Our faith

Our faith in Christ, a marvelous gift of God is the human side of our justification. God justified us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with into which we are baptized by the Spirit who simultaneously works faith in us. 

We are “kept by the power of God through faith (the means) unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” 

I Peter 1:5-7.

Note it is our faith in Christ, very precious faith, not as some posit, the faithfulness of Christ or our faith in the faithfulness of Christ. The object of our faith is Christ and it is we who believe and are kept believing till faith gives way to sight! Then faith and hope will be done away and only love, which is eternal, love between us and our Saviour will remain forever.

DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU.

So states Christ in Luke 6:27.

Helen Berhane who was imprisoned and tortured for her faith in Eritrea shares this exhortation.

The love of God shed abroad in our hearts enables us to do what is otherwise humanly impossible-to love our enemies.

” Every good gift that comes to us comes as a gift from our amazing Father in heaven. Sharing in the sufferings of Christ always brings us deeper into fellowship with Jesus-and for this gift we must be thankful.”

“Here is a great mystery: when we respond to hatred with the love of God , it sets us free!”

Can you guess what we are freed from? Free from slavery to fear, revenge and hatred.

” It enables us to be free even when in prison.”

“God so loved the world that he sent his son into the world to die for those who would hate him, harm him and ultimately put him to death.” AMAZING!

” There may be some who chose to hate me and harm me because I am a Christian-but God’s love complels me to do them good.”

AMAZING POWER OF GRACE!

Brothers and sisters reading this. May this be our experience too as it is soon coming our way!

Attitude to Persecution

Hear Cyprian:

Cyprian of Carthage (200-258AD), while suffering banishment, writes a letter to three of his church members (Nemesian, Felix, and Lucius), who were sent to work in the mines as punishment for their faith. Cyprian, who by all accounts, should be the recipient of letters of encouragement, writes one himself to his fellow suffering Christians. He writes, “That you have been grievously beaten with clubs, and have been initiated by that punishment in your Christian confession, is a thing not to be lamented. The body of a Christian trembles not on account of clubs: all his hope is in the wood (i.e., the cross of Christ). The servant of Christ acknowledges the emblem of his salvation: redeemed by wood to eternal life, by this wood he is advanced to his crown. O happy feet, shackled indeed at present with fetters, ye will quickly finish a glorious journey to Christ! Let malice and cruelty bind you as they please, ye will soon pass from earth and its sorrows to the kingdom of heaven. In the mines ye have not a bed on which the body may be refreshed; nevertheless, Christ is your rest and consolation: your limbs are fatigued with labour, and have only the ground to lie on; but so to lie down, when you have Christ with you, is no punishment. Filth and dirt defile your limbs, and ye have no baths at hand; but remember, ye are inwardly washed from all uncleanness: your allowance of bread is but scanty; be it so, ‘man doth not live by bread alone, but by the word of God: ye have no proper clothes to defend you from the cold; but he who has put on Christ, is clothed abundantly. How will all these deformities be compensated with honour proportioned to the disgrace! What a blessed exchange will be made of this transient punishment for an exceeding and eternal glory!… And though your travail be great, yet is the reward greater, which is most certain to follow: for God, beholding and looking down upon them that confess his name, in their willing mind approveth them, in their striving helpeth them, in their victory crowneth them; rewarding that in us which he hath performed, and crowning that which he hath perfected in us.”

Thanks to Andy Underhile.

A beautiful Psalm!

Psalm 16

Joy

Preserve me—keep me from my enemies and from sin. I trust thee. I can add nothing to thy being but I may do good to thy people (fellow Christians) in whom I delight. All who make an idol in which they trust, whether money, sex, drugs, alcohol, fame or power will have multiplied sorrows. Jehovah is my inheritance, he is all I need, he has blessed my life, he guides me and his Spirit moves me deep within. I pray about everything future. He is there for me continually so I am glad and one day he will redeem my body and make it incorruptible. I am confident he will show me the right path in life. He (and nothing else) is the source of fullness of joy and pleasures for ever (John 15:11, John 16:24).

This is the joy of the COVENANT—intimate friendship with God.

Resurrection blessing.

“…and he lift up his hands, and blessed them” (Luke 24:50).

untitled

In this chapter two phrases stand out, “their eyes were opened”, that is Cleopas and his friend as they sat with Christ at supper and “then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (the disciples a short time later). There is a close link between the illumination granted and the blessing he bestowed.
“The lifting up of his hands (before he ascended) was like Aaron, his type, who lifted up his hands towards the people of Israel, and blessed them, when he had offered the offerings for them, ( Leviticus 9:22 ) so Christ, as the great high priest, having offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of his people, lift up his hands towards his apostles, and blessed them in an authoritative way, by bestowing blessings upon them: he blessed them with a larger measure of the Spirit; for though they were to wait some few days longer for the extraordinary effusion of the Spirit, yet, in the mean while, they received from him more of it than they had formerly had; for he breathed upon them, and said, receive the Holy Ghost, ( John 20:22 ) . He blessed them with larger measures of grace, and with more spiritual light, and understanding into the Scriptures of truth, and with much inward peace of mind, and with the fresh discoveries of pardoning love; and which seemed necessary, since by their conduct towards him, one by denying him, and the rest by forsaking him, the peace of their minds was broken, and they needed a fresh application of forgiving grace.”*

This is surely what we all need. Let us pray for it and for each other (Luke 11:13).

*John Gill commentary.

A limitless fountain of blessedness.

imagesQQZPLOFB

“God’s all-sufficiency in himself is his absolute and universal perfection,
whereby nothing is wanting in him, nothing to him: No accession can
be made to his fullness, no decrease or wasting can happen thereunto.
There is also in him an all-sufficiency for others; which is his power
to impart and communicate his goodness and himself so to them as to
satisfy and fill them, in their utmost capacity, with whatever is good
and desirable to them. For the first of these—his all-sufficiency for the
communication of his goodness, that is, in the outward effect of it—God
abundantly manifested in the creation, in that he made all things good,
all things perfect; that is, to whom nothing was wanting in their own
kind—he put a stamp of his own goodness upon them all. But now for
the latter—his giving himself as an all-sufficient God, to be enjoyed by
the creatures, to hold out all that is in him for the satiating and making
them blessed—that is alone discovered by and in Christ. In him he is a
Father, a God in covenant, wherein he has promised to lay out himself
for them; in him has he promised to give himself into their everlasting
fruition, as their exceeding great reward.”                                                            John Owen in “Communion with the Triune God.”

We shall overcome!

 

The title of the song of the civil rights movement of the sixties and seventies in the US should apply to God’s people in every age. We are the true overcomers! We shall overcome all our enemies just as Christ overcomes all his.

A word study of “overcome” “overcame” and “overcometh” gives us 35 references half of which are in the books of I John and Revelation which is no coincidence as both were written in the context of persecution.

In the Old Testament history books you would expect the word to be used in the context of battle and so it is-Joshua hearing the people cavorting around the golden calf, sadly overcome by idolatry, says to Moses that it does not sound like the noise of battle and a people either overcoming or being overcome. Later Caleb encourages Israel to go up and possess the land by overcoming all her enemies (Num.13:30). Balak hires Balaam to curse Israel so he and the Moabites can overcome them ( Num.22:10).In  a much later civil war a confederacy of Israel and Syria could not overcome Judah under Ahaz (II Kings 16:5). The later Old Testament books of Song of Songs and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah have the word used of overpowering love (Song 6:5) and drunkenness where wine overcomes (Is.28:1 and Jer.23:9). In all these instances a powerful force seeks to vanquish a weaker one.

When we come to the gospels the first and very significant reference is used by Christ speaking to the Jewish leaders concerning exorcism of evil spirits in a parable where he, as the stronger man, overcomes Satan, the strong man, and plunders his house (Luke 11:22). The central work of the incarnate Christ was to destroy Satan and his works (Heb.2:14). Later in his ministry Christ clearly teaches that he has overcome the world-he has lived in it amongst all its sinful people  headed by Satan and overcome by never sinning. His overcoming included his being crowned with thorns !

images98A2D0OZ

 

Evil spirits fight back and overcome the vagabond exorcist sons of Sceva  in the comical account of Acts 19:16!

The theology of overcoming  is Paul’s subject  in Romans where first he teaches that God can never be judged successfully and he is always justified in all his works (Rom.3:4). Later in the epistle he expounds the significance of Christ’s victory and shows how it is bequeathed to us. In  the marvellous verse Romans 8:37 we are called “hyper-conquerors,” the literal meaning of the Greek HUPERNIKAO , we gain a decisive victory through him that loved us, who overcame all his and our enemies in the cross! One way in which we overcome is by not returning evil done to us, for if we do, evil wins getting the sinful response it wants (Rom 12:24).

Before we come to the decisive verses in I John and Revelation, Peter reminds his readers that sin is a power that overcomes people and enslaves them (II Peter 2:19-20 c.f.Rom.6:16-17). This truth is key as humanity are either slaves to sin or slaves of righteousness (Rom.6:14).

