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

Archive for the ‘Christian Life’ Category

Digging Yourself Into A Hole

My withdrawal from work and church life consequent upon my depression was a quite a heart-wrenching experience. Through the night on January 16th/17th everything changed. Through disturbed sleep, I gradually moved from a position of contemplating how I was going to arrange myself so as to get through what was ahead, to a position where I had concluded that I had to pull out of everything.

At the heart of myself reaching this conclusion was the awareness that I was only digging myself increasingly into a hole. I had gone on since December 19th thinking that I would right myself and be stabilized mentally and emotionally so as to be able to move forward. Reluctantly I had to conclude by January 17th that I was only going further down and there was no stabilizing and rising up. If carried on I reckoned, I would only drive myself further down.

I believe in retrospect this was the sensible thing to do and was important as regards to me re-establishing myself.

Moreover, I want to assert, that there is a general principle of life here which we need to be willing to apply. There are times when we have to admit that to continue in a certain course is only going to have harmful consequences. In such a situation we have to admit defeat and pull back. To do otherwise is to prejudice the welfare of ourselves and possibly many others. I believe if I had not pulled out it would have been detrimental to the welfare of my family and church.

To admit that the pursuit of a certain course is harmful is not easy, but it is wise. However, there must be discernment between copping out and pulling out. The former is a character fault because it indicates that we will not stick with something when we should. The latter is a character asset because it means we do not continue with something when we should not. To discern between the two is very often not easy, but it is essential that we are aware that the two are necessary to healthy living.

 

“I Am From Paraguay”

Let us think of a hypothetical man who stands before you and says “I am a Paraguayan.” You then proceed to quiz him a little further about his identity. Whereupon you find out that:-

  1. He does not have a Paraguayan passport.
  2. He was born in the UK and has been resident there for his whole life.
  3. He has never been to Paraguay.
  4. His parents were born in the Philippines and have never been to Paraguay.

Having established those facts you think for a while and conclude it is most unlikely that this man is a Paraguayan. His profession is denied by the evidence.

So let us think about the sadly not so hypothetical man who stands before you and says “I am a Christian”. You then proceed to quiz him a little further about his identity. Whereupon you find out that:-

  1. He does not go to church.
  2. He believes that being a Christian is about seeking to do lots of good works.
  3. He has neither been baptised nor ever been a church member.
  4. He does not have any display of the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal.5:22-23) in his life.

Having established those facts you think for a while and conclude it is most unlikely that this man is a Christian. His profession is denied by the evidence.

(Originally published at Venabling 13th January 2017)

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for April 2019. It has an article about “Real Christianity.”

We No Longer Have The “Old Man”

Christians often use statements referring to how they are battling with the “old man”. But is this really accurate? Do we still have the “old man”?

Paul writes this in Romans 6:6-7 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin –  because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. At the moment we become Christians we are finished with the old self; the old man is crucified with Christ. Sin used to dominate in that life which I had before I was saved, but when I became a Christian the old man, given over to sinful pursuits, was slain. On the ,contrary we are now new men. We are new because of Christ. The teaching of Romans 6 is that through the gospel we have been re-wired. So rather than being dominated by sin, we are now dominated by righteousness. The inclination of the new man is predisposed towards righteousness.

So the life story of every Christian is like this. Before they we saved, they had the old man. After they were converted, they are remade as new people. As Paul says to the Corinthians: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Cor. 5:17).

We must state here, though, that although we do not have the old man; we do most definitely still have the old nature; we have the flesh. We do still have within us a nature which is set on doing wrong. Paul writes in Romans 7:18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. The Christian cannot be dominated by sin, but he can be plagued by sin. The bent of every Christian is towards righteousness; this is the reason why sin is so detestable to the Christian.

Paul further teaches in Ephesians 4: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The main idea in this passage is that the Christian is to be who they are. More correctly the text should say that they have put off the old self which is corrupted in evil desires and have put on the new man which is created to be like God in righteousness and holiness. Given that this has happened, they should now live as new people who are finished with the past.

The teaching in Colossians 3:5-10 is similar. Here Paul addresses the Colossians and says: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

So most wonderfully, fellow Christians, we no longer have the old man. Given that God has worked this so wonderfully for us, let us make sure we live as new people risen in Christ.

(Originally published at Venabling on January 30 2014)

We Are Saved To Keep The Law.

