Monday, May 31, 2010

The temple of God

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
Several times in the New Testament we read words similar to these: ‘You are the temple of God’. The temple (following on from the tabernacle) was the one place in the Old Testament where God’s presence dwelt. It was in Jerusalem, and if you wanted to meet with God (through the priest), you had to go there, and present sacrifices.
Now God dwells in us by the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to go to any particular place (e.g. church) to meet with God, because we are the temple. The sacrifice for our sin has already been made, once for all, and we have been made priests (1 Pet. 2:9).
One important difference between how God indwelt the temple in the Old Testament, and how He indwells us now, is that in the Old Testament He could leave (Ezek. 10:18-19). For us though, He has promised to never leave. Once we have the Holy Spirit, He will not be taken from us. He is a guarantee of our salvation (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5, Eph. 1:13-14). The Old Testament believers did not have this assurance (see for example Ps. 51:11).
So then, since we are the temple of God, how should we live? The temple was intended to glorify God and be used for His purposes only. When people looked at it, they knew exactly what it was and what its purpose was. It was the place where God was ministered to, first and foremost. It was a symbol to the nation of God’s presence among them. This is how we should reflect God to the people around us in our everyday lives.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saul's foolish oath

“Now the men of Israel were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be any man who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!’ So none of the troops tasted food.” 1 Samuel 14:24
Earlier we read of Jephthah, who made a foolish vow that if the Lord gave him victory, he would offer to the Lord whatever came out of his house to greet him. In that case, it was only himself that suffered, but here, it was Saul’s whole army. They were pursuing the Philistines and the battle was not going as well as Saul wanted. Notice his own selfish ambition coming out in the curse he pronounced: ‘before I have avenged myself on my enemies’. The Philistines were enemies of all Israel, not just Saul, but pride had blinded his heart to how the situation was affecting other people.
Saul’s curse was foolish. As Jonathan his son pointed out, if the men had eaten, they would have been strengthened for the battle. To eat food during war time was not sin. Rather, it was a sensible thing to do. However, imposing this fast on the men by pronouncing a curse on anyone who ate, led to the people sinning by eating meat with the blood still in it (1 Sam. 14:32-33). This was expressly forbidden (Lev. 3:17, 7:26, 17:12-14, 19:26, Deut. 12:23-24, 15:23).
This episode is just one example of how Saul, originally a humble man (see 1 Sam. 9:21), changed for the worse. It is also an example to us of how we shouldn’t make foolish oaths and vows. Let us not be guilty of causing others to sin by what we impose upon them.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spiritually discerned

“The man without the Spirit does not acept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14
There are many Biblical doctrines that make no sense to a non-Christian – for example: the Trinity, God becoming man and dying, the indwelling of God’s Spirit, loving people you don’t like, the notion of turning the other cheek and putting others first, humility being better than pride, the last being first and the first being last. Yet we know them all to be true.
These things are foolishness to the world. With the natural mind, we cannot figure them out. But by God’s Spirit, these truths are revealed to us as believers. Even the Scriptures hold no power for the non-Christian reading them; they are just a bunch of words on pages. But when we are born again, and we have the Author Himself indwelling and guiding us, those very same words become alive.
This is why there is very little that can be gained from discussing these kinds of doctrines with unbelievers – be they at your workplace, or knocking at your door. Cut to the chase and present the gospel to them: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Jesus Christ came to save sinners such as we through His death on the cross and His resurrection three days later, we can be forgiven of our sin and receive God’s free gift of salvation if we repent from and confess our sin, and believe on Him for eternal life. The other things can wait, until after they are saved, when they will have the understanding that only comes through the Holy Spirit.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Called to be holy

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2
The word ‘holy’ can conjure up a number of erroneous pictures in our minds when we hear it. We might think of ‘holy’ as meaning sinless, somebody sitting on a cloud with an angel playing the harp, perhaps even someone being stuffy and boring, or even worse, someone who is ‘holier-than-thou’ (self-righteous, and lets everyone know it). None of these analogies are what being ‘holy’ means.
To be holy in the Biblical usage is to be set apart for God’s use. The articles used for sacrifices in the temple were called holy, because they were reserved for use in the worship of God and not to be used for any other purpose. Indeed, God judged those who did so (see Dan. 5:3-6).
What does this mean for us as Christians? We – every part of our lives – is to be set aside for God’s use. That doesn’t mean that we should quit our jobs and work full time cleaning the church. Rather, we should be sensitive to how God wants to use us in our jobs, in the places and the spheres of influence we are already in. We have a higher calling than working in order to earn money to feed our families. We work ‘as unto the Lord’ (Col. 3:23).
Sometimes it will feel as if we don’t fit in with society around us and the people we interact with. But we’re not really supposed to fit in – we are supposed to be set apart, to have a distinction that will intrigue people and draw some of them to Christ. We are all called to be holy, to be wholly set apart.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Being innocent about evil

