Friday, 5 October 2012

Hunger and Thirst

Matthew 5:6
 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled."

This is the last of the Beatitudes which relates directly to our relationship with God. Blessed means under God's favour. It does not always mean physical blessing here, but God's favour is worth more then any blessing we could experience here and means eternal life with him in heaven.

Those who Hunger and Thirst. Those two attributes are not very common in the western world. We have so much available for us, but what Jesus is talking about here is an intense longing, forsaking everything else if you could only get this one thing. Like if you had not eaten and were about to die from it, or had not drunk water. That is how much we need to Love righteousness and seek after it. But first we need to realise that we need it. This again links back to the former beatitudes: If we are poor in spirit, then we see our need before God. Mourning is about Mourning over our sin. Meekness is an action which results from these two things, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness also stems from it. It is the opposite of self-righteousness, it is humility and realising that we cannot help ourselves. As a result of genuine faith and repentance we will seek to do good works. We will hunger and thirst for righteousness. We need to have an intense longing for it.

So, What is Righteousness? It is rightness in character before God and also rightness in actions before men. Obeying God's commands. Obviously, since we are all sinful we cannot make ourselves righteous before God. In fact, naturally we are the opposite - disobeying God continually. Yet we have hope: Jesus was righteous, he did not sin and he is God - so he did all that God requires. He died in our place, taking our sin and the punishment for it while we take his righteousness. We are forgiven for our sin and adopted as God's children! What a blessing! 

But while there is a once off side to righteousness, it is also part of 'sanctification' - we are continually becoming more like God, continually learning and growing and continually need to be hungering and thirsting for righteousness. This exhibits itself in our lives as good works and by fleeing from sin. So, are you living a life by which others will see God in you and be challenged by it? Are you striving to be righteous?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Meek

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.


Meekness is having humility and gentleness, but does not equal weakness. Meekness is a fruit of salvation: something which comes about when we have turned to Christ, and humility also has a part to play in the first act of salvation. We must be humble before we will turn to God for salvation. We need to be humble before we will submit to him as Lord and Saviour, before we will realise that we cannot help ourselves but that Jesus is the only way to be saved. Once we submit to him, we will start to live like christians also: obeying God's word and doing good doing things for God's glory. Meekness is not being cowardly, but being gentle - it still means that we stand up for what is right and for truth. Meekness also means not trusting in your own strength. Instead we need to trust in God's strength, give him the glory and submit to him. Instead of using power selfishly, meekness is about using it to benefit others and glorify God. It is trusting God in everything that happens and being content, instead of being anxious about life and troubled about things going 'wrong' in the world.

There is such a thing as fake meekness: claiming to be humble when you actually aren't. I once heard a quote: the moment you think that you are humble is the moment that you are not. Humility is realising that we deserve nothing, we deserve no blessing from God - only judgement. It is tied to mourning for sin and being poor in spirit. Likewise there is a fake meekness which is using gentleness as an excuse to be weak: to hide from confrontation and not stand up for the truth. We need to make sure that we don't use meekness as an excuse to hide.

'For they will inherit the earth' - This promise does not have its complete fulfilment here: we will not be exalted on this earth, in fact we will face persecution here. But when Christ returns to judge, he will exalt us. We are adopted as God's children, and we are co-heirs with Jesus. Of course, we are not equal to him, but we will inherit eternal life. This blessing is partially fulfilled here though: we are blessed through being christians. We are given access to God when we pray, we have hope and joy and assurance. We also are united with fellow believers as God's family.

This passage is almost a direct quote from Psalm 37:11
'But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.' The New testament is nothing new: it is the fulfilment of the Old. Jesus did not come to bring new laws or change God's law. He came to fulfil it. God does not change and we can trust him. His word is true. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Those who Mourn

Matthew 5:4
'Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.'

What does Mourn mean? Many would apply it to being being grieved about the death of something - may be a friend or family member, maybe even a pet. That is a good definition, but in the context it is applied to something else. Those who mourn are those who mourn because of sin. They are so grieved by their state before God that it is as if they are mourning for a dead relative. This comes directly from being poor in Spirit. When we realise our state before God and how abhorrent our sin is, there are only two options: to mourn for our sin, or to ignore and reject God. One of our biggest problems is that we do not realise how very bad sin is, and the fact that even one sin (e.g. lying once) is enough for God to justly sentence us to an eternity of condemnation in hell. We need to realise our helpless state before God and Mourn because of it. Realise that we can do nothing to save ourselves. This means humbly submitting to God, realising that we need his mercy and grace to be saved. Realising that we cannot make it on our own.

