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Archive for December, 2010

Develop Character

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Develop Character!

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Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28v18-20

As the church, we are to obey this command of Jesus. In order to do this, all Christian Disciples we are to develop leadership, for all Christian Disciples are leaders in some form or shape. The five attributes all Christian Disciples should develop are: Character, Conviction, Creativity, Stewardship and Shepherdship.

We start with the Christian Disciple developing Character, for without developing character; the Christian Disciple can quite simply be a better rip-off artist. If the Christian Disciple is not developing character, it is because they have not determined what they want to develop. In the developmental process the first task is to determine what the Christian Disciple wants to develop, then to develop what has been determined. It is impossible to develop what has never been determined.

 

Essential Characteristics

 

These characteristics measure how much the Spirit of God has been free to develop the character of a Christian Disciple. It also shows what it is being sought in the progressive development in the Christian Disciple.

 

1. Persistence & EndurancePersistence & endurance is developing staying power, to hold courageously under fire. This is a key to leadership – bulldog tenacity. Things like criticism, circumstances, opposition & problems stop a leader. The Christian Disciple who hangs in through these things is the one who accomplishes their objectives. The problem in Christian leadership is that we sometimes think it is a sprint race, when in fact it is a marathon, where a second wind of the long hard grind is necessary. What is it that stops you? The size of a person is determined by what it takes to stop him or her. Winners are people who have formed the habit of doing things that failures hate to do.

 

2. Resistance – This is not resistance to ideas but resistance to opposition. Criticism is the occupational hazard for leaders (1 Peter 2v20-24). Leadership is the process of developing a thick skin and a thin heart. Discouragement is cancer of the Spirit.

 

3. Servanthood Matthew 20v26-28 “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Priority should be given to serve.

 

4. TrainingJesus often sent people home,, so kicking people out of the nest at the right time is good Disciple making.

5. Consistent Example – Modelling is the greatest unconscious form of learning what we know. As Paul writes in Philippians 3v17 – 4v9 “Follow me as I follow Christ”. Whether we say it or not, people are following us, but are we following Christ closely? Those you are leading do not do what you tell them to do, but follow what you do.

 

6. Self-mastery – If you only had 6 months left to live, what would you do? Keep on doing what I am already doing, if not you had better change what you are doing. We need to be unencumbered by the things that weigh us down. This is the danger of an affluent society. (Hebrews 12:1-2) “Travel light”. This is where decision-making comes to the fore, deciding what is good and evil. The real decision is between that which is good, that which is better and which is better or best. Choose the best!!

 

7. Virile Private Life – Two things to keep in balance are involvement & isolation. You cannot do enough for others if you are constantly in the company of others. You also need time alone but not as a complete hermit!

 

8. Confidence – The number one problem in our culture today, is a lack of confidence. Paul said in Philippians 4v13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. To the Christian Disciple, self-confidence is Christ-confidence. The Christian Disciple says to them selves “I can’t lose. I can only make mistakes”. Confidence is spawned by the ability to say no. The New Testament is the doctrine of moderation in all things. You don’t have to do everything you are capable of achieving.

 

9. Teachability – A Christian Disciple who is teachable is a person who has an unlimited ceiling of being taught. The Christian Disciple must be willing to be taught by other people, even if they themselves are in a teaching role!

 

10. Positive Attitude – A danger in becoming negative, is that a root of bitterness sets up. The greatest therapy is that of thanksgiving & prayer. God says you can do it. Satan says you can’t do it.

 

11. Your capacity to believe God – What is there in your life that you are trusting God for that He alone can do (2 Corinthians 4v7)? God selects each Christian Disciple in order that in all things Jesus would have the supremacy and glory (Colossians 1v18)!

 

12. Humility – Jesus is our example as Paul exhorts us in Philippians 2v1-3 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. If Jesus could be humble in that He came to earth as a member of His own creation, then as Christian Disciples and leaders, we should be clothed in humility.

 

For more to think about please do ask your self the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

Q1. After reading 2 Timothy 2v11-13, what motivates me to endure and persevere?

Q2. After reading Philippians 3v17, how can I follow Jesus Christ more closely?

Q3. After reading 2 Corinthians 4:7, what is there in my life that where I show trust in God for that which He alone can do?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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ADD-Standing Alone

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Christian Disciple and Standing Alone

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Jesus speaking and from the Gospel of John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me.”

We have a new identity as Christian disciples. What are we to do with it? We are to stay faithful to Jesus and sometimes it is difficult! It means staying faithful to Jesus and His will, regardless of opposition and alternatives, By doing this we are standing alone and be faithful to Him. Satan brings pressure to bear on Christians to reduce their standards and commitment. Christian disciples undergo challenges from the world that doesn’t like or understand us and constantly tempts us to do wrong things or we are tempted not to do right things. So we are to be separate from sin but not separated from a sinful society. This is what Jesus meant when He said we are to be “In the world but not of the world(Jn. 17:15-19). The key to standing alone is constant identification with Jesus Christ in lifestyle and words.

Hindrances to standing alone

As we live the Christian life, as Christian disciples we will face hindrances to identifying with Jesus. Here are four major areas that as Christian disciples, we all undergo.

Firstly there is an inborn fear of what others will think – fear of being different and being laughed at.

Then there is the fear of losing friends. To have the right friends however, a person must be willing to have enemies. Jesus made friends on the basis of who would accept Him and His message. We may be excluded from the company of those who reject Jesus (Luke 6:26).

Another one is the desire to be like those in the world. In Psalm 73 David envied the success of the godless, until he realized their destiny was disaster; and that he had God and needed nothing else. Always taking what is best is no sacrifice.

 

 

How to stand alone

So if they are some of the hindrances, what are some of the keys in battling these hindrances? As Christian disciples we have to remember God’s way of life is superior. It is a life filled with abundance according to Jesus in John 10:10! Then we realise that acting as light & salt in the world, you are co-operating with God and He is being glorified according to Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-14). Remember; if you give people no reason to ask about the hope and faith you have in Jesus, they probably won’t ask! Jesus said in His final words before His ascension in Matthew 28:18-20, that we are to expect persecution for being his disciples. If that’s how we identify with our lifestyle how do we identify verbally with Jesus?

How to verbally identify with Christ

Never apologize for what you know and believe to be a superior way of life. However, that does not mean to be smug and arrogant about it because we are commanded to walk humbly and meekly. Then just be natural about it. As a college principle told me a long time ago and I still remember the words “Let your spiritual life be natural and your natural life be spiritual.”

One way to do this is to project the idea that you are not your own boss – Jesus is your Lord and let him take both the strain and glory. Remember that those who reject you also reject Jesus.

Making right decisions in questionable areas

Imagine you are in a situation and you have to make a correct decision in a questionable area. What do you do? Why not you ask yourself questions and tell yourself statements such as:

  • Does it bring glory to God? (1 Cor.10:31)
  • Can I thank God for this activity – could Jesus accompany me?
  • Does it build Christian character? (1 Cor.10:23)
  • Will it cause another Christian to sin/stumble? (1 Cor.8:9-13)
  • It should not control me habitually (1 Cor.6.12)
  • If in doubt, throw it out. (Rom.14:22-23)
  • Ask other people for advice. It is important what other people think.
  • Abstain from all appearances of evil (1 Thess.5:22)
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit to help you! Askfor His help and guidance!

For more to do and think about please do read for yourself, John17:15-19. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1 – Have I given every area of my life to Christ in order to be faithful to Him?

Q2 – Am I prepared to be holy and obedient to God in all circumstances?

Q3 – Am I willing to sacrifice my desires for God’s Will, so that I can clearly be seen identifying myself with Jesus in lifestyle and in words?

Thank you.

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Chocolate Christians!

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How not to be a Chocolate Christian

or

How to change Ch-rch to Church!

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Have you ever noticed that chocolate melts under pressure & heat? If you haven’t, take a piece of chocolate and hold it between your fingers! It will soon melt! If you are a Christian, you need to be active in your local church so that you don’t melt under pressure and you will remain firm in your faith! Otherwise you will be a chocolate Christian who easily gives up under the stress and pressure of every day life!

At a church local to where you live, you are needed regardless of who you are!

Perhaps this is you?

  • Interested observer but not a committed Christian
  • Not bothered
  • Not good enough
  • Just want to be left alone
  • Don’t know how to be involved
  • Don’t know why being involved is important
  • Too busy

But why should you be involved?

Why? You have talents to be used!!

When Jesus said to His apostles “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14v12), it was through the promised Holy Spirit (John 14v17), and the impartation of Spiritual Gifts that His words were fulfilled.

The reason that the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts to Christians is so that the body of Christ is built up (Ephesians 4v12), for the common good of the church (1Corinthians 12v7, 14v12) and “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4v12). These three reasons signify that God wants Christians to be active in service and not still like stagnant water. That is why we have been given gifts and if these gifts are not used for God’s purposes, then they are utterly useless and meaningless. And the gifts are not just the supposedly spectacular gifts but also the supposedly mundane! Cleaning is as much a spiritual gift as preaching is!

As we are not to neglect our gifts, or let other Christians neglect their gifts, we are to fan the gifts into flame (2 Timothy1v6). Much like blowing on embers and stirring them up will restart the flames of a fire! To do this, as Christians, we are to employ the gifts faithfully and by asking God to continue their development, strengthening and for opportunities to use them! Seek gifts that build up others, commands Paul (1 Corinthians 14v1-12). Ask God faithfully for gifts that give opportunity for service to God and others!

Why? We are dependent on each other

As Christians, we are dependent upon each other, just as one part of the human body has dependence on another part. That is why we serve each other and use the gifts generously given by God. As all Christians have gifts, we have a responsibility to discover and develop them (1 Timothy 4v14)! God has called Christians and equipped them with spiritual gifts, and they are not to be neglected! You are a member of the body of Jesus Christ the church! If you are not being active that means the Church body is affected aversely! Its like a part of your body failing to do as it should!

Why? Improve your serve!

They are opportunities for Christians to serve other people. Some gifts like teaching, helping or leadership quite possibly are enhancements of natural abilities whilst others like faith, healing and miracles are from the Spirit’s empowerment alone.

In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus intimates that those who follow Him, will be judged according to all that they have been given stewardship of! This includes things such as Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12v1-10), acts of service (Galatians 5v13) and material possessions (2 Corinthians 9v6-8)! These are used to accomplish three other items of Stewardship: mission, message and people.

Why? To follow Jesus

The Christian life is not to be static or inactive – it was never meant to be! The Christian life is to be dynamic! It is to be active. The word servant is key in Scripture. It is used at least 500 times in its various derivatives. When a Christian serves, God’s honour is released. This is done because service shows the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ to those being served and to those watching. That is to be our motive for service. Serving is never to be about what you and I can get out of it. When that is the motive, God is not glorified. God’s glory, honour and supremacy are to be the goal of a Christian’s life. Spiritual growth comes from serving rather than being served. This is because what ever is given in service of God and others, your faith grows and Jesus Christ gives back even more.

Jesus speaking in Matthew 25v15-30 tells of the rewards for faithful service and the penalties for being faithless. Serving others is a sign that you are trusting in and having faith in God. It’s a visible aspect of your invisible faith. Service is the outward expression of your inner beliefs. Serving is an outward expression of your inner faith – an external working out of your inner salvation. Serving God and others is the mark of a spiritually mature (or spiritually maturing) Christian and through service, the greatest servant of all, Jesus Christ, is reflected in our lives. “For Jesus Christ, came to serve and give his very life for others” (Mark 10v45). As Christians we are to be as Jesus Christ (Romans 8v28; Philippians 2v5) and to serve. Yet if we are honest, we sometimes feel incapable, just as Moses did (Exodus 3). When the church is built up, unity will inevitably prevail and be built up.

GO!

So if you find you are currently inactive in your local church, then please go and make yourself available to serve there! Ask your pastor or church leader how you can help out! By doing so, and submitting yourself to the Holy Spirit who indwells you, the lives of other people could be changed for God’s greater glory because of your acts of service and worship.

For more about serving, stewardship and spiritual gifts, please do see other links on this website:

Serving

Stewardship

Spiritual Gifts

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WOW Jesus

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Jesus’ WOW Factor

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Christmas time is the season when the name of Jesus is on a lot of peoples lips – even if they don’t believe he existed or don’t care about him now! For those people, the vast majority, they are comfortable with a Jesus who is a baby in a crib… But Jesus went on to live a full life, die an agonizing death and rose again on the third day! He has the WOW factor! The existence of the church itself owes it to Jesus Christ and his WOW factor! If there was never any Jesus or He didn’t rise from the dead, then the Church would have died in its infancy and Jesus himself would only be a footnote in history! WOW!!

Jesus is WOW!

What does WOW stand for? It means “Worthy Of Worship!” Jesus Christ most certainly is that! The Jesus WOW factor involves Jesus being radical and relevant! Even a brief look of the Gospels will reveal that about Jesus! Some people even back then didn’t get Jesus, and people still don’t get Him two thousand years later! And whose fault is that? Its not Jesus’ fault that people today still don’t respond to Him! It’s a result of the church and christians down through the ages, including today, not following Jesus and obeying His commands as closely as they could or should!

People out there are looking at the Church – looking at how we behave, how we speak, how we drive our cars and looking to see if we are any different to them and looking to see what difference Jesus Christ has made in our lives! That’s why my parents thought churches were dangerous places and Christians brainwashed and deluded people. They did not hesitate to tell me that that is what they thought about Christianity! But I responded to the call of Jesus, rebelled against my parents and became a follower of him 30 years ago next year. You could say I am the white sheep of my family – so far anyway!

Unique

The first word I would use for Jesus is Jesus is unique – totally unique! Never before and never to be repeated ever – Jesus Christ is the standout person from all of history! Indeed, history is divided into BC and AD – ‘Before Christ’ and ‘After Christ’. In all of history, Jesus Christ is incomparable and totally unique! Yet in human form, we read that during his earthly ministry he had no physical beauty that would draw people to him. We read that Jesus’ body on the cross was disfigured and tortured! So much so that it was described as being beyond that of human likeness. His perfect life, His salvation work on the cross and His subsequent rising from the dead, is what makes Jesus Christ totally unique – a once and for all lifetime Messiah or Saviour for the entire world! WOW!!

Majestic

Then the Jesus I see is full of majesty and awe! He is not simply a king with a crown on his head. He is the King of all Kings! This Jesus Christ did not decay in the grave – He overcame death in the grave and was raised again majestically! Paul writes in Colossians 2v3, that in Jesus Christ, all the majestic treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who with unparalleled majesty is the head of the church.

Tender

Next I go to look into his eyes – his tender eyes! Jesus looks upon people with love, adoration, justice, tenderness and compassion. Eyes filled with the tears of mercy, grace, love and compassion. Eyes that are also filled with rage at injustice! His penetrating eyes that can separate flesh and spirit!! This Jesus is kind and sympathetic – his look of love on a world that is separated from God, and a world He is calling back into an active relationship with God. The love Jesus had when he wept in the garden as he sweated drops of blood, before he was betrayed and crucified.

Wise

Then there is Jesus the wise man! When Jesus spoke words, people were amazed! They were astounded that He spoke with elegance and yet with authority. They had never heard anyone speak like He did – with both grace and authority. The same is true today, if we are listening. That is why we read the Bible to find out what He would say to us. That is why we seek to hear Him speak to us and why we speak to Him. That is why preaching is to be seen as an act of worship – by both the preacher and the listener!

Strong

Strong! Jesus is strong enough and capable enough, to carry any burden that we can lay upon Him. Jesus Christ gives a solid and sure foundation for all aspects of life. If something has a solid foundation, it will not fall and cannot be destroyed. Indeed Jesus Christ will never fall or decay such is His imperishability as the everlasting God. He is solid, dependable and strong; nobody and nothing can stand against Him. If we are truly His, then we ought not to fear or worry about anything, for we will be under his protection.

Lovely

Finally, my Jesus oozes loveliness! He gives out a sense of exaltation and joy. Joy is not always externalized loudly as some people think but also internalized quietly! So if somebody is filled with joy, don’t always expect it be seen! Jesus is altogether lovely and lovely altogether! Jesus is beyond compare for the things He has done and the things He will do. He is altogether lovely in regard to his person, humanity, birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, exultation, glorification, grace, protection, tenderness, power, wisdom, vengeance, judgment, majesty, redemption and pardon. I could go on and on!
That is my Jesus -unique, majestic, tender, wise, strong and lovely. That is my Jesus, whom I seek to serve and obey every second of every day. This Jesus I seek to obey in every facet of life. And it is this Jesus whom I depend upon and personally know to be totally reliable in every way. Is this your Jesus?

Is Jesus your whole life and your whole life Jesus? That means does He have total authority over every aspect of your life. All aspects of life such as relationships, family, work, bank accounts, possessions, worries and troubles? By authority, I mean power! Following Him and carrying your own cross means that – a life sacrificed for Him and obedience to Him alone! Jesus wants to influence every area of your life – not just certain parts you are willing to give up but all aspects of life! Jesus came to earth to give comfort to the uncomfortable and we are to do the same – give comfort to those in need. Maybe you are feeling the desolation and loneliness because of decisions made in the past. Christmas can be a very lonely time for some people. Give it up willingly to Jesus and don’t keep trying to take it back like a security blanket! If you have something even partially blocking your relationship with Jesus, get rid of it – ask Him to take it away! Let Him give you the WOW factor. Let the WOW factor going and see your community transformed.

Merry Christmas from Partake Ministries!

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Developing a Strategy to Cope!

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A Strategy to Cope (Hebrews 3)

Preached at Poulner Baptist Chapel

24th January 2010

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I wonder how you have changed over the years. This is a picture of me back in 1985 when I went to India to do 6 months Community Development work in Bangalore. The guy beside me is one of the Indian natives I was helping. I often wondered what happened to the people I helped. Within the last week we have re-established contact after almost 25 years – he googled me! Praise God! His name is Rabi Choudhoury and he has his own ministry working among the unreached in the State of West Bengal, which border in between India and Bangaladesh. I am so glad and thankful to God that Rabi has gone on in the faith and not fallen away as I know some people I have. So how can we, as 21st century Christians, keep from falling away. I would call it the COPE strategy: Consider, Persevere and Encourage.

