304. Are We Living In God’s Real World Or In A False Make-Believe World Opposed To God? Thoughts from Hebrews 10

Recently I was preparing a sermon on Hebrews 10. What struck me particularly as I did so was that it is possible to live in a false make—believe world whilst ignoring the real world of God’s making.

These were the words that grabbed my attention. Hebrews 10:11 “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” And later, “then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” Hebrews 10:17-18.

When the writer penned these words there was a reality as seen by God and a “reality” as seen by some humans. The reality seen by humans was the picture of priests offering sacrifices for sin in the temple. Every day! Yet as they did so it showed that sin was not being dealt with or forgiven.  That’s why they had to keep offering sacrifices! That was the norm for so many humans at that time. Reality to them was the priests continuing to offer sacrifices for sin. However, what the priests were doing was achieving nothing in the real world, God’s world. He told us so!

The reality of God’s world

The reality of God’s world was different. It focussed on Jesus the Son of God, the Creator of the universe who had come into the world as the long-promised Jewish Messiah. He had come to do the will of God, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” Hebrews 10:5-7. The will of God for Him involved offering Himself as a sacrifice for sins that would make forgiveness of all sin possible.

The writer describes the reality about the true sacrifice that would take away sin, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-14.

Note those significant words, “a single sacrifice” and “he sat down at the right hand of God.”  God had accepted His one sacrifice as the sacrifice that would take away all sin forever. There would be no other sacrifice needed. The job had been done. The true priest had offered the perfect sacrifice for sin [Himself] and forgiveness was now available for anyone in Him. The mention of His sitting down was to emphasise that His priestly work was done. No more sacrifices needed to be offered. His single sacrifice of Himself was sufficient to cover all sin of all people throughout all ages!

The absurdity of the false reality

Jesus had done it all and returned to His Father in glory, sitting at His right hand in the place of honour. Why then were these priests still offering sacrifices which never had any power to take away sin? All the sacrificial system did was to prepare people for the one perfect and complete sacrifice that was to be offered by the one true High Priest, Jesus. Those sacrifices had been symbols of a coming reality. But now the reality had come and the symbols were no longer necessary. In fact the continuation of the sacrificial system was an ignorant or deliberate rejection of reality as God saw it and had planned from eternity. It was an absurdity!

Fancy playing around with symbols when the reality had come! THE sacrifice had been offered and been accepted by God as sufficient to cover all sins forever! The writer to the Hebrews expressed it like this, “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near” Heb 10:1. All humans had to do was to receive forgiveness of their sins was to receive it where God had placed it, in Jesus. As Paul wrote of Jesus’ death, “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” Eph 1:7. As we believe in and receive Jesus as Saviour [of our sins] and Lord of our lives we receive the benefits of His sacrificial death, namely forgiveness of sins [and eternal life as John indicated in 1 John 5:11-13.].

This was indeed the message that the Lord gave to Paul at his conversion to Christ, as Paul recalled in Acts 26 “And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:15-18.

Are There False “Realities” In Today’s World?

Are there different ways to God? Isn’t that a reality in today’s ways of thinking? It would be “nice” to think so but the reality is different. There may be many ways to come to Jesus but He is the only way to God. As He said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Peter declared that truth in his preaching when he said, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11-12.

To say there are other ways to God except through Jesus is to live by a false reality. In God’s real world, Jesus is the only Saviour and the only way to God. That’s what that passage from Hebrews 10 also showed in describing Jesus’ death as providing access into the presence of God, “by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” Heb 10:20. Only through Him can people “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Heb 10:22. In God’s world, the real world, only Jesus provides that new and living way into His presence.

As long as you are sincere, you will be ok! That’s what some people think or hope to be a true reality. But are they living in a real or a false world? If we were asked the question, “Why should God accept you into His kingdom?” What answer could we give? It sounds a bit hollow to say, “Oh, I’m trusting in my sincerity!” After the laughter had died down, we might repeat, “But I’m being sincere in answering that question!” Sincerity doesn’t open the door to God’s acceptance and presence. Only Jesus does, for He alone opened the way to God and is the living way into His presence.

The reality is that the eternal and only God has sent His Son into the world to be the only Saviour from sin. To reject the Son and all He did for humankind through His death and resurrection is to reject God and His purpose for the world. It is living in a state of unreality to reject reality.

We’ll all be OK in the end for God will accept everyone! True or false? Reality or unreality?

I also noticed the following words in reading Hebrews 10. They are uncomfortable words. They are warning words. They are words talking about real things, about a real God with real plans and real purposes for His world. The writer had written, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The reality is that there is a day, a day of reckoning. The reality is that it is drawing near. The reality is that the time to act is diminishing.” Those who have acted on the gospel message and trusted in Jesus for salvation and for the forgiveness of their sins can come boldly to the throne of Grace, entering through the access Jesus provided in that new and living way, in Himself. That is the reality as God sees and declares it.

Is there a reality for those who have no desire to submit to or to receive Jesus? Can they set their own reality or is a reality set for them? Yes, they can change their present reality in that they can use their freewill to receive Jesus and become open to all the blessings that are to be found in Him, such as forgiveness of their sins, answers to prayer and eternal life.

But there is also a reality if they choose to ignore Him, reject Him and to reject the offer of His love to them. It is a reality declared by God to those who do not act on the truth of His revelation to humankind. The revelation in form of a warning is this, Heb 10:26 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Grim words, but real words about a real danger.

The real danger is in ignoring or failing to appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for humankind. The writer refers back to the Deuteronomy 17:6-7 to highlight the danger of rejecting the law of Moses and contrasts that with the more serious charge of  rejecting Jesus and His sacrificial death, ‘Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’. The blood that was shed on the cross wasn’t any old blood! It wasn’t the blood of simply a nice kind human! It was the blood of the Creator of the universe! It was the blood of the eternal Son of God who had come to earth especially to die for the sins of humankind. It was the blood of the long-promised Jewish Messiah!

So there are two realities that are both true. One is for believers who have accepted God’s grace in Jesus and the other is for those who have failed to do so. The latter have the warning, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,’ Heb 10:31. The former who trust in Jesus have a different promise, the promise of entry into the presence of God at all times through the sacrificial blood of Jesus. For them it could be said, “It is a wonderful thing to fall into the hands of the loving God.”

The reality we will experience is dependent on what we do with Jesus. Accepting Him means the reality of acceptance with God. Rejecting Him means the reality of rejection by God. The “Day” is drawing near but has not fully arrived as yet. There is still time to change not only our perception of reality by seeing Jesus as the ULTIMATE REALITY but to become a new reality, a “new creature” in Christ by accepting Him into our lives as Saviour and Lord. As Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Cor 5:17.

Getting in touch with reality [with Jesus as the Living Truth]

Jesus wanted us to get in touch with Him as the living reality in this world. When He said He was “The way and the truth and the life,” [John 14:6] He meant it! He is the truth about creation -He created it! He is the truth about humankind – He became the perfect human. He is the truth about the way to God -He is the only way to the Father. He is the life in the sense that He was the source of all life but came to bring eternal life, God’s life, to humans who opened up their lives to Him!  This is His invitation to all who want to enter into reality in Him. He indicated that He stands at the door of each human heart, knocking and waiting to be invited in, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” Rev 3:20.  Beginning a never-ending life of fellowship with Him.

How does it start? With a prayer of openness to Jesus such as this one, “Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for knocking on the door of my life and asking to come in.  I choose now to open the door of my life to you. Please come into my life and be my Saviour from sin. Establish your throne in  my life as I submit to You as Lord of every part of my life. Fill me with Your presence so that I might live for You from this moment on! I ask these things in Your precious name of Jesus. AMEN!”  

Blog No.304 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 22nd November 2018.

 

 

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303. Thank you! A big “Thank you” for reading the articles on my blog-site!

There is a famous story, told in many versions, of a foreigner travelling in Ireland who asked a local for directions. The local obliged with a tortuous description of the complicated route. Then he added these extremely helpful words, “But if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here!” What wise words!  It’s always much easier to start from a more advantageous situation!

I thought of that when I hoped to reach a goal of 100,00 hits on my blogsite. Starting at 76 years of age after being retired for 5 years and living in virtual anonymity was not a good background for achieving a such a goal. But at last the numbers are in!

So I would like to thank all those who looked at some of the 300 plus articles and especially those who recommended the blogsite to others. WordPress have a summary of each blogsite and they tell me that that at the moment I have had 100,022 ‘hits’ from 56,258 people from 190 countries or regions.  The first 25 countries in the order of the number of ‘hits’ on the blogsite were the United States, Australia, Philippines, United Kingdom, Canada, India, South Africa, Singapore, Nigeria, European Union, New Zealand. Malaysia, Kenya, Ghana, Germany, United Arab Emirate, Hong Kong, China, Jamaica, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Indonesia, Italy, Ireland, Trinidad & Tobago. Surprisingly within the first 50 were also [in order[ Oman, Qatar, Burma, Russia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Brunei and Romania.

I have always thought that if only one person in one of these countries was helped, then the effort put into producing the articles would have been worthwhile. I pray the good Lord may use these articles [and hopefully some new ones] to bring blessing to needy individuals in different parts of His world.

Expressing my gratitude to you for your interest and support.

Blog No 303 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Tuesday 13th November 2018

 

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302. “Taking Hold Of Our Unsearchable Riches in Christ!” Praying Through Ephesians. Ephesians 3:7-10

It would be sad to read of an old man who lived his whole life in poverty not knowing that in his youth he had been left billions of dollars in an inheritance. What a difference it would have made to him if he had realised the ‘unsearchable’ riches that were really his.

Paul in this letter is at pains to share with the Ephesian believers, all the unsearchable riches they possessed in Christ.

The Passage From Ephesians 3:7-10. Eph 3:7 “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 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.”

A Suggested Prayer Based on Eph 3:7-10

“Heavenly Father, we thank You that through the gospel You invite us to receive Your love in Jesus Christ. We thank You that You work within us to enable us to respond to You and to Your plan and purpose for us. Enable us to more fully understand and to take hold of the unsearchable riches which are ours in Christ. We want to live in the fulness of Your grace so that we can play our part in Your church in making Christ known throughout the world. We ask these things so that Your name may be glorified throughout the earth. AMEN!”

Some Notes On The Passage From Eph 3:7-10

“According to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me”. It’s so easy to just glance at this phrase and miss its richness. The word for “gift” is [dōreá, δωρεά] which is used to denote a gift stemming from the grace of God. Not just any old gift! Grace is [charis] meaning God’s unmerited favour. Paul didn’t earn or deserve the gift. But “grace” can also mean God’s enabling. Paul’s ministry was a gift from God for the benefit of His people.

There is a juxtaposition in this verse in his use of the terms “gift”, “grace” and “given” used in conjunction with the more dynamic terms “working” and “power.“ Paul’s ministry was a gift from God’s grace given to him and to the church but the preparation of Paul for that ministry involved God being at work in him by His power. He knew that was necessary as he indicated in Philippians where he wrote that believers have to work out in practice what God is working inwardly within them, 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 your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” The working out of his ministry was dependent on God’s work in him motivating and enabling him for his ministry.

Why was that work necessary? Because Paul saw himself as being the “very least of the saints”. The word he uses is a superlative, meaning the least of the least. So God’s powerful enabling grace was given to Paul to enable him to preach the gospel message to the Gentiles and to help them to recognise two things in particular. Namely, the unsearchable riches they possessed In Christ, and also the purpose of God is using the church to make known God’s wisdom in establishing Christ’s victory throughout the seen and the unseen world.

 “Unsearchable riches.” ‘Unsearchable’ is [anexichniastos , ἀνεξιχνίαστος] in the Greek New Testament . The only other occurrence is in Rom 11:33 where the word is translated as “inscrutable.” 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”  Humans, of themselves, are unable to grasp the depths of God’s wisdom or the vastness of God’s ways. Understanding could only come by revelation from God. That’s where Paul came into the picture as one of God’s agents He used to enlighten the people [especially the Gentiles] who sat in darkness.

“Riches”. The word is used more frequently here than in any other book in the New Testament. For example in 1:7 redemption and forgiveness are seen as coming from the riches of His grace.  In 1:18 Paul prays that his readers in Ephesus might be enlightened to know what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Then in 2:7 he mentions the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Finally in 3:16 it is “according to the riches of His glory.” Riches so vast and so deep they could only be understood by revelation from God through His agents and through His church as it shared the gospel message.

This passage raises the question for us. Why live as spiritual paupers when in Christ we can become open, by His grace, to His unsearchable riches? And then live, appropriating from those unsearchable riches, for His glory, not ours!

Blog No.302 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 9th November 2018.

 

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301. “Halleluia, I belong!” Praying through Ephesians. Ephesians 3:1-6

“Halleluia, I belong!” is the cry of the person who discovers that in coming to faith in Christ, they now belong to God’s people. His people whom He has called to Himself through the ages. Paul in this chapter wrote about the mystery of the gospel that God had revealed to humankind through Paul and other apostles and prophets. It is “good news” about belonging, for those who feel or have felt they didn’t really belong anywhere. What an incredible joy it is to discover that one belongs to the eternal purpose of God for His world as Paul previously reminded us in Ephesians 1:4, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Wow! Chosen in Him! Chosen to belong to Him before the world was even made!

THE PASSAGE FROM EPHESIANS 3. [3:1-6]

Eph 3:1 “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

A SUGGESTED PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 3:1-6

“Lord, We thank You for the truths You have revealed to us in Ephesians chapter 3. We thank You that You have revealed to us, that as believers, we are fellow heirs with all Your faithful people throughout all generations. We thank You that we belong to the one body of Christ throughout the world and throughout human history. We thank You that we are partakers of all the promises that You have given to those who trust in Jesus.

Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to show our gratitude for Your grace to us by living in the way You want us to live, now and forever. AMEN!

NOTES ON THE PASSAGE FROM EPHESIANS 3:1-6

“Mystery.”

  • What is a mystery in the New Testament? The Greek word is [mystērion, μυστήριον] which means an open secret for those who have eyes to see. But it had to be revealed by God. It was not humanly possible to be discerned apart from Him.
  • How was it revealed? It is truth made known by God’s revelation through chosen people being the apostles [including Paul himself] and prophets.
  • What was the mystery? Paul here lists three aspects of the mystery about believers, about those who belong! They are:-

“Fellow heirs.”  The phrase is also mentioned in Rom 8:17 where we are seen to be fellow heirs with Christ Himself as well as with other believers from Jewish or Gentile backgrounds, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” What is His, is ours in Him! Wow! As Paul reminded the believers in Corinth, “For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” 1 Cor 3:21-23.

“Members of the same body.”  The “body” of course, is the body of Christ. It is composed of all who put their trust in Christ throughout the ages. How exciting to meet up with believers from various parts of the world and to discover that we all belong to the one body of people throughout the world for whom Christ is central. We belong to Him, and to one another in Him!

“Partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” This Greek word for “partakers” [symmetochos, συμμέτοχος] is only used twice in the New Testament. The other occurrence is in Ephesians 5:7 where believers are warned not to be partakers of, nor to share in false teaching. Here however the emphasis is on the privilege of believers as being sharers of the blessings flowing from the promises of God which found their fulfilment in Jesus. As Paul wrote, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2Cor 1:20.

What a privilege to belong to Him! What treasures we have in Him!

Blog No.301 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 8th November 2018

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300. An Outline Of Ephesians Chapter 3. The “Mystery” of the Gospel

Everybody loves a mystery.  Especially are they excited when they work out the answer to a mystery! The Bible talks about a mystery. It was a hidden mystery. It was an unexpected mystery. But it became an open secret [for those with eyes to see].

What was the mystery and what application does it have for us in our everyday lives today?  The mystery has been revealed and Yes, it does have a lot of application for millions of people in today’s world. Surprising news! Incredible news! But true!

Paul used the word for “mystery” [mustērion, μυστήριον ] on 20 occasions out of the 27 occurrences in the New Testament. He described this mystery in his letter to the Ephesians. He begins in chapter 1 by saying that the mystery has been revealed according to the riches of His grace,  “which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Eph 1:8-10. The mystery is that God wants to bring unity, cosmic unity, to His universe through Christ.

It is very helpful to see how he used the word in this chapter 3 of Ephesians. In fact, the chapter could be built around the following outline, based on the word “mystery.” [I hope to examine the whole chapter in greater detail in future articles.]

1].        GOD’S MYSTERY ABOUT UNITY IN CHRIST WAS MADE KNOWN BY REVELATION TO THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS

Eph 3:1  For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—

Eph 3:2  assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

Eph 3:3  how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

Eph 3:4  When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

  • Eph 3:5  which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations
  • as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

2].        WHAT GOD’S MYSTERY IS ALL ABOUT! UNITY IN CHRIST!

Eph 3:6  This mystery is that the Gentiles are

  • fellow heirs,
  • members of the same body,
  • and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

3].        PAUL’S PART IN REVEALING THE PLAN OF THE MYSTERY BY THE GRACE OF GOD

Eph 3:7  Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace,

  • which was given me by the working of his power.
  • 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 3:9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

4].        THE CHURCH’S PART IN REVEALING THE MYSTERY OF UNITY IN CHRIST!

Eph 3:10  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

  • Eph 3:11  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
  • Eph 3:12  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
  • Eph 3:13  So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

5].        BELIEVING PRAYER FOR BEING FILLED WITH THE FULLNESS OF GOD IS BASED ON THE TRUTH OF THIS MYSTERY OF UNITY IN CHRIST!

Eph 3:14  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

Eph 3:15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

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,
  • Eph 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—
  • that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
  • Eph 3:18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints
    • what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
    • Eph 3:19  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
    • that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

6].        A DOXOLOGY TO THE GOD WHO REVEALED THE MYSTERY OF UNITY IN CHRIST!

Eph 3:20  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,
  • Eph 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Blog No 300 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Tuesday 11th November 2018

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299. Sorry! Saying “Sorry” Unfortunately Doesn’t Bring Full Closure To Some People. Is there another way to bring closure for people who have been deeply hurt or abused?

The Australian Federal Parliament recently held a ‘Sorry Day’ to express the sorrow of Australian citizens for the abuse suffered by children at the hands of perpetrators in many organisations over the years. it was hoped that if the Federal Parliament of Australia said “Sorry” it might help to bring about closure in the lives of abuse victims. It appears that many people were initially helped by the process. There were others though who expressed their reservations about the whole procedure.

Many folk have since asked questions such as these, “How many times must people say sorry before those who were once abused feel there is closure?” Or “How much money has to be given to some abuse victims before they feel they have been fully compensated for their abuse?”

They are difficult questions to even raise, let alone answer. However it has to be said that it is better to err on the side of generosity when dealing with those who been victims of abuse than to treat them with too much suspicion. Some of the stories I have heard from people over the years made me wonder how anyone could have survived what those people went through. They may have survived but by no means were they left unscathed.

DAMAGE AND PAIN ARE REAL

Many of us know in part the tremendous pain of those who were once abused. Lives have been severely damaged and some destroyed. Huge human potential has been lost as those who could have contributed greatly to our human society, had their confidence and feeling of self-worth destroyed. They felt, as a result of the abuse, they were nothing and had nothing to offer.

The damage of abuse is seen in many areas of human lives. One major impact is the psychological damage done to victims. Many of them even decades later still carry the emotional scars of their abuse. Others can still feel the pain of the lashes of a cane or lash across their body and some even have the physical scars as evidence. Unfortunately others were affected spiritually when their abuse happened in a religious organisational setting. Many of them have said that they wondered how God could have allowed such horrible things to happen to them. Their picture of God remains a distorted or even a grotesque one.

In my dealings for over 50 years with abuse victims it became obvious that many of them remained emotionally marred by their experiences of the abuse they suffered.  Others became remarkably free of the negative impacts coming from their abuse. How?

TWO INJUSTICES EXIST AT PRESENT

  1. The injustice done to the victims. If abuse did happen, then they were indeed the victims of  injustice. Whilst ever their cases were not being addressed they remained the victims of injustice. Every survivor needs to have their story listened to, attentively, compassionately! As much help as is humanly possible should be offered to those who suffered genuine abuse.
  2. The injustice being done to individuals in organisations in which historical abuse once took place. The organisations may have been religious organisations like churches, schools or youth groups etc. However the present individuals in those organisations were not responsible for the abuse committed in the past. The present individuals in those groups may be extremely sorry for what happened in the past and express their sorrow that it happened by saying “Sorry” to the victims. However they can’t apologise for or ask forgiveness for themselves for crimes they themselves never committed. Blaming people for something that wasn’t their fault is also injustice.

INJUSTICE MUST BE DEALT WITH, BUT HOW?

We may hear cries such as, “Someone’s got to pay for what happened! Justice demands it!” Or “The evil the abusers did has to be punished!” True statements but the truths behind them may be very difficult to implement.  In many cases the perpetrators who did the abuse are no longer alive. There is no way they can be punished for their crimes except by having their names recorded as perpetrators of abuse. It would be unfair to impose some form of punishment on their families when none of them may have been involved in the abuse. [Unless of course the perpetrator of an abuse gained financially from their victim as a result of the abuse. One would think any financial gain that was taken from a victim should be restored to the victim.]

