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Mar 242017
 

Honouring God with your moneyLast week we looked at taking God to work with you, how we can honour Him in our day to day lives. This week I’m going to consider a similar theme of how we can honour Him with the way we handle our finances. The book of Proverbs in the bible has loads of wisdom about money, wealth and giving but the key verses I’m considering today are;

Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)

We don’t tend to use the word firstfruits anymore, but it was used a lot in biblical times when they lived in Agrarian societies. Farmers would produce crops and it was the first and best that God asked for. This giving was called a tithe and it was usually about 10% of what was produced although there were lots of different types of giving. There are many mentions of giving and specifically tithing in the Old Testament, but one of the passages which sets out the blessings and cursings of giving or not are set out in the book of Malachi 3:6-12.

Although today, Christ has superseded the Old Testament law, as Christians, many of us tithe and carry on the principle of giving to God. We don’t do it out of necessity but as a gesture of thankfulness and gratitude to a God who generously provides all good things for us to enjoy. In fact now that the law has been superseded we can now go beyond just giving 10% as we recognise the amazing grace and provision that has been poured out upon us.

I think the principle of firstfruits is a very good one. To consider giving to God first before any regular commitments or bills are paid. Some will cover their obligations first and then see what is left to give to God. This is like a tip and is not honouring to Him. No, He deserves the first and best. When we give to Him first, not only is it an expression of gratitude, but also a sign of trust. He has provided for us in the past and He will provide for us into the future.

For the rest of this blog I’m just going to provide my thoughts of this general subject in bullet points. They are in no particular order, just as they enter my head!

  • Honouring God means being careful with debt. We should not borrow or owe more than we have the means to give back. If you are in debt, it probably indicates you are living beyond your means. Most churches offer good counselling services to help you get your finances on track.

The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other (Romans 13:8)

  • God loves generosity. When we are generous we take after Him because He is supremely generous and extravagant and never holds back. There are tons of verses in the bible on this subject. Here are just a few;

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

  • Be especially generous to the poor and those who can’t pay you back.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17)

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13)

  • Give to your local church first as this is where you receive your principle spiritual nourishment. Consider giving by Gift aid (Available in the UK, not sure about other countries). This is where your giving in the offering is classified as Charitable giving and the chancellor of the exchequer effectively adds to your gift by repaying the tax without any cost to yourself. For example if you give £100 pounds your gift under gift aid is £125!
  • Resist the pull of money. It has the power to draw us away from God. Loving money can lead to worry and stop us depending on God. We covered this when we looked at ‘The sermon on the mount’ and specifically Matthew 6:25-35.
  • Make a budget. Live within your means. As I said before, give to God first and then make sure your responsibilities and bills are covered.

If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? (Luke 16:11)

  • Planning and saving for the future

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30)

  • We need to order our priorities and put God before money.

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. (Proverbs 15:16)

  • Wealth is worthless in the coming day of judgement. We can’t take it with us!

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4)

  • Wealth is temporary, transient and fleeting

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5)

How we give reveals an awful lot about how much we trust in God, it demonstrates where we are placing our trust. Money can be used or abused. But with the right kind of heart it can be used to great effect in God’s kingdom and we can really honour Him with how we use it.

 March 24, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Money No Responses »
Mar 172017
 

Taking God to workIn my opinion, one of the greatest challenges in the Christian life is how to live effectively for God and especially, how to live for him effectively in the workplace.

Last year, due to a number of circumstances I undertook a complete career change. I was working as an IT support officer in a major government department and I am now a bus driver. It has been a complete change from sitting at a desk Monday to Friday from 9am till 5pm to driving buses every day of the week anytime between 5.30am and midnight. Shift work has been a huge culture shift and has affected me much more than I ever could have imagined.

My Civil Service career lasted 27 years and in many ways, I have to confess, I became complacent.

This change has really made me think about how I can live for God, at work, on a daily basis. I have come to realise that God wants to use us, even in the mundane existence of our day to day work, which almost never feels exciting and could in many ways be described as drudgery.

My experience is of course going to be different to yours (you may not even have paid employment). But I want to set out some observations about how we can honour God whatever we do, in our daily routine.

A great life verse to consider when thinking about this subject is:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

That is the bottom line of what we are trying to do. We want to live a life that pleases God. But what does that look like?

Firstly, I don’t think you should be putting yourself under so much pressure to ‘perform for God’. I don’t think He is expecting us to run daily bible studies with our colleagues . God is not looking for our works but our attitudes and these can even be relevant when no-one else is looking. God is looking for consistency and faithfulness, not for results. After all, He is the one who makes things happen and the more we ‘strive’ to achieve results, the more likely we are to put people off!

Here are a few thoughts:

We are dependent on God – I know this may seem obvious, but I think, far too often, we rely on our own strength, gifting and abilities. I have found bus driving very difficult. I have not found it easy at all. They are big vehicles and some of the streets I drive down are very narrow. In many ways I have been blessed through these difficulties because I have had to throw myself on God on a daily basis. Even if you find your job very easy, it is good to seek God for continued support and to acknowledge that we can’t achieve anything in our own strength.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

We need to be people of integrity – Be a person that your colleagues know they can rely on. Do the right thing even when the boss isn’t looking. Be honest and trustworthy. If you say you will get something done in a certain time, do it. Don’t steal from your company, whether that is equipment or time. This may in some circumstances cause you to be unpopular, doesn’t matter. You are doing everything right to please God. Doing all for an audience of one.

Be a good character – seek to be loving and kind to your colleagues and customers. Even today I had someone remark, when they got onto my bus, how nice it was to see someone smile. I also try to be generous and help people out if they don’t have enough change for the fare. It’s the little things on a daily basis that have an impact and you won’t always see the effect. Know who you are in Christ. You are a child of the living God. You are spreading the fragrance of Jesus to everyone you come into contact with. Walk confidently with the assurance that you can and are making a difference.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Be a servant – This is largely demonstrated by preferring others and putting them first. Offer people cups of tea. Find ways that you can bless other people and make their experience at work more enjoyable

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. (Romans 12:10)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Finally, find time to include God in your daily schedule. Pray to him whenever you can. Offer up your problems and your worries. Thank and praise Him for the things that go well. If you have the precious gift of praying in tongues, do it as you go along. I pray in tongues a lot as I drive around the town. Who knows what the Holy Spirit can accomplish through this simple obedience.

I hope you have found this useful. Please put something in the comments if you have anything to add and also let me know if you have any subjects you would like me to cover in the future.

God bless

 March 17, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Uncategorized 1 Response »
Mar 102017
 

Authority of JesusAnd when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

I had no idea how long this series on ‘The sermon on the mount’ would take. I knew I wanted to take a long time and look at almost every verse in turn. It is such rich and amazing teaching.

This last post isn’t about the sermon at all but an appreciation of the amazing man who preached it. I am not at all surprised at His hearer’s astonishment. They had not quite grasped just how special He was, but they could certainly tell He was very different to the other religious leaders that they had heard. They just repeated stories from each other and nothing was original. Jesus’ message was radically different, but it wasn’t just the message that they were impressed with but the authority with which the message was communicated.

So what made Jesus’s message more authoritative than all the others? What sort of authority did Jesus have? Let’s consider a few points;

  • He had authority because He was actually interpreting and defining scripture. On more than one occasion He said, “You have heard that it was said…. But I say to you.” This is where for example he speaks about adultery as not just the physical act but an attitude of the heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
  • His authority was given to Him by God the father

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. (John 17:1-2)

  • He had authority by virtue of the fact that He did the father’s will perfectly.

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. (John 17:4)

  • He had authority because He was the creator of all things

All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:3)

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

  • As creator He can say what He wants. Remember He even spoke to the elements and they obeyed Him

And the men marvelled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:27)

Also Mark 4:41

  • He had authority because He was the heir of all things

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:2)

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8)

  • He was worshipped by angels

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,“Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Hebrews 1:6)

  • He was recognised and obeyed by demons

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mark 1:25-27)

  • He had authority because He was able to back up what He was saying with signs and wonders

And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. (Mark 16:20)

I would have loved to have listened to Jesus preaching, although I get the feeling we may get some more in the age to come when He further explains all that He has done. We will have (and will probably need) all of eternity to begin to understand the wonder of it.

I really enjoy good preaching and love having the bible explained to me. There are many excellent preachers around the world today, but they are all flawed in some way or another. Jesus preached the perfect sermon in a perfect way. He was not bothered in the slightest who He would offend. He was never worried whether He had got it right (He knew that He had). He never worried that He might not be accepted. I can’t imagine him taking Peter aside after He preached ‘The sermon on the mount’ and asking him “How do you think that went down? He was supremely confident because He knew and understood the scriptures perfectly. He would certainly have memorised them as demonstrated in the wilderness when He quoted scripture to every temptation from Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). He preached the pure, unadulterated message of God and He did it not to please man, but purely to please the father. No wonder the people were astonished.

 March 10, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Mar 032017
 

Build your house on the rockEveryone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Anybody who spent any part of their childhood in Sunday school will surely be familiar with Jesus’ dramatic metaphor of our lives being built on a rock or the sand. They’ve probably sung songs and done actions on this as I have.

This is now the end of ‘The sermon on the mount’. As I mentioned previously these 3 chapters of Matthew were probably a summary of Jesus’ main teaching on the manifesto of how to live the Christian life. Something He probably repeated (at least in part) on many occasions.

Jesus is now drawing everything He has been saying into a conclusion and as on many occasions He turns it into a memorable little picture. Another technique He uses quite regularly is to say the same thing in the negative and positive forms.

Firstly we see that He talks about hearing and then doing. The first part is the easy bit, the second a lot harder. It is not enough to just listen to sermons, no matter how good they are. Jesus says that we will be wise if we put into practice what we have heard. It sounds obvious doesn’t it? But putting things into practice takes an amazing amount of discipline and perseverance. The Apostle James puts it like this;

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:22)

I have written blogs on this series since 17thJuly 2015. That’s 70 blogs! Can I ask you a forthright question? How many have you read and done something about? Actually acted upon the revelation of Jesus and the promptings from The Holy Spirit?

It’s a really good discipline, when after reading your bible, you ask The Holy Spirit to actually help you put into practice what you have just read.

The second thought from today’s passage is the certainty that we will face trials. Jesus never said ‘If something happens’ He simply stated ‘the rain fell’, ‘the floods came’, ‘the winds blew’. It is rather assumed that these things will certainly happen. We can quite easily forget about this part because it is not something we want to dwell on or think about, but the bible reveals that if we want to live for God and make Jesus the Lord of our lives, then trials will surely follow.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

We should never look for trials, just not be surprised when they come and confident that whatever happens, God is with us.

Next week I’m going to wrap the whole series up and look at the authority of Jesus.

If you have any ideas of what you would like me to look at next as a subject, why not put a comment in the box below.

God bless

 March 3, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Feb 242017
 

I-Never-Knew-You.001On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. (Matthew 7:22-23)

This has to be, for me, one of the scariest passages in the whole bible. The people that Jesus is describing sound very much like Christians. They certainly think they are doing OK and on the right side of Jesus.

This passage raises at least a couple of questions. Firstly, if these people can do ‘mighty works’ and yet Jesus still rejects them, what hope do I have? Secondly, is Jesus opening up the possibility of somebody ‘losing’ their salvation?

Let’s examine the passage in greater detail.

Jesus starts with the phrase ‘on that day’. It seems clear that He is referring to the final judgement also called ‘the day of the Lord’. This is mentioned many times in the bible. It was alluded to on many occasions in the Old Testament:

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! (Isaiah 13:6)

Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. (Joel 1:15)

And then in the New Testament

because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

And it is clear that Jesus will be the one sitting on the judgement seat

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom (2 Timothy 4:1)

It is also clear that every person that has ever lived will receive judgement

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement (Hebrews 9:27)

The book of Revelation has the description of what this judgement will be like;

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

So why is Jesus speaking against these people so strongly and warning them of this impending judgement?

Jesus has just finished speaking about false prophets (those who preach a different and distorted gospel) and last week we looked at His insistence that true believers are those who do the father’s will.

And do you remember what doing the father’s will is? Was it doing great works and proving how ‘holy’ we can be? No! It was simply trusting in the finished work of Christ. His death burial and resurrection and how it is all sufficient for salvation. Repentance and faith with nothing added to it.

This reveals to us what Jesus is talking about in today’s passage. The people who came to Him are calling Him Lord but they have not actually made Him Lord of their lives. They are not doing the father’s will. They are hoping to get into heaven on their own good works. All of their pleading is based on what they have done. Sure, they have ‘sugar coated’ it all up with the veneer of doing it all for Jesus but actually what they are saying is “look at all the good things we have done, surely that’s got to be worth something” and the sad thing is, they are saying it to Jesus. No wonder He is so angry.

Jesus paid the ultimate price by going to the cross and doing everything for us, because there was nothing that we could do. Our own righteousness (for salvation) is described in the book of Isaiah as being like ‘filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6)

So what these people are actually saying to Jesus is that His sacrifice wasn’t quite enough. They needed to ‘top it up’ a little bit. How hideous! No wonder Jesus gives such a sober warning.

I don’t believe these people were actually Christians, because they never understood salvation and where it comes from. Jesus clarifies this when he says “I never knew you” He didn’t say “I used to know you and then you got too proud” No, they were never saved in the first place.

True Christians will only have one plea when they stand before the judgement seat of Christ and that is to humbly acknowledge that Jesus did it all.

I’ll leave you today with a couple of lines from that great hymn ‘rock of ages’ which sums it all up very nicely.

Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. Naked come to thee for dress, helpless, look to thee for grace. Vile I to the fountain fly, wash me saviour, or I die

 February 24, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount 2 Responses »
Feb 172017
 

Repentance and faithNot everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

Jesus is now very close to the end of His most famous of sermons, ‘The sermon on the mount’ and He has been summarising what a true believer is like.

We looked recently at false prophets and how they can appear to be true believers but are actually described as ‘wolves in sheep’s’ clothing. I’m not sure if they truly believe they are Christians or not, but they are obviously preaching a different gospel to the one that Jesus taught.

Today, we start to look at people who probably think they are Christians, but the focus of who they are trusting in is wrong.

We know that they think they are Christians because they come to Jesus saying “Lord, Lord.” They think that they have made Him the Lord of their lives.

This can be quite troubling to us because on the surface it could suggest we could somehow lose our salvation or not do enough to warrant getting into heaven, but as you will see, the opposite is true.

The key point to understanding what Jesus is talking about is understanding what He means by ‘doing the father’s will.’

So what is the father’s will?

In John 6:28 the people ask Jesus “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” He replies in the very next verse. Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29) and then He explains further in verse 40 of the same chapter:

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)

This is the simple gospel of repentance and faith, We bring nothing to the contract, we simply acknowledge what Jesus has done and trust in Him for our salvation. That is what the father wills for us and by believing and trusting in Jesus we are doing the father’s will. So simple that even a small child can understand.

Next week we will look at the sobering second part of this paragraph where Jesus condemns those who somehow think they can earn this salvation through their good works.

 February 17, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Feb 102017
 

False prophets and their fruitBeware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognise them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognise them by their fruits. (Matthew 7: 15-20)

Last week we started looking at the subject of ‘false prophets’ that Jesus is warning us about in this passage. We looked at what a false prophet is – someone who alters or distorts the truth of God’s word.

This week, as promised, I’m going to look at their ‘fruit’ and I’m not talking about oranges, apples and bananas, although He did mention grapes and figs!

It can be very difficult, from a distance, to know whether the fruit of a tree is bad or not. So also, in the church and from a distance, a false prophet can appear as a true prophet.

For such men are false prophets, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

A deceitful person can only hide their true character for so long, eventually their standards and attitude will show through in their actions and this is the fruit that Jesus is talking about.

John the Baptist recognised the fruit of pride in the religious leaders and Pharisees when he said “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” (Luke 3:8) Their words and actions did not match up to their assertion that they loved God.

As I said last week, there are various warnings in the Old & New Testaments about false prophets especially in 1 & 2 Peter. There are two main ways you can recognise a false prophet; by their doctrine and by their character:

False prophet’s doctrine

True teaching is of course based firmly on the bible. False teachers might refer to bible passages but only so they can twist their message and wrap it with an air of truth.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:16)

And in their greed they will exploit with false words (2 Peter 2:3)

They do not defend or proclaim God’s word but deny it

Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord….. For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? (Jeremiah 23:16, 18)

They tell people what they want to hear as opposed to true prophets who speak only what God says no matter how unpopular that may be (The narrow gate!). King Jehoshaphat wanted the prophet Micaiah to be like all the other false prophets who only spoke favourably…. But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.” (1 Kings 22:14)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

That’s why false prophets are so popular.

Another aspect of false teachers is they refuse to keep Jesus central. They either hardly mention Him or keep him right on the periphery.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the master who bought them. (2 Peter 2:1)

False prophets will not present a gospel of grace but increasing bondage to anyone who follow their ways. We must learn to discern between conviction and condemnation. Conviction is from the Holy Spirit and He leads a clear way out which will lead to joy and freedom. A false prophet will leave you feeling trapped, burdened and the feeling that there is no escape. In other words ‘in bondage’.

