Here is our church newsletter for October 2017. It contains an article on our Lord Jesus and his suffering for us in Isaiah 52:13-52:12.
Archive for the ‘Christ Jesus our LORD’ Category
I should be careful what I say about my children. Situations come to mind when I have observed parents writing or speaking in a certain way about their children and have felt a degree of discomfort. I am thinking here about those time when parents glory in their childrens’ gifts and achievements.
Three things I would like to mention here:
- “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17) says Paul. If our children do have any abilities and are able to achieve anything it is on account of the Lord’s workings.
- Let us be thoughtful of others who are struggling with their children. If our children are doing well and we start boasting about it, others may well feel very uncomfortable and be discouraged. If you are distressed over your children and you are in the presence of someone exulting over theirs, it is most unsettling.
- What does really matter to us? Surely it should be our children’s spiritual progress. And yet even here we have to be so careful to make sure that what we say and do is proper and not unseemly. Remember that if your children are doing well in the Lord it is only because of God’s goodness.
And I am left thinking how often have I got it wrong. How often have people looked at me or observed me speaking in a certain way and thought “Who are you, vaunting your children so much?”
(Originally posted at Venabling on 10/12/2014)
There are certain statements that leave me wondering why people say them. Why do people say for example that “I am a mature Christian”. Do they say that to impress you?
I don’t see anyone in scripture venturing down that line. What does our Saviour say of Himself. I am gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:29b). Paul was so reluctant to compete with the ever so impressive super-apostles who were foisting themselves on the Corinthian church. Finally, after resisting pressure to boast in himself he says Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. (2 Cor 11:18). He then will go on to focus his boasting on how much he suffered and was humiliated for the cause of Christ (see 2 Cor. 11: 23-33).
Moreover, Paul would want us to know that he is the “the worst” of sinners” (see 1 Tim. 1: 15). And if he was to boast he would only want to boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (see Gal. 6:14a).
So what do you want to tell others about yourself? What position or achievements do you want to boast in? And as for myself may it be that I humble myself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt me in due time.
Call me what you will, all I want you to know is that I am a wretched wicked sinner saved by the grace which is so rich towards me in Christ Jesus. Oh what a salvation; oh what a Saviour. Praise Him (not me).
(Originally posted at Venabling on 25/08/2014)
Are you part of an effective kingdom or a kingdom set for collapse. To ask the question in an alternative way: are you connected to the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ or to the kingdom of this world? One is set for glory, the other is set for devastation.
Matthew 21:18-22 is a passage which brings these issues into focus. Our Lord has clashed in vv12-17 with the religious system which was operating under God’s name. He has rejected that system because it has become a system given over to the undertakings of this world and is no longer a kingdom which operates unto godliness.
The cursing of the fig tree on the following day is a visual aid for the disciples to show His verdict on the religious system in Jerusalem. The Lord came to the tree wanting fruit, after all He was hungry (see v18). It was not time for the fully developed fruit, but it seems in His hunger He would have been happy to have consumed the less developed spring fruit. But He found none. There was a lot of show, but no fruit. There were many leaves, but no fruit. And so it was with the religious kingdom based around the temple. The Lord’s cursing of the fig tree was emblematic of His view of Jerusalem. In an act of power He cursed that tree. The rapidity of the death of the tree astonished the disciples (see v20). This was the power of God at work. To this point of the account we have on display a fruitless kingdom and a powerful King.
When the kingdom of this world meets the powerful Lord God in Jesus Christ then this kingdom is shown up for what it is fruitless and powerless. However, it is different in the kingdom of God. Two things will come forward to show what leads to a fruitful condition and a powerful life. And when there is a lack of these elements, there is powerlessness and fruitlessness in the life. These two are faith and prayer (see v22). The believer can be involved in dramatic things (see vv21-22) if they have faith and prayer. In fact it is the believing person who through having prayer in their life has power in their life; not the religious.
This all of course links us into our Lord Jesus Christ who is the true man, the whole man, the man of faith and a man of prayer. He is the King who is fruitful and powerful. When we are connected to Him we will be displaying these dual attributes: prayer and faith. And the Lord will come and find fruit and He will be pleased.
Alas if we are of this world we will be fruitless. There may be religious show, but no fruit and no power, because there is no faith and no prayer.
Which kingdom do we belong to?
The Lord Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 5:20, I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps you should stop and read that again and in doing so, notice in particular the “certainly not”. The Lord does not want us to miss His declaration that if we have a righteousness like that of the Pharisees and law teachers we will not get into the kingdom of God. Such a statement has serious implications because if we are not in the kingdom of God then we are destined for eternal destruction. So that should make us take note about what our Saviour is saying here.
Let us consider, first of all, the issue of “surpasses”. Jesus does not say that our righteousness must be totally different to that of the scribes and Pharisees, but that it must surpass it. This leads us to conclude that the scribes and Pharisees were on the right track, but had not reached the desired destination. They were on the right track because they were seeking to base their righteousness on a scriptural basis. However, they had gone wrong because they were not using the scripture properly. In the rest of Matthew 5, the Lord shows five areas where these religious leaders had used scripture incorrectly. Each section is introduced by the phrase; “You have heard that it was said” (see 21a, 27a, 33a, 38a and 43a). In each instance the Lord shows that each statement made by the religious leaders had some connection to scriptural truth. However, the Lord goes on to show, in each section, how the righteousness which the religious leaders achieved was not the right righteousness.
