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

Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

Problems And Solutions.

We breathe in the air of secular humanism constantly in the West. It is the dominating philosophy and we as Christians are relentlessly exposed to its insidious teachings. Continually, we are told that God either does not exist or if He does He is not relevant. The message is that it is material goods and possessions which are vital in determining our welfare. 

In such an atmosphere, all issues are viewed from a resource perspective. So governments are continually responding to matters by ‘throwing money’ at them. Politicians prove their success in dealing with a situation by how much resource has been put into a situation.

Having imbibed this culture we so easily follow suit in how we deal with matters in church. Accordingly, we look to bring blessing through bringing resources. Now, this of course has its place. Taking food resources to an impoverished family is going to bring blessing.

However, the reality is that the core problems of humanity are not to do with resources but to do with relationship. We were created to live in relationship with God and with other human beings. So much of the collapse of our society is to do with relationship breakdown. This may be on a macro scale when many people believe themselves disenfranchised from achieving in society. Or at a micro level with marriage and families in breakdown.

Resources do not rectify these breakdowns. There needs to be something deeper. It is only the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that can ultimately touch these issues and bring healing. When people are returning to a relationship with God then relationships with others start to heal.

Unthankful.

Everything starts to go wrong at the point of thanksgiving. Or rather the point of becoming unthankful. As God’s creatures we are beneficiaries of His goodness in so many ways. As a result it is only proper that we respond with thanksgiving to the God who provides for us with the air we breathe, food, clothing, families, education, water, parents, doctors and so much more. Our humanity is fully displayed when we are living in gratitude to God all the time. Hence, when we start to be unthankful we start to dehumanise.

In the light of this it is interesting to see where the rot of humanity set in in Romans 1:21-32, it began to seep in. It started as follows as recorded in Romans 1:21: For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. It started with a refusal to give thanks to God. From there all the other degeneracy of the latter part of Romans 1 developed. When God is no longer acknowledged for who He is then moral anarchy tends to ensue. Such a degeneration starts to manifest when people are no longer thankful to God for his good provisions. And terrible it is when they will not thank Him for the gift of his Son who came to bring them salvation.

The Christian, though, is not of this ilk; he is of a different kind. The Christian follows the pattern of David and says: I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds (Ps. 9:1). Thanksgiving should be the default position for God’s people. So we should follow Paul’s injunction  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus ( 1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Adam And The Gospel.

We can never fully grasp the immensity of the cataclysmic events that unfolded in Genesis 3. We begin the chapter with a harmonious earth beautifully ordered, with man and woman taking their place obediently in their realm before God. We end the chapter with sin on the march, all creation under judgement, everything bearing the marks of the curse and man barred from the garden of Eden.

In the midst of all this chaos we find there is gospel hope. There is hope of a better day. It first comes with the promise in v15 and is found in these words of the Lord God to the snake (Satan).

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.’

The seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, will have His heel struck and so will be brought to the cross. But in that cross He will crush the head of Satan and render him powerless.

This is the only bright word amidst the devastation, ensuing from the fall, that was all around him. And yet in v20 we read Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. Logic would determine that he must call her the mother of all the dying, because that is what prevailed all around. There was no life in sight. And yet, hanging on to the promise of v15, he, in faith, declared her to be Eve. He asserted that God would bring life through the crushing of Satan. Thereby he named her to be the mother of the living. This is amazing faith.

In v21 we see two further critical ingredients of the message of the gospel. In v7b we read how, consequent to the fall,  Adam and Eve realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. However, this was to no avail in being a proper cover. In v21 we read how God made garments for them. Before the fall there was no need of any garments because everything was pure and there was no shame. The fall brought shame and Adam and Eve knew they needed to be covered up. The need for coverings, whether they be fig leaves or skins, testify to the fact of mankind in sin. The wearing of garments by ourselves is a continued reminder that we are sinners. The coverings are an ongoing testimony to the reality of sin and us being sinners.

We also learn in v21 that the giving up of the life of another is necessary for a suitable covering to be made so that we can be acceptable with God. The coverings of v7 prove to be useless because they were man-made. But then the God-made (and provided) coverings of v21 were entirely sufficient. In the providing of these garments we see a foreshadowing of the ultimate giving up of life and shedding of blood to provide a covering for others when our Lord Jesus died on the cross. There he provided a coat of righteousness to all who believe.

So there is the gospel. The promise, faith, sin and the substitutionary offering. All this reminds us of our need of Christ and the provision of salvation in Christ.

 

 

Promises Promises Promises.