ONGOING APOLOGIES AND FINANCIAL COMPENSATION

It could be argued that the effects of abuse are both short term and long term. Until the pain and associated shame has come to an end there would appear to be a need to continue in giving apologies and financial compensation to help ease the pain. But obviously it can’t go on forever. There has to be closure at some point, at least for some individuals who are open for it.

Is there another way? How can justice be met and closure become a real possibility in the lives of lives of abused victims?

THE HUMAN REALITY

Justice has been done. It is possible for people to be set free from the traumas of the past and be able to move on in life. But how?

The following are a number of truths that exist in reality and not just in our human imagination. But they are truths that have to be acted on in order become real in any individual’s life.

TRUTH NUMBER 1. Justice has been met. The punishment for all types of sins [including all forms of abuse] has been carried out.

  • God the Creator had a remedy for the human situation. He knew from the beginning that His creatures would fail to live as they should. They would harm each other as they exercised their freewill. He indicated that human sin was horrific in His sight. Sin had to be atoned for by sacrifice.
  • He instituted a whole sacrificial system which showed that all forms of sin would need a sacrifice to remove the guilt of sinners.
  • The sacrifices were all prototypes of the One sacrifice that would cover the sins of the whole world throughout all generations
  • Jesus was seen as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” It was always in God’s eternal plan and purpose that He as the Son of God should fulfil all the prophecies of the promised Messiah and be made sin for humankind.
  • Jesus did make that one perfect sacrifice for sins that would remove guilt forever. As the writer to the Hebrews wrote, Heb 10:12 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
  • The benefits of the one atoning sacrifice exist in Him alone. Forgiveness for all sin and eternal life. They can only be received in Him. Eph 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
  • They are being received in Him daily by individuals throughout the world.

TRUTH NUMBER 2. Healing and release have become available for the abused  

  • Every person needs forgiveness and it is possible for them to experience it. Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every sin is a sin against God as well as against our fellow human. But the good news is that God made forgiveness available, as the next verse indicates, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Christ has died to set people free of the penalty their sins deserved. Forgiveness is available in Him and because of Him.
  • Not only can we experience the release of being forgiven ourselves but we can also experience the release of being forgiving. St Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.“ The great significance of this verse is that the word used for “forgiving “and “forgave” is [charizomai; χαρίζομαι] which comes from [charis] meaning grace, God’s unmerited favour towards us.  God “graced” us with forgiveness when we put our trust in Christ. We didn’t deserve it and we couldn’t earn it.  No amount of money could buy it. It was an act of sheer grace towards us. In forgiving us He gave us something we could never earn nor deserve nor purchase.
  • We are to forgive in the same way as He forgave us. That is, we are to forgive that other person, bestowing on them a gift they could never deserve, earn or buy!
  • However our sin against other humans is not in the same magnitude as our sin against God as the Perfect One. If God is willing to forgive us of so much, then we need to forgive others of their sins against us which are [by comparison] so much less, even though those sins may have been absolutely horrifying with devastating consequences for us.
  • That is the point of the parable of the Unforgiving servant where a servant is forgiven by his master of a debt of billions of dollars, Mat 18:27 “And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” But when that servant found another servant who owed him just a few dollars, he did not show pity. He did not release him. He did not forgive the debt. He had him thrown into prison! The master heard of this injustice, called the servant in and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ Mat 18:32-3.
  • If God has forgiven us of billions then we must forgive those who sinned against us of so little by comparison. For our own sake. Holding bitterness and unforgiveness against anyone means that we remain in the prison of our negative emotions. There can be no closure when we refuse to close the book of debts we think that person or those other people owe us. The very sad truth is that the when we refuse to forgive that person who hurt us, they still have some control over us. Our negative thoughts about them may bring back much of the pain we initially experienced from their abuse.

TRUTH NUMBER 3. Forgiveness is a choice

I have been amazed in ministry to see how some people who have been through the most vile and horrific experiences at the hands of other people, have become wonderfully free.  For all of them, their healing and release began with a choice. A choice initially to get their lives right with God by asking for His forgiveness and help. Then later, and sometimes much later, a choice to forgive the person or persons who had hurt them so much. Having experienced the joy and release of being forgiven by God they found that they became free to release that other person in forgiving them. Forgiven of billions, they were now able to forgive others of far less [by comparison.]

