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

Archive for the ‘The Gospel’ Category

Our Satisfied God

There is only one being in the universe who is self-satisfied. That being is our God. That being is the God who being One exists in three persons. In the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit there is perfection and each finds full fulfilment in this sharing together. There is no stifling of their persons in this serene atmosphere of perfect Oneness.

As the being created of God, as head over His whole creation whether animate or inanimate, we are formed in the image of God. That image has been marred disastrously by sin. Notwithstanding this, the reality remains that we who are in the image of God have been made for fellowship with God. And it is only when we connect into the all self-satisfied God that we enter into satisfaction.

Satisfaction seeking is a phenomenon which is essential to our human existence. The idolatrous practices that we engage in are an expression of a search for meaning and satisfaction. Driving these pursuits is the mantra “And when I am satisfied I will be comfortable with who I am”.

Alas the satisfaction seeking in this world does not deliver because the place of all satisfying rest, God Himself, is eschewed. We only enter into satisfaction when we enter fellowship with the God is is essentially self-satisfied.

The Word of God says For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Pet. 3:18). The purpose of God is that we should be brought to Himself. The purpose of Christ coming to this world was that we should have a relationship with God. And this is NOT misery and it is not just something that some who are of the more religious bent might find beneficial. It is the finding of life and that in all its fullness.

Our God is Life and offers that life to us, His image bearing creatures. Oh come enter in and enjoy. Enjoy God; enjoy life.

Reconciliation

What a beautiful doctrine is that of reconciliation! It is wonderfully unfolded in ” Corinthians 5:18 to 6:2:

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“In a favourable time I listened to you,
    and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Here we establish four principles:

  1. God initiates reconciliation (vv18-19a). This mighty act is accomplished through Christ. We are not the initiators of this process. We find ourselves at enmity with God through our sin, but it is God who sets about the task of bringing forth reconciliation. Oh what grace this is. He reconciles us. We do not reconcile ourselves.
  2. We are engaged as ambassadors of the message of reconciliation message (vv19b-20). It is the reconciled who declare reconciliation. This makes us think immediately about how we can never be indifferent messengers. Our declaration is an imploration. We passionately long for people to come into the good of reconciliation. If the ungoldy doubt that you passionately long for their reconciliation then there is something wrong with your ambassadorial ministry.
  3. God has made reconciliation (v21). would remind us that Christ has taken our sin so that we might receive God’s righteousness. This is surely the greatest good news. It is the gospel encapsulated..
  4. We need to be responding to this message (vv1-2). Reconciliation will float around as some nice abstract theory unless we grab hold of this reconciliation and make it our own. And we need to do it now. After all we only have today. And we must be reconciled to God. So come to Christ and be reconciled to God.

Margaret And Her Welcome

Our dear friend and sister in our Lord, Margaret Lee,  went to be with her Lord on April 16th. Myself, May Lin and the family shared much time together over the past eleven years or so.

One thing I want to muse upon here is her welcome. I hear it reverberating around in my mind right now. I would go to the intercom system at Felbridge Court and press the button for her flat, she would answer and ask who it was. I would respond with my name. Whereupon she would say “come on in” or words to that effect. The warmth of her welcome still uplifts me as I write this.

It was tangible that she wanted you to be there. Sadly I won’t hear that again in this world. I wish I had recorded it. Perhaps if you knew Margaret you have heard those same words many times.

This raises the issue of how we welcome people. Do we convey to them a generosity of heart which wants to welcome them into our environment? Margaret did. Often her generosity of welcome was to her harm because she would welcome people when she really needed some rest. But her heart was to welcome and taht was beautiful

Of course this all reminds us that we stand right now in this age of welcome. Because Jesus Christ the Lord came to same us from our signs there is a great welcome sign up in heaven. It is reflected in the words in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

As I mention those words I am left to wonder about the large number of people who had their burdens lifted in Margaret’s home. Perhaps you are one; I certainly had more than a few lifted by the Lord through His servant Margaret.

And as she welcomed people in her own unassuming way she reflected the welcome of her welcoming Saviour.

So often we would interact about how we would be soon home. And now she is home; forever with the Lord.

Oh I will miss her so very much

Coronavirus (4)

So we are being shaken; the coronavirus is shaking the world. In James 4:13-16 we read:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” –  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 

The self-sufficiency that prevails in the opening statement of this passage reflects very much the society in which we live. We are a self-dependant society who believe our times are in our hands. We are the captains of our own destinies. So we are so very easily involved in a relentless pursuit of self-engineered security.

And then God steps in and shakes us. This can be through a multitude of means and ways. At the moment it is happening on a global scale. The coronavirus, which on March 11th was declared to be a pandemic has disrupted so many lives. in fact it is likely that 99% of the population of the world have been impacted to some degree. For some it may be slight such as not being about to watch a football match on TV or obtain a product in a shop or the simple uncertainty about the unknown which is happening in another country. For others it is more severe such as the cancelling of holidays, the alteration of works schedules. For others it is very severe even to the losing of livelihoods and lives.

Our lives which we thought were set on a serene course are disrupted. God steps in to shake us. The question then comes: how do we respond?

If you are an unbeliever this shaking is a mercy from God and you should trace through all the logic derived from this shaking. This goes as follows.

I am not in control. All those things that I have set in place to being stability to my life, such as relationships money, status, achievement are all ultimately insufficient to stabilise me. Left to myself I am adrift on a sea of uncertainty and I don’t know how things will work out. And ultimately I am headed for the reality death and I have nothing to give me certainty and security in that day. I need help. In such a state you begin to realise that there is a God who does control all things. As you push further in to the awareness of that God you realise your instability is caused by your sinful rejection of Him. This God, though, has not left us to self-inflicted extermination because of our sin. Wonderfully He has sent a Saviour to rescue us. Acts 4:12 reads  there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” He bears the Name Jesus which means He has come to save us from our sins (see Matt. 1:21). And when we embrace Him as the One who has died for our sins we become part of an unshakeable kingdom with and everlasting King.

Oh may the giving of the coronavirus and all the consequent shaking lead you and many others to stability, security and unshakeability in Christ.

For us who are believers. We need to afresh enter into all the the glorious certainties that we have because we are in Christ and a part of this unshakeable kingdom. We are not exempt from the shakings of the world in terms of our health and our wealth and our general circumstances and situations. However, we believe in the God who is creator and sustainer of all. We are the ones who can live in the reality of the beginning of Psalm 40 which goes as follows:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord (Ps. 40:1-3).

This is our position in the God of our salvation. May we be a people who are continually putting our trust in the Lord now and forevermore.

As we finally return to the teaching in James 4:13-16 let us realise that we need to acknowledge that all our plans and activities need to be made and undertaken with an “if the Lord wills” attitude.

If the coronavirus leads to a diminishing of our arrogance then much good will have been accomplished through it.

It’s All About Relationship

Let’s have a look at the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7.

  • The main problem with the church was a relationship problem (see vv4-5a). They had abandoned their first love. He who should have been close was distant. There was estrangement.
  • As a result there is the threat of the church being removed (see v5b).
  • The church was a faithful and zealous church. In vv2-3 and v6 you can discern how they were hard working, doctrinally sound and faithfully continuing. And yet, if the relationship with the Lord was not sorted out, it would have been removed.
  • Repentance would lead to a restoration of relationship. It would lead to a participating in the tree of life in the paradise of God (see v7). This reminds us of the perfect conditions which prevailed for Adam and Eve before the fall. Alas on account of their sin, they were banished from this privileged environment (see Gen. 2:22-24). This banishment was consequent upon the severed relationship with God.
  • In Genesis 3:8, immediately after the fall, we see the Lord walking in the garden. This was with a view to enjoying fellowship with Adam and Eve. Alas sin meant that Adam and Eve distanced themselves and could not share it with him. This has many reverberations as regard to what was happening with the Ephesian church.
  • In Revelation 2:1 the Lord is walking in the midst of the candlesticks which are understood to be churches (see Rev. 1:20). We normally assume that he was walking in order to observe the churches and analyse their condition. However, I suggest He was walking, as per Genesis 3, to seek relationship with the churches. He desires fellowship with His professing people.
  • The stars are in the right hand of the one who is walking in the midst of the churches. The stars are the messengers of the churches (see Rev. 1:20); most likely referring to the one(s) with the primary responsibility for bringing the Word into the church.
  • This means that the preachers / pastors are always in the hand of the one who is walking among the churches in order to seek relationship with them. Hence, our message should be relentlessly a message formed around that of relationship. We must be grace in Christ through His cross, preachers.

How Many Parties In Luke 15?

There is only one party in Luke 15 and that is the party celebrating restored relationship. So we see in Luke 15:22-24 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

The dead and lost son was found and alive again and the father was alive with excitement about the thrill of being able to enjoy being with him again. The impression is that they partied so as to out-party all other parties. What a celebration!. Yet it is significant that this was the only party going on. There was no party for those who wanted to engage in religious observance; there was only one for restored relationship.

The son who had the privilege of always being with the Father had no sense of the privilege and joy of that relationship. He was more set upon the drudgery and misery saying to his father  ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends (Luke 15:29). He should have spent those years enjoying being with the Father. He should have been thrilled that his brother was back so as to enjoy these privileges. But NO! The suspicion is that if only he had had the opportunity he would have preferred being with the prostitutes than with the father (see v30).

Oh how bad this is and yet we so easily go that way. We should be longing for all of our lost brothers to return and enter into the relationship we have with our Father. And when they return we join them in celebration. Alas, we so often have little wonder of our being with the Father and think that the prostitutes might be a happier place. This is a terrible thing.

But remember there is only one party in Luke 15 and that is one about restored relationship. If we do not want to be at that party we may well be more like the second son than we like to think. We may very well be religious, but not converted. The test is whether or not you want to be at the party celebrating restored relationship.

Our Greatest Need

What is our greatest need as humans beings? Our greatest need is to know God. Our Saviour taught His disciples“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)

Moreover, He said to His Father And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).

Being in a relationship with God is life. To not having a living relationship with the Lord is to be a worker of lawlessness and set for an eternity experiencing the rejection of Christ. The pain of that is beyond fathoming. It means  an eternity of experiencing vanquished hope, total exclusion of from every blessing and blackness of darkness and helplessness forever. The eternal regret of what could have been will gnaw at the soul forever.

Religious activity, even of the grandest sort, does not supersede the necessity of relationship. Casting our demons and doing mighty works are pretty impressive. Alas the performers of such sensational activities are hell-bound without a relationship with Christ.

A critical purpose of the incarnation is so that we can be bound into the eternal life which the Father and the Son share. This is so gorgeous for us to contemplate.

So we need a relationship with God. We need it desperately. It cannot just happen though! Because of our sin we are excluded from God’s favourable presence. But the good news is that Christ came to save us from our sins. His cross is the place of our coming to know God. When we bind ourselves to him and Him alone by faith then we come to know God. Our sins are removed forever and our souls bound to Christ. That is life; that is relationship; that is blessing.

Oh what good news this is. Our life secured with God forever.

 

 

The Bible Is Shocking

A common response to encountering the material of the Bible is to resent, even be outraged, by the judgement passages. The accounts about peoples and nations being wiped out (see the book of Joshua for example) and how God uses His people to fight and war against other nations and vice versa are shocking to people. As a result, people say that they do not want the God of the Bible because of what they perceive to be this shocking material.

The “judgement” parts of the Bible tend to cause this aversion whereas those passages on love are welcomed and appreciated. Is this a reasonable response? I suggest that it is not. It is the love passages that should shock us and not the judgement passages!

If we properly appreciate what happened in Genesis 1-3 we will start to have a different appreciation of these things. Genesis 1 and 2 is about how the God of perfect harmony and unity worked to create that which was beautiful so as to display and share this harmony and unity, which was and is eternally His. Most specially mankind was created so that he (Adam), being in the image of God, could enter into a glorious experience of knowing and living with His God and creator.

Adam had around him palpable evidence of the goodness of the Lord. Yet in Genesis chapter 3 we see how man chose to rebel against the God who had done nothing but good for him. Adam walked out on God giving him a V sign and so much more. This was defiance and rebellion of the highest order.

Given these facts, judgement should be seem as normal and catastrophe, war and misery should be anticipated as the disastrous judgemental outcomes of such a rebellious stance by mankind. For it to be otherwise would be for God to give the impression that life is better without Him, which it never is.

The outrageous thing in this context is that God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). It is absolutely breathtaking that God should take such an initiative to bring people bask into His fullness of life. It is shocking that God could be so generous that in Jesus He could work  so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26b).

The problem we have in grasping this understanding hinges on the issue of how we appreciate our humans condition. Our deceitful hearts, and the propaganda of the world, all cultivate the idea that we are pretty decent people and, if there is a God, He really should be nice to us.

This is a gross misrepresentation of the reality, which is that we, as the descendants of Adam, are those who have acted heinously. When we get this truth into our heads and are honest about what we have done to God, then we start to see things properly. And the outcome is that we have no difficulty with the understanding the judgement passages, it is the grace passages which shock us and we feel unable to get our heads around!

Oh praise Him for his grace; truly amazing grace.

Evangelism In The Darkness

I wrote here about how Christmas may not be the big time for evangelism that some assert. I am left wondering though, whether now we are entering the time of year when we have the most fertile opportunities to engage in evangelism.

January is recognised as the month of year when our moods are at their lowest. Many things combine. We are on the leeward side of the Christmas and New Year party season. There is the gnawing feeling that those parties just did not deliver the satisfaction that they promised. Moreover the excess associated with the holiday season has left us deflated about our appearances. And then there were those fractured relationships which were once again evidenced in the family gatherings over Christmas. Oh and don’t forget the debt-ridden bank accounts from all the necessary (and unnecessary) expenditure at Christmas. Then there is simply the process of putting away the Christmas decorations and realising how we put them up in much excitement for the holiday season and now it is all over; the parties and the holiday were not that great either.

Furthermore, there is the higher level of illnesses such as cold and flu. The weather often being dark and dreary does not help.

Put into this cocktail the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and there is much feeling that everything is not right, SAD is the condition that results from the reduced level of sunlight at this time of year. In passing I note, that the third Monday of January is  generally known to be the saddest day of the year.

So what does all that mean? It means that January is the time of year when it is most detectable that all is not well.  People are thinking, more than at other times, “there has got to be more than this.”

All this sits up as a free hit for evangelism. So there seems something wrong, in my observation, in the church going into something of a stupor at this time of year. We give it our best go over Christmas; now we will have our January sabbatical and get on with preparing for Easter in February.

I caricature, of a measure, but I feel there is more then a grain of truth in this. Are we just missing a great importunity through not being more sensitive to the emotional flow of our neighbours and our society more generally? Is it the case that the fields are ripest for harvest in January and the church is hibernating? How about re-thinking some of our strategies?

Oh and of course don’t forget this has everything to do with the eternal welfare of those around us. We love our neighbours most when we are willing to intervene to help introduce them to the Saviour. Right outside your door (and mine) there might be many who are more open to hearing the hope of the gospel than at any other time. So why don’t we get praying and get going and sharing our Saviour.

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.

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