Every religion in the world, aside from Christianity, focusses on things we must do to save ourselves. But the truth is, there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves because all that we deserve is hell. Whatever we do is tainted by our sin and we are completely helpless. This isn't a popular thing to say or hear but it is truth. Imagine if there was a man who committed murder and in court his defence was that he had done plenty of good things in his life. He'd hold doors open for people to help them out, he was generous, he was kind, etc. Imagine if the judge allowed him to go free because he had done enough good to cover for his evil deed. That would be entirely unjust. We are in the same situation - we are sinful and deserve hell. Noa mount of good work can save us from God's wrath or make us right in his sight. But theres good news: Jesus did not sin at all. He alone deserved blessing from God, but he came to earth as a man, suffered in our place and took our sin. he took God's wrath and paid the price which we could not afford, and likewise we (Christians) take his righteousness when we repent and believe and are forgiven by God and even adopted as his children. But why would we repent? We need to realise our position before God and mourn for it. That leads to genuine repentance, which in turn leads to salvation, which in turn brings us to do good deeds. 

It all starts with Mourning for sin, humbly realising pour position before God. With that basis we come to him in repentance and we have faith, and by that we are forgiven and shown grace and mercy. That's the blessing - 'For they will be comforted' - their sins will be forgiven. They will be washed clean by God through Jesus. They will be granted eternal life. Not because they deserve it but because Christ took their sin and the penalty for it even though he didn't deserve it.

So, do you Mourn for sin? Have you realised how deeply God hates it and Have you repented of it? Only then will you be forgiven, declared 'Not guilty' and comforted by the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

To be blessed is not simply to be happy. It is to have God's favour on us. Many of the beatitudes will not cause us to be happy in this world (eg: blessed are those who are persecuted), but to have God's favour is a wonderful thing and we have the promise of eternal life. This first Beatitude is the first of the four which are between man and God, and it is crucial to becoming a christian.

To be Poor in Spirit is to realise that there is something wrong in your relationship with God. We need to realise that we are sinful, that we are helplessly and totally depraved. We cannot save ourselves, we cannot do anything which will please God by ourselves - even our good works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:8). We know that everyone sins. Sin is disobedience to God. Romans 3:23 says that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'. There is not one human being who has ever lived (besides Jesus, who is God) who has not sinned, from Adam and Eve to us. Since we sin, and since God is just, the only possible solution is his judgement upon us. His justice must be fulfilled, and that means an eternity in hell. No matter what sin we have done - be it murder or lying. We are all equally as sinful, and even the 'smallest' of sins deserves the penalty of eternity in hell. The Poor in Spirit see this and realise their completely helpless condition. We need to realise that we cannot save ourselves and that we don't even deserve salvation before we will be humble enough to repent and turn to God. 

What's the good news then? Where's the hope? Well it's in what Jesus has done. Jesus is God, and he gave up his glory and became a human. he suffered along side us as a man, he was tempted - though he did not sin. He completely obeyed God's laws and he alone did not deserve God's wrath on sin. As a result, he alone could die in our place to takes the sins of his people, dying on the cross and being forsaken by God as we deserved. He deals with our sins completely so that we can not only be forgiven (which is amazing), but adopted as God's children and granted eternal life. God is truly gracious and merciful! But to be saved requires us to accept it. We aren't saved by what we do, but we need to accept salvation, and if we are genuinely Christians then we will act like it - to serve God, to thank and glorify him, and because we are truly sorry for sins. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says 'Repent and Believe for the Kingdom of God is near'. That is how we accept salvation. Repentance is saying sorry for sin, and is followed by a complete change in life. From disobeying God to obedience. A 180 degree turn. If we are genuinely sorry for sin, then we will fight it in our lives and live like christians. To believe is to have faith - to trust in Jesus: as Saviour and Lord, as the fulfilment of God's promises and as the only way to be saved.

The promise: "For theirs is the kingdom of God", and theirs alone. What a blessing! We (Christians) are given eternal life with God, we are adopted as his children, we are forgiven even though we dont deserve it! We need to realise our state before God, humbly repent and he will exalt us. He will bless us - a little here, especially with the promise and sure hope of salvation, but ultimately in heaven, which he returns to judge and when he saves us completely. Take a look at Revelations 21 for a snapshot of what heaven will be like! What a glorious thing our saviour has done! All glory to God! Note: this reward is also int he last beatitude. These things are things which all true christians should be doing and building in our lives. As a result, the blessings are all linked.

So, are you poor in spirit? Do you realise your absolutely helpless condition before God? It is only then that we will turn to him as the only way to be saved.  Have you repented and do you have faith in jesus as saviour and Lord? He is the only way to be saved.

Romans 5:8 
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.


Monday, 17 September 2012

The Beatitudes

I just came back from a youth-group camp, and the talks were on the Beatitudes, so I thought I'd write a few posts on them. Firstly a summary:

The Beatitudes are 8 statements made by Jesus near the start of his Ministry which were basically the opposite to what people would expect. They can be split into Two groups: the first four are between man and God, and how we need to fix our relationship with him, while the second four are about how we should be treating fellow people. In comparison, we have the 10 commandments in Exodus, which are split into four which are about our relationship with God, and six which are about our relationships with others. Both are God's word, and both are applicable to our lives now. As christians, these eight things are crucial to living how we should. If we have faith in Jesus, we need to act like it - our works cannot save us, but if we are saved, we need to do good works - to glorify him, and to thank him for ll he has done, and also so that we prove to others that his word is truth and truly does change lives.

Each one has a command (Blessed are the...) and a reward (For they will...). Blessed in it's simplest form means happiness, but it doesn't mean happiness in how we think of it. it means having God's favour, his blessing on us. It is about pleasing God. Living here on earth, we will have times when we are happy, but we will also suffer for our faith. God doesn't promise prosperity here, in fact, he promises persecution and hardship for his sake (2 Tim 3:12). 'They' refers to them alone. It is only those who do certain things who will get the blessings. This is not because our works save us, but because if we are saved we will do these things. If we dont do these things, chances are we are not actually saved. 

So for the next week or two, I'll be posting about these beatitudes and trying to explain them a little. The Beatitudes are as follows:

Matthew 5:1-12
 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Romans 1:16-17. Not ashamed.


Romans 1:16-17

New International Version (NIV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

A few good lessons in here. Are we ashamed of the gospel? 

The gospel is the good news of Jesus, God's only son, coming to earth as a man and taking our place to save us from God's wrath for our sins. We all sin, and we all deserve hell because of it, but Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life. he did not sin, but took our sin, and the punishment for it (God's wrath), and died in our place. He then rose again to prove that he had paid the penalty for us and that he truly is God. This is the gospel, and we need to tell it to all people. Through Jesus there is salvation to all who believe: complete forgiveness from sins, changing us from God's enemies to his people, and adopting us as his children. We need to tell people! If we have seen God's wonderful grace, been shown his mercy, then what reason is there not to tell people? The only real reason is shame and fear of man. I have always struggled to share the gospel, but God has challenged me to do it heaps over the past years and there is only one response: to do it. It will lead to persecution, it will lead to people not liking us - but it's worth it isn't it? If even one person turns to Christ, it is well worth it! We dont save people, God does, but he has called us to share the gospel and to bring people to him. He uses us even though he does not need us, and it is an honour to serve God. So do you do it?

I think the reason that paul says 'to the Jew first, and then the Gentile' is that the Jews were God's people from the Old Testament. They knew God's promises, they knew that he promised a saviour, and so they had the groundwork already laid to point them to Jesus as the fulfilment of all prophecy about the messiah. Jews are not 'more' saved then Gentiles, we are all equal: sinful, completely helpless and depraved, but saved by grace through Jesus. If people have different views on this, then I would love to hear them!

We are saved by faith - genuine trust in God. But faith comes with fruit, genuine trust in God means that we will obey him, that we will give up sin in our lives. God calls us to be unashamed of the gospel, so are you? If you are unashamed, then do you show it?


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Romans 1:4-7 Grace and Peace

Spent today in Romans 1:4-7


4 ...who was declared the Son of God with power [a]by the resurrection from the dead, according to the [b]Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship [c]to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as [d]saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just want to dwell on Verse 7 today. Paul says  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is God's undeserved favour, and is shown to us most fully through Jesus dying for us we dont deserve it, we were helpless, weak, sinful and God's enemies, and yet we are shown mercy and grace and LOVE by God. What he has done for us is truly unfathomable and amazing. He is mighty and merciful and gracious! He gives us his grace, even though we in no way deserve it. He is truly a merciful God! 

As I said, we were God's enemies. This means we were basically at war with God: slaves to sin. and not serving God. We were only deserving his wrath and hell for eternity. Through Jesus we have peace with God. Instead of facing his justice and perfect judgement, we face his mercy and grace, we are utterly forgiven, completely washed clean through Jesus if we repent and believe! God is ready to forgive, we accept by giving up our sin in proof that we are truly sorry. This means that we have eternal peace with God, eternal life in heaven with him! What a blessing! 

'From God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ'. God has adopted us as his children! We are his sons, through Jesus. Jesus took our sin and God's wrath, and died for us, while we took his righteousness and were adopted as God's sons. Of course, after dealing with out sins he rose again and proved that he has saved us. God is our father, therefore we know that he is looking after us, he is caring for us, he loves us, he is always ready to provide for us. He doesn't promise us good things here, but he has satisfied our deepest need through jesus, and also often blesses us here. Ultimately though he works for our spiritual good (Rom 8:28, James 1:2-4), which is often accomplished best when we suffer and have to persevere in the faith. We also see that Jesus is Lord and saviour. As saviour, he deserves our eternal gratitude and praise. As lord, he deserves complete and utter obedience, not because that will save us, but because we are so thankful and realise that sin leads to death, while repentance and faith leads to eternal life. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Romans 1:1-4 Jesus the Descendant of David

Short one today, I did some looking into How Jesus is descendant from David, since Joseph was not his physical father.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God the gospel he promised beforehandthrough his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life[a] was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Theres heaps in here, but I just wanted to focus on Jesus' Genealogies. 
So in Matthew 1, we have the Genealogy os Jesus from the line of Joseph. After some research, I think Matthew did this because he was writing to the Jews, and they would only accept the Messiah from a male descendant of David. Joseph was legally Jesus' father, and so Jesus was Legally a descendant of Joseph. 
In Luke 3, we see a different Genealogy -  coming from David's son Nathan, and it could be argued that This is Mary's Genealogy. Verse 23 of Luke 3 says

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli...


Apparently in the original text, it says Joseph of Heli, not 'son' of Heli. It could be argued that a better translation could be 'son-in-law' or Heli. I'm not sure how feasible the explanation is, but it fits well. 
This also seems to fit with Jeconiah who is in the matthew 1 account, and in Jeremiah 22:24-30 is cursed along with his descendants. In comparison we have Zerubbabel in the Luke Genealogy, who was promised in Haggai 2:20-23 that the messiah would come through him. If he is in Mary's line, then God is keeping this promise directly. If Jeconiah is in Joseph's line, then God is also keeping his promise of the curse on his descendants, as the messiah is not Joseph's physical son Only by law.

Interested to hear your thoughts/ideas/opinions on this!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Acts 25:1-12. Persecution

25 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”

6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.

8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”

9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”

10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

Once again, a few lessons I've thought of and picked up through this passage.

We will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12
'In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted'. That verse says it - of we follow Jesus, we will be persecuted. By following Jesus, I mean obeying him, trusting him and doing what e says in his word, not because these things save us, but because through Jesus we are saved to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Obviously Paul ha been obeying Christ, and as a result he is chucked in prison for over two years (see chapter 24), and then carted around and tried by a number of differed people, with the Jews lying about him and accusing him falsely. Again I say, if we are Christians, we will be persecuted. But we have a wonderful promise from Jesus in Matthew 5:10-12
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Secondly, we have Paul saying...
“I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” Can we see that? We all sin, and it is only through Jesus that we can be justified and forgiven and adopted as Gods children instead of being eternally condemned to hell, but when we are persecuted can we honestly say that we are innocent? Because that's what we need to be aiming for.


