account of every painful experience. Is it any wonder He is known as the ‘man of sorrows’?

God becoming man is incredible enough, but God suffering so much pain and anguish is almost beyond comprehension. It is a subject so amazing it would take an eternity to try and comprehend. His physical suffering went almost beyond human endurance, but it wasn’t just the physical pain we should consider. Many people have written of the graphic horrors of crucifixion and I don’t propose to repeat them here. But as if that were not enough, He had many more reasons to be sorrowful:

  • Jesus more than likely lost His earthly father before He was thirty. Joseph is not mentioned at all during Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had quite a number of brothers and sisters so when Joseph died (or left) Jesus, being the eldest, took on the responsibility of providing for the family and providing the emotional support needed by His mother, all the time Himself grieving at the loss of His father.
  • He was not accepted by the religious leaders, the very people who should have been waiting for His coming. They missed completely who He was and instead hounded Him wherever He went, constantly watching, continuously trying to find fault.
  • He felt the fate of lost sinners, those who were clearly told the truth but refused to listen and believe. We can see this in the account of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22 who went away sorrowful. Jesus was more sorrowful because He knew what the man’s fate would ultimately be.
  • He knew what was going to happen to Him a long time in advance. He had to live with the full horror of this fact on a daily basis, continuously casting a shadow over Him.
  • He was frequently misunderstood by the people and His very dull disciples. He had to repeat himself again and again and appeared quite frustrated on occasions.
  • He felt the pain of His friends when Lazarus died. One of the most poignant verses in the bible is the simple phrase ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35).
  • The bible describes Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as being in anguish and overwhelmed with sorrow as He faced up to the full enormity of what was about to happen, asking the father if there was any another way possible.
  • He was abandoned by His best friends who had been with Him for 3 years sharing life together in the deepest way. The only one left was John but even he looked on from a distance, unable to help.
  • But perhaps the most terrifyingly sad time was on the cross, when the father turned his face from Him as He bore the full weight of every vile and disgusting sin that has ever been committed. He had always had the father’s presence, always enjoyed the father’s love and affection, until now. Eternity is a concept we are unable to grasp. The agony of eternal unity broken, excruciatingly and intolerably alone, Jesus hung on that cross; broken, despised and humiliated; abandoned and alone.

He was beset on both sides. As fully man He experienced every pain and every emotion, just as we do. As fully God in a fallen world He felt the full horror of sin surrounding Him on a daily basis.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

I want to end this blog on a positive note though, so let’s consider that the sorrow that Jesus went through was for a purpose. It was so that we could have a relationship with our heavenly father. He loved us that much that He considered all that sorrow to be worth it. Consider that you can please Him and make Him smile by living a life of obedience to Him; by every right choice you make on a daily basis and for every person you tell about Him. Let’s go into this week trying to make His smile as broad as possible!

 July 25, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jul 182014

ServantThis is one of the most amazing names and titles of Jesus. If you were to invent a story about God, the creator of the universe, the one who spoke life into being, visiting this planet, you would more than likely imagine Him making His entrance at a palatial mansion; a place full of opulence and grandeur; a myriad of servants at His beck and call. I think this is one of the major stumbling blocks for people to believe in Jesus and take Him seriously. Why would the creator of the universe choose to serve us? Why would He choose to be born in a smelly cattle shed in a third world country?

The bible mentions the fact that Jesus was a servant in a number of places. His purpose was to serve, but it took His disciples quite a long time to grasp this concept. I find the account in Matthew 20 quite amusing: Jesus has just told His disciples that He is going to suffer and be crucified. Quite a bombshell! But without seeming to have heard what Jesus has just said, the mother of James and John asks Him that her two sons be given the best positions in heaven. (James and John are referred to as the ‘sons of thunder’-not so thunderous really if they get their mum to speak for them!). Rather than rebuking her Jesus uses this opportunity to describe what true servant leadership is all about: “….whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

The most outrageous statement we could ever utter is that the God who created us chose to be our slave. No wonder people have a hard time believing it! The disciples had a hard time believing it so Jesus demonstrated His servanthood to them on many occasions. One way that really shocked them was when Jesus washed their feet: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round him. (John 13:3-5).

Then later on in verses 12-17: “he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Throughout His life Jesus demonstrated these humble, servant qualities. He never lorded it over anyone but always found ways to serve people. He was a servant to the father by only doing what the father asked Him to. He served the people by healing them and giving of His time, and He ultimately served us all by voluntarily going to the cross and deliberately taking the place for our sins.

Jesus never sought glory for Himself but always looked towards others. This is why the father glorified Him. He would never seek it for Himself but God the father was waiting to give Him the glory that He deserved. In one of my favourite passages it says: “Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11).

We follow a humble servant, a leader who would never ask us to do something that He was not prepared to do Himself. Now He is the sort of leader I am happy to follow!

I’ve included a lovely Youtube video below on this theme. I hope you enjoy it

 July 18, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »