Thursday, 28 February 2013

Romans 8:3

Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

This is the verse I read today, and gee it's encouraging to be back in a less confusing section of Romans! I found chapter 7 quite hard and somewhat dry (Though certainly full of truth and useful), but its refreshing to be back focussing on Jesus and the gospel! So what is this verse on about?

What was the law powerless to do?
The law is powerless to save. It sets the standard, tells us what God requires, and because we all sin it cannot save us - it cannot deal with our sin, it simply and justly condemns it. We all deserve God's wrath, we all disobey him - even if you lived your whole life and only lied once you'd still deserve hell eternally - thats how bad sin is. I think we have a small and limited view of sin, we think we're alright deep down and don't view ourselves as God does - totally depraved, helpless and deserving only of wrath. The law is powerless to save sinful humans, and all have sinned from Adam and Eve to us. If we were perfect then it would declare us righteous and worthy to enter God's presence, but "no one is righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:10)

The Gospel
The law is only able to condemn us, so God provided a way for us to be saved. It was entirely God, only God. He did it for us, not because he needs us or wanted anything we have, not because we are good enough - he did it all though we were powerless and useless to serve him. He did it despite our sin. He sent Jesus into the world to save us - those who mock him, reject him, disobey him. Those who would crucify his son out of what? Greed, pride and selfishness. Thats us, we are no better then the Pharisees were - yet God sent Jesus to save us. And Jesus is God - he came willingly. He was God, deserving of eternal power and glory, with every right to judge and destroy us. He came to earth as a man - born into a stable without any welcome except some shepherds and later some wise men. Jesus was utterly humble, selfless. He did not choose to be born as a king, or into wealth, but rather was born as a 'no one' on a small town, into a relatively poor family. The God of the universe, born into a stable. Anyway, he came, lived perfectly and died for us - taking our sin - "Condemning sin in sinful man". He took the sin of his people and it was condemned in him, he suffered the condemnation we deserve. What a wonderful saviour! What a Mighty God! What a loving creator!

Note: When it says "In the likeness of sinful man" that doesn't mean Jesus was sinful, but that he was born as a man, like us - in a body that was weak, that got tired and hungry, that got sick. He suffered like we do. He gets it. We have a saviour who knows our needs entirely - from first hand experience. 

Just a few thoughts and encouragements, feel free to comment any other thoughts/questions, etc.

God Bless!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Daniel 6:16-17

I just read this and though of the parallell between Daniel and Christ here, in terms of the stone being rolled over the den/tomb.

"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed."

Compared to Matthew 27:60
"...and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away."

Likewise both "rose" again - Daniel metaphorically because he did not die, and Christ literally because he did die but rose again.

I love seeing Christ in the Old Testament. He's everywhere!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Matthew 5:5

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

What is meekness?
According to the dictionary, meekness is Quietness, gentleness, humble, submissiveness. The greek work used (since the new testament was written in greek) is Praus which means easy, mild or gentle. It means controlled, having strength but using it for the right reasons – like a gentle breeze instead of a tornado – the wind has the strength, but the gentle breeze is better since it doesn’t destroy. It involves not living for yourself, but being selfless. Not violent and not always going on about what you deserve, but instead giving to others what they need or what will benefit them. Meekness is humility, and realising that every moment of life we have is a gift from God that we should use to follow him. Its reliance on him, not ourselves.

What was meek about Jesus? He was God, yet was born as a man, in a stable, with shepherds alone to proclaim his coming. He died willingly for us even though we are the ones who deserved it – humbly and submissive to God, not standing up for his own rights, even though he out of everyone had rights (He was perfect, he created everything, etc). Luke 22:42 - "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Why are the meek blessed?
They submit to God, give up living their own way. They repent and believe and therefore are saved à obey God. Blessed means God’s favour, and the only ones who truly have Gods favour are christians, since we have been forgiven for our sin.

