Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paul's testimony

“They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’” Galatians 1:23
Perhaps the greatest testimony of all is that of someone who once violently opposed Christianity, comes to faith. There is no logical reason why they should do so – but there is a spiritual reason: the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Some people respond peaceably towards the prompting of the Holy Spirit, others ‘kick against the goads’ (Acts 26:14).
Paul had been raised in a very religious household, and in the natural had a very bright future: born a Roman citizen in Tarsus, one of the most desirable cities, to a devout Jewish family, educated both in Greek philosophy and under the eminent rabbi Gamaliel, he was a Pharisee and possibly even a member of the Sanhedrin (see Acts 26:10). He thought he was doing God’s will by stamping out the church, because after all, these people were worshipping a man, Jesus, as God.
Paul had everything going for him. But then Jesus Himself appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and his life was never the same. Instead, Paul found true fulfilment and purpose in his life. Now it was he himself who was persecuted by the Jews – and his story is possibly why he was able to show grace to them in their ignorance.
We all know people at our school, workplace, sports teams, etc. who are quite vocal about their opposition to Christianity. But we should never give up on them – they may be, like Paul, very close to coming to faith in Christ.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


“All the saints send their greetings.” 2 Corinthians 13:13
The word ‘saint’ conjures up a very different picture in the minds of most people today than its Biblical usage. People think of ‘saints’ as those whom the Catholic church in particular has set on a pedestal above other believers of extreme piety, having some sort of superior connection with God that enables them to perform miracles and so forth. Very few people, they say, can be ‘saints’.
This is far from the Biblical meaning of the word. The Greek word translated ‘saint’ is hagios, meaning one who is holy, or set apart; morally pure, clean, consecrated. It does not mean one-who-is-holier-than-thou, or one-who-never-did-anything-wrong. No, all believers are set apart by God for His purpose, all of us have been called to live morally pure and clean lives unto Him, all of us have been consecrated by the blood of Jesus Christ. All of us are ‘saints’.
The word hagios occurs 62 times in the New Testament to refer to regular believers like you and me. There is no hierarchy of spirituality amongst us; there are no ‘super-Christians’ who have better standing before God. We all come before God on an equal footing – because we were once all sinners who were lost, but are now found.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Taking refuge

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” Psalm 118:8
Psalm 118:8 is said to be the central verse of the Bible. There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118, and 594 chapters after it (1188 in total). Psalm 118 also sits between the shortest (Psalm 117) and longest (Psalm 119) chapters in the Bible. And this verse is central to our walk as Christians.
It doesn’t take too long to realise that people will let you down. If we trust in people, sooner or later we will become bitterly disappointed. People are unable to keep all their promises. People are unable to be there every time you need them. But God never fails. He keeps all His promises. He will always be there when we call out to Him. He will never disappoint us or let us down. If we take refuge in God, we can be completely sure of our safety.
The nation Israel did not learn this truth. In the final days of the kingdom of Judah, as they were under threat of invasion by the Babylonian armies, the prophets were warning the people not to trust in Egypt and the other nations for deliverance. Jeremiah was nearly executed for treason, saying that the people should surrender to the Babylonians, since this was God’s judgement upon them for not being obedient to Him. The people did trust in Egypt, however, but even there the Babylonians conquered them and took them away captive.
Trusting in man can also apply to trusting in our own abilities. Too often we only look to God and His power as a last resort, saying, ‘God, I can handle this by myself.’ But this shows a lack of understanding of just how great God is, and just how weak we really are. Why would we not want to take refuge in Him?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What can man do?

