Friday, 29 June 2018

What Jesus had to say About Intimacy With God. ~ Ganeida.

As I began preparing this message I realised Rabqa is also addressing this particular passage of scripture ~ though I do not expect there to be much overlap.  The Holy Spirit is good that way.

Our topic is intimacy with God ~ so it may interest you to know Jesus Himself addressed the topic.  He addressed it very specifically.  He addressed it very practically & one of the markers of Spiritual maturity is how well you are able to actually walk His instructions out.

In Matthew 5 we find what is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount , or The Beatitudes, & it is probably the version we are most familiar with though you can also find it in Luke 6.

Now Matthew was a Jew, so what I find interesting about this passage is how very concise it is ~ & herein lies our first difficulty.  Matthew, being Jewish, thinks in a very Jewish way. Here we have a very Jewish principle that we first looked @ when we were studying the Lord's prayer.  Just like the Lord's Prayer, each line of this teaching is a condensation, a memory prompt, of a much fuller teaching & it is our job to search the scriptures diligently for understanding with revelation from the Holy Spirit.  

The 8 principles of this *sermon* are, so to speak, the foundation of Jesus teaching on the Kingdom of God, which He then proceeds to enlarge upon in the following chapters.  This is how the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit envision the Kingdom of God working.  This is how they envision relationship.  If you want to know how to develop greater intimacy with God, this is your blueprint. If you want to  know how God envisions for His people to live, you will find it here.  If you want to know how to please God, you will find it here.  If you want to know how to be happy, you will find it here.

Before we look @ any of this in detail I want to give a quick overview.  There is no doubt breaking the scriptures up into chapters & verses has had lots of benefits ~ but it also has drawbacks.  It breaks scripture up into what often appears to be random monologues that bear no relation to each other when that is not true. In Matthew we find Jesus @ the very beginning of His ministry. The Beatitudes are amongst the very first of Jesus' teachings given shortly after Jesus temptation in the wilderness & shortly after He has named the 12 men designated to be most closely involved in His ministry.

Although He began His ministry in Galilee, Jesus establishes His base in Capernaum & singles out the 12 men who will spend the next 2 1/2 ~ 3 years in close fellowship with Him, learning from God's own son how to have a relationship with God.  Chapter 4 closes with Matthew remarking on the great crowds following Jesus about to be healed, freed from possession, taught & learning about God's Kingdom. Chapter 5 opens with Matthew remarking: When Jesus saw the crowd, he went up the mountain; & after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then He began to speak, & taught them...

The first thing that struck me as I read this, is that this was not a general teaching.  There may have been a crowd, but it was the disciples who came to Him; the disciples He began to teach.  That may indeed have been more than the twelve but it is teaching directed very specifically to those who counted themselves as His followers.  

Why now?  Why this teaching?  The answer lies in the previous chapter.  Matthew tells us Jesus had been ministering all over & now He sees this crowd.  He sees their need, the cry of their hearts, the sheep of His pasture who have not only gone astray but been left without a shepherd & the need is more than one man, even the man of God, can meet & so He begins to instruct those who will be entrusted with this ministry on how it is meant to look.

Most people, thinking about this passage, end at verse 12 but Jesus doesn't.  There is no break in His thinking. He proceeds to elaborate.  The living out of the Beatitudes  creates people who are both salt & light & it is then Jesus proceeds to establish He has not come to abolish the Law & the Prophets, but to fulfill them.  There is an interconnectedness. When Jesus is asked about the Torah He sums it up neatly by saying Loving God first, loving God with everything we have, is the greatest command but the second is to love people: On these two commandments hangeth the whole law, and the prophets [Matthew 22:40]

For the next several chapters Jesus continues to elaborate upon the 8 principles he lays out @ the beginning of chapter 5.  We are still on the Mountainside.  Jesus is still instructing His disciples. In context we are still discussing the original subject.

So we have a discussion concerning anger, & one on immorality, one about marriage, another about integrity, one on retaliation & loving our enemies.  These are all things that affect our ability to walk out the instructions Jesus opened with. We then find Jesus discussing 5 spiritual disciplines: Prayer, fasting, giving, serving & forgiveness ~the  things that will aide us in our spiritual growth & the things that will hinder us.  It is also where we find that much maligned verse about not judging. In context we are still on the mountainside discussing the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God ~ & we are being told not to judge how others are walking out these instructions ~ which makes way more sense considering all the other scriptures wherein we are told to judge with righteous judgement.

