Bible thoughts

Communicating the Gospel: Sin is not just “a mistake”

Sometimes the Christian Gospel can be presented like this: “Everybody makes mistakes in their lives, we all need forgiveness…”.

This, I submit to you, while often coming out of the best of motives, is not an accurate presentation of the doctrine of sin from the Bible.

Oxford online dictionaries gives a definition of a mistake as “an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong” and you will agree that by this definition sin is certainly a mistake. But it is not just a mistake. If we think it is merely a mistake, we begin to trivalize sin. 

The Scriptures present “sin” in a far blacker light than that. People must understand that they are not going to hell because they make “some mistakes” but because their actions are rebellious acts of war against a God who is infinitely pure and good. No less.

John writes “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4 ESV, RV). W.E. Vine helpfully writes “This definition of sin sets forth its essential character as the rejection of the law, or will, of God and the substitution of the will of self.”

Uprising_fist

In other words, “sin is rebellion”. Sin is an act of our rebellious will. It begins in a rebel heart and mind which is hostile to God (Romans 8:7), which instructs our body to substitute ourselves, our senses or our ideas for God. We are by nature (unless redeemed) slaves to this principle of sin. It affects our intellect, emotions and will and produces rotten fruit (sinful actions) in our lives.

So we are, by nature: treacherous, self-willed sinners, in slavery to sin  leading to rebellious, God-dishonouring actions and a character of life which brands us as enemies of a God (Romans 5:10) who alone has ultimate authority in the universe. AT WAR WITH GOD!

Putting it bluntly. Every sin is a refusal of God (Genesis 3:6). Every sin is a manifestation of our will as unbroken before God. Every sin is trying to tear God from his throne (Ps 51:4). Every sin is an affront to God (Ps 50:21). Every sin (unless forgiven) is treasuring up wrath against a day of wrath (Romans 2:5). Every sin (unless forgiven) will be judged completely and eternally by a sin-hating, holy and just God, who keeps a complete record of each and every one of them (Romans 2:6; Rev 20:12; Rev 21:8).

Sin is not merely a mistake we make, it is “rebellion-in-action”. A shaking of our fist at God.

This is why we need the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is why we, as Christians, preach Him:

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”  1 John 3:4-5 ESV

We didn’t need a handyman to “fix our mistakes” rather we needed a Saviour to take away our sins; to save us from ourselves, yes, to redeem and reconcile us to God, and “in Him there is no sin”.

May the Lord help us to communicate to others the true awfulness of sin. So that they may seek the Saviour.

 

Reproach is Riches – in God’s currency

moses1

 

Money, money, money… screams the world! And we Christians sometimes agree. “If only I had…” I’ve caught myself whispering. But what does God think of it all?

“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” Hebrews 11:25-27 NKJV

Which wealth do we really want? I find as I write this, these words from Hebrews challenge my very concept of wealth.

Think of the status of Moses. ‘Prince of Egypt’, with the world at his finger tips and everything rosy in the garden. Perhaps even the next in line to the throne of Egypt. “When he came of age..” talk about growing up! “He refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter”. He saw his destiny among the current ‘downtroddens’ of society, rather than be a prince. He preferred to be a slave with a clear conscience than a king without one.

Where does this find me? Am I prepared to forgo the promotion, the big job, or the big house, just so that I can do God’s will and associate with God’s people. Rest assured, the next 20 years aren’t likely to be easy for evangelical Christians in the Western Secular World.

“Bow to our dictates… or else get out” has already beenheard as a distant thunderclap in the higher echelons of society and in the corridors of power. A storm is brewing and getting ever closer. Am I prepared to give up the cherished position for a reproached position – and realize its wealth?

Moses did! It involved suffering and reproach, but it also involved a place in eternal blessedness, with his name and fame forever honoured in God’s eternal word.  It was worth it, to find the true riches.

What about us? Someone has said “We make our decisions, and our decisions make us” – that was certainly true with Moses.

 

The Anointed One (poem)

The Anointed One

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Blessed Man of God’s Anointing,
Worthy Sovereign, Jesus, Lord:
He, the One, by Heaven’s appointing,
Is the Saviour of the world.
.
Glorious King, Eternal Sovereign,
Stoops into Davidic Line,
Shoot from Jesse’s stump has blossomed,
Royal rights in Him combine.
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Offspring of the virgin Mary,
Mark the Holy writings true,
God Supreme, now dwells among us,
Seen in softer Human hue.
.
Prophets bow, for He has spoken,
Greater Prophet than them all,
He, the Word, the Son, the Substance,
He, the “Amen” and the “All”!
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Listen, close, to words so tender,
Yes, so perfect and so true,
Friend and foe, alike must render,
Honour, for the honour’s due.
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Yet we see this King Rejected,
We behold the rabble’s scorn,
And we gaze in awful wonder
At a twisted crown of thorn!
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We behold the Prophet silent,
As they “hang him” on a “tree”
His own words, not nails, they bind Him,
For He said that so “must be”
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We now view Him, in the glory,
He is High Priest there for us,
Sprinkled is the blood of Jesus,
Our acceptance is a must!
.
Righteousness and peace eternal,
Meet in this thrice blessed One,
Heaven, earth and realms infernal,
Will acknowledge God’s own Son.
.
A Williamson 2011

EL OLAM – “The Everlasting God” (Gen 21v33)

 

abraham3.gif

Abraham had grown old, he had weathered the storms of life. He had journeyed, pitched his tent, upped camp and journeyed again. He had come from Ur, travelled across the Euphrates flood-plains until he entered the land of Canaan, then he had compassed the land of promise, Canaan from north to south. In times of failure he had dwelt in Egypt and Philistia, but he had returned to tent and altar, to Bethel and Hebron. God had promised Him a son and then given Him his promised son 25 years later. It had been a hard journey, but he had learned so much about his God.

He knew he was a God of Splendour, for “the God of glory” had appeared unto Him right at the beginning of the journey (Acts 7v2). He learned from Melchizedek that he was a God of absolute Supremacy “the Most High God” (EL ELYON)”. He understood no doubt, through Hagar, that he was EL ROI, a God of Seeing, who saw and met the need of the outcast. His God revealed Himself as the God of Sufficiency (EL SHADDAI), able to fulfil his promises completely by himself. Now, as he reflects on life he understands that he has come to know a God of Stability – EL OLAM, the Everlasting God.

Yes, his life had been full of ‘flitting’ here and there, it had been full of trials and tough decisions, it had had its ups and downs, but God had been there through it all! The Everlasting God – nothing could decay His love or dilute His promises, He was the great Rock of Abraham’s life. He had fulfilled His promises to him.

A grasp of this God is what we need in 2012. The new year comes with its unexpected tomorrow: the journey of life for us might hold unexpected twists and turns this year, but one thing is absolutely sure our God, the Everlasting God, is with us in it and is waiting for us at the end of it.

Never fear Christian, the “Everlasting Hills” beckon us, an “Everlasting Kingdom” awaits (Ps 145), His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting (Ps 103), In Him lies “everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26v4) and “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Jer 31v3).

How wonderful it is to know EL OLAM.

 

 

I am the LORD, I change not…

What a statement! What a truth!

 “I am the LORD, I change not…” (Malachi 3v6)

This thought has comforted believers down through the centuries of time. The great Jehovah, the I AM – eternal, dependable and reliable. Never has there been a need for him to change His thoughts, update His views or revise His opinions. His purpose is unwavering and steadfast, His promise is unfailing and His character is unchanging!

I change, HE changes not,
The Christ can never die,
His love, not mine the resting place,
His truth, not mine the tie” – – Horatius Bonar

The question might be asked, how is God unchanging? Surely the Bible speaks at times of God “repenting” or “relenting”? Is this him changing?

The answer is profound and yet simple. When the Bible tells us about God being “unchanging” it is meaning that he always is consistant with His character. If God says that he will judge you because of your sins, it is because He is acting according to his righteous chacter – God punishes sin!  if God then forgives you upon your repentance, it might appear to you that God has repented (humanly speaking), he has changed his mind, but He is just acting consistantly with His Mercy and Love, praise God he doesn’t jettison his righteousness either, because the blood of Christ answers all his claims.

therm

Some have illustrated this by a Thermometer. It appears to be constantly changing. It is up and then its down, it is then up again! However it is really the surroundings that are changing, the thermometer is consistantly acting in accordance with its inbuild laws and character, it hasn’t changed at all even though it appears to!

This is a great comfort to every Christian. We will never waken up one morning and find that God no longer loves us. He is unchanging, he has pledged Himself to us. Yes, He is immutable. I’m so glad I ever trusted such a God!

“Zoar”

I was listening recently to the life of Abraham and Lot from Genesis (recommended buying from ITunes if you have an Ipod – buy an audio bible!) and I stumbled across Zoar (Heb. meaning “Little” or “Smallness”), what a tragedy it really was for Lot. Read Gen 13.

Zoar

You’ll remember how Lot got a taste for the well-watered plains that reminded him of Egypt, so when he saw the Jordan Valley in bloom, he forgot about his pilgrim character, didn’t take into account the dangers of Sodom and pitched his tent in that direction. He saw it as a lost paradise (the garden of the Lord),  like Egypt, – he saw Zoar. It was small, seemingly insignificant, just a little city.

The path of Faith for the Christian today involves having a pilgrim character, we are “away from home” (Strangers) but we are “going home” (Pilgrims) (see 1 Peter). We are surrounded by the attractions and allurements of the world which would try to suck us in and stop us making progress for God.

The world system can be like UR (where Abraham left) it was full of the splendour of man-made religions and especially IDOLATRY. Abraham one day saw the God of Glory, He heard His word and trusted Him and left UR forever. If we have trusted the Lord Jesus truly as our Saviour, we should have left the idols of the world forever. May God help us to. Let’s give the Lord the place He deserves in our hearts.