“I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” Romans 16:19b
It’s not a good thing for a Christain to be savvy about sin. Sin is supposed to become an abhorrent and a foreign thing in the life of a Christian. We are not to deliberately indulge in sin, nor are we to think about it (Rom. 13:14). Rather, we are to think about how our lives can glorify God, and do those things. In doing so, we will stand out from the people of this world. Some might ridicule us, but others will be drawn to the light of Christ that shows in our lives.
Wisdom is more than just knowledge, it is the right application of that knowledge to our lives. We are to know the things that please God, and do them appropriately. We are to be innocent about evil. We don’t need to investigate lewd websites, movies, or TV programmes to know how bad they are, or so we can talk about them with our non-Christian friends and ‘be relevant’ to them. No – fill your life with good things, things that glorify God, and purge the evil.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The east and the west

“as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
If we are saved and belong to Christ and have had our sins forgiven – do we really know just how far our sins have been removed? It feels like just yesterday we sinned, because it was just yesterday. Or this morning. Or five minutes ago. But God promises if we confess our sins to Him, He will forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Forgiveness means He will never demand justice for those sins, ever again. They are wiped clean from our account. We may still have to deal with the consequences of our sins, but as far as God is concerned, they have already been judged in Christ at the cross.
It’s interesting here that the Bible says our transgressions are removed from us ‘as far as the east is from the west’. If it had said ‘as far as the north is from the south’, then that would only be a finite distance – from the north pole to the south pole (about 20,000 km, or 12,400 miles). But if you keep going eastwards (or westwards) around the world, you can keep going forever; there is still more east (or west) of you.
God forgives our sin completely. We have a limited understanding of this, because our forgiveness is often incomplete – we may say we’ve forgiven somebody but the hurt is still there. But we can rest assured that when God forgives our sin, our relationship with Him is completely healed, just as if we’d never sinned. I hope that encourages you today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Israel wanted a king

“Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:20
Up until this point in their history, Israel had been governed by God through the guidance of the priests. He had also sent judges to deliver the people. But now, as Samuel was getting on in years and his sons were showing their true colours, the people asked for a king. Samuel was displeased (1 Sam. 8:6) because he knew that God was their king, however he should not have been surprised. God had said to Moses in Deut. 17:14 that this would happen, and even there He gave the reason: so they could be like all the other nations. They also say it is so the king will go before them and fight their battles – choosing to ignore the many instances where God Himself went before them and fought their battles (Jericho, Gibeon, etc. See Josh. 10:42 and Josh. 23:3).
This wanting to be like the other nations is a problem in many churches today. How many churches have adopted marketing campaigns, just like the world indulges in, in an effort to ‘be relevant’? How many put on a good show to keep people entertained, instead of truly worshipping God in song? Israel was supposed to be separate and distinct from the other nations. So too is the Church. We are in the world, but we are not of it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Raising children

“But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” 1 Samuel 8:3
Here we read of Samuel’s sons. His own faith did not translated into their lives, just as Eli’s faith had not translated into the lives of his sons. We can’t help but think that Eli’s lackadaisical attitude towards bringing up his own children had an influence on Samuel’s life in this regard. Samuel came into Eli’s service as a small boy, having been raised by his godly mother, Hannah, until he was weaned (in that culture, this means he would have been about 3 years old). He already knew the Lord, and the Lord spoke to him at a very young age (1 Sam. 3:1-4). However, given the blank slate of his own sons, it would seem that he failed to bring them up in the fear of the Lord.
There is no guarantee that the children of Christian parents will themselves become Christians. Left to their own devices, they stand as much chance as any other person. But their future is dramatically improved if we as parents take our responsibility seriously in bringing them up in a godly home. Find and make opportunities to talk about God every day (Deut. 6:7-9). Pray together. Show them the reality of God in your own life. The early years are the most important. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Being sensitive to God

