Jul 222016
 

Forgivenessand forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors……For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:12, 14-15)

Today we arrive at a key point of the ‘Lord’s prayer’. I don’t think I am overstating it, but this subject is crucial if you want to be a true follower of Jesus. It’s such an important subject that straight after Jesus taught His disciples about prayer, He reiterates the point again in verses 14 and 15 to accentuate the importance of this subject.

I know I’m generally going through the ‘sermon on the mount’ verse by verse, but rather than cover the same subject in two weeks’ time, I thought I would do it all today.

Forgiveness is a key aspect of Christianity, because anyone who is a follower of Christ has asked for and received forgiveness. If anyone just follows Christ because they think they are already a good person, they have missed the point. Before we come to Christ, we are all sinners and a long way from God. In fact the bible refers to us as ‘dead’ in our sins (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13 etc). We cannot reach God through our own efforts. We come to an acknowledgment of our sinful state before a Holy God and receive the forgiveness Jesus offers that is available through His death and resurrection.

The important point of our verses today is that when we have received forgiveness we should in turn forgive others. God has given us the example to follow. It just isn’t right to receive God’s forgiveness and not extend forgiveness to others. Jesus makes this point in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. In fact the consequences of not forgiving somebody are quite shocking.

God knows that forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us to do. It is not just a ‘one-off’ process either. We have to forgive some people over and over again. We do it continuously, because every now and again the same old hurt and resentments come back to us. That’s why we should repeat this prayer, if not daily, then very regularly.

This subject is so important because we are all part of God’s family. As a parent I hate it when my kids fall out and fight, God is just the same. He loves it when His children get on with each other and forgive one another. In fact the bible says that when it happens He has reserved a big blessing for us:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!….. For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore. (Psalm 133:1,3)

There is generally a lot of misunderstanding regarding forgiveness. Forgiveness is not necessarily restoring a relationship to its previous state before things went wrong. Sometimes when trust has been broken it can take a long time to win back. It’s not becoming a ‘door mat’ either so that someone sins against you multiple times and you are stuck just having to forgive them without them facing up to the consequences of their sins. Sin needs to be confronted and not tolerated.

I will finish with just a few more points about forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness is a process. People can be very hurtful and especially those closest to us. Some emotional problems can take a long time to heal. Start with the intention to forgive and then let God help you achieve it.
  • We forgive if they repent or not. Some people can hurt us and they seem to be quite happy to do so. Remember this; Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
  • We don’t always have to tell them. Some people can be blissfully unaware that they have hurt us. Telling them we have forgiven them can be a bit of manipulation to make them feel guilty. It can also be a form of pride. Some people need to be confronted though, so make sure you are confronting with the right attitude.
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When we get these memories, it’s what we do with them that counts. Many times we have to forgive over and over again. It should get better the more you do though!
 July 22, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm forgiveness, Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Apr 152016
 

loving your enemiesYou have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:43-44)

We have read some pretty tough statements by Jesus over the last few weeks and they certainly aren’t getting any easier. Today’s passage must be one of the hardest things to do. It’s not always easy loving the ones closest to us, but loving our enemies is one of the hardest things to accept and actually do. It is just not natural. Our normal nature (the sinful one) wants retribution. It wants to fight back and get even with all those people that oppose us. But if we want to be followers of Jesus and true children of our father in heaven, then love we must, even the most unlovely.

Let’s just start with the passage before us today. Notice that Jesus states “You have heard that it was said” This is important. He is not talking about what is written, i.e. scripture. He is once again addressing the Pharisees and exposing their man-made traditions. They loved to add bits to scripture and make it different to what was intended. God had plans for dealing with Israel’s enemies at the time of the occupation of Canaan, but His long term goal was that His people’s enemies would be won over by love and not hate. The first part of the phrase is from the bible. In Leviticus 19:18 it says “love your neighbour as yourself.” The Pharisees were so narrow minded that they assumed God was talking about other Israelites as their neighbours. He surely couldn’t be speaking about the Gentiles. Surely they were to be hated and discarded. They had not even bothered to read on for another 16 verses of the same chapter in Leviticus where it said “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born. Love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). God’s plan has always been all encompassing. He has an expansive heart and He wants His children to be like Him and have one too. He wants us to reach out to the foreigners, the despised, the unlovely, the sinful. In fact, people just like we were before He got hold of us!

