John The Baptist had a major ministry in the purposes of God. His ministry was to prepare for the coming of Messiah. He preached boldly and he preached repentance. In Luke 3:10-14 we see him directing certain groups as to how they would live out their transformed lives. Each group would reveal one characteristic of what should be seen in all the lives of true disciples:
Generosity (see v11): Those with excess possessions were urged to share with those who were deprived. This is not misguided philanthropy which gave to scroungers. Rather it is wise generosity. Every believer should be wisely generous.
Honest (see vv12-13). The tax collectors were known for their dubious practises which lined their own pockets. John told them to be honest. There was to be manipulation of the figures. We should be honest.
Reasonableness (see v14a). Paul would exhort the Philippians to be sweetly reasonable. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5) are Paul’s words. And so were the soldiers to be. They were not to be using force or intimidation to get what they wanted.
Contentment (see v14b). Finally the soldiers were to be contented with their lot. They were not to be agitating. We similarly should be cultivating contentment. The words of Paul ring true again here:Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
So if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ you should be generous, honest, reasonable and content. If you do not have these characteristics then you are most likely not a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
This scripture from Hebrews 3:12-13 gives us a reminder of the sobering truth that there is an inclination in each of our hearts to allow our evil unbelieving hearts to lead us to fall away from the living God. The necessary response to such a tendency is to be exhorting one another to continue on in the way of the Lord’s grace.
A vital implication of this teaching is that we need one another. Left to ourselves we are prone to drift into ways of spiritual peril. With good brothers and sisters around who are prepared to “speak the truth in love” we are encouraged to keep in the good way of the Lord.
Oh how we need each other. But we need each other to be spiritually on our case. So much of our time together as Christians has more of a resemblance to the cleaned up version of the world, rather than vibrant local church centred on discipleship. I should not want to interact with other Christians just to pass the time; I want to interact so as to see them progress for the Lord.
O lets’ healthily, helpfully and above all prayerfully be getting on each others case more and more.
Paul enjoins the Ephesian Christians to Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving (Eph. 5:4). We need to be careful with our words. Particularly here I want to think about the need to avoid bad language.
A foul tongue reveals a foul heart. In Matthew 12:34 our Lord addresses the Pharisees and says: You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The state of our heart is revealed by the content of our speech.
There are certain words in the vocabulary of every language, it seems, that are categorised as swearing; they are understood to be such. There are some which fall into a grey area of acceptability; there are others which are clearly deemed to be swearing. Such words would not be used where decency is expected. The Christian should always be one who cultivates in his heart, and interacts with others, in that which is decent. Paul tells the Philippians Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil 4:8). It is just not good for Christians to be using language which does not conform to decency.
Enmeshed within this consideration of the use of language is the shunning of anything that speaks evil of God and can thereby be categorised as blasphemy. The command of the Lord stands that You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (Ex. 20:7). We should not be rash in the use of the Name of our God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
So let us be careful in all our speakings. The content of our language matters. Let us glorify our God in all of our speech and let us pray Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
And remember that your mouth reveals your heart. Your speech ultimately reveals the real you.
Paul says to the Corinthians Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour (1 Cor. 10:24). This is an explosive verse as regards to our priorities in life. it occurs in the context of Christian freedom. Such freedom means that we are free to take of food offered to idols because the idols are nothing. However, Christian responsibility and love determines that if it causes harm to my brother then I will most certainly not take that food.
We live in a self-seeking world. So much of the ethical air that we breathe is pushing us to take care of ourselves, indulge ourselves and generally put ourselves first. But when we read a scripture like this we are accosted by its abrupt precision. It cuts deep into out self-prioritising beings. Through this word, the Lord says: “re-align your life. Make sure that the good of your neighbour is your priority.”
In making this assertion we need to be aware that there are certain personal priorities that have to be undertaken in order that I make sure that we are of maximum blessing to others. At a very practical level if I am unkempt and have very poor personal hygiene people may be repulsed by me and not and me in their presence. Cleanliness and decency of appearance are therefore important.
On a spiritual level if i am not taking time to be built up in the Lord then my usefulness to others is prejudiced. So our time with the Lord is not a time of self-indulgence, but an essentials pre-requisite to the prioritisation my neighbour.
………..they don’t let you down.” Generally that is the case anyway. What I am referring to here specifically is the fact that you know that they will not regress into sin that is publicly disgracing to their life and ministry.
They have run their course and therefore their track record is to be seen. Of course their is the possibility of skeletons emerging from cupboards a la Robert Maxwell and Jimmy Saville. However, when you quote them or recommend them, you know whether they have kept the faith to the end.