“The Philistines asked, ‘What guilt offering should we send to Him?’ They replied, ‘Five gold tumours and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers.’” 1 Samuel 6:4
In 1 Sam. 5-6 we read of how the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant during one of their battles with Israel. When they took it into the temple of their god Dagon, a series of bizarre events occurred. The statue of Dagon fell over and broke. Then in every city the ark was taken to, there was a plague of rats and the people were afflicted with tumours. It didn’t take them long to realise that the ark of the covenant wasn’t just a gold-plated box. So to relieve their suffering, they decided to send it back to Israel. But they did not simply send the ark back; they also sent a guilt offering.
Contrast this attitude with that of the Israelites: they used the ark of the covenant in the first place as a kind of lucky charm, thinking that its being there would aid them in their battle. It would seem that they weren’t really trusting in the Lord for victory, or else He would have given it to them – with or without the ark of the covenant being taken to the front lines.
All in all, the Philistins were more sensitive to God than the Israelites were at this point in their history. What a tragic thing it is, when God’s people fail to hear what He is even revealing to those who do not belong to Him. Can we see God’s hand at work in our lives, or do our non-Christian friends point it out to us?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Whatever is not from faith

“But the man who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23
In Romans 14 Paul teaches about our personal liberties in Christ. There are some things that we can indulge in that are ‘grey areas’ – nothing for or against them are written about in the Scriptures. In Paul’s day, one issue was that of eating meat, because most meat sold in butcheries in the Roman Empire had been offered to an idol. Mature Christians, realising that an idol is nothing more than a lump of metal, wood, or stone, had no qualms about eating it. But new believers, who may have worshipped those very idols in the not-so-distant past, were hung up about it.
A common example today that is similar is that of drinking alcohol. I myself have a personal conviction, since I was 11 or 12 years old, not to drink alcohol nor to eat anything prepared using alcohol. Yet I can accept that some Christians find drinking a moderate amount of alcohol acceptable. The Bible does not condemn drinking alcohol; only drunkenness. In fact, Paul encouraged Timothy to drink alcohol for its medicinal benefits (1 Tim. 5:23).
What Paul is saying here is that if you have a personal conviction not to do something, such as drinking alcohol, wearing certain types of clothes, listening to certain kinds of music, or whatever, if you go against your conscience, it is sin. This situation can arise in the company of other believers who may have personal liberty to do that thing you have a conviction about. Don’t feel that you have to betray your conscience and join them. Rather, it is better to excuse yourself, because your joining in will not be from faith. But by the same token, don’t think that having a personal conviction makes you somehow more spiritual than those who don’t share that same conviction – Paul says that it is the more mature Christian who has the liberty to do these things. ‘Food’ for thought.\

Friday, May 21, 2010

Clothe yourself with Christ

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Romans 13:14
Instead of just saying ‘Don’t do this’, everywhere in the New Testament we are told not to do something, we are encouraged to do something else. Here we are told not to indulge in sinful activities (listed in Rom. 13:13) and ‘not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature’. We can’t do anything about the desires that arise (much as we can’t do anything about sinful things we inadvertently happen to see), but we can refuse our flesh to think about them, taking every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5).
On top of this, we are to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Clothing is an outward display. Our lives should show people what Christ is like – not through our literal clothing, so much as through our actions and our attitudes. What we think about all the time is what we will end up doing. This makes it so important to stop thinking about sinful things, and keep thinking about the Lord and what He would have us do. It is a conscious decision, and one that we can act upon now that we have the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eternal God

“They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end.” Psalm 102:26-27
In several passages in the Bible, including this one, we read of how temporary the world and even the universe as we know it is. God created all things in six days, and one day in a split-second it will all dissolve (2 Pet. 3:10), as God creates a new heaven and a new earth.
Since we are earth-dwelling, we are part of this temporariness. While our spirits are eternal, our bodies are not. They will die and decay and pass away. Life as we know it will change when we enter eternity. But there is one thing that will not change – God, and our relationship with Him. He is eternal. He never changes. We only have blurry glimpses of Him now; then we will see Him in complete clarity. As Paul said, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). Are you ready for eternity? Are you looking forward to it?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Israel's part in God's plan

