Saturday, October 22, 2016

Unforgiven


There was a time in my life when I was desperate.

I was anxious and disheartened, and wherever I looked, including the Bible, all I saw was condemnation.

“What can I do to be saved?”

This was a deep and unending question for me. For a while I was relatively satisfied with the understanding of “surrendering my life to Jesus”.
It’s what Christians around me seemed to agree was the way to be saved, along with regular reading of God’s word and prayer.
But after meeting a certain denomination representative, I felt on the outside again.
They seemed to do more than me, more witnessing, more bible study, more devotion of their life, and besides, it didn’t actually say anywhere in the bible that surrendering your life to Jesus was the way of being saved. There must be something else we have to do?

“Baptism”.

Full immersion baptism was the only way, according to that person, and he backed it up with Bible verses.  But I had been christened as a baby, and all the people that I spent time with as Christians, didn’t feel that was necessary, but I still felt unholy, unclean, unforgiven.
I didn’t want to go to that church (I still would not go near it), I didn’t like what this fellow was doing to me and he would NOT go away, or back down on his stance.

I was feeling desperate, and was looking over my shoulder wherever I went, and also dreading the sound of the phone ringing, in case it was him.

I was backed into a corner. How could I call myself a Christian, when I felt no reliable connection to God? I wanted something firm and secure that I could take out of my wallet and say, here is my license to prove I am a Christian, but I had nothing. (Some people use "tongues" as "proof")

It was in that setting that one day I heard, loudly and clearly, that in fact there is nothing we can do to satisfy God, and his holiness. Nothing. We are, in fact, hopelessly lost as far as our own ability to gain God’s favour. Not the most honest baptism in the purest water can wash away even the smallest drip of our guilty stains. We are lost.

But God did something.
He sent his Son.
He provided a lamb.
A spotless lamb.
This lamb takes away the sins of the world...
And ANYONE who trusts in him is given the gift of forgiveness, repentance, cleansing, a clear conscience, adoption as children into the family of God, eternal life.
Yes, a washing takes place, a purification, a baptism. It all happens on the cross.
And we who believe in the cross are immersed in the power of it, even if we don't understand it, or even "feel" it (feeling guilty does not prove guilt, not feeling guilty does not prove innocence)

The gift we receive is faith.
Faith gives us the heart to see that Jesus has done it all. We do nothing except receive what we can’t live without. The precious blood of Jesus washes the guilty sinner and they are white as snow. 

What a Saviour!!!!!!

The devil goes to church...

Ever wondered why arguments, disagreements, conflict, irritations, anger, hatred, and so many other things just seem to spring up out of nowhere at church, sometimes straight after the best services?


Ever wondered why the sound system plays up at crucial moments?



Ever wondered why people get snoozy during important parts of the sermon, why your children misbehave at what seem to be Important points, and why people interrupt with the most apparently trivial things at the worst possible times?



Why do people overhear the things we shouldn’t be saying about them, at the worst possible times?



And why do certain topics come up during announcements or during the service, that seem to grate on our raw nerves?



Why do we suddenly feel like we don’t want to maintain our involvement at fellowship?



Why do people ask the most sensitive questions at the wrong time?



Why do you tell a white lie just before you’re about to give a sermon on being faithful in the small things?



The actual reason all these things happen is because we are sinners. 

Yes, we are rebellious, yes we are proud, arrogant, lazy, dumb, vicious, backbiting, inconsistent, prayerless, careless, judgemental, biased, and too interested in our own benefit, and in money.



And the devil knows it, and his timing is pretty much perfect.



God have mercy on us sinners.



1John 3:8 The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.











Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The 4th temptation in Luke 4


"All spoke well of him". (Luke 4:22)
This passage is confronting to me.
Jesus had just been baptized and was full of the Holy Spirit. This description alone could cause endless debate but all I wish to point out is that, all that follows relates to a man powerfully working in the fullness of God's will.
So he is led by the Spirit into the desert where for forty days he is tempted by the devil and eats nothing.
It is interesting that Satan uses this time of solitude and separation to tempt Jesus. We often seek solitude for recharging, as did Jesus, but solitude by no means keeps us safe from temptation, computer screen or not.
And the temptations are very interesting. They vary from food to fame to amazing feats. But where Adam and Eve failed quickly without famine or need, Jesus in a physically weakened state, strongly and obediently resists.
The Spirit led him into the desert, but the devil led him to high places. It is not stated, but it seems Jesus had no choice but to follow the devil to these places and endure the temptation.
Each temptation was rebuffed with a clear knowledge, understanding and application of God's word. "It is written..."
But the devil also quotes scripture as part of the temptation, so clearly Gods word can be used with evil intent. Knowing God's word alone is not necessarily proof of holiness or of orthodoxy.
Vs 13 says that when the devil finished all his tempting he left him for a more "opportune time".
When is this time? In the Garden of Gethsemane? On the cross?
In my opinion it happens in the same chapter.
Jesus went back home to Nazareth, still full in the power of the Spirit. Everyone is now talking about this local boy who has amazing gifts.
He reads from Isaiah and proclaims that he is the fulfillment of the very words he reads. What an amazing and sublime moment that must have been. 
And "all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips".

If I put myself in Jesus sandals at that exact point in time, I don't think I would have taken Jesus' next step.
Surely it would be good to enjoy the moment of popularity and positivity after your first sermon at your home church. Surely we would use the positive vibe to build on our momentum in our career as a stadium speaker? Surely this positive vibe is a blessing from God?
Jesus must be mad or stupid (from the point of view of our modern, commercial, money orientated world) because the next step he takes is to completely and irreversibly undermine his current preaching success. He destroys it in such a way that the event would go viral today if it had been captured to YouTube.
In his home synagogue, just after receiving a standing ovation, and without any provocation, he adds to his sermon the worst possible ending. If anything he incites the congregation.
It seems, though it isn't directly stated, that the people were now waiting for some miraculous sign, some special event for Jesus to perform, as he had done elsewhere. After all, this was his home town, and he had just read about giving sight to the blind and releasing prisoners etc. form the scroll of Isaiah.
Instead Jesus refuses, and reminds them about the fact that a prophet is never accepted in his home town. He then reminds everyone that God ignored the many, many widows in Jerusalem during a great famine, and instead sent Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. He doubles the pain of his point by adding the fact that God ignored many others with leprosy choosing instead to heal the Syrian general Naaman.
In other words, Jesus was saying, "you can talk me up as much as you like, but I'm not going to do any miracles here."
And just because he wasn't going to do miracles there, did not invalidate his fulfillment of Isaiah's passage.

The people were furious, not in the sense that they weren't going to invite him back to speak again. They wanted to kill him.
This seems like an over reaction to a bad sermon.
I would suggest that maybe this crowd became possessed by the devil (which by no means clears them of personal guilt for what they were about to do).
Where Hitler took advantage of crowd dynamics and stirred them to his advantage, Jesus rejected his popularity, recognized it as from the devil and unmasked their hearts and their desire to kill him with his deeply cutting comments.
He was taken to his third high place in that chapter, with the intention of being thrown off to his death.
He could have once again "tested" God to see if the Angels would buffer his fall, but instead, in the power and humility of the Spirit, he walked through the crowd and escaped.
Being spoken well of, in this circumstance, was, in my opinion, Satan taking his opportunity to thwart Jesus' mission. Satan failed. Jesus succeeded.