How does this flow on from mourning or poor in spirit?
Well, the person who is poor in spirit knows they are sinful and can’t save themselves. They then mourn because they realise they are powerless and deserve God’s wrath, and the meek person is humble before God, knowing he doesn’t deserve grace, even though in Jesus there is forgiveness and mercy. Meekness is about choosing to follow God instead of being rebellious and living our own way – it isn’t just a ‘who cares’ attitude, its actively giving yourself to obeying God. Its realising that there is absolutely nothing good in us, nothing we can do to please God, that we have nothing to offer and we sin and miss the mark. Then its submission to God: giving our lives to follow him through faith.

Why can we turn to God? Jesus. He is God, but he came to earth as a man. He died, took our place since we deserve death. We sin, and God is perfect, so we deserve his wrath (death and hell). Jesus took God's wrath on himself (he could because he was perfect) so that we can be forgiven, completely and utterly guiltless in God's sight.
How do we turn to God? Repentance + faith.

Is Meekness weakness?
No. The meek person has strength, they just decide not to use it for the benefit of others. In terms of saving ourselves, we are weak, and meekness is turning to God in that situation and being humble enough to give up our own ways. But in a more general sense, meekness is having wisdom and humility to help others instead of putting yourself first.

How can we be doing that in our lives?
-       Stand up for God’s word, but listen to others.
-       Helping people out in class if they need help,
-       giving up stuff for someone else – e.g. being ready to give up your spot in the line for food if someone else wants it,
-       not complaining.
We don’t do these things out of shyness or cowardice, but we do them because it’s not about us, it’s about God and how we can serve him.
-       If someone was disobeying God, the meek person would rebuke them – so it isn’t weakness.
Its defending and looking after others, even if it costs you.
-       Say someone was bullying someone, even if it was a person you don’t like, meekness is about standing up for that person, even if it means getting bullied yourself and even if you don’t like that person.

Inherit the earth? What does that mean?
Psalm 37:11 But the humble will inherit the land 
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
Eternal life, the ‘new earth’ – heaven eternally, God’s presence. What a wonderful blessing! To be in God’s presence eternally! Not just that but in Jesus we are adopted as God’s children, we are made part of his family – when we deserved his wrath and destruction from him. God is so merciful! It’s foolish to ignore him. Revelations 21

Monday, 25 February 2013

Romans 8:1-2: No Condemnation.

Romans 8:1-2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Just a short one today, but dwell on these two verses for a moment. In Christ (and in him alone), there is No Condemnation. There is complete forgiveness, our sins are completely washed away, completely done away with. We deserve condemnation because we disobey God. He is perfect and his standard is perfect obedience. He is just and must therefore punish sin, but in Jesus there is God's mercy and grace and faithfulness shown - there is no condemnation. Jesus is God, he is perfect. He came into the world as a man, he suffered and died in our place, took our sin and God's wrath for it, and because of that we are forgiven. He then rose again, proving that he truly did conquer sin, since he rose from death which is the result of sin (Romans 6:23). We have the sure hope of heaven, of eternal life - Jesus rose again, so shall we. We are completely saved. Jesus has dealt with our sin - we need not fear death, we don't have to be guilty, we don't have to worry - just trust in him! Repent and Believe! God saves all who turn to him (Romans 10:9, Joel 2:32). Once (genuinely) saved, the Holy Spirit ("the Spirit that gives life") is in us. He gives us life, he sustains and grow us, he teaches us - it is him who convicts us and brings us to our knees before God in repentance in the first place. We are set free from sin and death, from God's wrath, from condemnation.

Based on the above, even if our lives are falling apart, even if everything is going wrong, we can be, and should be joyful. We always have this sure and eternal hope, and we know that d promises eternal life in heaven where there will be no hardship (if we are christians). We have reason to be joyful, even if we are not happy. Reason to praise God, reason to trust him. Don;t be discouraged - fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, he saves, he has saved us if we are christians, and we have reason to be joyful!

I was struggling through this late yesterday, and as I prayed my ipod dinged with an email from bible gateway. Heres the verse which came up:

Jeremiah 29:11-13
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

We serve an awesome, loving, caring, kind, merciful, gracious and faithful God. A just God, who will punish sin, and a perfect God who cannot stand anything imperfect, but yet a God who was willing to send his son/come himself to die for us, to take our place so that we can be forgiven and see his mercy and grace though we deserve only wrath, though we hated, despised, rejected and mocked him.