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” Romans 11:25
Paul presents several ‘mysteries’ in the epistles, including how Jews and Gentiles have equal standing before God in the church (Eph. 3:6), and here, how Israel is on the sidelines, but only for a time, while the ‘fullness of the Gentiles’ is being gathered.
A ‘mystery’ in this sense is something that was not revealed in the Old Testament, but is now revealed in the New. The promise of salvation to the Gentiles is not a mystery, because it was revealed (Gen. 18:18, Ps. 22:27, Ps. 67:2, Isa. 49:6, etc.). But to have equal standing with the Jews – now that has only been revealed in the days of the church.
Many people are indeed, as Paul says, ‘ignorant’ of Israel’s current status before God. Through the Jews’ corporate rejection of Jesus Christ as their Messiah, the door of salvation was opened to the Gentiles (see Acts 28:28). But this is not to say that Israel is finished, or that it has been replaced by the church – a popular heresy today. Once the church is complete, at the Rapture, God’s attention will once again be turned to Israel in the last days. There will be great repentance (Zech. 12:10) and revival. The reason Paul doesn’t want us to be ignorant is “so that you may not be conceited”. Isn’t it interesting how this sums up the attitude of many who say the church has replaced Israel and now receives all her blessings!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lusts of the eyes

“I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” Psalm 101:3
Physiologists tell us that some 80% of the information we absorb every day is visual. Sight is the most powerful of our five senses. Therefore, it is important to bear this in mind when we allow our eyes to wander.
Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29). Now, I don’t think this is something to be taken literally, or else every Christian should be blind in both eyes from having gouged them out. Rather, His words convey just how seriously God takes sin. In Matt. 5:28 Jesus says that looking at a woman lustfully is the same as committing adultery with her in your heart. Notice the difference here between ‘seeing’ something (glancing, inadvertently) and ‘looking at’ something (studying, deliberately).
Sometimes we can’t help seeing something – a sensuous TV advert, the ungodly actions of people on the street, etc. The only way to prevent ourselves seeing these things is to walk around blindfolded. However, we can keep ourselves from looking at them. And we can refrain from putting ourselves in risky situations where we might be visually tempted to sin.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Treating the Lord's offering with contempt

“This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.” 1 Samuel 2:17
The tricks of ripping off God’s people are not new. Eli’s sons were doing it in Israel at the end of the time of the judges. Instead of allowing the people to make their offerings to the Lord, they insisted on taking the best cuts of meat for themselves and ‘giving’ God the rest. It was supposed to be the other way around.
They were exploiting their position as being in religious authority. God declares that their sin was “very great”. It could cause a stumbling-block to the people – arriving with their animals for sacrifice, simply wanting to worship God according to the Law, but then these greedy priests step in to take the best part for themselves. It would be a natural reaction to not want to bring offerings any more.
The Pharisees were also guilty of this: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matt. 23:13). Paul also writes of the “constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim. 6:5).
What is the answer to this problem, both back then and in Christian circles today? I don’t know. But we should rest assured that God will bring those to justice who are doing this.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hearing the Gospel

“How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14
In Romans 10:14-15 Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions that describe the natural progression by which someone hears the gospel. First, someone needs to be sent. Then that someone needs to preach, so that people hear the message. If the message isn’t heard (because it isn’t preached), then people can’t believe and call on the Lord for salvation.
Believe it or not, there are still people we will meet in our day-to-day lives who have not heard the Gospel message. They may have grown up in a completely secular environment; or they may have grown up in a denomination that does not teach the simple truths of salvation by believing, repenting, and confessing your sin (see Rom. 10:9-10).
We shouldn’t assume that everyone knows the Gospel message. Instead, we should realise that we are called to be witnesses, to be salt and light to the people around us. We don’t need to preach from a soap-box, but we do need to ‘preach’ through our lives and our example – and when the opportunity comes to share, to grab it with both hands (1 Pet. 3:15).