To end, here's a few verses from 1 Peter 2:
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[e]
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[f] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Acts 23:12-22. The plot to kill Paul.

12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”

16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander.

The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”

19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”

22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”

So there's obviously a few thing which can be drawn from this passage, many of them have been mentioned before, but it's never a bad thing to be reminded of biblical truths - no matter how often it is!

First up, we see the complete hypocrisy of the Jews and deceitfulness of sin. The jews are planning to murder Paul, yet they try to cover up their consciences by making an oath to God about it! Satan is extremely crafty and decietful, and without knowledge of the bible, it is easy to fall into his traps and into sin without even realizing it. Make sure you know and read the bible!! It is our only weapon against Satan, and one of our best defenses - even Jesus uses it! There's no better example to follow! We have these men going to the spiritual authorities with their plan and developing it further with them. While it is good to approach leaders with issues, we need to approach godly leaders and seek godly advice, and ultimately our choices need to come directly from Gods word, because een the 'best' people get it wrong: all have sinned and fall Short of the glory of God.

Secondly we clearly see God working in this. In verse 11 God tells Paul that he will also share the gospel in Rome, and here God brings that about. He provides a boy to overhear the plot and tell Paul, so he gets transferred away, and eventually reaches Rome. God not only works his will, but he protects and provides for his people. We are his slaves and his children. We need to submit to him totally in all things, but we can trust him that he Loves us and that his will is for our good as well as his glory. That doesn't mean life will be great, but it means that we have full assurance of forgiveness and eternal salvation, so no matter how bad life gets, there are better things to look forward to, and God is trustworthy.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Acts 21:27-36 Fear of man

Previous to this passage, Paul has just finished his last missionary journey and has returned to Jerusalem. While there he is informed that there have been rumors about him, that he is telling the Gentiles to forsake the old testament law. As a result he agrees to go through some purification with some other men, to show that he has not abandoned the Old Testament (note, I'm still trying to work out if Paul was sinning by doing this: Jesus cleanses us, we don't need purification any more, but anyway...back to the story...). As a result...

27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”

Ok, so three lessons from this passage, but first up, some views on whether Paul was right or wrong in involving himself in Old Testament purification rituals.
Either Paul is sinning because he is fearing man, or else he is doing it for a good reason. Two thoughts for If he is sinning: the elders also sin, by commanding him to do it. This isn't impossible (they are sinful humans also), and it seems in uncharacteristic of Paul to fear man and disobey God because of it. He may have done this to prevent trouble and to stop the Jews from stumbling, or there may have been another reason behind it.

I think in this passage there is a good reminder that we need to be careful to be just and thoughtful in what we do. We see Paul beaten by a number of Jews, most of which don't Even know why they are beating him. We need to be careful not to judge people without evidence, and we must not be led by the crowd, but fear God and obey him. There is no excuse to disobey him, and we must be careful not to simply follow the crowd, but to think clearly for ourselves.

Secondly, we see that the Jews assume that Paul had defiled the temple by bringing a gentile there, while they had no proof. We need to be careful not to assume someone has sinned, and not to falsely accuse someone. Seek truth and don't act before thinking!! Because of this assumption, these people who claim to follow God end up almost killing one of Gods people.

Thirdly, we have the commander, who hears about it and acts just in time. It's undeniable that God is in control, and we see yet again that he preserves his people, he has a plan for us and accomplishes it. He doesn't leave of forsake us (Hebrews 13), and we can trust him completely. I'm not saying God will save us all the time, but I am saying that he will always do his will, and that will be for his glory and the growth/good of his people (Romans 8:28). He can save, but his plan is perfect, good and pleasing and no matter the situation we should and must trust him. He is always faithful and will either save his people from death or through it.

God bless!!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Acts 19:13-22. No cost is too great.

Image Source
This passage covers a number of events which occurred while Paul was in Ephesus. We see 7 Jewish men overpowered by a d
emon, and we see how God uses this to glorify himself by causing the people to fear him and turn from sin.