This is not, as some may think, legality. Jesus is showing us how to position ourselves so that the Grace of God & the fellowship of the Holy Spirit can not only impact our lives but the lives around us.  These are Jesus words, the very heart of God Himself, the cry of the Holy Spirit, & so we can't just dismiss them.  Instead we need to see how the Grace of God works itself out through our obedience & produces the fruit God desires in our lives. The Holy Spirit leads, but already, in Scripture, He has given us the first principles.  Want to know the will of God for your life?  Start here!  We cannot expect greater revelation if we can't even be bothered to heed & hold as precious that which Jesus & the Holy Spirit has already given.

Now what is interesting is the parallel with the Torah as it was given to Moses on Mt Sinai. The 1st 4 commands are all to do with our relationship with God:

  •     I am the LORD thy God.
  • No other gods before me.
  • No graven images or likenesses.
  • Don't take the LORD's name in vain.
We know that these instructions are impossible to keep.  They were impossible for the Jews [just think golden calf]; they are just as impossible for us.

Now look @ how Jesus interprets this because He shows us how this is meant to look.  We are to recognize our own poverty without God. When we truly see ourselves as we are it will produce in us a deep mourning. We have all the promises of God available, all this authority in Christ, heirship, sonship, salvation, Jesus has done all the hard work on our behalf & still we lack!  We are achingly aware of how much more there is available to us & will press in to God. We won't vaunt ourselves ~ meekness is the opposite of pride but I want to show you something because our English word meek is not @ all what Jesus meant.  

The Greek word is praus.  It was a military term.  Wild stallions were brought down from the mountains to be trained. Some pulled ploughs, some carts, some trained to race but the finest stallions of all were trained for war. They were calm under the fire of arrows, spears & torches.  They did not panic @ the smell of blood. Their spirit, courage & power were all needed for battle so their spirit was never broken for then they would be useless but they were so highly trained they responded immediately to the slightest pressure or nudge of their riders leg. When they were that well trained they were said to be *meeked* ~ praus. That is where we should desire to be ~ so highly trained we respond with spirit & courage immediately to the slightest nudge from the Holy Spirit!  That is what it means to love God with everything in us.  That is what Jesus was teaching. He was showing us how! It is also how the *meeked* will inherit the earth.  It is not a passive position!

God does not treat us as imbeciles or babies.  He trusts us to co~operate with the Holy Spirit & work with Him, just as He trusted Adam in the garden.  It is a partnership.  Grace does not do for us what we are meant to do for ourselves because that would produce a people without a moral backbone or spiritual muscle. Rather He partners with us to accomplish God's will & purpose in us & through us.

This pursuing of God will produce in us a hunger to see Kingdom principles established. This is a pivotal instruction for it affects our relationships with others.  We will be merciful because our Father is merciful.  We will be pure~ hearted as our Father is. We will act as peacemakers ~ & we will be persecuted.

Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. [John 15:20] And then we are told how to respond to this persecution!

The end result of intimacy with God is a Christ~like nature.  We will reflect the son in the same way the son reflects the father.  The consistent practice of the Beatitudes as a way of life will help us achieve this end. 

Faith versus Sight ~ Rabqa

Faith! Who can fully express or measure the potential represented by that short, simple word? I think the clearest way to bring faiths potential into focus is to examine two statements Jesus made.

With God all things are possible. (Matt 19:26)

All things are possible to him who believes. (Mark9:23)

In each of these statements, we find the words "all things are possible." In the first passage, they are applied to God; in the second they are applied to those who believe. It is not too difficult, perhaps, to believe all things are possible to God. But can we equally accept that all things are possible to those who believe? But Jesus said they were.

In practical terms, what does this mean? It means that, through faith, the things that are possible to God are made equally possible to those who believe. Faith is the channel that makes God's possibilities available to us. It is no wonder the Bible, from beginning to end
consistently emphasises the unique & supreme importance of faith.

It is helpful to know that a linguistic misunderstanding that often causes difficulties in understanding faith. In English, we have two different words for faith: a noun, faith, & a verb believe. The connection between these two words is not always obvious. As a result a preacher sometimes makes the distinction between "believing" & "having faith." However there is no basis for this distinction in the original Greek of the New Testament.

