132. Feeling Guilty? Is It Conviction By The Holy Spirit Or Condemnation By The Devil?

A friend remarked recently that the motivating factor in the incredible change in his life came through a deep conviction by the Holy Spirit. The experience  gave him a sense of his lost-ness and a feeling of guilt from deliberately living life without God. He also shared that when he first started going to church, a sense of guilt remained for some time. But it raises the question as to whether new believers (or sometimes more mature believers) are suffering from unnecessary guilt.

We need to remember that we live in a fallen world and that none of us are, or ever will be, perfect. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit of God whom we received at our conversion to Christ, is to convict us of our sin. Jesus said in John 16:8, And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. The word for “convict” here is  ελέγχω (elegchō). It has meanings in the New Testament such as these, to convict, expose, reprove, rebuke, show fault, to prove to be wrong. It is used in a similar sense in Jn 3:19-20, where it is said that light “exposes” darkness,  Jn 3:19  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.Exposed” here is our word (elegchō).

As many have discovered, the Holy Spirit exposes the sinfulness of sin to human hearts. However humans by and large have no great desire to change. That is why light is so threatening to many people. They believe that if they get close to the light, their sins might be exposed and they don’t want to be unmasked in that manner.  By contrast believers are not afraid of the light because they want to walk in the light, in ways that honour God.  They welcome the light that exposes any sin in their lives, so that they can repent of it and then can ask and receive God’s forgiveness and cleansing.

It raises the question however whether believers should have feelings of guilt? Of course they should if they are guilty in any way. But the Christian life is meant to be an ongoing growth in maturity and in holiness. The Holy Spirit can and does convict believers of their guilt when they transgress or step out of the will of God for them. In spite of our growing likeness to Christ, there will never be a time when we can go it alone. We will always need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to bring about that transformation. He shows us our faults (convicts us). But He also empowers us to overcome those faults by His grace, love and power.

Throughout my ministry I have come across many believers who were weighed down with guilt. Why? Because they had failed to recognise the difference between the ministry of the Holy Spirit in convicting us of sin and the strategy of the devil in seeking to make us feel guilty. I once put in a diagram to show the difference.

What is the difference between:-  Conviction by the Holy Spirit?  Condemnation by the accuser? (Reading across the columns from left to right). 

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin  so that we might repent of our guilt and sin So that we turn to God to ask for and receive God’s forgiveness The end result. So that we might walk in freedom from guilt by the grace of God
The Devil (as Diabolos the accuser) accuses us and condemns us of our sin so that we might feel guilt and remorse (but not repentance) So that he may entice us to turn away from God in our guilt, feeling worthless and useless and “dirty” The end result. So that we might be held captive in our “guilt” to the Devil.

It was quite amazing when I taught this truth in large seminars that so many attendees suddenly realised what was going on in their minds and in their lives.  Some of them later admitted that they had been having troubling thoughts. They were rejoicing in their salvation, but were often plagued with condemning thoughts. Sometimes this had led to thoughts of self-condemnation. Other times they had felt that they were too unworthy to keep on serving God. Many of these folk realised that there was a battle going on in their minds.

We need to remember that our thoughts come from various sources. The Bible teaches something that many of us have come to realise. That is, the Satan, the Devil (Diabolos)  is able to plant thoughts in our minds. He can do that in the realm of temptation as he sows tempting possibilities in our minds. But he is also known as the “accuser” which is the meaning of  the word “diabolos”. As the diagram above shows he accuses us so that we begin to feel condemned and guilty, so that we come more under his power. That is why we need to take stock of what is going on in our thinking.  We need to learn to recognise the origin of the thoughts that form in our minds. Are they from God, from Satan or just our own reflections? Is God trying to convict us of something in our lives that is not according to His will for us? As we respond to Him, we learn to walk in greater freedom. Or is it Satan having a go at us to lead us away from God.

Well, how do we discern what is going on in our minds? St Paul shows us the answer in 2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. It means not allowing our thoughts to get out of control. Rather we are to take every thought to Jesus to let Him rule on it so that we continue to live in obedience to Him. If we continue to dwell on our thoughts  we can begin to “own” them as the product of our minds, when in fact they may have been thoughts planted by Satan. The German reformer Martin Luther  saw the danger of dwelling on our thoughts. He said regarding temptation, “You can’t stop the birds flying over your heads, but you can stop them building nests in your hair.”  In other words, temptations are sure to come to all of us. It is inevitable in a fallen world where the Devil is opposed to God and to His children. But what we can and must do is to stop those tempting thoughts from taking root in our minds. Otherwise we give them power by feeding them by dwelling on those thoughts.

If you have a troubling thought in your mind you are able to do something about it. You don’t have to remain a “victim”of a diabolical attack. You can take the thought to Jesus for Him to deal with. You could pray a prayer like this one.

“Dear Lord Jesus. I thank You that You know everything about me. You know every thought I have. I confess that I have been focussing on this particular thought ….. . I want to obey you in all that I do. If this thought is from You then give me peace about it and the grace to act on it. If this thought is not from You, I ask that You break the power of that thought in my mind so that I don’t continue to focus on it. Please renew my mind so that You become the Lord of my mind. I ask this so that I might bring glory to your name in all I think, say and do. AMEN.” 

Blog No. 132.  Jim Holbeck. Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2013

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256. What is the good news behind the same sex marriage decision of the Australian Parliament in December 2017?

Euphoria! That was the description given by many reporters to the reaction in the Australian Federal Parliament at the passing of the bill to amend the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples. Members from different parties gathered on one side of the Parliament to register their vote in favour of changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples. Only a few members gathered on the other side of Parliament to register their No vote. When the result of the vote was announced there was a cacophony of noise as members of different parties rose with beaming faces from the “yes” side to embrace each other [perhaps something they had never dreamed of doing beforehand.]

The Australian Prime Minister was caught up in all the euphoria. He exclaimed “Australia has done it. What a day for love, for equality, for respect … This belongs to us all. This is Australia – fair , diverse, loving and filled with respect for every one of us. This has been a great, unifying day in our history.” He reportedly said later on a TV program, “What a day. What a day. What a day in history. What a day for love. What a day to put our arms around same-sex couples and say we love you, we respect you, you have all the rights that everyone else has had for so long — now we’re all at one.”

BUT! The scene could be viewed differently. Instead of it being a day for love, it could have been seen as a day for sadness and regret as the majority of members of parliament rejected all amendments designed to secure religious freedom and freedom of speech for Australian citizens.

“Now we’re all at one” by the Prime Minister was an exaggerated and hollow boast when in our own electorate it was almost a dead-heat with only 55.3 % of voters voting “Yes.” Nation-wide it was a majority in the plebiscite to approve same sex marriage but only by a 61.6% majority. Yes, it was a clear majority but the result was influenced by a biased media [itself influenced by Marxist philosophies]; by wads of money being spent on the “Yes” campaign and by a concerted smear campaign against those not in favour of same sex marriage, who were labelled as being bigoted, unjust, unloving, hateful and homophobic.

Let’s take another perspective. What if parliamentarians had acted on what God has revealed in His world?

The First revelation

St Paul wrote of two revelations that God has made in His world. He declares that the first revelation was a revelation of the “righteousness of God” to the world. {Righteousness could in simplest terms be described as “what God wants.”] How did God reveal it? Paul explains it was made known through the gospel message God called him to share, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’.” Rom 1:16-17. Salvation implies that some need has to be met. His words also imply that only the power of God is able to meet it. Faith takes hold of the salvation offered freely by God in His love for humankind through what Christ did for them.

Paul presses on because he knows that one can only understand the good news of the gospel if one understands the badness of the bad news. He then goes on to speak of the second revelation from God. The first revelation was about God’s love in making it possible for everyone to be saved by faith in Christ. The second revelation from God is different.

The Second Revelation

This time it is not the revelation of His love. Rather it is the revelation of His wrath.  Paul outlines what the wrath of God is like.