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6
When we face times of worry and fear, this and many verses like it can be of great comfort to us. With God on our side, we don’t need to be afraid.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” (Luke 12:4)
The worst that man can do to us is to kill us, but that only sets us free to be with the Lord. Anything they might do to us in this body (attacking us verbally or physically) is only temporary. When we gain an eternal perspective on this, we are able to let go of the fear.
God knows the end from the beginning. He already knows what has happened and will happen in our lives. And because He knows – and more so, because He is in control – we don’t have to be afraid. We can have peace.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

David and Bathsheba

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1
So begins the account of David’s greatest sin: his act of adultery with Bathsheba, which led to him arranging for her husband Uriah to be killed. See 1 Kin. 15:5. The trouble started because David stayed at home. Instead of going out with the army, as was customary, David sent his chief commander Joab instead. With many men gone from the city, it was only a matter of time before he saw Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. One thing led to another, and David tried to cover it up. He thought he had got away with it: Bathsheba’s husband was killed in battle, then David took her in publicly. We read in 2 Sam. 11:27, “but the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” I think that’s an understatement.
What can we learn from this? Often, when we should be somewhere but instead sit at home, that’s when temptations can arise. Instead of going to church, we might sit at home and watch TV. Or, instead of going to work, we pull a sickie and fritter away the day on other things. Those are the times that allow temptations to arise, that otherwise wouldn’t have been there. If David had gone to the battles, as he should have done, the affair with Bathsheba would never have happened. The Bible tells us not to be idle (1 Thess. 5:14, 2 Thess. 3:6). We need to be diligent, every day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

God's grace is enough

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefor I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul, writing here about his ‘thorn in the flesh’, relates to us what God told him concerning it. Paul had asked God three times to heal him, but for His own reasons, God declined his request. Instead, He chose to use that affliction to keep Paul humble and close to Him. He gave Paul grace to live in spite of the pain.
It is only when we come to the end of our own strength, that God can work in us. When we acknowledge that we aren’t strong enough, that’s when His power becomes evident. I struggle with a short temper. So any time that I find myself being overly patient and not getting worked up, I know that is God working in me. It’s not something I can summon up from within myself.
It’s a good thing to know what our weaknesses are – not so we can hide them or compensate for them, but so we can acknowledge our deficiencies, and thus enable God to display Himself in our lives, and give Him the glory.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Satan's masquerade

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14
The Scriptures teach us that Satan is a created being. He was initially one of the highest angels in heaven, but he fell through pride and seeking to raise himself up to the same level as God (Isa. 14:14). Paul tells us that even today, he masquerades as an angel of light. Satan makes sin very attractive to people – telling them they’ll enjoy it (which they will), that ‘it doesn’t hurt anybody’, that ‘everyone’s doing it’, and so forth. Similarly his false teachers, Paul says, masquerade as Christians (2 Cor. 11:13). They do good things, they go to church.
We can’t go by what something looks like. Many people try to, and are deceived. We need to check it out according to God’s Word. A preacher may have ten thousand people attending his church every week, but he may be a false apostle. His popularity, the number of books he has sold, and the size of his house, are not indicators of whether what he says is true or not.
We need to be aware of these things. There is a spiritual battle going on, and as believers we are in enemy territory. Now is not the time to let our guard down. Check out everything according to the Bible. A true teacher won’t mind this at all, but a false teacher will be shown for what he is.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Taking every thought captive

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedience to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Controlling our thoughts is one of the hardest things to do. Controlling our actions is much easier. Jesus alerted us to this in Matt. 5:28 by saying that indulging in lustful thoughts is as bad as committing the act itself.
Have you noticed how a train of thought can so quickly degenerate – even during prayer, or worship tim? One minute you can be thinking about spiritual things, and before you know it, your mind has wandered to what to have for lunch. Such thoughts are not necessarily sinful, but they are spiritually unproductive.
It takes self-control and discipline to be aware of our thoughts. There are certain things that as Christians we should not think about. We need to be diligent in our thought life: any thought that does not glorify God should not be indulged. And any thought that is disobedient to Him should be cut off at the source.
God knows all of our thoughts. He also knows when we are striving to think right. Sometimes we can’t help thoughts that come in – much as we can’t help some of the things we inadvertently see – but we can keep ourselves from indulging them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The throne of David

