Sunday, 17 November 2019

Strong words ...

“… watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned … By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:17-18).

These are very strong words. They are words which have a great deal to say to the Church at a time when it seems that the voice of permissive society is threatening to drown out completely the voice of Holy Scripture. When Paul addresses the problem of divisions among God’s people, He calls us to be faithful “to the teaching you have learned.” Behind Paul’s words concerning “the teaching you have learned”, there is something else: “according to the Scriptures.” We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Paul begins by speaking about “the gospel which I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1). As we look on to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, it becomes clear that he is not concerned with drawing attention to himself. What he is concerned about is this: “according to the Scriptures” – “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

A call to pray, a call to seek God's glory


“You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2) - This is a call to prayer.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3) - This is a call to seek God's glory.

God's Word Brings Blessing.

"… the seed shall sprout and grow, he himself does not know how …" (Mark 4:27).
God has given us a great promise – “my word that goes out from my mouth … will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:11). When we feel that God’s Word is returning to us empty, we have this Word of encouragement: God’s Word will not return to Him empty. God gives us His great promise “my word … will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We do not see all that God’s Word is doing as the Spirit of God brings Christ to the people. God sees the full impact of His Word. That is why He says that His Word will not return to Him empty. When we have preached the Word, we must say, with the hymnwriter, “I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin; revealing Jesus through the word, creating faith in Him.” We don’t understand all that God is doing as His Word is preached. We do know that He is at work. How do we know this? – We know Him – “I know whom I have believed.” We know that we can trust His promise – His Word will achieve the purpose for which He sends it. When the “seed” of God’s Word is sown in the hearts of men and women, it will “sprout and grow” – even if we are barely aware of all that is happening. The salvation of sinners – it may be beyond our understanding, but it’s not beyond God’s power: “the gospel … is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Let The Living Water Flow.

“And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away” (Genesis 21:25, King James Version).
As I read this verse, I found myself thinking about God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Through God’s written Word, the Holy Spirit speaks to us His Word of “reproof” and “correction” (2 Timothy 3:16). In His ministry of reproof, He says to us, “This is not the way you are to go.” In His ministry of correction, He says to us, “This is the way you are to go.” Leading us out of the wrong way and into the right way – this is the Spirit’s ministry of reproof and correction. Jesus speaks of this ministry of the Spirit – He leads us out of “sin” and into “righteousness” (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit calls us to look at ourselves honestly. He shows us that we “have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13). Jesus calls us to “come to Him and drink.” He says to us that, when we believe in Him, “rivers of living water will flow from our hearts” (John 7:37-38).

"Look, I'm standing at the door ... " (Revelation 3:20).

Are you ‘looking for a better country - a heavenly one’ (Hebrews 11:16)? ‘God has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In every human heart, there’s ‘a God-shaped blank’. Jesus came to give us ‘life’ - ‘abundant life’, ‘eternal life’ (John 10:10; John 17:3; 1 John 5:11). Without Jesus, our lives are empty. The ‘longing for a better country’ can only be satisfied by Him. He is God’s ‘foretaste of glory divine’ (Mission Praise, 59). Jesus stands at the door of every human heart. He knocks. He waits for our answer. He says, ‘Look, I’m standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to My voice and opens the door, I’ll come in...’ (Revelation 3:20). Don’t ‘shrink back’ (Hebrews 10:39). Invite Him into your heart now.

On To Victory

In Christ, we have the victory: “they have conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:7-12).

God is calling us beyond the conflict. He is calling us on to victory.

We don’t live in a perfect world. We’re not perfect people. We wish things could be different – but they’re not! Not yet! We pray, “Your Kingdom come” – but we’re still waiting for God’s complete answer to this prayer. The Book of Revelation provides us with a vision of God’s coming Kingdom. As we await His Kingdom, the words of Habakkuk 2:3 are very helpful to us: “the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
* There is conflict with the world.
We commit ourselves to living for Jesus Christ. There are plenty of other people who don’t want to have anything to do with Him. This is something we must live with. “We do not lose heart” when we face opposition. We give thanks that “God’s mercy” has reached us, bringing to us the forgiveness of all our sins and giving to us the great privilege of being Christ’s witnesses in this sinful world (2 Corinthians 4:1).
* There is conflict within ourselves.
Though we have committed ourselves to Christ, we are deeply conscious that we do not serve Him as well as we should. Our problems do not always come fom the world around us. Often, we create problems for ourselves. There is too much of self and not enough of Christ in our lives. He has given Himself for us. How much have we given ourselves to Him?
* God is calling us beyond the conflict.
“Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come.”
The conflict, the doubt, the fightings, the fears – these things don’t just disappear. Satan makes sure of that! As we look to the Lord, we receive His strength. He enables to say from the heart, “I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2). These words take us to a ‘high’ place – but we are quickly reminded that there is also a ‘low’ place. Psalm 9:3 begins with the ominous words, “My enemies”!
Beyond those whom the Psalmist describes as “my enemies, there is another enemy – Satan! As we read Psalm 9:3-6, we must catch a glimpse of the final defeat of Satan. Here on earth, we face conflict. Our life in Christ isn’t an easy life. Satan sees to that!
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This is something we must never forget.
Revelation 12:9-10 tells us while Satan may be very powerful, he is less powerful than Christ. The victory does not belong with Satan. It belongs with Christ.
“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”
How does this victory become ours? – “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).
The victory is not easily won. It was very costly for Christ. He went to the Cross to win for us the victory over Satan. Revelation 12:12 reminds us that it will be very costly for us – “the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
Whatever the devil may be doing – in the world and in his attacks upon ourselves, may us learn to say from the heart, “I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).

Leading sinners to the Saviour of sinners

"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).

It is a great thing to rejoice in God's salvation. We give thanks for the truth upon which our salvation rests. As well as rejoicing in God's salvation and standing upon His truth, we must also speak directly to those who have wandered from the truth, calling upon them to turn from the error of their ways.
Turning "a sinner from the error of his way" - we don't hear much of this kind of talk nowadays. People like to hear the Good News of salvation. They like to be assured of the truth of God's Word. If, however, our teaching regarding the Good News of salvation and the truth of God's Word are to have real depth, we must speak forthrightly about turning "a sinner from the error of his way."
 * Speaking about our "multitude of sins" - this is not to be dismissed as a purely negative reaction against the easy-going outlook of so many people in today's world. There is something much more positive than that - we speak about our sin so that we might learn to glory in God's salvation.
 * Speaking about "the error of our way" - this is not be dismissed as a 'know-it-all' attitude by which we 'look down our noses' at the 'anything goes' approach that is so common in today's world. There's something much more positive here - following our Saviour, we warn against the folly of building on a foundation of shifting sand so that we might learn to build our life upon the Solid Rock: Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24-27;  1 Corinthians 3:11).
 * Speaking about "death" - this is not be dismissed as out-of-touch with the positive outlook of today's world. Once again, there is something very positive here. We emphasize that "the wages of sin is death" so that there might be a greater appreciation of "the gift of God" which is "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
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Why do we speak of sin, error and death? 
 - We speak of sin so that people may be called back from the way of sin to a much better way  - the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, our Saviour: "He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25).
 - We speak of error so that people may be called back from the way of error to a much more reliable way than the way of error - the way of truth, trusting in Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6). 
 - We speak of death so that people may be called back from the way of death to the much more wonderful way that God has planned for all who put their faith in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ - the way of eternal life: "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:11-12).

Strong words ...

“… watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned … By smooth t...