To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Christ Jesus our LORD’ Category

Envy

Envy is a sin that can grip the souls of all of us, It is that sense of displeasure that arises when we here of others being successful or prospering in a certain way. Church leaders are particularly susceptible to these things.

King Saul was an envious man. We read this of him in 1 Samuel 18:6-9:

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands.”

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul kept an eye on David from that day on.

This is a display of envy which shows all the classic features thereof.

  1. It does not delight in the success of others. Saul did not celebrate David’s achievements.
  2. It hates to hear others being praised over and above yourself.
  3. It seeks harm for the other person. We read how Saul’s envy led to him wanting and striving to eliminate David.
  4. Envy takes a soul from love to hate. We read  And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armour bearer (1 Sam. 16:21). Alas this love faded and was supplanted by hatred. So we read:  And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David ( 1 Sam. 19:2).

If you are a church leader it is easy to slip into envying other church leaders and churches. They have more numbers; they have better gifts: they receive more mention in the Christian press: they see more people being converted. The list could go on.

In many ways when we lose sight of our Saviour then envy can infect our souls. When we see our Saviour giving up all for our sins, we start to see our bankruptcy and unworthiness. This leads us into seeing how blessed we are in Christ. As a result we start to long for the progress of all of our fellows brothers and sisters and servants of the Lord. We long for them to grow in Christ. Moreover, we become driven by desires for the gospel of this grace to reach and transform many. We have no desire to “big ourselves up” and “little others down”. Our goal is for Christ our Lord to be big and made bigger still.

A sight of Jesus and His cross dispels all envy. A Christ-focused man cannot be an envious man.

Everlasting Father

This is one of the terms used of Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. In addressing ourselves to looking at the meaning we need to take time to make sure that we don’t veer towards the error of modalism.

So what is modalism? Modalism is the error by which God is one being who morphs into different persona at different times. So sometimes he appears as Father and sometimes as Son and at other times as Holy Spirit. This is false teaching. the three persons of the Trinity are eternally that. They are three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that forever. there is One God in three persons

So when we think about the Son as Everlasting Father we must be aware that He does not appear in the person of the Father or as a manifestation of the Father. How do we understand the term Father here then?

We need then to ask the question; what is a father? A father is one who cares, protects and provides. This is what a father should ideally be. So when we think of Jesus as the Everlasting Father we are thinking of one who cares protects and provides. He is everlastingly such a One.

When we enter into the meaning of  this term our hearts start to lift as we think of Him as the One who is eternally looking after us. This is a Father who will never turn against us or let us down. Here is One who eternally cares for us. We need to soak in the joy of that. Fellow believer, your Saviour in heaven always provides, cares and protects. Let us trust ourselves to Him afresh and have joy in believing

So when we see our Lord incarnated we see Him, not in the person of the Father, but in the character of Father. In that sense He is The Father here on earth because He shares the same character as the Father. But He never shares the same person as the Father.

A Man With No Deceit

In John 1:47 we read: Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” This was the estimate of the Lord Jesus of this man Nathanael. Would that be His recorded assessment of me and my life?

We must then ask what it is to be without deceit. Deceit is that aspect of character whereby we fail to present ourselves as we genuinely are. Actually, when operating deceitfully we are operating in a way contrary to what is presented. That is what deceit is  and it can be found in our words and our actions.

The first use of the word in the Bible gives demonstration of what the meaning is. Eve gives her commentary in what happened when Satan came with his temptation by saying “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:13b). Though the serpent Satan presented himself as one set to bless Eve, his actual purpose was to destroy. Always undergirding deceit is the drive to maximise self-interest, Why is deceit found in a person? It is because they want to promote the interests of themselves or of their grouping. Satan was the original self-interested deceiver.

Deceit then is a natural outworking of our sinful hearts. Paul says to the Ephesians that they are to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, (Eph. 4:22). Further he says: Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Eph. 5:6). Deceit is to do with the workings of our hearts in opposition to God. Deceit naturally flows in this world which is dominated by self-interested motivations.

Is God deceitful then? To which we answer No; never. We read of our Saviour that He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:22). Our God always deals in a straight way. So we read: For I am the LORD; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ez. 12:25)

As those who are born of God we are called to a Nathanael type life. We are to be those who put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (1 Pet. 2:1). Moreover we realise that For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit (1 Pet. 3:10).

Alas as believers we so easily go in the ways of the flesh and we need to realise it is a complete abhorrence. Deceit should be shunned and hated with all our beings.

His Indescribable Gift

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Cor. 9:15) What a verse this is. Such a wonderful reminder, at this Christmas season, of how our Lord Jesus came into the world as Saviour. But the riches of the verse start to become even more sparkling when we delve into the context of the passage.

Paul is seeking to bring forth giving hearts from the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 9:6 he has asserted the agricultural principle of sowing and reaping to illustrate the reasonableness of giving. In the agricultural scenario the farmer will sow as much seed as possible in order to maximise the yield from his crops. In springtime he is not thinking about keeping as much seed as possible back in the barn. He is instead, thinking about getting as much as possible out on his fields.