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before Me; your throne will be established forever.” 2 Samuel 7:16
In 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17, God makes a wonderful promise to David of his everlasting dynasty. Despite his flaws, David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22). After the kingdom of Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms under Rehoboam, the northern kingdom passed through several different dynasties before they were taken away into captivity by the Assyrians. But in the southern kingdom, there was only one dynasty – that of David’s lineage. Even after the southern kingdom too was taken into captivity, in Babylon, the family records were preserved (see 1 Chr. 3:17-24, Matt. 1:6-16, and Luke 3:23-31). The two genealogies of Christ in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 show that Jesus descends from David through both the maternal and paternal lines (maternal, for the blood line; paternal – although not related by blood to Joseph, the rights and the family heritage were passed down). He has rightful claim to the throne of David.
David’s throne is inactive today. It has been since Jeconiah was taken into captivity. However, God has promised that Jesus will one day sit upon it (Isa. 9:7, Luke 1:32). From there, in Jerusalem, He will rule and reign over the earth during the millennium. We can be sure of this: God keeps His promises. His promise here to David is unconditional. Although He did remove the kings from the throne because of their disobedience, David’s throne has not been abolished. It is simply vacant, for a time, until Christ returns.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Godly sorrow

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
There is a big difference between what Paul calls here, ‘godly sorrow’ and ‘worldly sorrow’. Sorrow is an emotion, linked with guilt, feeling sad about something you have done. In the case of worldly sorrow, usually it only comes out when we start to receive the consequences of our actions. For instance, a thief only starts to feel sorrow when he gets caught. Worldly sorrow is feeling sorry for oneself. It is a self-focus, feeling sad that I am now worse off because of what I did. Someone might feel sorry for what they did, but only because of what the consequences brought, not because the thing they did was wrong. Worldly, self-focused sorry ultimately leads to depression, and if there is no turning to God for forgiveness, the result is eventually death.
However, godly sorrow involves the realisation of sin and how it affects God, not just how the consequences of sin affect us. Jesus Christ died for every single sin we have committed and will commit in the future. When we contemplate the agony He endured on our behalf, and how the Father turned His back on His only Son because sin is so repugnant to Him, it is then we start to get a glimpse of just how despicable our sin is. This realisation leads to seeking forgiveness from God, which He promises to grant (1 John 1:9). Having then received forgiveness, there is life and hope. Thus the outcome of godly sorrow is completely the opposite to worldly sorrow.
We see examples of godly sorrow in the Scriptures. David realised his sin with Bathsheba was not against Uriah, her husband, whom he had had killed, but against the Lord (2 Sam. 12:13). The people Peter preached to on the day of Pentecost were ‘cut to the heart’ and wanted to know how they could be saved (Acts 2:37). Godly sorrow is productive - it draws us closer to the Lord.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


“When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.” 2 Samuel 6:6-7
In 2 Samuel 6 we read of how David desired to bring the ark of God up to Jerusalem from the house of Abinadab at Kiriath Jearim, where it had been since the days of Samuel, after the Philistines captured it in the battle that saw Eli’s sons killed, but subsequently returned it after it brough plagues upon them (1 Sam. 4-6). Uzzah and his brother Ahio were sons of Abinadab. They were not Levites, yet they obviously saw themselves as being entrusted to keep the ark safe (as Eleazar was, 1 Sam. 7:1).
The primary error that was made in this event was to put the ark on a cart. God intended the ark to be carried by the priests (Ex. 37:5, see Num. 7:6-9). The Israelites here were copying what the Philistines had done years earlier, by putting the ark on a cart. But the Philistines had acted in ignorance, since they did not know the requirements of God concerning the ark; nor were there any Levitical priests among them to carry it. But Israel had no such excuse.
Uzzah too was also at fault. He saw himself as being responsible for the ark, so when the oxen stumbled and the ark looked like it was going to fall, he reached out his hand to steady it. But it was not his job to do this, since he was not a priest. “His irreverent act” here was one of negligence, to recognise the separation that existed at that time between the holy things of God, and those God had chosen to be responsible for them (i.e. the Levitical priests).
David himself learnt a lot through this episode – namely, to treat the things of God with greater respect than he had been doing. How much do we respect the things of God?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trading places