First up, verses 13-16
 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognise  but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
So when I read this I had no idea what to make of it, but after doing some research I think I might have a few answers. These Jews were not Christians, it seems they were just men who were casting out demons, and thu see Paul's power and try to duplicate it. So they use Jesus name, trying to cast out demons by it. Problem is there is no true faith there. We cannot fake a relationship with God, hypocrisy will not save us. Only genuine faith in God can save - otherwise it is worthless. True faith in God bears fruit, as we will see next.

Verses 18-20 give us a clear example of what true faith results in.
 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.  In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
We have people who are believers and they confess their sins and change there lives. That's what true faith is: trusting God an putting him first in life - giving up sin and fighting satan instead of living as slaves to sin. These actions are a direct result of the fear produced by the failed attempt of the Jews to exorcise the demon, and so we see that God works everything for his glory and the good of his people like he promises in Romans 8:28.

The money which these scrolls was worth is equivalent to 50 000 days wages. That's a lot of money. How much are we committed to God? Being a Christian will cost us. It will result in loss of friends, persecution and perhaps even loss of money. But look at it from the eternal perspective - money, friends, work, earthly things are meaningless and vain without God, and eternal life is certainly worth it.

What do you give up for God? Do you read the bible? Do you challenge people with the gospel? What are you prepared to give to a God who has done so much for us?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Acts 18:9-11. Giving all to God.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

Hey guys, sorry for not posting in awhile again, been a crazy few weeks, with an epic snow trip with guys from church, a potential disaster which by Gods grace didn't occur and a concert for school, but a week in which God has challenged me to put him first and persevere and be humble.

Anyway, to the passage, I just had a few thoughts on this

1. God is on control. He promises great things and can keep them. We shouldn't only serve him when he promises protection and good thins, but at all times, even when things are going badly. Paul has suffered in almost every city he has been in, and now God grants him some rest. We need to persevere and trust God at all times. He will keep his promises. Ultimately we know we will have eternal life and safety in heaven with Christ thanks to his death in our place.

2. I found it a great challenge to see that Paul stayed in the city for a year and a half. That's a long time and it made me think - we owe God everything and as Christians we need to be ready to give up anything to him. While he may not be calling you to those 'big' things now, we still have responsibilities - christianity is a lifestyle and is a constant effort, so how do you life? Do you read the bible daily? Do you pray? Do you tell people the gospel? Do you go to church? Do you seek deep and godly conversations with Christian friends? Are you ready to listen and learn? Do you work for his glory alone - or for yourself? Do you fight sin in your life and repent when you fail?
I know I fail at this daily, but that's no excuse. We have been created by God, he sustains us - keeps us alive, and as Christians he gave his son so we can live! We owe him EVERYTHING!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Desiring God App

I recently downloaded the desiring God app for my iPod, it is really quite good, with sermons blogs and other resources to look through, but best of all...John Piper has downloaded all of his books to be read for free! I truly recommend it!!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Acts 16:16-40 Suffering for our Saviour.

Today I read through a section of acts 16 and found it rather encouraging and challenging. Here's some things I picked up (by the grace of God).

Firstly, we have a demon possessed girl proclaiming that "these men (Paul and Silas) are servants of the Most High God". What a wonderful reminder! We have one of Satan's minions proclaiming that God truly is ruler over all. This shows that God is completely in control and all powerful, Satan cannot defeat him, and even proclaims the truth where he is trying to defy God. Satan has no true power compared to God, and we can trust God fully to defend us and protect us - he is the most high God. It's also worthwhile to note that we are God's servants - I believe the word in Greek is 'dulos' which is better translated slave - We belong to him, he created us, sustains us and saved us. Therefore as Christians who acknowledge this, we are called to completely submit to him and to obey him fully. But this isn't a bad thing - its an honour. We deserve his wrath yet he uses us to bring him glory, and we are not only his slaves. Through Jesus we are adopted as children!!!! What a blessing!

