The Kingdom of God (7a). Greatness in the kingdom.

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We sung Psalm 131. We read Matthew 20:20-28 (Mark 10:35-45)

Christ spoke these words to correct the erroneous Jewish notion of the kingdom, which to some extent was also held by his disciples. Because they had carnal hearts and based their ideas on the earthly kingdoms round about and also had an erroneous lopsided interpretation of the Old Testament their ideas and hopes centred on an earthly kingdom like David’s in which authoritarian figures ruled and all prospered. The worst people in such a kingdom are traitors who would subvert it! They were blind to the suffering servant king.

The Kingdom of God in its fullest (NT) sense began with the coming of Christ, ushering in what John in Revelation calls the millennium (1000 years) and which is often called the Last Days in scripture. Into this kingdom John the Baptist did not come (Matt. 11:11). He only comes behind us in terms of revelation.

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In contrast to this worldly idea, Christ taught that in his heavenly kingdom greatness was not a status but a quality, quality of character that led to (lowly) service of others and suffering for the sake of the kingdom. He of course, was the epitome of this, not only washing the disciples’ feet but more especially laying down his life for us, being willing to be degraded to the point of cursing on the cross for our salvation. The end result was his infinite exultation to the highest place in heaven over all things. As I was taught in my early Christian life, ”the way up (for the Christian), is down!”

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Persian Bible-very encouraging!

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The Word of God – sharper than a double-edged sword

Elam ministries

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Not sure if this is a new one!

Persian Bible

Lessons I Learned at Elam Launch of Bible in Modern Persian, by Andrea Williams

On Monday evening, having not thought much about the event I was to attend, and feeling worn down by the woes of our nation, I went to Elam Ministry’s service of dedication to mark the translation of the whole of the Bible into modern Persian.

Immediately I was captivated and lifted in my spirit. My first impression was the sheer beauty of the Iranian people all dressed as befitted coming before a King, King Jesus! Oh what delight! And what joy in their singing as they praised Jesus!

Then I was awestruck by their stories. Christians in Iran are paying a high price for their faith in Jesus.  They have lost jobs, homes and even custody of children. Some have been physically abused. Hundreds are rejected by friends and family. And some are unjustly detained in Iran’s notorious prison system. There are many martyrs and everyone in that room on Monday knew a martyr. Iranians are killed or imprisoned on false political charges relating to their Christian faith; usually they are convicted of ‘undermining national security’ through attending or organising house church meetings, or sharing their faith.

Years of acute suffering in Iran have created a deep thirst for truth in the hearts of Iranians. As a result, there is an overwhelming demand for the Word of God in Iran. Wherever the Scriptures reach, people are turning to Christ.

Elam Ministries completed translation of the New Testament into modern Persian in 2003. Since then they have published more than 1,000,000 copies, including 200,000 copies with Psalms and Proverbs.  Iranian Christians have been eagerly awaiting the completion of Elam’s Old Testament translation so they can read and study the entire Bible. Monday evening was a major milestone when the translation was completed after 18 years of work. What vision! What faith!

Being with the people of God in that room I was reminded very dramatically of the power of God’s word. In that room I saw the effect of those who truly believe that the Scriptures are sharper than a double-edged sword that pierce … those who truly believe that the gospel is the power of the God for the salvation of all who believe.

Armed with this simple confidence, these ‘ordinary’ people at huge personal cost have taken great risks to ensure that others encounter that word of God in which lies great power. And the result has been remarkable – against all the odds, great gospel growth.

In 1979, there were fewer than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 100,000 believers in the nation. Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years – such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime. Iranian Christians believe that it is possible to see their beloved nation transformed within their lifetime.

The key to the Iranian story

Their simple but costly confidence that the Bible is powerful was the message that really stayed with me – and comes as a huge challenge as I consider the situation in the UK.

We have churches in every town; we have access to as many bibles as we want but we seem to have forgotten the power of the Gospel message, which is more powerful than any political or social plan we might devise.

In sharp contrast to the Iranians who want to know how to live under the Kingship of Christ Jesus and bring everything into alignment with it. As Christians in the UK it is as if we seek to modify the Word of God to conform to our culture when it should be at the forefront of shaping culture.  We have lost confidence that God’s word is good for all; the blueprint for living in every aspect of life; public Truth to be proclaimed in the public square.

As I met the Iranian men and women who, over the last two decades, have been imprisoned for Christ and have risked their lives to translate the Bible in order to help people to live in the light of it I considered my own walk here in the UK. In the last two decades we have not witnessed a growing, vibrant Church willing to die for Christ but rather a timid Church afraid to upset the culture. We have caved in on every major Truth battle (life, marriage and the place of Jesus in public life) and don’t even believe the stories of our own ‘martyrs’ – the ones who lose their jobs for speaking of Jesus. I know we haven’t witnessed killings or imprisonment but we have seen people lose jobs and livelihoods; we’ve seen foster and adopted children taken away from Christian parents because they refuse to conform to an ‘equalities’ agenda; and we have seen increasing monitoring by the State of parents who choose to home school.

What does God require of us? An unflinching belief in the transformative power of His Word.  Recognition of how precious and correct and life-giving His Word is.

What does God require of us? He requires obedience to Him and to His Word. Changed people, change culture.

‘For faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.’ Romans 10

Not slothful

Know what this is?

Sloth

First time I saw one I thought it was a dirty old rag hanging over a gate?

It’s a sloth. A two-toed primate that hangs around in jungle trees and moves very slowly.The animal from which we get the adjective slothful (see below) which means lazy. Christians should never be lazy!

Romans 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
12:11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

Be ye holy!

Hebrews 12:14 “ Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:”

Holiness is not just a status in Christ, it is conformity to the character of God and to be pursued with effort!

 

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Pursue, seek eagerly…….a picture of chasing after someone or something.

Hear John Gill: “Follow peace with all men,…. That are in a natural and domestic relation to one another, being of the same family;  yea, even peace is to be followed with enemies, as much as in us lies: and perhaps by “all men,” the Gentiles may be more especially designed, whose peace the Hebrews thought they were not to seek, Deuteronomy 23:6 mistaking the sense of the text, by applying it to the Gentiles in general: to “follow peace,” signifies an eager pursuit after it, in the use of proper means; exerting the utmost of a man’s power to attain it, in all things possible: many things serve to enforce this upon the saints; this is most agreeable to all the three divine Persons; to God, who is the God of peace; to Christ, the Prince of peace; and to the Spirit, one of whose fruits is peace; and to the characters of the saints, who are sons of peace, and who are called to peace, and who make a profession of the Gospel of peace; and to the privileges they enjoy, being interested in the covenant of peace, partaking of spiritual peace now, and being entitled to eternal peace hereafter: and this agrees with the sayings and counsels of the ancient Jews. It was a saying of Hillell, who lived about the times of Christ; “be thou one of the disciples of Aaron, who loved peace, ‘and followed peace.'” This is said of  the godly levitical priests who sought peace between men and God in Malachi 2:6. They recommend peace on many accounts, and say, great is peace, and among the rest, because it is one of the names of God.
          And holiness: this being added to peace, shows that peace is no further to be followed than is consistent with holiness; and holiness here does not design any particular branch of holiness, as chastity of the body and mind, but the whole of holiness, inward and outward; and intends true holiness, in opposition to ceremonial holiness, which the Hebrews were fond of, and pursued after: it means even perfect holiness; for though holiness is not perfect in this life, yet it will be in heaven; and there is a perfection of it in Christ; and it is to be followed after, by going to Christ for more grace, and exercising faith upon him, as our sanctification; and by eager desires that the Spirit of God would sanctify us more and more, and enable us, by his grace and strength, to walk in the way of holiness, till we get safe to heaven:
without which no man shall see the Lord; or “God,” as the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read; that is, with the beatific vision in heaven: or the Lord Jesus Christ, “our Lord,” as the Syriac version reads; even in this life, so as to have communion with him; and hereafter, so as to behold his glory, both intellectually and corporeally: to such a sight holiness is necessary; for God is holy, and Christ is holy, and so is heaven, and so are the angels, and the souls of men in it.” Good stuff!-JK

Ephesians 5:4 and 14 (Helpful comments from John Gill).

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Verse 4.Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”…. The former of these may include all filthy gestures and behaviour, every indecent habit and attire, and all actions which have a tendency to excite lust; and also all impure words, these discover an impure heart, and are the means of corrupting men’s minds and manners; filthy speaking, is a verbal commission of the things that are spoken of; and it may include all impure songs and books, and the reading or hearing of them; “foolish talking” does not so much design every imprudent thing that is said, as that which is wicked, corrupt, unsavoury, light, vain, idle, and unprofitable; and takes in all fabulous stories, and mimicking of fools in words and gestures: and “jesting,” when it is with wantonness, and excites unto it, and is inconsistent with truth, and when the Scriptures are abused by it, and not our neighbour’s edification, but hurt, is promoted by it, ought not to be used:which are not convenient; are disagreeable to the will of God, and unsuitable to the characters of the saints, and are very unbecoming them to practise: but rather giving of thanks;  it is much more suitable and becoming to give thanks to God for temporal and spiritual mercies, and to speak those things which are grateful to good men; this is to use the tongue to much better purpose, than in an obscene, foolish, or jocose way: one of Stephens’s copies read, “but only of giving of thanks.”

