Monday, 14 August 2017

Lord, Lord. ~ Ganeida

Our confession of saving faith is this:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

It is not Revelation 3:20 Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
There is a good reason for this. Firstly Romans specifically says that this is how one is saved.  Secondly, Revelation is speaking to believers, not non~believers.  Therefore simply inviting Jesus into one’s heart does not guarantee salvation.

So what exactly is Romans 10 saying?

What is meant by the term *Lord* & what are the implications for us?

The Greek word is Kyrios: which denotes authority.
In Classical Athens, the word kyrios referred to the head of the household, who was responsible for his wife, children, and any unmarried female relatives. Biblically it was the term that identified Christ as God, replacing the Hebrew term Adonai, which was used for YHWY. Adonai is the plural of Adon, Lord or Father, with connotations of master or owner but also of a strong base or foundation. The ai at the end of the root word adon intensifies the meaning of the word stressing God’s sovereignty as Supreme ruler, Lord of all.

It is an important distinction because, as we have seen from our study of the Hebrew word Shema, there is a close connection in Hebraic thinking between hearing & obeying.

So the first thing I would point out is that by using the term Lord you come into agreement that you have been rescued … from the kingdom of darkness and transferred … into the Kingdom of his dear Son… Colossians 1:13

You have changed allegiances & this brings certain privileges & responsibilities.  Firstly we have the right to now call God, abba, father, which, as we have seen, is part of the meaning of the word Adonai.  As our father God is now particularly responsible for us.  All the promises are ours but some promises are conditional; others are not but He is our firm foundation.

Jesus Himself taught this in Matthew 7:24 & 25~
Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.
When we confess with our mouth we confirm the scriptures: for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see ~ such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we exist. And there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we exist.

Romans 11:36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

This is in direct contrast to worldly thinking which says things like: everything was created from nothing; you are your own god; you are master of your own destiny; man is just another animal.

You cannot confess Jesus is Lord if you still believe mankind controls his own fate. God is sovereign & we were made for his good pleasure, not for our own pleasure.

What’s more Jesus gives a warning about calling Him Lord, but not obeying his commands.

Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23
 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"  Luke 6:46

On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name. But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws. Matthew 7:22~23

Following Jesus has always been about more than just the outward appearance.  It is about the state of our hearts.  If all we do is read our bibles & give lip service we are like Israel of whom Isaiah said: And so the Lord says, "These people say they are mine. They honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.  Matthew & Mark both reissue Isaiah’s warning.

So there is an obligation on us, if we claim to be the Lord’s, to follow His commands.  Do you know what Jesus’ commands are?  Have you studied for yourself to see how He requires you to live as His witness? As His follower?

We know :
 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” Luke 10:27~28
Agapaō kyrios ·ho sy theos….love the Lord thy God…
Agapaō ~ God love. Kyrios ~  Lord, Father, master, owner.

We know from John 15:13 That There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.  He says we are His friends if we obey Him. Thus we are called:

·      To lay down the life of our own feelings, impulses, desires, affections. [kardia, heart]

·      To lay down our physical life [psyche]

·      To lay down our ischus ~ whatever power, strength, influence we have in this world.

·      To lay down our own intellect & understanding for Proverbs 3:5 says Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

This is what it means to die to self, to pick up our cross & follow Him, for we are to take on the life of Christ, the mind of Christ, the authority of Christ.  It is neither an easy thing nor a light thing.  In fact it is completely impossible unless we have God’s Holy Spirit to show us how it is done.

1 John 4:9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
In contrast Jesus says of the world: and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. John 5:40

1 Corinthians 2:16 says We have the mind of Christ…that is the Holy Spirit enables us to understand the spiritual matters of the Kingdom For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. 1 Corinthians 3:19

When we spoke of repentance we explained it was a turning away from the world & turning completely to follow hard after God. That is what repent means. That means we bring ourselves under the command of the Holy Spirit.  We listen to His voice & we obey Him. His voice will teach us how to obey the commands of Jesus.  His voice will enlighten our understanding of scripture. His Spirit will teach us to hate what God hates & to love what God loves. As our understanding grows so will our obedience.

We cannot have our cake & eat it too.  We have to let our sin go ~ all of it; whatever it is.  We have to be brave because Christ requires courage of us & say with the psalmist:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23~24

The second part of Romans 10:9 speaks about what we believe in our heats.  The Greek word is pisteuō ~ which is the word for faith, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

2nd Corinthians 13:5  exhorts us to: Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

The reason for this is found in Hebrews 10:26 Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins…The writer to the Hebrews goes on to explain that deliberate sin tramples the blood of Christ underfoot & outrages the Spirit of Grace. Such behaviour shows no evidence of appreciating the sacrifice of Christ.  No reverence.  No appreciation. No love.

There is a very simple, very telling test we can apply to see if our faith is genuine.

1 John 5:4
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world ~our faith.

When we are genuinely born again we will reverence the blood of Christ.  We will not willing act in such a way as to leave the way open for Him to be openly mocked & shamed. Rather our lives will give evidence of the New Creation & the resurrected Christ because He is indeed Lord.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

A Ministry of Reconciliation ~ Ganeida

We have looked @ communion in many different ways.  We have studied the elements & their symbolism.  We have considered some of the prophetic elements. We have considered our role in communion.  

Shortly I will invite you forward to partake of the communion elements.  I will not minister to you because according to 1 Peter 2:9 “… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

So each of you is a priest ~ & we are priests according to the order of Melchizedek, just as Jesus is.  As priests we need to understand what our role is, which according to Paul in 2nd Corinthians 5:17~21:  … means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

John explains in John 3:17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

The word rendered task or ministry is diakonia & literally means *our service*. Our service is to minister reconciliation.

What is this reconciliation?

In this, as in all else, we are to be followers of Christ .  The first thing is to bring people near to God. Ephesians 2:13 ~But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
That is a very wonderful thing. We spoke last week about being a peculiar people: something different, unique, rare & precious because Christ lives in us. Thus wherever we go, to whomever we speak, whatever we do we bear the Christ~light & thus bring people near to the presence of God, through Christ in us ~ & that is a grave responsibility because all people may have ever known of Christ is what they know of us.

We offer hope ~Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us
In the midst of a world gone mad ~ & the world has always been more than a little mad ~ we can have serenity of Spirit because we know the Truth: we were sinners who have been saved by Grace.  We are a new creation.  The past cannot hold us in bondage. Everything for which we could not forgive ourselves has been forgiven by the blood of Christ.
In the story of Heidi’s Children the child, Marta, is listening to 2 old men talking.  Heidi likens their conversation to carpenters who have hammered  in bent nails & are now taking them out to drive them in straight & true. That is what the blood of Christ does for us.  It takes all the bent, crooked, twisted things in our lives & makes them straight again.  If you have ever tried to remove a bent nail you know that is not always an easy process.  Some nails can be very stubborn. Our testimony is that you do not have to be trapped by your past.  The weight of guilt & sin & shame do not have to continually weigh you down.  That is the message of the cross.
Furthermore For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life..Romans 5:10

God is no longer some far off disinterested deity who must be appeased by good works & adherence to the Law. He has poured his very life into us, declaring us righteous by His blood & enabling us, by His Spirit to live our lives in ways that please Him.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity~the man Christ Jesus.
We have unprecedented access to God.  Under the old covenant only the High Priest could enter the Holy Of Holies & speak with God.  Only the Levites could minister to the Lord.  Only Israelite men could enter the inner court.  Everyone else was confined to the outer court. Yet Hebrew 4:16 says: So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
Both individually & corporately we are now God’s temple. This has certain ramifications when we speak about the ministry of reconciliation because we minister as priests.

We have our outer court, our flesh; we are to crucify our flesh.  We have our inner court; our will, our mind, our emotions; we are to renew our minds.  And we have our holy of Holies ~ our inner man, our spirit, wherein the Holy Spirit of God indwells in us. Our carnal flesh & our carnal minds are to be sacrificed.  That is our priestly duty:
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

Now as I was restudying this, I discovered something fascinating & it is pertinent to our study here.  Originally the three temple courts were not called the outer court, the inner court & the Holy of Holies.  The Outer Court was known as the Way; the Inner Court was known as the Truth & the Holy of Holies was known as The Life because the life of God dwelt there.  When Jesus said:  I am the way, the truth & the life He was claiming to be the very temple of God ~ an idea that makes much better sense of Jesus claim in John 2:19: All right," Jesus replied. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up