Soli Deo Gloria! 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Romans 7:24-25a

Romans 7:24-25a
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

After the discussion of verses 21-23 where Paul has said that he continually falls into sin and cannot do the good which he desires to do, come these two verses to conclude the chapter. They sum up the attitude we need to have as christians, the humility we need to have as God's people.

We are truly wretched. We are sinful, completely sinful and unable to help ourselves. We are deserving of God's wrath, and even when saved from it by Jesus we still fall into sin, we still fail and stuff up. We are utterly depraved, truly wretched because of our sin. We can do nothing to fix that - Who will rescue us? Well, in reality no one should rescue us - we deserve God's wrath against our disobedience. We have no right to be rescued, no reason to expect it. Yet God himself, who we have attacked, who we have disobeyed, who we have ignored and scorned, our creator and the one who sustains us every day of our lives, offers us salvation. We deserve hell, yet he offers us forgiveness, mercy, adoption as his children and eternal life with him in Jesus. How does he do that?

Well that's the gospel isn't it? Jesus came to earth, he is God, yet he came as a man, born in a stable he lived among us sinful humans. He was tempted yet remained perfect, he obeyed God completely when we never could. He was humiliated, hated, rejected by us, murdered by those he came to save. He was crucified on the cross, but he did so willingly. He died for our sakes - he was perfect, so he could take our sin. He is God, so he had the power to deal with them in full. He suffered God's wrath, which we deserved, he died so that we can live. Then he rose to life again, proving that he truly had defeated death and dealt with our sin, that there truly is salvation in him and that all who trust in him have eternal life. In Jesus there is salvation. Repent and Believe! Put your trust in him alone - we can't make it ourselves, who else could rescue us? Only God. God the father who we mock, despise and reject offers forgiveness by sending his son, who is also God. How will we respond? Well it needs to be thanksgiving doesn't it. We owe him infinitely, our creator, sustainer and saviour. We therefore should always be praising him if we are Christians for all he has done. 

How thankful are you? Have you truly turned to Christ?
Romans 5:6-8
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Monday, 18 February 2013

2 Timothy 3:16-17 - God's word.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

-         Written by the apostle Paul
-         Tells us that all of the bible is God’s word and what it is useful for.

“All scripture is God-breathed.”
-   That means every bit of the bible is written by God. The Old Testament and the New Testament are both God’s word and they are useful.
So, how is it God’s word if it was written by people? I said before that this is written by Paul, so how was it also written by God?
2 Peter 1:21 says “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” – The bible is God’s word because he sent his Holy Spirit on people to tell them what to write. We see this all through the Old Testament and it’s the same with the New Testament books. Since the bible is God’s word, we should listen to it.

Paul says that the bible is useful. This means that it is good for us and helpful to us to show us what God wants. The bible is God telling us what to do and what he wants us to do, and by it we know how we should live, what he wants us to do.

Paul says 4 things the bible is useful for.
Firstly: Teaching.
-         The bible tells us about who God is, and about ourselves.
-         It tells us that we have all disobeyed God, from Adam and Eve at the beginning to us now
-         Because of that we deserve God’s punishment - Hell.
-         It also tells us about Jesus and that by faith in him we can be forgiven and saved from God’s wrath and into his mercy and love and become part of his family. Jesus is God, but he came to earth as a man, dying on the cross so that whoever believes in him will be forgiven - he takes our sins and God's wrath against them so we can be forgiven.
Secondly Paul says it is useful for rebuking.
-         Rebuking means telling us that we are wrong. The bible tells us when we are disobeying God.
Thirdly it correct us.
-         It tells us we are wrong, and then it shows us that we are meant to be doing.
-         The word used means to straighten something out, and the first and biggest thing the bible tells us to fix is to turn to Jesus and put ur faith in him instead of living our own way.
-         It’s like if I was walking one way, then I found a sign that said “Wrong way, go back” – The bible tells us that sin is the wrong way, and that we need to turn to God – another word for doing this is repentance.
-         We need to Trust in Jesus and obey him instead of living our own way.
Training in righteousness.
-         Righteousness means being right with God, or good in his sight - we can only be righteous through faith in Jesus.
-         So the bible tells us which way to go and continually shows us how to live as Christians.