When our hearts are in tune with God’s then we will be following this principle. Our default position will be to give as much as possible rather than keep as much back as possible. We want to share and give in order to bless.

Now with that in our minds let us look at our verse. In eternity God has dwelt in a beautiful, righteous harmony which is hard for us to grasp. Father, Son and Holy Spirit always there; always enjoying loving communion together; always delighting in each other. And as we think about what prompted the incarnation of the Son, we are led on to the thought, that the three persons of the Godhead concluded that the wonder of their bliss was too good to keep to themselves.

So the whole programmes of creation and redemption was played out by our beautiful God. Rather than keeping all this beautiful relationship within themselves, Father, Son and Holy Spirit determined to share it with others. All that is unfolded in Genesis 1 and 2 shows how mankind was created for the purpose of knowing God. Alas sin came in, but God was not to be thwarted in sharing His glory with others. And so there is the divine purpose of Jesus coming into the world. This is first stated in the proto-evangeleon of Genesis 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The Son is appointed to come as the head  crushing offspring of the woman. He has come as a love gift. God in His grace does not want to just keep Himself to Himself, but to share Himself with others.

This sharing could only be brought to fruition by the Lord Jesus coming into the world. Paul seeks to pass on something of this when he says to the Colossians; For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:19-20)

This all ties in with the context of 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 as we see how a giving heart leads to blessing. God did not keep for Himself all of the triune joy of His relationship within Himself, but was set to share it. And that meant the incarnation; that means Calvary. Oh what a gift. Oh what a God. Oh what blessing is now ours.

So as we ponder upon the giving heart of God this Christmas, let us worship and praise. And let us further ponder upon whether our hearts are godlike and therefore prone to share.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Our society is full of them; excuses. Excuses for bad behaviour abound. It was my upbringing; it is my circumstances; it is my spouse who drives me to do this; it is my health situation. And of course, the one used perhaps most prolifically; I was provoked. All of these and many others are brought forward to excuse actions which harm others and are reprehensible in the sight of God. In making these excuses we expect a free pass from any examination of our actions.

Moses in Numbers 20:1-13 had a ready made set of excuses. In this passage he loses his temper and disobeys the Lord’s command striking the rock twice rather than speaking to the rock (see Num. 20:8-11). As a result the Lord’s judgement falls. We read  And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Num. 20:12).

Moses had plenty of excuses that could have been brought forward to excuse his action:

  1. His sister had just died
  2. The people had no water again.
  3. The people he was called to lead were complaining again
  4. The people were blaming him and Aaron, his brother, for their problems.

Each one could have been a valid excuse we might deem. However, not so with the Lord. Sin is sin and Moses as a leader of God’s people should have known better. To his credit Moses never marshalled any of these excuses in his defence. He simply accepted what was a great disappointment to him; he was not going to be able to lead the people into the land.

Alas, in the church of our Lord Jesus, we can be quick to get our excuses in rather than repent of our sin. Such an approach is ungodly. Let us be quick repenters rather than quick excuse finders. Of course, it is better to go one better and that is not to sin. And in that case we remember that when we are feeling under strain amidst the circumstances of life: Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for December 2019. It contains an article on the love of God.

Cor Deo

On November 14 and 15 I had the privilege of attending a Cor Deo Mini-Intensive. Here is a link to their website. These were two golden days of learning and being transformed and renewed by the study of God’s Word. There were three main elements:

  • Studying John 3, 5, 12 and 17
  • Considering some of the streams of thought and activity which have flowed in order to give us “church history”
  • The foundations of the gospel and Christian living.

Some thoughts on why it was such a great time:

  • Peter Mead is a very good teacher with a clear mind. He drives you towards the heart of the God who exists in tri-unity.
  • The main passion of Cor Deo is that people are drawn into the excitement of knowing fellowship with the God who has purposed in Christ to bring us into knowing Him. This trinitarian God is a welcoming God.
  • The study group of seven of us was a great number for interacting. Furthermore, they were such a great group of disciples of our Lord. Humble, with many great insights, all wanting to know more of God and grow in him.
  • The pace was generally just right with time to healthily give attention to things, but also with enough pace to keep things going.
  • I feel there is much to recommend the approach of Cor Deo. The smaller group format gives a certain intimacy in the pursuit of knowing God. This along with their main thrust being upon us being brought into experiencing and knowing God leads to an edifying and uplifting time. We were encouraged to see God not as one who gives information about Himself or who wants us to keep ruler to get on His good side, but of actually entering into experiencing Him.
  • The accommodation was a bit dingy and cold (particularly on the first morning). However, that almost added to the sense of us “being in this together”.
  • Altogether, I would highly recommend attending Cor Deo if you want to be pushed into really knowing the LORD. Of course, if you just want to be an “information gatherer” of “keep the standards” person it is not for you
  • Mike Chalmers, Peter’s co-worker, is also most helpful in his teaching and gives a geniality to the sessions in his own unassuming way.

 

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