Sunday, December 28, 2008
It was duly planted, and nurtured and is now about nine or ten feet high.
A couple of months ago we were on the back patio enjoying a cup of coffee, and observing the back garden. Looking at the fig tree, I said to my wife,”If that tree doesn't bear fruit this season I will chop it down!”
Two weeks ago, we were repeating our mid-morning ritual with a cup of coffee. What do you think we saw? Figs!
Hidden amongst the lush green leaves were some beautiful, fat figs.
I suppose I could be excused for being reminded me of the occasion of Jesus cursing the fig tree:
“Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, 'No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you'. And at once the fig tree withered”.
As we talked about it, we remembered the context in which this event happened. Jesus had entered the city to much excitement from the population. It seems from the record that, having traversed through the excited populace, His first stop was at the temple, the use of which reminds me of the edifices which are usually called “churches” today.
Here Jesus found some very religious people who regarded themselves as the spiritual leaders, even the elite, of the day. They were using this building, which was supposed to be for the worship of God, for all kinds of purposes. It had become a place for satisfying greed, for the selling of goods and livestock, and, there is no doubt that the religious leaders were doing well.
Jesus was rightfully indignant regarding the charade confronting Him. He literally created havoc as He disrupted the cosy arrangements between the businessmen and the religious leaders. Can you imagine the scene as He tipped their precious money-changing tables over, the contents spilling on the floor to get trodden into the animal manure? The indignant religious leaders were seeing their cut of the profits disappearing, and, to make matters worse, their leadership and authority were being brought into question. Their prestige, high standing, and importance, were shown to be like the stinking mess on the floor.
They were all show, and no genuine fruit!
The religious leaders were great salesmen, but what they were selling was mainly self oriented, to be well regarded, housed well, financially comfortable, well dressed and well fed. Just as importantly they worked hard at convincing the religious adherents that they were extremely important as a means by which God communicated with them.
These fellows made themselves publicly prominent. Can you imagine what they would have done with today's media. Although; we probably don't have to imagine. Do we? It does seem rather familiar! I wonder why?
It was after this that Jesus observed the fig tree. Beautifully resplendent with leaves. What a glorious site!
But, wait! There is something about this fig tree of the eating kind. Fig trees really do put on a great show of beautiful leaves, but on a healthy, productive fig tree we will find, almost hidden amongst the leaves, the fruit. Some actually begin to show fruit even before the leaves appear.
The variety we have in our back yard is the former.
Jesus wanted His followers to realise that religious behaviour, religious show, attendance at religious meetings, even praying and reading the Scriptures does not ensure that a person is pleasing to Him.
This tree was a great example: It looked so lush and beautiful dressed in it's God given finery. It made a great display. It said,”Look at me!” But it wasn't saying, “Look at the fruit I'm bearing because of what the Grower has given me”. This tree was saying, “Look at ME! Aren't I glorious in all my finery! I've put so much effort into looking good.”
In Jesus' day, a traveller was legally able to pick the fruit of any tree growing by the road. The fruitless fig tree was representative of everything the religion of the temple and the Pharisees displayed to the world; an exercise in futile self interest; a disgusting display of meaningless, fruitless religion, which denied all that the prophets had foretold, and scorned the Messiah.
Is your purpose in life to display your religious finery and to practice meaningless rote rituals of attendance at meetings, clearing your conscience by partaking in the Lord's Snack, listening to sermon after sermon, attending Bible Studies?
It sure looks good!
But, with all our religious activity and busy-ness, are we, being built up as a part, “of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Surely three or four years of being discipled, nurtured and taught, ought to be sufficient to bring us to a level of maturity which will enable individual Christians, as a part of the Body of Christ, and as individual parts working properly, to be used to cause the growth of the Body for the building up of itself in love.
The fig tree wasn't cursed because it had no fruit, it was cursed because of its hypocrisy. It acted a part. It pretended to be what it wasn't. It was all show and no substance.
How many hungry "travellers" have had to go on their way hungry because we are like that fig tree?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
As I read the newspapers, watch the TV, listen to the radio, and speak with people, I am astounded at the diversity of understanding amongst many of those who bear the Christian trademark. The “product” they represent would never get past the quality control of any manufacturer, no matter how lacking in rigour.
One matter which comes to mind is revealed by Pauls statement to the Roman Christians, "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20).
The Mosaic institutions, the Law of which Paul speaks including the Ten Commandments, were institued because of sin. The result was that a spotlight was shone upon sin, the common attribute of every member of humanity. The introduction of the Mosaic institutions, was designed to highlight the prevalence of sin. Without the law sin wasn't an issue.That's what Paul understood when he said, “...I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died ” (Rom.7:9), and that is the result for all humanity; the law reveals all as spiritually dead towards God.
The Apostle then says, “..where sin increased (abounded),” where the light of the law showed how wide spread and abundant the fact of sin was , “grace abounded all the more”.
An amazing word is used here. It's the only time it is used in the New Testament. It's the word which has been translated as “abounded” in this verse. There is no English word, of which I'm aware, which can replace the Greek word which Paul used. To understand what he is saying we would have to say that grace super-abounded, abundance upon abundance.
That's why, for a genuine follower of Christ, Christmas is the celebration by a sinner, who, through God's gift of faith in the person, and finished work, of Jesus Christ, has received the super-abundant gift of grace; the unearned, undeserved gift of God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
That's why the Bethlehem event is precious to genuine followers of Christ, and an occasion to be remembered and celebrated.
That which masquerades as Christian, the world of Christianism, it seems has tunnel vision which ignores sin. There is a constant emphasis on what I consider is a perversion of grace, a grace which winks at sin, a grace which is the gift of a loving, chubby cheeked, gray haired old fellow called “god”, who smilingly lavishes this “grace” upon a people who have no concept of their sinfulness, or the gravity of sin before the holiness of the Almighty God.
God's grace is no ordinary grace, such as the benevolnce and leniency of one human to another. When we speak of God's grace we are speaking about grace which not only offers judicial mercy and forgiveness from the consequences of God's just laws, but a grace which opens a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, in fact SAVING GRACE.