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:19)

False prophet’s character

The fruit of the true believer is the fruit of the Holy Spirit

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

2 Peter paints a different picture of what a false prophet exhibits;

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones (v10)

But these like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant (v12)

They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children (v14)

They are scoffers and follow their own sinful desires (2 Peter 3:3)

I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no-one turns from evil (Jeremiah 23:14)

Give it time and a false prophet will always expose himself as false. The rotten fruit will always rise to the surface. The more time you spend in God’s presence and soaking yourself in His word, the easier it will be to spot the false prophet. If you are then not quite sure, ask a godly older brother or sister who you trust. Discernment like that should really be for the body of Christ as a whole as we defend the truth together.

 February 10, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Feb 032017
 

False prophetsBeware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

There are a lot of advantages to the easy access we have these days to all sorts of preaching, ministries and teaching material on the internet. The verb ‘to google’ is in everyday vocabulary and if we want to know something about the bible we just type our question into Google (or search engine of choice) and hit the enter key.

That’s where the trouble starts!

The internet is littered with people who will have all sorts of opinions on every subject under the sun. As you can imagine, many of these would come under the category of ‘false prophet’. We have to be very careful.

I don’t believe that we are just talking about ‘prophecy’ specifically, but anyone who would try to change or manipulate the word of God.

False prophets, of course, are not a modern invention that didn’t appear before the World Wide Web. They have been around from the beginning and will always appear when truth is being proclaimed and people are serious about spreading God’s word. The bible has many warnings (Old & New Testaments) about people who would seek to deceive God’s people.

For the rest of this blog I just want to help you understand what a false prophet is and how to avoid them. Next week we will look at the ‘fruit’ they produce.

· False prophets will often say what you want to hear

For the time is coming when people will not endure soundteaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

They will play upon people’s fears or pander to their greed. They are certainly not interested in the narrow way we talked about last week. Their teaching is directed squarely at the broad, comfortable way.

· False prophets are not always easy to spot. This passage describes them as a “Wolf in Sheep’s clothing” They look like cuddly Sheep! The infamous false prophets and cult leaders such as; Jim Jones, David Koresh etc are easy to spot. It is the subtle ones that can be the most dangerous. We will discuss the ‘fruit’ they produce next week, which helps make them easier to detect.

· They can often wrap their lies in a veneer of truth. I heard it described as ‘lying meat wrapped up in a skin of truth. The hardest ones to spot are the ones with a fair amount of truth mixed in. It can all sound very spiritual.

· This all suggests that the more we understand the truth, the more we search the scriptures like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11), the more we examine the word of God, the better equipped we will be to uncover the counterfeit.

· Sometimes good people get things wrong and false prophets now and again get things right. All the more reason to judge in a humble and gracious way as we looked at a few weeks ago http://adrianpursglove.com/judged-by-your-own-standards/

· Jesus said “beware” or “be on your guard”. We should expect false prophets to move among us, because the devil hates the truth and if that is what is being preached he will send his agents to try and distort it so that it becomes ineffective.

· If someone is on the internet, it is very difficult to see what they are really like. We can’t see how they behave to their wife, when the cameras are off them, or how they deal with other people. God gave the local church as the expression of His body on earth. Our Church leaders should be the main ones providing us with spiritual nourishment. We can see much closer into their lives and examine the fruit.

Next week I will talk some more about the sort of fruit that false prophets will exhibit.

 February 3, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jan 272017
 

The-narrow-gateEnter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

On the surface, this is quite an easy passage to understand. Jesus is saying that not many people will become Christians, isn’t he? And the 2 gates are the choices that people make between going to heaven or hell, following Christ or not?

This is what I have always thought and many commentaries will speak along these lines. But after studying the passage a bit more and linking it to a parallel passage in Luke 13:23-24 which says;

And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

I don’t think it is talking about being saved or not because the concept of ‘striving’ is antithetical to the rest of the bible when it talks about salvation. We don’t get saved through our own effort and hard work. It is the free gift of grace from a merciful God.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The second reason I don’t think this passage is talking about Salvation is because of Jesus’ audience. They are mostly his disciples, believers. He is setting out the way to live for a Christian. As I have said on a number of occasions, if this passage was directed to the unconverted, it would be cruel because it is impossible, humanly speaking, to live up to. Some of His listeners were scribes, Pharisee’s and religious leaders, but it is obvious which parts He is directing at them. Every now and again He has a little ‘side-swipe’!

