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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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

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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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249. Some Relaxed Reading about The Christ of Christmas.

Can we safely ignore Jesus? Is He just an ancient figure whose existence many people try to deny. Are His teachings just the ramblings of an ancient “saint” in the early church or are they much more challenging than that? During this Christmas period it would be good to catch up on some reading about Him to see if He can be safely ignored and whether His teaching can be consigned to the rubbish heap as some would certainly like to do.

For example when Jesus was asked about divorce He went back to the origin of marriage as recorded in Genesis chapters 1-3. This is what He taught, Mat 19:4 “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.”

Some folk today go into conniptions about His language. They have difficulties believing that there is a Creator to this universe. Especially  when they read that the Creator was a “he” and that He made humans to be male and female. Didn’t He realise that gender  and sexuality are flexible [though adherents vary in their interpretation] and that people can identify as whatever sex or gender they choose to be, for any particular moment. They believe that the  “best” universities are teaching gender fluidity these days, so of course His words have to be ignored. Jesus also talked about mothers and fathers and wives using male and female terms. Boy, how old hat is that! In their opinion!

But what if He did exist? What if He was what He claimed to be? What if His teaching was from God, as He claimed, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” Jn 14:24. What a travesty that would be! In rejecting the words of Jesus, people would be rejecting the words of God Himself. Could it be that some so-called ‘progressives” have in fact “progressed” out of the real world of God’s making into a make-believe world of their own making?

That’s why it is good to reflect on the person of Jesus at Christmas. After all, the word “Christmas” means the celebration of the birth of Christ.  His birth has been celebrated for about 2000 years, so He has had considerable regard from generations of humans over all those years. Why reject Him now?

In what follows I have compiled a list of the subjects I have previously posted about the Christ of Christmas. They attempt to show that not only was Jesus born into this world as a baby about 2000 years ago, but He is actually the Creator of the universe, the Saviour of the world, the Lord and Master of this universe and ultimately He will be the judge of every human ever born. That is significant! To say the least!

To read the articles, all one has to do is to is to click on the numbers below [from 100 to 105] to be taken to the relevant topic.

So here is my Christmas gift to you. A little reading. About Christmas. About the Christ of Christmas. And it does involve you, as you will see.

Have a very blessed and Happy Christmas

Blessings in His name.

Jim and Carole Holbeck

No.100. Who is the Jesus Christ of Christmas? (An Overview).    2012/12/12

No.101. Who is the Jesus Christ of Christmas? Part 1 of 4. Jesus the CREATOR.  2012/12/12

No.102. Who is the Jesus Christ of Christmas? Part 2 of 4. Jesus THE SAVIOUR.  2012/12/16

No.103.Who is the Jesus Christ of Christmas? Part 3 of 4. Jesus is THE LORD. 2012/12/17

No.104. Who is the Jesus Christ of Christmas? Part 4 of 4. Jesus the JUDGE.  2012/12/18

No.105. The Challenge of the Christ of Christmas. Galatians 4:4-5.  2012/12/31

Blog No.249. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 23rd November 2017

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248. The Challenge of the Christ of Christmas. [For you and me!] Galatians 4:4-5

A lot has changed in our world over the last 5 years since I last wrote on this subject on this website. More will change in the coming years. But what does remain constant is the enduring message of Christmas. Every new Christmas reminds us of His first coming over 2000 years ago. This Christmas 2017 brings His second coming a year closer. No one knows the time of His second coming. But we should prepare for it lest we be caught unawares!

What was so significant about His coming into the world at this time 2000 years ago?  What does His coming tell us? Paul reminds us in Galatians 4:4-5.

  1. GOD’S TIMING IS ALWAYS PERFECT.

Galatians 4:4. “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.” The time was right, from God’s point of view, for Jesus to be born as a human baby at that first Christmas.  We can say humanly speaking, it was an ideal time for Jesus to come to earth. The different cultures had prepared the way for His coming. For example:-

  1. The Roman Empire. The communication system was highly developed. Roads had been built throughout the Roman Empire. It was safe for trade to be conducted in various places, for the Roman army kept watch over the main trade routes. Because of the Pax Romana, the Roman peace, there was political stability in the world under the Roman Empire. It was a relatively safe time in which to live and to travel.
  2. Greek Culture. The common language of Greek was known and understood by most people. The Old Testament had been translated into a Greek version so that many could understand the way God had been active in history in the lives of His people. Even New Testament documents were written in the common language of the day, so that most people could understand them.
  3. Jewish Culture. The Dispersion meant that many of the Jews had been scattered throughout the world. Synagogues had been established even in small towns where the Jews could gather together to read and study the Old Testament Scriptures. Many Jews were praying and expecting their Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, to come.