The world system can be like EGYPT – the thing about Egypt was it’s boasted INDEPENDENCE, it had it’s own river, the Nile, it wasn’t reliant (or so it thought!) on the rains of heaven, it’s Pharoah could say “Who is the LORD?” – it’s just like the present world psychi which says “I don’t need God, thank you very much – I can live in independence of God”.

The world system can by like SODOM – the main thing about Sodom was it’s IMMORALITY, of course. The world is getting worse and worse like this, just calling for the judgement of God. Lot ended up here in Sodom, entangled in Sodom. He never approved it’s practices but he was in the middle of it none the less.  

How did he get there?

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. 12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. 13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” Gen 13v10-13 NKJV

 He saw the business sense of moving towards the cities of the plain but he forgot the dangers, for they were full of wicked men. We like to be close enough to the world to be able to do well in it but not really fall in with it. Lot wanted his paradise here. He was looking at it all wrong. If we, as Christians, live for a while in independance of God, we will eventually find many things attractive that God hates.

But what is Zoar to do with all this. Read on in the story, through ch 19. Zoar was just little. It pictures what we often find in our own hearts – we often don’t want the sin of Sodom, but we want a little bit of the world, just a little bit that is attractive to us! But that little bit sucks us in and ruins our usefulness for God.

Ask yourself, “What is the Zoar in my life?” – what little part of the world, seemingly so harmless, actually hinders you as a Christian. – Be careful with it – avoid it at all cost – be like Abraham, advancing to the heights of Hebron – enjoying God because he was prepared to let God chose his pathway.
 

Lamentations 3 “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed”

Rainbow picture - Great is Thy faithfulness

21 This I recall to my mind,
      Therefore I have hope. 
 22 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
      Because His compassions fail not. 
 23 They are new every morning;
      Great is Your faithfulness. 
24 “ The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, 
     “ Therefore I hope in Him!” 
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
      To the soul who seeks Him.
26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
      For the salvation of the LORD.  (NKJV)
…………
Jeremiah didn’t have an easy path of service for God. God told him that he was going to a people that wouldn’t listen to his preaching and who would hate him for it. He wasn’t going to marry either…

If you read the start of Lamentations 3 you begin to realise that this man was undergoing severe trial and suffering. He started viewing God as his enemy, laying traps for him, not listening to his prayer – ever been there? If fact he had just about given up hoping altogether and then he recalled something, something vital which he tells us in the above verses, it rekindled his hope.

It is “through the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” – altogether destroyed! He was part of a nation that merited God’s judgement, the miracle was that God was withholding it for His compassions fail not they are new every morning – and with this revelation bursting upon his troubled vision he exclaims “Great is Your faithfulness!”

We deserved nothing but God’s judgement but He gave us everything in Christ, there is plenty to be thankful for even if at times the path is tough!

 

Thoughts on Revelation (4) Man as a “wild-beast”

In the dark days of tribulation which will follow upon the Rapture of the Church to heaven, there will arise 2 great men. One a World leader, the head of a system/kingdom, the last gentile kingdom before the coming of the Lord to reign in righteousness. The other the False Prophet, who will induce and seduce the world to worship the world leader as god!

These 2 men are the antithesis of what God intended for man! They are against God. They are against Christ. (Read Ch 13).

Artist impression of first Beast

They are described as “wild-beasts“(Greek). People don’t realise that upon rejection and further rejection of God they become beastly in character, the very opposite of what God wants for them.

Please note – this is a different word than the word used for the 4 beasts (gk “living ones”) which surround God’s throne (ch4 and 5) who could well be the Seraphim (high and holy angelic beings).

What a contrast these men are to God’s Man. God will have the King that He intends, His “First-born  higher than the kings of the earth”(Read Psalm 2 and Psalm 8). This will be His eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is marked by being the Holy and True, the Faithful Witness – He shall shepherd the nations with a rod of iron (12v5). His control will never be divorced from His shepherd care.

This is the “man after God’s own heart”, His “beloved” – in a way that King David is but a faint shadow! Believer, behold Him!

Thoughts on Revelation (3)

“Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth…”  (Rev 1v4-5)

 A blessing to Christians from the Trinity! This is clearly seen from the passage. Just check out the word “from”.

1) From God who is eternal
2) From the Holy Spirit (seven speaks of His completeness and perfection – used lots of times in the Revelation)
3) From Jesus Christ…

 Then there is another “3”. Three things are told to us about the Lord Jesus. He is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler over the kings of the earth”

The faithful witness – this looks back over His life. He was always full of grace and truth. Eventually it cost Him His life…

The firstborn from the dead – this looks at Him presently as conquer and chief up from the dead…

The ruler over the kings of the earth – this looks forward to His reign, when he will be displayed as the Person to whom God has given complete authority (Matt 28), see also Psalm 2, 110 and Revelation 19 “on his head were many crowns” Rev 19v12