I don’t believe the narrow gate leads to heaven and the wide gate to Hell. I believe the narrow gate is for those who truly want to follow Jesus. For those prepared to deny themselves, to take up their crosses daily and to really make Jesus Lord above all others.

I believe that Jesus is talking about our inheritance. To truly receive the inheritance that God has for us, we will almost certainly have to face suffering and hardship, trials and temptations;

strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

The broad way is the easy road and actually, far too many are happy to walk it. It is those people who have even made commitments to Christ but they seem to be happy to remain unchanged. The sorts of people who turn up to church on a Sunday, but their life really doesn’t look much different to anyone else’s for the rest of the week. I don’t necessarily think that these people are unsaved (although we will heed a warning in verse 22 in a few weeks!) It’s just that if they are saved, they are very similar to the ‘worldly’ Christians the Apostle Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 3;

If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15)

It all sounds a bit precarious to me.

The Greek word in today’s passage for destruction is ‘apoleian’ which can be translated ‘ruined’ or ‘wasted’ a good description of a life that has been given a chance to honour God but has instead chosen the easy life.

It would seem that this choice of the easy way or hard way can follow us through life, whenever we might be tempted to take the easy option.

So what does walking the narrow life look like? I have already given a flavour, but I believe it is a life that has chosen to overcome; the world the flesh and the devil. It has denied its own comfort and chosen to daily take up the cross. To go against the flow and to not just do what everyone else does. It is to lead a life of conviction, to live a life of forgiveness, of sexual purity, of humility and rejecting any thoughts of rights or entitlement. It is to embrace persecution.

This may all sound very negative, but the rewards for those who choose the narrow gate far exceed any temporary comfort;

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The book of Revelation reveals the inheritance and rewards for all those who have chosen the narrow gate. It describes what those sorts of people are like;

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:11)

This life is so short and eternity is so long. Let’s choose our temporary discomfort to attain this eternal reward.

 January 27, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jan 202017
 

The golden ruleSo in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

As I was preparing for this blog I noticed that a lot of different faiths have a very similar rule for living. For example;

Hindu – This is the sum of duty: do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain.– The Mahabharata

Buddhism– Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. – Udana-Varga

Jewish – What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.– The Talmud

Islam – No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.– Hadith

Baha’i – He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfil.– The Book of Certitude

Even secularism and humanism would sign up to this general principal. They would borrow Eastern religion and talk about being nice to other people would bring good ‘karma’ to yourself. These are all negative and passive, but that just makes it possible to do nothing!

Jesus’ golden rule goes a lot deeper. It is both positive and active. You are not just to refrain from doing evil but to actually do good. For example, not just to stop stealing from others but to give to them instead.

As we have been going through ‘The sermon on the mount’, we can also see that outside of Christ these commands are impossible to follow. Notice Jesus starts with ‘In everything’ He’s not talking about when it suits you or is convenient. He is talking about really putting yourself out – all the time!

We can very easily drop this rule when the person we are being nice to isn’t nice back. In fact they might never be nice back. If this was only a reciprocal command we would very soon give up. This is the sort of ‘loving your enemies’ which we read about earlier in Matthew 5:44. It’s not about ‘good karma’ or ‘what goes around comes around’ it’s about pleasing our heavenly father by forgiving others more than seventy times seven and turning the other cheek not expecting anything in return.

When Jesus stated that it sums up the law and the prophets he was talking about the summation of the whole of scripture. Firstly we are to love God, followed closely by loving other people. He says a very similar thing to the teachers of the law in the gospel of Mark:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

These sorts of commands may seem impossible, but Jesus is saying them because they are possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit. If you notice, Jesus’ life was the embodiment of all He was talking about. He was always giving, always loving, always putting himself out. He was the perfect example for us to follow. Of course we will not do everything perfectly all the time. But each day we submit to Him and put Him first and seek first His kingdom, the more we will become like Him – one degree at a time. He has all our lives to work on us and praise God, He never gives up on us.

I’ll finish with something I found helpful about this subject whilst I was doing some research. It’s the acronym SALT

Serve – use your talents to reach out and help others

Appreciate – say thanks and encourage others

Love – comes from God and covers a multitude of sins!

Treasure – value others, show kindness etc

 January 20, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »