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

Archive for the ‘The Word’ Category

Grace And Truth.

One of the statements made to describe our Saviour is that He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14b). In all His ways never did he sacrifice truth for love nor love for truth. This reminds us that for ourselves, we should always be seeking to follow His example and uphold these two principles of truth and love at the same time. Paul, in Romans 1-8, gives us something of the pattern for how love and truth should interact in order to produce a God glorifying outcome.

Romans 1:1-3:20; righteousness

In this passage Paul never once refers to the love of God. He is rather setting forth how the truth of God convicts all so that the whole world held accountable to God (3:19). He marshals his material so that all, whether Jew or Gentile, religious or non-religious, would know that they are bankrupt before God with nothing to pay to make themselves right before God. Sin is exposed and all are shown to have fallen short of the glory of God.

We should not be ashamed to call sin for what it is; an abomination before God. We do not do this according to our own likes and dislikes, but rather according to the standards of God’s Word. If God’s Word says that something, whether it be an action or an attitude, is wrong then we are responsible to name it as such ourselves.

In this respect it is so helpful to know the ten commandments as the great summary of God’s Holy requirements. We should all seek to learn them and be regularly checking our lives against them.

Of course, at a time like ours we are increasingly setting ourselves against the standards of society around by standing by the statutes of the word of God. But we are duty bound to do so.

Let us look at one critical area; that of sexual matters. Around us we have liberal anti-God do-as-you-please attitudes to sexual matters. Sex outside of marriage and homosexual activity are seen as modern, normal and acceptable. But God says differently. Adultery/fornication is wrong according to God. Homosexual acts are condemned in the scriptures. In standing on these principles we will very likely make ourselves unpopular, but we must take a stand if we are to please God.

Romans 3:21-5:21; forgiveness

However, we must also remember that after showing people their sin God goes on most wonderfully to show people that there is forgiveness; there is salvation with the LORD. God shows people their sin in order to show them how His Son paid the price for sin so that men might be brought back to Himself. In doing all this He never sacrificed His justice (see 3:21-26). This is God’s wonderful plan.

Part of the problem with the scribes and Pharisees in bringing the woman caught in adultery to the LORD (see John 8:1-12) was that they just wanted her to be condemned. Their theology did not include grace. Whereas for ourselves we should be different. We rightly see men and women standing condemned for their sinful behaviour. However, our desire should always be that they are driven to the salvation in Christ Jesus. Our desire should always be that forgiveness would be known, by all, in Jesus Christ our LORD

As people come among us they should know that our God has laws which is an offence to break. But they should also be aware that there is forgiveness for repentant law breakers. On the contrary, we must also guard against the danger of too lightly dealing with the issues of sin. Jeremiah speaks about healing sin too easily and saying “peace peace” they say when there is no peace (8:11).

Romans 6:1-8:34; sanctification

The woman caught in adultery in John 8 was sent away by our LORD with the command to go and sin no more (v12b). Paul picks up this theme when he answers the question about the possibility of continuing in sin that grace would abound with a resounding ‘by no means’ (6:2).  

It is so important for us to know that God calls those who have been forgiven, to a life of righteousness. Those that have come to know the Righteous One should love righteousness. As those who have been born again into the family of God we should love to please our Father. Common courtesy demands that if someone has done good to us we should seek to please them. How much more should this apply with regard to our heavenly Father.

However, Romans 7 reminds us that we cannot live this life of righteousness in our own strength. Rather we need for the Holy Spirit to have freedom in our lives. It is only when the Spirit is having freedom in our lives that there can be a pleasing character to our lives.

Notwithstanding this, we should remember that many Christians still continue to battle against strong inclinations to sin. In such cases we should be swift to show much care and gentleness. To return to our earlier theme many Christians struggle to live up to the LORD’S standards in regard to sexual behaviour. In such cases we should be careful to be gentle in our handling of each other so that all can be helped to live a righteous life thorough the workings of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Let us then seek to hold the love and righteousness of God in proper balance. Remembering that His way is always the best.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of August 2004)

Apologetics And Evangelism.

Let us define these two terms to start with:-

Apologetics: “That aspect of Christian theology which seeks to set out and demonstrate the credibility and plausibility of the Christian Faith” (Alister McGrath in The J.I. Packer Collection).

Evangelism: The presentation of the Christian Gospel to people with a view to them embracing that message and being saved.

It would be my contention that apologetics is a part of evangelism. When apologetics comes to be divorced from evangelism then it has lost its way. If we are just seeking to prove that the Christian message is credible and plausible then we are just competitors in an intellectual game. If we win the argument then we can pat ourselves on the back. If we lose then it’s a shame, but there are no great consequences.

However, the message of the Bible, and that of how Jesus Christ came into the world, is not a message which is simply to be pitched in among all other theories, philosophies and messages to vie for supremacy. It is rather the message of how God is working in the universe to bring glory to Himself. It is not “a message” – it is “the message”. All other messages are trying to make sense of this world. However, they never will do because they do not argue from the true source which is that of Scripture. But we do have to be aware of the need to seek to engage with people in this culture. If we just do evangelism without any thought of apologetics we are very likely to fail to evangelise. This is because we will not be engaging with people. They will hear this message which has no connection with their lives and thereby dismiss it as utterly irrelevant because it has no traction into their situations.

Listening to messages from Word Alive in 2013 by Dan Strange are helpful. He seems to have got to the heart of this issue. His assertion is that many people are so far away from the knowledge of the gospel, that we really do have to track a long way back as regards to getting them to consider this gospel as relevant. In getting into their situation we are always seeking to come where people are. This is the great truth that is at the heart of our faith. Jesus, being Immanuel which is God with us, tells us of one who has come close. He has come where we were. God has not just shouted from a distance. We need to come where people are. We need to listen to them. And we need to respond. Is this not one of the salutary lessons from the ministry of Francis Schaeffer? He met the people of the 1960’s and 1970’s where they were and accomplished much as a result. In seeking to meet people where they are though, we are not just seeking to sanitise their thinking. Rather we are seeking to show that their thinking is askew.

Accordingly, although we may not be quoting Scripture all the time we need to be declaring biblical truths. We are impotent if we lose the biblical revelation at the basis of our interaction with the world. This is because God has given His revelation of His mind to us as human beings in the Scripture. The Bible is His Word and it is the only place where His mind is revealed. Always Scripture must drive our argumentation. We need to remember in all our argumentation, that we are seeking to bring people to consider the claims of Christ. In every interaction we should always have in mind that we are headed for the cross. If that is not the case we are just the aforementioned intellectual duellists.

In all this though, we should remember that the things of God are not naturally discerned. Ultimately, it is without question that the Christian message is credible and plausible. But people will not grasp this until they have faith and God reveals his mind to them . As Paul says to the Corinthians. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:14).

And so we pray that the Lord would give people understanding. And that is not just understanding that Christianity is true which it is of course. But understanding of the message of the gospel and they would thereby be saved.

(Original post from Venabling on 27/10/2014)

Nailing Certain Issues

In Nehemiah 10:1-27 we read a long list of those who bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord (Neh. 10:29b). This general commitment sealed the direction they were determined to take from now on.

However, they then went on to make definite statements on special issues. There were essentially three:

  1. Not marrying with the peoples around them (v30).
  2. Not merchandising with neighboring people on the Sabbath (v31)
  3. Providing for the house of the Lord (v32-39a)

In doing this they nailed certain issues so as to make a clear point about what their actions would be in respect of these issues. It appears all three of these were matters of pressing importance to the people of God at that time. It was important to make clear what their attitude would be to these things.

This raises an important principle for us. We generally, as God’s people commit ourselves to following the Lord and His ways. But there are particular issues which are important at any given time and we need to be careful to declare our position on them. One of them, at the present time, I suggest would be that of ‘divorce and remarriage’.  This seems to be an issue which each church should determine where they take their stand so as all know where we are at in this matter. Other issues may vary from congregation to congregation. But I do believe that it is appropriate to consider the way that the people of Nehemiah’s day handled these matters.

It is certainly a challenge to leadership to discern what the issues are and then reach a view of them in the light of God’s Word.  But it does seem to be something that every eldership needs to be continuously thoughtful about.

