Sunday, 31 January 2016

Holiness~ Rabqa

I am using Scripture to show God's holiness

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Titus 2:11-12
The Greek word for soberly is sophronos comes from sozo to save & phren the mind. This word is an adverb signifying in a responsible, sensibly, prudently, being in self control, & in full possession of intellectual emotional facilities.

Verses 11-15 teach us to stand strongly in grace & say NO to ungodliness & worldliness. To be self controlled in our practice of godly behaviour & be eager to do what is good.

Depending on God's grace is godliness is impossible any other way. The Godly person exemplifies self control. Saying NO to ungodly & worldly attitudes & behaviour & say YES to righteous & godly living. This involves submissive obedience to governing authorities.
A key part to of godly living is an eager readiness to do good works! Godly speech is humble, peaceable, & never slanderous or argumentative.

The prerequisite to godly living is the grace of God. It teaches Christian discipleship & affords them the blessed hope of the coming of Christ.
Holiness, in the highest sense, belong to God(Isa 6;3); Rev 15:4, and to Christians as consecrated to God's service, and in so far as they are conformed in all things to the will of God (Rom 6:19, 22; Eph 1:4; Titus 1:8; 1 Pet 1:15). 

Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent warnings to watchfulness, Prayer, and perseverance (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 7:1). In Eph 4:23 We read that we are to be constantly renewed in the spirits of our minds, having a fresh mental & spiritual attitude. Attitudes begin in the mind. Our minds are renewed by the Word of God. Reading the word daily renews our minds & changes our attitudes. Leviticus 20:7 Teaches that God never speaks to make us feel bad about ourselves. True godly conviction is a positive thing that moves us into a new level of holiness. The devil's condemnation presses us down under a heavy burden so that we cannot hear God.

If you sense God speaking about your behaviour, how do you know that is God? you will know because He will not shame you or put you down, but He will motivate you & empower you to change. We cannot make progress until we learn to discern the difference between conviction & condemnation. Remember conviction makes you aware of the problem & then lifts you up out of it. Condemnation on the other hand makes you feel guilty, presses you down, & keeps you in the problem. Two of Aaron's sons were struck dead (Lev 10:1-2) for the daring sacrilege of offering unholy fire on the holy alter of incense, contrary to God’s command.

If we want to enjoy the grace and power of God in one area of our lives, we need to be willing to have it in other areas. We can't selectively obey God in certain areas and not in others. We cant be holy in one area and not another. 

We have to give Him our entire lives. If we want to enjoy the blessing and favour of God in our midst, then we'll have to receive the grace of God that teaches us to deny ungodliness everywhere. The Apostle Paul says, If we live after the flesh, we shall die: but if we through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Romans 8:13-14). 

Paul is telling us that although grace has freed us from the Law, it has obligated us to walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will never condone sin in our lives. On the contrary, He will lead us to put to death immoral desires and activities. If you will fellowship with God and stay in living contact with Him, then the Holy Spirit will lead you into holiness. He will say to you, for example, Stop using that profane language. Use words that glorify the Lord. Or Stop reading those worldly novels and read more of the Word.

 Now that may sound like a legalistic requirement, but it’s not. Here's why: It's the favour of God that He corrects us. He is teaching us how to live free. Another part of that grace is that you don't have to do it in your own strength. Whatever the Holy Spirit asks us to do, He also empowers us to do. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that He gives us the strength to overcome every temptation. That's why the New Testament speaks to us in such strong terms about holiness. Nowhere does it say, Well, I know you Christians have been sinning a lot lately. But, I understand. Life is tough and at least you're trying. No! It does not say that It simply says, Be holy (1 Peter 1:15). We have no excuse for living unholy lives.

By grace, God not only tells us what we need to do to be holy He gives us the ability to do it! it is high time we started using that ability. We've reached the end of this age. Jesus is coming sooner than we think. It is time to get the slack out of our lives and become absolutely focused on God. It's time to drop everything that pulls us away from Him. It's time to get our flesh under control and yield only to the Holy Spirit. Don't yield to the temptation that it's impossible to live holy before Him. He's empowered you and enabled you to succeed. He's given you His grace to see you through. Yield to obedience in every area. Yield to His Spirit. He'll lead you to holiness. He is doing you a favour. l live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present age. Titus 2:12

Romans 5:20-21- 6:1-23
Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in
sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
We understand in verses 1-10 that through baptism we have been crucified with Christ.