The apostle John, the apostle of love, particularly addressing the young believing men, says they have overcome the wicked one, and I would guess this is in relation to their remaining pure from sexual sin (I John 2:13-14). When we come to I John 5:4-5 we reach the climactic core of our victory in Christ. Whoever is born again overcomes the world, sin and Satan by their faith, by their being united to Christ who also overcame defeating sin, death, hell and Satan by his perfect life and obedience unto death FOR US and then granted that same power TO US through his Spirit in regeneration.

images334WD8A6

Incidentally when Paul or John wrote, the crown they would have been thinking about was the laurel wreath given to the victor in the Olympic stadium. As believers we strive honestly not just according to the rules of sport or of our government but by God’s rules in his word.

images1R5H59BK

Christ has, in principle, defeated all his enemies in the cross with Satan being  judged a  liar and murderer and death overcome, but his public victory is in the future  Rev.17:14, 20:14 (c.f. I Cor.15:24-28)

The reward for overcomers is a recurrent theme in Revelation (2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21, 21:7)

The rewards include eating of the tree of life and the hidden manna, being given a white stone and a new name, white raiment, power over the nations, having Christ confess us before the Father, being made a pillar, sitting on thrones and inheriting the new heaven and earth.

This victory is ours even though we are overcome physically and killed by antichrist (Rev.11:7 and 13:7). The gracious means of our overcoming are outlined in Rev.12:11 and are the blood of the lamb (our justification), the word of our testimony (confession) and not loving our lives unto death (in other words loving Christ more than life itself and being wholly consecrated to him).

Dear fellow Christian this is our heritage in Christ whether we live or die, we live and die unto the Lord. For however long we must battle against sin, the world, the flesh and the devil , we shall by his grace overcome, win the victory and be crowned, just as Christ our forerunner is gone ahead of us into glory.

 

 

Taking Scripture Seriously

open bible

NEW BLOG POST | JULY 16, 2015

 

‘Both sides take the Bible seriously.’ This is a common claim heard in the debates about women-in-office and homosexuality. Christians who favour the approval of women-in-office and of homosexuality make this statement in order to establish their views as legitimate interpretations of the Bible. So they make it appear that they and their opponents are the same in that both take Bible seriously. But even if those who approve of women-in-office and homosexuality do take the Bible seriously, whatever that may mean, their view and approach to Scripture must be recognized as radically different from those who believe the Bible prohibits women-in-office and condemns homosexuality. In 2002 JI Packer walked out of an ecclesiastical assembly in protest over a decision by that assembly that gave approval to homosexual unions. In this 2003 article in Christianity Today Packer explained why he walked out of the assembly. I only share with you his explanation of how the two sides have radically different views of Scripture. After reading the second paragraph I immediately thought of Rob Bell. Here is what Packer wrote about the two views of Scripture,

“One is the historic Christian belief that through the prophets, the incarnate Son, the apostles, and the writers of canonical Scripture as a body, God has used human language to tell us definitively and transculturally about his ways, his works, his will, and his worship. Furthermore, this revealed truth is grasped by letting the Bible interpret itself to us from within, in the knowledge that the way into God’s mind is through that of the writers. Through them, the Holy Spirit who inspired them teaches the church. Finally, one mark of sound biblical insights is that they do not run counter to anything else in the canon. “The second view applies to Christianity the Enlightenment’s trust in human reason, along with the fashionable evolutionary assumption that the present is wiser than the past. It concludes that the world has the wisdom, and the church must play intellectual catch-up in each generation in order to survive. From this standpoint, everything in the Bible becomes relative to the church’s evolving insights, which themselves are relative to society’s continuing development (nothing stands still), and the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry is to help the faithful see where Bible doctrine shows the cultural limitations of the ancient world and needs adjustment in light of latter-day experience (encounters, interactions, perplexities, states of mind and emotion, and so on). Same-sex unions are one example. This view is scarcely 50 years old, though its antecedents go back much further. I call it the subjectivist position.”

Which group do you follow? Warning! The very words of Scripture will be your judge (John 12:48)—JK.

Sorry I cannot acknowledge the writer of this blog as I kept no record. If you know please let me know.

Joy (3). Joy in Isaiah.

You would expect to hear much about joy in the writings of the “evangelical prophet” and you would be correct.

In Isaiah 9:2-3 describing the coming of Christ we have joy, the joy like that of bringing in a bumper harvest or dividing the rich spoils of war. Redemption is our great source of joy (Isaiah 52:9, 55:12) and this redemption means our justification like drawing water for our thirst (Isaiah 12:3) and being given precious jewels for our wedding (Isaiah 61:10).

queen-elizabeth-jewellery-princess-wedding-day

The ultimate joy is in the glory of heaven Isaiah 65:17-19