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Verse 14.Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light”…. Either the man that is light in the Lord, who reproves the unfruitful works of darkness; or else the Holy Ghost by Paul, who here speaks after the manner of the prophets; or God, or the Spirit, or the Scripture; some think the apostle refers to Isaiah 26:19;  the words are spoken not to unregenerate men, for though they are asleep, and dead in sin, and need awaking out of sleep, and raising from the dead, yet they are never called upon to awake and arise of themselves; such a sense would countenance the doctrine of man’s free will and power, against the quickening and efficacious grace of God; but to regenerate persons, professors of religion, to whom the epistle in general was written; and who are spoken to, and exhorted in the context: awake thou that sleepest: the children of God are sometimes asleep, and need awaking; of the nature, causes, and ill consequences of such sleeping, and of the methods by which they are sometimes awaked out of it, See Gill on “Ro 13:11.”And arise from the dead; living saints are sometimes among dead sinners, and it becomes them to arise from among them, and quit their company, which is oftentimes the occasion of their sleepiness: besides, the company of dead sinners is infectious and dangerous; it is a means of hardening in sin, and of grieving of the people of God, who observe it; and by abstaining from their company, a testimony is bore against sin, and conviction is struck into the minds of sinners themselves; to which add, that so to do is well pleasing to God, who promises to receive such who come out from among them, and separate themselves from them: and it follows here as an encouragement, and Christ shall give thee light; for such who are made light in the Lord, stand in need of more light; and by keeping close to the word, ways, ordinances, and people of Christ, they may expect more light from Christ: they need fresh light into pardoning grace and mercy, through the blood of Christ; they want more to direct them in the way they should go; and they are often without the light of God’s countenance; and they may hope for light from Christ, since it is sown in him, and promised through him; and he is given to be a light unto them, and he is the giver of it himself.

Thirst

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When the human is thirsty he seeks water. Deep down you may be searching for satisfaction, recognition, love, meaning in life-whatever it is, the answer is found in God. When the human being is made thirsty for living water he seeks God through Jesus Christ. John 4:13 “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

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4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

4:15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”

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The Samaritan woman came and drank.

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In the words of Christ himself in John  7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
David knew this thirst as a believer… Psalm 42:1 “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.

42:2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”
And through his substitutionary suffering in the which he came to the point where he said “I thirst”  and Christ’s desire for the fellowship of his Father was almost overwhelming, still that living water from the Spirit of God continued to sustain him and earn the right to pour it out in abundance on all his thirsty people which includes us at Pentecost and beyond. He was made thirsty that we might be filled! Psalm 36:8 “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
36:9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.”

“I thirst”. Message from Limerick Reformed Fellowship-Rev.M.McGeown
And the final end of these thirsty people who drink from the fountainhead? Revelation 7:15 “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.

7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.

7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

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Golden vials full of odours.

Revelation 5:8 “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.”

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The golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints; this is said in allusion to the golden censers full of incense, which ascended upwards, and was of a sweet smell; the vessels on the shewbread table, in which incense was put, are by Josephus called “golden vials,” as here; his words are, upon the loaves were put two “golden vials,” full of incense: the prayers of the saints are compared to “odours,” or “incense,” as the word may be rendered, and as they are called,Psalm 141:2 ; partly because as incense goes upwards, so do they go up to God, and are received, regarded, and had in remembrance by him; and partly because as incense is of a sweet smell, so the prayers of the saints, put up in the name and faith of Christ, are very grateful and acceptable to God: the “golden vials” said to be “full” of them, may design the hearts of believers, in which they first are, and from whence they proceed; true prayer is that which is inwrought in the soul, and comes from the heart, even from a heart pure like gold, purified by faith in the blood of Christ, a true heart, that asks in faith, nothing wavering; such as are really saints, true believers in Christ, are praying souls; they are full of prayers for themselves and others; they pray always, and for all saints

Book Alert! The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer

Our men should appreciate this having just completed a series of studies on Malachi.

The Three R's Blog

Coming_of_Zion_s_Redeemer -LgI was excited to find in my mailbox at church Sunday the latest offering from the Reformed Free Publishing Association – an important and significant new commentary on the last three prophecies of the OT. The 527 page book is authored by Rev.Ronald Hanko and carries the title, The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer: The Prophecies of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2014). The author is a Protestant Reformed pastor, ordained since 1979 and currently serving the Lynden, WA congregation.

In the “Foreword”, former parishioner Joel Sugg, provides this perspective of this new commentary:

The full commentary on each book may be read with great profit by virtue of the author’s trained, experienced, and studied insights. Three perspectives stand out: first, a living picture of Judah in the generation following the return from the Babylonian captivity with her special charge to reform true worship of God; next, a sharp…

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The Kingdom of God (6) How to enter.

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We sung Psalm 87 and read Matthew 11:11-30

The kingdom of God being spiritual it follows that the means of entering it is spiritual.

  1. Regeneration (John 3:3-8) is a necessity, and we are passive in it.
  2. The effectual call (John 18:36-37, 10:27). The call of the gospel goes out in the preaching.
  3. Faith (Mark 1:14-15) which is a gift.
  4. Repentance (Matt.3:2, 4:17, Luke 13:3, Acts 11:18)
  5. Conversion (Matt.18:3) which entails humility.

It is a transfer of citizenship (Col.1:13).

Who find it hardest to enter? Those who trust in riches (Mark 10:23-25).

Who shut it up for others? The Pharisees did (Matt.23:13) and many false teachers do today.

Who are unlikely but prominent citizens? The publicans and harlots (Matt.21:31). The most despised among both sexes.

Who are also prominent members, often excluded wrongly? Children whom Christ blessed because they were members of it! (Matt.19:14, Is.40:11).