In verse 17 Paul ties all these together saying that the bible “equips us to do good works”.
-         It makes us able to obey God.
-          Doing good things doesn’t save us or make us right with God, Only Jesus was perfect and only by faith in him can we be saved.
-         But if we are Christians, that involves giving up disobedience to God and instead obeying him. The bible tells us what is wrong and how we should be living, and if we are Christians we need to listen to God and live his way instead of our own way.
-         The point of becoming a Christian is realising that we can’t do it ourselves and that our way can’t save us, and instead we live God’s way and follow Jesus. 

So, the bible is God’s word, it shows us who he is and how he wants us to live and also where we have done wrong so that we can say sorry for that. Since the bible is God’s word, we should read it – he created us, his way is better. We should read it because it is useful and it shows us how to live. So my challenge today is, are you reading the bible?
How else are we meant to know about Jesus? Learn about him while you're young (if you're young) so that you can decide to follow him throughout your whole lives. How else are we meant to obey God and see how he wants us to live? How else can we realise God’s love for us, even though we don’t deserve it? How else are we meant to honour God and put him first in everything? How else are we meant to realise just how much he has done by saving us in Jesus? How else are we meant to Know how we can serve God here at school and when we leave?  How else are we meant to grow to be stronger Christians? How are we meant to teach others how to follow God and about all he has done for us? How can we direct them and teach them from the bible if we don’t read it ourselves?

Job 23:12 - I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.

Psalm 19:7-11 - The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 119:97 - Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Matthew 6:5-8 - Prayer

Matthew 6:5-8 

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

There's a few things to note from this passage. The first (and most obvious) one: We need to pray. If we are Christians, we believe in a God who cares about us, who loves us and who is personally involved in our loves and the world we live in. Not because we deserve any of that, but because he is gracious. God commands us to pray (1 Timothy 2:1-2, James 5:13-14, etc). We are called to pray, and it shows reliance and trust in God. He isn't just a personal genie, who will fulfill all our wishes - we need to pray for his will to be done - even Jesus did that (Luke 22:42). We need to praise God, to thank him for all he has done. We need to confess our sins to him, to repent and to ask for his help to live for him, and we need to be praying for others - Christians and non-christians, for God to work in them and help them.

The second main lesson: When you pray (or when doing anything for God) do it for God's glory and not for your own. It's easy to do good works, or to be a 'christian' when people are watching who will praise you for it - but make an effort to not only be a Christian when no ones looking, but to do God's will out of the sight of others. Sure, we need to encourage other Christians, and to act like Christians when people are looking, but we don't do it for man's praise - we do it for God. I always struggle with pride and with trying to make people think of me better, but heres one verse that always hits home: 
Proverbs 29:25 "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe."
Fear God, and work to obey him. Don't fear people, don't seek their praise. People will like you one minute and hate you the next - don't do things so that they will like you, it means nothing. Do things for God, who does not change and whose reward to us is eternal and can't be lost.

The final point is from v7-8: "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
God listens to us, he knows our needs, and while he calls us to pray and to be persistant in prayer it isn't because he won't listen unless we pray a certain amount of times - it's because he wants us to depend on him. Don't waste words when you pray. Instead pray genuinely and deeply and thoughtfully - persistently, yes, but not just for the sake of making God listen through a tsunami of words. We should be different from those who are not Christians. God knows our needs and he can grant them - he does his will which is good, pleasing and perfect. Trust him, he knows what is best, and we know from Romans 8:28 - "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Grace and Peace, 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Matthew 6:1-4 - "Acts of Righteousness"

Matthew 6:1-4 
Image Source
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

After reading Matthew 5 yesterday, I thought I'd put my study of Romans on hold for a day or two and look briefly at Matthew 6 and 7 as well. There are so many challenges and applications here! Read the chapters yourself and apply them - we cannot keep God's perfect standard and we need Christ, but this is what (as Christians) we need to be aiming for. I'm thinking that when I don't have any comments on Romans I may return to these for short posts. So here's the first in a possible series:

It's pretty straight forward. We are called to do good, to help others, to give to the poor. In Australia, and in other developed nations) we have so much. In Australia we waste about 4 million tonnes of food a year, throwing out 20% of what we have. That's just one example, there are endless lists of other statistics of what we waste - yet there are people starving in the world! What are we doing? How is this honouring to God? We need to get our lives in check!