The deficiency in their righteousness was on account of what they understood righteousness to be. The foundation was right, being in scripture, but the development of it was malformed. This was because they focused on the external and achievable. They came to the Word of God and processed it in such a way as to focus on what was within their ability. And as they achieved the standards they had set for themselves they “ticked off” their achievements. It was a “tick-box” righteousness. They set the standard according to what they could demonstrate that they had achieved and thereby show it off for all to see. If you look at all five of the examples given you will see that this is the reasoning. They have used the scriptural commands in such a way as to make sure the standard for murder, adultery, oath taking, getting revenge and loving others is both achievable and clear for all to see that it is being achieved by them.
When the achieving of righteousness is viewed in this way, people are led to glory in themselves. If there is a standard and I can reach that standard by myself then I glory in myself. I say “I must be a good boy/girl and God should be very pleased with me.” People are led to glory in man and not God.
The Lord, though, goes on to show that there is a better righteousness. In each of the five situations presented, He indicates what the righteousness that pleases Him looks like. The righteousness which He seeks to establish is that of the heart (inside) and is not achievable by us. So with regard to murder, He makes hating equivalent to killing, and with regard to adultery, He makes lusting equivalent to sex outside marriage. Through this approach He is dealing with the heart. For everyone who is honest there is the immediate conclusion that “I cannot do that”. When we look to the other three examples we see how the Lord continues with this demanding standard of righteousness. And when we look at these we are to think: “I do not reach these standards. I am sometimes evasive with my words, I am not as generous as I should be and I do show favouritism with regard to who I show kindness to.”
Through this the Lord is relentlessly pressing the point to prove that it is necessary to have a righteousness which emerges from the heart. However, as Jeremiah 17:9 tells us The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Accordingly, we mess it all up in the heart and are not able to achieve this righteousness. We cannot reach the standard. It just cannot be done.
Our desperate plight is searchingly brought home in the final statement of the chapter Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5v48). It would seem that this statement should stand alone as a paragraph on its own because it does not just connect to the foregoing section on loving your neighbour. Rather, it connects to all the passage from v21. As we see this statement we cry “Lord it is impossible; it’s just not achievable; we cannot be perfect.” That is precisely the situation the Lord wants us in. He wants us to be crying for Him to give us this righteousness. Remember we have got to have this righteousness, otherwise we are eternally sunk. But we cannot get it ourselves. So we cry to God, knowing that we are failures who cannot please Him, and He says “I have given my Son Jesus to die, to take away your sins.” When we respond with faith, we are given a righteousness which comes from Him. Praise his Name. Furthermore, as we seek to journey on to live for God we realise that the good life which is pleasing to God can never be derived from my strength, rather, it must always be from God. So it is Jesus through His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who works through us and works righteously.
I can never achieve this righteousness myself. So all the glory goes where? It goes to God. I am only accepted with God and in His family because He has given me righteousness and I can only live a righteous life because God works through me. I am dependant upon Him from beginning to end, and He has ALL the glory.
So make sure that your righteousness is not a righteousness based on your religious achievement. The consequences of getting the wrong righteousness are just too disastrous. If you get the wrong righteousness you are not in the Kingdom of God. And if you are not in the kingdom of God, you are set for eternal disaster.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of Oct 2014).
Christians can be very gullible. When they see and hear someone who appears very nice, quotes from the Bible and says positive things about Jesus, they assume that he is a good man. But life is not so straight-forward, and we need to be on our guard. Our Saviour said to his disciples “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matt. 7 15). Paul said to the Corinthians: For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. (2. Cor. 11:14-15a). We need to get rid of our gullibility and start thinking properly so as to discern whether or not someone is truly genuine.
So what are the signs that someone is false? What do we need to be looking out for? We need to note, as we consider these signs, that we are not thinking of the propagators of false religions or philosophies, but of those who come in among Christians and churches and pretend to preach “the right way”.
All is Well. “There is not much wrong” is what false teachers say. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace (Jer. 6:14). This is what Jeremiah says of the false prophets in his day. The tendency of false teachers is to say that all is getting on reasonably well and that there are no major problems in the church and in the lives of people generally. People need to improve themselves a bit and all will be fine, is what they proclaim. Their preaching takes the form of a coach giving his football team a pep talk at half-time so that their performance will be improved in the second-half of the game. Accordingly, they speak very little of sin. These deceiving teachers do not seek to reveal how disastrous the consequences of sin are. There is no conviction of sin because there is no presentation of the terrors of sin.
No repentance. There is no declaring of repentance in the false teachers’ preaching. Of course, if there is not much wrong, as they proclaim, then there is no need to turn your life around. Repentance happens when we realize our lives are in a mess and we are in danger of disaster, and we turn ourselves around. Let us remember the preaching of Paul to the Athenians: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). And he summed up his ministry to the Ephesians by saying how he declared to all that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Acts 20:21b). Repentance was at the heart of Paul’s preaching, but it is absent from that of the false messenger.