1. Keep Considering! (vs1-6)

READ Hebrews 3v1-6

The first thing we do is to consider Jesus or as the NIV here puts it “fix our thoughts”. Now remember, that these are Hebrew believers. I guess we would call them Messianic Jews today. They believed that Jesus was their Messiah, Saviour and Lord. They were obviously coming under pressure from their Jewish friends and leaders to deny this Jesus and return to the fold. They would have been told how great Moses was. In the previous chapter we read how Jesus is greater than the angels, because He is God, but was made a little lower than the angels when he became a man.

Moses was cool!

In this chapter, we read a comparison between Jesus and Moses. Moses, to the Jews, was like a superhero. Moses was revered because it was to him that God revealed His will. Moses was the key figure in the establishment of Israel as a nation – God’s chosen people! Moses suffered persecution and rejection from the rest of the family of Israel. He had great zeal for God and was willing to sacrifice everything for God. He had fellowship with God. Yet all this is merely a shadow and a prophetic sign of what was to come in Jesus. Moses, we read in Numbers 12:7, was faithful to God’s house, God’s people. The house of God is the people of God. It was this Moses who was held in such high regard by the Jews, that some might well have been tempted to renounce Jesus and go back to the old ways.

God’s Messiah would need to be greater than Moses, and Jesus is and was this Messiah. Later on in the book of Hebrews, we discover that Jesus is greater than Aaron through whom the law was ministered; but here we see that Jesus is greater than Moses, the lawgiver, the servant of the house of God. Moses and Aaron represented God’s house in Israel; Moses was the Apostle or Prophet and Aaron was the High Priest. Jesus, an Apostle and Prophet as well as being the High Priest, joined the two together. By Apostle, I mean as a Messenger – that’s what an apostle is – a messenger or representative. As the Apostle of our faith, Jesus was faithful. Jesus was God’s representative for us, making God known to us. Jesus was totally faithful, means to be both trusting and to be capable of being trusted. Moses was the one to whom the Law was given – the Mosaic covenant under which the Jewish people lived. This covenant with Moses commenced with the stipulation “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.” (Exodus 19v5). This covenant was to Israel in order that those who believed God’s promise to Abraham, could know how to live rightly in accordance with how God wanted them to live.

This covenant with Moses covered the three areas of life:

  • The commandments were given so they would know how to relate socially to God (Exodus 20v1-6)
  • The judgments were given in order that they could relate socially to each other (Exodus 21v1 -4v11)
  • The decrees dictated their religious life so that God could be approached by humanity on His terms (Exodus 24v12 – 31v18).

This covenant that God made with Moses and the ancient nation of Israel was never meant to be as a means for providing salvation. It was given so that they could realize the helplessness and futility of their own efforts and their need of God’s help. It was to serve only as a protective fence until the promised Messiah came; the long waited for Saviour of all humanity, so that the whole world, Jew and Gentile, could be made right with God through faith and faith alone.

In Comes Jesus

And that is where Jesus comes in. As their Messiah and Saviour, Jesus ushered in the New Covenant, which was promised by God through the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. What are the features of this New Covenant or promise?

Four features of this covenant are:

  • Regeneration -God will write His law on the hearts of people.
  • Restoration – God will be their God, and they will be His people.
  • Promised Holy Spirit – God will indwell people and they will be led by Him
  • Justification – Sins will be forgiven and removed eternally

This new covenant is sealed only through the perfect sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus on the cross. His blood ensures the truth of this New Covenant. His death pays the penalty for the sins of all people who say yes to God and are ready to run the race and travel the course. This New Covenant finalizes what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to: the follower of God living in a relationship with God conforming to God’s holy character. That is one very specific way of Jesus being superior to Moses! The original readers of this letter being God-fearing Jews would be aware of all this.

They would also be aware that it is sin, which separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 3v23, Romans 6v23, Isaiah 59v2). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17v11), for without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9v22). A blood sacrifice is God’s way of dealing with sin. These blood sacrifices of the Old Testament signified several things:

  • It provided a covering for sin.
  • It showed the great cost of sin.
  • It was an exchange or substitution.
  • It was only always going to be a temporary measure, as it pointed forward to Jesus’ death and it needed to be done over and over again.

How is Jesus better than Moses?

The answer lies in the solution to sin. The ultimate solution to sin lies not in the continuing animal sacrifice under the Covenant with Moses, because as the writer later in Hebrews 10v4 stipulates the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only ever going to be a veneer or a covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again!

It is only through the victorious death of Jesus, that sin is permanently taken away (Hebrews 9:v11-15, 26-28), because Jesus is the permanent sacrificial substitute! It is as if the writer is saying give up on Jesus, stop considering Him and you would still be in your sins – that’s the way the original readers would have understood it!

As for us?

As followers of Jesus Christ we are built together so that the Spirit of God may join us together in love. Both individually and as a group, we are the house of God. Jesus said, “We will come and make our home in you”. We know Jesus has been faithful as a Son over God’s people. We celebrate His faithfulness at Easter, when we acknowledge and rejoice at the sacrifice He made for us. We remember it in the act of Communion, which we will have later. Jesus suffered persecution and rejection from his peers. We know Jesus was godly and full of zeal for God, and was willing to sacrifice everything for God and his people. We are the house of God. And yet, do we not reject Jesus sometimes, or do we keep on considering? Do we give Him and trust in His faithfulness to complete the good work he has started in us?

This NIV translation has “fix your thoughts“. Here is how the New King James Version puts verse 1 “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus”. I personally think that that is a better way of putting it. And not only because it has the word partakers in there! To “consider” has a much broader meaning than just “fixing your thoughts” as the NIV puts it. It means to seek, to fully understand or comprehend as well as fixing thoughtfully. To consider means to contemplate, to think about, to persevere with, to concentrate on and to fix eyes and thoughts upon.

We have to allow Jesus Christ to permeate every aspect of our life, if we are to be partakers of Him. To consider not just how Jesus would do something, but how Jesus would think. What attitude would Jesus take? What would Jesus not do? Just as the Hebrews receiving this letter were told to do, in their race of the life following Jesus, we too are to hold fast to our courage, but only by considering Jesus and trusting in Him relying on the Holy Spirit to help us as we ask Him. This phrase “to consider” is perhaps the central theme of the book of Hebrews. We are to consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. Jesus was faithful to the purpose of His Coming to be among people. His purpose in coming to earth, as a mere man, was to die for sins and be raised up on the third day so as to be victorious over death and sin. This Jesus perfected our human nature in His life of simplicity, suffering, devotion and obedience. He now lives at the right hand of the Father in heaven, to communicate to us His life and blessedness through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We must therefore consider Jesus in everything we do, every thought we think and in every attitude.

This is the aim of the writer to persuade these Hebrew Christians that if they knew Jesus to be the faithful, compassionate Almighty apostle and priest in Heaven, then they would find everything in Him that they needed for life. Moses couldn’t help them, but Jesus could! Moses had died, they could perhaps visit his tomb if they wanted to. But Jesus, well, Jesus’ tomb was empty! Jesus is alive! The life of these Hebrew Christians would be united with their faith, and united with the life of Jesus whom their faith would glorify God. To these Hebrew Christians their salvation was based on Jesus, but to renounce Jesus and go back to following Moses was apostasy. Moses couldn’t offer salvation because the Law was not meant as a means of salvation! But what about you? Are you trusting in this Jesus for salvation or are you even subconsciously relying on your own good works or something else? That was what these believing Hebrews were to do – consider how vastly superior Jesus is to Moses. We also are to consider how superior Jesus is to all other things that would try to entangle us and allure us away with false promises.

2. Keep Persevering!

READ Hebrews 3v7-12, 15-19)

And then after considering Jesus, these Hebrew Christians were to do something! They were to persevere in believing. The writer now warns these Hebrew believers against the sin of unbelief, which is the hardening of their hearts. The writer quoting from Psalm 95 reminds them of the way Israel rebelled against God in the desert. He warns them not to be like their forefathers, who did not trust fully in the Lord their God. From Psalm 95, he proceeds to remind them of their ancestors’ deeds of unbelief. The privilege of the house of God is in hearing God’s voice. By choosing not to listen to God’s voice, peoples’ hearts grew hard and cold. These words are of course written to believing Christian Hebrews, not unbelieving Jews, and are as appropriate for us today, as it was for them when they received it. As the people of God today we need to be ready to listen to God’s voice. As we see God working in us, our trust and belief in Him grows. If we do not believe in Him to help us, then of course our hearts will harden against him. As we grow and run the race, willingly sacrificing what needs to be sacrificed, we realize the glory and majesty of God, His holiness and perfection, His love and tenderness, and gladly listen to hear what He says to us, and willingly receive what He gives us.

When you pray, do you have your Bible open? When you read your Bible, do you do so prayerfully and considerately? Bible reading and prayer go together! Unbelief stops a person from holding fellowship with God. Our God is alive, not a dead idol on the shelf or in the bank. This church of Hebrew believers, for all their Christian profession and religious exercises, were in danger of falling away from God, due to their not believing totally in Him. God would not abandon them, but they would abandon God! We need to take care, in case we also fall into unbelief. Unbelief and falling away act upon and react to each other. If we have any unbelief in our hearts tonight, then let us ask God to give us a heart that believes in Him so that we may not fall away from Him. And what is one of the main ways we can stop from falling away or letting others fall away into unbelief?

3. Keep encouraging!

READ Hebrews 3v12-14

So we keep on considering Jesus. We persevere in our believing in Him. Now thirdly, to show we are considering Jesus and are persevering in our believing Him, we are to encourage and be encouraged! In verse 12, we read, “See to it, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God”. This means, that we are not only to take care of our own hearts, but as verse 13 goes on to say, we are to encourage and ensure no one is in danger of falling away. We who are believers, have to make sure that each one of us is staying on the path that leads to life, that is, the race towards Jesus.

This group of Hebrew Christians were to help and encourage each other! And so are we! For us, maybe it is by phoning somebody you haven’t seen in a while or to phone somebody you get a random thought about! If we see a brother or sister that we know is starting to fall out of the race, we need to do all we can to stop them falling away. We need to encourage them, to continue considering Jesus and believing in Him. We all know of people who are new believers, full of joy and zeal for God, that end up falling back into unbelief, unable to hold fast to the end. To some degree, it is because the Church body has failed to encourage them to continue on in the race. It is our duty, and our daily responsibility to encourage people on in the race or the journey.

However, to encourage is not just these easy things. To encourage can also mean to rebuke, to correct in love. I look back at my tutor, during my first stint of Bible College back in the 1980s. His name was Ed. Ed the head we called him. We had weekly tutorials then. Every week he would get me to read a chapter of Knowing God by JI Packer and a chapter of Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. Then during our tutorial I would have to try and explain what I learnt from both those chapters. It was a slog at times I tell you. Sometimes I would get a clip round the ear for being stubborn or just being plain thick! But it gave me a good grounding for my Christian thinking and life of discipleship to Jesus. Or I think back to my dear friend Rose, a kind and dear elderly lady from the church I used to attend back in the 80s. She would have us young adults back to her house overlooking the ocean for coffee after church on a Sunday evening. She would always be loving, caring and encouraging to all people – ready to lift them when they were down and eager to cheer from the sidelines. She was also a tough cookie at times and if we got out of line, she would say so in no uncertain terms! Not so much an arm around the shoulder then but a good swift kick! Both methods of encouragement when required!

When we see somebody sinning or contemplating sinning, our reaction should be to gently encourage him or her not to continue in pursuit of that sin. Therefore in considering Jesus, believe in Him and encourage others to do the same. That is the purpose of encouragement mentioned here..

Let all of us give ourselves to the service of Jesus to watch over other people: let all the fresh grace and deeper knowledge of Jesus we see, be for the service of those around us. Where will you and I be spiritually next year, in 10 years’ time, in 25 years’ time? Will you be able to honestly say to yourself at that time, I have grown spiritually and haven’t fallen away?

If you are here tonight, would call yourself a Christian, and you are unsure where you are, then do this. Look back and remember what Jesus has done for you. Consider Him as you look back to your first profession of faith in Him. Consider that just as He died, you died in the waters of baptism. Consider that just as He rose to physical life, you rose from the waters of baptism and will also rise again when you physically die. Consider that just as Jesus will be glorified, so too will you be glorified before the Father – if you hold out until the end. Be assured of who you are – you are a child of the living God – hold out to the end. He has a firm grip on you, so maintain your grip on Him! Remember who you are! The way to cope with the rigors of 21st century life as a Christian believer is to keep considering, keep persevering and keep encouraging. Thank you…

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Sex!

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14. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Moral Purity

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The world is mad for sex! It sells magazines, DVD’s and clothes. It is one of the gods of our age! Not only that but we only have to glimpse quickly at recent history to find Christian leaders who have fallen due to the sin of sexual immorality. How are we as Christian disciples to face these issues of moral purity and sex?

 

 

 

 

Firstly let me state three ways that Christians incorrectly think about sex. Firstly there is compromise with the worldly values of sex, where anything is allowed providing love is there. Second error is that the subject is sacred, and is never to be discussed publicly. Then thirdly, the idea that sex is dirty, and is to be avoided at all costs, in order to be a really super spiritual person. However as I said these are incorrect attitudes. So what does comprise a correct and considered attitude for the Christian disciple to have regarding sex?

 

 

 

 

The Bible says that sex is beautiful and is part of God’s creation. At the beginning in Genesis 1 it was “all very good”. It was a beautiful gift from God for purposes of procreation; mutual enjoyment of both a man & woman, but only within the confines of a heterosexual marriage. Anybody who is anti-morality, is therefore anti-sex and subsequently anti-God.

 

 

 

 

What the Christian disciple should maintain is that sex would be better if man hadn’t sinned originally. We shouldn’t feel guilty if we have desires, it is natural, but we are control it before it controls you. One of the strongest human desires are for sex and intimacy, but it needs to be under control. As ever there is a tendency to abuse all good things God has given us. Anything God has made, it can be perverted. What should be love is lust and what was morality is now immorality.

 

 

 

 

One of the major problems for Christian disciples to overcome in this area is the thought life. In Matthew 5v27-28, Jesus said that lust is trying to claim for yourself, what doesn’t belong to you, ie someone else’s body. He goes on to say that what you shouldn’t do in the body, you should not do in the mind, for that is God’s standard. Sexual desires are easily inflamed, played upon or enlarged. How can normal sexual desire be controlled?

 

Firstly, by not feeding anything that will inflame your old nature. Remove it all. If it is sin, it feeds the old nature. If you do, you will reap the consequences, just as you would if you stepped into a pride of lions. Anything we observe & hear will affect our old nature e.g. music, books, TV, video, pictures, magazines, posters etc. We are to feed our minds with that which is pure writes the Psalmist in Psalm 119v9, and then it will be easier to control your thought life. Thoughts come from the outside, its what you do with the thought. There is an old saying, that if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out.

 

 

 

 

What is God’s standard ,and therefore the Biblical Perspective on sex? Clearly, Scripture stipulates that sexual union is to be for the heterosexual married couple. Anything outside of that standard is abhorrence to God and therefore sin. By engaging in sexual immorality you hurt others. Unmarried Christian disciples ought not to do anything in a relationship that arouses desire. This obviously requires great sensitivity. Satan’s (and the world’s) order in a relationship is body first followed by soul and then spirit. However this order is the reverse of God’s order, thus leading to physical intimacy before spiritual intimacy.

 

 

 

 

God’s foundation for intimacy & security is oneness of Spirit, then oneness of Mind culminating in the oneness of body in marriage. This is the order in which we are to develop a relationship. Friendship between male and female sows the seeds to love, where a genuine relationship wants to give, not get. Love wants to give, and lust wants to get. The spiritual side is stressed, then the mind and then physical at marriage. Lastly before I close, if you are one of the many that have a problem with internet porn addiction then sign up for one of the many services that monitor your internet access and sends a log to a person of your choice. One such provider is www.covenanteyes.com and whilst there is a subscription for their services, there are free providers available.

 

 

For more to think about, please do read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

  1. Are there things from my past that I need specifically to ask God’s forgiveness for?
  2. Are my thought processes, words and actions consistent with the biblical model for relationships?
  3. What steps can I take in my life in order to remain sexually pure?

Thank you.

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WISE – Disciple

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WISE – Disciple

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The concept of a Disciple was not new in the time of Jesus Christ. Christian Discipleship as evidenced in the New Testament has three primary sources.

Old Testament

Old Testament prophets such as Samuel (1 Samuel 19vv20-24), Elijah (2 Kings 4v1), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36v32) all had disciples. These disciples saw the prophets as their master and this thinking was throughout the society of Israel. Take for example Isaiah, who refers to the people around him as disciples, where the relationship is primarily educational (Isaiah 8v16). The disciples referred to here were not only followers of Isaiah, but also of God. The relationship was based on a reciprocal support in order to reveal what the Lord was saying to Israel.

Greek culture.

Classic Greek literature refers to disciples in three senses: learner (general), adherent (technical) and institutional (restricted). For those who were in the adherent context, they followed rules set by their master. Another aspect of some first century Greek thought was that a person’s highest achievement was to become like god.

First century Judaism.

Within Jewish society at the time of the New Testament, disciples were attached to recognized masters, teachers or groups. The disciples of the Pharisees were probably attached to an academic group. Those who followed John the Baptist were seen as radical, eschewing as they did normal Jewish society. Those Jesus referred to as the disciples of Moses, concentrated on their ‘honoured’ status as followers of the one to whom God had made Himself known. One major stream of Jewish thought at the time, said that the goal of discipleship was to see God.

Jesus’ Disciples

Of course there were those were disciples also of Jesus, and not just the 12 disciples but all who followed him. The word we have for disciple means a pupil or learner. Therefore a Christian disciple in its base level is a follower of Jesus. A learner is a person who is undergoing life change and transforming increasingly into the image of Christ. A Christian disciple is somebody learning to be like Jesus in every facet of life, practising His presence with them and engaging their life so intimately with Him that He truly lives through them. As a Disciple of Jesus Christ, you are called to be growing and maturing in a process that is called discipleship. This will inevitable lead to your being asked the reason for which you have your hope in Jesus Christ. If you are not actively growing and maturing, then why would anybody ask you the reason for the hope that you have in Jesus Christ? Jesus said that for you to be His disciple, it meant you have to love God totally and love other people openly. It is perhaps the best measure of the seriousness of your discipleship of Jesus Christ.

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