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call can never be withdrawn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.

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