We have an utterly reliable God: He always keeps His promises. Everything that He has committed Himself to do, He has done. Joshua says this to the nation of Israel “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed (Josh. 23:14). What reassuring words these are for us today.

God keeps His promises For us, as New Testament Christians, we have even more reason to be sure of the reality of this. This is because, as Paul says to the Corinthians: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God (2 Cor. 1:20). Christ our LORD fulfils all God’s promises to bless his people. Further Paul says to the Galatians: when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Gal. 4:4-5). The promise came first of all in the Garden of Eden, when the Lord says that the seed of the woman would crush the serpents (Satan’s) head (see Gen. 1:15). Prophecies, shadows, illustrations, patterns, pre-incarnate appearances are littered throughout the Old Testament and then He came. He came to fulfil all of God’s promises. He has come.

Moreover, Scripture promises that he will come again. Accordingly, the fact that every promise of the first coming has been fulfilled assures us of the fulfilment of every promise of His second coming. So we stand expectantly, excitedly and with godly fear waiting for the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. As we wait, we know that He who says He will come, will come, and will not delay.

We are blessed by His promises We must bind these great and precious promises to our own hearts. We must remember that God has said: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5b). Peter calls us to remember how 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 Peter 1 v 3) Then we look to the future and hear our Saviour saying: Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? (John 14 v 1) How wonderful it is to be a Christian and believe these promises to the strengthening of our souls, knowing that our God never fails to keep his promises.

We should keep our promises  It should be that we, as His children, bear the family likeness. We should also be promise keepers. It is not always so because we live in a world of broken promises and unkept vows. And as God’s people we so easily fall prey to the way of the world. Moses says to the nation of Israel: This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said (Num. 30:1b-2). For us, as believers, all our words are to be of weight and therefore whenever we commit to anything it should always be implicit that we are binding ourselves to fulfil what we say. We learn this from the teaching of our LORD who in the context of taking oaths said: All you need to say is simply “Yes,” or “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matt 5:37).

Sadly many of us are liars by default. We casually commit ourselves to something just to impress and put on a good face. If such is happening it means our commitments are meaningless because we never intend to carry through on these things. Such should not be so! Solomon in (Proverbs 12:22) says: The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

Are you known as someone who keeps their promises? If you make appointments, do you keep them? If you promise to do something, do you do it? If you reply to an invitation saying you will attend, then do you keep to that?. Of course circumstances sometimes change which means we cannot fulfil our promise. We can be thwarted; God never can. For us, we must let others know if we cannot be there; that is one way in which we show love.

Solomon wisely observes that When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfil your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfil it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God (Eccl. 5:4-7). May none of our words be meaningless. May people know that we are children of our Father because we, like him, keep our promises.

 

Taken and adapted from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of August 2012

Uzzah.

In 2 Samuel 6:6-7 we read When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. What is your initial reaction to the death of Uzzah? Do you feel it was very harsh of the LORD to do that to Uzzah? After all he only touched a wooden box. What are we to make of this? Let us then look at the events surrounding this event as they are recorded in 2 Samuel 6:1-8 and 1 Chronicles 13:1-10 and seek to get some insights into what actually happened here. Thereby we can learn lessons for ourselves.

Seeking God. In 1 Chronicles 13:1a we read that David conferred with each of his officers. Now it is good to confer with godly people around us when we are making decisions in life. However, it is always better to give a priority to conferring with the Lord. David mentioned about being in the will of God, but he did not ask the LORD to reveal His will (see 1 Chron. 13:2a). Further, we read The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people (1 Chron. 13:4). It seemed right to the people, but they had not sought the Lord to see if it was right with Him. As we face decisions in life, large or small, we should make sure that we seek the Lord so that we are moving in His will. David and the people had good desires, but they were not seeking the LORD. This puts the whole enterprise, of bringing the ark back, on a poor footing. We can almost start to feel things will not work out well.

Seeking the Word. If the ark had been carried in the way prescribed by God’s Word, Uzzah would never have been placed in such a perilous position because there would have been no oxen who might stumble. In Numbers 7:9 we read that the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible. Poles were to be used to facilitate the carrying and in that way the ark, one of those holy things. would be secure. However, in the incident regarding the return of the ark, there was no seeking the LORD for His mind on how the ark should be carried even though it is recorded in the law of the Lord. When we face issues in life our default position should always be to see what the Lord’s Word says on this. If we do not do this we are saying we know better than God.

