Apr 132017

7lastwordsAs you probably know, my blog goes out every Friday and as we are currently in Easter week, I thought I would send one on a ‘Good Friday’ theme.

Easter is one of my favourite times of the year. I know we can celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection any time of the year, but I find this season a particularly good time to reflect and appreciate all that Jesus did for us. I have sent this out slightly early so that you can set some time aside from your busy schedule and just dwell again on this amazing event and these 7 short but not insignificant sentences uttered by Jesus at the lowest and most difficult point of His life, as He hung on the cross.

1. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

The whole point of the cross was forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus was making a way for us to be forgiven by the father. Killing animals was never the ultimate plan. These sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus was now making. We could never save ourselves so God had to step in.

It was quite clear that no-one present grasped the enormity of what was happening, except Jesus himself. Jesus had stated plainly what He was going to do, but God veiled people’s minds, so that they couldn’t understand the significance of what was happening. Not even the Devil knew what was going on or he would have done everything in his power to stop it (1 Corinthians 2:8). No, he thought he was winning.

Just as on the road to Emmaus when the disciples eyes were suddenly opened and their hearts warmed, it would only be later that the revelation would come that what appeared to be the greatest defeat would actually be the greatest victory.

What amazes me is that God still forgives us even when we do know what we are doing. His grace is that amazing.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

2. And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the religious leaders, the soldiers and especially by the two criminals who were being crucified with him. One of the criminals came to his senses though and started to realise that there was something amazing about this man being crucified with them and that He had actually done nothing wrong. After rebuking the other criminal he turned to Jesus and said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus responded to this criminal, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). The word paradise, from the Greek word ‘paradeisos’, which means ‘garden’ was used in the Greek Old Testament as a word for the Garden of Eden. This was understood to be heaven when God would restore all things to how they were in the garden of Eden before sin entered the world. Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. This seems to be the way Jesus uses paradise in this passage.

When you think about it, this is an astounding statement from Jesus. This man doesn’t appear to have been a follower of Jesus, has not previously believed in Him, done no good works, hasn’t properly repented or been baptised. It is a troublesome verse for anyone trying to establish how people can be saved. Jesus, in his amazing grace and mercy, makes this man the first beneficiary of His impending sacrifice.

We need to leave the judgement of who gets saved, to God, we proclaim the good news, but it is only He who can see into people’s hearts and establish how genuine they are. I wonder how many surprises we will get in heaven when we see people who had shown no interest in God, reveal they had a ‘death bed experience’ or something similar.

3. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26)

As Jesus was dying, his mother and a few other women were the only ones brave enough to stick around while all but one of the disciples had fled. The solitary disciple is not named but it is believed to be John.

If you are a parent, can you imagine the horror of not just seeing your son die in front of you, but the manner in which He was dying? This man she had nursed and received amazing promises about was hanging in front of her; bruised, broken, torn to shreds and naked. What unspeakable horrors she was going through.

Even in this most agonising of moments, Jesus was making plans for the protection of His mother, He was doing His best to look after her. He was perfectly embodying the command in the law that said “Honour your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12) Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law and this was just one of the many ways He did it. But He also, in this act, reveals further His humanity and compassion.

4. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Jesus knew His scriptures, He had been studying them since He was a boy. I’m sure He would have had the whole lot memorised. So it is no surprise that He should quote scripture, especially as it referred to all the events that were happening to Him. In this 4th sentence He quotes Psalm 22 as he references verses 1 & 2:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)

Think of it, Jesus had enjoyed perfect fellowship with the father for all eternity. We will never fully comprehend what Jesus was going through at this moment, but it must have been more painful than all the physical torture He had been going through combined. From intimate and loving community to utter abandonment. But not just that, He was taking on the horror and filth of every heinous sin that had ever or would ever be committed. This from the man who had led a perfect, sin-free life, suddenly exposed to the horrors of mankind’s depravity.

Hanging there, Jesus was more alone than anyone has ever been. The weight of the world was literally on His shoulders. All for you and me. What love, what sacrifice!

5. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” (John 19:28)

The reference to fulfilling the scripture is probably from Psalm 69 where it says “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” (Psalm 69:21)

The process of crucifixion would have made Jesus extremely thirsty. He would have lost a lot of bodily fluid including; blood, sweat and tears. The soldiers did indeed give Jesus sour wine, a cheap beverage common among lower class people at that time.

It occurred to me that during Jesus’ ministry he has mentioned thirst twice and both in the context of coming to Him to quench that thirst. The first time was during his conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The second time is when Jesus stands up in the temple on the last day of the feast and proclaims;

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

In effect, He became thirsty physically so that we would never need to be thirsty spiritually. His sacrifice has forever quenched our thirst!

6. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

It is finished is 3 words in English and just one in Greek and is hugely significant in meaning. Jesus used the Greek word ‘Tetelestai’ which means ‘paid in full’. When a merchant at the market or wherever had a debt and it was paid off, the creditor would write “Tetelestai” on the certificate of debt signifying that it was “paid in full” The transaction is completed. Jesus was saying that He had accomplished what He had set out to do. He has now paid the debt for our sin and we can now approach God the father free from condemnation. It means we can’t add anything to our salvation and we have security for all eternity. This one word reverberates through history and is probably the most significant word that anybody has ever spoken.

7. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

This is now Jesus’ third quote from the Psalms, it comes from Psalm 31:5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

It shows Jesus’ complete trust in the father. He has just felt completely abandoned when He takes on the weight of mankind’s sin, but He knows that once that has been dealt with the father is going to lift Him up and seat Him in the place of all power and place all things under His feet. Because He has been completely obedient, Jesus is going to receive full vindication. His mission has been accomplished. What a saviour!

Enjoy the rest of Easter.

 April 13, 2017  Posted by at 8:00 pm Easter, Good Friday No Responses »
Apr 072017

7 ways to honour God with our bodiesLast week we looked at various different aspects set out in the bible as to why God considers what we do with our bodies as important. God is not just interested in our spirit or soul but our body as well. Jesus of course inhabited a body when He walked on earth (and now has a glorified one in heaven) and the Holy Spirit has chosen to inhabit our bodies now.

This week I am going to look at different parts of the body and use them as reference points as to how you can honour God with your body

1. Eyes

We can honour God with what we choose to look at, or more importantly what we don’t look at. I am referring mainly to sexual images and pornography. Our eyes are a major portal into our body. What we look at can very quickly shape our desires and attitudes. Jesus defined adultery by stating that it was not just the act itself, but what goes on in our minds and hearts when we dwell on what we look at. We have already looked at this subject when we studied ‘The sermon on the mount’;

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

But eyes can be used to lust after other things, such as a piece of cake! This leads me on to another part of the body

2. Stomach

Gluttony is named as one of the major sins in the bible but it is rarely spoken of today. It has almost become an ‘acceptable’ sin. One that we, especially in the West, commit regularly without a second thought. When was the last time you had such a huge meal that you felt uncomfortable? You had eaten far more than you needed to. That is the sin of gluttony.

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. (Proverbs 25:16)

We can also do the same with alcohol. Drink more than we need to and lose control.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)

3. Tongue

The Apostle James has a lot to say about how dangerous the tongue can be. How we use our tongue can honour God by encouraging others, but it can also dishonour Him by talking angrily or hurtfully to others, by spreading gossip or telling lies

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6) strong words!

4. Ears

Just as the tongue can be used to honour or dishonour God, so what we listen to can do the same. We can honour God by refusing to listen to gossip or people who trash talk other people or even people who just speak lies:

An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue. (Proverbs 17:4)

5. Arms & legs

I’m referring here to physical exercise. Obviously the bible doesn’t talk too much about going to the Gym or working out but it does suggest that physical exercise has some use;

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way (1 Timothy 4:8)

As our bodies are referred to as temples of the Holy Spirit it would be wise to look after them and keep them healthy. After all, the more energy we have, the more we can achieve for God. We do have to be balanced in this though as many can take exercise too far and be in danger of actually worshipping the body.

6. Back

OK, I know I am pushing the analogy a bit here but I am referring to sleep and rest. Being too tired and exhausted is not a good thing. God has given us sleep as a gift

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:2)

God also introduced the principle of Sabbath rest, so that we could recuperate.

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

Our bodies get tired as a constant reminder that we are not God. He has set limits on our bodies to keep us humble and reliant on Him. He of course does not need to sleep;

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:4)

7. Hands

Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17)

There are many ways we can use our hands to honour God. It could refer to our employment which we looked at a couple of weeks ago. It could refer to being creative. It could refer to using our hands to help others and it could also refer to works of service which we perform for God. This is what I am going to look at next week.

 April 7, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Uncategorized No Responses »
Mar 312017

Honour God with your bodyOver the last few weeks we’ve been looking at ways that we can honour God in our everyday lives. Two weeks ago we looked at how we can take God to work with us and ways that we can honour Him there. And then last week we looked at how we can honour Him with our finances. I thought I would continue this general theme over the next few weeks and look at how we can honour God with our bodies. I’m going to take two weeks because it is a really big subject with many aspects.

This week we will look at a biblical perspective of our bodies and then next week we will look at a few practicalities.

As always, I will back up what I say with bible verses. An important one on this subject is: you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

The Apostle Paul in this letter to the Corinthians has just been spelling out the fact that our bodies are important and God cares about what we do with them. In ancient Greek culture they were very strong on a subject called dualism. Basically they separated the spirit or soul and the body. They considered that the soul was the most important thing, but the body didn’t really matter. In some cases it was even considered evil. They thought that it really didn’t matter what you did with the body, hence they were happy to over indulge sexually or with food and drink. As I hope to set out in the following few points, God has a different view of the body.

  • It is very significant that God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ took on a physical body

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)

Do you think that God himself would live in a physical body if it was not important?

  • God created the world (including our bodies) and stated that He thought it was very good

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

  • Psalm 139 talks about us being knit together before we are born and being fearfully and wonderfully made. That sounds really special to me:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14)

  • We don’t need to present animal sacrifices anymore, but instead we present our own bodies as living sacrifices in order to please God.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

  • The Holy Spirit Himself has chosen to honour our bodies by dwelling within us. Our bodies are the new temples:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

  • God sees us as a whole; spirit, soul and body, all wrapped up together;

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

  • The bible makes it clear that it is possible to honour Christ with our bodies;

it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20)

  • Even though our bodies are currently imperfect, when we die we will gain a new and improved body. We won’t cease to have bodies and live in a spirit state:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:21)

Next week I will continue this theme and look at ways that we can honour God with our bodies.

 March 31, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Uncategorized No Responses »
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 »