Water baptism is a symbol of of the believer's union with Christ in His death, burial & resurrection.

Faith is choosing boldly & unswervingly to believe what God has said. Faith must learn again to believe totally the testimony of Scripture! Among the keys to faithful living is the truth of our conversion. Faith frees us to live as never before for the good of others.
Paul's teaching in 5:20-21 that increased sin brings increased grace was liable to distortion. Some might claim that if by sinning they were providing God an opportunity to display the greatness of His grace then they should sin more & more.

The idea of a Christian continuing in sinning is entirely contrary to the gospel. Sin is hateful & destructive, & those who have died to the love of sin & the ruling power of sin should never want to live in it any longer.

Our old man is our pre conversation life, that is what we were before becoming Christians under the unrestrained dominion of the flesh (sin nature). The body of sin refers to the sinful nature within us, not to the human body. The Greek verb translated "done away with" (in V 6) does not mean to become extinct, but to be defeated or deprived- rendered inoperative.

Again we see in verses 11-14 to say No to sin whenever it confronts us. We need to recognise that we are really free from it's demands.
The book of Romans reveals a new victorious method for our dealing with sin. Living free from sin's rule is now possible because we are no longer slaves to sin, but have become slaves of God, able to choose righteousness rather then being bound to the old nature. Obedience to the Word of God gains a new nature of holiness.

Being dead to sin is not being controlled by the love of sin or it's ruling power in our lives, dead to it's enslaving power but not dead to all of it's influence (vv 12, 13, 15,16).

Therefore a natural conclusion from vv 2-11 is that if we are dead to the ruling power of sin, & if sin has destructive effects in our lives, then, we should not let it reign in our bodies.

We have a continual choice day after day whether to yield ourselves to sin or to God. The word members in verse 13 translates to the various parts of our body, probably as representative of all aspects of our lives.
Though we can never say in this life we are free from all sin (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8,10 we also should never say "This one sin has defeated me-I give up." The power of Christ's resurrection at work within us is greater than the power of any sin no matter how long established in our lives.

To be under the law is to be under a system of trying to earn salvation in our own strength by obeying the law, but to be under grace is to be justified & to live by the indwelling resurrection power of Christ.
We can die to sin, not because of the law forbidding it, but through all resources that grace provides.

In verses 15-23 once again Paul responds to the supposition that grace encourages or permits sin. He uses the analogy of slavery to combat a casual attitude towards sin & issues a stern warning on the serious consequences of yielding to sin.

Paul uses the human analogy of slavery in appealing for holiness. In doing so he reminds his readers of the contrast between the old unregenerate life & the new regenerate life. Slaves of sin do not recognise the obligation of righteousness, but rather abandon themselves to a process of moral deterioration which has death as its end (V21) Slaves of God on the other hand, devote themselves to holiness, a road that leads to everlasting life. V 22 summarises the consequences of the two types of slavery.

We further learn to obey Christ our New Master not sin our old master.
In the book Isaiah we see that the angels give Glory to God Isa 6:3 And one cried to another and said:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”

Holy, Holy, Holy: A praise to God for revealing His innermost nature. The Hebrew word for holy means separated, or unapproachable. However there can be relationship because the Lord takes initiative to prove a mediator "Lord Of Hosts" which is a title for Yahweh used over fifty times by Isaiah & more than two hundred times in the Old Testament. It signifies He is the Deliverer surrounded by a host of heavenly power. Glory is that aspect of God's character that emphasises His greatness & authority.

We will now take a look at Psalm 60:6 It say that God speaks "in His holiness" this is a phrase introducing a prophetic message (Amos 4:2)
The Lord has sworn by His holiness: Behold the days shall come upon you when he shall take you away with fish hooks, & your posterity with fish hooks which reaffirms Israel's possession of the land as Israel's victories over adjoining lands.

Psalm 89:35 Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. By this we know that He is a God that cannot lie; His promises are yes & Amen.

In Isaiah 35:8-10 says that holiness is a basic attribute of Yahweh. Isaiah refers to the Lord twenty-six times as "The Holy One of Israel." Those who share God's holiness by justification through Christ will walk the Highway of holiness with joy & gladness.

God never tells us to be holy as 1 Peter 1:15:16 instructs, without first giving us the help we need to make us that way. An unholy spirit can never make us holy, so God sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts to do a complete job & thorough work in us.