Zeal without wisdom. What we observe, particularly in 1 Chronicles 13:1-7, is that there was a lot of zeal and passion when the ark was being returned. The people wanted to get the ark back and when it was on its way back they were wildly celebrating. But their zeal, although well-intentioned, was not sanctified by the Word of God and prayer; the ark should not have been on a new cart. The wisdom that comes from God through prayer and the Word was not in evidence. It is good to have zeal for God. Oh that there was more of it! But let us be reminded that zeal should never lead us to ignoring the Word and prayer.

Innovation. We have to operate in a way that is appropriate to 2012. However, in all we do we should be having the Word of God as our foundation. They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it ( 1 Chron. 13:7) describes how the ark was transported. No doubt, much justification could be given for using a new cart, but in the end it was against what God wanted and that was what mattered. God’s way was not only the right way; it was the best way. If the ark had been on shoulders there would never have been opportunity for it to wobble. It should have been carried by the Kohathites on their shoulders.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note in Numbers 7:7-8 that the Gershonites and Merarites were given carts for their duties, but not the Kohathites. The carts were suitable for other jobs, but not for carrying the ark. This would remind us that just because one method is totally appropriate in one sphere of serving the Lord it is not appropriate in every sphere. Singing is appropriate for expressing our worship of the Lord, but not for proclaiming the gospel.

How we need to be careful of innovating in a way that goes against God’s word. For example For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God  (1 Cor. 1:18) is what Paul says to the Corinthians. Accordingly, we must stick with the declaring of God’s Word as the great means of bringing salvation and building up His people.

Overly Familiar. Are we too familiar with God? Have we lost that sense of reverence for Our God. The ark of God was significant because it represented the presence of God among His people. It was not just a box. In 2 Samuel:6:2b it is described as that which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. The ark had been in the home of Abinadad Uzzah’s father. Uzzah had no doubt seen it every day and perhaps familiarity had brought contempt. Was his reaching out to touch the ark, a display that he had lost the sense of the significance of the ark and the God it portrayed to the people? He had become casual. Are we like that? Have we become too casual about the God who is our God and is a consuming fire (see Heb. 12:29).

Giving God a helping hand. Carelessness in the Lord’s presence can lead to acting in inappropriate ways. There is no indication, in either of the passages, that the ark was about to fall to the floor. But just in case Uzzah put out his hand. The important thing to remember here is that there was a command to the Kohathites which said they must not touch the holy thing or they will die (Num. 4:15a). No doubt, God would have taken care of his ark, but Uzzah wanted to help out. In the excitement of the occasion he had lost sight of God and the command of God. Are we guilty of this sometimes? God will work and honour his name. He also wants his word to be obeyed even if we think we have a better way of doing things. We are called to love him, obey him and serve him. But always remember He is big enough to take care of Himself.

I trust as we discern some of these principles we can see why the Lord intervened to smite Uzzah. Operating without due reference to our God and reverence for our God always leads to disaster. Let us then take heed and learn from what happened to Uzzah.

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of Nov 2012)

A Ministry For Women.

For many years the Anglican Church has had debates about whether or not women should hold the position of “bishop”. And the first lady bishop, Libby Lane, was consecrated in January 2015. However, whilst all these debates have been going on, one women’s ministry which seems to have been neglected, in churches generally, is the ministry of Titus 2:3-5 that of older sisters teaching younger sisters. Here is the instruction Paul gives to Titus: Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God. This ministry, of older sisters teaching younger sisters, is a key ministry and one that when ignored leads to a great lack in church life.

The first issue that some might raise concerning this ministry is that you are not that old yourself, so how can you instruct younger ones. However, you are most likely older than some other sister in the church, and so are able to some degree to exercise this ministry.

The first challenge from the quoted passage is for older sisters to conduct themselves in a certain way. Titus is to instruct these women to develop certain lifestyle traits. They are to be:

  • Reverent in the way they live. Women in the church should be determining to conduct themselves in a way which reflects a dependence upon God. A Christian women should in the way she dresses, speaks and acts reflect a God-consciousness. In such a way there will be a display of knowing God in all her ways.
  • Not slanderers. A godly woman is not always finding fault with others. She does not spread gossip. She speaks respectfully and is careful with her words.
  • Not addicted to much drink. There seems to be a connection with slandering here. The more the wine then the looser the tongue and the greater the damage that can be done. Older women need to be careful with their alcohol consumption; if not they may cause untold harm through over-indulgence. And thereby it is perhaps best to abstain altogether.
  • Teach what is good. There should be a desire to pass on what is good to others.

