Archive for December 13th, 2011
Christians are divided over issues concerning the Christmas tree. Many regard the tree as part of a pagan celebration and not Christian.
Some Christians also claim that Jeremiah 10: 1-10 speaks against the Christmas tree? But I doubt that the text is speaking of anything like that, for the context of Jeremiah’s passage speaks more against the idol worship that then existed and cannot rightly be connected to a mere celebration of Christmas which did not begin until many centuries later.
There is a 16th or a 17th century claim made by the early Lutheran church that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther was the first one to come up with the idea of having a Christmas tree in the home.
The story goes like this; Luther was one day in the woods and he saw the trees amongst the snow and thought it would be a good idea to cut down a tree and put candles on it to remind people of Christ’s birth?
The story itself has no actual historical evidence to support it, but really, I don’t see what evidence a person can find for such a claim. What would it matter anyway?
I think what I personally see from the Christmas tree is a reminder of Christ, who is the light of the world, crucified on a tree (1 Peter 2: 24) and that all His people who are crucified with Him and have died to self and are the light of the world (Matthew 5: 14)
That is what I see when I look at the Christmas tree, just a simple reminder of what Christians should be and a simple reminder of Christ who died for us.
Earlier this year we read about one of the most important finds since the Dead Sea Scrolls and in Christian history, this find is said to have been discovered in Israel. 70 ancient Christian books written on metal and bound with wire are said to contain some outstanding writings and images concerning Jesus Christ, The Messiah, including an image of may be the earliest image of Christ, and of a T shaped cross, and an empty tomb and a crucifixion which took place outside the city walls of ancient Jerusalem.
If these books are authentic, then we are looking at what may well be the earliest works from the time of the apostles.
We are still awaiting updates for this account, but let us see what 2012 brings?
Click the link to find out more:
Before we commence I think we should go back to the gospel of Matthew, because there is a passage of scripture there which is so relevant to the Acts. The passage is Matthew 16: 13-29. This was a private conversation that Christ had with His disciples and we are privileged to share it for it concerned Himself and it took place in Caesarea in Philippi on the far north border of the land of Canaan. So there would be less people flocking after Him, it would be quieter. He enquires what the opinion of others were concerning Him? Whom do men say that I, the son of man am? It is worth looking at to note why He called Himself the son of man, others called Him the son of God (Luke 1: 35). But He called Himself the son of man, for He was truly man born of a women. He is made known in Daniel’s vision concerning Christ as the son of man (Daniel 7: 13). In verse 14 of Matthew 16, the disciples answers were not their own, for they said what they heard other people say up and down the country. Jesus wanted to know their thoughts, but whom do you say that I am? It was vital that they knew the truth themselves. It is also a question we should always ask ourselves. Who do we say what kind of Christ the Lord Jesus is? Is He the fairest of 10,000 to our souls? Is it well or wrong with us how are thoughts are concerning Christ? In verse 16 Peter answers this question, but whom do you say that I am? Peters answer is short, but it is full and true and to the point. What was his answer, more than this is a confession of a true Christian answer. Faith addressed to Christ, the living son of the living God. The answer becomes an act of worship, an act of devotion. To other people He was a prophet, the disciples owned Him to be the Messiah, the anointed one. In verse 17 Christ shows He is well pleased with Peters reply or conclusion, he has the happiness of the blessed. Blessed art thou Simon Bar Jonas, Bar meant “Son of Jonas, his father, which meant “Dove”. So He reminds him of his origin. His obscurity Bar Jonas now he is elevated, you could say Bar Christ, the child of a King. Then He gives the glory for Peters reply to God, “For flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but my father which is in heaven”. Note the Christian faith is revealed faith. The revelation comes from heaven, through the Holy Spirit. Saving grace is the gift of our God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And blessed are we when our father, Christ’s father reveals truth to us. We have verse 19 which is a vital one concerning the Church. How do you see this verse? I say unto you authority from God, it is His Church, all judgement is given to Him. All the churches power comes from Him, the builder and maker of the Church. He will build it up with living stones. Peter himself says this in 1 Peter 2: 5-6, Christ is the foundation. Peter Did in fact lay the 1st stone of the Church but the foundation is everlasting, so it can only be Christ. When Christ first called Peter, He gave Him the name Cephas, which means stone or rock. This rock, pointed to Himself, placed His hand upon His breast, as He did in John 2: 19, destroy this temple, the temple of the body and I will rebuild it in three days. We are the body 1 Corinthians 3: 2. The apostles had the authority and the keys to bind and loose, the keys to shut and open. The keys are the gospel itself and the authority which Christ gave them as ministers of His gospel. They had authority to allow certain things and forbid and it was all revealed to them by our father in heaven.
1938 – 1999
THE UNCLEAN SPIRIT
Matthew 12: 43-45
It is possible for an unclean spirit to go out of a man. A moral cleaning up can take place, a person can be influenced by different company. A strong influence from a Christian church can bring about a radical change. But without any real Salvation or Regeneration the result is not lasting, for there is no keeping power. The unclean spirit returns and the man is worse afterwards. Only Christ received as Lord and saviour and the Holy Spirit indwelling the heart can affect a permanent change.
APPOINTED LEADERSHIP “That you should set in order things that are lacking” (Titus 1: 5)
Paul knew he was appointed of the Lord to evangelise the Gentiles. He knew that the new fellowships were without a fixed God ordered ministry. He left Titus to set this in order for the perfecting and edifying of the body. There is an urgency to his letters to Timothy and Titus to set leadership structures, yet he also knew that as his appointment was of Christ, all things must be wrought by Him. Nothing of man could enter. An evangelist cannot and must not do anything other than by appointment from Christ. In 1 Timothy 5: 22, Paul offers a warning against hasty decisions “Do not hastily lay hands on anyone, for you can make yourself a partaker of there men’s sins”. Even though burdens for the fellowship can be an urgent matter in our minds, we must search and pray. Some men are humbled, brought to repentance, open, others are opposite, secretive, hard-hearted. Paul’s answer to this is patience, purity, righteousness, faith, love and gentleness (1 Timothy 6: 11). In 1 Timothy 5: 22, Paul writes concerning the ordination of Elders. But, do not rashly lay hands on men and ordain them into the ministry, because you can make yourselves partakers in other men’s sins. Some men’s sins are obvious, others are not. Search and pray concerning men’s character. There are secret and open sin’s. Some are humbled, brought to repentance, others are opposite, therefore discernment is necessary. A Church without a fixed and standing ministry is imperfect and wanting. It seems that when numbers reached a certain level, Paul felt leadership must be set for the perfecting and edifying of the body. All things concerning this must be wrought by Christ and His chief minister. Human traditions cannot enter. I’ve often puzzled over Paul’s statements, IE, we are partakers of the divine nature of God, yet we can still be partakers of the table of demons, and other men’s sins. Seek the favour of the Lord at communion and at the time of the laying on of hands. For a minister or an evangelist cannot and must not do anything other than by appointment from Christ, for only He will make the path clear.
Jerusalem itself is 2,500 feet above the level of the Mediterranean Sea on the East, the land falls away down to the dead Sea and the valley of the Jordan, which is 1300 feet below Sea level. When Jesus walked from Jericho, which lies in the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem, He toiled up rugged mountain paths, a climb of 3,800 feet. Galilee is 680ft below Sea level: 12 miles long and surrounded by hills with the snow capped Mt Hermon seen away to the North, where the mountains of Lebanon reach heights of 10,000 feet. The Jordan rises in these mountains and is a fast flowing mountain river in many places. We visualise the land of Israel as one of mountains and valleys, steep climbs and deserts, road less tracks, rough country. The land of Israel is surrounded to the west, the Great Sea, the North Mountains, the East vast deserts and the south desert wilderness. When we think of these things they can help us to remember the Exodus and the 40 years the children of Israel spent in the wilderness.
CITIES OF REFUGE
“Here have we no continuing City, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13: 14)
God teaches that men ought not to suffer for that which is rather through unhappiness rather than their crimes. In Deuteronomy 20: 4-7 God was also teaching love by banishing the man slayer from His own City and confining him to the City of refuge. To have fear and dread of the guilt of the blood. Christ is our refuge and wherever we are, He is a refuge at hand, a very present help in times of trouble.
The way the cities of refuge were situated tell us the man slayer would never be half a day from a refuge. In Christ we’re just a prayer away. The man slayer was safe in any of these Cities. Believers who flees to Christ are protected from the wrath of God and the curse of the Lord. Romans 8: 1 tells us there is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. A person of any nationality could find refuge in any of the Levite Cities. In Christ there is no difference. He is able to save to uttermost and all who come to Him. Even in the outer suburbs of the Cities, the offenders were safe. Even in the hem of Christ’s garment, there is healing and sinners are made whole.
“Never forget your election”
Faith should be ambitious, for the Lord desires His people to enjoy all the spiritual blessings that are In Christ for us. But, faith must also be active and go on to posses the blessings. Be strong, be men of valour, overcome the enemy and triumph over difficulties. It is then that faith enters into a blessing. These are the untold riches in Christ, all spiritual blessings, all things are ours, then let us not rest satisfied until we enter into the fullness of the blessing of Christ. Till we are enriched in Him as we may and should be filled full, complete in Him. The blessing of the Lord is an argument for us to go onto greater things. The larger the cup the more is needed to fill it. God has blessed us hitherto, then He will bless us ever more. Our position in Christ includes Mountain wood and Valley. All things are ours in Christ. The wood should be cut down to get to the mountain. All things are yours and you are Christ’s. Blessings from the Lord are an argument for us to go on to greater things. The larger the cup, the more is needed to fill it. We are viewed in Christ a greater people spiritually. We must show ourselves great in Him, in strength, courage and faith. Remove obstacles, take the mountains, and cut down the wood. Enter the promise land and posses the blessing. The idea that Christ can be received as saviour without being Lord is false. He does not save rebels, there must be submission and true repentance towards God before there can be Salvation. God has set His King on His holy hill, Zion “lest He be angry and you perish”. Paul sought the prayers of the saints and he avoided excellency of speech and enticing words of men’s wisdom. He desired the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. The wisdom from above was first pure, no frivolity, trifling, joking, foolish stories to make us laugh. The bridge across the impassable Gulf that separates the sinner from the saviour has been removed by the one who pardons that He purifies, who saves that He may Sanctify. Remove either of these two and the bridge falls. Preserve them in strength and Salvation comes.
“Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel. To all who were carried away captive, who I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jeremiah 29: 4)
The assurance and comfort is from the Lord of hosts and He is able to deliver us from captivity. The God of Israel tells us He is still in covenant with His people, so be on guard against anybody and anything that brings disturbance. “Build yourselves houses and dwell in them”. Hope of a return from captivity to freedom, from disturbance to peace, carry on as best you can, resolve to make the best out of the reality that we have and not get disturbed, because we have not all that we would like to have. If the earth is the Lords, then wherever a child of God goes, he does not go off his fathers land. Seek the peace of the City were I have caused you to be carried away captive. Pray for our Church, our City, promote it, proclaim Gods greatness in it. Do not plot or plan to shake off the yoke of captivity. Live Godly lives, peaceable under Him. Be honest and patient, waiting for God in His time to work His plan. Live in peace and you will find peace. Do not let people who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you came to be dreamed. Dreams of our own making, which we have desired. Avoid smooth nice prophecies, that are not totally honest with God and ourselves. 70 years is a long period time (Jeremiah 29: 10). The return to the place where He wants us will not be quick. Even though we are dispersed, some in one place, some in another, we will be brought together in one body. All His thoughts are working towards this end product. When things are working their worst, then they begin to mend. “He will give us the hope, the end of our captivity that we desire in Him. Not the expectations of our own dreams or our fancies, but the expectation of our faith, and the expression of our prayers
When deliverance is coming, we must go forward and meet it in prayer. God has said it, and we can depend upon it. The substance of Jesus’ words are rock. It is not enough to base our foundation on Him, we must also build our Christian character in Him. The house must be well built, for within we fail. Self interest takes place instead of self-renunciation, worldly interests take place of worldly renunciation. Simple character flaws like refusing to admit when we are wrong are a stumbling block to unity. Where self interest lies behind our thinking, our decisions our motive or motivation. Then Christ is pushed to the back, we fall when an issue comes along which needs careful thought and considerate discussion. And we either dismiss it, sweep it under the carpet or get annoyed. We fall, our house of Christian character which has its foundation on Christ is sadly built on sand. Some of the qualities which we regard as rock are in the reality of the gospels, sand. We live in unreality, we say but do not do and so we fall.
Christ in you is the hope of glory not self. We are divided at the centre of our thinking. We look at people, their position in the Church setting and their status outside. We look at what they own, their possessions and their academic achievements. We look with worldly eyes and hope to see the spiritual qualities. Jesus looked at the person and He would simplify them to make them great. God chooses the least, for he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he, and there is none greater than John the Baptist, except he who is least. Who is the least? Who do you or I know who Jesus sees as the least in our fellowship? When did we look at a person with the eyes of Christ and realise that this girl or boy, man or woman is pleasurable to the Lord? Do you know anyone who us In Christ? Someone you want to share fellowship with, spend time with, talk to, listen to what he or she has to say. Take notice, eagerly look forward to seeing again. Who do you or I know who makes us feel good, uplifted and encouraged like Paul at the place of the three Taverns when the Christians from Rome met him? His spirit lifted (Acts 28: 15).
We are divided at the centre of our thinking and a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are the house, if we say we have Christ in us the our character should be like His. We talk of the wonder of the cross, but do our lives resemble in any way the life of the man on the cross/ We need a fresh vision of the Christ of Calvary. We need to get back to basics and be single minded in our thoughts. We need to look again at our Salvation. Have we really accepted the gift in repentance and faith? I personally have not heard a testimony to this in years. How can an unregenerate person go on with God? Is this a new doctrine? Certainly it is not. The apostles doctrine which the early Church continued in, the work of Sanctification or holiness is by nothing else but the blood of Christ. Calvary again. The glorious light, which the Church in all its wisdom has somehow managed to dim, not put out. Never. Light is the over comer of darkness. Justification, sanctified, glorification, this is therefore the threefold wonder of the cross, a full Salvation.
We are held captive by self, self renunciation is something we may talk about now and again, but do not practice. Self rule is rebellion against the cross. It is disobedience against the person of the Holy Spirit. We are going nowhere, our purpose as a fellowship is not controlled by Christ. We desire many things, but nothing supremely. We are inwardly at conflict with ourselves and so the way forward is neutralised, cancelled out by the conflict within. We have no controlling purpose within, our eyes are not single, they are cataracted and the light that is in us sometimes turns to darkness. The fatal twist, we ignore the warning signs, we are divided at the centre of our thinking. Our criticisms are directed at the other person, not ourselves.
“I John saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21: 2)
John saw a vision of a City without a Church building as his ideal of heavenly life. The one place in the world from which heaven seems most far away. The City where the life of man is at most, intense. The focal point of countries unrest, where pressures are the greatest, a great mass of human need spilling out from the broken homes, broken relationships. Without the relationships of man, one with another, with master and servant, husband and wife, buyer and seller, creditor and debtor, there is no Christianity. Without reality in our lives, we are not living the life of Christ in us. He came down from His throne to share the heavenly life with fallen man in the home. The School, the market place, with all the corruption, intensity of life, work wages, pressures, poverty, addiction, the traffic, the noise, sin and an abundance of all things bad.
A NEW CITY, A HOLY CITY
Wherever real life is there Christ is. Not only of the great need, but because there is the raw material there with which Christianity works. The life of man to do something with this, to save scrutiny, the actual working life in the City. “I have come that you might have life, life in all it’s abundance”. Christ’s gift to man is abundant life and life is to be lived. The abundant life doesn’t show itself in abundant dreaming, but in abundant living for him amongst real and tangible things. To actual and practicable purposes. “His servants shall serve Him; as citizens of the new City”. A City where light overcomes the darkness, a City that is good for it’s citizens to live in. A new City. “Behold I make all things new” (Revelation 21: 5). Surely we must take on full responsibility for the burdens and cares of our City. Surely the Lords prayer would be answered in this way? Justification for the world, the founding of a City which shall be in visual reality, A City of God.
One City anywhere on earth whose citizens from the loftiest to the least lived in the spirit of Christ. Where religion overflowed from the Churches onto the streets. Inundating the home, the school, the workshops, putting the salt into the very centre of the social and commercial life of that City. Such acts would seal for that City it’s redemption. Surely such a City was what John saw in his vision? Whatever reference we see and make of a world to come in heavenly realm, are we not justified to seek the scene on our present world? John had been burdened for long years, he agonised and prayed for his City which had been ravaged by greed and corruption. Raped by invasions and wars for centuries. When he saw his City descending out of heaven, it was not something he had not seen before. But a City he knew; JERUSALEM. A New Jerusalem, A Holy City. We see this as heavenly or a ideal of heaven yet why not take it simply as it stands and put the natural force back into the expression? Just supposing John had lived today in maybe Paris, Rome, Berlin, London or Manchester, New York or Melbourne. I saw a Holy City, a New…..
I would that all Gods people were Prophets. John’s vision was to see a City he knew and to see it as God saw it, as God would have it. A Holy City, Renewed, Reformed, Redeemed, risen from the ruins of the old City. Building for God never ceases, the sun never sets on some city anywhere in the land without some stone of the invisible City laid. God’s word has been spoken by some Christians to the lost, some seed will have been sown, hearts touched and reached by Jesus. Salt and light permeating through the busy streets. To believe this is Faith. To live for this is Christianity in practical action. John knew Christ was the light and he saw the vision, a City that would give up its darkness, where light overcomes the darkness.
Let us travel back in our minds to Ephesus, the famous City at Asia Minor (Turkey) in the time of John (The apostle). The same John who rested his head on Jesus’ shoulder at the last supper. A young John living in the love of Christ. He was known as the disciple of love. 3 years earlier Jesus called him and his brother James, “follow me”. Two pretty wild boisterous lads who were known as the sons of thunder, changed by the love of Jesus. He even loves the unlovable. We find it very hard to love some people, don’t we? Some people we try to steer clear of don’t we? And anyway we are just men and women with all our failings, all our weaknesses, just the same as Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Elisha, King David, John, Peter, Paul, William Booth, Wesley, Moody, you, me. What do we say today? “Be strong and of good courage” we will take the City of Jericho, God is with us. We can enter the promise land that God promised us. Caged wild beasts, God can shut their mouths. Create in me a new clean heart, and a right spirit. Testify we unto you God is light. And in Him dwells no darkness. Grass dies, but the word of the Lord endures forever. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. God shall have all there is of William Booth 70 years later, old, frail, nearly blind, pleading, “repent, come into the Kingdom of heaven” Lo, the kingdom of heaven is not here or there, it is within you. Jesus of Nazareth said that (Luke 17: 21). But John under his ministry at Ephesus was under troubled times, when the leaders of the early Church in Jerusalem sought to keep their links with Judaism. They desired to keep Christianity Jewish, but many began to reach out at Antioch to the Gentiles, amalgamated and consolidated to Christianity as it should be today at Ephesus. During John’s ministry there a certain other Apostle visited a few times to I’m sure he also had something to do with it. It was a wealthy City, a centre for commerce, sea- port, multinational, people from all over the world traded there. It was essentially great with a strong Hellenistic culture. A busting busy City, with many attractions and as is usual for such a good place, not all the attractions were good. Corruption was rife, villains made a good profit there, they even had a sanctuary, “the right of asylum”. A temple, place of worship built to the glory of a grotesque goddess, Artemis. The scene of the most sordid tales. The theatre of the most glaring sins. It was a beautiful building, in a beautiful City. A roof of cedar wood, columns of jasper, marble pillars, doors of Cypress wood. A magnificently crafted Alter, with a Velvet curtain behind “sound familiar?” But behind the curtain was a darkened room. In it the Horrendous most sacred idol of the heathen’s “Artemis” who was said to be an angel fallen from heaven. Love goddess of Asia Minor. Behind the dark monument to sin, was the securest and wealthiest bank in the western world. Claimed to be under divine protection. The religious gathering held there were frenzied orgies of self-indulgence and self gratification. In spite of it’s great beauty and almost perfect setting, Ephesus was a place of great darkness, abundance of evil, corruption, sin set high on a hill. At night it seemed to be lit up. “A City that could not be hid” Evil cannot be hidden, corruption cannot be covered. Sin cannot be glossed over, it has to be cleaned. John had a vision of a new City, A New Jerusalem. He proclaimed Christ and the same can be said of any City of any country on this planet. What is said of the New Jerusalem. That the Lamb is the light thereof. John saw in his vision a City giving up its darkness room by room, home by home, street by street, district by district. It would be changed from within. Abominations, lies, deceit would disappear. Sin, pain, anguish and sorrow would silently pass away. One day the walls would be jasper, the streets paved with gold, in the middle of the City there would stand a tree of life and its leaves would go forth for the healing of the City.
Survey your home, your street, your district, your town, your City, work hard for the Kingdom. When a Prophet tells of things to come, the coming event is not just brought about by some unrelated cause or sudden shock, but rather by a natural course of the planets unfolding drama. The supreme players in this drama are God’s people and be sure of this, that down to the least and pettiest detail of all that concerns a better world, concerns Christ. God’s judgement fell on Cain and the place where he lived because of lies, murder, Cain went out from the presence of the Lord to the land of Nod, East of Eden (Genesis 4: 16-17). And he built a City there and he called it after the name of his son. But God’s judgements had fallen and he appointed another seed to replace Abel who was slain. Right from the beginning, men knew the terror of the wrath of God and they did something about it. They began to call on the name of the Lord.
God’s judgement can and will come. We are living in a time of grace and for some reason He is holding back His judgement and granting us His favour. His love is as great as His judgements are terrible. “Room and time now give to Jesus, soon will pass God’s day of grace” because of grace His nature poured into man, we have this time. I have a plea to make, and I make it as a serious and practical proposal. Outside of these walls is our City, what can we do for it? What did Jesus do? For He prayed over it the He wept over it, then He died for it. John had a vision, a New City, a New Manchester and the Lamb was the light thereof. “Behold I make all things new” (Revelation 21: 5). One of the Churches main functions is to help man come in, to receive meat, to worship Him together as we and then to go out strengthened to bring about change. If I were to build a new City, the 1st foundation stone I would lay would be that of a Church. And for the 1st sermon preached there I would choose the text “I saw no temple therein” (Revelation 21: 22). So often it happens that when Christians break with Church, they break with Christianity. The reverse should be the truth, the essential Christian life should be lived to the full in Christ. Abundant life is given for abundant living. We can change our City for Him, because He changes us to change things for Him for His glory. Make your home a lovely place to be in, bright, comfortable and homely. For Christians are citizens of Heaven.
It has been written and spoken by many great leaders, both political and military, “that an army is only as good as its leader”. There are many examples of success and failure in both these fields which substantiate this claim fully. Field Marshall Rommel is just one, under his command the German Panzer divisions were invincible, they swept along a powerful war machine destroying all in its path. Victory followed victory. Rommel, a gentleman, a noble human being, a great leader stood supreme; he had no enemy who was wily enough, cunning enough, determined and courageous enough to take him on and defeat him, until circumstance in a time of crisis produced as times like these often do, A saviour. A great leader, in this instance the man for this time was Montgomery. The rest of this story is history, their heroic exploits are past, all that remain are memories, memories which are periodically stirred to encourage and uplift, to receive past glories, as the present day leaders battle from one momentary crisis to another.
Since the beginning of time, armies have risen, have marched to victory, kingdoms have been won, empires built, none have stood the test of time. All have fallen. 1,982 years ago a man stood in a small synagogue in a small town, in a small insignificant corner of the Roman Empire. His audience was a small group of mainly devout Jews, who stood oppressed under the rule of Roman Tyranny and weighed down by laws as laid down by Moses, a law for which they had not the equipment to keep. The man who stood before them was not a stranger, indeed they had known Him for some 30 years. This was not in His favour, as we shall see. Familiarity as is often the case today, breeds undeserved and unwarranted contempt from people who live above this odious defilement of their character. It was not the first words which the man spoke which were to bring great offence to His hearers, for He did no more than to take the book of the Prophet “Isaiah” handed down to Him by a minister, upon the book and quote. “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”. (Luke 4: 18-19)
These words caused no offence, the Prophet Isaiah was honoured, was accepted as a man of God, but by this time the Jews had forgotten how their forefathers had persecuted him (Isaiah). There was an air of expectancy in the Synagogue now, all eyes were fastened on the man as He sat down, looked at them intently and declared in a short sentence, a statement which was to render them awe-struck, with clarity and simple deliberateness he spoke. “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” . He declared he was divine and this was the great offence. They were astounded and amazed. Silence in the Synagogue, thoughts would have been racing through the minds of the Elders. The prophecy of Malachi the last of the Old Testament prophets concerning the coming of the Messiah would be a prominent one. “Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me” . Who is the strange wild man in the wilderness named John? A messenger perhaps? A Messiah? No never. They had preconceived ideas how their Messiah would appear and surely after waiting for 400 years the event would have been more dramatic than this? A wild man and then a Carpenters son, God would do better than this. They tried to dismiss the possibilities of truth from their minds, their frustrations were turning to anger and spite. They began to mutter and accuse, condemn. I have seen this type of scene take place in Churches all to often, even today. The young man stood quietly watching and listening, then He spoke again. “In truth I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his own country” . Their anger boiled over, they pushed Him out of the synagogue out of the City to a cliff. They would have pushed Him off but in a miraculous way He walked unharmed away from them. For, one sentence spoken by Jesus of Nazareth, so-called holy men were ready to break one of God’s sacred commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” said God’s word. Throw Him over the edge of the cliff said God’s unfaithful people of Nazareth. With this event God’s intention was declared, it shows clearly where the battle is to be won, and where it is so often lost. It is to be lost by mans own inability to overcome his own weak nature. It is to be won when man recognises this inability and subjects himself to the sovereign will of the Lord Jesus Christ and allow Him to win the victory. This battle between the inner division of mans nature is to go on till the end of time. It has been won by few and sadly it is lost daily by millions of sincere believers. The Christian life is not just a never-ending list of well meaning religious exercises of going through the motions. It is death and resurrection.
I will quote a saying of Jesus that clearly illustrates how this battle is to be won and lost. It is the key to success of Christian living. This saying is often quoted but is all to often unheard and unheeded. Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” . The secret of successful Christian living is not in much doing, but in dying, “dying to self”. Dr Martin Luther puts it this way. “One day he answered a knock at his door to see a man standing there. The man asked, does Dr Martin Luther live here? No! Answered Luther, he died, Christ lives here now” . We have the outline of the course the battle is to take. We the Christians have as our leader, Jesus of Nazareth, a man who’s person and teachings I will attempt to enlarge on later, but who has without doubt by His life on earth shown us, who would be His followers by His example. How the meek can inherit the earth. How defeat can be turned into victory. How the man who is asked to go one mile can go two. How we can turn the other cheek. How we can live in peace when all around us are warring and falling. The world has as its leader, the devil or Satan, a formidable adversary.
THE DEVILS PLAN FOR VICTORY
Satan is a formidable foe. After Christ’s victory over him in the dessert, he went away, licked his wounds and then planned his next campaign. He decided that he would rule over mans sinful nature, he knew that no mortal man had the power to resist his evil temptations. He knew that all would in time be dragged down, caught in his web of corruption, vileness, enviousness, greed and all the other characteristics of mans lower nature. For he would disguise them, he would deceive man into thinking that badness was good, that brutality and bullying was strength instead of weakness. That physical beauty was a weapon that could be used to lure men and women to the gates of hell, instead of a gift to be cherished and preserved. It wouldn’t be difficult, vanity is a trap which people throughout time have all easily fallen into. Isn’t it odd that even the most attractive of people who are filled with vanity, appear to the pure minded how they really are, UGLY. Beauty said Jesus is shown through the windows of your soul. Beauty says Satan is skin deep. This then in context would be Satan’s battle plan, he would appeal to mans lower nature, he would create a division in their hearts. A division that would stand between them and the good that this man Jesus was to present to them. He would deceive them and then destroy them. Such was his deceit that the final irony would be that the blame for all this human misery that was to follow, would not be laid at his door but would instead be bore by those he had deceived. It would be a kind of self-destruction the magnitude of which the mind cannot comprehend. Countless millions upon millions upon millions would be the final death toll.
Let it never be far from your mind that your greatest enemy is yourself. This is a warning that must never go unheeded.
The world of 1982 is a sorry state, because its people have followed like Lambs to the slaughter, Satan’s battle plan. The vast majority of its people are being engulfed by a great tidal wave of sin that is daily being swelled by more sin. It comes in the form basically of three things.
1. Love of self.
The Christian Church offers little or no resistance to their mass bombardment of rottenness. And its ineffectiveness to deal with it is due mainly to the feet that the Church “Its leaders” and its body of believers have lost sight of the main emphasis of the teachings of its commanding General . This army is losing battles daily because its subalterns and solders think they know more than its leader. The empire is falling but it will not fall .
To find this emphasis that is ignored we must go back to its rise to Galilee. Jesus has now gathered around Him His 12 disciples. Simon and Andrew. James and John, the sons of thunder. Philip, Bartholomew. Levi called Matthew, the tax collector. James the son of Alphaous. Thaddeous, Simon the Cannanite and Judas Iscariot, the traitor. It is doubtful whether any of these twelve men would today be accepted in today’s organised “state” churches. They were for the most part uneducated and rough, with none of the qualities required by today’s standards, yet Jesus saw in them qualities that would make them spiritual giants. Through His dealings with them and their responses to His challenges and His commands, it is clear to see why He chose them. For they epitomised those who would follow their successes and failures are ours. Their ultimate victory could be ours, for through all the trials and tribulations they faced, there’s with the exception of one, was a tremendous experience of Jesus the man and Jesus the risen Lord.
Jesus as He often would do, sits on a hillside and enters into a discourse with the twelve. As He looks at them He is motivated by love, He knows what ties ahead. He knows that the same human failings that are theirs will be ours today. And so He patiently and tenderly lays before them and us, the goal to Christian victory and it is here where the main emphasis of His and that of the Churches teachings differ. The modern day thought concerning this goal is heaven, and I would not disagree with that. This is a perfect truth, but it is the form of this heavenly goal where we have to be careful that our thoughts and our desires are directed. If heaven, the place where we will go to at the end of our earthly lives is our desire and our aim, then our direction is amiss. Heaven is a place where true believers will live in glory one day, heaven will be open to all those who truly believe. Yet heaven as the goal of Christian living spoken of in this way, speaks of a reward based morality that does not exist in the gospels. Before heaven can become a place, it must first become a “state of mind”. Jesus came not to get man into heaven, but to get heaven into man. The kingdom of heaven is not here or there said Jesus it is within you . This is the secret of the kingdom of heaven, it is Christ in you.
I was speaking to a man a few years ago concerning spiritual matters and after some thought he said to me, if what you are saying is not true, then it does not matter. If what you are saying is true, then nothing else does. Without probably realising it he had put his finger on the most vital of aspects concerning the gospel of Christ. The earnestness of the message, it is often seriously undermined by Christians today. Let no one be in doubt as to the seriousness of this timeless and never ending conflict of mind and soul. A Surgeon can spend twelve or even more hours in a dedicated attempt to save a person’s earthly life. Christians can stand bye idly when all around them, people are rushing hell bent on eternal damnation, without so much as raising their voices in protest at this outrage which is an offence against the very nature of the Christ they profess to follow.
A Lawyer seeking to tempt Jesus into giving a wrong answer and in doing so go against the Law asked Him this question. Master which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus answered saying, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all they mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two hang all the Law and the Prophets . Love is without question the most vital aspect of the gospel of Christ. The very reason for its being. Love for the souls of men is the very heart of Jesus.
Queen Victoria in an audience with William Booth asked him, “what is your passion in life? And he replied, some men’s passion is for wealth, some for fame, my passion is for the souls of men”. In this he echoed the thoughts of his master. Souls won for the kingdom here on earth. More souls to dedicate themselves as followers of Christ and to carry on the battle against sin, the hold of Satan on this world. Sin the enemy of Christ my Lord. It is hard to believe that against all the violent outpourings of hate, Satan through sin would unleash deception on a sick and willing world. Jesus offers as the antidote, love, gentle yet all consuming, strong, so it would not flinch in the face of all adversity. Love is a word openly defiled and abused today by the devil through the media. Love in the way Christ used the word, and which is the only interpretation of it we must accept is often misunderstood and misused by believers also. A very good preacher I was listening to one evening was speaking on this theme and he he very clearly made this point. That whatever wrong we do, whatever wrong word we say, must not have the affect of making us spiritually low. For this reason, that Jesus loves us anyway, no matter what a loss of temper on act committed in anger. These are all acts which grieve the Holy Spirit. But don’t be despondent, Jesus loves us anyway. This is true, this is gospel. He was seeking to encourage, to draw people closer into Christ’s loving embrace. I have known some Christians who for years stayed on some spiritual plain, always carrying a burden of guilt around with them for the continual wrong doing. “I’ve let the Lord down again today” was a regular testimony. “But I really love Him”, they would say. I am sure they were sincere in their love. But what was lacking was the desire and direction of that love. Jesus does love us whatever our faults, but it is only when we love Him in return with all our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our souls. It is only when we daily apply this commandment that we grow closer to Him. For we are pleasing Him with our lives, old things begin to pass away. A new heart is created within. We no longer strive for worldly acclaim but begin to hunger and thirst after His righteousness, a desire to please Him takes the place of the previous desire to sin. Spiritual growth takes the place of stagnation. It is not enough to be saved that is only the beginning of our walk with the master. This does not mean that Jesus does not do a thorough job of Salvation, He does. All our sins are forgiven every one of them, He does not leave any un-forgiven. Jesus is the flower of heaven. He is the most beautiful person to ever walk on this earth or any other. He now sits on the right hand of The Father in heavenly glory and majesty. As He looks down on sinful man, love flows from Him and He says you can share my life, this is an offer open to all. It is a gift of God.
To catch the full meaning of this most glorious off offers, we must remember that there are five kingdoms representing five stages of life. The lowest is the mineral kingdom. Above that is the plant kingdom. Then the animal kingdom. Above that the kingdom of man and above all is the kingdom of God. We stand between two kingdoms. The kingdom of the animals below us, and the kingdom of God above us. The kingdom of the animals stands for a vast selfishness, war sounds through it. It is red with tooth and claw. It stands for the survival of the fittest, for self against the rest. The kingdom of God above us stands for something completely different. It stands not for self against the rest, but self for the sake of the rest, not for the survival of the fittest. But the revival of the unfit. Not for strife but for harmony and peace. Now life for us may be born from above or born from below. We may be controlled by the selfishness of the lower nature or controlled by the unselfish love of the higher kingdom.
How then may we pass from the level of unregenerate humanity to the higher level of life? To find out let us go down to the lowest kingdom, the mineral kingdom, and see how it is possible to pass from that to the plant kingdom above. Imagine a Lotus flower in its white purity. On the surface of the lake below it is foul polluted mud. There is a great gulf between them. But the mud having seen something higher longs to rise and share this higher life. But it cannot will itself there, nor will education about the higher life suffice. It does not need informing but transforming. How then is it to do it? The way up is the way down. The Lotus flower comes down and mingles with the foul mud, and says to it “would you share my life? Then do two things. Renounce your old life of being mud and surrender your life to my life”. The mud does these two things and it is lifted up above itself and the old life. It finds itself a new life and it begins to bloom in the beauty of the Lotus flower. It was born from above, except the mineral kingdom is born from above it cannot enter the kingdom of the plant.
Man finds himself in the same alternative. He cannot lift himself into the kingdom of God no matter how hard he strives. Obviously it is not enough to be educated about higher life, the world already knows much about Jesus, we need not only to know Him but to choose Him. Again the way up is the way down. God takes this way, Jesus is the Lotus flower of heaven, and He comes down and mingles amid our foul unclean world and He says to us two things. Renounce your old ways and surrender your life to my life, and when we do, if we do? We are taken hold of by a power that is not our own in-dwelt by life. Not our own transformed and transfigured. We find ourselves sharing a New Kingdom and we are born from above. A miracle takes place.
Jesus in that memorial hour with Nicodemus said, unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God . There are many people in Churches today who know of Jesus, but have sadly not chosen Him. Indeed there are many ministers who know even more of Jesus and even more sadly, have not chosen Him, they have chosen a job. A vocation, a different way of life, but not a new one. Once this new birth has taken place and spiritual growth is evident, Satan employs himself in our direction with even greater assertion, using basically the three pronged attack i previously mentioned.
Materialism or the gathering together of materialistic objects, has long been an issue of divided opinion amongst Christian circles. To be able to live a spiritual life in the midst of a material environment has been and still is a perpetual problem of religion. We alternate between the ascetic and the worldly or the compromise and build up a vast amount of unreality around religion. On this point the struggle for material goods, exerts an immense influence upon and controls people, an indescribable amount of pretence and hypocrisy accompanies the spiritual movement. What perplexes most followers of Christ is that he seems to take an impossible position toward the material. “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” . This sounds so sweeping that it would render the keeping of anything other than the needs of the day. As unchristian it would make it unchristian for an individual to keep a bank account to prepare for old age, it seems so impossible that most Christians simply shrug their shoulders, pay lip service to it, and then proceed to live on business policies instead of Christian principles. But Jesus did not say, lay not up treasure on earth, what He did say was “lay not up treasures for yourselves on earth”. The phrase “for yourselves” is the key to the solution of the problem of the Christians attitude to the material. The prohibition is not against laying up treasure, but against laying up treasure for yourself. Fundamentally, the true Christian does not own anything, not even himself. Everything he has in the material sense should be used to make him more spiritually fit for the kingdom. He should use the material as a sculptor would use the chisel. Not as an end in itself but as a means towards the end of a perfect statue.
The Christian has but one test regarding the material. Is this for myself? Or can I use it for the glory of God? The moment he finds he is laying up treasure for himself, he finds that there is a selfish aim running through his reason for acquiring it. He must let it go or lose his Christian character. If he finds or she finds that they are wanting the material to gain power or prominence to show off, to keep up with the Jones, to satisfy a love of display, to lay up treasure without relationship to its use for the purposes of the kingdom of God. He must renounce it, or renounce Christ. It is that important. We must always remember that every Christian is commanded to spread the news hat Christ came to seek out and save the lost. In short, be a soul winner. He or she cannot do that unless he or she is spiritually fit. No man can serve two masters . When a Christian holds up everything he owns before Christ, and says “these are for thy use” then he is taking earthly treasure and transforming it into a spiritual agent. The teaching that a Christian should give one tenth of his money to God and then be free to use the other nine tenths for himself is an utterly dangerous one. They may be simply buying off their conscience with one tenth and then wallowing in complete selfishness with the other nine. Doctors tell us that cancer cells are cells that have turned selfish. They no longer serve the rest of the body, but demand that the rest of the body, serve them, they are no longer productive. Money and objects which are owned by Christians or Church organisations, and this includes properties, which are neither humble or palatial and have no spiritual purpose for the owning of them, they become cancerous and should be cut out or they will kill the owner spiritually. In Matthew 6: 20, Jesus went on to say, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal. The treasures of earth come out of the earth, crumble and return to it. The treasures of heaven are here with us now, and remain with us for eternity. The Imperial coinage of Rome was not allowed within the Jewish temple. Up to the door of the temple it was currency but it was not currency within the temple. The heart of the Christian must be an area where the coinage of this world is not currency where mammon does not rule. One of the greatest single factors that stops spiritual growth is the deceitfulness of attaining material riches. For not many think that it is a danger to them when Jesus warned of this very danger, the Pharisees who were lovers of money, scoffed at Him. Anyone who reads this and scoffs at it will join the Pharisees, they will pray in the temple and they will still be spiritually half dead. Anyone who desires to be truly Christian must draw the line somewhere in his life and say to money, this far you shall go and no farther. You must not serve God and mammon. You cannot serve God and mammon. “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6: 24)
The devil hates sex, he has defiled the act itself. He invented pornography and every kind of perversion associated with it. He has deceived the majority of people into believing that it is in fact God who hates sex, because of the objections raised by Christians such as Mrs Whitehouse to the avalanche of filth that daily flows at us from every angle. Newspapers and I use the term lightly such as “Sun” the “Star” the Sunday “News of the world” all belong to the gutter to be trodden under foot. No papers such as these should ever be found in a Christian home or in a Christians hands unless for the purpose of destroying them. There are magazines in most newsagents on full view to children and adults alike, which should be protested against vehemently. The world won’t protest and if Christians don’t – who will?
Most Churches individually and collectively have parish magazines and periodicals which could be used to much greater affect than they are. On average, six pages are just reprints of the previous issue, thirteen pages are adverts by local business’s and this is out of a total of 25 pages on average. We are not invited to attend the fellowships but we are requested to patronise the advertisers, even the undertakers, Jewellers and shops for men of fashion? I know it costs money to print and I am sure Christians would willingly pay an extra charge for a more outreaching, spiritual journal, “a voice crying in the wilderness of moral degeneration”. I am equally sure there would be no shortage on contributions.
The television has many good points, it also pours out a steady stream of foul language, visuals filth, crude vulgarity that is classed as comedy. It’s heroes are men of violence and greed. It does not say much for a nations state of mind, when a lovely sunny bank holiday, twenty million homes were tuned in to see who shot JR. The television needs to be very carefully monitored by Christians. The devil is seeking to enter your very living room. I will not go into advertising on TV, except to say that people who make them must classify viewers as idiots. We are daily subjected to a deadly assault aimed directly at our very Christian souls. We must never listen to talk and jocular conversation that have sly innuendo and double meanings at their roots. We must never adorn ourselves with worldly adornment to attract the attentions of the opposite sex. We should not put ourselves on display. Our dress should be smart, but unworldly. We should have nothing to do with this world and its sinful pleasures. Sex is sacred into marriage and should remain so. Sex without love is lust. Sex without marriage is promiscuity, promiscuity is fornication. It makes my heart grieve when I read, and this is not an isolated occurrence, of the so-called gay movement seeking to gain respectability even within the confines of the Church. This should be stamped out and dealt with as a matter of urgency. It must never be allowed to flourish.
It is often put forward as an excuse by Church members who desire an easier doctrine, that times have changed and in order to co-exist peacefully with the world and attract new members to it, the Church must change with the times. This it has done to some extent. This is nonsense. Christian values and standards must never be allowed to change. Jesus spoke to the multitude concerning John and asked them three questions. “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” . “A man clothed with soft raiment? Behold they that wear soft clothing are in kings houses” . No Jesus said. You went to see a prophet, a man clad in Camels hair, who lived as a hermit and ate Locusts and wild honey, an austere humble man of God.
A Christian today should not be a reed shaken by the winds of change. He should stand firm and unbending in the face of this storm of worldly destruction aimed against him. He must not have anything to do with anything that is, or causes evil. He should not drink alcohol or have anything to do with the alcohol industry. This alone causes more misery and human ruination than any other single factor. For its stand against this evil alone, the Salvation Army is to be admired and exalted. And any others that stand likewise are of great service to the Lords cause. A Christian should not gamble or have anything to do with the gambling industry, in any shape or form. For reasons basically the same as above. It should always be remembered that to associate with, is to condone, anyone who misinterprets the Bible to condone their own worldly pursuits are totally wrong and misinformed. The only pursuit that the Bible urges us to pursue is the hungering and thirsting after the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. When this and only this takes priority in our hearts and minds. When we desire holiness and this alone, the pursuits and pleasures of the world will fade away into obscurity and finally oblivion. We will then be growing in grace and stature according to the measure and stature of Christ Jesus Himself. This is living in the Lords will. This He commands us to do, if we would be His followers we must do as He tells us to do or be as the seed that fell by the wayside. “When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom, and understand it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side” (Matthew 13: 19)
LOVE OF SELF
We must love ourselves, we are a gift from God, but we must love our neighbours as much. One of the main reasons as to the disorder both moral a lawless that is prevalent today is because this commandment is not practised. Christian love is in effect having reverence for the personality of others. We are often very harsh in our criticism of others when we should be criticising ourselves. The only effective criticism of other peoples way of life is by demonstration of its opposite in our own. Self presentation is the operative word today. Society would be changed overnight if everyone put others interests before their own. So often it is self first and others last. Put God first and then everything else will fall in order.
I will close this message with a simple yet striking parable that enforces Jesus’ words to us,
“Therefore whosoever hearth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it”. (Matthew 7: 24-27)
What Jesus is saying is this; that this house of Christian character will be tested from three directions. 1. The floods will come from below. 2. The winds will blow upon it from all sides. 3. The rain will descend from above. There is only one side not mentioned – within. He insists on inward strength all through the gospel, inward strength given by His Holy Spirit, an undivided heart. He is not afraid to subject this kind of life to the utmost testing from without, He says that noting from without can break this life, it can only be broken from within. St Luke adds something which is very valuable to this ; he says when the floods arose, the stream beat against that house and could not brake it, because it was well built.
Many of us think that putting the foundations of our lives upon the rock, Christ is sufficient. Then we proceed to take little notice of what kind of superstructure we build upon Him. We do not make sure it is well built. The storms and the floods come and we crack under them, and then we wonder why some doubt. Jesus the rock is adequate to weather all the storms of life. It is our superstructure that is inadequate. If there has been a fall in religion due to the floods of modern thinking, and the storms of modern stress, it is not due to Christ’s inadequacy, but to the crazy structures that have not been built upon. Let the foundation be Christ. Let the superstructure be Christian, then let the devil do his best or his worst, it will stand.
As the crowds listened to Jesus in Galilee, the impression He left upon them was not that they were listening to an impossible dreamer or detached eastern mystic who had no touch with reality. As He talked they would have felt that the odd world they lived in, built upon greed and selfishness was unreal, and this new life that He was presenting was the only solid reality. And it came to pass when Jesus ended these words the multitudes were astonished at His teachings, for He taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes. The scribes taught rules of religion, the church does in most cases today. Jesus taught them – Jesus teaches us. The scribes quoted authorities, in them the people heard voices of the past. In Jesus they heard and we hear the words, the voice, that assumes control over the past, the present and the future. He is the Christ of the final word.
“I am Alpha, and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city”. (Revelation 22: 13-14)