TRUTH NUMBER 4. Forgiveness is a must! For any sort of closure!

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that we are condoning what happened to us. It isn’t lessening the degree of the damage done to us. It isn’t saying that the perpetrator is no longer guilty. [They remain guilty until they repent of their sins before God and find forgiveness in Him.]

It seems to me that this is really the only way to find closure from the pain of the memories of the ghastly things that have happened to us in the past. If our attitude is such they we are convinced that the only way we can be free and find closure is by getting that other person or those other people to say “Sorry” to us and to beg for our forgiveness, or pay us a whole lot of money in compensation, then we may never find any sort of release or closure. How often have they got to say “Sorry” to us? How much money do they need to pay to us in compensation?

In short, our release and healing is not dependent on what the other person or persons may do. Some may never say “Sorry” to us. Some may never give us any form of compensation. Rather it is dependent on what we decide to do. Sad! Inconvenient, but true!

A true story. Gertude [not her real name] came to see me. She had been sent by her minister in another denomination. She was Eastern European, depressed with a serious cancer. She was in a bad way. When she began to tell me about her life in Europe I could see why she looked back with deep sadness. As a young woman she had been badly burnt.  As a result she was wrapped in bandages from head to toe recovering in the same room as another young woman who was ill. Suddenly the door of the room burst open and a number of advancing Russian soldiers burst into the room. Finding an attractive young woman lying there they took turns in raping her while the wrapped-up “mummy” had to listen to the screams. Eventually the soldiers left leaving her untouched and the other woman violated and deeply traumatised. Gertrude had a very deep case of ‘survivor guilt’.  She felt guilty that she survived while the other woman was so badly treated. Later on, she was to suffer her own indignities and traumas which had left her with many lingering horrific memories.

Just before she came to see me, she had become a Christian and had asked God to forgive her and to heal her.  She wondered how she could ever lose those memories. And how could she ever forgive all those people who had abused her during her life? We talked about healing and forgiveness. She recognised that she needed to forgive her abusers so that she could become free of unhelpful murderous thoughts she often had towards them. She began to realise that she could choose to forgive them or she could choose not to do so. When she indicated that she needed to, and now wanted to forgive them so she could know healing I suggested a plan for her to follow. She could get a notebook and write down the names of the people who had hurt her over the years. Then she could come back to me later and she could bring the names in the book before the Lord as she forgave each one in turn.

Gertude returned a few weeks later. As I met her in the counselling room I was rather taken aback at the size of the large folder she was carrying. She smiled and said “There were more people than I thought there were!” Then she added those reassuring words, “But I have already brought lots of those names before the Lord and forgiven them. I just have a few more to bring before Him with you now.“

In my presence she asked the Lord to forgive her for holding unforgiveness towards a number of people. Then she began to forgive the remaining people one by one.  When she had finished I prayed that the Lord would bring her rapid and complete healing. Then we went outside where there was a large metal drum. She tore up all the sheets of paper that she had brought and set them on fire. For about an hour we remained there while she stirred the ashes with a long metal pole. When only ash remained we parted and as she left it was obvious that she was a different woman to the one who had come a few weeks earlier.

Some months later her minister rang and said, “What do you do to Gertrude. She a completely different woman! She has a clean bill of health as well.” She had allowed God to heal her. Forgiveness brings healing. Emotional, physical and spiritual healing.

Gertude had been violated and hurt perhaps more than most of will ever be in life. But she refused to see herself as an ongoing victim. She chose wisely. She chose to seek the Lord and His blessing and healing. Then she chose to do something about the bitterness she had had towards a number of people. The end result was a healed transformed woman whose change had amazed her minister.

Probably in the days to come we will have other “Sorry days” when we will be asked to say “Sorry” to victims of some form of abuse. We may have had nothing to do with that abuse but it is helpful for those abused to hear someone say “sorry!” Their pain does need to acknowledged.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of those who heard our Prime Minister say “Sorry” to survivors of abuse a few days ago, didn’t feel the need to hear it again because they had experienced the release and healing that Gertrude experienced. That will always be my prayer for those who have been deeply wounded by the sin of some fellow humans.  Gertrude, as well as many others, have shown me that when they seek the Lord’s help in seeking to be forgiven and forgiving, He can do miracles!