He carefully gives these two main points to consider.

1). God’s wrath is revealed and continues to be revealed at the present time.  [It is an ongoing revelation. It is not just ‘will be revealed’ in the future.]

  • Against what is God’s wrath revealed? Paul explains, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Rom 1:18. Instead of human lives reflecting the truth about the holiness of God by living holy lives, they are suppressing it by living the ungodly and unrighteous lives they live. Humans by their wrong behaviour make it difficult for other humans to see the holiness of God because their lives do not reflect that holiness. The truth about God is being suppressed by wrong human behaviour.
  • Can humans be excused for their failure to show forth the holiness of God? Paul says in effect, “Definitely not!” He explains, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Rom 1:19-20. In other words, God has revealed Himself in creation as a God of order and of power. Humans have no excuse for ignoring His revelation of Himself. The creation points to the Creator who has made Himself known through His world and through His word and through His Son.

2). God’s wrath is on humans who have no time for Him.

  • God has revealed Himself in His world but humans choose to reject that knowledge of Him, “For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him… .” Rom 1:21. They did not give God His rightful place nor recognise their dependence on Him. Nor did they obey Him as creatures before their Creator God.
  • Such rejection had its results, “but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Futile thinking. Darkened foolish hearts. In God’s opinion!
  • Wise in their own eyes. Foolish in the eyes of God, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Rom 1:22. In God’s opinion!
  • How did that foolishness work out in practice? Not well for humanity! In their futile thinking they made 3 exchanges which led to 3 erroneous ways of living and brought 3 tragic results.

THE THREE EXCHANGES MADE BY HUMANS, AND THE RESULTS

First Exchange By Humans. Worship of idols in place of God, “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Rom 1:23. [Idolatry. Reality replaced by unreality.]

  • A tragic result. Rom 1:24 “Therefore God gave them up …” He handed them over to do what they wanted to do independently of Him.
  • Erroneous ways of living. “… in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves.” [Not only did they fail to give Him the honour due to Him as their Creator and God but they then dishonoured His gift to them, their bodies.

 Second Exchange By Humans. Exchanging truth about God for a lie. Rom 1:25  “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie…”

  • Erroneous way of living. “and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Exchanging truth about God for a lie was bad enough. However they also worshipped His creation rather than Himself as Creator.
  • A tragic result. Rom 1:26 “For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions.” He handed them over to let them do what they wanted to do.

 Third Exchange By Humans. God’s natural order for sex exchanged for not-natural sex in God’s eyes. “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Rom 1:26-27.

  • A tragic result. Rom 1:28 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” He has given humans free-will but they have a choice to use it wisely or unwisely. (Notice a play on words here. “See fit” is from dokimázō, δοκιμάζω meaning to approve or to be acceptable. “Debased” is the opposite word adókimos, ἀδόκιμος meaning unapproved or unacceptable. Some translations have “reprobate” as being opposed to God.) God in His wrath allowed them to misuse their free-will in ignoring Him and His order for His world.
  • Erroneous ways of living. Characteristic of all humans in various degrees. Rom 1:29 “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” It is sad that humans in turning their back on God open themselves to the evil influences of the world, the flesh and the devil. Sadder still that they encourage others in their ungodly behaviour.

 SUMMING UP:-

1).  Humans in all generations make wrong exchanges from foolish thinking. They exchange reality for unreality. They fail to give God His rightful place in His world and in their lives. In a world created by God, His creatures need to receive from Him what is the truth about the world He created for a purpose and with an order. Only He fully understands what truth is. In His grace, mercy and love He has revealed that truth in His world, in His word and in His Son. To ignore the truth of that revelation means that people live in a state of “un-truth” or in a state of unreality. The wrath of God remains on those who reject Him and His love.

2).  Those wrong exchanges bring a response from God. “God gave them up.” We note though that this word for “give up” does not mean that God gives up on them. Rather the word for “give up” is [paradídōmi; παραδίδωμι] meaning to deliver over to someone or something, or to hand over to the power of someone or something. The Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it well, “God delivered them over”. As a result of the first exchange, He delivered humans over “in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity.” In the second exchange “God delivered them over to degrading passions.” In the third exchange “God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong.”

It is extremely important to note that the “wrath” of God involved in God “delivering them over” is not the sudden flaring up of anger that we see in humans. It is His settled disposition towards sin. He hates sin because of the damage it does to humans whom He created and whom He loves. He hates sin because it prevents those caught up in it from reaching their full potential in life as humans. He hates everything that is a danger to the people He loves. BUT He never loses control like humans do. That is why it so difficult for humans to understand the wrath of God. They understand wrath in the terms they have experienced it. It may have been in their own lives as they were the victims of other people’s anger. Or it may have been the memories of how they lost control in expressing anger against other people. God is not like that!

God in His wrath is never out of control. We can only understand His wrath when we read the scriptures where He tells us about the nature of His wrath. [There is more discussion on this in the previous article.]

3).  Those exchanges bring about erroneous behaviours

Paul is not saying that erroneous behaviour including idolatry, homosexuality etc will eventually bring about the wrath of God. Rather he is stating this very important truth, namely that the existence and the continued existence of idolatry, homosexuality and every other wrongful behaviour IS the manifestation of the wrath of God on the human race.

God in His wrath on sinful humans has handed them over to do what they want to do in their free will and in their rebellion against Him. They choose to be anti-God. They choose to be anti-Christ. They are accountable to God for their rebellion against Him.

What Then Is The Good News Behind The Same Sex Marriage Decision Of The Australian Parliament In December 2017?

  • Was this a demonstration of the righteousness of God? Obviously not considering what God has said about His attitude to homosexual behaviour in His word in both the Old and New Testaments.
  • Was it a demonstration of the love of God? Obviously not when His creation of marriage was being trashed and proponents of traditional marriage were being ridiculed.
  • Was it a demonstration of the wrath of God? Australians were given a choice to change the definition of marriage from God’s revealed purpose to something contrary to His character and purpose for His creatures. Did He, in His wrath, allow that to happen? Did He hand them over to do their own thing, not His?
  • The Australian parliamentarians voted “Yes” to same sex marriage and openly rejoiced that their bill to allow it was passed. Did He, in His wrath, allow that to happen? Did He hand them over to do their own thing, not His?
  • The determined effort by the majority of Parliament not to allow amendments designed to ensure religious freedoms and freedom of speech, succeeded. Did He, in His wrath, allow that to happen? Did He hand them over to do their own thing, not His?

In the eyes of many people what happened on that December day in Federal Parliament was a manifestation of the wrath of God as He handed people over to exercise their free-will and to do their own thing apart from Him. [As He does every day in the lives of all people.] Some may say, “How was His wrath manifest? I didn’t see people being struck down dead. I didn’t see hear peals of thunder and see bolts of lightning striking Parliament House.” No, because the wrath of God is not dependent on human feelings or opinions. His wrath is manifest in handing people over to let them make their own decisions and to choose to behave in ways that are contrary to His will.

He has told humans why He is patient with them in allowing them to even sin against Him, “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2Peter 3:9. He is giving people time to repent and to turn to Him for salvation.

So here is the good news. Up to this point of time God has given humans time to turn to Him. No-one is ‘too far gone’ to  miss out on His forgiveness and love. He has made it possible for humans to avert His wrath in the present and in the future. As John wrote, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36. It is by putting their faith in Christ for salvation that they avert His wrath. But is the time running out? Each day is one day closer to the time when there is no more time.

Jesus died for sinners so that they might repent of sin and turn to Him for forgiveness and eternal life. As Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” Romans 5:8-9.  That acceptance with God means that believers will avert the final release of the wrath of God at the second coming of Jesus, “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” 1 Thess 1:10. 

There is an urgency for all humans to repent and to turn back to God before it is too late! In the verse following 2 Peter 3:9 above [about the patience of God] we read these challenging words, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Universally. Unstoppable.