This final qualification leads us into the exhortations of vv4-5 where we see that the older woman is have a particular focus to her teaching that is with the younger women. The issues mentioned specifically focus on family life. This may lead many younger women to believe that this teaching is not for them. But some of the principles and issues are still relevant. Younger sisters need the older ladies to train them. Here is the detail of the training.

  • Love of family. Godly younger women need to be reminded to be devoted to their husbands and children. In an age where commitment is seen as an old-fashioned virtue younger wives and mothers need the encouragement of their older sisters in the faith. To give yourself to care for your husband and children is generally unglamorous and unappreciated work, but it is so very important.
  • Restraint. There is a tendency for younger women to attract attention by flaunting themselves before others. By this they seek to get honour and acceptance with their peers. Sadly this often means being involved in immoral activity The Christian woman is not to be like that. Rather she is to be self- controlled and pure. In speech and demeanour younger sisters are to show a restraint which reflects that they trust in Christ and not how “cool” they are to their friends.
  • Home-makers. There is a “nesting instinct” which naturally surfaces when women are expecting children. This creatorial impulse is reinforced by Paul’s teaching that younger wives / mothers have a specific God-given responsibility to manage their homes well. They are to make sure that their husbands and children have safe and warm refuges from the rigours of this world. This does not exclude the woman from work or other activities outside the home. However, such activities should never be prioritised over the essential home making responsibilities. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasised in society today where many homes are in chaos due to women failing to fulfil their home-making responsibility. The consequence of this is seen in the harm to so many young lives simply because they do not find their homes to be a refuge from the rigours of life.
  • Kindness. Husbands and children can sometimes be “hard-work”! Moreover, focusing your responsibilities at home can lead to loneliness. As a result bitterness can creep in. A great preventative of this is the cultivation of a mind-set which focuses on being kind. A godly woman should be encouraged and appreciated for all the kindness she does. It has been said that “most people are too busy to be kind”. Showing kindness inoculates us against bitterness.
  • Honouring Husbands. Subjection to the authority of husbands is not easy and needs the help of God to achieve. Nevertheless, it is a godly gift to your husband, your family and wider society. When men are respected at home they flourish. And in their flourishing the whole of society benefits. One feature of society today, and that includes the church, is that men are confused about their role. This confusion starts when he is not respected at home. Subjection to husbands is not an optional activity; it is something which has big implications.

When we come to the summary statement after these exhortations we realise how important it is that this conduct is demonstrated in the lives of younger sisters in the church. When we read that these exhortations are to be given so that no one will malign the Word of God (v5b) then we realise that the quiet background ministry of sisters in the church has huge implications. When the attributes described above are not found the people are led to speak unfavourably of God’s Word. It is as if they say “if the Word of God does not affect a woman in private then it is useless for impacting anyone’s life”.

How important it is then that the older sisters get on with this vital ministry. If you see younger ones in the church start to befriend them. Get out of your “holy huddles”at church and reach out. There may be some younger women in church whose hearts are bleeding on account their difficulties. God might use you to reach into their situation.

(Taken and adapted from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of March 2012)

Sin Unto Death.

1 John 5:16-17 are verses which godly believers have wrestled with in order to seek to establish their meaning. The verses read:-

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.  All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

The key phrases here are “sin that does not lead to death” and “sin that leads to death”. I would make the following comments:-

  • John is dealing with spiritual death here. The only time John refers to death in 1 John previously is in 3:14 and there it clearly refers to spiritual death.
  • As regards to the issue of sin and its relationship to death, we must initially assert that all sin leads to death.
  • The only sin that does not lead to death is sin that is repented of.
  • So when you see a brother in Christ sin, prayer is made with a view to that sin being repented of.
  • The sin that leads to death is unrepented of sin.
  • The person who commits a sin leading to death is not referred to as “a brother or sister.”
  • There is an uncertainty about praying concerning unrepented of sin because we cannot fully discern someone’s heart. It may be that the person in due course will repent of their sin. There may come a stage when, through sin not being repented of, it is not appropriate to pray.
  • It may be then, that you start praying for someone to repent of a sin, but when they over a period of time refuse to repent then you desist from praying concerning that situation.
  • We should never forget though that in essence all failure to flow with God’s ways is sin.
  • We must rejoice over the fact that there is sin that does not lead to death. This of course should lead us to delight in what Christ has done for us. Were it not for Him then there would be no prospect of sin not leading to death because there would be no chance of sin being forgiven.

May we be thoughtful about our attitude to sin. Let us be quick to repent of sin and so know that such sin is forgiven.

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