In Greek, the word for faith is pistis, & the word for believe is pisteuo. We see that the verb is formed directly from the noun. The stem of each word is made up of the same four letters—pist. As far as the Bible is concerned, believing is exercising faith, so exercising faith is believing.

When we look at the words that express the opposite of faith, we again find a difference between English & Greek. In English, the opposite of faith is unbelief. We have no such word as "unfaith." But in the Greek, there is a direct connection between faith & its opposite. Faith is pistis; unbelief is apistia. (In Greek, the negative prefix "a" corresponds to the English prefix "un.") The same four letter stem pist occurs in both Greek words: faith, pisits; unbelief, apistia.

Also connected with this four letter stem pist, we have the adjective pistos, which means faithful, believing. From this the negative prefix "a" gives the opposite adjective apistos, which means unfaithful, unbelieving.

For clarity, I have set out these five words side by side in two parallel columns.

Greek. English.
Noun pistis faith
Noun apistia unbelief
Adjective pistos faithful, believing
Adjective apistos unfaithful, unbelieving.
verb pisteuo believe

So we see that all five Greek words are visibly linked by the stem pist occurs in each of them. Altogether, these five words occur almost six hundred times in the original text of the New Testament. On this basis alone, it is clear that these words represent a theme that is central to the Bible's total revelation.

Hebrews 11 deals exclusively with the theme of faith. Its opening verse provides us with a definition of faith as the terms used in the Bible.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (N K J) Hebrews 11:1

The writer of Hebrews supports his encouragement to steadfast faith by reviewing the triumphant experiences of the Hebrew hero’s. First he provides not a definition but a description of how faith works. Faith is the established conviction concerning things unseen & settled exception of future reward. The Greek word substance literally means "a standing under", & was used in the technical sense of "title deed". The root idea is that of standing under to the claim to the property to support its validly. Hence faith is the title deed for things hoped for. Throughout the chapter the writer emphasises the assurance rests on God's promises. Faith is so real that it is actually called a substance.

The Greek word for substance is hupostasis & means that which stands under something else or provides a basis for something else as I have just explained. The word hupostasis occurs in Hebrews 1:3 where we are told that Jesus is the exact representation of His nature. The Word here translated nature is hupostasis. Which means that God the Father is eternal, invisible, underlying reality of which Jesus Christ the Son is the visible expression. By applying this meaning to Hebrews 11:1 we may say that faith is the underlying reality of things hoped for. Faith is real; faith is substance.

 Second faith is the evidence of things not seen. The New American Standard Bible says "The conviction of things not seen." Regardless of the translation we prefer; the vital point is that Faith is, deals with things we cannot see. Faith relates to the invisible. In Hebrews 11:3 the writer again stressed faith's relationship to the invisible. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

We see that our belief concerning God's creative act exemplifies the evidence of things not seen. Faith relates to two eternal, invisible realities: To God Himself & to His Word. Biblical faith has only these two objects. In secular speech, of course we speak of faith in many contexts. We can talk about having faith in the economy, in medicine, or in a political leader. But faith is not used that way in the Bible. In Scripture faith is related solely & exclusively to two realities we cannot see with our natural eye: to God & to His Word. Paul brought out the opposition between faith & sight in 2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 

We must live according to the truth of God's Word & the testimony of His Spirit. Faith chooses to believe God’s Word above the evidence of the senses, knowing natural circumstances are to be kept subject to the Word of God. Faith is not denying the circumstances; rather it is believing God's testimony & living in agreement with it. This is contrary to our natural way of thinking. The world says "seeing is believing". But the Bible reverses the order: First we must believe, & then we will see.

 This principal is so important that we will look at some passages of Scripture that illustrate it. David says in Psalm 27:13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believe That I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living (NKJ). Which came first seeing or believing? (Yes) Believing. What was true for David is true for all of us. If we cannot believe that we will see the goodness of the Lord, we will despair. The thing that keeps us from despairing is not what we see but what we believe. This agrees with the statement made about Moses in Hebrews 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. This probably refers to the night of the Exodus. Only Godly faith can see the invisible.

Now we will turn to John 11-39-40 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” It is vital that you understand that the glory of God is only revealed to those who believe.