Blog No 299 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 25th October 2018

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298. A COMPILATION OF PRAYERS BASED ON EPHESIANS CHAPTER 2

In a series of recent articles I have looked at successive passages from Chapter 2 of the Epistle to the Ephesians and recorded some notes on those passages. I also composed the following prayers that were an attempt to pray back to God what He has revealed to us of His character, plans and purposes in those scriptures. [For convenience readers will find that clicking on the Blog numbers in the titles will take them to the original articles.]

EPHESIANS 2:1-7. A SUGGESTED PRAYER. Thanking God For The Freedom He Gives Us In Christ. [Biblical Text, Prayer and Notes are found in Blog No 293]

 “Heavenly Father, We thank You that though we were dead in our sins, You made us spiritually alive in Christ.

We thank You that when we were held in bondage by our three main enemies, You brought us liberty.

  • You set us free from the power of the enemy around us, the pressure of the unbelieving world, as we began to trust in You.
  • You set us free from the enemy against us, Satan and the powers of darkness, so that we became free to live as You wanted us to live.
  • You set us free from the enemy within us, our old nature, so that we could live for You by Your grace and power.  

We thank You too that in Your great love and mercy for us, You made us alive with Christ and made us to sit with Him in the place of honour and acceptance at Your right hand.

We thank You that You have shown us, and will continue to show us in the days ahead, just how much You love us.

Accept our grateful thanks for all Your mercies to us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN!”

EPHESIANS 2:8-10. A SUGGESTED PRAYER. Thanking God For The Salvation He Offers To Us As A Gift In Christ. [Biblical Text, Prayer and Notes are found in Blog No 294]

“Gracious Father,

We thank You for Your amazing grace so freely bestowed on us.

We thank you that when we could do nothing to save ourselves, You sent Jesus to save us.

We thank You that our salvation didn’t come to us as a reward for our good works. Rather in Your mercy and grace, it came to us as we received salvation as a gift in Him.

We thank You that You have made us for Yourself as Your own possession and that You have a created us to fulfil Your eternal plan and purpose for us.

We thank You for the good works You have prepared for us to walk in. Give us the wisdom to know Your will for us, and the ability to walk in Your ways, in the power of Your Holy Spirit.

We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!”

EPHESIANS 2:11-13. A SUGGESTED PRAYER.  Thanking God For The Joy Of Belonging To Him And To His People. [Biblical Text, Prayer and Notes are found in Blog No 295]

“Oh Father, what it a joy it is to belong to You and to Your people. We thank You for all You have done through Jesus’ death on the cross to bring us back to You. We thank You that we are no longer separated, no longer alienated and that we have a sure hope because we belong to You. We thank You that You are our God and that we are now Your people.

Lord Jesus, we want to show our appreciation for all You have done for us, by enthroning You as our Lord and by serving You as our Master.  We pray these things in Your own precious name of Jesus. AMEN.”

EPHESIANS 2:14-16. A SUGGESTED PRAYER. Thanking God That Hostility Between Humans Can Come To An End, In Christ. [Biblical Text, Prayer And Notes Are Found In Blog No 296]

“Heavenly Father, we thank You that Jesus died to brings us back to You. We thank You that He has made it possible for people from all backgrounds to live in unity in Him. We thank You that in Him we all belong to the one body of Christ He has established in His world. We thank You that forgiveness of our sins and acceptance into Your family are offered freely to us in Him.

Help us to remember the incredible cost it was to Him as He hung on the cross for our sakes, so that we might be wholly committed to Him for the rest of our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name and for His sake. AMEN.”

EPHESIANS 2:17-22. A SUGGESTED PRAYER.  Thanking God For The Joy Of Belonging! [Biblical Text, Prayer and Notes are found in Blog No 297]

 “Oh Lord, what a privilege it is to belong to You and to Your people! When we were nothing and had nothing of eternal value, You enabled us to hear the good news of what Jesus has done for us. We thank You that when we put our trust in Him, You allowed us to have access to You in prayer by Your Spirit.

We thank You that You have adopted us into Your family and that we belong to You and to all the other members of Your family throughout the world.

We pray that You will be glorified as You take up residence in every part of our lives  and that others may see and experience your presence in and through our lives, as we offer them to You. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.”

Blog No.298 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 21st October 2018.

NOTE:- The Compilation of the prayers from the articles on Ephesians chapter 1 can be found here.

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