No judgement. Paul continued his sermon in Athens by saying that repentance is necessary because there is the prospect of judgement. He declared to the Athenians “For he (God) has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts17:31) The reality of judgement is continually set before us in the New Testament, and no-one spoke more about this than Jesus himself. However, the false teachers do not warn of judgement because they do not believe there is any real problem with mankind that could lead to God’s judgement.
Jesus is misrepresented. The false teachers do include Jesus in their preaching. However, they misrepresent Him. Most significantly he is misrepresented in respect of what He came to do on the cross. The fact that He was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him (see 2 Cor. 5:21) is ignored. Of course, it is ignored because sin is not seen as a problem by the false teacher. So how does the false teacher view the cross? They see it as a great example of self-sacrifice that we should follow.
There is no narrow way. Our Lord urged his listeners to Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt. 7:13-14). However, the false teachers tell people that it is fine to be on the broad road because there is no destruction. “You can choose your own way”, they say, “because all religions in the end lead to God anyway”.
They want to win people for themselves. When listening to a teacher ask yourself: Does he want to win people for himself / his group or does he want to win you to and for Christ? Paul warns the Galatians that the false teachers want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. (Gal. 6:13b). The Judaisers who were afflicting the Galatian church with their teaching, wanted to win followers to their cause and not to Christ.
As we conclude remember these two things:
- False teachers can be very popular. When speaking of the message of those who deceive the Lord says the prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. (Jer. 5:31a). People generally love a message that approves of them in their own chosen lifestyles.
- False teachers are sure to be around always. Peter says that there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you (2 Pet. 2:1a).
So beware of false teachers. If you listen to them and follow them, they will seriously damage your life.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of Sept 2014)
Today, let us stop and ponder upon how wonderful it is to be a Christian. To be a Christian is not just to have adopted a new religion, it is about being a receiver of phenomenal blessings. Let us then take some time to run our hearts and minds over the great truths of scripture and delight ourselves in the goodness of the Lord towards us, his people.
Peace with God In Romans 5:1, we read since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian is in the privileged position of being in harmony with God. How has this come about? By nature we are all enemies of God. However, Jesus Christ has come to make peace through the blood of His cross. He took all of our sins which caused us to be enemies of God, and when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we are declared to be right before God. We are neither guilty nor enemies any longer. In that condition we come into the blessing of having peace with God. God is no longer against us; He is on our side. Peace has broken out, and never again can we become enemies of God: Praise the Lord!
Eternal Life. God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son is the testimony that the Christian has according to John in 1 John 5:11. In Jesus Christ the Christian has the blessing of eternal life. This is true life. This is a life that can never be taken away. This is a life which has no death because it has no sin and therefore it is eternal. Jesus Christ had no sin therefore in Him there is no death. There is only life everlasting through knowing Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness of Sins In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Eph 1:7). In and through Christ Jesus the forgiveness of our sins comes into our lives. Before our salvation our sins stood against us. We stood ugly before God on account of us offending Him through our sinning. His judgement was upon us, but now it has all changed. Our sins have been taken out of the way. Eternally, forever they are gone and will never be brought back. How can this be? It is because there is redemption through the blood of Jesus; and let us note that it is through His blood, shed on the cross, alone. We were in bondage trapped by our sins, but now we have been released. The release has come through the blood of Jesus, and in that release there is the forgiveness of those sins that had placed us in bondage. Surely this is wonderful? How great it is to be a Christian.
We have a hope We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf (Heb. 6:19-20a). The image in this scripture is that of a tugboat pulling the ship into harbour. The tugboat goes in first to check the way and secure the berth for the ship. That is like our Saviour who has gone into heaven on our behalf. He is there securing our entrance. The way is secure, because He is the way and in Him the berth has been reserved. This hope then makes for a stabilising of the souls. In this world there is turbulence, but our life is ultimately not dependent on this world. Our life is in Christ and we are anchored in him. Through being attached to him we can know stability. We are not dependent on the uncertainties of this life to maintain our existence; rather, our souls are strengthened through living contact with the living Saviour.
We Have Every Spiritual Blessing 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. (Eph 1:3). Every blessing that matters is ours through Jesus Christ. Our blessings cannot get bigger and better because they are the biggest and the best. This is because they are not from this world, but rather form the world to come. We have all that we need in Christ. We are the richest people on the planet. Moreover Peter says that His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by His own glory and goodness (2. Pet. 1:3). Our blessings are substantial and all that we need for now (and forever!).
We have one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to be together to share this great voyage of faith. We are in the same family. So in view of that and in view of all the blessings of being a Christian, the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 10:23-25 urges his brothers and sisters to Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Oh, how great it is to be a Christian! How can anyone not be wanting to be in Christ? So go away get on your knees give thanks for His blessings. Praise Him for being so good to you, and simply worship Him for there is no God like unto our GOD, Praise Him!
Taken (and adapted) from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of Aug 2014.