This is especially true at this moment in history, as thousands of precious souls are being driven from their countries and have become refugees. The father is sending them to our countries so that we can bless them and show them His love.

Let’s examine who our enemies actually are. They are very rarely now people from a foreign country, but people we live and work with. People who have hurt us in some way, or people we don’t see ‘eye to eye’ with. They could be people that oppose us because they don’t like what we stand for or even just the way we are. They could be jealous of our lifestyle or our intelligence or anything that they might consider a threat. We probably all have people we take an instant dislike to and oftentimes we have no real idea why. There are hundreds of reasons why we have enemies, the main reason being we live in a ‘sin sick’ world. They could range from people we have a mild dislike for to people we absolutely hate.

We should all have enemies, even the most virtuous of us. In fact the most virtuous will have more enemies than most! Jesus was perfect and He had enemies, very real enemies, those that were desperate to kill Him. Don’t get me wrong, He never hated anybody, but living the life he did, He naturally attracted people who hated Him. The Apostle Paul knew this more than most as he sought to spread the gospel with boldness and without fear. From experience he said “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12)

If we have no enemies or opponents, we probably are not living the gospel out as we should be. Again, we are not looking for trouble, but a Holy lifestyle should naturally invite opposition. In fact Jesus said “Woe to you when all people speak well of you.” (Luke 6:26)

So how are we to love our enemies?

This is the hard part. Even forgiving people is easy compared to this. In some cases you can forgive and move on. It’s dealt with, you don’t necessarily have to encounter that person again. Loving someone who hates you is a commitment. You may work with them on a daily basis and have to show love to them in the face of constant antagonism and hatred.

Often the only way we can love our enemies is to pray for them, simply because we can’t get close enough to them to do anything else! They may hate you so much that they won’t even speak to you. Praying may be the only way you can fulfil this command, but a committed heartfelt prayer for your enemies proves that you love them.

How do we pray?

This is an important question because we could just pray “get them Lord, pay them back for how nasty they have been to me!” I don’t believe that is the way Jesus is telling us to pray. In His radical kingdom, Jesus is asking us to pray a blessing over our enemies, a heartfelt one. How would you feel if you prayed a blessing over your enemy and God actually answered it? That is the test, that is what will reveal what is really in our hearts. That is what Jesus is demanding of us and that is why it is so difficult. Jesus gave us the perfect example at the cross where he prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) That sort of prayer is so powerful that we could well see the very people who crucified Jesus in heaven!

This subject is so important that I’m going to explore it some more over the next few weeks. I’ve said it before, that this subject is one of the hardest things to do in the Christian life, but if you can overcome the resistance you are probably feeling right now and do what Jesus is asking you to do, you will receive release and freedom in your life more than you had ever thought possible.

 April 15, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jul 182013
 

Does God change his mindFor those of you who have been following my blog for the past few weeks, you will know that I have been working through 2 Kings as I am reading through the bible in a year. I recently came across a passage which seems to suggest that God changes His mind.

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord.  I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” (2 Kings 20:1-6)

A lot of the passages we read in the bible can be quite confusing and can seem contradictory, but if we take scripture as a whole we can find a way through the confusion.

As we ponder this passage I want to consider 2 truths from the bible;

1. God knows all things

Two passages that confirm this are; 1 John 3:20 and John 21:17

2. God does not change His mind

Amongst other passages, we can look at 1 Samuel 15:29

The fact that God knows all things means He knew that Hezekiah was going to repent, (which may not have happened if Isaiah had not prophesied to him). I believe that there are two perspectives here: from God’s perspective, He didn’t change his mind. He knew how Hezekiah would respond from eternity past and graciously sent him a warning, knowing it would lead to repentance and another 15 years on the throne. From our perspective He has changed His mind.

The thing we can miss by analysing this too closely and trying to explain the mysteries of God is – God loves to hear our prayers and acts accordingly. The amazing thing is that God hears our prayers and is motivated by our heartfelt repentance. We see this type of scenario repeated again and again in the bible, where God accomplishes extraordinary things through prayers of faith. We certainly need to get hold of the truth that prayer matters.