Peter goes on to remind us of the steps we need to take to avert this final manifestation of the wrath of God. It means letting God change our lives by His grace and power, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.” 2 Peter 3:11-14. That is only possible when people find peace with God by accepting His offer of salvation in Christ. As Paul prayed for his readers, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1Thess 5:23.

My prayer for Australia [and indeed for all humans] is based on the prayer Jesus taught us, “Your kingdom come.” O Lord, may Your kingdom come in power, opening the eyes of those still in the darkness and ignorance of sin. May they learn to repent of their sins and ask You to forgive them. Lord, please open their eyes to the truth of your word and move them by Your Holy Spirit to receive, by faith, the living Word, Jesus Himself into their lives. May they receive Him as Saviour and enthrone Him as Lord over every part of their lives.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Lord Jesus please establish Your rule in the hearts of all people so that we may all know Your will and do it. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we ‘make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with You’.” AMEN.

Blog No.256. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 18th January 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Politics, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Second coming of Jesus, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

255. DOING WHAT WE CAN TO CHANGE THE WORLD FOR GOOD. (Part 3 of 3)

There is a major problem with this world. It’s called “people”.

Sometimes we have idealised pictures in our minds of the good that humans may be capable of being and doing. However the Charles Schulz’ Peanuts cartoon expressed a significant truth. The cartoon had Linus observing this of humans, “I love mankind! It’s people I can’t stand!” Many other people have expressed a similar truth about humans. Great as a concept. Difficult in practice.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a cleaner who was cleaning our home in Sydney. It had been raining a great deal in recent days and I asked how she was managing the wet weather. I was a little surprised but amused by her answer, “I don’t have any problem with the concept of rain. It’s the practicalities I have difficulties with!” It was a great response and I have used it in teaching especially on the need for people to forgive others. Forgiveness is a great concept but we all have difficulties with forgiving in practice.  Probably because humans can be so …. human! Them! And Us!

There is a reason why people are difficult. Well, actually there are many reasons. Paul reminds us of many of those reasons in Ephesians 2. What he wrote of humans back then, still applies to all humans today. It is genetic in origin [as well as often pathetic in practice.]

A). THE WORLD’S PROBLEM. PROBLEM PEOPLE

It seems that the thinkers in the early days of the Church of England knew about humans when they placed these words in the Baptism service “For Those Of Riper Years.”

Question:- Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh; so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by them?  Answer:- I renounce them all.

They recognised that the 3 enemies of the human race are the “world”, the “flesh” and the “devil”. All of them need to be renounced in order to live a faithful life while trusting in Christ.

No doubt those early thinkers drew upon these following concepts in the writings of St Paul as they drew up the Baptismal services. We look especially at Ephesians 2.

1). The Enemy Around Humans. [The World]. Humans are spiritually dead in sin. Eph 2:1 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world … ” The “world” [kosmos, κόσμοs] can mean all the world and all its peoples. It can also mean the world in opposition to God and to His purposes for the world.   That is seen in John 1:10 where Jesus is seen as the Creator of the world but was rejected by the people of the world when He came into the world in His incarnation. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.”

The “course” [aiōn, αἰών meaning the age or the ways] of the world can mean the world’s systems of belief and behaviour. Humans were doing their own thing rather than God’s. They had been “following the crowd” as it were! Conforming to the spirit of the age!  Doin’ what comes naturally! They still do today!

It is certainly true that the world [meaning the people and their ideas] can impact us or influence us greatly. That was why St Paul suggested a solution in Romans 12. Conformity to the world could be overcome by being transformed by the renewing of our minds, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:2.

2). The Enemy Against Humans. [Satan, the Devil.] “… following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—”. The enemy against humans revealed himself in the Garden of Eden as being anti-God, a tempter, a deceiver and a liar.

He is a “prince” [archōn,  ἄρχων = first in rank or power] in being the chief among evil spirits.

He has “power “[authority, influence, exousía, ἐξουσία] but he stole it from humans.

Humans were characterised by disobedience because they were under the power of evil spirits “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” Humans were disobeying but they were under the influence of evil.  They were conforming to evil presence and influence.

There are many in our world today who suggest that evil is rampant throughout the world. What was once called “evil” is being called “good” and what was once called “good” is being called “evil”. It is a time when Christian believers are being unjustly persecuted throughout the world and very few people seem to care or even see the injustice being done. 

3).  The Enemy Within Humans. [The flesh, the “old man,” fallen human nature.]

Eph 2:3 “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind … .”  Paul is including himself and his readers among the problem people of the world. It has been a universal problem everywhere and throughout the ages.

The “flesh” [sarx, σάρξ] can have various meanings. It can mean all the people of the world, our skin which covers our bones etc, and our fallen human nature opposed to the Holy Spirit and to God.

Paul described that fallen human nature and how it behaves in Gal 5:19 “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” That covers a lot of negative human experience in the areas of sex, religion, social behaviour and self-control. That is, inappropriate sex, inappropriate religious expression, inappropriate social behaviour and inappropriate personal behaviour.

Paul did give an answer here as well. If people could learn to walk by the Spirit they would not engage in inappropriate behaviour, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17. But if they failed to be born of the Spirit and to be empowered by the Spirit then they were accountable to God for their failure to do so.

 The Outcome of the Problem of Problem People. and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

These are challenging words indeed. Many folk find it easier to ignore them than to take them seriously. What do they actually mean?

“By nature children of wrath.”  Well, that is not a very popular concept in the eyes of many people!

It means that we were born with a nature that has a bias towards evil. The Church of England and Anglican churches loyal to the Bible and to the Book of Common Prayer have always taught that truth. [NOTE 1.]

If we continue to live under the dictates of our fallen human nature then we are accountable to God who has made it possible for humans to live under His influence [if they were to repent of sin and believe in Him.]

  • “Wrath?” [The word is orgḗ, ὀργή meaning God’s settled disposition towards sin, rather than an out of control human outburst.] Many will say, “Surely you can’t associate wrath with a God of love!” Of course not! Unless of course He has described Himself in that way! And He has, in His word! The same word is used in the Greek Septuagint [LXX] version and underlined in these verses.
  • Exodus 4:14, “Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses… .”
  • In Moses’ Song, Moses warns the people, “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. The LORD saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters.” Deut 32:18-19.
  • The leaders of Israel vowed to fufil their promise before the Lord to avert His wrath, ” This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.” Joshua 9:20.
  • Exodus 32:11, ‘But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?”’
  • Deut 29:20, “The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.”
  • Isaiah 10:25, “For in a very little while my fury [orgḗ, ὀργή] will come to an end, and my anger [thumos, θυμός] will be directed to their destruction.”

There are other verses in the New Testament that refer to the wrath of God. However I found a good summary of the use of “wrath” in the New Testament in a commentary on Romans 1:18 by John MacArthur. “God has various kinds of wrath: (1) eternal wrath, which is hell; (2) eschatological wrath, which is the final Day of the Lord; (3) cataclysmic wrath like the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; (4) consequential wrath, which is the principle of sowing and reaping; and (5) the wrath of abandonment, which is removing restraint and letting people go to their sins (for examples of this wrath, see Psa 81:11-12; Pro 1:23-31; see note on Hos 4:17). Here, it is that fifth form, God’s abandoning the wicked continually through history to pursue their sin and its consequences (Rom 1:24-32).” [NOTE 2]

So the “wrath of God” is a reality whether people believe it or not. How unwise it would be to trifle with verses such as the following,

  • Rom 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth”.
  • Rom 2:5 “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed”.
  • Rom 2:8 “but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

It would be especially unwise to ignore the concept of the wrath of God considering that He has gone to great lengths to make it possible for people to avert His wrath. Joh 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Every human who believes in Jesus and obeys Him, will miss out on the wrath of God that remains on those who don’t. [See also Rom 5:9, 13:5, Eph 5:6, Col 3:6, 1 Thess 1:10, 5:9, Heb 4:3].