We must refuse to let bitterness take hold of our hearts as Hebrews 12:15 teaches us not to allow ourselves to be offended, or remain angry. This means that we cannot follow our feelings; we must press past feelings & do what God asks us to do.

If you are struggling in this area, I encourage you to pursue God's grace that is His unmerited favour & spiritual blessing. Let His grace get deep into the roots of bitterness that entangle you.
Remember our minds are renewed by the Word of God. Reading the Word daily renews our mind & changes our attitudes.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Consuming Fire.

Our starting point this morning is Romans 11:29: For God’s gifts and his
call can never be withdrawn
because our aim is not just to hear   ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.’  Our aim is to enter fully into the joy of the Lord & walk with him as did Enoch & have him call us friend as he did Moses.

There is a pitfall that must be avoided at all costs.  We must never mistake the call of God, the anointing of God, the presence of God or the blessing of God for the approval of God!  It is perfectly possible to be anointed of God, to be called & blessed yet not have God’s approval.  If you think I am mistaken study the life of Samson in Judges for here is a man called of God, blessed of God & operating in an amazing display of supernatural strength yet His actions were not pleasing to God & eventually he stepped out from under the umbrella of God’s protection & made a wreck of his life. No, God did not do it to Samson.  Samson made wrong choices & there are consequences to our choices.  Being a Christian, even being a charismatic Christian, does not remove the consequences of our choices.

Our actions count.  They do not save us.  That is the atoning work of Christ alone but neither must we forget that on the day of judgement not all who say: ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 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.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’  Matthew 7:21~23
The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:
Therefore since we ourselves have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every impediment and the sin that so easily distracts, and let us run with endurance the race that is prescribed for us, 12:1

I’m not much of an athlete, but even when I was, I was a sprinter. Endurance races were not for me.  Anything over 200 yards & I was done for.  I was only good for short bursts.  However 3 out of 5 of mine were long distance runners & I learnt some interesting things about those who finished & those who did not.
·      They kept the finish in mind
·      They paced themselves
·      They had a reserve of energy for the sprint at the end

The race was not always finished by the person with the biggest lead, or the fastest sprint, or the greatest endurance. I watched kids walk the entire 3 or 5 miles & still finish while those who ran dropped out for no obvious reason.

If we want to have energy for the sprint at the end we will train.  We will eliminate compromise, religiosity, worldliness, & false unity.  We will learn how to pray with power & authority & we will practise what we learn!  We will develop a life of obedience & humble ourselves before our God because we understand that He resists the proud.
We understand that a large part of loving God is loving our brothers & sisters in the Lord, primarily those of our home church & then the wider Christian community.

 [If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 1 Jn 4:20]   If this is to happen we must be humble before each other, acknowledging our faults & failings & trusting that our brothers & sisters will pray for us, meet our needs & never gossip about us to others! We understand we are all called to ministry, to serve in some capacity, & we do not leave it to a faithful few.

You see when we are born again the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us.  We become a temple.  When we come together as a corporate body we become the Living Temple of the Lord. The Holy Spirit will always draw us closer to Jesus.  Part of His job description is to lead us into all Truth, convict the world of sin, comfort us, strengthen us, equip us…etc

Remember when we did our study on the Holy Spirit we learnt it is possible to resist God’s Spirit, grieve God’s Spirit, quench God’s Spirit.  When we do this we are trying to live the Christian life out of our own flesh & will, when Jesus expressly says that our flesh is weak! Our flesh will never bring us closer to God for God is Spirit & must be worshipped in Spirit & Truth.

We cannot compromise.  Compromise by implication compromises the very message God sent to break chains & set the captives free.  God’s Spirit changes lives.  He changes hearts; He changes minds.  We are to set aside those very things that appeal to our flesh & seek to know the will of God above all else.

I have heard many Christians, sincere, born again, spirit filled Christians, complain that they don’t know the will of God for their lives when it is actually very simple.  We get caught thinking God is far away & inaccessible even after Jesus expressly taught that anyone who has seen Him has seen the father [John 14:9]; that if we have Jesus we have the Father also[John 14:7] for Jesus & the Father are one.
Proverbs 2:1~5

My child,[a] listen to what I say,
    and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
    and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
    and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
    seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
    and you will gain knowledge of God.
You see we have a responsibility to know & understand the will of God but it is not some ethereal thing that only some can gain!  Nothing could be further from the Truth!

