Oct 162015
 

The world was not worthy of themThis week I’m going to finish looking at the last beatitude about being blessed when you are persecuted. We have now spent 4 weeks on this subject, previously looking at the Old Testament prophets, the early church and now this week, I’m going to look at Christian persecution right up to the modern day.

The title of this blog is taken from Hebrews 11:38 where the writer to the Hebrews is recounting the many people who suffered for following God. In this blog I want to honour our brothers and sisters who are absolute heroes of the faith. Some will be more well known, whilst others, no-one has heard of and they suffered in secret, but I am convinced that right now they are not regretting one moment.

As I was researching this subject I was actually quite amazed at the extent of major persecutions directed at whole people groups, across the world and throughout history. Far too many that I could do justice to in one short blog. So I’m going to pick out just a few that have inspired me.

Gelasinus

One of the shortest journeys from conversion to martyrdom was a chap called Gelasinus from the second century AD. He was in a play which was lampooning baptism. As He was thrown into the water as part of the sketch he emerged and said “I am a Christian for I saw an awesome glory in the tub and I will die a Christian.” This so enraged the audience who were there to mock Christianity that they took him outside and stoned him.

William Tyndale

One of the reasons we can all own a bible was due to the sacrifice of people like William Tyndale. He was passionate to see the bible translated into English so that it was accessible to everyone, but at the time this was illegal. Tyndale had to flee England and spent most of his life in hiding because the English authorities were searching for him. He was eventually caught by an act of betrayal from someone who pretended to be his friend. He was executed by strangulation and burning at the stake in 1536 because he believed that; sins could be forgiven, the gospel was enough for salvation and that everyone should have free access to the bible.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

He was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who stood against the evil Nazi regime during the second world war. His writings have since become very influential. He was vocally opposed to Hitler and his evil regime and as you might expect this put him in great danger. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. He was then transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being allegedly associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was briefly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945, just two weeks before Allied forces liberated the camp and three weeks before Hitler’s suicide.

Jim Elliot

Was one of five missionaries trying to reach the Auca indians in the Amazon rainforest and share the love of Jesus with them. They had made initial contact by plane but on their second visit on January 8, 1956 they were slaughtered by the Waodoni warriors (an Auca tribe) who had been lied to about the group’s intentions. The other heroes who were slaughtered that day were; Nate saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming and Roger Youderian. Amazingly, Elizabeth Elliot (Jim’s widow) reached out to the tribe that had killed her husband and saw many converted. A supreme example of forgiveness and love.

Wang Zhiming

Between 1966 and 1976 the Cultural Revolution in China brought an onslaught against all that was ancient or venerated in Chinese life. The young Red Guards who led the campaign sought to break free of the past and to create a revolutionary society that was utterly new. Religion must be destroyed. Churches were closed and Christians were forced to meet secretly.

Wang Zhiming was one of many Christians who were persecuted during this time. Many were sent to camps, were denounced or beaten. In May 1969 he and other members of his family were arrested. Four years later he was condemned to death. He was by then an old man of sixty-six.

Wang Zhiming was executed on 29 December 1973 at a mass rally of more than 10,000 people. Immediately afterwards many Christians, rather than cowering in fear for their own safety, instead remonstrated with the prosecuting official of the red guard.

Janani Jakaliya Luwum

Was the archbishop of the Church of Uganda from 1974 to 1977 and one of the most influential leaders of the modern church in Africa. He was arrested in February 1977 and died shortly after. Although the official account describes a car crash, it is generally accepted that he was murdered on the orders of then-President Idi Amin.

Mathew Ayairga and the 20 other Coptic Christians

I doubt there are many of us who have not seen the picture (Which is the header of this blog) of the shocking images of the 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in their orange jumpsuits about to be beheaded for their faith. This was from February this year and shows that the persecution of Christians is not only still happening but intensifying. The reason I have mentioned Matthew was because he was the only one from Chad (the others were from Egypt). He was originally a non-Christian, but he saw the immense faith of the others, and when the terrorists asked him if he rejected Jesus, he reportedly said, “Their God is my God”, knowing that he would be killed.

This blog has been in honour of the men and women who have laid down their lives just like their Lord did and who are now at rest in the presence of their saviour. Their blood has been a seed that God is using to sweep many into His kingdom. His church will prevail, Hallelujah.

Apr 042014
 

way truth lifeToday we reach number 6 of the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus. I am leaving number 5 ‘the resurrection and the life’ until the end because it will then really conveniently fall on Good Friday (unplanned but very appropriate).

Number 6 is possibly the statement which is most likely to get people hot under the collar; most people today would call it intolerant and bigoted. If you consider yourself ‘post modern’ this statement really sticks in the throat. Let’s have a look at the passage:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6)

I bet you that if I were to go out onto the streets now and ask the general public their opinions about religion, most people would say that all religions are basically the same; it doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as you are sincere etc etc. I am horrified at how seemingly sane people can believe that all religions are the same. For one thing most religions contradict each other; how then can they possibly all be right?

Some people have tried to use the analogy of an elephant: each religion is like a blindfolded person feeling a different part of an elephant (ears, tail, trunk, legs etc). They all have different views as they are all experiencing different parts of the same thing. It is one elephant but they can’t see it because they are blindfolded. How condescending!

Another illustration is that God is at the top of a mountain and there are all sorts of different paths to reach him.

The people who use these illustrations are demonstrating breathtaking arrogance in their assumption that they actually know that all paths lead to God. The only one who could know how to get to God must be God Himself, no-one else could possibly know no matter how marvellous their explanations sound.

Jesus said ‘I am the way’. He didn’t say ‘I know the way’ or ‘I can point you in the right direction’. He is the way in Himself. If Jesus was not God and yet made this statement, He should be considered deluded or, even worse, mad. But everything Jesus did and said points to the fact that He was and is God and so this statement today must be taken seriously.

The stark question staring you in the face today is ‘what are you going to do with Jesus?’ If you reject Him there is no other way to God. But if you accept Him, the way is open to have a relationship with your heavenly father. It’s a simple choice but the most important choice you will ever make.

 April 4, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Names of Jesus No Responses »
Oct 032013
 

Battle for personal holinessLast week we started to look at the subject of Personal Holiness. If you have ever sought to be more holy you will have realised just how much of a battle it is. We very soon see that it is not a task we can complete on our own and as I mentioned last week, we are fully reliant on the Holy Spirit’s power and help to get us through.

There are so many things that prevent us from being effective, sins such as; greed, idolatry, lust, drunkenness, gambling, anger, gossip and laziness to name just a few.

We all have our struggles with any one or more of the above weaknesses which can cause us to regularly trip up. It may start off with our thought life, for example daydreaming about a certain person you may find attractive, and before you know it you have got totally carried away with your dreaming. Or you may become angry with another driver who cuts you up in traffic, inducing “roadrage”. Or it may be that you hear a morsel of juicy gossip and find yourself dying to share it with someone. These thoughts, if left unchecked, can lead to sin.

As we saw in the Romans 12 passage last week the battle nearly always starts in our minds. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 it says: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

And in 1 Peter 1:13-16:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”.”

God would not have given us the command to be holy if He hadn’t equipped us for the task. Holiness is within our grasp if we are prepared to stand and fight for it.

Lastly, let’s take a look at the armour we are given to fight this battle we find ourselves in:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Some people make it a daily discipline to imagine putting on each piece of armour in turn and saying things like; “Lord I thank You that You are my righteousness, that I am not righteous on my own. I put on the breastplate of righteousness right now in Jesus name”.

That is really not a bad way to start each day – have a regular ‘armour’ check!

 October 3, 2013  Posted by at 9:50 pm Holiness 3 Responses »
Sep 262013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a Battle

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

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

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

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

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

 September 26, 2013  Posted by at 10:33 pm Holiness, Holy Spirit No Responses »
May 092013
 

rewardsLast week we looked at the whole subject of dead works and what they are. But did you know that whatever work we do which is not a ‘dead’ work will be rewarded?

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” (1 Corinthians 3:8)

Each one of us will have our works examined and we will give an account to God for them. Later on in the same chapter of Corinthians it says what will happen to all of our works:

But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)

All the dead works we talked about last week will be burned away.

We get an idea of how Jesus is going to judge our works in Mark 12. Jesus was watching the people putting money into the temple treasury: “…Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money.” (Mark 12:41). He saw the actual gift, the motivation and resourcefulness of each person. He also observed the attitude of people as they made a public show of their ‘generosity.’ Jesus did this through His limited human nature, but one day He will do it as God, the all-knowing judge who knows every motivation of our hearts.

As we come to realise that Jesus is the one who judges us rightly, we are released from what others may think and say about us. The apostle Paul puts it clearly in 1 Corinthians: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

The bible also encourages us to carry out our works in secret as our heavenly rewards far outweigh any rewards this earth can offer: “…And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6).

It is clear throughout scripture that Jesus is for rewards. We really shouldn’t be too pious to dismiss them. Our motivation, of course, is always to please Jesus but we should also be eager to receive the gifts He has promised. By playing down rewards we are playing down the joy of the Giver who is outstandingly generous and delights in giving extravagantly.

The apostle Paul didn’t seem too worried about working towards and gaining a reward:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

The danger of ‘ought to’.

Finally on this whole subject of our works: It is a very common trap in Christian circles to busy ourselves doing things we feel we ‘ought to do’. In fact we can burn out by attempting to do everything that needs to be done, feeling overwhelmed by our task. It is so important that we find out exactly what God’s will is for our lives and concentrate on that. We will always find good and noble works to do that occupy our time. God has not called us to save the world on our own – He has a specific plan. Be like Jesus: “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)

After all, He said that His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He has uniquely gifted you for the task He has given you to do. It may be hard but it is do-able, because a loving father would never give his child a task to do that the child is not suited to. If you find your work load impossible, you need to go back to God and ask Him what it is that you are doing that maybe He has called somebody else to do.

 May 9, 2013  Posted by at 8:21 pm Grace, Reward No Responses »
Apr 172013
 

Free gift of righteousnessAs we saw last week in Romans 5:17 we reign in life, not only through God’s abundant grace but also through His free gift of righteousness.

We can enjoy God’s grace fully when we become absolutely assured that He has made us righteous. We are not ‘being made righteous’; we are fully, completely and utterly righteous right now. Again, not through our own works but because through His sovereign grace, God has made it so.

As people prior to conversion become aware of their sin, they may try to improve themselves through ‘good works’. Until one day they hear the glorious gospel; that all they have to do is repent, turn and come to God just as they are. However, even before they have finished giving their lives to Christ, the person leading them through the ‘sinners’ prayer’ can start adding a list of things they really should be doing (bible reading, prayer, witnessing etc). Many churches can be found doing this and it is often due to a misunderstanding between “justification” and “sanctification”.

Justification and Sanctification

It is vital we know the difference between justification and sanctification.

Justification is our standing before God. When we become Christians He declares us righteous. We cannot add to it or take anything away from it. It is summed up in one of my favourite verses: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sanctification is the ongoing process which makes us holy. It is the gradual change that happens through our Christian walk which changes us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This happens as we spend time with God and other Christians, but it never affects our justification. Some of us are sanctified quicker or slower than others but we are all justified the same, hallelujah!!

In Adam or In Christ?

The apostle Paul’s favourite title for a Christian is someone who is ‘In Christ’.

Before we became Christians we were all ‘In Adam’.

The bible talks about various people in the bible being ‘types’ of Christ. For example, Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days; Jesus was in the tomb for 3 days. Adam is a type of Christ in that what he did had an affect on the whole human race. Because he sinned, we are all considered sinners because we are considered to be ‘in Adam’.

We are saved now because we are ‘in Christ’. He died and rose again so that whoever believes in Him will be saved. We have died to the old life and have now been raised with Christ. We have now been ‘born again’. (John 3:3)

When you were ‘in Adam’, whatever good works you did were never enough to ‘get you out’ of Adam. You can’t ‘get out’ that way. Now you are ‘in Christ’ you can’t ‘get out’ of Christ by sinning.

That’s right – nothing you can do can take you out of Christ because it wasn’t your efforts that ‘got you in’ in the first place. It was all by God’s grace.

Bu that’s scandalous! Yes it is and it begs the question “shouldn’t we keep on sinning then so that God’s grace looks even better?”. This is the question we will look at next week. But this week let us simply enjoy the magnificent freedom of God’s grace!

This blog is a summary from a chapter in Terry Virgo’s wonderful book “God’s lavish grace” you can order a copy by clicking on the links on the left hand side

 April 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:01 pm Grace, Justification, Righteousness, Salvation, Sanctification 2 Responses »
Mar 292013
 

EasterI’m taking a short break from my series on ‘Law and Grace’ as we find ourselves in Easter week. I want to offer some thoughts at this very special time in the Christian calendar.

I love Easter week and I try to take some time aside to meditate and think again about what Jesus has done for us. It’s just the same when I am taking bread and wine; a moment to pause and wonder again at Christ’s sacrifice.

My thoughts this week are from Hebrews 12:2:

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Fix our eyes on Jesus

What a good idea to fix our eyes on Jesus. It would seem the obvious thing to do wouldn’t it? But we get so easily distracted with the busyness of life, even church life, that we can forget about the centre of our faith. Our prize, our goal, is Jesus. He is the one we long for, the one we love, the one we want to please. Every week is about Him but especially this week when we remember His sacrifice.

He is our pioneer, our example. He has gone before and paved the way. He has shown us the way forward and He is still in the process of perfecting our faith, making us more like Him.

The joy set before Him

What was the ‘joy set before Him?’

As He proceeds to the cross, what possible thing set before Him could bring Him joy in the anguish and brutality that He was about to endure? What is it that will help Him endure such suffering and heartbreak on the cross, the shame of being nailed up, naked and alone?

Partly He did it because He was obedient to the Father. It was the plan and will of God that Jesus should do this. It was the only rescue plan and He suffered it willingly. Jesus wanted to demonstrate just what the father is like, He wanted to show the compassion and perfect sacrificial love of the Father. The joy he received was from doing the fathers will. But it was also from knowing He was on a rescue mission. He loves us so much that the joy of restoring our relationship with Him compelled Him to act.

That’s right, the joy that carried Jesus through was rescuing you!

He loves us so much that He willingly suffered agonising pain so that we could be rescued and spend eternity with Him. He considered you worth it.

God is so passionate about you. He was thinking about you before time began (Ephesians 1:4), He is thinking and praying for you now (Hebrews 7:25) and one day in the future He will bring you into His kingdom to spend eternity together with Him (Revelation 21:1-4). Past, present and future.

Joy for us too

For me, this means that whenever I go through trials and difficulties, I can call on the same joy that Jesus has because:

  • He has gone before me
  • He has won the victory over every work of the enemy
  • He is with me
  • He knows what I am going through
  • He won’t let me go
  • He has promised to carry me through to the end
  • He has RISEN!!

I don’t know about you but I think this is very good news!

 March 29, 2013  Posted by at 8:50 am Resurrection No Responses »
Feb 222013
 

We have looked in recent weeks into the fact that when we become Christians we become new creations, our whole nature has changed. We are declared righteous before God, not through anything that we do but because what Jesus has done for us. We are also called saints or holy ones, with power over sin.

My question this week, given the truth that I have just stated is; “why do we still struggle to overcome in certain areas of our lives, why are we not living victorious lives on a daily basis?”

If it is true that we have been transported from one kingdom to another, things should be a lot different It is certainly true that Jesus won complete victory at the cross. In Colossians 2:13 -15 it says; When you were dead in your sins and in the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,  having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Jesus won the victory at the cross, winning us complete freedom, but the enemy still likes to lie to us and sometimes he can be very convincing. We are in a constant battle, although against a disarmed foe, he is still very cunning.

We have been set free – our old life the bit tied to sin has died – we can choose to follow God. The legal freedom in our lives however, needs to be applied as a literal freedom We need to be those who move from hearing and understanding the word to those who hold fast to it in daily situations. We need to Know the truth Believe the truth and act on the truth.

In John 8:31-32 Jesus explains; “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It isn’t enough to just hear and understand without knowing the truth. To hold onto it is to know it. We take baggage from our old life into our new life in Christ and we need help taking that baggage off and having a completely new mindset. In Romans 12:1-2 it talks about renewing our minds. That’s the first step in discipleship.

Sometimes we can get stuck in patterns of behaviour that are unhealthy. That can be because things we are doing now or in the past have left an open door for the devil to get in. Here are a few examples of what I mean;

1. Occult influence – e.g. fortune telling, spiritualism, witchcraft, horoscopes, Ouija boards etc

2. False religions – Cults, paganism, legalistic churches, new age etc

3. Drug and alcohol abuse

4. Sexual perversion

5. Habitual gambling

6. Traumatic rejection

If you haven’t already done so, these old habits and destructive tendencies need to be renounced and dealt with. The important thing to note in all of this is we do have a choice. We can either live a life of freedom or of bondage. As I finish this week I would just like to ask you a couple of questions to consider;

• In what ways have you been lied to about your identity?

• How can you counteract these accusations?

• How can you know the truth, believe and act on it?

• How can this knowledge about your identity affect the way you live your life.

Let me encourage you to get together with a good Christian friend or church leader who can help you work some of these things through so that you can live a life of victory that is yours by right. If you have any questions about this subject or anything that has been said, please do not hesitate to contact me as I can make a few suggestions as to where you can go to for help.

 February 22, 2013  Posted by at 4:35 pm Confession, Faith, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Feb 082013
 

Do you know who you are? That question could have a thousand answers, but let me be more specific. Do you know who you are when you become a Christian? Do you know what changes?

The bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

The knowledge of who we are in Christ is fundamental to how we will live out the Christian life. It can make the difference between success and failure, a fruitful life or an unfruitful one. The truth about you doesn’t change, it’s just who you choose to believe will make all the difference.

A new creation means a fresh start, something different. You have been transported from one kingdom to another. The kingdom you have come from will now try to lie to you and persuade you that you are still under its power. If you are now trusting in Jesus you are no longer the same as you were before, even if sometimes you ‘feel’ like you are. You are now ‘In Christ’ and operating in His power.

This week at the foundation course I am helping to run at our church we looked at this subject. We looked at the 1st chapter of Ephesians and as a little exercise we noted how many benefits were included in verses 3 to 14. There are quite a few. I have included the passage below, see if you can get over twenty.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

However many you got, the important part is that you believe what has been written about you, the fact that you have been included in Christ. You will find this phrase ‘in Christ’ or ‘In Him’ nine times in the first 14 verses and over 40 times throughout the whole letter. God is trying to tell us something.

The passage we have just read declares that we are ‘new creations’. We are now ‘In Christ’ all the benefits, privileges and inheritance that are His are now ours as well. God the Father looks at us and sees His son. Isn’t that fantastic news?

I’m going to take a few weeks exploring this exciting subject and it is my prayer that these truths will help you to live a more victorious life. If you have any questions please let me know as usual in the comments box below. Have a blessed week!

 February 8, 2013  Posted by at 11:48 am Salvation 2 Responses »
Jan 242013
 

If you have been around churches for any length of time you will know that there has been a lot of confusion through the years over water baptism. This week we are going to look at what the bible says about this very important subject which could be described as one of the first steps of discipleship.

Jesus was baptised

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Water baptism must be important because Jesus was baptised Himself. He was the last person who needed to be baptised because He was sinless. There are various reasons for why Jesus chose to be baptised but principally it was to identify with us as sinners and as an example for us to follow. As He was baptised He was looking ahead to His own crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus will not ask you to do anything He was not prepared to do himself and asks all his followers to be baptised as we see in His command in Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is for believers.

It does not make you a Christian, it is for those who have already committed their lives to Him and decided to follow Him.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38)

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.(Acts 16:31–33)

Baptism is a public declaration that you belong to Jesus and have submitted your life to Him. When Jesus was baptised He was identifying with you. When you are baptised you are identifying with Him. There is a wonderful connection, what happened to Jesus happened to you as well. As you get into the water you are showing everybody that your old life is dead. As you are submerged under the water you are declaring that your old sinful life is being buried. It is a funeral for your old life! As you come up out of the water you are being raised from your old life by God’s power (the same power that raised Jesus from the dead) raised into a new life with Him.

Next week I will be looking more into what baptism actually is. If you haven’t been baptised, why not seek God this week about what He wants you to do. If you have any questions or anything you want covered next week, please put a comment in the box below and I will do my best to answer it.

 January 24, 2013  Posted by at 7:11 pm Baptism, Confession, Discipleship, Repentance, Resurrection, Salvation No Responses »