Aside from this point, we have the men who completely reject Paul and persecute him and Silas because they have lost their way of making money. Paul casts the demon out of the girl, and that demon had allowed the girl to tell the future, which was used by her owners to make cash. As a result these men go and take Paul and Silas to the local magistrate. They refuse to believe the gospel, which they had just heard proclaimed, even by their demon possessed slave, and can only think of their money. Love of money and material goods is so common in our culture. We have so so much, yet we always want more. But it blinds us from the truth and so easily stops us from serving God. As a result Paul and Silas are accused of teaching the people to disobey the government and are verbally abused, then stripped and severely beaten and thrown in the inner cell of the jail. As Christians, we will suffer if we live as we should and if we share the gospel. But we must not fear man - trust God, even through trials and suffering he makes us more like him and will protect us. We can completely trust him no matter what situation we are in. The remainder of the chapter goes on to tell of the faith of Paul and Silas, and Gods deliverance and work through this situation.

They are thrown in prison, locked in stocks, but they praise God. They spend the night singing hymns!! They have every reason to blame God, but instead they worship him. Why is this? They know that God has a plan and is accomplishing it. They know that he is in control and that even suffering for God is something to rejoice in. What a contrast to us, who are scared even to say that we are Christians!
While they are praising God there is and earthquake and they are freed, which eventually results in the conversion of the jailer and his family. Read it for yourself! God is in control and will do his will through us! Even when we suffer, he has a good, pleasing and perfect plan which he is working to completion. Nothing we go through is in vain, we can trust God our Saviour and have no reason to doubt. He is forever faithful and all powerful and he never forgets his people.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Acts 16:6-10. Sovereignty of God

Sorry for not posting this week, been a bit crazy and when I typed up the last one I lost it all and didn't have time to re-type. Today I read through acts 16:6-10, which was...interesting. This passage deals with Paul's second missionary journey, and he tries to go first to Asia, then to Bithiniya (the province northwest of Asia) and both times the holy spirit stops him.

So, we have Paul with plans, and God with other plans and of course Gods plans prevail. We can make as many plans as we want, but God has a plan and will accomplish it no matter what our plans are. We see this throughout all of the bible, God does his will. This is clearly shown in proverbs 16:9

'In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.'n

So, why is this a good and comforting thing? Romans 8:28 - God works for the good of his people and for his glory. Romans 12:2 - Gods will is perfect good and pleasing. Etc.

We can trust God, he will do his will and by it he will glorify himself and work for our good. Even in our struggles God works to build us to be
More like him and to cause us to trust him more.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Plans

Hey, thought I'd let you know my plans from here on. With pressures of school and other things, I cannot allocate too much time to the blog, since I don't want this to take away from time for my bible reading. As a result I will probably be posting on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays and perhaps Sundays. The Other days I'll use that time to read some commentaries on the side or else research ideas and doctrines which I need a better understanding of (eg: spiritual gifts).

God Bless and have a great day!!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Acts 15:12-21 God's Faithfulness

Many of the lessons of yesterday's passage are carried through to this one, especially the fact that we are saved by faith, not works, but there are also a number of useful lessons to consider here. (obviously, since it is God's word.)

One such lesson is found in verses 15-18. James is discussing the fact that God has seen fit to save the gentiles, and states: 'the words of the prophets are in agreement with this'. This is important. I think too often we forget that the old testament is just as applicable and useful as the new testament. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is God breathed, and therefore the old testament is just as good and true and right as the new. Nothing in the new testament has not already been in the old, and God never changes. Of course, through Christ a number of things have been fulfilled (eg: the sacrificial system was fulfilled by him being the sacrifice for our sin once for all), but there are still plenty of lessons which we can learn from it, and we must not neglect it! None of God's words can ever be useless, it is all instructive and crucial to the life of a Christian.

Another lesson from these verses (v 15-18) is that God keeps his promises, and proves his people right. Throughout the old testament, people have been told by God to prophecy certain things, and God has never forgotten his promises through these people. In Genesis he promised a son from eve who would 'crush the serpents head' - defeat Satan (Gen 3). Who did that? Jesus! That was perhaps 4000 years before Jesus was even born! There are plenty of other examples - especially in Isaiah and the Psalms. God keeps his promises, and so we can trust him to keep his promise to save us eternally, to forgive us if we repent and believe and to bring us to his kingdom in heaven forever. What a blessing! As a side note, from this it's obvious that God is in control and always planned to save us by sending Jesus.