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
The contrast between the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and the unrighteousness of sinful man, is immense. Here is God, come to earth, born in a stable, never married nor accumulated worldly possessions (see Luke 9:58), dying the death of the most vile criminal, laying aside His Divine rights – and what for? So that we could be saved from the predicament of our own sin.
All the things Jesus gave up, we gain through faith in Him. He laid aside His heavenly glory. He offered up His relationship with the Father (see Mark 15:34). He became the servant of all, so that we might become the children of God (John 1:10-12). And Christ endured the suffering of the cross and the alienation from the Father, so that we don’t have to. What awesome love He has shown us in this! We don’t deserve any of it – man left to his own devices will not seek God. Yet He draws us, by the Holy Spirit, and offers us this free gift of eternal life. He became what we are, so that we might become as He is – holy and acceptable to the Father.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Christ our sin offering

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
The phrase ‘to be sin for us’ here can also be rendered ‘be a sin offering’. All of the Old Testament offerings point to Jesus Christ in some way. The offering was to be without spot or blemish. Animals could be deformed either through a birth defect (spot) or through injury (blemish). For sin, we have both: we inherit a sin nature genetically, being descendants of Adam, and we have each sinned as individuals and our record is marred.
For Christ neither is the case. Because of the virgin birth, He had no human father, so He did not inherit the sin nature passed down through the male line from Adam. Nor did He sin Himself. Therefore He is not just ‘a’ man who could die for our sins – He is the only man who could die for our sins.
A person’s sins were forgiven through the sin offering (Lev. 4:26, 31, 35). They had to bring a goat or a lamb, place their hands on its head (to symbolise the transference of sin to the animal), and then it was slaughtered. The sin offering is unique in that it required the blood to be collected, some to be put on the horns of the bronze altar, and the rest to be poured out on the ground at the base of the altar (Lev. 4:34). God’s law required a penalty for sin, and that penalty was death. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). While people could be forgiven of their sins through the blood of animals, it took the blood of Christ to cleanse us (Heb. 10:4). He is the fulfilment of the sin offering.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Finding strength in the Lord

“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning im; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6
Imagine the scene: David and his band of renegades, living among the Philistines, leaving the battlefield and travelling on foot for three days back to their homes to find that the Amalekites had raided their town, burned their houses and taken their wives and children as captives. They had basically lost everything, they had been turned away by the Philistine captain and were already on the run from Saul. Morale amongst these men was at an all-time low. They talked of stoning David, even though that would not improve the situation, or make them feel any better.
David too had lost his wives and children to the Amalekites. He wept along with the rest of the men. But instead of looking for someone to blame, as they did, he turned to the Lord. God told him to pursue the Amalekites, and they recovered all the people who had been taken captive and all their possessions that had been taken as plunder.
In times when we feel like all is lost, when everything and everyone is against us, when we just want to crawl up in a ball and cry our eyes out – these are the times we can look to God and find strength from Him. He will show you a way through and give you the strength to keep going.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Seen and unseen

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
In the context of this verse, Paul is writing to the Corinthians about physical hardship versus eternal glory. He is telling them not to be discouraged by the trials they are facing, because they have an eternal reward waiting. But the principle can also apply to temporal prosperity versus eternal poverty. As Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
There are many things in this world that are seen, and equally many that are unseen. It’s easy to get caught up in pursuing things we can see, because it’s easier to know what they are and what they are worth. But Paul gives us an insight here: all the things we can see with our physical eyes are temporary and will one day disappear. We know this in our hearts – it doesn’t matter how many possessions or how much money you accumulate, because ‘you can’t take it with you’ – yet it can be hard to break free from the pursuit of these things.
We need to focus on, spend our energy on, spend our time on, eternal things. Things like allowing the fruit of the Spirit to develop in our lives, ministering to others, teaching our children the things of God, devoting time to prayer and studying the Word – things that will bring eternal rewards.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our future glory