“like the rest of mankind.”  The “Fall of Man” in Genesis 3 affected every human ever born into this world. Paul described this fact in Romans 5, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…  14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” Rom 5:12-14.

Think of the person you dislike the most in this world. Unless they repent and turn to Christ, the wrath of God remains on them.  Think of the person you most admire and love the most in the world. Unless they repent and turn to Christ they too remain under the wrath of God until they do. However whenever anyone from any background rich or poor, good or bad, turns in repentance and faith to Christ, they belong to Him from that moment. They become part of His family. They are declared righteous in the sight of a Holy God. So sad about all the others who will not repent and turn to Christ. They have turned their backs on the love of God and on the God of love. They have spurned the precious blood of Jesus that was shed to enable them to be forgiven. They have rejected the grace and mercy of God. Those who have rejected Him, will in turn be rejected by Him! So unnecessary when God Himself made it possible for everyone to be forgiven and to have a vital loving relationship with Him.

B). GOD’S REMEDY FOR THE PROBLEM OF PROBLEM PEOPLE

The wrath of God is a reality! But praise God, so is His love! In His love for humans He has done for them what they could never do for themselves. In Eph 2:4-10 we read truths about His nature and about what He had done for humans in His love. He is described as being “rich in mercy”, loving us with a “great love”, “making us alive together in Christ”, saving us by “His grace”, believers are “raised” and “seated “with Christ in the heavenlies, having “immeasurable riches of grace in kindness” and re-creating humans for the good works He has planned for them to do.

1). God is able to make humans spiritually alive by His mercy, love and grace. He makes the spiritually dead become spiritually alive. Eph 2:4 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—”.

“But God”” What a wonderful phrase. It marks the distinction between what is seen to be reality at the present and what could become reality by the grace and power of God. The reality at present is that humans by nature are spiritually dead. BUT God did something about it in Christ. He did it because He is rich in mercy. He did it because He has great love which was manifest in His making it possible for humans to become alive in Him. He did it to save humans by His grace.

Made alive “together with Christ”. It is the result of our faith union with Christ. What happened to Him is what happened to us as we are joined to Him in the sight of God. We were “buried with” Him in baptism, Rom 6:4,  Col 2:12. We were raised with Him,  Eph 2:6 and Col 2:12. We were seated with Him in the heavenlies, Eph 2:6.

2).  God is able to raise humans up above the powers of the air that were against them. Eph 2:6 “and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  Seated with Christ in the heavenlies by His grace. Seated there in the place of acceptance. Seated there in the place of honour. Seated there in the place of authority. Why” because God accepts all those who accept His Son. God honours those who honour His Son. God delegates authority to those who place themselves under the authority of the Son.

Those who were once living under the control of Satan and his cohorts [ “… following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—” Eph  2:2.] now have authority over him and over them.

3). God is able to work His work within humans by His grace and power. Humans may have been under the influence of the evil powers at work in them in their disobedience, but no longer when they repent and believe in Christ. Their faith in Christ opens them to the grace of salvation. They didn’t have to work for their salvation. It was a gift to them in Christ, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Eph 2:8.

The great blessing for those in Christ is that God helps them to know what He wants them to do. Then He gives them the help they need to do it. As Paul put it in Eph 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” [“Workmanship” translates the Greek word poíēma, ποίημα which has been translated in simple terms as “product” and in more exotic terms as “masterpiece”.]

A caution! Before we go racing off to a mirror to admire this “masterpiece’ for the next day or so, we need to humble ourselves by realising that this masterpiece is not meant to be admired assiduously like a Rembrandt on the wall. Rather, as Paul reminds us, we are a product produced for a purpose. This “product” has been created by God to do something. That is, to do the good works that God has already planned for us to do. We are to “walk” in them, meaning that they should become the central part of our existence. What a privilege to be doing the works of God. What a responsibility!

It is a similar concept to that in Philippians 2 where Paul writes that we are to “work out” our salvation with fear and trembling knowing a certain fact. That is, that God is already at work in us by His Spirit to give us the willingness and the ability to do His will. We see the connection in the original language in Philippians 2:12-13,  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out [katergázomai, κατεργάζομαι = accomplish,  in the sense of working out the implications of our gift of salvation,. Certainly not working for our salvation] your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works [energéō, ἐνεργέω] in you, both to will [thélō, θέλω] and to work [energéō, ἐνεργέω] for his good pleasure.” In simple terms, we are to work out in practice what God is inwardly working in us while giving us the willingness and ability to do so. [Clever engineers will have already noted that some of these Greek word are based on “erg” which is a unit of work or energy. For example, katergázomai, energeo.]

SUMMING UP:- [“Houston, we have a problem!” With the world! But in Christ it is fixable!

The problem of problem people can only be fixed by having them respond to the gospel of Christ. He is the only One who can bring them alive spiritually so that they can open up to His amazing grace. Only then can they know and do the will of God for them. Only then can they work out in practice what He is inwardly working within them.

While people ignore the gospel message [or more accurately ignore the Christ of the gospel message] they will remain a problem people.

What a glorious world it would be if everyone in it opened their lives to the living Christ and allowed Him to make them what He wanted them to be and allowed Him to motivate and empower them to do the things He wanted them to do! The problem of problem people is fixable but only as problem people submit to Christ as Saviour and Lord!

A SUGGESTED PRAYER. (In words similar to the prayer I prayed just before midnight on New Year’s Eve 1958 which led to a radical transformation in my life.) The A,B,C and D of becoming a Christian as suggested by the late Rev John Stott a former Chaplain to the Queen and former Rector of All Souls Langham Place, London.)

“Almighty God, I Admit that I am a sinner in your sight and I repent of all my sins. I Believe Jesus died on the cross for sinners and that He died for me and for my sin.

I Consider the cost of becoming a Christian knowing that my forgiveness and salvation is free, but because He died for me I know I should now live for Him. 

I want to Do something about it, so I now invite You Jesus into my life to be my Saviour from sin and to be the Lord and Master of every part of my life. Please do in me and through me what You wish, for the rest of my life, that I might live for Your glory. AMEN.”

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[NOTE 1.)  From Article 9 of the 39 Articles of Religion.  “Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.”

[NOTE 2.) From his treatment of ‘wrath” in Romans 1:18 in his “MacArthur Bible Commentary”.

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Blog No.255. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Tuesday 9th January 2018.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Politics, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

254. The Things That Can Never Be Changed In This Changing World. (Part 2 of 3).

In the previous article in Section A, we looked at why it is that many people do not understand the things of God? We saw that until they are born again of the Spirit of God they are spiritually dead, blind, deaf and bound by Satan. It is when one’s eyes are opened to the truth that is in Jesus that one begins to understand spiritual realities and can come to grasp God’s eternal plan and purpose for His world. In what appears to be a chaotic world of rapid change, there are some things that are constant that will never change. God is unchanging. His word is unchanging. His purposes for His world are unchanging. God is at work to bring about his purposes even though humans may not understand Him or His plans for this world.

We look then at some of the unchanging truths that God has revealed to us through His word. They are truths that most of His people throughout the ages have believed. Many of those people have even been willing to die for them when challenged.

Here are some unchanging truths that have been held by believers for 2000 plus years of human history. They are not “proof texts” harnessed together. Rather they are samples of many texts that could be quoted on the following topics. They show us the mind and purpose of God for His creation and for His creatures.