God's gift of saving grace, revealed through the very same Jesus Christ, who lay in that manger in Bethlehem, is nothing apart from sin!
How can the kindness and compassion of mercy be understood as a gift of saving grace if the hard , legal requirements of God's justice are not understood?
How can teaching about God's pardon and the absolution of His forgiveness as a consequence of saving grace be understood apart from the cold facts of deserved, and just, condemnation and retribution of God's law?
To talk about grace without understanding this is a meaningless nonsense.
The first Advent, which we celebrate at Christmas; God coming to earth in human form (God incarnate), was necessary because of the insidious disease of sin which infects ALL human beings. It was the earthly beginning of thirty three years of the sinless life of the perfect Man , who lived the perfect sinless life, which made Him the only being eligible to be the sacrifice God's law required as a satisfaction of His justice.
God's law declared all human beings as guilty. The work of Jesus Christ satisfied the requirements of God's law for all who trust in His person and finished work, who come to Him, recognising they are guilty before, and justly condemned by, God's law, and who, desiring to turn away from the behaviour and tendencies which sin works in their lives, seek His mercy.
It is meaningless, if not impossible, to understand or teach God's gift of saving grace, without understanding and declaring the absolute need of such grace, which the law points out!
As Paul told the Roman Christians, “For the wages of sin is death (separation from God), but the free gift of God is eternal life (with God) in Christ Jesus our Lord. “
Many in Christianism moan about the “Xmas” abreviation as being Christless, but they have no qualms about speaking/writing about God's saving grace apart from man's sinful need !!
This Christmas, as always, I, and mine, will be reminded of our sinful need, as we are reminded of God's great grace in Jesus Christ, and we will praise His name and rejoice in the freedom He has bought for us..
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Occasionally, in life, we meet an extraordinary person. Quite often they are extraordinary for the wrong reasons.
I know such an extraordinary person who today, reached her seventieth birthday. She is extraordinary for all the right reasons.
Travelling in a bus to Brisbane, I looked into the large mirror which facilitated the driver's supervision of his passengers, I saw this person, whom, at that time, I had no idea was so extraordinary. She saw me looking at her, and with a slight toss of her head, moved out of my sight to another seat.
I had to wait two years before I met that person.
That was one half century ago!
At that time it was my privilege to lead a youth group in a small country district, which had an unusual name. The Risk. A young man and I were visiting homes recruiting other young people to the group.
He suggested we go to the home of his cousin and invite her to join. He knocked on the door of his aunt's house. She appeared at the door, but my eyes were drawn to a person sitting at the kitchen table.
There she was! The person I saw on the bus!
My composure was shattered. I mumbled something, about why we had come, to the figure in the doorway, but my attention was fixed on the vision sitting at the table. Seeing her affected me in exactly the same way as it had two years before.
I really can't remember how it happened, but she agreed to allow me to take her, with the other young people, to our next meeting.
I'm not sure how the meeting went, but I had a fixed intention, that I would ask her out. I carefully planned dropping the others off before taking her home.
I asked, “Would you care to go to the pictures with me on Saturday night?”
The smile said it all! “Yes!”
I think I carried the car home that evening! The following week seemed to be much longer than normal.
Three months later, I was certain that I didn't want to spend my life with anyone else but her. In a most unlikely place, a stony track leading into a State Forest, I looked at the beauty before me, and asked her to marry me.
She blushed, and coyly replied,”Yes!”
Her name was like the soft touch of the hands I still love to hold!
Valerie! She is everything the name means, of Latin origin, it means " healthy and strong" .
In the time I've known her, I've come to know the extraordinary woman, my wife, who bears this name, has far more to her than the name implies.
She is all, and much more, than any man could desire to have as his wife, partner and friend.
The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, once said , "If you can find a truly good wife, she is worth more than precious gems! “
I believe that God led me to find that good wife. I truly mean that!
King Solomon said that, “Her husband can trust her, and she will richly satisfy his needs. .She is energetic, a hard worker, and watches for bargains. She works far into the night! She sews for the poor, and generously gives to the needy. . .She is a woman of strength and dignity, and has no fear of old age. When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule for everything she says. She watches carefully all that goes on throughout her household, and is never lazy. Her children stand and bless her; so does her husband. He praises her with these words; 'There are many fine women in the world, but you are the best of them all!' .
Many times I have told her those very words, and I say them again, “Valerie! There are many fine women in the world, but you are the best of them all !”
I want to justify my words:
Valerie married an ambitious young farmer, who owned a car, and nothing else, whose ambition blinded him to reality. I had a dream for our future, a picture perfect property, and was prepared to do the hard graft to obtain it.
This extraordinary woman adjusted her life to suit, working alongside me, working as no woman ought to be required to work, whilst raising a family and seeking to meet the requirements of my ambitions, at great cost to herself. All the while maintaining her gentle humility and loving quietness of spirit.
Because of my stupid ambitions which required hard work and long hours I gave myself, I ended up in hospital. Valerie shouldered the full brunt of caring for a young family, milking a herd of cows, feeding pigs and everything else which goes with that.
Most of this time we were involved in seeking to practice our Christian faith, during which time we both sensed that we ought to go into the full time ministry of the church, which we eventually did.
Valerie was recognised as extraordinary by those who came to know and love her. So many told me that they had never known such an accepting, non-judgemental, loving minister's wife. They recognised that she had great gifting in hospitality, and loving people for who they are, without expectations of conforming to some artificial pretense, as is often the case.
During those years it was our misfortune to have some malcontents amongst us who wanted to remove us. All their efforts using legitimate means didn't work, so false accusations were made. Like many of such, there was no way of proving them false, so we left. Our lives were turned upside down. We were shattered.
Two years ensued in which ,I later realised ,I entered into deep depression. I have very little recollection of those two years, but I did fail my wife seriously.
You ought, by now, to be understanding why I call her extraordinary, she stuck by me, and supported me out of the pit I had allowed myself to fall into.
Soon afterwards through a most amazing process, which only our Sovereign God could organise, we met one person after another who wanted to grow in their Christian lives. An independent church was born adhering to the historic Christian Faith.
We had almost ten years of happy memories with those dear folk, until our age and health dictated we leave. My extraordinary wife was again able to function ij the loving, compassionate, caring way which expresses the love of Christ.