The key word in John's Gospel is believe. Faith unlocks our understanding of the Scriptures & releases the Spirits activity in our lives. Faith like love evidences itself in obedience. Finally faith approaches God boldly to receive from Him the things it needs. What Jesus asked of Martha, He asks of all of us who desire to see the glory of God. We must believe that we will see. We do not see first then believe. We believe first; then as a result of believing, we see. Faith comes before sight. The basic conflict between the old nature & the new is, the old nature demands to see, since the old nature lives by senses. God has to deliver us from that old nature & that old way of life & bring us to a new nature & a new life. Then we will say, I am content not to see. I do not walk by sight, but by faith.

In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 we are challenged once more by the contrast between the visible & the invisible. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. We must focus on the unseen & eternal. Consider & dwell upon the glory that follows this life. Know the inward man is being renewed. Paul's language in these verses contains a deliberate paradox. He spoke about looking at things that are not seen.

How can we do this? There is only one way by faith. I would like to point out that there is a great significant in the word "while": while we look not at things which are seen." It stresses the same lesson that Mosses learnt in his test of endurance. What he learnt was that the providence of God's affliction serves a useful purpose for believers. It forms & strengthens our character & prepares for the eternal glory that lies ahead. But the lesson that the word "while" teaches us is this: Affliction serves only while we keep our eyes on the invisible realm. If we lose sight of it & become preoccupied with the world of time & senses, we are no longer able to receive the benefits that affliction is intended to provide for us. So we are caught between two worlds; the temporal & the eternal. The temporal is what we can see; we contact it with our senses.

But the eternal is the world God wants us to be at home in. & we can be at home in that world by only one means: Faith is the only thing that connects us to the unseen realities of God & His Word. Faith lifts us above the realm of our own abilities & makes God's possibilities available to us. Faith connects us to two unseen realities: God & His Word. & we maintain a relationship with God through faith, through faith we are able to endure & overcome the tests & the hardship that confront our daily lives. These, in turn become opportunities for God to reveal His goodness & glory.

There is an ongoing tension between faith & sight. Our old nature is at home in the world of senses, & it demands to see. As Christians, we need to cultivate the new nature, which is able to trust God & His Word without demanding other evidence.

We have just looked at the difference between faith & sight, between believing & seeing. Now we are going to examine the difference between faith & hope. Here lies one of the greatest sources of misunderstanding among Christians today. Many Christians are disappointed & frustrated with prayer because they do not receive what they think they should. Often it is because they are praying in hope, but not in faith. The results promised by God to faith are not promised to hope.

The first essential difference is that faith is in the heart, while hope is in the mind. In Rom 10:10 Paul said For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Oral confession declares, confirms & seals the belief in the heart. This is the most
foundational lesson in the importance & power of faith's confession found anywhere in the Bible. The principal is established at the very beginning of our life in Christ. Just as salvation (God's righteous working on our behalf) is appropriated by heart belief & spoken confession, so His continuing working in our life is advanced by the same means.

True biblical faith originates in the heart. In this verse, it is expressed by the verb believe, & it is followed by the preposition "unto", which indicates the result that it produces: "Righteousness." The word unto implies motion of transition of some kind. Faith is never static. It always expresses itself in motion, change & activity. A person who truly believes will be changed by what he believes. On the other hand, a person who merely accepts truth with intellect can remain unchanged by it. Mental acceptance of truth is not faith. To produce faith, truth must penetrate beyond the conscious mind into the inner centre & source of life, which is called the heart. Truth received intellectually by the mind may be sterile & ineffective, but truth received by faith into the heart is always dynamic & life changing.

 Proverbs 4:23 Solomon warned us, Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. To keep your heart is to value & protect your mind, emotions & will. (Me thinks Solomon should have profited by his own advice). Everything that finally decides the course of our lives proceeds from our hearts. True biblical faith proceeds from the heart & determines the way we live. It is not a mere intellectual concept, entertained by the mind; it is a real, active force at work in the heart. However God does not leave the mind without its proper provision. Faith at work in the heart produces hope in the mind. We see this definition of faith that we have already examined in Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." Faith in the heat is the substance, the underlying reality, this provides a valid scriptural basis for the hope we entertain in our minds.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul mentioned the difference areas of personalities that are affected by faith & those that are affected by hope: But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. Faith & love is the breastplate & the breastplate protects the heart. Hope is the helmet & protects the head or mind. In distinguishing faith from hope I do not mean to belittle hope, in the biblical sense hope is a confident expectation of good-a steady persistent optimism. Hope protects our minds. Every Christian should wear the helmet of hope twenty four a day. If we lay aside the helmet & begin to dwell on negative thoughts & gloomy forebodings, our minds are vulnerable to satan's subtle attacks.