Saturday, May 15, 2010


“Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.’” 1 Samuel 1:13-14
Hannah was a godly woman who desired a child more than anything else. She was one of her husband’s two wives; the other (Peninnah) taunted her for her barrenness. Finally Hannah, in desperation, made a vow to the Lord that if He gave her a son, she would give him back to the Lord to serve Him for life. It was at this moment that Eli saw her. Although he may have seen her before (since she came with the family every year to worship at the tabernacle), he didn’t really know her.
Eli was quick to judge. Notice Hannah’s gracious response (1 Sam. 1:15-16). While Eli doesn’t exactly apologise, he does change his tune and blesses her (1 Sam. 1:17).
It’s easy for us to misunderstand people and criticise them, without know what’s going on in their home life and what they are thinking in their heart. Let’s not be like Eli, quick to condemn somebody for some sin they haven’t even committed; instead showing compassion as a first response. And if we’re on the receiving end of some undue criticism, let’s be like Hannah and respond graciously when we correct the person’s misunderstanding.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't use your body for sin

“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.” Romans 6:13
Salvation is not just about our spirits changing their final destination. It’s meant to change the way we live, right here, right now. While we are on this planet, we are in our mortal bodies. Although our bodies will decay and pass away, they are still the vessel that we must dwell in for the duration of our earthly lives. We also have the Holy Spirit indwelling us if we are born again, and so our bodies are called the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).
Think of the ways we used to sin before we became Christians. Paul tells us in this verse that our bodies should not be used in those ways any longer. We should use our eyes for reading the Word, not looking at dubious things in magazines or on television and lusting after them. Our mouth should be used for praising God, not telling crude jokes, using bad language, gossipping about other people, etc. Our hands should be used in service for others, not stealing, violence, and so forth.
It is a conscious decision we must make. Our body is unregenerated and prone to sin. But we have the power to bring it in submission to the way God wants us to live.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How can we live in sin any longer?

“What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2
It seems you just can’t win in Christian doctrinal circles sometimes. Paul encountered this, and we can today also: by preaching salvation by grace alone through faith, not works, there will always be people who counter with, ‘But then you’re opening the door for people to keep sinning!’
Indeed, the grace of God extends not just to the sins that we have committed in the past, but also the sins we will invariably commit in the future. But while this provision is there, it doesn’t mean we should exploit it. Rather, a true believer will understand that every sin hurts God. Why would we deliberately want to add to that? As we mature in the Lord, we come to see sin the way He does. To God, sin is repulsive. It is something that belongs to unregenerate men. It has no place in the life of a child of God. We have been saved from the cesspool of sin, immorality, and death – why would we want to go back to it? Anybody who deliberately goes back into an ongoing lifestyle of sin (I am not talking about the occasional slips that we all experience) needs to question whether they are really saved. Grace is not a license to sin. Rather, it is a license to live victoriously in Christ.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Adam's failure, Christ's victory

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” Romans 5:18
In the latter part of Romans 5, Paul describes the contrast between the first man, Adam, and the second man, Jesus Christ. Both were called the ‘son of God’ (Luke 3:38, Mark 1:1). Both were created sinless. Both were offered the opportunity by Satan to sin. Adam took it, but Christ did not.
Adam’s one sin, in disobeying God’s commandment and eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, brought death not only to himself but to all creation. How many times have we sinned? If the punishment for Adam’s one sin was death, how many times over do we deserve to die for our many sins! This makes the sacrifice of Christ and the gift of God all the more amazing. Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to pay for the billions of deaths we all deserve, so that we can stand before God clothed in His righteousness. Let us never underestimate the price He paid for us – and by the same token, the love He has for us.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Developing character

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
We face sufferings throughout our lives, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is a consequence of sin, or God chastening us. But sometimes there are those situations where we appear to suffer for no reason. In those times, when there is no sin in our lives that we are aware of, it can be confusing as to why God would allow these things to come upon us.
This is one of several verses that teach us how God uses sufferings in our lives to develop our character. A muscle in our body will only develop as it is exercised. As the saying goes, ‘no pain, no gain’. Or take carbon for instance – one of the most abundant elements on earth. It can come in the form of graphite, used in pencil leads. But taking that same carbon and exposing it to extreme temperature and pressure, enables a diamond to be formed.
When we face suffering, we can resist it or we can learn patience. If we learn patience, we develop the mature attitude that God desires from us. As this develops, our hope for the future and for peace in eternity grows ever stronger. Suffering doesn’t have to be bad, if we can see God’s hand in it for our benefit – turning us from common carbon into a diamond of great value to Him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