(Originally posted at Venabling on 01/07/2015)

I Must Enquire of the Lord

We read from Joshua 9 on Sunday. The passage is about how the Gibeonites deceived the Israelites in order to preserve themselves. They accomplished this through an elaborate scam to convince the Israelites that they came from a far distance. Regrettably the Israelites fell for this and made a covenant with the Gibeonites to the guarantee their preservation.

There is a key statement reflecting upon the Israelites decision. It reads: The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not enquire of the LordThen Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath (Josh 9:14-15). Their telling non-action, was to not enquire of the Lord. Thereby, they set themselves up for ending up in a mess.

How we need to learn this. How I need to learn this! In all my decisions I need to enquire of the Lord. Prayer must be involved. Due consideration of the Lord’s mind revealed in Scripture must be involved.

Remember the principle if we do not enquire of the Lord we will end in a mess.

(Originally posted at venabling on 31/07/2014)

My Bible

It is good to get used to your own Bible. In these days of the extensive use of technology, this is getting to be  less and less  common. However, I still think there is something good about having your own Bible. In doing this, you get used to where certain things are in you Bible. You get used to what part of the page you saw something. How many times have I been looking for something in my Bible and not quite sure what reference it was, but knowing that it was in a certain location.

There is something encouraging to see people bringing their own Bibles to church with them. We have a church Bible at Feltham, which for practical purposes is good. However, to see people getting familiar with the Word through using their own Bible, as Scripture is read and preached in church is encouraging. There is just something good communicated by someone bringing and using their own B Bible in church and getting familiar with it.

(Originally posted at Venabling on 22/07/2014)

Every Christian a Theologian

Its is a shame that “theology” seems to get a bad press among Christians. The study of theology is something that most Christians resist engaging in. This seems to be wrong.

To start to get to grips with this matter we need a definition. A basic definition is that theology is the study of the nature of God. So on the basis of that definition stop and think who should the study of theology be for. And whilst thinking ponder upon the words of our Lord Jesus who said to His Father: Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3). At the heart of our existence is this priority to know God and His Son Jesus. Implicitly then we should all be theologians because our calling is to be studiers of God.Our calling is to know God.

Moreover the logic of love gives full justification for the study of theology. When we love someone we are impulsively driven to find out more about the one we love, As Christians we are brought into a situation whereby we are structured to love God. Our whole default heart position is to have a passionate desire for our God. God’s intervening grace in our lives drives us to respond with love for him. Out of this love we become theologians because we are driven to find out more of the God we love. And then when we learn of how glorious our God is we are drawn to love Him. Out of this love we become studiers of God. It is a virtuous circle. It is those who are true theologians who grow in the love and worship of God.

When we get this perspective on theology we start to think differently. We start to think that every devotional time with the Lord should be a theology time. Every sermon should be a theology sermon. And as we discover more and more of our God we will want to know more of our glorious God. And thereby theology becomes a passion and not a drudgery.

Oh may I love theology!

(Originally posted on Venabling on 5/8/2014)

The Word Must be the Priority

In Mark 6 we find the Lord and His disciples busy in serving the Lord. Amidst such busyness the Lord counselled that they should go to a place of quiet to rest and be refreshed. Many saw what was happening though, and followed them to where they would alight. Whereupon we read these words. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things (Mark 6:34).

The next verse reads By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late (Mark 6:35). This would indicate that time was getting on and that it would be best to disperse the crowd as soon as possible. Being aware of this brings the Lord’s approach into sharper relief. Rather than send them away, he chose to teach them. His priority was getting the Word into their lives.

It is as if he saw them wandering through life without true knowledge of how to live. Accordingly,  they were, in His sight, sheep without a Shepherd. But how could they find a shepherd? It was through the teaching of God’s Word that they would find out about the Shepherd and the way to find life and live life.

It is further interesting that He taught them many things. He was prepared to stretch them with much from the Word so as to maximise the benefit into their lives.

It would have been so easy to have prioritised getting them home or getting them food, but his priority was getting the Word to them. We must remember this. People need the Words of life that are in Scripture. The world is filled with harassed sheep wandering through life with no shepherd. And we need to teach them.

 

 

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