But thats not the only point of the passage - we are called not only to help the poor, but to do it subtly. Do it so no one notices. Do it so that no one can praise you for it. This is something I really struggle with - when I help people out, I love to get their thanks, and I love it when other people see or hear about it and tell me I've done a good job. Pride is one of the biggest struggles I have - and I think its the same for most people. Yet we are called to help people for God's glory, not our own. Maybe that means anonymous donations to charity? Maybe that means serving at church in ways that people wont notice - before people get there. Maybe it means helping someone out who you hardly know or who doesn't really seem to appreciate it - and doing it in a way that your other friends (and maybe the person themselves) don't see it or realise it.

But theres a promise: "Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." God reward his people, he rewards us for working for him. If we do it for ourselves, so that other people praise us, we get no reward. But if we do it for God (which is the true definition of good works) then he does reward us. Usually that reward isn't on earth - it isn't money or praise here. It's worth much more then that (see vv 19-24). It's an eternal reward, treasure in heaven. We aren;t saved because we help the poor, we are saved because of Jesus. But if we are truly christians, we will obey Christ and therefore do good/help the poor, and God rewards us for that - not because we deserve reward (we are sinful and deserve only his wrath) but because he is gracious, loving and merciful, compassionate. Trust God and work for him, not self!

So, what needs to change in your life? How can you be serving God better? How can you be serving God humbly? Are you going to change, or take the easy option and be lazy?

"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven....when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret."

Note: Check out this website for some stats on food wastage in Australia. It's pretty eye-opening/sickening.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Matthew 5 - (the start of) The Sermon on the Mount.

Today at church we had a missionary come in to share about what their family had been doing lately, and he preached on Matthew 7:7-12 (Ask, Seek and Knock). He made a great point that this section is at the end of the sermon of the mount, and is directly related to  asking through persistant prayer for God's help to change our lives to be more like him, and to help us obey his words which are in Matthew 5-7. Since there were so many links from that passage back to the sermon on the mount, I decided to read through it today. So far, I just finished Chapter 5, but the point is very clear - God's standard, perfection, is impossible to attain. We cannot keep his law. A quick clarification: Obedience to God cannot and will not save anyone. Everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23) and therefore we all deserve God's wrath eternally in hell. But in Jesus there is complete forgiveness and mercy, and if we genuinely turn to him (by repentance and faith) then we will be forgiven by God. The result of that is aiming to obey God and stop sinning. Good works cannot save us, but if we are truly saved, we will do good works. An Apple tree isn't an apple tree because it makes apples, but it makes apples because it is an apple tree.

I'll go through chapter 5 briefly:

The beatitudes: We are incapable of doing any of these without God's help. Poor in spirit refers to realising sin, mourning again is about hating our sin and knowing we deserve God's wrath, meekness is like humility, which is needed for repentance. As sinful humans, we cannot do any of those without God first convicting us of our sins. Then there's hungering and thirsting for righteousness - we are sinners, we cannot be righteous by our own strength. It is only by us taking Jesus' righteousness on the cross when he takes our sin and deals with God's wrath for it that we can be considered righteous - that happens when we turn to Jesus, when we repent and put our faith in him. Being merciful, being pure in heart - both involve not sinning, but getting rid of sin from our lives (which we cannot do without God). Being peacemakers refers at least in one sense to sharing the gospel, so that people will turn to God and therefore have peace with him. We can't do that unless we first have peace with God through Jesus. Then v12 Jesus calls us to rejoice when we are persecuted - not sure about you, but that's pretty hard!