In Romans 8:28 we are told And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. We learn from this that when Christians suffer in hardships, bitter disappointments or wrongly treated know that God will work amidst such situations to fulfil His good purpose in His children. The situation may, or may not be directly changed by God, but even if situations stay difficult God guarantees good results, including maturation of character to those who are called.

We must note the certainties of this verse must be kept in union with the responsible participation in to which we enter with the Holy Spirit. However in applying this verse to our lives, we first need to make sure we are meeting the conditions. Do we truly love God? Are we seeking to fulfil His purpose for our lives? If so then God is working all things-every event, every situation-together for our good. This leaves only one attitude of mind that can logically adopt: optimism. In the light of this, for a Christian to be a pessimist is in fact, a denial of his faith. This example confirms what has already been said: Faith is the only solid basis for hope. We must first truly believe what Romans 8:28 tell us: All things working together for our good. If we believe this, we have no alternative but to hope. But if we do not believe this, then our hope has no solid basis.

We see that there are two forms of hope. Outwardly they are similar, but they are different in one vital respect: One is based on faith, & the other is not. One form of hope is based on genuine faith within the heart, & is therefore valid. Its exception will, at the right time be fulfilled. The other form of hope is within the mind alone, lacking any basis of genuine faith within the heart & is therefore has no spiritual validity. More likely than not, it is doomed to disappointment. Until we learn to distinguish between these two forms of hope, we will always be in danger of entertaining hopes that will never be fulfilled. The first essential difference between faith & hope is that faith is in the heart, while hope is in the mind. The second difference between faith & hope is that faith is in the present, while hope is in the future. Faith is a substance, something that is already here; hope is expectation, something that of necessity looks toward the future. Now it is very easy to confuse folk who say they have great faith, they may be sincere but their desires will go unanswered because they have confused faith with
hope. We have learnt that hope is in the mind, while faith is in the heart. We usually know what is in our minds, but it is much harder to know what is in our hearts. If a person a strong expectation in his mind he may mistakenly call it faith, but it is really hope. Lacking the necessary basis of faith, he does not see the results that he expected.

Many people who say "I believe God will heal me tomorrow,” really mean "I hope God will heal me tomorrow." That is not faith, faith because faith is not tomorrow; faith is now. If we keep directing our exception toward the future, we are substituting hope for faith. When we apply this principal to petitioning God, it will revolutionise this aspect of our prayer lives. In Mark 11:24 Jesus says Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Faith that speaks first is faith that seeks. The Almighty God is the Source & Grounds of our faith & being. Faith only flows to Him because of the faithfulness that flows from Him. Faith is not a trick preformed with our lips, but a spoken expression that springs forth from conviction of our hearts. When did Jesus tell us to receive what we pray for? At some undetermined time in the future? No but at the very moment that we pray. We ask, & at the same moment we receive.
Thereafter, we know what we ask for will be given to us. Granting or giving still remains in the future, but receiving, by faith, takes place when we pray. Having received now by faith, we know, at God's appointed time, the things we received at the moment of praying will actually be granted to us. Faith to receive is in the present; the manifestation of what we have received is in the future. But without present faith, there is no assurance of future manifestation. In Hebrews 4:3 “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. Believing here is viewed as something already accomplished that does not need to be repeated. Having believed, "we enter that rest." There is no more struggle or anxiety. We know that what we have received by faith will be manifested. The receiving is our part of the transaction; the manifesting is God's.

Faith & hope are closely related, yet there are two important factors between them. First faith springs from the heart, but hope is entertained in the mind. Second faith is in the present, it is a substance-But hope is directed toward to future; it is an exception of things to come. Hopes that are based on true faith within the heart will not be disappointed. However, without this basis, there is no assurance that our hopes will be fulfilled. Hope is God's protection for our minds, but it will not obtain for us results that God has promised only to faith. The key to obtaining what we ask for from God is to receive it by faith at the very moment we ask Him. Doing this sets us free from continual struggle & anxiety, & brings us inner rest.

