Saturday, 16 January 2016

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?

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