We all fall short

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24
There is no person alive on this planet, nor has there ever been, who can say truthfully that they have never sinned. Just one sin makes us a sinner, and means that we have failed to keep God’s perfect standard. It doesn’t matter if you miss by a mile or a millimetre, if you miss the mark (for that is what sin is), that’s it.
Only one man has ever lived a sinless life in thought, word, and deed. That man is Jesus Christ. When He died on the cross, He bore our sins, as if He had committed them all Himself. It wasn’t a symbolic thing. If we are in Christ, our sins were judged by God at the cross.
None of us are good enough to enter heaven on our own merit, because none of us are perfect. This is why we need the grace of God, and why it is given freely. Grace, by definition, cannot be earned. Where do you stand today: are you still trying to obtain righteousness through your own efforts, or have you entrusted your life to God?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Doing as they saw fit

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Judges 17:6 & 21:25
God had deliberately not given Israel a king, because He wanted to be their King. While he established Moses, Joshua, and the various judges in their time as leaders over the nation, their reliance on the Lord to lead them as they led the people was evident. However over time, the people became numb to God’s leadership over them, and the morals of society became relative.
It’s s similar situation today: many people will say truth is relative, there is no absolute right or wrong, and ‘you have your truth, and I have mine.’ This was what ultimately happened in the times of the judges. While it sounds like freedom for everyone to do what is right in their own eyes, eventually anarchy reigns. Just read Judges 19 for an example.
There are rights and wrongs. God has told us what they are in His Word. He has not left us to figure them out by ourselves, because human nature is sinful and depraved (Rom. 3:10-18). When people invert what God calls good and evil, all that is left to say is “Woe to them” (Isa. 5:20).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Lord had left him

“Then she called, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” Judges 16:20
Samson had so much potential, to be a real hero for the nation Israel against their enemies, the Philistines. Instead, he got caught up in infatuation for Philistine women and became blind to the warning signs, as we saw yesterday with Delilah. Finally he succumbed to her persistent questioning and told her how he could be subdued. Despite this, when he awoke this time, he thought he would be able to loose himself as before. He took his gift and calling for granted; in fact it might be suggested that perhaps Samson did not really believe that the key to his strength lay in the Nazirite vow, symbolised by his long hair.
This is perhaps the most tragic moment in Samson’s life: he did not know the Lord had left him. He had made one compromise too many. The Nazirite vow involved three components (Num. 6:2-6): (1) he must not eat or drink anything made from grapes, (2) he must not go near a dead body or carcass, (3) he must not cut his hair. Samson had already broken the first two (see Judg. 14:8-10). God was patient with him though, waiting until he broke the third part of the vow before He departed.
Are we aware of God being with us every moment of every day? Would we notice if He withdrew Himself from us?

Friday, May 7, 2010


“So Delilah said to Samson, ‘Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.’” Judges 16:6
Delilah had been offered a lot of money by the Philistine rulers to find the secret of Samson’s strength so they could capture him. Now, while some would have gone about finding out through stealth, Delilah comes right out and asks him. Despite her overtness, Samson thought it was a game. First he told her to tie him with seven new bowstrings (v7), then with new ropes (v11), then if she wove his hair into a loom (v13). Finally he told her that the secret was in his Nazirite vow, and that if his head was shaved he would lose his strength (v17). And that is exactly what she did to him.
None of us can fool around in the enemy’s camp and not suffer for it. Even Samson, the strongest man, played with fire and ultimately lost. He was in a place he shouldn’t have been, and although he should have seen the warning signs and split as soon as Delilah said she wanted to subdue him, his infatuation with her blinded him.
Is there a temptation situation in your life that you keep returning to? If so, you need to reconsider. Heed the signs, and stick close to the Lord, instead of playing with fire.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Everyone worships something

“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Romans 1:22-23
Everyone worships something. Some will scoff at this statement, especially atheists, claiming they don’t worship anything. But since man was created to worship God, if people remove God from their lives, that object of worship will change to something much, much inferior. People worship their career, their possessions, their family. These things become their number one in life, the purpose of their existence. You don’t have to be bowing down at an altar, or attending a religious gathering, to be worshipping something.
The Bible tells us that true wisdom begins with fearing God (Prov. 9:10). Man’s so-called wisdom is as foolishness in God’s sight (1 Cor. 1:25). This is why rejecting God is foolishness, even though many who do so claim to be wise and enlightened, particularly in academic circles.
People reject God because they don’t want to be accountable to Him. It’s not a question of they can’t believe, but that they won’t believe. It’s a conscious decision they make, and one that sells them short when it comes to eternity.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creation testifies