Acknowledgements Derek Prince.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Law, Grace & Intimacy with God. ~ Ganeida

I have used a variety of different translations in order to convey the meaning of scripture in the most easily understood way possible & with the least confusion as to it's meaning.

Do not ever think that how you live your life doesn't matter.  Do not ever think that the sin in your life doesn't matter. Do not ever think that Grace excuses lawlessness.

Be warned by Paul: Well then, since God's grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. [Romans 6:15~16 NLT] 

Paul tells us that the Law is good. [1Timothy 1:8] It is good because it shows us how to walk uprightly before God, those things to avoid & how to have the best relationship we can with God.

Everyone who sins is breaking God's law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. 1 John 3:4 & we know that sin separates us from God but there is a promise when we do keep God's Law.

Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! [Deuteronomy 5:29 NASB]

We are not to presume on the goodness & kindness of God for Jesus Himself was very clear: Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ [Matthew 7:21~23 NKJ]

Well, you say to me, the Jews have had the Law for centuries & much good it has done them!  That is True, but what did Jesus tell them: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.[Matthew 5:17 NASB] But Jesus also said of the scribes & Pharisees that they were *blind guides*. [Matthew 15:14]

 So there was a difference in  how the scribes & pharisees understood the Law & how Jesus understood the Law.

Paul, in discussing this issue with Timothy says: But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully...[1 Timothy 1:9] & here is the crux of the matter.  We can't ,as some teach, just throw away the entire Law because now we are under Grace.  We can't do that because Jesus Himself didn't but we are in all sorts of trouble if we understand the Law as the scribes & pharisees understood the Law: as a list of rules & regulations to be obeyed even when, as God observes sadly : ... "These people say they are mine. They honor 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. [Isaiah 29: 13 NLT] & Jesus reaffirms this idea in Matthew 15:9: Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. [NLT]

The scribes & pharisees knew their scriptures.  They knew the whole of Torah [the first 5 books of the Old Testament] off by heart but they didn't know God & so they never applied the Law as it was meant to be applied ~ with Grace & Mercy  & the Everlasting Love of God. This is why Jesus ran into so much trouble with them.  Jesus understood how God meant the Law to be applied so he wasn't so much a stickler for outward things but He was a stickler for the heart of the matter. 

Of the Law itself Jesus said: ...“The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. [Mark 12:28~31 NASB] Or as Matthew so obligingly puts it for us...The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. [Matthew 22:40 NLT]

We have spoken about knowing God's Word over the last several weeks.  We have spoken about knowing the character of God & I began with those things because people tend to come unstuck on the *love thing*.  They will say things like: If God is love why...? or God is love so He wouldn't... or God loves me so it doesn't matter ~ all of which is untrue!  God is love, yes, but He is also Holy & righteous & just ~ which is why we all need Jesus so much!  The Grace of God gave us His son to deliver us from the dominion of sin!  The Grace of God enables us to actually say NO! to sin in our life.  The Grace of God provides a way back into relationship with God when we do sin. 

 Remember Paul says we are slaves to that which we obey.  Everyone on this earth falls into one of two kingdoms: the kingdom of Light [God's Kingdom] or the Kingdom of Darkness [satan's Kingdom] & we know to which we belong by that which governs us.  If we are ruled by the Holy Spirit in our lives we belong to Christ.  If we are governed by Lawlessness, that which is against God, then we belong to satan.  No~one gets to sit on the fence on this issue.  It is always one or the other. What we allow to govern us is the deciding factor.

Belief is not the deciding factor for one simple reason: You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. [James 2:19 NLT]  You can believe yet not be saved. It is how you believe that is important.  There is intellectual agreement that something is true but that does not lead to lasting change in a person's life.  It is the heart that is important; our spirit for Romans 10:9  ~ 10 says: 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 savedFor it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 

Again & again in scripture everything comes back to our heart position.  God has a number of very important things to say about our hearts.

Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart

Ezekiel 36:26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

True repentance brings true salvation & true salvation brings about the changes God desires in us because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, the One having been given to us. [Romans 5:5 NLT] There are two points I wish to make about this verse. The first is that the Holy Spirit has been given to us [a grace gift from God Himself] & part of His job is to lead us into all Truth [John 16:13] ~ that is the Truth about God. The second is that through the impartation of His Holy Spirit God shed's His own type of love abroad in our hearts; not love as the world understands it but love as God loves.  It is our hearts that must be changed.  Without this fundamental change all the rest of the New Testament becomes impossible for us. Notice that this change of heart is the work of God in us, something He does, not something we can do for ourselves!  Our job is to not resist the work God wants to do in us.