We left there with the love and good wishes of those very dear people, whom we still love, who still continue to function as a church.
That was five years ago, when we came to Bribie Island to retire.
Valerie is still the same extraordinary wife she has always been. There is no man, including me, on the face of this earth, who deserves to have her as his wife.
I am so very proud of her! I am the most blessed of all men!
Sunday, November 9, 2008
For quite a long time I have sensed a compulsion to read Matthew 5, over and over again. I'm writing this because of that sense of compulsion.
Matthew's Gospel has been in the minds of others as well, such as (the most recent at The Assembling of the Church , and at A Better Covenant ).
The picture I see at the beginning of Matthew 5 is a very big crowd of people in the general vicinity of Jesus, but closer to Him are the disciples. This is the scene in which Jesus teaches, what have been called, The Beatitudes.
Many, if not most, of those gathered near Jesus would have, at least heard of, with possibly most, actually hearing, knowing and trusting, the teaching of the leaders of the prevailing religion of the day .
What Jesus was saying in the Beatitudes was not to declare an ideal to labour under with much personal effort, but the very opposite of the legalistic, performance oriented, example set by the practitioners of the prevailing religion of the day.
What Jesus then tells His listeners, which accords with His call to repentance, is that one is blessed if marked by characteristics such as , having a realistically humble understanding of oneself as a sinner having no inherent righteousness of our own, having genuine sorrow leading to repentance regarding sin (2Cor 7:10), having an attitude of meekness, patient forbearance under difficulties instead of being reactive when goaded, and so on. He intimates that living in this way will cause real personal difficulties, never-the-less, the rewards are great.
As Jesus continues, He uses two very stark, and irrefutable examples of how powerful these characteristics are: they are like salt, which once applied cannot be reversed; and light, which, when allowed to shine cannot be negated by darkness.
The Old Covenant Law, given to Israel, were professed as a religious code by the religious of Jesus day, especially the leaders who were extremely proud of their external adherence to it, and very concerned about this upstart who seemed to be upstaging them. Jesus sought to allay their fears by declaring that He hadn't come to destroy that law, but to fulfill it.
Even as Jesus is seeking to put religions minds at rest, they have no idea of where He is going with this. He told them that nothing of these laws will cease to exist until “everything has been accomplished”. The accompishment of the “everything” Jesus mentioned is the same as His earlier declaration that He came “to fulfil” the law.
In the face of deep dyed self-righteous thinking and behaviour, Jesus fires a missile, “....unless your righteousness SURPASSES that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Can you imagine the indignant gasps of those who followed codes and rules to the nth degree, as well as those who thought their leaders were the epitomy of what God required of them? “How can we function in a way that outperforms the righteous practices of our religious leaders?”
What about the religious leaders response? What did they, who were so certain of their performance, think about Jesus words? Do you think their response might have been similar to another man, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” (Luke 18:21)
Many of these religious people were like so many today, who fail to realise that their religious leaders are tarred with the same brush as themselves. Many of those hearing Jesus' words were like many people today who hang on every word that comes from their religious leaders, who jump when told to jump, and then fall into great guilt when they can't perform as demanded!
Now! They are hearing Jesus raise the bar to impossible levels!
Jesus summarises the law, using examples, commenting on the teaching of, and the approach of, the religionists had towards it, “you have heard..., BUT I SAY”.
He is confronting them with the fact of that His own authority is greater than theirs. The affront of this fellow! Who is He to speak thus to these people, who, even today, believe that they have the last word on matters of faith and practice, and Jesus says, “No! I do!”
The shock of what He said must have been profound in such company. What Jesus had done was to confront His listeners with the utter impossiblity of any human being keeping God's laws in such a way that they are not a personal offence to the righteousness of God. He had made it plain that even an attitude of heart and mind in which law breaking was entertained, was no different to actual deed!
What a great dilemma for religious people who have been legalists for many years, possibly a lifetime. Jesus was confronting the very counterpart of much of what we see today, ”Here we are, attending church every Sunday and all the announced meetings, doing devotions at the right time every day, praying long prayers, even quoting Scripture. We don't drink, don't swear or curse, we avoid the riff-raff, we won't allow ourselves be seen in the company of those frowned upon by the church leaders. We consciensciously avoid those who are of beliefs different to ours. We read the right books, watch the right movies, and shudder every time an unbeliever acts like an unbeliever, not to mention when an unbeliever does the same. We have subscribed to the heavenly insurance policy which was presented to us, and we have been paying our prescribed performance dues year in and year out, even trying to improve our payments. Now this fellow is trying to tell us that all of our effort and good work ,to please God, is worthless!”
Then as if to heavily emphasise what He has been saying, He says, “ Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“As perfect as God?”
“Then who is equal to that task?”
Only the One whose words they are listening to, the Lord Jesus Christ! During His perfect life He fulfilled EVERYTHING the law required. He did it on behalf of all who come to Him in repentance and faith. And as His cry on the cross declared for all to hear, He ACCOMPLISHED everything of what He came to do,. That's exactly what He was saying,“It is finished” (John 19:30), “It is accomplished, paid in full”.
Knowing that the Pharisees of today, who sail under a Christian flag, stand up, and say, "It is necessary to observe the Law of Moses, and do all these things to prove yourself to God. He needs your performance of duties to seal the deal."
There was a lot of arguing as the Senior Pastors, Junior Pastors and their Yes Men looked in to the matter, and Peter stood up and rebuked his opponents,"Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are."(15:10)
Why do these leaders risk the displeasure of God by attempting to impose upon His people, whom He has called to Himself, rites, rules, and laws which simply weigh them down with misery? Why do they belittle the work of our Saviour by preaching the guilt and misery of Judaizers?
God provided His sacrificial Lamb as a perfect, unblemished sacrifice, by which He is propitiated regarding their sinfulness.
Why insult His great free gift of saving grace upon those who receive it?
Why attempt to shackle God's people to the religious idol of a denomination, system, building, or leader to fulfill requirements which, in effect, shut these precious brethren away from the joy of God's acceptance of them in His Son?
This is the “yoke of slavery (bondage)” of which Paul speaks.
Those who claim to be these elder brethren are the prodigal son's brother spoken about by Tim Keller in The Prodigal God:
“We see that the elder brother ”became angry.” All of his words are dripping with resentment. The first sign you have an elder brother spirit is that when your life doesn't go as you want, you aren't just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter. Elder brothers believe that if they live a good life they should get a good life, that God owes them a smooth road if they try to live up to standards.
"What happens, then, if you are an elder brother and things go wrong in your life? If you feel you have been living up to your moral standards, you will be furious with God. You don't deserve this, you will think, after how hard you've worked to be a decent person!...Elder brothers' inability to handle suffering arises from the fact that their moral observance is results-oriented. The good life is lived not for delight in good deeds themselves, but as calculated ways to control their environment.
The yoke of the elder brother generally represents slavery, heavy bondage, affliction, punishment, oppressive and burdensome ceremonies, as was true of the situation in which the Galatian believers found themselves. Judaizers were seeking to add the yoke of slavery to the consciences of God's people, a yoke by the way, which, in their ignorance, they apply to themselves, often reaping the whirlwind as a result..
As Jesus said, They tie up burdens that are heavy and unbearable and lay them on people's shoulders, but they refuse to lift a finger to remove them. They do all their actions to be seen by people. They increase the size of their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love to have the places of honor at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, to be greeted in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.
There is a yoke which we can wear, which Jesus desribes in Mt 11:29,30, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
The Lord Jesus Christ was determined to accept all who would come to Him without rites, rules, and authoritarian leadership, all of which He had shown were now abolished through His own perfection, and final sacrifice.
Whether a leader or not it is an affront to our Sovereign God when anyone seeks to add performance (a yoke of slavery) to the finished work of Christ, such additions are what Isaiah called “filthy rags” (stinking menstrual clothes).
Saturday, October 25, 2008
A seminar on evangelism was being addressed by well known, very experienced leader and preacher from the USA, whose intense focus on training people in evangelism exceded almost anyone else I am aware of.
He spoke with an enthusiasm which is often not seen. It wasn't that apparent enthusiasm which comes from inexperience, and often seen in many a young preacher, like an excited yappy puppy with far too much energy. No! It was an enthusiasm which came from much experience in seeing the fruit of his endeavors.
He came to a point in his talk where he addressed the issue of what causes evangelism to be more difficult than it ought to be. It wasn't the evil one, it wasn't that the unbeliever was ignorant of Christian things.
The biggest hurdle to overcome was the fact that the unbeliever DID know a Christian or Christians!
Many times I had heard the comment, “No! I don't want to talk about those things. My experience with Christians (often very specific comments) has been enough to make me not want to be one.”
Alan Knox has been talking about the Truly Local Church and there is some discussion regarding how such a group should meet in the local area, such as in a home.
I have been reminded of what another great old servant of Christ , who is deceased, Dr.David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who has written a book “Studies on the Sermon on the Mount”, which has a large bearing upon our attitude in meeting in our homes which are generally surrounded by unbelievers.
He describes the Sermon on the Mount thus: "The Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals. It is not to be regarded as a law- a kind of new ‘Ten Commandments’ or set of rules and regulations which are to be carried out by us-but rather as a description of what we Christians are meant to be" .
He declares that we, “constantly have to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes”
How I wish I had taken that advice as a young elder,pastor,teacher! Even if I had heard it, like many other bright young folk, I probably would have thought it the simple ramblings of a fellow past his use-by-date!
From where I sit today his words have so much wisdom in them!
We need to be reminded that, regardless of our educational qualifications, our knowledge, our enthusiasm, zeal and bold confidence, we are to “remind myself daily that I am to be poor in spirit, merciful,meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, and so on”.
He goes on to say, “In everything I do and say, I am to be like the man I see in the beatitudes”
All who knew the Godly author would say he reflected the very spirit of the Beatitudes, and that he knew what he was talking about.
You see, he lived what he taught, “But, not only are we to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes, we are to live accordingly. What does this mean? It means we are to avoid everything that is opposed to this character, we are to be entirely unlike the world. It is a tragic thing to me that so many Christians, because they do not want to be different, or to suffer persecution, seem to be living as near as they can to the world. But this is a contradiction in terms. There is no mean between light and darkness; it is either the one or the other, and there is no communion between. Either it is light or it is not.........”.
In response to a comment on Alan's blog regarding complaints from neighbours, I said, “ I would complain on behalf of the community, if, as we have witnessed, a group seemed to believe it had a divine right to fill the street with cars, assume that "worship" must be accompanied by as much noise as they pleased, allowing children to run riot while the parents met.
I have strong convictions that local congregation meetings in homes ARE the right way to go, but, as members of a secular community we must bend over backwards to show love and consideration towards them (unbelievers).” “ ........over a period of 10 years of no complaints, that regardless of the make-up of the community, respect for others, good manners and moderation in all behavior are well regarded. “
During those ten years God drew many into His Kingdom , and some wonderful testimonies of His gracious working in the lives of older believers, mine included, have been shared.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The world is becoming more rude; rougher,uglier,louder. I think we all agree with that.” But it is clear that what passes for Christianity is also becoming more rude; rougher, uglier and louder and the world around us are not slow to notice.
As our author suggests, it is far too easy to say,”I'm a follower of Christ” , loudly proclaiming the benefits, and in the same heartbeat be rude and inconsiderate of those around us.
“We are to be humble, peaceable, peacemaking in all our talk and behaviour, and especially in our reactions to the behaviours of other persons. I believe that the individual Christian is having a greater opportunity today than he has had for many a century, owing to the whole state of the world and of society. I believe that people are watching us very closely because we claim to be Christian; and they are watching our reactions to people and to the things they say and do to us. Do we flare up? The non-Christian does; the Christian should not. He is like the man in the Beatitudes, so he reacts differently. And when confronted with world events, with wars and rumours of wars, with calamities, pestilences and all these other things, he is not overanxious, troubled and irritable. The world is; the Christian is not. He is essentially different.”
Far too many claiming to be Christians are mimicing, and emulating the ways of a lost world.