First we are to listen to what God has to say.  Everything important He has had to say to all of mankind can be found in His book.  If we aren’t reading it we aren’t learning anything at all about God’s known & revealed will for us.  You may think that there is nothing in the bible that speaks specifically to your situation but  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33  We are to seek God first & the rest will take care of itself.

Two: we are to treasure His commands. There is plenty in the bible that is difficult to comprehend & for which we have neither understanding nor insight but why on earth should we expect God to give us greater insight when we fail to keep those instructions we do understand?!

Look at just one example: 2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. Is there a single word in that list that you & I do not understand? Of course not!  How seriously do we take those sins?  Make no mistake they are sins. David says:
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

The Third thing about hiding God’s word in our heart is that it brings wisdom.  When we know gossip is wrong & refrain from it we help quench fires, just as the bible says. When we are generous with what God has blessed us with God knows we can be trusted to do the right thing with our blessings. When we humble ourselves God can draw close.

Four: Cry out for insight,
    and ask for understanding. James 1:5 puts it this way: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

We are to search & seek for these things.  That is our responsibility. The result is that we will know what it means to fear the Lord & gain knowledge of Him.  That means we will know what pleases Him & what does not. When we know what pleases Him we will not do those things that displease Him out of sheer ignorance.  We will have a correct understanding of what it means to fear the Lord, as opposed to being afraid of Him. 

Why is this even important?  If we are already saved, why bother?  Sadly that is the predominant thinking in this church age.  The results can be seen everywhere.  We have practising Christians that condone what the bible calls sin.  I’m sure you can derive a list without my help. We have Christians who attribute to God the sort of character only the vilest criminal has. We have people who have been Christians for years yet are still caught in the snare of the same old sins, still without joy in their life. 1 Peter 2:2 says as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. The writers of the scriptures also call The Word a sword.   It is also a mirror or an astringent that shows us our proper condition & how to correct it.  Our hearts are to be established that we are not shifted & blown about by every wind of doctrine.

In closing I am going to read you 3 extracts about the first Christians before listing some of the blessings of fearing the Lord & letting Him be that consuming fire of Love.  I hope you find these quotes inspiring & encouraging.

Read any of the writers about the 1st Christians & their most dominant quality is their joy.  The joy of the Lord is our strength. Psalm 28:7 & Nehemiah 8:10

The Epistle to Diognetus, c. AD 130

They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honour; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum it all up in one word -- what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world.

Aristides presented a letter to the Emperor Hadrian (c. 117-138 AD) and described the uncommon joy of early believers:
“Every morning and all hours on account of the goodness of God toward them, they render praise and laud Him over their food and their drink; they render Him thanks. And if any righteous person of their number passes away from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God and they follow his body as though he were moving from one place to another. And when a child is born to them, they praise God, and if again it chances to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins.”

And again from the Apology of Aristides
“They abstain from all impurity in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. As for their servants or handmaids or children, they persuade them to become Christians by the love they have for them; and when they become so, they call them without distinction, brothers…

The Fear of the Lord:

·      Positions our hearts to receive answers [Heb 5:7]
·      Assures us of God’s great goodness [Psalm 31:19]
·      Promises angelic protection [Psalm 34:7]
·      Secures God’s continual attention [Psalm 33:18]
·      Provision [Psalm 34:9]
·      Mercy [Psalm 103:11]
·      Food [Psalm 111:5]
·      Protection [Psalm 115:11]
·      Peace of mind [Proverbs 15:16]
·      Keeps us on the right path [Jeremiah 32:40]
·      Produces successful leadership [2 Samuel 23:3]
·      Confidence & protection in death [Proverbs 14:26~27]

Acknowledgements:  John Bevere for the wonderful list of scriptural benefits.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Understanding Holiness ~ Rabqa

Holiness. This word conjures such legalistic images of long dresses,
no make up, and rules about what you can and cannot do: such as watching T.V, going dancing, or playing games. Anything that seems fun was frowned upon. Those who were mired in “Holiness churches” have vowed to stay away from anything resembling holiness. As a result, some because of the wrong ideas of holiness have gone to the other extreme where anything goes. However remember the word of the one who penned the book of Hebrews: Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).

Holiness is so important that without it, you will not see the Lord, either here in this life or the life to come. Be sure to seek without sacrificing holiness. People wonder if they could enter heaven even if they are living a very sinful life. The Bible gives clear warnings about failing to enter heaven because of a life of sin: The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21). 

The acts of sinful nature may be categorised as sexual sins, sins connected with pagan religion – idolatry, sorcery, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, drunkenness & orgies. Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:8-10)

This is a warning to believers, for he says, "You yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers." It’s clear that Paul was warning the church. Every believer should be free of a covetous adversary attitude even to the point of being cheated. A moral loss is greater that any material gain. I also know that any sincere believer can fall and make mistakes. God will not be quick to judge us. He promises to stay married to the backslider. return, O backsliding children, says the Lord; for I am married unto you... (Jer 3:14, KJV). 

God will not divorce His backslidden children; however, His children may divorce Him. True children will repent and follow the way of holiness, and thus be saved. Make no mistake about it, do not be deceived: holiness is essential for salvation. Married to you is the Greek verb ba'al, "to be husband or ruler." Instead of treating God like their husband His people ran after "the Baal’s" (Jer 2:23)

 Holiness is two fold: it is separation from the world in order to be joined to the Lord. The picture is of a marriage. In a marriage, a wife and husband “forsake all others and cleave unto each other.” A couple is not really joined if all they do is abstain from seeing other people, but never intimate with each other. Holiness has unfortunately been associated with separation from the world and sin, but not being joined to the Lord in intimacy.

Intimacy makes holiness enjoyable. If you are always concentrating on what you cannot do, then you will be unhappy with holiness. It is like a married couple that does not cheat, but neither do they sleep with each other. Is that good? They never slept with anyone else, but if they don’t have intimacy with each other, then they have only half of a marriage. Some Christians have only half of a relationship with God. Abstinence from sin is meant to open you to God. When you live a sinful life, then the sin takes away your attention and allegiance from God, and so your relationship with Him suffers.

 People often ask, “Why can’t I do this or do that?” and they usually refer to sinful things. It is because those things become like a mistress or gigolo that draws away your affection from God. Eventually you will find yourself more interested in the sin than in cultivating your relationship with God. The truth of the matter is, most sincere believers get enticed with sin because their relationship with God has suffered. You hear a straying spouse say, “It was not this other woman that broke up my marriage, because my
marriage was already in trouble.

 The same is true of sin; most people fall into sin because they are not cleaving unto God in intimacy. This is why you must cultivate a relationship with God through reading the Bible, praying, fellow shipping in church and producing good fruit, especially winning souls. When you constantly do these things you will not be as susceptible to sin, & more importantly you will draw closer to God. 

Don’t use what you hear as an excuse to allow sin to stay in your life. Make no mistake about it; sin will cause your love for God to grow cold. It may be true the marriage was in trouble before the other woman came into the marriage, but the other woman has definitely made the marriage worse. Sin is like that. Your relationship with God may already be in trouble, but sin will certainly make it worse.

 The most important thing you need to do to get close to someone is to “see” them. Long distance relationships are difficult to maintain. The same is true of God. You must “see” the Lord if you want to get close to Him. The Hebrew writer plays on the word “see.” Without holiness no one will see the Lord. He could have said no one will be “saved”, but instead he chose the word “see”, because this word implies a relationship, not just trying to please God so you can be saved. Notice how often he uses the word “see” in this chapter. v. 15 "See to it..." v. 16 "See that no one is sexually immoral..." Holiness will open your eyes to see how great God is and how awful worldliness is. 

Sin will blind you to several important truths, yet holiness will enable you to see several things. 1. See the precious grace of God. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God…” 

There was a man who was given a very precious and expensive bowl, but he did not know what it was to be used for, so he used it as an ashtray. This is what happens when Christians go into sin with the belief that God will be quick to forgive them, so they cleverly use the grace of God to practice immorality. They rationalise their behaviour, “Well, no one can really be perfect anyway, so since God will forgive anything I might as well do anything.”

Jude verse 4 warns against this type of thinking: “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Lord & Master.  Reject anyone that teaches grace is "God's permission to sin." Understand that such teaching is godlessness. There have always been those that will attempt to divert God's people, that is their main purpose. Whether angels or men, God knows how to deal with the rebellious, but believers are warned not to participate with any such person. The wicked appeals to the lust of the eye, lusts of the flesh & to excessive pride. They will pretend to love God, appear to do good works, but on close examination they are as fruitless as the fig tree that Jesus cursed. The Spirit filled will be able to identify those whose object is to be god rather than to serve God. It will take a deeply spiritual heart to know how to reach who are deep into evil without being contaminated – hating the sin but loving the sinner.