“becuase we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence.” 2 Corinthians 4:14
Many people – even Christians – are uncertain about what the future holds. It doesn’t come as a surprise that many of these are uncertain about whether God really did raise Jesus from the dead. They suggest, maybe He didn’t really die at all, or maybe He was raised as a spirit. The Bible gives watertight proof that Jesus did actually die, and that He was raised in bodily form from the dead, never to die again.
The resurrection of Christ is a guarantee of our own future glorification. We can be absolutely sure of it. When God saves us, He sees the end from the beginning. Right now, He sees us as already being glorified, in heaven, with Him (c.f. Rom. 8:30, ‘glorified’ is past tense). What God begins, He completes (Phil. 1:6).
Jesus is referred to in the New Testament as being the ‘firstfruits’ (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). It is not insignificant that the resurrection occurred on the day that the Feast of Firstfruits was being celebrated in Israel. The firstfruits is a token that represents the rest of the harvest that is coming. We are that harvest – along with all believers, all over the world, from Pentecost until the Rapture. I am looking forward to that day! How about you?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Leave the vengeance to God

“May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.” 1 Samuel 24:12
In 1 Samuel 24 we have the familiar account of how David had the opportunity to kill Saul, as he and his men were hiding in the very same cave that Saul chose to enter to relieve himself. Instead of killing him though, David cut off the hem of his robe. This was a conscious act on his part – the men with him were urging him to kill Saul. But David knew that this was not how God would have Saul’s life end. A second opportunity presented itself, in 1 Samuel 26, but again David did not take it.
David sets an excellent example for us here. Here is a man who has nothing wrong, but is being persecuted by the authorities because he has the call of God on his life. In response, he flees, seeking to wait it out until the time Saul dies of natural causes or in battle. David had been greatly wronged by Saul, but he chose not to take revenge into his own hands. He left the vengeance up to God.
This is a theme in Deut. 32:35 and echoed in Rom. 12:19 and Heb. 10:30. God sees the bigger picture; He sees the end from the beginning. He is completely just, and He will ensure that in the eternal picture, every punishment and every reward will be completely fair. Our vision is limited, and our vengeance usually comes from strong emotions and fleshly motivations. Choose today, if you are wronged, to let the Lord deal with it for you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our resurrection bodies

“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49
There are many open questions as to what happens after we die. Here Paul gives us some insights.
We know that the physical bodies we are presently in are temporary. They are weak, wearing out, susceptible to injury and disease, and so forth. The older we get, the more we feel these things. How horrible would it be to have to put up with a body like this for all eternity! This is why we are given new bodies after we die. When we return to earth with Christ to reign for a thousand years, we will be in our new bodies.
Our new bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrection body. Think about it: He had all the functions of His earthly body: He looked similar, He could eat, He could touch things and be touched – but at the same time there was so much more. His body was multidimensional – able to appear and disappear from a locked room. And of course, His new body was indestructible, free from ageing and death, injury and disease.
Listen to the words Paul uses: “imperishable... glory... power... spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:42-44). John writes, “But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). We only have glimpses of what things will be like in that day. But I for one am looking forward to it. Are you?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Christ's resurrection

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17
1 Corinthians 15 is known as the ‘resurrection chapter’. In it, Paul presents a number of different viewpoints commonly held about the resurrection of Christ, and shows which are true and which are false. We can learn a lot from this chapter.
There were those in the church in Corinth, just as there are people in churches today (even in the pulpit) who deny the notion of a bodily resurrection. The Sadducees had this problem and Jesus set the record very straight with them (Mark 12:18-27). Paul carries this idea of if there was no resurrection, to its logical conclusion. If there is no resurrection, then not even Christ has been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our sins have not been removed and our faith is useless, because it is based in the work of Christ being sufficient to cleanse us of our sins.
The resurrection is profoundly important. It proves that Jesus has the power over death. He bore our sins, because death only comes through sin (Rom. 3:23). But since they were not His own, death could not hold Him. If Jesus had sinned just once – and if sin had been part of his nature, through Adam (hence the absolute necessity for His virgin birth) – He would have had to die for His own sin and could not have also paid for ours.
The resurrection is one of the foundational truths of Christianity. Without it, we have nothing. Jesus did indeed die, and He did indeed rise from the dead. I’ve heard somebody once say, ‘I am more certain in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ than I am of my own name.’ It took me a while to comprehend how someone could say something that dramatic. But now I can say the same thing. Jesus’ death and resurrection paid the complete price for my sin. It defines who I am – even more than my own name does. How can I deny that?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The body of Christ