 BUT, there was a spiritual vacuum.  The gods of the Greek and Roman cultures hadn’t satisfied. The Jews felt restrained by the law. It pointed out what was right and wrong but did not give power to do the right. They were not free politically either. They were subject to the Roman authorities, and not just to God. They didn’t like it one little bit. People were looking for something to happen.

In many ways it was a time similar to our own day, in which we’ve become disappointed with the things of the world. In human terms we despair at the seeming incompetence and apparent arrogance of world leaders. We are amazed that humans could so easily thumb their noses at God in rejecting His rule over their lives. Many today too are looking for something more real and satisfying than what they are presently seeing and experiencing.

 IT WAS AT THIS TIME THAT GOD SENT JESUS INTO THE WORLD   

Here was the power of God and the love of God in action. Jesus came into the world He had made, in the form of a baby. It wasn’t easy for the people of that day to recognise who Jesus was as the Messiah and the Son of God. They failed to see how God’s purposes were being fulfilled in the birth or the death of Jesus. A crucified Messiah? Foolishness to the Greeks! Crucified in weakness? A stumbling block for the Jews! Paul quoted the scripture from Deuteronomy 21:23 when he wrote in Galatians 3:13  ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’. If Jesus had been crucified, then of course He must have been under the curse of God in their eyes. He was, but it was for our human sin not for His.

Paul put it in Romans 5:6, “while we were yet helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” And Peter expressed it, 1 Pet 2:24, “Jesus Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sins and live to righteousness.” The death of Jesus was planned from all eternity and happened at exactly the right time in human history.

 But note:  We see these truths now in retrospect

We see the way all things came together at that particular time for the Christ to come. However the people of that day may not have seen it at the time, as we see it now. The coming of Jesus back then may have been on an ordinary day in an ordinary year for most people.

You and I don’t always see the significance of what God is doing at any particular time. Some people came to the Wednesday night Healing Service in the Cathedral in Sydney, not realising that their lives would never be the same again as God ministered to them in love and healing power. It can be the same when the people of God come together in many different places around the world. He can touch their lives so that they are changed forever. It could be on a very ordinary day that you have an encounter with God. In retrospect you may see it as the most significant day on your life. But why did Jesus come?

  1.   WHY GOD SENT JESUS.  Galatians 4:5.

Jesus came:-

1]. To set us free from the condemning law. Gal 4:5 “ to redeem those who were under the law.”   “Redeem”means to set at liberty those who were previously bound. The law of God promised life to those who perfectly obeyed it. It also promised condemnation to those who disobeyed it in any way. It said “Do this and you will live” and promised death to those who didn’t obey it perfectly. But Jesus came to fulfil the law by living a perfect human life, and by dying a perfect human death for sinners. Christ redeemed them by His death. Now we are able to come to God through Him.

The writer to the Hebrews put it, Heb 10:19 ‘Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” Now through Him we are able to live in a personal loving relationship with God

2].  To enable us to be adopted as His children.Gal 4:5 “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Jesus died for us that we might receive adoption as His children, through faith in Him. He came and died so that we might live in a relationship of love, not law, with God Himself.

John wrote of the coming of Jesus that He came to bring light, life and acceptance to the world. The Gospel message that is often read each year throughout the world on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is this from John chapter 1.  John 1:9 “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Grace! Freely forgiven and accepted in Christ. Truth! Reality! The real God offering real love to real people as they opened up to Him.

At that first Christmas Day God sent His Son into the world as a gift to be received by faith. Millions throughout the world and through the ages have done so over the succeeding years. But the number of Christmas Days is coming to an end. Jesus will return to pass eternal judgment on all who have ever lived and on those who are alive at His coming. The basis of the judgment is what they have done with God’s gift. Those who have received God’s gift of Jesus will live with Him in bliss for ever. Those who have ignored God’s gift will not.  A frightening prospect! But one that can be averted by putting one’s faith in Christ.

A PERSONAL STORY

It was Christmas Day 1958. I was wrestling with a truth I had just come to understand, namely that Jesus was born to die. To die for humans. To die for me.  Over the succeeding days the truth burned more brightly in my heart and mind. I was finding it difficult to understand that Jesus, the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, the Anointed One of God, the Messiah, the Christ, had actually come down from heaven to die for ME! Yes, even ME!