You can use the grace of God to “say no to ungodliness” or make it a license to give you permission to say “yes to immorality." Be self controlled in you practice of godly behaviour. (Titus 2:12) When you have a license for something, you are apt to use it to do what you are licensed to do. For example, before you received a driver’s license, you rarely or never drove, but when you got your license, you drive all the time. Jude warns against certain teachers who are encouraging the saints to sin. They teach in such a manner that believers feel it is alright to sin.

 I read about a substitute teacher who began to talk about Jesus. A student asked her, “Is it alright to smoke pot and still be a Christian?” The teacher shocked everyone, “Of course, in fact I smoke pot. You see, it doesn’t matter what you do, it only matters what you believe. So long as you believe in Jesus, you will be saved, even if you do things that seem wrong.” It is this type of teaching that the Apostle Paul warned against. True faith will lead to a lifestyle of change. This teaching really denies that Jesus Christ is our Sovereign and Lord.

You may ask Do you believe in Lordship salvation?” What you mean by the question is: do I need to make Jesus Lord to be saved, or can He just be my Savior and not Lord? Paul answers this question in Romans: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’…you will be saved” (10:9). It is not enough to confess that He is your Savior; He must be your Lord in order to be your Savior. Jesus will not be your Savior if He is not your Lord. Jude tells us that people who change the grace of God into a license for sin do not have Jesus as their Lord, and he says their condemnation is long over due. 2. See the defilement of bitterness. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” We are to watch over one another with jealous care least anyone leaves the faith. The root of bitterness is a deliberate turning away from God, as exemplified by the disobedience of Israel (Dut 29:18) Such sin contaminates the entire Christian community. When a person pursues holiness, he sees more clearly his own weakness, therefore is patient when others harm him. Show me a person who is bitter toward another, and I will show you someone who is not grateful to God for their own forgiveness. Bitterness has caused many believers to fall away from God. They will stop going to church because of a certain member in the church has hurt them. When you understand the high price Jesus paid so you can be forgiven, you will be so overwhelmed by His mercy toward you that you will be quick to forgive anyone of anything they did toward you.

 Jesus gave a parable to illustrate this. He explains that there was a king who began to settle accounts; a man who owed him millions of dollars was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant's master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.” But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt 18:24-35)

 This man did not appreciate the King’s forgiveness and so in self righteousness he began to mistreat a man who had wronged him
in the past. Many Christians act the same way. Instead of showing appreciation for God’s mercy on their souls, they react poorly to those who have sinned. When you pursue holiness you are gentle and forgiving toward others.

 3. See the high cost of sexual immorality. Hebrews 12:16 says, “See that no one is sexually immoral…” There is an absolute epidemic in the body of Christ. It has become a cancer and is spreading quickly throughout the church and even its leadership; it is sexual immorality. If we do not cut it out soon it will destroy the body of Christ. There is no doubt about it; we live in an unprecedented age where sexual immorality is all around us. You cannot even drive in your car without seeing images of sexuality. Pick up a newspaper and it is there. Watch TV and it screams at us. Go to a football game and it dances before us. Open email, and it pops out in front of us. It is impossible to live in this age without seeing those images, and so it should not shock us to see sexual immorality as being the most prevalent sin in our day. 

We need to understand the high cost of sexual immorality. Look at TV ministries that are no longer in existence or has lost its visibility, and you will know there is a high cost of falling for this sin. In case the world winks at this sin, God makes sure that there will be a price for sexual sin: for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (Heb 13:4). In order to go against sexual immorality. God has ordained the sacred relationship of marriage. Gays may be marching for their rights, but they have the lowest lifespan of any group in our country. No one can mock God when it comes to sexual immorality. High profile ministries have sometimes used their status to solicit sisters in Lord. They thought they would get away with it, but bam, judgement came. Don’t misunderstand me, God is forgiving, He will forgive any repentant believer, but, even though God forgives, there is often a high price to pay for indiscretion. Sometimes God may use the Law to bring judgement. People who take advantage of children and now they sit behind bars. They may have sat behind pews, but not any more. We must take a warning and flee sexual immorality.

4. See the benefit of faith Hebrews 12:16 says, “See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.” The fate of Esau serves as a solemn warning to anyone who forfeits permanent spiritual blessings for immediate passing of fleshly gratification. Once such a choice is made & acted on, it's consequences cannot be reversed, & the blessings that might have being realised are lost for ever. To be godless does not mean you are an atheist but it means you live like God does not exist. Hebrews tells us that God rewards those who trust him. Often, Christians get discourage when they don’t see God’s blessings for living for Him. Sometimes they sell their birthright to enjoy the pleasures of sin, but the pleasures last only for a season. Soon they discover how far they have fallen. Sometimes people have fallen so far that they lose any real desire to change. This is what happened to Esau. He lost his birthright, and so he pleaded with tears to get it back, but he could not bring himself around to truly change. for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears (v. 17, KJV).