Some time ago (here), I observed that we are saved from keeping the law. So how can I now say that we are saved to keep the law? The issue here revolves around how we view God. As a non-Christian, our default position is to rightly view God as judge. As a Christian though, our view is radically changed. Now our default position is to view God as Father. The natural heart cry of the Christian is to think of Him as our Father.

So now we are Christians and know God as our kind and loving Father, how do we respond? Well, if you love somebody one of the things you are inclined to do is to act so as to please them. How do we respond then to the fact that we have a kind loving father? We respond by wanting to please Him. And how do we know what pleases Him? We have His law which reveals what He loves and what He hates. With this in mind then the Christian wants to keep the law. We are not doing this to “get on the right side of God”. Rather we are doing it because we want to bring pleasure to Him.

Moreover, when the Spirit of God is moving in our lives, this is where He is taking us to. For example, we read in Romans 8:4 that Christ has worked to save us in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Growth contd.

Last month we started a study focusing upon how we need to grow as Christians. This is not an optional extra; Christians need to be growing. Having considered the need for food last month, let us this month look at the issues of exercise and getting the right assistance.

Exercise In order to grow properly we not only need good food, we also need to exercise. The food of course must come first, but to have muscles which properly develop, exercise must take place. What are we to say on this matter then as we consider the spiritual realities involved?

One thing we need to do is to make sure we live out our faith. As James says, faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26b). To be living the true life of faith we need to be using the Word of God to impact our lives. We need to be walking in the light of what we have been taught. We need to work out what has been fed in! We must be making sure that our lives harmonise with our confession. Paul in 1 Timothy 6 is presenting various ways in which a believer can get taken away from following God (see 1 Tim. 6:9-10). He then goes on to say in verse 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

We need to realise that there are times when we need to fight so as to progress in the walk of faith. Paul urges Timothy to Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Tim. 6:12a). The Christian needs to step up and fight the battles of the Lord against sin and unrighteousness. Paul says to Timothy that he needs to be be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:1). We need to be strong so as to fight. However, as is true of a boxer so it is true of a Christian, the fighting actually makes us strong; it builds up our muscles. We must note here though that we need to choose our battles. In the spiritual realm fighting the wrong battles weakens us. So Paul again warns Timothy to Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith (1 Tim.6:20b-21).

Exercise also needs to be happening in respect of our gifts. Gifts are given to us to be exercised. We are not to hide our gifts away, but to exercise them. Paul tells Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2. Tim. 1:6b). As we exercise our gifts, we grow. We learn from mistakes and we learn from others how we can best fulfil our ministry for the glory of God and the benefit of others. So as we grow, the church grows. Oh the beauty of these things!

Fellow Christian, is your gift lying dormant or are you exercising the ministry God has called you into? In the church there are too many sleepers. And we know that if someone sleeps all day and does not get out of bed then their muscles will atrophy and become weak. The church needs your ministry and so make sure you get up and work for the Lord. If you are struggling to know where and how you can get involved in the church then speak to the elders of the church and they will seek to help you.

Getting the Right Help Many fail to grow because they feel that they can grow on their own. One of the principles of animal life is that the young always need help to get established. Without that help they are unlikely to get growing and will be very weak. This is also seen in the realm of vegetation where protection and nurturing is often given to young plants. This is done through a stake being placed alongside them to keep them growing in the right direction and cages placed around them to protect them from that which would harm them.

This indicates that in order to grow we need others to help. There is a sense that this is always the case. If someone has concluded that they do not need the help of others then that one is in danger of stopping growing. But for those in the fellowship who are young in the faith, it is essential that they gain help from others. God has placed spiritual leaders in the church to help. Elders are there to protect and guide the church so that they make good progress in the right direction. This is particularly so for those who are young in the faith.

However it is not just true for the young, it is true for all of us. Let us hear God speak to us, in this matter through this proverbs: Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise (Prov. 19.20). We can be opening ourselves to so much blessing when we seek out others to help us.

This raises the question about having those around us who are willing to help us and nurture us. This is an ongoing need in every church and every Christian needs to face up to their responsibility in this. We read in Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Every Christian should be praying about and working towards the growth of others.

We must note that elders have a particular responsibility in this. As Paul says elders should be those who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you (1 Thess. 5:12b). If an elder is not assisting the believers in the church through his care and admonition then he is not an elder. We need elders, real elders among us.

So we conclude and say that, if you are a Christian you should be growing in the Lord and for the Lord. You will grow through consuming good food, engaging in exercise and drawing upon the assistance of others.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of February 2016)

 

Growth.