Throughout the gospels & the epistles there are instructions on how we are meant to live as Christ followers.  None of these instructions are new.  They are all there in the Old Testament.  What has changed is not only our ability to keep them but our heart attitude.  We do not keep them because we are told we must.  We keep them because we love the One who gave them & desire to please Him above all others.  Again & again in John 14 we hear Jesus say that those who love Him will keep His Word.  They will actively guard, protect, pay attention to, heed, observe practically, keep strictly, Jesus commandments.  If we love our sin more than we desire to keep God's instructions we don't really know God. James 4:4 [NASB] You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 

When my boys were little I had a friend over one day with her little boy. For some time the children played close by but eventually they wandered outside & in a little while we realised it was much too quiet for comfort so we went to see what they were doing. What we saw was her car kangaroo hopping across the paddock!  The boys were all just 3 so none of them were big enough to drive the car on their own so one sat on the floor to work the peddles, one stood on the seat to steer & one changed the gears! 

That is a very good picture of how we operate when we lack intimacy with God.  We are immature & only see in part, can only operate in part  & *kangaroo hop* through our Christian walk  relying on outward things to govern us instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us, &  for many of us, whether because we have been badly instructed or because we have never learnt how, fail to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. We don't trust Him to lead us because we don't know how to tell His leading from all the other voices we hear.  We can't tell the difference because we don't know what the Word says.  The Holy Spirit & God's word will always be in agreement because God is never going to disagree with Himself. He is the Unchanging God.  He is the Eternal God.  He is the Living God. We can always trust Him but you cannot trust that which you do not know ~ & again this is not just intellectual agreement.  This is heart revelation. Hebrews 10:16 says "This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." [NLT]

God's moral standards have never changed.  They are the same yesterday, today & forever. Intimacy with God reveals to us how we are meant to live them out with love, grace, mercy & Truth, just as Jesus did.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Going Deeper. ~ Ganeida

Ephesians 6:10 ~13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put
on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

We have studied the passage on the Armour of God in detail when we considered our spiritual armour & spiritual warfare. However we are considering intimacy with God & so my emphasis is on a different way of considering this passage.

In Romans 13:14 Paul instructs us to ... put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts as Galatians 3:27 assures us For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  It is essentially a rephrasing of what Jesus Himself taught: "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. John 15:4~5  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. John 15:6

It couldn't be clearer.  If we don't abide we will dry up spiritually.  There will be no life in us.  It is the Christ~life in us [through His Holy Spirit] that identifies us as belonging to Christ.

So let's be very practical because the armour of God is not metaphorical.  What is this *belt of Truth* Paul speaks of? John tells us *Thy word is Truth* [John17:17] but he is simply repeating what every old testament scholar knew: The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. [Psalm 119:160] When we immerse ourselves in the Word it does a number of things to us:
  • It sanctifies us [John 17:17]
  • It cleanses us [John 15:3]
  • It washes us [Ephesians 5:26]
  • It sets us free [John 8:32]
  • It teaches us how to obey God [1 Peter 1:22]
When we fail to do these things:
  • it robs us of our inheritance [Revelation 22:15]
  • It leads to death [1 Corinthians 10:8]
  • It enslaves us to sin [John 8:34]
  • It holds us in bondage to iniquity [Acts 8:23]
The Truth sets us free but God & His word are one So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. [John 8:36] All true freedom is found in Christ & the Truth will always bring us into greater knowledge & intimacy with Him.

So how about the breastplate of righteousness?  The breastplate was designed to protect all the vital organs, most specifically the heart. Remember that Hebrew thinking is concrete thinking so there will be a very practical application to this.
  • Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
  • Proverbs 23:19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and guide your heart on the right course
  • Deuteronomy 4:9 Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons
Here we have some very interesting results when we do what the word says: There is wisdom; there is life; there is generational influence.  The heart is the beginning place for everything For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery... [Mark 7:21] & Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

You see everything we allow into our lives influences us.  It will bring one of two things.  Either it will bring life or it will bring death. The breastplate is not some nebulous super spiritual thing.  It is a concrete instruction & I can say that because we are to consider the whole counsel of scripture! As soon as you ask: What is the breastplate meant to do? you get your answer from scripture. The Truth shows us the way. This is why it is so important: 

Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:21 It not only guides us but Jesus clearly teaches it sanctifies us [John 17:17] so we have a twofold thing happening here.  We are made righteous through Christ & His Truth enables us to walk in righteousness.