It is something to commend every believer that they keep the faith to the end. When we quote a living saint we do not have that sure knowledge of them keeping strong in His grace until the end.
Moreover, when we quote those who have passed on, particularly many years ago, then history has tried and tested their work. As a result, through this evaluation, you know who are the giants from the past.
So let us be finished with chronological snobbery which views the contemporary as the best. Let us study and let us be blessed in the stalwarts of history.
It used to appear on radios and televisions, DER was the acronym standing for Domestic Electric Rentals. DER were the producers of electrical goods. I remember that one Christian reworked the letters as an acronym for “Devil Entertains Regularly”. The message was that through the radio or TV the devil takes people away from occupying themselves with more wholesome, soul-strengthening activity.
Firstly, I would want to be clear that we should be free to use radio or TV in a wholesome way so as to give much benefit through valuable programmes which educate us and even edify us. Along with that there is the recreation that can come when we use these means in a proper way.
However, with the proliferation of media sources, primarily through the internet, we have vastly more opportunities to indulge in distractions and diversions than ever before. Therefore, we are more easily open to the DER phenomenon whereby our time is used in trivial (and less trivial) distractions which can take us away from more wholesome and valuable activity.
I confess to being very much guilty of being taken away to consume so much time in triviality by the use of the computer and phone. I believe this is a key battle ground for our souls welfare, It is not that we might be consuming unedifying material. but it is that we are not giving ourselves to a more excellent way.
Paul in Ephesians 5:15-16 makes this observation: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. The idea is that time is passing us by and we need to buy it back so as to make best use of it. We need to take heed to this in an age when we have distractions, diversions and entertainments all too readily available.
So when we are consuming media let us be thoughtful of how DER is a real thing and can lead us to be taken away from things that are more excellent. With this in mind perhaps we need to be thinking more about having media fasts which give us time away from DER things.
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.
It is because believers are lazy and ignorant that we do not experience more and more in our souls the visits of grace and the dawnings of eternal glory.” (The Glory of Christ: John Owen p.10).
Mmmmmh that makes me think about where I am at spiritually. So here are some observations:
Christianity does not just happen to people. There is a necessary and purposeful seeking after that which is of God. There is a determination to acquire the Lord for our souls’ welfare. We read scriptures like:
- From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12).
- Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14).
- “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near (Is. 55:6).
We must attend to the means of grace. Bible reading, prayer and fellowship are the necessities for spiritual progress. A lack of attention to these things guarantees spiritual inertness. All Christians need to be attending church and learning and growing in fellowship with another. And how about your personal time of drawing close to the Lord through prayer and the Word; how is that going?
We should be passionate about growing in our knowing. Spiritual laxity is often covered over by the attributing of too much to the Holy Spirit. We need to set ourselves to learn that we can’t just sit back and expect the Holy Spirit to insert knowledge into our beings through osmosis.
We have settled for too little. We have drifted into a Christianity which says this is as much as we are going to get. So we have little appreciation of His ways and a shallow understanding of His salvation and our future glory. And yet, I am persuaded that God has so much more for us to experience.
So let us rise up to know the Lord and in our knowing to be full of worship and passionate service of Him who is Lord.
The call of Paul to the Colossian Christians, and to us, is set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:2). In contrast, he observes, concerning those who are the enemies of the cross and of Christ, that their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Phil 3:19).
The contrast is striking between minds set on things above and minds set on earthly things. So where do I want to set my mind. Those with the call towards heaven are those who are raised with Christ (see Col. 3:1). Those who mind earthly things are enemies of the cross of Christ.
The clear implication thereby is that the cross of Christ is the means by which true believers are given a different trajectory of life. Through binding ourselves to the Christ of Calvary’s cross we are raised to new life in Him as the all victorious conquering Saviour.
The demonstration of the reality of that new resurrected existence is seen in a new outlook to life. Now my desire is towards that of heaven; I want that which is above. However, we do not drift into heavenly thinking. We have to do some setting of our minds. The idea is that we are continually directing our thinking in a heavenly direction. This can only happen when we are like the man of Psalm 1:2 who has his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Along with this we must be praying people. If we do not pray then we will never set our minds on heavenly things. Prayer is about reaching away to God; reaching above.
As we meditate on the Word and pray we are framing ourselves in such a way that heavenly thinking emerges in our beings.
The alternative is the drift towards the thinking of this world. And as we have already thought it is those who are the enemies of the cross of Christ who have the tendency to have minds set on earthly things.