Another Characteristic Of The Church

                “Great fear seized the whole Church and all who heard about these events.”

                                                                                                                                                                Acts 5:11

                One of the characteristics of the book of Acts is the combination of key significant events which move the account of the creation of the Church forward and editorial summaries which describe the characteristic live of the believing community.  After four chapters in which the new Testament Church is shown to be growing in grace and commitment to the LORD Jesus Christ Luke begins to describe the challenges which they will begin to face.  The Apostle Paul makes this clear while writing in 2 Timothy 3:12 “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  This is a certainty which we must expect and which we begin to see developed in the fifth chapter of Acts.  We must expect that there will be challenges to living the Christian life which we will have to face which come from the world around us, our own flesh and satanic deception.  This is what the fifth chapter draws our attention to.  Ananias and Sapphira are clearly deceived by Satan, being led astray by their own fleshly desires to pursue things which are rooted in a worldly approach to life.  At its heart this passage reveals an attitude of heart which takes God lightly and elevates our own fleshly desires for security in the things which this world provides.  Satan takes something which they need and deceives this couple so that they lie to the Holy Spirit. 

                To dig down into the heart of the account which Luke gives us here we see that the whole purpose of this event was to lead the New Testament Church into the development of a reverent fear and awe of God.  At the beginning of the fifth chapter of Acts Ananias and Sapphira have an attitude which assumes that God now takes sin lightly.  Again, as Paul asks in Romans 6:1 “Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?”  This is certainly a danger that the Church faces as the Gospel is proclaimed.  We receive grace from God and then forget that His purpose is to make us holy with the Righteousness of Christ.  Luke shows us how this event brought the Church back to a reverent fear of God.  He tells us that the Church came into, or developed, a reverent fear or awe of God. 

                To take God’s Holiness lightly is a danger which the Church is always facing.  To fall into this error robs us of the grace and power which the Lord has promised to us.   The Scriptures constantly call us to a life of reverence for God. 

                “Then the Church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace.  It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit; it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Acts 9:31

                “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.  Fear the lord, you saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 34:8-9

                “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 36:1

                “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Proverbs 1:7

                “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

                                                                                                                                                                Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

                This reverent awe and fear of God is desperately needed by the Church today.

Awake

                “”Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the man who is close to me!”  Declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn My hand against the little ones.  In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one third will be left in it.  This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on My Name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are My people.” And they will say, “The LORD is our God.””

                                                                                                                                                                Zechariah 13:7-9

                Right in the middle of the final oracle in the book of Zechariah we find this little poetic passage which refocuses our attention upon the central theme of this wonderful prophetic book.  The book is concerned with the promise of God which is to act on behalf of His people through one whom He calls the Good Shepherd in order to redeem them by establishing a new blood covenant.  Israel is facing a crisis in leadership; the shepherds have failed to lead God’s people into godliness therefore God Himself will intervene on their behalf.  This text brings us into an awe inspiring encounter with the tremendous promises that the LORD has made to us in His Word.  What is required is that we stop and meditate upon God’s Word to us here.

                Verse seven contains two commands from God as He speaks to the sword of Divine Judgement.  The LORD commands that the sword awaken and then that it strike the shepherd, presumably killing Him.  What Zechariah is confronting us with here is that whatever will happen to the Good Shepherd it will be a direct result of God’s initiative in bringing judgement upon a people ruined by their sin.  It will not be an accident or an event out of the control of God.  Zechariah tells us that it will be the direct response of God’s Word.  He will speak the word of judgement and the sword will fall upon the Good Shepherd.  There is more here as well for us to meditate upon.  The sword will fall upon “My Shepherd.”  It is the shepherd who belongs to God that Zechariah is referring to here.  The definition is taken further as the Prophet writes, “against the man who is close to me.”  More literally the word that is used here refers to the man who is my fellow, one who participates in the nature of the poetic speaker, or God Himself.  David Baron explores this in his commentary on the book of Zechariah.

                “The unique and peculiar relationship between this “Shepherd” and Jehovah is fully brought out in the words which follow: “the man that is my fellow.”  The word (‘amith) is found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible only in Leviticus.  It seems to be a substantive, and denotes “fellowship,” “neighbourship,” in the abstract.  But the only other place in the Hebrew Bible where this word is found, namely, in Leviticus, it is used only as the synonym of (“brother”), in the concrete sense of the nearest one.  The two words (“man”) and (“My fellow”) must therefore be regarded as apposites, and have been properly so rendered in the English Bible…..”

                “No Owner of a flock, or lord of a flock, would call a hired or purchased shepherd his ‘amith.  And so God would not apply this epithet to any godly or ungodly man whom He might have appointed shepherd over a nation.  The idea of nearest one (or fellow) involves not only similarity in vocation, but community of physical or spiritual descent, according to which he whom God calls His neighbour cannot be a mere man, but can only be one who participates in the Divine nature, or is essentially Divine.  The shepherd of Jehovah, whom the sword is to smite, is therefore no other than the Messiah, who is also identified with Jehovah in chapter 12:10; or the Good Shepherd, who says of Himself, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).” (Baron, David, The Visions and Prophesies of Zechariah, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1975, p. 476-477)

                What a wonderful prophetic word.  Zechariah gives us much to meditate upon here.  The promise of God is that one will come who will share in the Divine nature and who will be struck down by the express plan of God that he might be the refiner of his people so that they will be brought into the covenant relationship with God through him.  For this reason Jesus point to this Scripture as being fulfilled in the scandal of the Cross.

                “Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”  But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”  (Matthew 26:31-32)

                The word for “fall away” used here is to be caused to stumble, to be offended, or shocked, by what they have observed.  That God would deliberately afflict His only begotten Son with our punishment so that we could be redeemed in Him seems offensive to us.  In reality however we find here the power of God for our salvation revealed here.  For this we praise God!  o

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

                “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – on Lord, One faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

                                                                                                                                                                Ephesians 4:1-7

                As I sit down to write a reflection on the first few verses of the fourth chapter of Ephesians I find myself wrestling with the richness of the doctrine which is contained here.  With the simple word “therefore” the apostle brings in the glorious things he has just been writing about in the first three chapters of the letter.  Those chapters focus upon the power of the Gospel which has taken us out of this world of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This new kingdom into which we have entered is in fact the Church, or the Body of Christ.  In Christ we have come to know a love that has completely transformed our lives.  On the foundation of this life changing Gospel Paul then calls us to live a life which is worthy, or suitable, or becoming of our calling.  In the rest of this letter we will read about just what such a worthy life is like.  We are told how we are to actively pursue this life as Paul begins to use a series of present participles to move his argument forward.  These participles describe earnest and continual activity of our part in response to the infinite and continuous action of the Spirit of God through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must be submitting our lives to the powerful love of God which is being poured into us by the Holy Spirit.

                In verses two and three we encounter these two participles, “to be enduring patiently with one another” and “to be making every effort”.  Both participles call us to constant activity.  Both push us along in a life that is truly Christ-centred.  This is in fact the foundation for our transformed lives.  The Lord Jesus Christ is the One who was crucified and raised for us.  In Him we have life if we pick up our cross and follow Him.   

                Each us faces a constant challenge to this type of Christ-centred living.  Our flesh does not die easily.  Naturally we live lives which are conformed to the pattern of this world.  Basically this means that we desire to put ourselves first in every situation.  To this Paul calls us to live with “humility, gentleness, enduring patiently with one another.”  We are to actively pursue this patience.  In essence we begin to live out the long suffering sacrificial love that we have received from the Lord.  How has He put up with us?  What has He done for us?  How far is He willing to go in order to redeem us?  It is here that we find ourselves challenged as we see the ways our flesh shrinks back from really following the Lord into this cross centred living.  We are not certain that we can pay the cost of such a life.  In fact we are certain that we cannot.  Before we move on to look at the resources that make us able to live in a way befitting the Gospel we need to look at the other participle in verse three.  Paul says that we are “to make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Again he calls us to constant and earnest pursuit of the unity of the Spirit.    Our ambition is to share together with others in the Body of Christ the common life that we have been called to.  Do we really catch the meaning of what Paul writes here?  Have we confronted its challenge?  Our flesh looks for ways to be self sufficient and separate from one another.  The Gospel calls us to participate in the life of Christ together. 

                To be sure there are times when we must separate ourselves from those who do not share in this life of Christ.  I question at times whether we do so too easily.  It is in answering this question that we find our flesh being crucified.  It is too easy for us to begin to build our own little self-centred kingdom.  Paul calls us to Christ-centred, Spirit directed following of the one who redeemed us through the Gospel of the cross.  As Paul describes it here in these chapters of Ephesians we find ourselves reflecting on something which is truly glorious because it is of God.

A Moving Appeal

                “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.  But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”                                                                                                                                                                                                           Galatians 4:8-9

                When we come to the eighth verse of Galatians 4 we find that the Apostle Paul intensifies his appeal for the Galatians to return to the gospel truth by making a personal appeal to them.  He has given them a history lesson on the error that they are currently embracing, followed by a demonstration of the Biblical truth that the LORD Jesus Christ is, in fact, the crucified one.  Paul points the Galatians to the plain truth of the Word of God which reveals the inability of the law to save us, and of the fact that the LORD Jesus Christ has borne the curse of our sin by becoming a curse for us by being hung on the cross.  On account of this precious gift God has given us by the grace of the cross the full rights of Sonship in the LORD Jesus Christ.  We are no longer a slave of sin, because we have become the children of God through faith in the LORD Jesus Christ. 

                In Galatians 4:8 Paul begins an intense personal appeal to the Galatians.  Isn’t it interesting that Biblical appeals often combine a focus on knowledge as they work out logically the truth as it is found in the Word of God with an additional appeal to our hearts by drawing our attention to the communion we share with God in Christ and with other believers in Christ.   We often call this a warm hearted Christian faith.  Both things are necessary.  We must know the logic of the Biblical Gospel.  We also must be moved to rejoice in the communion that the Gospel created.  Nothing is more precious than to share tears of joy with a brother or sister who has just discovered the freedom that we share in Christ.  Such things must move us.  To be engaged in the joyful work of evangelism is the responsibility and the joy of every believer. 

                There are several other things that Paul reveals to us here.  His use of the word translated by the NIV as “formerly” tells us about the approach we must take to the Gospel proclamation.  Several Greek lexicons tell us that this word is often used to add intensity to a sentence or a paragraph.  Paul is not proclaiming the Gospel here in a passionless way.  It has gripped his life and it moves him deeply.  So too must it grip and move us.  Second he points us to the mechanism by which the Gospel saves us.  This is by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit within us.  Paul writes, “But now that you know God – or rather are known by God.”  From our perspective we heard the Gospel and we believed it and as a result we have come to know God.  We begin to engage in Bible Study.  We learn about the attributes of God.  We find ourselves growing in our understanding about the living God.  Knowledge in our heads, however important, and glorious it might be does not save us, however, if it is not joined with real spiritual life.  This is what the Apostle Paul points us to when he writes that we have come to be known by God.  The word used here is an interesting one because it is a Greek word for knowing something or someone, often in a personal way, which is tied in to an Old Testament Hebrew word which focuses upon viewing something with favour.  What Paul is telling us is that the first and most important part of our salvation is that God has looked upon us with favour or grace.  We have come to faith, loving and knowing God because He first looked upon us with grace.  As the Apostle writes to the Church at Rome, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  What comes first in our salvation? God loved us in the cross of Christ while we were still sinners.  He looked upon us in grace and made us alive in Christ.  What a precious truth.  Surely it moves you to know that God has loved you so much.

A Thought On Discipleship

                “While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, He asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”  David himself calls Him ‘Lord’. How then can He be his son?””

                                                                                                                                                                Mark 12:35-37a

                As Mark continues to describe the means that the Lord Jesus Christ used to bring His disciples to faith he takes us further into the teaching of our Lord.  Mark has just presented us with a teacher of the law who is presented as a man who is “not far from the kingdom of God”.  Mark immediately goes on to this question asked of the crowds, and perhaps of the deeply convicted teacher.  It is a question raised by the teaching of the 110th Psalm.  In this Psalm, which was understood to be about the coming Messiah a confusing piece of teaching is given.  David is writing this Psalm about one of his descendants who was believed to be the Christ, the Hebrew Messiah.  As a descendant of David this person is assumed to be inferior to David, but David addresses him as his Lord.  How can this be?  That David was speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and therefore was writing Scripture was understood by all present in the Temple.  What was not understood was how the Messiah could be both David’s descendant and his superior at the same time.  It is this question which Jesus asks the crowd.  The approach that Jesus takes here is to ask a question which will force those who sincerely want an answer to engage in an intense, Spirit directed study of God’s Word in order to discern God’s answer.  James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.”  This is the expectation that the Lord Jesus Christ has for everyone who truly wants to enter into the Kingdom of God. 

                This text tells us several things about the process by which we become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

  1. What is required is that we come to real faith in Christ as He is revealed to us in the Scriptures.  The Lord convicted His hearers on this point.  He asked them questions designed to force them to wrestle with what the Scriptures really taught.  How often do find ourselves failing to take the teaching of Scripture seriously?
  2. He put His disciples in positions where their failure to live up to God’s standards would be exposed.  He does the same to us.  So often we fail to see the reality of our hardness of heart.  Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Kingdom of God.”  He writes “all” not “some”.  The way into God’s Kingdom is always through real humility. 
  3. The Discipleship process for Jesus’ followers was an intense and lengthy one.  There was some much unbelief and hardness of heart to deal with.  Can we expect that it will not be as difficult for us?   If we are to bear fruit for Him then we must expect trials.
  4. He was with them through the whole process.  Not even the atoning death on the cross could remove Him.  On the third day He arose. 
  5. At the heart of the process that Mark describes here is the cross.  Jesus sets His face to obey His Father by going to the cross.  The teaching of the Gospels is that we to must travel the way of the Cross if we are to be Disciples of Christ.

But As For Me

 “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”

                                                                                                                                                                Micah 7:7

                The Scriptures have a lot to teach us about what it really means to live in fellowship with God.  The authors of Scripture enjoyed a rich relationship with God.  At times it is described as “crying out to God” or it is seen in the way a person will “draw near to God”.  Sometimes we discover this rich fellowship in the expectant hope and joy which characterized a person’s life.  Here in Micah 7 we discover his rich fellowship with God in the personal lament which he pens describing his distress at the broken state of the sinful society in which he lived.

                Micah’s personal lament is a prayer in which this Godly gentleman cries out to the living God for relief from his distress over the sin which seems to characterize so much of the society in which he lived.  This is in many ways a true measure of the real state of our hearts.  Are we moved and distressed by those things which move and distress God?  In the Scriptures we find many of these types of Lament.  Could it be that this is what the Scriptures mean when they make reference to people who began to cry out to God? 

                In the book of Psalms alone we find these personal cries to God for deliverance. Psalms 5, 13, 22, 31, 55, and 71 are all examples of these personal laments.  In each of these the author cries out to God for deliverance.  As the cry is brought before God it contains within it a confession of sin and a deep awareness that help and hope can only ultimately come from God.  It is He and He alone who can redeem us.  It is He who can create within us that new life which is characterized by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. 

                The reality that we are led into here is that the only acceptable context for dealing with our distress is one of worship.  Each of these personal cries for help is in reality a song of worship or a statement of faith.  Our faith is most clearly seen in the ways we respond to the distresses of our lives.  In Genesis 47:31b we read that “Israel (Jacob) worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.”  This was as he was nearing the end of his life.  It was a time for worship.  This is the case with Micah’s time of distress.  It is a time for worship.

                When we look carefully at Micah’s lament we see his worship in the context of the brokenness of the society in which he lived.  Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in family life.  Members of families were turning on one another in his world, just as they do in ours.  This always causes great anguish of heart.  Many solutions will be put forward to heal the family, but only one will work and that is the intervention of God.  What is needed is real prayer, crying out to God for help.  This was what in fact Micah did, expressing his expectation of the day in which God would intervene, and his hope and trust in God’s gracious intervention.  “As for me” is his cry.  This is always the believer’s cry.  Is it your cry?

Father, Forgive Them

                “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.”

                                                                                                                                                                Luke 23:34

                Luke gives us here a very precious word from the cross.  This word opens up to our understanding the whole purpose of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.  He gives up His life as a sacrifice of atonement through which we receive the forgiveness of our sin.  Luke presents it in such a wonderful way here that we find ourselves being overwhelmed by the sheer grace that is extended to us.  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  On the cross, in agony and humiliation, the Lord Jesus Christ is praying for those who are killing Him.  Of all people who have ever lived on this earth the Lord Jesus Christ was the least worthy of death.  He had no sin.  He was compassionate and holy in every way.  Yet they turned against Him and nailed Him to a cross.  His response was to forgive them. 

                This verse raises several important questions for us. 

  1. Who was Jesus praying for?  Was it the soldiers who were nailing Him to the cross, dividing up His clothes by lot, and doing everything they could to humiliate Him? 
  2. Was it the people of Israel who were His own people, to whom He came as their God, and who responded to Him with rejection because they did not recognise Him as the fulfillment of all that the Prophets had promised?
  3. Was it the Gentiles, the Romans who drove the nails into His hands and feet?
  4. Or was it all of them?  The truth is that each and every one of us was in one way or another responsible for the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In His compassionate love the Lord Jesus Christ intercedes for the soldiers that they would be forgiven the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God.  He prayed for the Jews that they would recognise Him and receive forgiveness.  He prayed for the Gentiles that they would be grafted into the vine that would give them real abundant life.  He interceded for you and me that we too would receive the forgiveness which was purchased for us on the cross. 

In praying in this compassionate way the Lord Jesus Christ was not offering a blanket amnesty for all sin.  He was praying that these soldiers, Jews, Gentiles, and all of us would come to repentance and faith in Him.  Right away as Jesus dies on the cross we see the first answer to this prayer as the Centurion praises God and confesses Christ.  Over the next forty years as judgment on Jerusalem was delayed countess Jews came to faith in Christ. Over the centuries since then millions of Gentiles have come to faith in Christ, all in answer to this compassionate prayer.  If you are a believer you owe your forgiveness to this one prayer.  The Son of the Living God while in agony on the cross prayed that you would be forgiven.  That prayer was answered as the grace of God was poured out upon you bringing you to faith. 

                This prayer is an invitation to faith and repentance as well as a call to compassionate prayerfulness as well.  Steven in Acts seven prayed this way and Saul of Tarsus was brought to faith.  Can you or I be any less prayerful seeing we are surrounded by countless lost people who do not know what they are doing?  Each one of them desperately needs the forgiveness which you and I enjoy today.

The Vital Place That The Word of God Has In Our Lives

“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

                                                                                                                                Luke 8:21

                A number of years ago we had the awesome privilege of witnessing the testimony of seven brothers and sisters who testified to their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in the waters of Believers Baptism.  What was striking about this Worship Service was that there was a very clear testimony to the fact that each of those being baptised was wanting each person present to understand that they were united with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death and Resurrection.  This was by faith in Him.  As we reflected upon this it became apparent that we are called as Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to live in the obedience of faith.  Luke records this aspect of our Christian lives by pointing us to the Lord’s call for us to hear the Word of God and to obey it. Following that awesome baptismal service we then looked ahead to the celebration of Mother’s Day where we focused upon an exploration of the Parable of the Sower in which Mark tells us that we must be people who hear the Word of God in a way that leads to our understanding and applying it to our lives.  In fact it seems that the entire Scripture points us to this fact of obedient faith.  This Sunday our Mother’s Day service will focus upon Hanna’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.  Here Hanna is revealed to be a woman in whom the Word of God is dwelling deeply.  Our highest priority must be to Hear God’s Voice in His Word in such a way that it leads us to the obedience of faith.  Such faith comes about because we are focused upon the Lord’s leading in our lives.  We trust Him.  We love Him with all our hearts.  We therefore “keep in step with His Spirit.”(Galatians 5:25)

                It was to this that our brothers and sisters were testifying to that Sunday morning.  Everything changes when we come to the Cross of Christ to be crucified with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.  Now we are going to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit of God.  Everything also changes when we begin to live in the power of Christ’s Resurrection by faith.  What begins to develop is real Christ likeness created by the presence of God’s Spirit powerfully working in us.  Nothing will ever be the same again for anyone who comes to Jesus in faith.

                What we long for is to see this Christ like Spirit become more clearly the reality in which the modern Christian Church lives.  Imagine the reality that would be given to our witness if each one was walking more in step with the Spirit.  Permit me to invite you to join with me in praying for this to become more clearly the reality of each and every local Church Fellowship in the months to come.  Pray that the World around us will more clearly see the image of Christ in us.

Devote Yourself To Prayer

                “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

                                                                                                                                                                Colossians 4:2-6

                A number of years ago I was privileged to hear a seasoned preacher addressing a denominational gathering in which the weighty theme of demonstrating the reality of the Gospel was being considered.  The preacher announced the theme he had been given to consider, then asked those gathered a simple but profound question.  “Do you really mean it?”  In thinking about that question it occurs to me that that must be at the heart of every one of our worship services, or devotional times.  Do we really mean it when we pray seeking God’s will in our lives?  Do we really mean it when we study the Word of God, seeking to trace out God’s revealed purposes for our lives?  Do we really mean it?

                Steven J. Lawson, in The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, wrestles with the seventy resolutions which Edwards penned as a young man.  Lawson quotes these words from the preamble to Edward’s Resolutions.

                “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.  Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.” (Page 157)

                Lawson presents Edwards as a man who really meant it.  He recognised his own weakness, being desperately in need of the Holy Spirit’s help.  He sought that help on a daily basis.  Edwards also recognised that he had a great need for self-control and discipline in his life; therefore he set up a means by which he could engage in a lifelong pursuit of God.  That was his goal, to grow in Godliness.

                These thoughts help us as we approach the command that the Apostle Paul gives to the Colossians in our text today.  When we begin to think about being people who are committed to prayer do we really mean it?  If we do really mean to be a people at prayer what steps are we taking to make sure that it will become a reality among us?  As Paul writes to the Colossians he uses the present tense to tell us that we must be continually engaged in a life of prayer.  It is not a onetime thing; it must be a continuous activity or a habit in our lives. 

                The reason for this is that we are people who are always fallible, desperately in need of the help that the Holy Spirit gives.  The work of living out the Christian life, and engaging in evangelism requires so much of us that it cannot be engaged in successfully apart from the help that God gives us by His grace.  If this was true for the Apostle Paul, and it certainly seems to be from the way he pleads for the prayers of the Church, then it must also be true for us.  We must be people who prayerfully seek an open door for the proclamation of the mystery of Christ.  Even in chains Paul is looking for an open door.  He is asking for boldness to make this gospel clear to his hearers.  Some of them might react violently to Paul’s message but he still must preach it clearly.  Is anything less required of us in these difficult and indifferent days?  The question remains.  Do we really mean it?

Without Reservation

“Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.””

                                                                                                                                                Mark 12:43-44

Derek Thomas tells the following story in order to illustrate the principle of true Christian giving which the Lord Jesus Christ teaches His disciples in Mark 12:41-44.

                “Now the story is told – I have no way of verifying it – a little girl in church, and when the offering plate comes around she puts in her doll, her treasured little doll.  Now this is the doll that she takes to bed with her at night, and gets up in the morning and carries it around under her arm.  It’s her treasure, and she puts it on the offering plate.  And the deacons are touched, and the minister during the course of the week comes round and visits the family and brings the doll with him, and says to the little girl, “I’m giving her back to you.” And the little girl wipes a tear from her eyes and shakes her head and says, “No.”  And when the Pastor asks why, she says, “I didn’t give it to you.  I gave my doll to the Lord.””

                Mark is at the end of chapter 12 describing true saving faith.  It is a faith that arises from a heart that is given completely and unreservedly to the Lord.  The widow brought all that she had to live on.  In her poverty she gave all that she had.  What she was demonstrating was that God had done something in her heart that had resulted in her coming to trust in His provision for her.  What she had did not matter because she believed that to quote the Apostle Paul, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  What was important to her was the extravagant expression of real love to the Lord with all of her heart.  This was the purpose of her life and living.  She had come to understand that the God she worshipped would care for her needs.  His Word had demonstrated this time and again.  The test was in her demonstrating that faith in real life.  Would she bring her treasure, her last two coins, her future, her security, to her Lord and cast it into the Treasury? 

                That is the test for each of us.  What is our treasure?  What are we relying upon today?  We cling to it as if life itself depends upon it?  In this world it often seems as if life itself does depend upon our treasure.  So we cling to it.  We protect it.  We worry about it.  So often after all of that effort it fails us.  Jim Elliott once wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, in order to gain what he cannot lose.”  This is the position we find ourselves in.  We find that to gain an eternal security through faith in the Lord we have to give ourselves without reservation to the Lord.  This requires us to yield up our lives, and all our treasure in trust to Him.  We in fact become living sacrifices.  What we get back is His limitless resources.  He promises to meet our needs.  This truly becomes for us a narrow road of faith.  On that road however there is great and eternal blessing.  God is fitting us not for this world, but for the one to come.  He is remaking us into people who are truly holy, not with that which we have created for ourselves, but with that which He has created within us through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  All we need to is give ourselves without reservation to our Lord.  Will you?