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
No two people are the same, in personality, character, history. We each have a unique combination of qualities and abilities that God has given us to be used in conjunction with other people’s unique qualities and abilities in the Church.
Now, this requires a ‘big picture’ mindset. By ‘Church’ I mean the collection of all true believers in Jesus Christ, through all ages of history from Pentecost up to the Rapture. This is distinct from the ‘church’, a local congregation. There are people in the Church who are not part of any church. And similarly, there are people in church who are not part of the Church.
Paul likens that complete collection of believers to a body (the body of Christ). Some of us are hands – servants; others of us are feet – evangelists; others are mouths – prophets, teachers; others are eyes, spine, and so forth.
We are not all the same, nor are we the complete package. We need to work with each other in order for the Church to function effectively. If we only associate with people of like callings and talents, we miss out on (a) benefiting from the rest of the body and (b) being a benefit to the rest of the body.
Also, no part of the body of Christ is redundant. God is able to use each of us to bless others in some way. We shouldn’t isolate ourselves just because we feel like we don’t fit. We are all needed to make the body complete.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No condemnation

“For He stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him.” Psalm 109:31
What a comforting thing it is to know that Jesus is always near us, interceding for us (Rom. 8:34), continually keeping our lives safe.
There are many who condemn us, at the top of the list is Satan himself (Rev. 12:10). But he has no power to overcome, or to turn the Father against us, if we are in Christ.
When we look at the situation, we realise just how needy we are. We can do nothing to fix our own sin problem. We can try to live better in the future, but (a) we are never going to be free from sin while we are in our mortal bodies, and (b) that does nothing to erase the sins we have already committed in the past. If it weren’t for the work of Jesus Christ, we would be doomed.
The work of salvation is 100% God’s doing. We are saved from the influences of sin and Satan, and from an eternity in torment. We are saved unto righteousness and eternity with Christ in heaven.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Saul's paranoia

“Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.” 1 Samuel 18:12
After the Lord left Saul (1 Sam. 16:14), life went steadily downhill for him. He became jealous and afraid of David, even trying to kill him. He spent years pursuing David in the wilderness. His moral standards dropped, such that he consulted with a medium (1 Sam. 28). Finally he fell on his own sword in battle against the Philistines (1 Sam. 31).
Paranois is an unfounded fear. There was no reason for David to be his enemy, yet somehow Saul convinced himself that David was out to get him. He saw the success that the Lord was bringing about in David’s life, and feared for his own (1 Sam. 18:15, 1 Sam. 18:29). But David did not hate Saul. He always referred to him as ‘the anointed of the Lord’ (1 Sam. 24:6, 1 Sam. 26:9, 2 Sam. 1:14). Although God had promised David that he would become the king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:13), he still acknowledged Saul’s calling, even though his life had departed far from it. Nor did David think highly of himself (1 Sam. 18:23, calling himself ‘a poor man and little known’).
The contrast between David and Saul here is something we can learn a lot from. Both had been anointed by the Lord, at different times. Saul was afraid because David was being blessed, but David respected the position Saul had been given. Even when Saul pursued David and tried to kill him numerous times, David did not seek revenge, but trusted the Lord to make everything work out. Let us have David’s attitude toward these things.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The communion table