If you are the temple of God then you carry this idea within you:  You know the Way [Jesus]; you know the Truth [Jesus] & you have His Life

In the Holy of Holies we find The Mercy Seat formed by the Ark of the Covenant & the cherubim.  It is here we can find the heart of God & petition Him for all our needs.  When we speak of the ministry of reconciliation we may have all sorts of things on our hearts: friends, relatives, children, parents, spouses, neighbours, communities ~ all of whom need to know Christ.  All of whom will perish without Him.
Our example is Christ.  It was on the cross …God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:19 & 20
We looked @ this last week. Christ sought forgiveness for His enemies. He took care of the material needs of His dependents. He glorified God. 
We may manage the first 2 without great difficulties but when you have a rebellious child sheer terror can overwhelm us.  It can feel helpless & hopeless but let’s be clear: That’s where God does His best work.
Fifteen years ago 4 of our 5 children entered their teen years & only 1 out of 5 was walking with the Lord. I had been faithful to teach them according to the Light I had @ that time but satan got his claws into them & one by one I saw our children fall into his clutches.  There seemed to be nothing I could do & my prayers grew rather desperate. I’m sure I’m not the only one who knows this feeling.
Then one day the Lord took me to Isaiah 54:13 which in the KJV reads:  And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
*According to Strong's
Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full.*  Shalom is a blessing.  The Lord has pronounced a blessing over our children. So I pray prayers of thankfulness & rejoicing.

Prayer is part of the ministry of reconciliation.  Prayer is where we enter the throne room boldly & petition our God for all our needs.  That includes all our needs for reconciliation ministry.
Take a moment to meditate on Jesus ministry of reconciliation on the cross & consider the deep meaning of His words as He prepared to reconcile the world to God:
He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me." After supper he took another cup of wine and said, "This cup is the new covenant between God and his people~ an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.

As I invite you to come forward & give thanks to the Lord [for His mercy endures forever] ask Him to reveal how you are to minister His reconciliation to others.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Weapon of Praise ~ Ganeida

Today I want to look at another aspect of Spiritual warfare.  It is one of the easiest & most effective of all weapons to use yet it is the most overlooked.

Psalm 22:3 says:
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel…
When we look at our armoury for spiritual warfare a large part of it involves our tongue. That is because …if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. [James 3:2] Proverbs 21:23 says: He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.

Battle readiness includes all the things we have discussed previously: knowing our enemy; understanding that he is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; that he fights to the death: no rules; no time limit; no morals. Battle readiness means preparing our battle shield of faith, building up our inner man by knowing the Word of God, speaking the Word of God, agreeing with the Word of God, praying the Word of God. Battle readiness requires that we abide in Christ; that we know the Holy Spirit & are able to use the Word of God as a double edged sword to fight the enemy.

All of this is both right & necessary if we are to have Christ’s victory in our lives but victory is a funny old thing.  Victory can be hollow. It can be empty & meaningless.  It can leave us feeling jaded & defeated because the cost can come at a very high price. So the first thing we must understand is what victory in Christ is.

Remember our key to everything is *In Christ*.  To be *in Christ* is to draw our strength, our power, our authority from the relationship we have with Christ; For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' Acts 17:28

There are many aspects to being *in Christ* but foremost is this: For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Romans 8:29 The bible puts this concept in different ways but the overriding idea is that we become conformed to the image of Christ. We are designed to look & act just like Christ & it is the Holy Spirit that enables this transformation to take place.

When we look @ Christ & spiritual warfare we see Christ using the scriptures, rightly divined, to wage war against satan & defeat him in the gospels. We must *rightly divine* the word because satan knows his scriptures too & is not adverse to using them to his own advantage & deceiving people.

However we are meant to be more than merely victorious.  We are meant to be overcomers. The usual image we have of the victorious Christ is of the resurrected Christ, victorious in his defeat of satan over death but is not of great help to us as we suffer trials & tribulations in this life, are persecuted & oppressed, slandered, mocked & maligned.

I have taught this before but I want to revisit it today because you later find this principle applied in Acts 16.
If you read the crucifixion account in all four gospels there is a record of the last words of Jesus known as the seven last words. They are:

·       Behold your son: behold your mother John 19:26–27
·       My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34
·       I thirst John 19:28
·       It is finished John 19:30
We know them.  We have read them at different times but we do not connect them with what Paul says in Hebrews 12:2 Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

It is on the cross that Jesus takes care of business. Firstly he ensures that he is carrying no bitterness of heart.  He reassures the repentant thief.  He makes sure his mother is taken care of as a good son should. Then we have that agonising cry:  My God, my God!  Why have you forsaken me?

I want you to stop right there. I have heard some great sermons preached on this.  Invariably they point out that this is the point at which the full weight of our sin came upon Jesus & our sin separated the son from the father. If that is so, & if that is all it is, then John & Mary & the other women gathered there at the foot of the cross, had a huge problem. They believed Jesus to be the messiah.  The chosen one.  The anointed of God. And now God had abandoned him.  What were they to think? What in fact did they believe?

Jesus was an orthodox Israelite.  So was John.  So were the women. They would have recognised immediately that Jesus was quoting from psalm 22. In Israelite thought to quote one line of a psalm was to reference the entire psalm.  That is important to remember because one aspect of crucifixion is suffocation.  Jesus would not have had breath for much more than a short gasped quote.  It is shorter in Aramaic than in English. [Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?]
So when you reference the whole of psalm 22 this is how it ends:

22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honour him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

That is a whole different mindset to the line quoted isn’t it! Jesus made a passionate declaration of the goodness of God.  What’s more, unequivocally, He confesses He is not abandoned, scorned nor despised. Traditionally this psalm ends with those famous words:  It is Finished. Complete.  These are the words the High Priest utters as the last Passover Lamb is slaughtered.  There is nothing more.
Psalm 31:21 is referenced:
they put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

And Psalm 31:5

Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Please note: Jesus might not have the breath to sing but the scriptures He quotes reveal His mindset. He is not holding a pity party. It is not, poor me, poor me; why has God abandoned me? Quite the opposite in fact. This is His example on the cross & if you come with me to Acts 16 you will find Paul & Silas following that example.

23After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.

Now at first glance I grant you that this seems to have very little to do with what happened on the cross but in fact that is not true. Paul, in Philippians 3:5 describes himself like this: I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin~a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.

In other words Paul is saying he knows what the scriptures teach.  Elsewhere he informs his readers that He was taught by Gamaliel himself; Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel, the Jewish Dr of Rabbinical law. We have looked at how the Jews trained their scholars so we know that Paul knew these scriptures off by heart & the various ways that scholars interpreted them.

This is the background of the man who cast a demon out of a slave girl who was making her owners a pretty penny by fortune telling ~ & paid the price by being beaten & thrown into jail where we find him singing. At midnight.

Psalm119:62 says: At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. Very possibly this is the psalm Paul & Silas sang & to this day it is the psalm of the Orthodox churches @ the midnight Office.

When we find ourselves in the midst of various trials & tribulations how do we respond?  Do we reflect Jesus, Paul & Silas by declaring the goodness & mercy of God in the midst of our afflictions or do we moan & groan & bemoan our fate?  If we want to see victory, if we want to be not just victorious, but overcomers, we need to make praise an integral part of our weaponry.

What’s more this is how God wants us to respond because there are promises for those who are overcomers.
·      To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7.
·      He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2:11.
·      “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17.
·      And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ –  as I also have received from my Father; and I will give him the morning star.” Revelation 2:26-28.
·      “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5.
·      “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Revelation 3:12.
·      “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21.

There is something about praise that defeats our enemy in a way that nothing else can.  Firstly it lifts our spirits by putting our focus on our deliverer & saviour instead of on ourselves & our problems.  Secondly it is a witness to those around us.  Thirdly it rebukes satan as the liar he is. Fourthly it is our victory cry. 

All through the ages the saints have gone to their deaths praising God: Those thrown to the lions in Roman amphitheatres, burnt as torches to light Nero’s orgies; sacrificed to idols. We have seen it too in our own time: The Coptic Christians in the middle east; Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Bali; Jim Elliot & cohorts…It is a common response in the face of adversity. We need to make it a part of our first line of attack.