Just a few weeks before I had not done well in an Inorganic Chemistry exam. The previous year I had gotten among the highest marks in the whole state. I was shocked I didn’t do better. In desperation, I made a vow at that time in a prayer to God [if He did exist that is]. I vowed that if He did help me get through all the remaining exams to pass the year I would “think seriously about Him”. By His grace I did do well and passed the whole year with good results.  I did “think seriously about Him” as I began to read the Bible, the book “Peace with God” by Billy Graham, and numerous leaflets my two Christian sisters had given me.

New Year’s Eve 1958 arrived. I was struggling with the question, “What should I do with Jesus? Should I continue to reject Him? Should I humble myself and invite Him to be my Saviour and my Lord?” I made a decision. It was the most important decision I ever made or will ever make!

I decided to repent on my sins and to ask Jesus to come into my life to be my own personal Saviour and Lord. There in that little flat in Boundary Street, Tweed Heads-Coolangatta on the border between Queensland and New South Wales I knelt beside my bed and prayed asking God to forgive me and inviting Jesus to come into my life.

Life has never been the same since. Different! In every way! Coming to understand the written word so much more clearly. Coming to love the Living word, Jesus, more and more dearly. Knowing that the Almighty God has a plan and purpose for me in His world. Knowing His strength to be able to do it. Knowing I am loved by the God who so loved the world (including me) that He gave His only Son to come and die for me so that I might have life, in abundance!

I received God’s Christmas gift back in 1958 and have never regretted it. But a question for you to answer. Have you received God’s Christmas gift, the gift of His Son to come and live in you by His Spirit, so that you can become part of the family of God? It’s a question that only you can answer. And answer it you must! Soon!

This is something like the prayer I prayed that night. The words came from a Prayer of Commitment that I had read in one of the late Rev John Stott’s books. [He had been a Chaplain to the Queen and one of the most widely read authors, and listened-to speakers  in the Christian world of that time. Also Rector of All Soul’s Langham Place in London.] It had a simple outline to pray with words beginning with the letters A, B, C, and D.

To get right with God, to receive the Christmas gift God was offering I had to

  1. Admit I was a sinner in the eyes of God. [That was easy to do. I knew I was.]
  2. Believe that Jesus had died for me on the cross. [I had read that and now had begun to understand that truth.]
  3. Consider the cost of becoming a Christian. [It meant handing over the control of my life to Him, the One who had died for ME! It meant giving myself to the One who had given Himself for ME! That made perfect sense. He died for me. Now I should willingly live for Him]
  4. I had to do something about it. That is, to ask the Lord Jesus [who as Revelation 3:20 puts it, was knocking at the door of my life] into my life to be my Saviour from sin and to be the Lord and Master of every part of my life, from that day forward.

As I have often mentioned since that day, that as soon as I prayed the prayer just before midnight, the horns honked, the bells pealed and there was cries of joy out on the streets from the thousands of people who were there to witness this great event! Not my conversion! Rather the coming of a New Year 1959!!! I later read Luke 15:7 “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” How wonderful to know that what I did that night in that tiny flat on the Qld-NSW border brought joy in heaven! Even greater to realise the joy I have experienced in the Lord and His marvellous blessings since that eventful New Year’s Eve 1958!

May Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2017 find you wide open to Him and to His amazing love for YOU! Remembering that the Christ of Christmas came down from heaven to die for YOU! Yes! YOU! AND to live in you by His Spirit. As Paul wrote a little earlier in that same epistle,  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20. Christ FOR me, then. Christ IN me, now by His Spirit!

Blog No.248. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 19th November 2017. (Being a revision of an article No.105 posted on New Year’s Eve 2012.)

 

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247.The Humility of Spirit-filled Believers. Pardon? Say that again! Ephesians 5:18-21

“Pardon! I must have heard you incorrectly. Did you say the humility of Spirit-filled believers?” That would be an oxymoron for sure in the view of many. [NOTE 1} It may be that your experience of people purporting to be Spirit-filled believers was something like mine. Instead of finding them humble people, many of them appeared to be quite arrogant rather than confident and proud rather than humble. The reality is that believers are meant to be the humblest people you could find on this planet. Why is that so? If we look at the passage from Ephesians 5 we will find an answer. It is to be found in the fact that the phrase “to be filled with the Holy Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18 is followed by a number of corollaries or the results or consequences of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

The paragraph in Ephesians 5:18 to 21 has one main verb “be filled” and a number of phrases which all have participles. The ESV version translates it correctly as 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 participles are all underlined.] Unfortunately some translations such as the NIV have verse 21 beginning a new sentence, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This loses its connection to the main verb and could be misleading to some folk who could see it as yet another command to obey and not the inevitable consequence or outcome of continually being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is this infilling with or by the Spirit that motivates and empowers humility and submission to others in the body of Christ.