“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 11:27
This verse has caused consternation for many Christians, largely due to the wording in some translations, which read “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily”. They say, ‘But I still fall into sin now and then. How can I be worthy?’
The answer to that question is, none of us can. We will always be unworthy – in and of ourselves. But that is not what Paul is warning about. Christ’s sacrifice has made us worthy.
Rather, this is referring to partaking of communion disrespectfully, without thinking about what it means. When communion becomes just another ritual, or a wine-tasting session, then that’s eating and drinking in an unworthy manner.
There is a balance to be found. The bread and the cup are not the literal body and blood of Christ, nor do they become them at any point as the Roman Catholic church teaches. There is nothing magical about the physical elements. But they are a sign of the Lord’s death for us, that we proclaim until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:26). We ingest the bread and the cup, and they become part of our physical bodies. Communion reminds us of the sacrifice He made on our behalf, which we have made part of our lives unto salvation.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Examples for us

“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” 1 Corinthians 10:6
The Old Testament is indeed relevant to us today. It’s not just a collection of stories about a nation that God chose, and how He led them to a land of their own, and gave them His laws. Rather, the Old Testament is the story of God and how He deals with mankind, with Israel as an example.
Four examples are given of evil attitudes that developed within Israel that God judged. Firstly: idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7) with the incident of the golden calf (Ex. 32). Secondly: sexual immorality (1 Cor. 10:8) with the incident of the Moabite women who were sent to seduce Israel because of Balaam’s advice to Balak (Num. 25). Thirdly: testing the Lord (1 Cor. 10:9) with the particular example begin given of Num. 21:4-9 where God sent snakes among the people. Fourthly: grumbling (1 Cor. 10:10), which the Israelites did on many occasions. It is likely that Num. 11 is what Paul is referring to here (see Num. 11:33), the incident where God sent quail but the people still grumbled about the food He was miraculously providing for them. These last two cases both concerned food. The evil attitude was one of ingratitude towards God, and lusting for the things of Egypt (Num. 11:4-6).
Here we can learn four things that should not be part of our lives: Idolatry, of any sort. (Note that when Aaron made the golden calf, he said to Israel, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Ex. 32:4). They weren’t trying to worship some other god, but their worship in creating the idol was misdirected.) Sexual immorality. Testing God – the word here implies doubt that He is able to perform. Grumbling – being dissatisfied and unappreciative of all that God has given us by His grace.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

David and Goliath

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’” 1 Samuel 17:45
The account of David and Goliath is one of the most famous in the Bible, even making its way into the secular vernacular. But we should not let its familiarity rob us of the spiritual insights that can be gained.
The important thing to note here is David’s attitude. The world, when using this analogy - for instance, to support a sports team that is the obvious underdog, will say that you can overcome by having the self-determination to do so. You may be small, but that makes you more agile; and as for the giant, well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. But this was not David’s attitude at all.
David, like every man standing on the Israelite’s hill that day, knew that no-one could defeat Goliath in his own strength. But David, unlike the others, had complete faith in God’s power. He didn’t think he could defeat Goliath – he was certain that God could.
David had his eyes on God, not Goliath. Where the Israelite armies were saying, ‘Look at this man coming out to defy the armies of Israel. He’s so huge!’, David was saying, ‘Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’ (1 Sam. 17:36). He went to fight Goliath, not because he wanted to be famous, or show the other men how it was done, but because he was standing up for the name of the Lord.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Running the race

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24
Several times in the New Testament, Paul likens the Christian life to a race (see Acts 20:24, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Gal. 2:2, Gal. 5:7, 2 Tim. 4:7, Heb. 12:1*). That is, it requires training and discipline. A colleague of mine is a runner. It affects his whole life – what time he gets up in the morning (early), what he eats, what he looks like. It’s not a matter of something he does, it’s something that he is. I will go running occasionally to keep fit, but I am not a runner. He is a runner; it’s part of his identity.
Similarly with the Christian life. Being a Christian should be our identity, it shouldn’t just be something that we do occasionally. Do people around us know we are a Christian by watching our conduct, just as we can tell someone who is a marathon runner by their physique?
In a race, there is only one prize. But in the Christian life, there are rewards available to all of us. It’s up to us whether we run in a way that is worthy of receiving them. Are we ‘running’ whole-heartedly? Are we committed to the ‘race’? If so, then we will receive that reward.

*Authorship of Hebrews is a hotly discussed topic.