We then have the gospel of peace. Ok, people.  All together: Peace means Shalom & shalom means nothing missing, nothing lost; the fullness of God's love & protection towards His people. The gospel was never meant to just be words.  It was always meant to be accompanied by Christ's life flowing out of us to others with healing, deliverance, protection...& as we discussed last week this flows from a place of intimacy. Here we are instructed to be ready to minister ~ & that is much more than simply being a missionary or sending a missionary out!  It is talking about a way of life that is rooted & sourced in Christ.

Our shield is faith & Romans 10:17 assures us: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Again we come back to the Word.  It is our one sure foundation for it is the Living Word of Christ.  Again we see that faith is not a nebulous thing.  It is anchored to an action.  We are to speak out the word of God.  We confess the Word.  We obey the Word.  We do what the Word says.  Faith is not simply belief.  In Hebrew thinking it must be tied to action & indeed James bears this out for he says: Faith without works is dead.

So too with the helmet of salvation. What does the helmet protect?  It protects the mind! We have already looked at Deuteronomy 4:9 but I will just hightlight this portion: ...keep your soul diligently... The soul is not our spirit.  It is our will, our thoughts, our emotions. So when we put on the helmet of salvation it is not a passive action.  It is not just something Jesus does for us.  We are meant to be active participants. What do we think about? What excites our emotions? What do we pursue with our will? To put on the helmet is to actively guard what we allow into our minds; what we actively seek out; what we allow to excite our emotions. Thus empowered by the Word the sword of the Spirit is already to hand.

Now you might think I have veered way of track discussing all these things  we are meant to do when I am supposed to be discussing intimacy with God but the two things cannot be separated. 

John 14:15 says If you love me you will keep my commands. Jesus ties love & obedience together so we cannot separate them. Love, agape, is sacrificial, selfless love. It is the love that picks up it's cross daily & follows.  It is the love that lays down it's life for another. It is the love that does not count the cost. It is reckless abandonment into the arms of the beloved. 

See, if we truly want deeper & deeper intimacy with God we have to do some housecleaning.  It is radical & it hurts until we realise that anything we have given up pales in the face of what we have gained. To keep in John 14:15  is tēreō & it means to keep a watch upon, to guard, to protect.  In other words our love should produce in us a jealous desire to guard our ways, to ensure we are doing nothing to displease God as did David who sang:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. [Psalm 139]
Quite literally, when we put on the armour we are putting on Christ as Paul instructs us in Romans 13:14 ~ But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

We cannot be half~hearted about the matter for God Himself says:You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart [Jeremiah 29:13]

If we are only half living for God  but spending the greater portion of our time doing what pleases us we are never going to truly know God because intimacy grows out of knowing the other. You get to know the other by spending the time to get to know them & as you get to know God you realise there are choices that have to be made.  You can skim the surface of belief, buffeted about by every wind of doctrine, never really knowing who God says He is, hampered in your walk by lack, by uncertainty, by sickness or you can walk in assurance knowing that:
The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. [Psalm 16: 5~6]

The Lord is our Healer, our Redemption, our Salvation, our Provider... We will know with a deep assurance that we are never abandoned as orphans, never forsaken ~ that indeed we are engraved in the palms of His hands, His jewels, His treasure but Jesus warned us there is a cost ~ & to count the cost. The cost is much higher without Christ.  Intimacy brings us into a place of deep trust.  Haratio Spafford, having suffered the loss of his infant son, financial ruin & all 4 of his daughters drowned on a sea voyage was still able to pen these immortal words: 

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul...

Intimacy.  It is the key to living the abundant life in Christ.

Our Outreach Pastor Returns for a Flying Visit.

Sister CRabqa, Sister J.

It has been our delight this week to welcome Pastor Rabqa back for a visit.  We were immensely blessed to have her minister to us on Sunday & join us for prayer & bible study on Wednesday. Rabqa is presently ministering as the Lord leads in Northern Queensland.