Lastly, I wanted to put forth some ideas about verse 20. In this verse we have James saying that the Gentiles should be told not to: 1. Eat food offered to idols, 2. Be sexually immoral or 3. Eat strangled animals or blood. I've done a little research and I'm pretty sure these are the reasons for the commands. 1. Don't eat meat offered to idols is commanded for two reasons: Eating that meat will allow Satan to tempt the Gentile believers to worship the idols also, so to prevent possible temptation and sin, and secondly - eating food sacrificed to idols would be a stumbling block to the jews and would cause then to sin. Paul also deals with this in 1 Corinthians 8. We must by do anything which may offend fellow believers or cause them to sin. 2. Sexual immorality is obviously sinful and condemned throughout scripture, but in the life of Gentiles, it was quite common, and was even a way to worship their idols. This is commanded so that Gentile believers will not fall into this sin without realizing that it is sinful. 3. Blood and strangled animals again seems to be simply because these things will cause offense to the Jews and possibly cause them to sin or else cause disunity in the church. We should be caring of each other and work hard not to offend fellow Christians (except of course with challenging people about there sins which is necessary and often offensive. In general we should seek to be at peace with all men, but never tithe extent that we don't follow clear biblical commands).

God bless!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Acts 15:1-11 Through faith alone.

These verses occur after the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. They have returned to the church in Antioch, and some Jewish believers come along and say that the Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved. As a result they journey to Jerusalem to ask the apostles. There are three lessons I would like to draw out of this passage.

Firstly, we have the word 'brothers' which is used to describe fellow believers (see verses 1,3 and 7). This is used throughout the new testament, but I want to mention that we, Christians, are members of the same family. If you have genuinely acknowledged your sin and repented of it, and if you have faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord then you, like me, have been adopted into God's family. Since believers are a family, we should act like it. We should help each other, care for each other, have genuine friendships which we put effort into and we should study God's word together. We should also be completely obedient to God, our father.

Secondly I want to draw out the main point of the passage: faith verses works. The Jewish believers claim in verse 1 that "unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved". This is a problem, we have some people saying that works are necessary to be saved. Instead of being saved by faith alone, they are claiming that we need to do something to be saved. This cannot be true when we consider the following facts: firstly, we are completely sinful, and we all deserve hell. In Romans 3:23 we learn that all have sinned and in Romans 6:23 we learn that the wages of sin is death. We are in an utterly hopeless situation. Secondly, all that we do is like filthy rags in Gods sight (Isaiah 64:6), so nothing that we can do can improve on our salvation or even please God unless we have been cleansed of our sinfulness. So how does this apply to our lives? Well, we cannot earn salvation. We cannot do anything to save ourselves, and the reverse is also true: nothing we do is to big that God can't forgive us for it. What a comforts that is! If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). We cannot do anything so bad that God is not willing or able to forgive us for. So don't let Satan chew you up with false guilt - repent and stop sinning! God will forgive!! Along with this point is the fact that genuine faith leads to good deeds. If you are a Christian, then act like it! We are not saved by our deeds, but we are saved to do good deeds - for Gods glory (see Ephesians 2:8-10, 1 Corinthians 10:31 and James 2)

Lastly I want to point out that all Christians are equally saved. Denomination does not matter to God, and we should put next to no emphasis on it. Verse 4 makes that clear: when the believers come to jerusalem they are 'welcomes by the church and the apostles and the elders'. Likewise in verse 9, God made no distinction between the Jewish believers and the Gentiles. If a person believes the basic truths of the gospel, is seeking to learn and grow and is showing the fruits of salvation then we can assume that they are saved and therefore our equals. Likewise if a church holds fast to the truth, teaches from the bible, then regardless of denomination we should regard it as a fellow church. Sure, we will disagree in areas, and we should discuss these things, but they should not get in the way of fellowship with one another or give room for Satan to get in (unless of course they are crucial truths of the bible which cannot be disputed).

I hope that this has been helpful to you and that God uses it to glorify himself.

God bless!

The idea

So, I've been reading through Acts lately and it occurred to me that it would be worthwhile to write short devotionals on what I have read- to benefit fellow Christians, to help me focus well and to use what I'm learning in sharing it with others.

So, I hope this is beneficial to you, the reader, and I pray that God will use it to glorify himself. I am hoping to post regularly starting tomorrow!

God bless!