Friday, June 4, 2010

God's unfailing love

“Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.” Psalm 107:43
In this psalm, four examples are given of people getting into trouble, crying out to the Lord, and Him delivering them. First are people wandering in the wilderness (v4-9). Next are those in prison for rejecting the words of God (v10-16). After them are people who suffered famine for rebelling against God (v17-22). Finally are sailors in a storm (v23-32).
The theme in each case is God’s unfailing love (Ps. 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Love is the basis of God’s actions. He does not delight when people suffer, even if they are wicked people. He would much rather that they come to Him to be cleansed of their sin, so He can show His love to them.
God’s love is unfathomable. If we think of the greatest love we could possibly imagine, God’s love is even greater than that. It must sadden Him deeply when people say ‘God doesn’t love me’.
What is the key to knowing and receiving God’s love? It is to get rid of our sin, through Christ. As long as we continue to hold on to sin (by this I mean a lifestyle, not the daily slip-ups), God’s judgement is still upon us. But when we repent and confess our sin and seek His forgiveness, then God can show us His unfailing love.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Evil spirits

“Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” 1 Samuel 16:14
This verse poses a problem for many people. Does it mean that God sends evil spirits, as well as good spirits? Not at all. All of God’s ways are right and holy. He does not make bad things happen. However, He does allow bad things to happen, and in this case, He allowed an evil spirit to torment Saul. When the Holy Spirit is absent, people have no protection against these evil spirits. But when the Holy Spirit is present, we have protection against evil spirits. This is why there is no way a Christian can be demon-possessed.
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). We can have no fear of the Holy Spirit being taken from us (in contrast to those who lived in the Old Testament - see for example Ps. 51:11). We may restrict His power operating in our lives, but He will always be with us.
God is in control of everything in this world and is using everything to work out His purposes. He used the evil spirit in Saul’s life to form David’s character, for a time when he would be attacked by his own family. Even Satan is used by God, to tempt us so that by the power of the Spirit we can learn to resist him. We don’t see the big picture now. But from eternity looking back, we will.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Obedience is better than sacrifice

“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed to better than the fat of rams.’” 1 Samuel 15:22
In 1 Samuel 15 we read of how Saul failed to completely obey the word of the Lord given through Samuel, to attack the Amalekites and completely destroy them all. He attacked them and was victorious, but he spared the king, Agag, and kept some of the spoils. When Samuel challenged him on this, he claimed they kept the sheep and cattle in order to use them as sacrifices. But essentially, Saul thought his way was better than God’s.
Saul did his own thing, and was unwilling to destroy everything (1 Sam. 15:9). Then he made excuses, blaming his actions on the soldiers (1 Sam. 15:15, 20-21, 24), each time insisting that he did obey the Lord. As a result, God told Samuel that He had rejected Saul as king (1 Sam. 15:23).
The lesson for us is clear. If we fail to obey God completely in what He has called us to do, then it doesn’t matter how many other things we might do to try and substitute for it. If He has called us to give up some sin, and we are unwilling to, it doesn’t matter how much we tithe, serve in the church, help the homeless, or whatever. God wants our obedience first and foremost, rather than sacrifice. He wants our hearts to be devoted to Him.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2
We are each accountable to God for how we use the things He gives us. He has entrusted us with many things. We are accountable for how we use the money and resources that He sends our way. Do we use them to further His kingdom, or do we only spend them on ourselves? He also gives us opportunities to minister to others. Do we make the most of those opportunities, or do we shy away? We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit urging us in these areas. If we have been given a position, we are to serve faithfully in it. We are also accountable to God for the knowledge we receive. If we know we ought to do something and fail to, we are more accountable than someone who does not know it and fails to do it (Luke 12:47-48).
These themes are throughout the Bible. Consider the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:15ff). Each of the three servants was given a certain amount, according to his ability. The first two gained 100% return and were rewarded equally. The third hid what he had been given, and was reprimanded.
The promise to the first two servants was, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Anything that God gives us charge over in this life is small change compared with eternity. If we prove that we are faithful here and now, we will receive an eternal reward.