Two of Jesus illustrations of the life He initiated were salt and light.
Salt doesn't mimic the food in which it is placed, it enhances and, sometimes makes the food vastly more pleasant.
The same with light, it doesn't emulate darkness, it disperses darkness, and yet we have those who claim to be Christians who think that they have a mandate to inconvenience the neighbors in their area with the clutter of cars, unruly behavior of their children and the noise of their singing. Many seem to have found a verse of Scripture which says that God is deaf.
Our God is much more interested in the state of our heart, which is reflected in the character revealed in our daily lives. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt.5:16)
The genuine Christian never draws attention to himself. Genuine poverty of spirit means that self has last call on our plans, desires,and inclinations, that our first concern is to reflect the Christ who denied Himself for us, before a lost community, seeking to serve them, not antagonise them, to love them, not disregard them.
At the same time we must have great sorrow in our hearts for the lost, not despise them. They are lost, and don't know it. We must have concern for them, not ourselves. We must have compassion for them, not contempt.
It is so very true that the reason some don't want to hear about the saving work of Jesus, is because the DO know one or more, who claim to be Christian, who are loud, bombastic, inconsiderate of others, arrogant about their spirituality, who love to display their great learning!
I have known very quiet people who, some claimed Christians deride as simpletons and dumb mice, yet make such an impact for the Kingdom of God that they leave those who know utterly amazed at the fruit of their, almost underground, ministry of God's grace in Jesus Christ.
I am reminded of a story told about Alexander the Great. The great soldier had sent out a conscription party. One young man had hidden in a cave to escape conscription. He was brought before Alexander, who demanded to know his name. The young man whispered tentatively,
“A -a-a lexander.”
Alexander the Great drew himself up to his full stature and exploded, “WHAT!!”
The young man again said, “A -a lexander, sir”
Alexander the Great, in full voice, said, “Young man! Change your ways, or change your name!”
Our Commander in Chief says, “Christian! Change your ways, or change your name!”
Thursday, September 18, 2008
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, , in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
It seems to me that God is doing something new amongst His people of today. From the evidence of testimony as well as statistical evidence, we can see a heartfelt realisation amongst an enormous number of those claiming to belong to Christ, that the Christianism which has slowly developed since the days of Pentecost, and which we've been practicing for many decades, is a mere, but very dim, shadow of the “building” Scripture reveals, one which is a “temple of the Lord.....a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (see above).
There is a stark realisation amongst this multitude that something is wrong, right across the board. So very many of those beloved of the Father have been disenfranchised of their Family privileges and denied their seat at the Family table where ALL must be recognized as priests unto the King.
The Family members read the Scriptures and their hearts leap with the Spirit's ministry to them; they want to share what they have learned, and bring it under the scrutiny of their Family peers. This is not possible! Why? Because there are many who have delegated to themselves a position in the Family as the magisterium (the official, and only interpreters of Scripture). They exercise the authority of CEO or OIC, the arbiter of what may be believed, who may minister and in what way, and to whom. They often also assume the legal positions of both judge and jury to try Family members as to whether they are fit to belong to the Family.
Many members of the Family are realizing that they are being deprived of the heritage that God, the Family Father, has bestowed upon them and they yearn to be free, under the scrutiny of the Family, to serve one another, and the community amongst whom they live, as, by His Holy Spirit, the Father inspires and leads them.
But, like many of similar historic movements of God there is a tendency, amongst a few, to swing the pendelum too far in the other direction, instead of finding that place of equilibrium.
So, it seems to me, that there are many, who realise that belonging to the Father's Family is about relationships and “one anothering”, but who have overlooked the one fact that decides whether or not they actually belong to the Family, their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
I can only write about what I read (in books, on blogs, web sites etc.), and listen to (ditto), but there seems to be an excess of stuff which apparently forgets, if ever it was known, that membership in the Family of God, is utterly dependent on what our Sovereign God does, by His Spirit, in which He lavishes sinners with undeserved, unearned righteous merit (grace) through His gift of faith in the life and finished work of Jesus Christ.
It seems to me that there is a dearth of information which declares that, with all the humanly generated will in the world, all the altruism, all the good will, all the effort, all the service, all the warmth, all the hugs and kisses, there is no Family of God apart from a genuine, God wrought, saving relationship through and with Jesus Christ.
As Paul was inspired to write in our opening passage, “... Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone...”, and that it is ONLY IN that relationship “.... the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,...”.
The “building” and “a holy temple” of which Paul writes is the Family of God, and as Paul describes, it has a foundation “...the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,...”
“So what?”, you may ask.
Well! There can be no foundation laid for a building without the cornerstone, or its equivalent. The cornerstone, or its equivalent, is the pivital point about which the building develops.
There is no equivalent regarding the “spiritual building” of which the Lord Jesus Christ, is “the cornerstone” of salvation. He is the only datum point from which this “building” is able to develop. It is only in Him that the relationships, which are essential to being the ekklesia, the Family of God, develop and developing. Without Jesus Christ, and the gift of genuine faith in His life and finished work, there is no relationship with God, and as a result there is no relationship with the Family of God!
Any gathering of people, being built without that relationship, in the spiritual sense, can only be, at best, mutual admiration society, a childish pretense, and at worst, a grave deception, a human centered Platonic exercise in futility, a mere shadow of the true, with spiritual failure and disappointment guaranteed, and like many issues of moral and ethical import in this rationalistic age, which feel good, is enjoyable and has apparent value.
The centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life and function of any group of people, will be markedly different from those in the previous paragraph.
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:9-12)
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Interestingly, during the great historic periods of revival, the same issue, which I’m attempting to address in the letter, became very evident amongst those who claimed orthodoxy. Thankfully God takes no notice of those who seem very adept at casting stones at those who have been moved by Him to shake up the status quo. As a result, we can now read of the amazing works of God during those days.
We ought always to keep Gamaliel’s advice in mind, “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Dear Brother and Sister ABCD,
There was a criminal man named Jack, who bore the same name as yourself, ABDC, who spent most of his life in a constant battle with the law. It also happened that I attended school with fellow named Bruce, who also shared your name, ABCD, but who was a spiteful little twerp and seemed to enjoy causing trouble, even if it meant creating a falsehood to achieve his ends.
For me, as a Christian, to judge all, who share the name ABCD, by these two, would be completely unjust and out of character for anyone who was a true disciple of Christ.
Think how offensive it would be to my friend, and brother in Christ, Charley ABCD, if, not knowing him I had formed the opinion from the evidence of the two ABCDs mentioned above that , “All ABCDs are simply no good. They are crooks and trouble-makers.”
That’s exactly how offensive it is to our Lord when we judge any group of people, of whom we have no intimate knowledge, and paint them ALL, some who are our genuine brethren, as well as His brethren, with the same broad brush. Mostly this is done on the basis of what someone else said about them.
If my wife and I had taken notice of what was said about Charley and his wife, who happen to have the name ABCD, they would not be invited into our home, and we would not want to be seen in their company. Also, if we had not accepted them, taking no notice of the prejudice of what others were saying, we would be deprived of their friendship and fellowship.
No matter where information comes from, it is simply NOT a true statement to say that ABCDs are no good. The same applies with the different groups who claim to be Christian, for instance, a relatively new expression of Christianity. “The Newies”, who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, and believe the orthodox evangelical understanding of salvation. It is simply NOT correct to say that, "all Newies are not what they claim" (that’s also certainly true of many orthodox evangelicals and denominationalists, etc.), nor is it correct to say that “Newies” are leading people into an heretical religion (that’s also certainly true of many orthodox evangelicals and denominationalists, etc.), or to make similar blanket, criticism or derogatory statements.
Do you personally KNOW any so-called “Newies”? I do! I think they are mistaken in some things, but the ones I know, ARE my brethren in Christ, trusting in the same finished work of the same Jesus Christ, as you and I are, AND disagreeing vehemently with the works oriented doctrines of the heretical religion. Have you read their writings, widely enough to personally know, what they are teaching, and that the label you have given them fits of them ALL? I have, and I know that, in general, it doesn’t.
If I was really looking for things to criticize, I could find one or two things which I would question, or say differently, but there is no heresy there, and they certainly disagree with the heretical religion you have concerns about.
It’s very enlightening to discover that some of the “Newies” are, doctrinally, very orthodox evangelical Christians; some even holding to one or another of the famous orthodox evangelical statements of faith. A few have leadership which has relinquished the dubious trappings of ordination to simply be part of the Body of Christ, and who preach a Christ honoring, God glorifying Gospel message and show no fear in speaking up against the perversions of the faith.
If I wanted to give myself a label other than a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ (and I don’t), I wouldn’t be ashamed to wear the tag, “Newie”, as an honorable one, and I would preach and teach the very same Christ centered message as I always have.
I will not allow another person, no matter how judgmental, or clerical, or religiously acceptable, to cloud my discernment according to the Scriptures, or my spiritual integrity, no matter how well thought of they are
( Brother and Sister ABCD! Some of your critics were well placed in “spiritual” circles).
As with any teaching from Scripture I hear or read, so too with my assessment of people, I intend to be a Berean, and search out the truth for myself.
During the 2nd World War there was a slogan which simply said, “Loose Lips, Sinks Ships”. It was a warning that unwise conversation and ignorant gossip could give the enemy an edge against the allies, and cause the death of many.
Amongst Christians, Loose Lips Ruin Lives, and often wound those for whom Christ died, causing them to fear any more contact with Christians! My wife and I have felt the uninformed dagger of gossip and know the consequences.
The enemy rejoices as he sees the wounds and separation caused by such uncaring, unloving, un-Christ-like behavior.
I'm sure you would agree with James when he said,"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless", "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."
We wouldn't trust the words of a blasphemer, or those who consistently spout obscenities. How then can we act the part of one who would attack the good name and reputation of another, often with the malicious intent of turning others from them. Slander has a way of rebounding on the slanderer, no matter how we try to religiously legitimize it.
Your Brother in Christ,
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I am disappointed by consistent fear mongering and generalizations, but more
so comments which equate the visible churches, which are spoken about, with
the ekklesia (the Church of Jesus Christ). To say that "the church" is
becoming apostate is to fail to discern the difference between those who are
effectually called to be God's children, the ekklesia, the assembly of God's
people, and the man made institution which we have habitually called "the
church". This is an indication of what I've often spoken, and written
about and the mistake many make when they accept the whole of a theological
position without question (Acts 17:11).
I have not changed my stance at all. I believe the Doctrines of Grace, the soteriology
declared by the Reformers, but I do not accept their ecclesiology (doctrine
of the church), which remains, essentially, Roman Catholic.
We have to seriously ask ourselves whether our Lord Jesus was given to
telling lies! I think not!!
Jesus said to Peter,".... I will build My church; and the gates of Hades
will not overpower it. " We have two choices, we either believe Him or we
believe something else. It is not only my choice, but my conviction that
His words are true.
The congregation, or assembly, of believers in the finished work of Jesus
Christ is alive and well, it is small, as Jesus Himself indicated in Matthew
7:14, and Luke 6:46.
If the idea that the visible church is the entity which Jesus said He would
build was even partially true, then the the Lord Jesus, the One in whom I
have trusted my eternal destiny, is a failure. Can that be true?
The institution we call "church" IS falling apart, like all man-made
institutions will, because they are imperfect .
Jesus is not only the builder of His congregation; He is the foundational Chief Corner stone (Eph.2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7). The entity He is building is "A CHOSEN RACE, A royal
PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you
may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into
His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE
PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY."
(1 Pet.2: 9-10)
Jesus is building a "spiritual house" (1 Pet.2:5). He IS NOT building with
flesh and blood!
The mess of the institution we have traditionally called "church" will
continue to be a mess whilst is is controlled by imperfect people. It was
the same in Biblical times, the New Testament is clear proof of that. Most of which
was written to deal with similar mess. It will remain that way until the Lord's
Let's get on with the task to which all genuine Christians have been called,
to "make disciples (not converts) baptizing them in the name of the Father
and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I
commanded you" (Matt. 28:19). After all, those "whom He predestined, He
also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He
justified, He also glorified" (Rom.8:30). They are the "living stones" (I
Pet.2:5) which are the substance of His congregation.
Let those who want to play "church" promote their power struggles, tell
their lies, massage their monstrous egos, and build their edifices, whether
organizations or self proclaimed ministries.
Our task is to share the Gospel with all who will listen, "for WHOEVER WILL
CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED. How then will they call on Him
in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have
not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach
unless they are sent? Just as it is written, HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF
THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!
I know this is almost a sermon, but the tendency to see what we perceive as
the sins of others without gracious, and gentle attempts to deal with them
according to Galatians 6:1ff , is very wrong. We forget, at our peril the
warning Paul gave to the Galatians in 6:3-4, "For if anyone thinks he is
something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine
his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself
alone, and not in regard to another." Of course Paul realizes that no
spiritual person cannot elevate themselves by their assessment of others.
We are never exhorted to use a sledge hammer approach. Paul warns against in Gal. 6:12-13 .
I prefer to take for myself Paul's testimony in v.14, " But may it never be
that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through
which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." .
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
THE CONGREGATION OF GOD…..
Is human beings, people who have been called by the Holy Spirit into a family relationship with God the Father; a relationship created by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and embraced through the unearned gift of saving faith in His finished work.
Is recognized only by that initial relationship with God the Father and the common relationship which result with others who are called, all having only one recognized Head, the Lord, Jesus Christ. .
Can never be initially recognized by common institutional, organizational membership.
Is led by those who have, over a period of years, gradually been recognized by the others in whom they are in relationship, by virtue of their exhibiting the Scriptural gifts and qualifications of leadership.
Is where each individual, whether male or female, is understood to have personal and spiritual worth as a brother or sister in family under the headship of the one Father, and able to contribute according to the gifts and qualifications, which each one called inevitably has, of membership in that family;
Is where each member of the family is understood to be traveling a road of many twists and turns, which is common to all, with difficult obstacles, some of which, depending on the individual needs, all will need help to traverse, no matter how long since the journey began.
Is, because they are family, able to worship God by the way they live, work, play, study their common faith, share, sing and pray in Christ centered, Spirit endowed unity, regardless of differences.
Is a family who is more concerned about making disciples of others who are encouraged to form new families, rather than the original family getting larger and enriching themselves with real estate, buildings and comforts.
Is a spiritual family where it is normal for conversations to center on family matters which are for the mutual building up of each other towards spiritual maturity.
Is a family which continually devotes themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer, expecting God to work amongst them and those for whom they pray.
Is a family which shows the wider community that they are disciples, by their love for one another, and proves for all to witness, the Scriptural truth that because God loves them, they cannot help but love, reaching out in humility, mercy and grace, and without favor, to the non-family people around them, reflecting the Christ to whom they belong.
Monday, April 7, 2008
There a many good messages to download, and from which we may learn. Many are loaded with proof texts to prove a preconceived premise. Not many are truly Biblical; expressing the truths expressed in Scripture in a manner which demonstrates the speakers love for the truth and how it affects God's people.
I am greatly encouraged, by a talk Alan was asked to give at the seminary where he works and studies. I am encouraged that, in the time I have left in this world, we will see a true Biblical expression of the family of God.
Do yourself and your brethren a great service, listen to it and share it.
In the same context Alan has written a short blog entry, which you ought to read.
The following words, which I was constrained to place here, are my response to that blog:
Hear! Hear! How very true!
As I've written elsewhere, I became convinced from Scripture, of the ecclesiastical issues you write about, some thirty years ago. There were books being written by people who were beginning to be given a glimpse of that of which we now speak, which encouraged me to follow my convictions.
But, I,like the majority of us,allowed my convictions to be prejudiced, even though claiming to be followers of Christ alone, constrained by the Scriptures alone,we were really followers of Wesley, Calvin, etc., etc; and that mainly through the pressures of institutional mores established by conventions,synods,confessions,seminaries and colleges, etc.
According to John's Epistles, the congregation of God is comprised of people who have a vertical relationship with God, through the new birth, from which is established a horizontal relationship with all other members of His family.
My concern is that my brethren don't allow themselves to be prejudiced, as I was, by persuasive arguments made by those, who because of fame, command of rhetoric, charisma, or the security of being in league with well known leaders, or the financial security of their paid leadership positions.
There are far too many of us who have idols we want to emulate; men whom God used in their own historical time slots, and current leaders who have fine oratorical skills, great "presence", large congregations, which, by the way, have nothing to do with being a disciple maker.
Most leaders I have been closely acquainted with would fit the "prejudiced" description, and teach the congregations they are entrusted with, to be the same acquiescent clones.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I am concerned that when I write with my heart touched by the sinful ways in which supposed Christians deal with their fellow believers, as I do now, that I do not create the impression that I believe I am above such things. I know that I am a sinner, who in times of carelessness, will sin, and can only cry with Paul, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" I am very conscious that when I point my finger at someone, I have three times as many fingers pointing at myself!
As we approach this weekend in which we are reminded of both the cost and the joy of the freedom Paul mentions, I am finding myself thinking about the picture of Christ and His people being painted by those who claim the name "Christian", especially those in leadership (??).
I read about the battles going on in conservative churches in the USA, and in Australia, as well as other parts of the world, and I'm forced to ask myself whether I would want to bring a new child of God into such situations, especially when the battles being fought are not about doctrinal purity, or Biblical practice, but rather about power and control. Often one is forced to wonder how many who claim to be "Christians" in leadership are really Diotrephes reincarnate.
However little we know about Diotrephes, we at least know that "he loves to be first among them" (3 John 1:9). As Mr. Strong puts it, "he was ambitious for distinction". Quite the contrary of the One who such people would claim to be Master and Lord.
I cannot help but wonder about, what appears to be many, who have often been "converted" under a system of Easy Believism, and in the light of their behaviour, drawn to ask questions and consider what Thomas Shepard wrote in the Introduction to his book, "The Sincere Convert".
"The knowledge of divinity is necessary for all sorts of men- both to settle and establish the good, and to convert and fetch in the bad. God’s principles pull down Satan’s false principles set up in man’s head, loved and believed with men’s hearts, and defended by their tongues. Whilst strongholds remain unshaken, the Lord Jesus is kept off from conquering the soul.
Now, spiritual truths are either such as tend to enlarge the understanding, or such as may work chiefly upon the affections. I pass by (in this knowing age) the first of these, and, being among a people whose hearts are hard enough, I begin with the latter sort; for the understanding, although it may literally, yet it never savingly, entertains any truth, until the affections be herewith smitten and wrought upon.
I shall, therefore, here prosecute the unfolding of these divine principles:-
First, that there is one most glorious God.
Secondly, that this God made all mankind at first in Adam in a most glorious estate.
Fourthly, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only means of redemption of this estate.
Fifthly, that those that are saved out of this woeful estate by Christ are very few, and that these few are saved with much difficulty.
Sixthly, that the greatest cause why so many die and perish in this estate is from themselves: either,-
1. By reason of their bloody ignorance, they know not their misery; or,-
2. By reason of their carnal security, they feel not, they groan not under their sin and misery.
3. By reason of their carnal confidence, they seek to help themselves out of their misery by their own duties, when they see or feel it; or,-
4. By reason of their false faith, whereby they catch hold upon, and trust unto, the merits of Christ too soon, when they see and feel they cannot help themselves. "
Shepard's subtitle was "Discovering the Small Number of True Believers".
Monday, January 21, 2008
In a response to his very pertinent contribution prompted by noticing mistletoe growing on oak trees, I was reminded of Jesus comments regarding the tares in the parable of the Wheat and the Tares.
One of the important lessons of this parable is often missed: The tares are confidently identified as being a common weed grass (darnel, of the genus Lolium), which, to a casual observer looks like wheat.
It is not until the weed actually bears fruit that the wheat and the weed are easily distinguished. The weed seed is very different from the wheat and is actually very poisonous. The amazing thing about this is that the tare's poisonous capacity is caused by a parasitic fungus on the seed.
I just know you are going to tell me that the tares isn't a parasite living off the actual wheat plant, as does the mistletoe which draws its nutrients out of the tree. You are right! Even though not doing it in exactly the same way, the tares competes with the wheat for everything the wheat needs for life and reproduction, as does the mistletoe.
That is exactly why Alan's comments are pertinent to many of the problems found in todays "church". During my many years in "church" life numbers has been the major thrust of "church" leaders, numbers of "converts", numbers of "baptisms", numbers of dollars (especially dollars in some groups), numbers attending meetings, all of which were the commonly predominant matters of discussion at gatherings of leaders etc.
When "numbers" is the focus, especially in "churches" which are literally ruled by numbers conscious leaders, what should we expect?
It is my contention that it is this "numbers" emphasis, has weakened the institutional "church" and not only encouraged the proliferation of "tares", "church members" who look exactly like genuine Christians, who have responded to a numbers oriented gospel, which allows them to attach themselves to a "church", which gives them a ticket to "heaven" and all the perks of being a "Christian". Having said "The Sinner's Prayer" does not qualify people for baptism and membership in the congregation of God's redeemed people!
What is the answer? The tares cannot be removed from the "church" because we cannot positively know which they are, although maybe, having some idea. Only a genuine sovereign move of God in Holy Spirit revival will fill the bill, awakening the genuine Christians, and hopefully converting the predominant "pseudo-Christians".
Otherwise, a new start, a new reformation, if you like, with new expressions of Christ's Body assembled, who look to the Scriptures taught by the Holy Spirit, who have ONE SHEPHERD, the Lord Jesus Christ, amongst whom leaders are raised up, who are recognized by their ministry and life amongst the Body, not the recommendations of academic qualification (not that these cannot be used to God's glory), nor external leaders who may, or may not, be amongst the tares.
All of this raises a lot of questions. Let's look to the one source we have for the answers, the Scriptures!
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Contributing anything of value has escaped me since my last entry, as I haven't felt well enough to concentrate on writing, but I have been grateful to be able to read some great blogs, and occasionally drop, what I hope is a reasonable comment.
My precious best friend, my wife Valerie, is, uncomplaining as always, right there beside me. God certainly knew the partner I needed when He drew us together in quite amazing circumstances (I might tell you about that one day).
Not quite three score years and ten, I'm still amazed, and saddened, at the perceptions which many have as to what constitutes being a Christian.
We have been blessed to have our youngest daughter, our youngest son and his wife, and our oldest daughter, her husband and two lovely sons visiting with us. I love them dearly, but find it so distressing when our son-in-law, who is a deacon in a Baptist church, cannot discuss what, or why he believes what he does. When I get to be with my other son-in-law we have great conversations about our common faith, even though we disagree on some things. The same with my sons. Unity in the Spirit is very tangible!
It seems that across this planet of ours, which seems to be getting smaller and smaller, Biblical understanding is becoming less and less of a matter of importance, and growing like the proverbial bean-stalk is what I call a smorgasbord attitude that says, "I will choose what I think needs to be believed for me to be a Christian". As I've discovered, this usually means that philosophies are often accumulated from religions such as Humanism, Hinduism and Buddhism and syncretized with Christian teaching.
The theology of many is being rationalized to the extent that a supposed "gospel of grace" rejects the idea of God's wrath because rationalism cannot understand God being loving and wrathful at the same time. Wrath, in relationship to God is simply defined as "anger", rather than being the unchangeable, permanent attitude of God towards sin.
God's grace is not an emotional response from a benign smiling deity. God's grace is a necessary consequence of His wrath, if any are to be saved, and is as permanent a part of His character as is His wrath.
I am so thankful that it was because God is wrathful AND graciously loving that He, because of His grace, became incarnate, to live the perfect life, which I cannot live, to satisfy His own laws, which I cannot do, and to die as the ultimate blood sacrifice, as a propitiation (appeasement, satisfaction of what His wrath requires) for me and all who He calls to Himself. Grace that moves in the face of wrath is real grace.
That's what Christmas is about, and Easter and every other day of the year, God's gracious act towards sinners, like me, who were under His lawful, just wrath. That's why Christmas is every day for me!
If you haven't read it, read this.
May this new year mean that the wrath of God becomes so real to you all, that you will be caused to see how amazing His grace really is!