SECTION B. GOD’S UNCHANGING TRUTHS TO BE SHARED WITH OTHERS

A]. THERE IS A CREATOR GOD WHO CREATED THIS UNIVERSE

  1. There is a God who created this world.
  • Gen 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”.
  • Created through His agent, Jesus. Joh 1:3 “All things were made through him [Jesus], and without him was not any thing made that was made.” AND Heb 1:2 “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
  1. The Creator God has made humans in his own image, and as male and female.
  • Gen 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them… .”
  • Jesus in His teaching, Mat 19:4 ‘He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.”’
  1. The Creator God created them as males and females to make it possible for them to reproduce and to have dominion on the earth.
  • Gen 1:28, “ … And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

B]. THE CREATOR GOD DESIGNED MARRIAGE FOR HIS PURPOSES

  1. The creator’s intention for marriage was that it be between a man and woman.
  • Gen 2:21 “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
  • Jesus in Mat 19:4, “He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

C]. HUMANS REBELLED AGAINST GOD’S PURPOSES FOR MARRIAGE FOR HUMANKIND

  1. The creator is opposed to homosexual practice.
  • Lev 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
  • Lev 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them”.
  • 1Cor 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.”
  • 1Ti 1:9 “understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.”
  1. Humans are accountable to God for their behaviour including sexual behaviour.
  • Lev 18:30 “So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.” [This includes homosexual practice.]
  • Lev 20:23 “And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples.” [The choice is either to fit in with God’s purposes or to rebel against them. God loves all people but detests rebellion because of the damage it does to the people He loves.]
  • Rom 14:11 ‘for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” {Every person is accountable to God for how they live in His world. Absolutely no exceptions. Even for those who say there is no God! Saying, “There is no God!” doesn’t make Him cease to exist!]

D]. HUMANS AS GOD INTENDED THEM TO BE [FOLLOWING THE FALL]

  1. They need to repent of sin and rebellion against God. That was the call from John the Baptist and also from Jesus when He began His ministry.
  • Mat 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • Paul in Athens. Act 17:30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
  • Paul shared his gospel message and mission before King Agrippa. Act 26:20 “but [I] declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” [True repentance means a change of mind accompanied by a change in attitude and behaviour. It involves turning to God.]
  1. They need to be born again of the Holy Spirit of God.
  • Jesus speaking to a “good” man. Joh 3:3 “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
  1. They need to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God and show forth the fruit of the Spirit in everyday living.
  • Paul issues a command from God, not just a good suggestion. Eph 5:18 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
  • The [singular] fruit of the Spirit [fruit = karpos] should be the inevitable outworking of the presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer. It should be the consistent Christian character of all believers. Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
  1. They need to be guided and led by the Spirit of God to achieve God’s purposes for their lives.
  • The Holy Spirit can guide humans who are open to His guidance. Gal 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
  • It is the born-again [of the Holy Spirit] children of God who can know His continual guidance, Rom 8:13 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
  • We are able to know and to have the willingness and ability to do the will of God for us, as we work out in practice what He is inwardly working within us by His Spirit. Php 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

SUMMING UP:

These are all non-negotiable truths that will exist for eternity. Reality is seeing things as God sees them and which He has made known in His word. Reality is what God says it to be, not what we might imagine it to be.

Reality is not what humans determine. It means then that the recent decision in the parliament of Australia to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples is contrary to His declared intention  of marriage as being between a man and a woman. The fact that over 60% of voters voted in favour of changing the definition, doesn’t make it right. It may be seen to be good and lawful in the eyes of humans but is not [and never will be] right in the eyes of the Lord.  He has spoken on the subject as the Creator of the universe. Clearly!

Claims that Australia had “come together” for the vote ignored the reality that over a third of the voters voted against a change in the definition of marriage. That is not a “coming together,” it is a “tearing apart.” The nation is divided on the issue and will remain divided while many people live in a state of unreality about the concept of marriage.

There were a number of indicators that the whole procedure was contentious. The promise of political leaders that “We will have same-sex marriage before Christmas!” was sheer presumption when they were in the process of changing a millennial long view of marriage.  Both leaders had promised that deep concerns about religious freedom and free speech would be protected but they failed to ensure that happened before the laws were put in place.  It sounded like Jephthah’s foolish vow that he would sacrifice the first thing to come out of his palace as he returned home. When it proved to be his beloved daughter he did not want to lose face and was determined to fulfil his vow. Ungodly vows do not bring about godly results. Everyone knew there needed to be genuine and deep discussion on those matters of religious freedom and free speech, but vows had to be fulfilled! To reach a deadline, not a genuine concerned considered outcome! Unholy haste?

What now?

In the eyes of some people, the issue is settled and the new order has come into being and people should learn to live with the new reality. Except it isn’t real in God’s eyes! Humans cannot change the unchangeable. Generations will come and go but God will never change. His views will never change. His purpose for marriage will never change. His attitude to homosexual practice will never change. His love for sinners will remain and His arms are always stretched out wide to welcome those who like the prodigal son come home to Him saying, “I’m sorry!”

The question now is how to live in this new [un]reality and how can we help people come to know and understand [and accept] reality as God sees it? That is going to be a massive and unpopular task for all of us but one worth exploring in future articles.

Blog No.254. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Tuesday 19th December 2017

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Politics, Prayer, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

253. Why is it that many people do not understand the things of God? How can we all help change the world for good? (Part 1 of 3)

The Serenity Prayer attributed to the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, has these words, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” I thought about these words after I witnessed the scene in the Australian Parliament when the vote to change the definition of marriage to be between two people rather than being between a man and a woman, was passed by the parliament.

The reactions to this scene were varied. Some saw it as one of the greatest scenes in Australia’s history. For most folk present in Parliament there seemed to be a real sense of euphoria as the decision was announced and many government and opposition members embraced perhaps for the first time ever. They had achieved a common goal through their voting in favour of same sex marriage. An older writer [and perhaps millions of others in Australia] saw it this way, “More fundamentally, what does the survey outcome and resulting legislation now mean? I can speak only for myself (and my wife of 63 years), but I suspect that in doing so I also express the view of many — perhaps a good many — other married couples. As a result of these events, the Marriage Act has been amended to provide that the sanctity of marriage is no longer available only to what I might, no doubt controversially, describe as “normal” couples, but to any two people. So does that mean I shall now be required to regard such “marriages” (which by definition are incapable of producing children in their own capacities) as being on an equal footing with my own? The law can say what it likes, but I will never do so. Still, surely those scenes of euphoria last week show something? Yes, indeed; what they principally show is how far removed our parliamentary representatives are from the real Australia.” [NOTE 1]

 Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived about 535 BC – 475 BC is reputed to have taught that “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -” Many would agree with that statement in a rapidly changing world. However there are some things in this world that are unchangeable. One is God Himself who said of Himself,  Malachi 3:6  “For I the LORD do not change…” Neither will He change His mind, Numbers 23:19 “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?” Jesus also spoke of His words as unchanging, Luke 21:33 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

We will examine many of those unchanging truths in the next article. They embody truths that many of us did not always believe. However they became known to us as the Holy Spirit entered our lives when we became believers in Jesus Christ. We felt at that time that we had come out of darkness into the light that Christ alone brings.

We proclaim these truths, not because we are wiser or more intelligent than other people. Rather it is because we believe the Holy Spirit has enabled us to understand spiritual realities which we did not understand before we became believers in Jesus. The truths have helped us and we believe they can help others.

Before we examine those truths more closely, we may need to look at why many people reject those truths. It seems that many reject them because they do not understand them.  In what follows we look at why that may be so.

SECTION A. WHY SOME PEOPLE CANNOT UNDERSTAND SPIRITUAL TRUTHS

These are some of the factors we need to keep in mind as we seek to restore Biblical order to a  world which rejects God’s Order for His world. 

  1. Biblical truth has to be spiritually discerned. Only those indwelt by the Spirit can really understand spiritual realities.
  • 1Cor 2:12 “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Practical comment: In dealing with other people we need to remember that before we became believers, we too were not able to understand spiritual realities. Most of us can remember the time when our eyes began to be opened to Bible truths and how our understanding of spiritual realities grew over time. So “Softly! Softly!” should be our approach to people who, as yet, do not believe. This is not condescension towards others. Rather it is facing up to reality as the word of God reveals it and we have experienced it.