 Believers who keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit are thus meant to be people of praise to God, thankful to Him for every blessing they have received from Him AND willingly submitting themselves to their fellow believers. In fact, Paul goes on in the following passages to indicate how that mutual submission to one another works out in practice. Thus he wrote of the mutual submission that should exist in the relationships between wives and husbands [5:22-33], children and parents [6:1-4] and servants and masters [6:5-9.]

 People who are continually being filled with the Holy Spirit should show forth the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. In many of the nine elements of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23,  we can see loving characteristics in relation to other people, 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.” That is further brought out in the following verses where believers are described as having died to self and are now being directed by the Holy Spirit in their lives. Thus there is no place for conceit or envy nor should there be [unloving, unchristian] provocation of other people, Gal 5:24 “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

A good test for those who keep on calling themselves Spirit-filled Christians is this. To what extent are they willing to submit to their fellow believers? They are meant to do it “out of reverence for Christ”. Little submission to others may mean little reverence for Christ, verse 21! Remembering this, that Jesus submitted Himself to the will of God on behalf of others. This is what true humility looks like, Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Humility! Considering others more significant than ourselves! Looking to the interests of others, not just our own! Sacrificial living, for others! Humbly fulfilling God’s will for us! Humbly helping others fulfil God’s plan for their lives!

Spirit-filled indeed! Our goal? Day by day? Perhaps better, moment by moment!

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NOTE 1] An oxymoron is something made up of contradictory or incongruous elements such as contradictory statements in the one phrase or sentence.

Blog No.247. Posted on Thursday 9th November 2017 on jimholbeck.blog

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246.  Genuine love. What is it? How should it behave? Romans 12:9-13

We have many wonderful English translations of the Bible at the moment, but sometimes a few fail to do justice to the real meaning of the Biblical text. Recently I was doing some study on the word for “hospitality” in Romans 12:13, namely [philoxenía, φιλονεξια = love of strangers,  hospitality]. I was surprised to see that the text did not say simply “Practise hospitality” as a new sentence as the [NIV] translates it. Rather it came at the end of a sentence beginning way back in verse 9. This is the [NIV] translation of that passage, Rom 12:9  “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10  Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” This translation seems to have at least 7 or 8 different verbs which could be separate sentences in themselves.

 As I looked at the short sentence “Practise hospitality” in verse 13 the text showed that the word translated as “practise” was not a verb but was actually a present participle which could be translated as “keeping on practising” or “keeping on pursuing” hospitality. It made me examine all the other words which had been translated as verbs in verses 9 to 13 in the NIV.  The result? Only one verb “let love be genuine” in verse 9 and participles in all the other verses.  Is that important? It could be when one realises that the single command in verse 9 is followed by all the other verses indicating that these are the results, corollaries or outcomes of exercising genuine love.

If we were to translate these verses 9-13 using the suggested literal English translations from Dr Alfred Marshall’s translation in the RSV Interlinear New Testament, we would have something like the following translation. The main verb is “let love be unassumed” in verse 9 and the rest of the sentence has present participles which in each case could be rendered as “keeping on …” Here then is a possible translation, “Let love be unassumed, shrinking from evil, cleaving to the good, loving warmly in brotherly love to one another, preferring one another in honour, in zeal burning in spirit not slothful, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, showing endurance in affliction, steadfastly continuing in prayer, imparting to the needs of saints, pursuing hospitality.”

Verses 9 to 13 have many wonderful attributes but they are all based on expressing genuine love. So it is not enough for people to pick and choose their favourite attribute to practise from the list in verses 9 to 13 and to neglect the others. Rather in expressing genuine love, all the following attributes should fall into place “supernaturally” naturally. Why do I say “supernaturally”? Because this sort of agape love comes only from God and is imparted to us by His Holy Spirit. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. It is imparted to us as Paul writes in Romans 5:5, “For the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is God’s gift to us.” As the Lord fills us with His Holy Spirit, we can show forth genuine love which motivates and empowers us to show forth all the other attributes in verses 9 to 13.

It means then we can see a real dynamic in these verses. It is the same sort of dynamic that we see in Philippians 2:12-13 where Paul writes, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We are to work out in practice in our everyday lives, what God is working in us by His Holy Spirit. Likewise in this passage, as we allow God to fill us with His divine agape love, genuine love, all the attributes in verses 9 to 13 will be fulfilled in us and through us for the benefit of others and to the glory of the Lord Himself. After all, that divine agape love is “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”1 Cor 13:4-8.

Loving people with God’s love! Commanded by Him! Made possible by Him! By His grace nmotivating and empowering us to love [genuinely!]

Blog No.246. Jim Holbeck. Posted Wednesday 1st November 2017

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