Peter urges us as Christians to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Every Christian should be growing. If a Christian is not growing there is something wrong. Furthermore, if someone is not interested in growing in grace and knowing Jesus then it is unlikely that they are a Christian. So what about you as we enter 2016? Are you wanting to grow? In this study, which is due to continue into the February newsletter, we intend to consider: “What Do We Need In Order To Grow?”

Food 

As a priority, in order to grow we need food. For a child to grow physically, he needs to eat food, and so it is with a child of God. For a Christian to grow spiritually he needs to be eating the food of the Word of God. The first concern that every parent has for their child is that they are getting good food. Fellow Christian, you need good food! Without good food, you will not be healthy. Peter used the imagery of the need for healthy bodily nourishment, when he says that Christians should crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (1 Pet. 2:2b). Oh, how Christians should be desiring the pure spiritual milk of the Word for the nourishment of their souls? To re-inforce this point we observe that Our Saviour answered the devil by quoting from Deuteronomy in Matt 4:4 ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is the food we need.

There are three particular realms in which we can feed on the Word of God.

  1. Personally.

You must read the Word of God on your own. As we need food for our bodies everyday, so we need food for our souls even more. We must get before God every day, and read and study his Word. We read for the feeding of our souls that we might grow. The Feltham Journey (see Notes) is one means of doing this, but there are many other ways. As you move into 2016, think about continually keeping your personal reading of scripture fresh.

  1. With Others.

When you meet with other Christians, open up the Word of God, read it and discuss it. Alternatively, if there is something on your mind from your personal studies, talk about it with others you meet with. Share with them what God has been teaching you. What do you put on Facebook? Why not put there what God has taught you? The Feltham Journey WhatsApp group provides a forum for this as well.

Are there any issues that you are wanting to resolve or find out more about? Then why not be asking other Christians about their understanding of the issue from the Bible. Through such a means you can be finding out what the mind of the Lord is on such matters and you will be growing.

  1. In Church.

Perhaps this is the most important arena in which to be hearing God’s Word. Here the sheep of God come together to be fed by hearing the Word preached and taught by those who have been raised up as teachers of God’s Word. One of the gifts God gives to His Church is that of pastor-teacher. They are gifted so that all may be benefited by the food they provide. So make sure you are there often so as to be fed on God’s Word. And as we, as a church, feed to together; we learn together.

An observation concerning those who separate themselves off from the flock is that they do not grow in a rounded and wholesome way. “Isolationist Christians” are generally malnourished and also malformed because they have an impoverished diet. They have not been using God’s means, provided in the church, through gifted preachers and teachers, for their strengthening in the Lord. Therefore, they have not been having their beings formed through a balanced diet of God’s Word. One consequence of malnourishment is malformation. One way of spotting that a Christian is malformed is when they have an obsession with certain doctrines which is out of all proper proportion. Minor issues are majored upon, whilst the keys issues of our faith are given little attention. This is not good.

As and attender of Feltham Evangelical Church why not make a point in 2016, of getting to the meetings/services where the Word of God is taught. Read through the newsletter and see when they are. If you want guidance speak to the elders, Zach and Philip. Oh, for the good of your soul make sure you are fed well! True shepherds have the best welfare of the sheep at heart and want to make sure that you are being fed well.

However, ultimately each individual is responsible for his/her soul before God. So each must makes sure they are receiving nourishing food. Accordingly, you must be continually checking as to whether the spiritual food being brought before you is nutritious. Remember, much poison looks attractive and nutritious, but is still poison. So be like the Bereans who received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Act 17:11b). One simple way to do the examination is to ask how much of Christ is in this teaching. The Word of our Lord Jesus is that ‘I am the bread of life. (John 6:35b). When the Word is being brought so that it leads to Christ, focusses us on Christ and exalts Christ, you can be sure it is being preached and taught in a healthy way. When there is a continual emphasising that God works out and fulfils His purposes in Christ, then we can believe that all is well in our feeding and we will grow thereby.

Oh, as you move into 2016 make sure that you get yourself fed! Get yourself well fed with nourishing spiritual food. Food lacking in nutrition leads to stunted growth. Even worse, it could mean that you shrivel, and perhaps losing all spiritual vigour.

(Next month we plan to look at “exercise” and “getting the right help” as two further factors in making sure we grow well.)

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Newsletter of January 2016.)

 

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