 Kenneth Hagin told the story of a woman evangelist who was mightily used of God. She had a tremendous healing ministry. One day she left her husband and children to pursue a sexual rendezvous with a married man. People tried to talk to her out of it, but she refused to listen. Hagin began to pray for her and while praying he had a vision. In it, he saw a man come to her door and she opened it, dressed in an open robe. The man at the door tried to persuade her to leave the man but she said, “Listen: get out of here. I don’t want anything to do with you and your God.” She had totally abandoned the faith she once preached. 

Salvation is like a coal. Holiness is like a diamond. You may be saved, but through the Lord’s discipline and godly pressure, the coal can turn into a diamond. Do not be satisfied simply with being saved, desire holiness as well. You see, without holiness you cannot “see” the Lord. You are blind to your own failures and sins and are cold in your relationship with God. I encourage you to pursue true holiness with God and you will be greatly rewarded by the Lord.

Children of the King. ~ Ganeida

Last week we looked at the meaning of fear. Its first meaning is terror.  It has a secondary meaning of awe or reverence.  We said that terror can lead to awe & reverence.  Without that sense of reverence we come dangerously close to incurring the wrath of God.

Now as believers we are to grow & mature in our faith. To do that requires that we grow in the knowledge & love of our heavenly Father.  Our faith will only be as great as our knowledge of God.  Our reverence will only be as great as our knowledge of the Father. We have to come to that place where God is both love, [1 John 4:8] & a consuming fire. [Hebrews 12:29]

 Leviticus 10:3
By those who come near Me
I must be regarded as holy;
And before all the people
I must be glorified

Peter understood this. 

1 Peter 1:17

 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favourites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.”

As did Paul: Philippians 2:12

 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

How does this equate with passages like Hebrews 4: 16 where we are instructed to come boldly before the throne of Grace?  If we are children, adopted sons, co~heirs with Christ, imputed with Christ’s righteousness surely there is no place for fear?

In order to understand we need to find something we have seen in the natural.  I am old enough, as many of you are, to remember Prince Charles as a little boy.  He was a prince, the son of a Queen, the child who will become King one day.  He had great privileges, untold wealth, access to the highest person in the land yet never once did you see him greet his mother, the Queen, in public by rushing noisily & exuberantly into her arms.  Always, always, always you saw him greet his mother politely, restrainedly, reverently.   He always bowed, as his sister curtseyed.  Yes, they were the children of the Monarch but she was not just their mother; She was also the queen.

This is how it is for us also.  Yes, we are the children of the King, the greatest king there has ever been or ever will be. Yes, we have great privileges, untold wealth, access to the highest person in the land but, like Charles, we have to learn there is a time & a place for snuggling on Abba’s lap, a time to approach him with reverent awe & at no time ever, is there a place for irreverence.

 This is not to say we can’t argue with God.  Job did.  Abraham bargained for Sodom.  Jacob wrestled with him. It is a question of getting our balance right.  This is the heart of God.  His desire is always to align His people correctly with His heart. Mercy & judgement are the 2 sides of a single coin.

How then should we live?

1st Peter sums it up in 3 don’ts & 3 dos:
·      Don’t be like them: do be like your father who has called you
·      Don’t be surprised by mistreatment; do live an exemplary life
·      Don’t be at home here; do look forward to your home in heaven
In August of 1979 John & I landed at Heathrow airport at 5 in the morning. The person who had arranged to meet us & conduct us to our hotel obviously thought 5 am was way too early & never showed up.  Consequently 2 jet lagged Aussies were left battling foreign currency, foreign accents, foreign telephones, an unknown city & London’s underground!

We weren’t like them.  Absolutely everything was foreign to us.  The continent was even worse.  I once poured yoghurt with raisins into my coffee having understood the latte part on the carton as milk ~ but none of the rest of it. I could go on & on with the mistakes we made because we weren’t locals & we stood out for what we were: visitors.