  1. According to God’s word, unbelievers are spiritually dead, spiritually blind, spiritually deaf and spiritually bound in deception until they come to faith in Christ.
  • Spiritually Dead. Paul reminds the Ephesians that they [and he] were spiritually dead until they became spiritually alive when they believed. Eph 2:1 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
  • Spiritually blind. Likewise the minds of unbelievers are blinded until their spiritual eyes are opened as they respond to the gospel. 2Cor 4:4 “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
  • Spiritually deaf.  Many people hear spiritual truths but fail to grasp the meaning of what they heard. Luke 8:10 “he [Jesus] said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ AND as Paul warned, it is possible for humans to deliberately close their ears to spiritual truths when they are confronted with them, 2Tim 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
  • Spiritually bound. Paul instructs his readers as to how to approach those who do not believe. Warm gentleness in sharing the message, not cold confrontation, is the key.  2Tim 2:24 “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 

Practical comment: These last few verses show that confrontation may be counter-productive in dealing with people who don’t understand spiritual truth.

If they are spiritually dead, they don’t know that they are, even as we didn’t realise we were also spiritually dead before we came alive in Christ as we trusted in Him.

If they are spiritually blind they cannot understand the spiritual realities that born-again people do. God’s word reveals that truth and our own experience confirms it. We realise that it was only after our faith commitment to Jesus that the scales fell off our eyes and we understood our previous blindness. AND how blind we had been to spiritual truths.

If people are spiritually bound in unbelief and in deception they cannot know they have been deceived until they come out of the deception.  This can only normally come about when they are ready to  turn to God.  Then God is able to work through their openness to Him, to give them the gift of repentance which leads to “a knowledge of the truth.” That in turn, enables them to “come to their senses” in the sense of seeing the world as God does, in reality. That also enables them to “escape from the snare of the devil.”  [NOTE 2]

In this reference in 2Tim 2:26 we see the link between the words “snare” and “capture.” Satan’s ploy is to capture [the minds of] people as a means of ensnaring them and thus causing them to lose their senses,  “and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” The word for “after being captured” is the perfect passive form of the verb [zōgréō, ζωγρέω, to capture] which implies that minds can be captured and remain captured until they are set free. 

Paul reminded his readers that kindness and gentleness may help lead people to repentance and to an understanding of spiritual reality. Only then can they come to a knowledge of the truth. Only then can they know true reality [come to their senses]. Only then can they be set free from the devil’s control.

SUMMING UP:

It is good that in Australia we live in a democracy, not under a dictatorship nor in submission to a supposed theocracy which has nothing to do with the living God. It is meant to be “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Unfortunately it seems that some who are elected to parliament think it is “government of the people, by these ‘chosen ones’  and their cronies, for the benefit of ‘these chosen ones’  and their cronies.”  On the other hand, the vast majority of members of parliament seem to be genuinely concerned for their country and for their fellow Australians. But do they always act with wisdom? It does not necessarily follow that every parliamentarian will be wise in their choices of issues on which to impose their views.

What should our response be to changes taking place in the world that are contrary to God’s purposes for the world? Is it a greater stress on education so that people can know the truth and begin to act on it? That is part of the answer. However as we have seen above, humans before they come to Christ are in spiritual darkness, blindness and deafness. They need to be born again of the Spirit of God so that they can understand the deceptions under which they have lived and be set free to be able to understand the world as God intended it to be. So prayer is a priority for the people of God in the world today. Prayer that people’s eyes might be opened to the truth and that they may come to know Christ as Saviour and Lord, and play their part in extending God’s kingdom rule on earth.

We need to be reminded that though unregenerate humans cannot understand the gospel message and spiritual truths, they are still accountable to God for their ongoing blindness and unwillingness to turn back to God. Paul pointed that out in his message to the people in Athens, Act 17:30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  His message evoked a response, Act 17:32 ‘Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”‘ Some mocked, but others later believed.

The day is coming when God will judge the world through His Son Jesus Christ. It is therefore our privilege and our responsibility to make sure every human is able to hear [and understand[ the gospel as we pray for them. Ignorance is not always bliss!

[In Parts 2 and 3 we will look at the unchangeable truths we need to affirm and hold on to. We will also look at what possibilities there may be in helping to bring back God’s righteous purposes for His world.

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[NOTE 1]  John Stone in “The Australian”,  15th December 2017

[NOTE 2] “Snare” is [pagis, παγίς  meaning something that holds fast such as a snare or a trap.] Four of the 5 references to the word are used by Paul in his writings and 3 of them are in Paul’s letters to Timothy.  In each case it seems to refer to the guile of Satan and the deceits he is able to place in human minds. See 1Tim 3:7 where Paul warns Timothy about placing a new convert into a leadership position where he might fail due to his immaturity, “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”  Later in the same letter he warns of the danger of  being tempted by greediness,  1Tim 6:9 “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Satan as the tempter, tempts!

Blog No.253. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Monday 18th December 2017

 

 

 

 

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252. The Australian plebiscite results favoured same-sex marriage. The “No” voters lost! Or did they?

“The “NO” voters have lost!” That was the immediate reaction by many people to the announcement that the plebiscite in Australia to recognise same-sex marriage had finished with a majority in favour of the “Yes” vote. It now seems almost certain that a Bill to allow for same-sex marriage will be passed in both houses of the Australian Parliament. If that is so, it means the definition of marriage would change from being between a man and a woman to being between two people.

But have the “No” voters really lost? “Lost” what? One cannot know the motivation behind every “No” vote but if the “No” voters had genuinely voted to maintain what they felt was a God-given concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman then they certainly didn’t “lose” favour with God. It was an act of love towards God to vote “No.” They were voting to maintain what they saw as a wonderful privilege and blessing [marriage] given to humans by their Creator.

If they had voted “No” to same-sex marriage because they believed that God is opposed to same-sex marriage and were concerned that some people would transgress the will of God by entering into an entity called “same-sex marriage”, then again they did not “lose” favour with God. Rather they were honouring Him by honouring His opinion about marriage.

Furthermore, in seeking to prevent the legalisation of same-sex marriage by voting “No,” they were acting in love towards those who would be tempted to enter into such a relationship which God has declared to be contrary to His will. To vote “No” was a loving act, not a homophobic nor a discriminatory act, nor the act of a bigoted person. As I have previously written in these articles, to encourage people to enter into behaviour that is contrary to the will of God, is extremely uncaring and unloving.

In a very real sense then, those who were genuinely voting “No” because of their love for God and their love for their fellow-humans were trying to fulfil the two great commandments Jesus taught His disciples. In response to a scribe who asked Jesus about the commandments Jesus answered, Mark 12:29 “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

You don’t “lose” when you side with God in seeking to honour Him by obeying His commands and by trying to fulfil His commandments. You don’t “lose” when you are [hopefully] motivated by love towards God and by love toward one’s neighbour.

The question for us now is to work out just what our responses should be to a change in Australian law to recognise same-sex marriage. It is not easy to try to adjust our concept of marriage, [which has been pretty much unchallenged for thousands of years] to this new “reality”. Or perhaps we have begun to live in a world of unreality in which some of His creatures are telling their Creator that His sense of reality is no longer “real” to them. Sadly, some go further and claim that what He has revealed in His word about His creation of marriage as being between a man and a woman, is unloving, discriminatory and even evil.

It may be time for those who “lost” [in the eyes of some], to reflect on what St Paul wrote on “loss” when after having the world at his feet as a leading teacher among the Jews he “lost” it all in order to gain something infinitely better. In His words, Philippians 3:7 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … .”

It is better to be a “loser” in the eyes of the world than to be a “loser” in the eyes of the Lord. Jesus did say, by the way, something important about marriage, Mat 19:4 “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 … ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Fancy Jesus using binary terms such as “male” and “female” and “man” and “father” and “mother” and “wife.” Enough to make some modern-day gender benders have conniptions! But as God’s agent in creation, He might know a thing or two! [NOTE 1]

Does Jesus’ opinion matter in today’s world? He took what He said seriously, Joh 12:48 “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”  His words [the Father’s words] will judge us! Strong words indeed!

It seems that some people are too ashamed to acknowledge Jesus’ words [the Father’s words] as being true and relevant for today! But let Jesus have the last word, [as indeed He will have at the last day] Mar 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

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[NOTE 1]   Jesus as Creator as seen in John 1:3 “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made”. AND in Colossians 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” AND in Hebrews 1:2 “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

Blog No.252. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 3rd December 2017

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Forgiveness, Politics, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

251. Do You Want To See The Power Of God Being Released Into Today’s World? Ephesians 1:15-23. [Part 2 of 2.]

As I penned the previous article about the need for a demonstration of God’s power in our world today, I had a change in direction in my thinking. Many of us have been preaching about the need for people to respond to the love of God seen in Jesus’ self-giving and sacrificial love on the cross as He died for sinners. Praise God, many have responded to this message of love. Does it mean though that people in today’s world also need to see a release of the power of God into our world today? It is obvious that they do! However, as I reflected on that, I realised afresh that many in Jesus’ day had rejected His loving ministry towards them AND had rejected Him in spite of also seeing the power of God active through Him.

I had been studying the multitude of power words in Ephesians 1 and began to focus on verses 18 and 19, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Here is the great reminder that for people to be able to understand and experience the power of God, their eyes needed to be enlightened. Only then could they know and experience God’s hope, His riches and His power.

In the text below, the words from Ephesians 1:18-23 are printed on the left in italics. To the right of each significant word in the Bible text I have put the New Testament Greek word to amplify its meaning, especially the meanings of the “power” words.

AN OUTLINE OF THE  PASSAGE [Ephesians 1:15-23] SHOWING THE “POWER” WORDS

Paul prayed that his readers might come to know God more intimately, 1:18 “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know…” What was it that He wanted them to know? Three things in particular.

  1. THE HOPE OF THEIR CALLING. 1:18.

18 “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know…”

  • “enlightened?” [ Please turn to the previous article No 250 for discussion on this word.]
  • “that you may know…” from eídō [εἴδω to see or understand, be aware of, perceive.] God’s supernatural action, in enlightening the eyes of people, was needed for them to be able to understand the truths Paul prays they will come to know and experience. [NOTE 1]
  • “what is the hope to which he has called you.” [Hope, elpís, ἐλπίς is not something uncertain. Rather, it is the certainty based on the unchanging character of God, on his unchanging word and especially on His promises to His people. It is certain too because Jesus Christ is the basis of hope, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope.” 1 Tim 1:1. Hope is certain because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Heb 13:8.]
  • “Calling” is a reminder that God’s people have been “called out” from the world to belong to Him. That is the meaning of the word for church, the “ecclesia” from the Greek [ekklēsía, ἐκκλησία the “called out” ones.] [NOTE 2]
  1. THE RICHES OF HIS GLORIOUS INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS. 1:18.

18 … that you may know …  what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints

  • what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. [Some may see this as the riches God has in His people. However most see it as the riches which are ours in Christ, that are so much emphasised in Ephesians.] The word for “riches” [ploútos, πλοῦτος] is also found in Ephesians in 1:7, 1:18, 2:7, 3:8 and 3:16. [NOTE 3]

It’s at this point that we need to ensure that our seat belts are on, that we are safely buckled up, as Paul introduces us to a volley of power words in just a few verses.

  1. THE IMMEASURABLE GREATNESS OF HIS POWER IN US. 1:19-21.

God’s power words.

19 “and what is the

  • immeasurable [huperballo from hupér, above, and bállō, to throw or cast.] Can mean exceeding or surpassing. It is the basis of our English word “hyperbole” which is a figure of speech using extreme exaggeration to make a point. His greatness cannot be measured.
  • greatness [megethos]. From mega = great. English language uses “megaton’ to describe a powerful bomb.
  • of his power [dunamis] toward us who believe, according to [This is one of the main words for power in the New Testament. It is the basis of our English words “dynamic” and “dynamite.”
  • the working [energeia] of his might [Most of instantly recognise the close similarity to our English words “energy” from which it is derived. The clever engineers among us go even further and will have spotted the “erg” in the middle of the word which they know is the unit of work or energy in Physics. Clever people, engineers!]

Now comes a little challenge. Many translations have the next 2 power words in the form of an adjective and a noun. Thus ESV “great might.” NIV has “mighty strength”. The problem is that they are all nouns. The NASB version translates it as, “the working of the strength of His might.”

  • might [kratos ]. This can mean strength, dominion. It forms the basis of our English words, “democracy” and “theocracy”.
  • great [ischus] Used to denote physical and mental strength.

20 that he worked [energeo] in Christ when he [Here is the verb form of “energeia” above.

  • raised [egeiro] him from the dead and [The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is seen as a mighty act of God and a declaration of the divinity of Jesus, Rom 1:4 “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
  • seated him [kathizo]. Here is seen the direct action of God, in having raised Jesus from the dead, He then proceeded to seat Jesus at His own right hand in glory. The power of God was seen in the fact that nothing and no one could prevent that from happening.
  • at his right hand [This was associated with the highest place of honour and authority.]
  • in the heavenly places, [This is seen as the abode of God Himself and as the contrast between the physical world and the spiritual world.]

21 far above all rule [arche means rule. [English words are monarchy, one person as ruler and  oligarchy, the rule of a small group.]

  • and authority [exousia [This is delegated power. For example, the policeman on traffic control can stop the traffic, not because he is physically powerful, but because he has the authority given to him, to exercise control, by the governing authorities.]
  • and power [dunamis [ as seen in verse 19 above]
  • and dominion [kuriotes [The Greek word comes from “kurios” meaning “Lord” or “Master” and was used of God and also of Jesus in the New Testament. “Kuriotes” means dominion or civil power and denotes the glory of Christ the King.
  • and above every name that is named, not only in this age [The name was important in ancient times. To know the name of someone was to have some power over them. Jesus has been given the name which is superior to every other name, He was and is pre-eminent. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2, the name of Jesus has been given the highest place through His sacrificial death on the cross and by His rising to life. Php 2:9  “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”]
  • but also in the one to come. [Jesus introduced this new age when He came to earth. He taught that God’s kingdom had come with His coming and that His ability to cast out demons was a sign that kingdom had come in Him, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Mat 12:28. The kingdom of God has been present since Jesus’ first coming but will come in its fullness when He returns.

 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church [All other powers have been made subject to Jesus. Conquering kings would often place their feet on their captives to show their victory over them. Jesus is Lord of all, though He allows other powers limited power which is always under His control, 1 Cor 15:25, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

  • head over all things to the church, [ “Head” is kephalḗ, κεφαλή. The word is used of the human head but also can also mean the top thing or person. He is head of the church meaning He motivates and empowers His people by His Spirit as they [hopefully] abide in Him. Many will recognise that kephale is found in English words such as “cephalalgia” for headache and “encephalitis” meaning an inflammation of the brain.

 23 which is his body, [body = sṓma, σῶμα is used metaphorically for a body, the whole body of Christians collectively, of which Christ is the head. It is one body but has many members “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Rom 12:5.

  • the fulness of him who fills all in all.” [The noun “fulness” is plḗrōma, πλήρωμα and “fills” is the verb form pleróō, πληρόω.] The word for “fulness’ is found in another 3 verses in Ephesians, Eph 1:10 “as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” AND Eph 3:19 “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” AND Eph 4:13 “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  Imagine that! In verse 3:19 we are encouraged to believe that it is possible for us to be filled with all the fullness of God! How? Through knowing God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. Nothing less than that should be our goal! By His grace! And only by His grace, love and power.

SUMMING UP

Whew! One could say “That’s a whole lotta power in them thar verses!”  So why aren’t we seeing it in our churches? One reason may be that the eyes of many folk have not yet been enlightened to understand these truths.

Another reason may be that we have simply glossed over these words as we have read them or heard them without taking in their deep meanings.