This section is about being salt and light - obeying God and sharing the gospel so that people (v16) "may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Obeying God so perfectly that people see that we are christians and glorify God for it, and sharing the gospel so that they will know it is God we serve and all he has done - I know I fail constantly at this: I freak out when I get opportunities to tell people about Jesus, and my life definitely isn't always up to the standard either. I fail at it - therefore (back to Chapter 7) I need to be praying consistently for God's help!.

Jesus talks about the law and that he did not come to abolish it, but that God requires perfect obedience. v20 really stands out: "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." If you don't know, the Pharisees and Teachers of the law were the most religiously 'upright' people around. Legalistically they were almost perfect. Yet almost isn't good enough - God requires us to be better then them - No one can achieve that " for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Therefore, we need Jesus! Repent and believe - Turn away from sin and turn to God, obey him. Have faith that what Jesus did can and does save his people. Our obedience does not save us, but it is a result of salvation. Jesus is the only way! Ask, seek and knock! Turn to him to be saved, because we cannot do it ourselves!

Here Jesus uses the examples of Murder and Adultery. They seem like 'big' sins, but Jesus says that anger/hatred against someone and lust are just as bad. Internal sins are just as evil in God's sight as external ones - he requires perfection inwardly an outwardly. Jesus also calls us to forgive others and to seek forgiveness when we do wrong (v23-26) and to remove temptation or things which cause us to sin (v29-30). Both of which we fail at. We need Jesus, we cannot do it ourselves. Yet he did it, he was perfect and only in him can we be seen as perfect by God.

v31-32 - Don't divorce!
v33-37 - "Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’" - keep your word, be honest and trustworthy and truthful.
v38-42 - Be patient and generous, not easily angered. Don't go on about your rights, just seek to serve God and help people, even if they treat you badly. (There may be limits to this, search the bible for them and tell me!)
v43-47 - Love your enemies, care for them, pray for them. Thats definitely hard! Helping those who hate you and make your life hard. 

So, to summarise:
v48 says "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." God requires perfection. He requires absolute, unwavering obedience to his law. One sin is enough for us to be justly condemned to hell. Looking through that list alone, without chapter 6 or 7, and without the other laws throughout the Old Testament and the rest of the bible, it's already impossible. We are sinful, we are born sinful and we cannot help ourselves. So where's the hope? Jesus of course. He is God - what better way to be perfect like God, then to have the perfection of Christ, who is God? He came to earth as a man, lived perfectly and did not sin - he alone did not deserve to die. He willingly died in our place (In fact he was murdered), taking our (Christians) sin on himself and God's wrath, so that we (Christians) can be entirely forgiven. How do you become a Christian? Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). We Cannot meet God's standard. Jesus is God and he did it for us, so that "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9). We could not do it ourselves - "...At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6,8.

So wheres the application for those of us who are christians? Well, going back to the sermon from this morning (See the link below if you want to listen to it), who of us can keep Jesus' words completely? We are called to do so, out of obedience and love for him, and since we are new creations in him (Romans 6, 2 Corinthians 5:17). How do we do it?
We cannot by our own strength. We need Jesus. Therefore, Ask, Seek and Knock. Pray! Pray, Pray, Pray! God alone can give us the strength to obey him. Pray for his help, and persevere in prayer - he does not promise to answer straight away, but calls us to pray continually so that he can teach us to depend on him and trust in him always. Pray and work at it. 

Jesus is the only way, we cannot do it ourselves. Will you trust him?

Romans 7:20 - Are we responsible for sin?

Romans 7:19-20
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

From this passage, it seems that Paul is saying that he is not responsible for his sin. As if, since he doesn't want to do it, it isn't actually him who does it. Of course, this can't be the explanation, since we are responsible for our sin and will be held accountable for it (Ezekiel 18:20, Revelation 20:12-13, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and others). The bible is God's word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and therefore cannot have errors or be wrong, so there must be another explanation. Does anyone have any thoughts/suggestions? Feel free to comment!

In thinking about it within the flow of the book of Romans, heres an explanation that may fit. I don't know if it's right, or if it even makes sense, but it's an idea.