Do you have any prayers that you have given up on? Why not get on your knees before the God who graciously answers prayer and who even seems to change His mind!

I hope you don’t mind me adding this video, but it helps to highlight the power of persitent faithful prayer. This amazing healing testimony happened this week. Have a look and be amazed

 July 18, 2013  Posted by at 10:09 pm Prayer, Repentance No Responses »
Jul 042013
 

God is very patientLast week we looked at God’s amazing grace towards Elijah as He gently restored him after Elijah wanted to take his own life. This week I want to explore more of God’s amazing grace and patience as we look at the life of Elijah’s enemy, King Ahab.

Ahab was a very evil man.

In the generations following King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel descended into total anarchy before God as each king was described as worse than his predecessor. The most wicked of all was King Ahab who arrives on the scene in 1 Kings 16:29 and sets about a destructive course of breaking every commandment he possibly can, aided and abetted by his wife Jezebel (whose name has become a byword for feminine evil, prostitution and all kinds of wickedness).

Together they established the worship of Baal in Israel, an evil Canaanite practice involving, among other things, child sacrifice. At the same time they undertook to massacre and silence all of God’s prophets in the land. In a spectacular display of God’s power and glory Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and even though Ahab refused to acknowledge the one true God by repenting of this evil, God still protected Ahab against the enemies of Israel. (1 Kings 20:13).

The last straw comes when Ahab and Jezebel arrange for an innocent man (Naboth) to be killed and his property stolen (1 kings 21:1-16). Elijah pronounces God’s judgement on Ahab in 1 Kings 21:17-22. After all this evil, God’s great mercy causes Ahab to repent, pray and fast (1 Kings 21:27). The most amazing thing then happens – God forgives him!

This absolutely amazes me. God says to Elijah; “have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself, I will not bring disaster in his day”. (1 Kings 21:29).

If you ever begin to question how patient God is towards wicked sinners, read these few chapters again and see how consistently Ahab rebelled, but how slowly God judged him, giving him chance after chance to repent.

If you think you have gone too far from God and the possibility of his forgiveness, consider Ahab. As long as you still have breath you can turn to God whatever your condition.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

 July 4, 2013  Posted by at 8:00 pm Fasting, Grace, Repentance No Responses »
Jun 132013
 

MephiboshethI am currently following a bible reading plan which takes me through the whole bible in a year, reading a few chapters each day. Just recently I came to one of my favourite stories in the Old Testament and it is a wonderful picture of the grace that we have received.

The main part of the story is in 2 Samuel 9. I will briefly outline the situation:

King Saul has failed as Israel’s king and David has been chosen to take his place. Saul is jealous of David and is determined to kill him. He pursues him for a long time and even though David has two clear opportunities to kill Saul, he refuses to do it as he doesn’t want to touch God’s anointed king. David waits for God’s timing to receive his promised position as king. Saul’s son Jonathan is best friends with David and is fully committed to him, refusing to help his father in his pursuit.

Eventually David becomes king after Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle. Even though Saul was his enemy, David wants to show kindness to a member of Saul’s family, namely Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son, Saul’s grandson). Mephibosheth is summoned to the king’s palace.

Now Mephibosheth is crippled, being lame in both legs. He has to be carried everywhere and is totally dependant on others helping him. In an extraordinary act of grace, David gives him all of Saul’s property and states that he shall always eat at the king’s table.

Later on in the story we see that Ziba (Mephibosheth’s servant) spreads a false rumour about Mephibosheth to David, resulting in Ziba receiving a substantial part of his master’s estate. In 2 Samuel 19 we see Mephibosheth vindicated, but he never seeks revenge. He doesn’t care that half his estate has been handed over to Ziba. He is just happy that his king, David is back and he can share his meals with him again.

This is an amazing picture of what King Jesus has done for us. We were not able to help ourselves (spiritually crippled), we were in essence enemies of the king. But Jesus sought us out, determined to show kindness to us. King Jesus has now given us full access into His palace where we can enjoy food, shelter and protection for the rest of our lives (and into eternity).

Let us never lose the wonder of how far away from God we were (even further than Mephibosheth) and how now, through no effort of our own, we have been brought right into the king’s presence. Let’s be like Mephibosheth, who even though he lost material possessions, it really didn’t compare to the joy of spending time with his king.

 June 13, 2013  Posted by at 8:48 pm God's family, Grace, Salvation, The gospel 1 Response »
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 »
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 »
Jan 032013
 

repentanceRepentance is one of the foundations of the Christian faith, however it is very much misunderstood in today’s society. It may be worth looking at 6 common misconceptions before studying what the bible says about it:

 

 

  • It is not a way to manipulate God. We can think that by simply saying sorry God is duty bound to forgive us. (In a similar way to when we insist children say sorry; as long as they say the words and look contrite all seems well, but they don’t really mean sorry because they do the same thing 5 minutes later).
  • It is not sorry simply because you “got caught”. We see this occur time and time again in the media: a well known celebrity being caught in some misdemeanour, they go into rehab, appear contrite, give some money to charity and then society decides ‘you’re ok now we will love you again’. That is penance and is not the same as repentance.
  • It is not mere confession. Have you noticed that some people say sorry and then go on doing the very thing they said sorry for? This is an acknowledgement of sin without repentance.
  • It is not a determination towards self-improvement. We all have a tendency towards striving to do better in our own strength, (I’m sorry I missed that target but I will get better at this and try even harder…..).
  • It is not shifting the blame. Some people blame their sin on their upbringing or their genes or any other number of ways to ‘explain’ why they are like they are. They say “I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am…”, or they have an affair, because “my partner is not giving me enough attention”, so justifying their sin and avoiding any personal responsibility.
  • It is not minimising your sin. We compare ourselves with others who, in our eyes, are worse than us, for example “…it was only a little white lie and didn’t hurt anybody. Not like that big fat lie that other person said…). When we minimise our sin it never feels quite so bad, but it is still sin and needs to be repented of.

Given the confusion in today’s society it is very important we understand what biblical repentance means.

The act of repentance means we don’t simply say sorry, feel a little remorseful and then carry on as before. Repentance means we stop, turn around and go in the opposite direction.

Repentance is actually a wonderful gift from God.

God reveals to us our sins and gives us a Godly sorrow that leads us to full repentance. This results in a change of heart and mind, leading to a change of action and behaviour which is then demonstrated through a changed lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily happen all at once but will show increasingly as we live a life of repentance.

In Luke 3:8, as John the Baptist is preparing the way he says “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. He is then asked what this would look like and in verse 11 John replies “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

So does this mean that we are saved by works? No, but our lives will change as we are motivated by God’s love, grace and forgiveness to do works which show how God has changed our hearts.

Repentance is not just a ‘one off’ thing we do when we become a Christian, like ticking a box to say, “I’ve done that, what’s next?”. It is an ongoing practice, a lifestyle. It keeps us humble and reliant on God’s grace which He continues to give us.

It is God’s desire that we should repent of our sins:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength”. (Isaiah 30:15 NIV)

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts 3:19)

Having a repentant heart keeps us humble and reliant on a gracious God who is always willing to forgive us. Do you have anything that you need to repent of? Is there anything in your life causing you to keep God at a distance?

This week, read the story of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32. Let God speak to you through it.

 January 3, 2013  Posted by at 10:36 pm Confession, Repentance No Responses »
Apr 252012
 

2_men_talking_silouette-300x231In my last blog I talked about the importance of accountability questions in Discipleship. We looked at a number of honest questions we could ask each other regularly to become accountable to one another.

Last time I looked briefly at James 5:16 which says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” In this blog I want to look at what it means to confess our sins to one another.

When we talk about confession you might, if you have a Roman Catholic background, think of the confessional booth and having to recount the weeks’ wrongdoings to the priest. Should we do this? Do we confess to each other and then to God, or the other way round? It can all get very confusing. We can sometimes come to some wrong conclusions which I will address later. Continue reading »

 April 25, 2012  Posted by at 9:58 pm Accountability, Confession, Discipleship 1 Response »