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
Creation testifies two things (in particular) about God:His eternal power and His divine nature. His power as the Creator is obvious. Nothing in this world has come into existence ‘by chance’. People talk about the anthropic principle, that the earth seems to be in an optimal configuration for man to exist. Of course, if they would only read the Bible, they would realise that God created it this way, and gave man dominion over it (Gen. 1:28).
Yet, God’s love towards us is not shown perfectly in nature. This is the result of the Fall. When sin came into the world, so too did injustice in nature. Life became a battle for survival. Some animals became predators, and plants and animals developed poisons, thorns, claws, and teeth to harm each other. This is why the creation itself looks forward to the day of redemption (Rom. 8:20-22), when the wolf will lie down with the lamb (Isa. 11:6, Isa. 65:25).
When we look at creation, we may not see God’s love towards us, but we are without excuse as to His existence. We have a responsibility to Him, as His creations. To say that He does not exist and that His creation came about by random chance, is a great insult, when the truth is so plainly evident.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:17
To be righteous is to be in right-standing before God; therefore righteousness is a position that we can hold. We have right-standing before God if we measure up to His standards of perfection. This is why righteousness cannot be obtained through works, because no matter how many good things we do, the bad things we do will always mark us down. God requires 100%. 99.9999% will not cut it. Are any of us that perfect?
Rather, our right-standing before God is by faith and by faith alone. No matter if we are a brand-new Christian or have been one for decades, our right-standing before God is still on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. We live now in faith, believing that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). We are still in the process of sanctification, of being made in Christ’s image. It’s not about good works, it’s about faith.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Power in the gospel

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Romans 1:16
The gospel is powerful. It is the word of God, which “shall not return void” (Isa. 55:11) and “is living and active” (Heb. 4:12). It has the power to change a sinner’s destiny from eternal judgement in hell, to eternal glory in heaven. It has the power to set people free from the sin that binds them, and enable them to live on a higher plane according to the Spirit.
The gospel tells us how God reached down from heaven into the cesspool of humanity, offering His hand to pull us out if we would just grab hold of Him. There is no limit as to who can be saved; as the verse says, “everyone who believes”. The offer is available to all, and the choice is ours whether to accept it or not.
We should not be ashamed of the gospel. It is the only way by which people are able to be saved. If they aren’t shown the gospel, the good news, of how Jesus Christ came to die in our place and took the punishment our sin deserved, and conquered death by rising three days later, and that if we will repent of our sin and believe on Him, we will spend eternity in heaven with Him – if they don’t hear this from us, who will they hear it from?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Foolish vows

“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: ‘If You give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.’” Judges 11:30-31
We all know the outcome of the story of Jephthah (if you don’t, just read on in Judges 11). He did indeed return home victorious from the battle, and it was his daughter, an only child, who came out of the house to meet him in celebration. He lamented this but kept his vow (Judg. 11:39). Commentators are divided as to what this means: did he sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering? Surely God would have excused him from keeping his vow if that was the case (as He did for Abraham, Gen. 22:12). Or did his initial vow mean, ‘whatever comes out of the door of my house... will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice (something else as) a burnt offering’? That is, he devoted his daughter to the Lord – hence the lamenting that she would never marry and bear him children – and made a burnt offering from his flocks.
Either way, Jephthah made his vow foolishly, and in desperation. He did not stop to think about the consequences. Jesus tells us not to swear at all, but to let our yes be yes and our no be no (Matt. 5:37). When we get in a sticky situation, it’s easy to say, “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll...”. But this is not what God wants – He just wants us to trust Him. He’ll get us out because He loves us, not because we’ve made a foolish vow.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The cure for anxiety

“When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 94:19
Anxiety is a draining emotion. If we dwell on it, it can sap us of our joy, our energy, and our hope. Anxiety arises when we feel uncertain of what is in store in the future. We worry about things that may happen, and about things that may not happen. What if this? and what if that?
It’s times like these when we need to take a step back and realise that God not only knows what will and what won’t happen in the future, but He is also in control of it. Once we grasp this, there is no place left for anxiety. We can have joy in the Lord in times of uncertainty, because He is in control.
One of my favourite modern lyrics is by the Newsboys: ‘Lord, I don’t know where all this is going, or how it all works out; Lead me to peace that is past understanding, a peace beyond all doubt.’ We need to learn to trust God with our lives, to direct them according to His will; and to know that if we are obedient to Him, we’ll never end up somewhere that He didn’t intend. We don’t need to battle with anxiety any more, if we are in Him.