This is the first mistake many Christians make.  They think we need to be like unbelievers in order to win them for Christ.  In fact the opposite is true.  We need to be like Christ in order to win others for Christ.  Nothing says *other* more than someone who lives in holiness For the Scriptures say, "You must be holy because I am holy."  1 Peter 1:16

But we can only be holy if we recognise what holiness is. Peter clarifies by saying we are to live an exemplary life, a life defined by what is pleasing to God.  In order to do that we have to first learn what pleases God. Galatians 5:13 says: For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

This is part of what it means to crucify our flesh. The Holy Spirit has been given to us & amongst His job description is the ability to write God’s Law on our hearts.  Not only does He write it there, He then helps us to live obediently to that Law.  Remember we talked last week about how the Jews of Jesus time had misunderstood & misapplied the Torah & so did not fulfil God’s purpose in having given the law in the first place.

There are 2 other parts to this.  Peter points out that non~believers think it strange that we won’t join them in their dissipation.  If we aren’t known as much for what we won’t participate in as we are for what do participate in there is something wrong with our walk. There is also a warning found in Psalm 50:21
But God says to the wicked:
“Why bother reciting my decrees
    and pretending to obey my covenant?
17 For you refuse my discipline
    and treat my words like trash.

Then God says this:

These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you,
And set them in order before your eyes.

God isn’t accusing the Israelites of anything we’d consider major here.  Rather they are accused of ignoring theft, spending time with adulterers [not of committing adultery!], lying & slander.  And because of it they think they aren’t actually breaking God’s laws & He’s ok with it when the truth is He is not.

God is not ok with sin.  He is never ok with sin.  Big, little or in-between, sin is sin in God’s eyes & it is never, never ok.  Which is why, when we sin, we must confess it & be washed clean in the shed blood of Jesus.

Finally Peter warns us not to get too comfortable in this world.  We are to keep a heavenly focus.  This creates in us both a sense of expectancy & a sense of awe.  We know that God loves us.  We know that we were created to live with Him forever, to live in His presence & glorify the works of His hands, to praise & worship Him.  Yet all of us will be judged for the works done in our flesh!  That alone should give us pause.  Just the thought of meeting with the creator of the universe should give us pause.  I do not mean we should be terrified because of guilt.  There is no shame & no guilt for those who have washed their robes in the blood of Christ. I do mean we should consider just who this God we worship is. He made everything from the tiniest mote to the largest thing in the whole universe.  He is so powerful He can wipe the stars from the heavens & raise the dead to life.  Who is like Him?

As I have got older I have been astonished to find how attached I am to the things of this world: to the sight of the stars at night, the familiar constellations; perfumes I can identify in the garden; the feel of a cat’s soft fur under my hands, of rain on my face & dirt under my feet.  It is all known & familiar.  I know what to expect.  I have no idea what to expect from heaven for as 1 Cor 2:9 says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him!

However we have been bought with a price; our lives are no longer our own.  We are exhorted to produce fruit, to live to a higher standard, to have a different set of values ~ in short, to BE different to the world around us. We are to live as children of the King.  We are to be like our Father who is in Heaven & not like the ruler of this world, in rebellion against God.

Now here is the key, because we cannot do any of this in & of ourselves. The bearing of fruit is the promise; the process is in abiding in Christ. If we abide in Him then we will bear fruit.

And Peter warns us that if we actually do this we can expect persecution! Here in Australia at present it is unlikely to be much more than being labelled *Holy Rollers*, *Jesus Freaks*, people who take their faith too seriously.  It may cost friendships when the RSL is no longer your second home, when the seemingly harmless practice of reading your stars in the paper, or a cuppa & a gossip at Aunty Alice’s stirs the Holy Spirit to protest. People will comment negatively because sin likes nothing better than lots of company!  After all, if everyone’s doing it, it can’t be so very bad, can it?

Those who are wholly committed to Christ have always been few.  They have always entered by the narrow gate, walked the narrow way ~ & it gets narrower & narrower.  Yes, there is great freedom in Christ but it is not the freedom we are used to.  It is not the life we are used to.  It is not the pastimes & pursuits we are used to.  It is the complete renewing of our person.
It is at this point, as we surrender ourselves completely & align our will with the Holiness of God & see God for who He really is, that His Glory appears.  It is then we can enter into even greater intimacy.  It is then the God of the universe, the great I AM, reveals Himself & shares His secrets.

How much we can have of God is determined by how much we want & how much we want is determined by what we are prepared to give up.  Jesus was pretty clear that "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.”

So the Question is, How much of God do you want?