An encouragement! Paul’s prayer for these Ephesians later in Ephesians 3:14-21 is one we can pray for ourselves and for others. These verses echo some of the power words we have seen in this Ephesian 1 passage. Here is the prayer with some power words underlined. I pray it for all who read this article. I would love you to pray it for me!

PAUL’S PRAYER FOR BELIEVERS. Eph 3:14 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

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[NOTE 1] The same word [eídō]  is used elsewhere in Ephesians to indicate the certainty that comes from true knowledge,

Eph 6:8  ”knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

Eph 6:9 “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Eph 6:21 “So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.”

[NOTE 2] Christians understand the words of Jesus that they have responded to His call on their lives to belong to Him and for His purposes,

Joh 15:16  “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

[NOTE 3]  We note in Ephesians that “riches” is used in the following verses of God’s grace, of the unsearchable riches in Christ and of the riches of God’s glory.

Eph 1:7  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

Here in 1:18, “ …  the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

Eph 2:7 “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Eph 3:8  “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Eph 3:16 “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

Blog No.251. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 30th November 2017

 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Salvation, Sanctification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

250. Do You Want To See The Power Of God Being Released Into Today’s World? Ephesians 1:15-23. [Part 1 of 2]

As I listened to Andrew preaching his first sermon in a Port Anglican service, I was struck by his love for the written word [the Bible] and by his obvious love for the Living Word [Jesus]. I was also encouraged to hear of his experience of God’s power in his life over many years. I was motivated by what he said to reflect on the passage set for the day which was on “Christ the King” / ”The Reign of Christ.” I was surprised to read of so many “power” words in the passage from Ephesians 1:15-23. Perhaps I am looking for “power” these days when I see so little of the power of God I once observed in the church.

The world needs love

Once I loved hearing Dionne Warwick sing, “What the world needs now is love sweet love, it’s the only thing there’s just too little of.” I felt that was true in days gone by. However, it seems to me that the world has changed. It still needs love but it doesn’t seem to understand what love is. It’s a reminder of the time when the world was challenged by the greatest demonstration of genuine love the world has ever seen. Did they accept it? No! They crucified Him!

They would do the same today! So many in the world have twisted the concept of love so much that it almost means the opposite to what it once did. For some folk today “tolerance” has replaced “love”.   People “love” the concept of tolerance but some of them are extremely intolerant and unloving of those who do not interpret “tolerance” as they do!

Many of us in the church used to think that if only people could see true love, their hearts would be softened. So we preached about the love of God, trusting that some would recognise His love and give their hearts to Him. Many did! But the world has continued to change in such a way that it seems many folk cannot think logically. They want to shut down rational debate on various issues. They want to hold on to what they were taught at some universities [which many sincere academics of other unis warn us is to accept what liberal lecturers say and to reject all other interpretations.] Instead of open enquiry at some unis, it is closed thinking!  Logicality is being replaced by absurdity! Absurdity is becoming the new “normal” in many parts of the world [and unfortunately, in some parts of the church where the Bible has been rejected and where Christ is not given His rightful place.]

Does today’s world need a demonstration of the power of God, as well as love?

It has made me wonder whether, in addition to preaching about the love of God for sinners, we should be praying earnestly for God to exhibit His power, not just to confirm what we say [as He often does], but to show people He is at work in the world today. [NOTE 1] There was a time when one could see demonstrations of the love and power of God at work in the lives of humans, as people’s eyes were opened to understand the gospel and also to experience physical and emotional healings of various types. Somehow the church at large has lost a sense of the power of God and has little expectancy for God to work powerfully today.

It is frightening to see the Church of England, with its marvellous history of wonderful men and women of God touching human lives for good, self-imploding as it turns away from Christ and from the Christian gospel. God cannot empower a church that turns its back on Him. His power is available to those who realise they need Him and His power and who humble themselves to ask Him for His empowering.

Whoa! A change in direction! Love! Power! Is something else needed?

I was about to go on to consider all the power words in Eph 1:15-23 but then I was challenged by the thought that many of the people of Jesus’ day saw His incredible power at work and it didn’t change them. On one occasion, many witnessed the effects of a miraculous healing and yet they asked Jesus to leave their district! In Mat 8:28-34 we read that Jesus ministered to two men with demons and set them free.  The demons were permitted by Jesus to enter into pigs as verse 32 shows “and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters.” It had an impact on the herdsmen who had been looking after the pigs, “The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men.” Mat 8:32. Two dangerous men totally set free and in their right minds! Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Out come all the city to thank Him and to praise Almighty God. Pardon? No, they didn’t! Instead we read this, “And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.” Mat 8:34. Here were creatures telling the Creator to “Buzz off! We don’t want you around here!” Jesus in His ministry of love was saying to people in need, “Come!” These people in their spiritual blindness were saying to Jesus, “Go!” He did! He doesn’t impose Himself on those who have no time for Him but is always there for those who turn to Him in their need.

We read of other occasions in the ministry of Jesus where He exercised miraculous power. Some folk were motivated to believe in Him and to follow Him. Others witnessing the same mighty work of God through Jesus were motivated to try to kill Him! Many who had seen His miracles, when faced with the choice between Barabbas a murderer and Jesus, chose Barabbas. When asked what should happen to Jesus they cried out “Crucify Him!” The miracles may have been signs pointing to the truth about Jesus as the divine Son of God and the promised Messiah, but they did not compel belief in the lives of some of the people in Jesus’ day.

What then might be needed in today’s world? Love? Yes! Power? Yes! But also enlightenment by God to be able to know His hope, His riches and to experience His power!

An answer came as I again looked at the text from Eph 1:15-23. In verse 15 Paul had been praising God for the faith and love of the saints in Ephesus. But he was led to pray for them that they might know something they could not know apart from a revelation from God. What did he pray? He prayed thus, Eph 1:17 “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe… .”

 Paul’s readers needed to allow the Spirit to reveal a deeper knowledge of Jesus to them. The NIV has the translation, “so that you may know him better.” What else needed to happen so that they understood more fully who Jesus was and what they had in Jesus?  Verse 18 gives the answer. They needed to have the eyes of their hearts “enlightened”. That presupposes that eyes can be in darkness or in ignorance of reality. That is how the word phōtízō, [φωτίζω to enlighten] is used in these verses. We note that the word is used in the following ways,

It is used of Jesus, John 1:9 “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” The world was in darkness until Jesus the light of the world came to enlighten it. Jesus will come again and will  bring enlightenment about hidden things. 1Cor 4:5 “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart …”  Jesus appeared to bring truth about life and immortality.  2Tim  1:9 “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10  and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel …”

 It is used of St Paul. His message was to bring to light the purposes of God. Eph 3:8 “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

 It is used of believers in Hebrews. They had been in darkness but had been enlightened through the gospel message. Heb 6:4 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit. … .”   AND Heb 10:32 “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings …”

 The New Testament sees unbelievers are being in the darkness, ignorant of the reality that is in Jesus, with minds darkened or closed or blinded to the gospel message. There is no way they can know or understand the things mentioned in Eph 1; 18-23, namely, the hope of the Christian calling, or the riches of the glorious inheritance in glory for God’s people, nor the immeasurable greatness of His power.  Darkness is banished as light shines. Jesus is the light of the world and gives light today to those who turn to Him in faith.

What we need to be praying then is for unbelievers’ eyes to be opened to the gospel message, to the person of Jesus, to what He has done in His death and resurrection, to an understanding of His love, to the reality of God’s kingdom power at work in the world. Only then will they be able to receive His love and His power in their lives by turning from darkness to Jesus the light of the world.

Well, it’s almost time to introduce those exciting power words I was mentioning above. But mercy prevails and I leave that to the next article [Part2].

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NOTE 1] The apostles preached the gospel message and God confirmed their message by signs.  “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” Mark 16:20. The same confirmation took place when Paul and Barnabas were preaching, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” Acts 14:3.

Blog No.250. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 30th November 2017

 

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