 Gill says that this is a matter of the new nature we have in Christ (Romans 6) verses our old sinful nature. Once saved, we are a new creation in christ (see 2 corinthians 5:17). As a new creation, we are no longer stuck in sin, but forgiven - we are no longer under wrath but under God's grace. Therefore, if we sin and our new nature is responsible then it's the same as the old - sinful and depraved. 1 John 3:9 says "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."  and yet we see that we still struggle with sin as Christians and fail so often. How do we explain this? Could it be that when we sin as Christians, our old nature is accountable, and Christ paid for that sin when he died and we were saved? It's a bit of a hard concept and I may be completely wrong, but When we sin, is our sin the fault of our pre-conversion self, and therefore has been dealt with by Christ already, resulting in our new nature not being responsible? 

Either way there is complete forgiveness in Christ - from our sin before we were saved, and from our sin after we were saved - he takes it all so that we are forgiven. I'm in no way arguing that we cannot be Christian if we struggle with sin after we are saved - thats the point of sanctification. But in Christ there is complete forgiveness, we are Justified (Just as if I'd never sinned).

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Memorising Bible Verses

One of the consequences of the internet-trained brain seems to be an inability to hide very much - not much of the Word of God, to be sure - in our hearts. That results in a crippling weakness in the battle for godliness.
If we are to be holy we need to hide the word in our hearts, and that means a deliberate commitment to memorisation and meditation. It means a refusal to allow our brains to be trained by the world, a resistance to the laziness that the interweb can breed in our all-too-susceptible minds; it means a commitment to holiness that is willing to re-train and develop the faculties of our hearts contrary to the trend and tendency of the age in which we live, and to make sure that we pack into the armoury that array of weaponry necessary for the constant fight against ungodliness, temptations within and without.
- Jeremy Walker, Reformation 21

Monday, 4 February 2013

God's grace.

Here’s a lesson that struck me today as I was praying:
God is awesome; he is all powerful (Psalm 62:11); unfathomable (Job 37:5, Ecclesiastes 11:5, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 55:9); all knowing (Psalm 147:5, 1 Samuel 2:3); completely wise (Job 12:13, Romans 11:13, Isaiah 40:28). He reigns supreme (Psalm 47:8); he created everything by simply commanding it (Genesis 1, Psalm 33:9). He is above all things (Colossians 1:9-18); he created the stars and the planets (Isaiah 40:26, Psalm 8:3). There is no one like him (Isaiah 46:9). In fact "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1).  Jeremiah 10:12 - It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. All creation gives him the glory...except us.
We are sinful (Psalm 51:5). We disobey him (1 John 3:4). We rebel against him, we ignore him, and we mock him. We reject him and choose to live our own way. That, by definition, is sin - rebellion against God - and "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). 

And yet, instead of simply destroying us, as we deserve, and instead of making our lives completely horrible, he loves us. He cares for us. He sustains us and gives good gifts to us - both to Christians and non-Christians. Not only that, but he sent his only son, Jesus (Who is God - the same God as described above). Jesus came to earth as a man, humbles himself. He came to die, he willingly gave himself to be mocked, hated, scorned, abused, spat on, humiliated, forsaken and murdered (Matthew 26-28, Isaiah 56). Why? So we can be forgiven. We, who at the best of times do not even deserve his notice, but much worse then that, we have hated and rejected him and only deserve his wrath. Why did Jesus come and die though? Well, we are sinful and deserve God's wrath. Jesus came and takes the sins of his people and God's wrath against it in our place. He was crucified so that we might live. He became God's enemy (as we were) so that we could be adopted as his sons. He takes our sin so we can take his righteousness and be forgiven (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus came to save us! But that isn't all. We are saved if we turn to him. He calls us to give our lives to him by repentance (turning from sin and toward God) and faith (Trust in him). Both of these result in obedience (James 2:14 onwards), but our works don't save us. Jesus' perfection does.

Completely and utterly undeserved favour. In fact - not even just undeserved - we deserved the exact opposite. This is grace.

 “The time has come,” he (Jesus) said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15

1 John 1:8-10
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us."

Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Isaiah 25:7-8. A hope to hold on to.

Isaiah 25:7-8
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken