342. Sharing Our Faith Using A Simple ABCD Formula!  Explaining THE Faith. Testifying To OUR Faith! (Part 1 of 5]

What do you do when someone suddenly says something like “Hey, what’s this Christianity stuff all about?” Probably most of us would be shocked to be asked such questions out of the blue. But we do need to have a reason for the hope that is in us as it says in 1Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15.

It was very helpful for me after my conversion to Christ on New Year’s Eve 1958 to be able to get help in this area by attending the Counselling courses provided by churches before the Billy Graham Crusade in Australia in 1959. Later I received help by learning to use the “Four Spiritual Laws” approach by Bill Bright of Campus Crusade. Another helpful input was a course on Evangelism Explosion begun by Dr. DJ Kennedy. Later on, I found the “Two Ways To Live” booklet authored by Philip Jensen and Tony Payne a very good tool to use in sharing one’s faith. However, it may be that some of us haven’t been acquainted with these tools. So what follows is an attempt on my part to help folk learn to share their faith quickly and simply.

What if someone TOMORROW were to ask you a question about your faith! As I thought about that, I came up with a suggestion that is easy to learn and to remember. It could be used easily in a non-confronting way with anyone who expressed some interest in Christ or Christianity or even the church. I realised in retrospect that I had used this approach hundreds of time over the years in prayer ministry situations with individuals, and even in groups numbering in the hundreds.  It comes naturally to me because it formed part of my own conversion experience in 1958. This was the background. I had been reading some of the late John Stott’s booklets. [He was a former Chaplain to the Queen and Rector of All Souls Langham Place, London.] I came across a suggested prayer of Commitment to Christ in one of the booklets. It formed the basis to the prayer I prayed as I asked Christ into my life that night in 1958.

It was based on the simple formula ABCD. I obviously still remember it almost 62 years later.

  1. Admit you are a sinner in the sight of God.
  2. Believe Christ died on the cross for you.
  3. Consider the cost of becoming a Christian.
  4. Do something about it. Open the door of your heart and invite Christ in, by accepting His invitation in Rev 3:20.

1].        TELLING OTHERS ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH using the ABCD formula

So here is my simple suggestion for learning in very quick time, to share our faith.

If we were asked the question, “What is Christianity all about?” Or “What do you believe as a Christian? We could reply,

“Christianity could be summed up under four letters, ABCD. It’s about:-

A].       Admitting we are all sinners in the sight of God.

B.]       Believing Christ came and died on the cross to take away the sin of the world.

C].        Considering the cost of becoming a Christian.

D].       Doing something about it. Asking Christ [who is knocking at the door of our lives] into our hearts to be our Saviour and Lord.”

 It is far less confronting than telling people they must A= Admit their sin. B= Believe Christ died on the cross for their sins. C=Consider the cost of becoming a Christian. And D = Do something about it and invite Christ into your life.

Some people may be ready for such a direct approach but most will not be.

 The simplicity is that initially, in my suggestion, we need to remember just 4 words beginning with the letters ABCD; Admitting, Believing, Considering and Doing.  We can build on those ABCD building blocks as time goes on so that we can have a more comprehensive answer to give those who are interested in learning more.

2.]        TELLING OTHERS ABOUT OUR OWN FAITH IN CHRIST using the ABCD formula.

Sharing our faith or giving our testimony can be based on the same ABCD formula. As we share with others, we can share with them, the following:-

  1. How we came to recognise and Admit that we were sinners in God’s sight and needed Him and especially His forgiveness.
  2. How we came to learn about Christ and came to Believe that He died on the cross for us personally.
  3. How we had to Consider the cost of becoming a Christian and the challenges that faced us as the time for a decision drew nearer.
  4. How we eventually decided to Do something about it by asking Christ into our lives or by handing the control of our lives over to Him.

Naturally, we don’t have to say the letters ABCD in our sharing, but they can be a useful way of framing our testimony so that it covers the main facets of our commitment to Christ.

3.]        SUGGESTED HOMEWORK

What would be a helpful thing to do would be to practise telling ‘others’ what Christianity is all about using the ABCD formula above, in section 1]. The ‘other’ could be a spouse or partner, or another member of a Bible Study Group, a prayer partner or a friend. The more it is practised, the more easily it becomes to share about Christianity or about our personal faith in Christ, in a natural and relaxed way.

My homework will be, in future articles, to add more material in the form of biblical teaching, to these ABCD building blocks so that we can give more comprehensive and deeper answers to those who ask us about Christianity or about our faith. Opportunities to share sometimes come at unexpected times and from unexpected people. We would do well to be prepared. [Please look for future articles on this topic in coming weeks.]

Blog No.342 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 11th January 2020.

 

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341. PRAYING THROUGH EPHESIANS.  Winning The War In Spiritual Warfare. Eph 6:10-24. A Suggested Prayer

Some years ago I wrote an article giving an outline of this passage. It was No 047 on this link. https://jimholbeck.blog/2011/11/23/047-outline-of-ephesians-69-24-spiritual-warfare/

Because this passage was discussed there at length, I will do a shorter treatment of these verses in this article. What Paul is doing in this passage is encouraging his readers to be strong in the Lord’s strength as they live in a hostile world.

COMMAND 1. TO BE STRONG IN THE LORD.

It is the Lord’s strength that is needed in Spiritual warfare! 6:10. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

Paul uses here 3 of the most common words for strength or power in the New Testament.

  • “Be strong” is [endynamoō; ἐνδυναμοῦσθε,  a derivative of dunamis =strength]
  • “Strength” is [kratos; κράτε= dominion or power]. It is the basis of our English words theocracy [the rule of God] and democracy [the rule of the demos, the people.]
  • “Might” is [ischys; ἰσχύος] and here refers to mighty strength, God’s strength or power.

Paul is urging his readers to rely only on the Lord’s strength and not just on their own strength which he saw as being inadequate for spiritual warfare.

COMMAND 2.  TO PUT ON THE LORD’S PROTECTION.

It is the Lord’s Protection that is needed in Spiritual Warfare!

Put on the whole armour of God.” ”Put on” is  ἐνδύω; endúō and can also mean “to clothe oneself with.” That is appropriate here for the putting on, or clothing oneself with, armour which God is able to supply. Armour is [panoplia; πανοπλία] meaning the total armour, both offensive and defensive. Paul was showing that it needed the whole armour of God to be strong in the Lord’s strength. Each and every part was necessary to win the battle.

The Reasons For The Command To Put On God’s Armour.

Paul wants them to understand the nature of the battle believers face. It is a spiritual battle against evil powers and personalities.

i]. The devil has strategies that have to be recognised and overcome. “that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” “Schemes” is [methodeia; μεθοδεία] which is the root of our English word “method”. It probably comes from a combination of “meta” meaning with or after, and hodos = a way. It refers to guile or trickery or evil strategies.

ii]. The real enemy has to be recognised.  Paul is warning that behind the human attitudes and actions, there are spiritual forces at work for evil, Eph 6:11, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood”  but

  • against the rulers, [from archē; ἀρχή meaning first, for example, in power]
  • against the authorities, [exousia; ἐξουσία] meaning delegated power or authority.
  • against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, [‘cosmic powers’ is derived from one word, [κοσμοκράτωρ; kosmokratōr], where cosmos is the world and kratos means power.
  • against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 6:12. [‘spiritual forces’ is one word pneumatika; πνευματικὰ. ] There are spiritual forces for good but there are also spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies or in the spiritual realm.

Paul was encouraging his readers to be cognisant of the nature of the spiritual warfare they were engaged in and to look beyond evil people to the evil powers that were at work in or through them. Human strength and wisdom would be insufficient in such a battle.

COMMAND 3. TO TAKE UP THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD.

Eph 6:13 “Therefore take up the whole armour of God

The REASON FOR THE COMMAND. “that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” It is as though Paul was indicating that evil was inescapable in an evil world, but could be overcome by trusting in the power of God. It was a matter of standing, having first made provision for the battle.

  • Eph 6:14 “Stand therefore,” [and the preparation required by the believer.] Paul’s words here show that prior preparation has to be made to engage successfully in spiritual warfare. In other words, he is saying “Stand therefore” having made the following preparation. He outlines that preparation in terms of armour,
    • having fastened on the belt of truth, and
    • having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
    • Eph 6:15 and having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace, as shoes for your feet.”

Spiritual warfare can only be won by taking hold of all the armour God Himself provides.

COMMAND 4. TO TAKE UP THE SHIELD OF FAITH.

Eph 6:16 “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Faith shields against all the attacks of the enemy. Paul doesn’t specify here what form those darts take. But included among them would be the accusations hurled at believers by diabolos, the devil, the accuser.

COMMAND 5. TO TAKE UP THE HELMET OF SALVATION AND THE WORD OF GOD.

 Eph 6:17 “and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The writer of the letter to the Hebrews also described the word of God as a sword, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb 4:12. God’s word wielded as a sword is powerful and vitally necessary in spiritual warfare. So also is prayer. Believers are to have a prayerful, watchful attitude at all times,praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Eph 6:18.

Paul wrote about being watchful in 1Cor 16:13 “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” Peter also stressed the need for watchfulness and gave a reason, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1Peter 5:8.

No one is above the need for prayer. Paul knew he needed prayer support and was humble enough to admit it. He requested that they pray that he might be given the right words to speak and  also the boldness to speak them, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Eph 6:19-20. If the great apostle knew he needed prayer support, then how much more do we in today’s world. The situations may be different but the spiritual forces of evil at work then, are also at work in our world today and need to be overcome in the ways Paul commands in this epistle.

[Comments on the final greetings section of the epistle may be seen in article No 047 on this blogsite, mentioned above.]

A SUGGESTED PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 6:10-24.

“Dear Lord, I need Your help to live for You. I want to be strong in the strength that only You can provide.  

I put on the armour You have provided for me, so that I can have victory over everything that is opposed to You and to Your presence in me.

By faith, I put on the belt of truth around my waist.

I put on the breastplate of righteousness.

I put on the shoes of readiness to share the gospel.

I take up the shield of faith to extinguish everything the enemy hurls at me.

I place on my head the helmet of salvation

and I take up the sword of the Spirit, Your word to guide and strengthen me.

Fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that He may guide and lead me as I pray for all Your people.  

Strengthen me to become the person You want me to be, that I might be doing Your will to Your glory, for the rest of my life.

I ask these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN!”

Blog No.341 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 10th January 2020.

 

 

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340. Praying Through Ephesians. Eph 5:17-16:9. Being Filled With The Spirit And The Possible Consequences In Lives Lived In Mutual Submission

What Does Living In The Will Of God Really Involve?

Eph 5:17 “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

It means being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit and living under the ongoing influence of the Spirit in every area of life. St Paul wrote, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” He, of course, meant being filled with the Holy Spirit. Eph 5:18.

What should be the outcomes, the corollaries, the inevitable results of being filled with the Spirit? What Paul does next is very instructive. He introduces one long sentence joined by a series of participles, rather than verbs, to show that each section is dependent on the main verb, “be filled.” The verb “be filled” is a present tense, imperative [or command] so it could be translated as “keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit.“  It means then that the phrases which follow are not separate commands based on verbs such as “address”, “sing”, “make melody”, “give thanks”, “submit!” That is important to note when we come to the word “submit” later in the chapter. Rather they are participles connected to the main verb, “be filled.” It gives the sense that if the command “to be filled” is continuously obeyed, then the outcomes in verses 19-21 can characterise the life of the person who is open to God filling him or her with the Holy Spirit.

The Vertical And Horizontal Consequences Of Being Filled With The Spirit. 5:19-21

  • “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
  • singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Eph 5:19,
  • giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Eph 5:20.
  • submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph 5;21.

We note from the above, that being filled with the Spirit has both vertical and horizontal outcomes.

* The vertical [to God] outcomes and responsibilities are singing and making melody to the Lord and giving thanks to Him for everything.

*The horizontal [to one another] outcomes and responsibilities are addressing one another in Psalms, hymns etc and submitting to one another in Christ. We could summarise these verses 19-21 in this way,

  • Ministering To One Another While Focussed On Praise To God, Eph 5:19 “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”,
  • Ministering To The Lord In Praise And Thanksgiving. “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”, 5:19-20.
  • Ministering To One Another, In Mutual Submission to one another and to Christ, Eph 5:21 “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Mutual Submission In Practice, In The Body Of Christ. 5:22-6:9

The passage from 5:22 to 6:9 really follows on from the main command in verse 5:18 “to be filled with the Spirit.” It spells out in detail what mutual submission should look like in its practical application. There is some conjecture as to whether verse 22 begins a new sentence, or is a continuation of the wording in verse 21 such as “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, wives to husbands as to the Lord.” However what is more certain, is that there is no verb in many Greek manuscripts, so that the verse reads, “wives to husbands as to the Lord”. That is less confronting to many people than the “Wives be subject to your husbands” found in many translations.

We note in passing that it is not the subjection of women as a class to men as a class. Rather it refers to the relationship of husbands and wives as they live in mutual submission to one another as part of the general command to believers to be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Because I have written previously about this latter part of Ephesians chapter 5, I will not dwell on it here. You can see my previous article No 045 on this link

https://jimholbeck.blog/2011/11/22/045-outline-of-ephesians-521-33-mutual-submission-in-the-body-of-christ/

However, we need to see that the theme of mutual submission continues into chapter 6 of Ephesians.

Mutual Submission. Children and Parents. 6:1-4

Children and parents. 6:1-3

The obedience that children are to render to their parents has a context. It presupposes that both parents and children are “in the Lord” and all are submitted to His rule over their lives. Eph 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” If parents are exercising their God-given privileges and responsibilities, then the children should feel safe and secure to submit to them in obedience.

The obedience required of children is also based on God’s revealed will in His word in the Decalogue [the Ten Commandments] quoted here by Paul. Eph 6:2 “Honour your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” The basis for rendering obedience is here seen as the need for the relationship to go well for both parties, and for the future protection and welfare of the children.

It has to be noted of course that the children’s submission to Christ may sometimes have to overrule their submission to parents when the latter refuse to be submitted to Christ themselves and in doing so, abrogate their responsibility as Christian parents.

Parents and children. 6:4

The responsibility of mutual submission is applicable also to the parents. Here Paul demands that fathers not provoke their children to anger, Eph 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  The word for “provoke to anger” is [parorgizō, παροργίζω] which is only used twice in the New Testament as a verb and once as a noun, as in Eph 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” The latter verse gives an indication as to what is involved in the submission of parents to their children. There may be cause for parental anger at times, as the word for “be angry” [ὀργίζεσθε be angry or as NIV translates, In your anger ] suggests. However prolonged unrepentant anger [parorgizō, παροργίζω] later in the verse, is not appropriate for Christian parents. Misplaced anger can be a provocation for children to respond inappropriately.

The appropriate model for child-raising is then introduced by Paul, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  6:4. The word for “discipline” is [paideia; παιδεία] which is used in relation to children and to adults. For example, the writer to the Hebrews wrote of discipline using this same word, Heb 12:9 “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” True discipline always has a positive motivation in the one exercising it, leading to a beneficial result for the person being disciplined.

“Instruction” is [nouthesia; νουθεσία] and is only found twice elsewhere. In 1 Cor 10:11, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” and in Titus 3:10 where it is translated as warning, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.” We can learn a lot from the successes and failures of those in the past, including our own. On the basis of what we have learned we are able to warn others of the consequences of behaviours that we know will be detrimental to those behaving in such a way.

No wonder Paul advises his readers to bring up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Mutual Submission. Bondservants and Masters to each other and to God as Master of all. 6:5-9

Paul is saying that everyone is accountable to God, including masters and bondservants.

He addresses first of all, the accountability of bondservants to masters but in doing so shows that their service, is in reality, to the Lord as master, and not just to their human masters. Notice these phrases in the following verses, “as you would Christ”, “bondservants of Christ”, “as to the Lord.” Eph 6:5  “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ 6  not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7  rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8  knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

Paul then addresses the masters and reminds them that they too are accountable to God and have responsibilities to their bondservants. 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.” There is One master for bondservants and their masters, who shows no partiality. The masters in the treatment of their bondservants must not be threatening to them because the One true master now in heaven did not threaten, even in extremely difficult circumstances, [“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Pet 2:23]

A Suggested Prayer Based On Ephesians 5:17-16:9

How can one condense all the teaching in this passage into one simple prayer? Not easily! The passage began with the need to understand what the will of the Lord is. It then moved on to the need to keep on being filled with the Spirit to be motivated and enabled to fulfil our responsibilities to God and to one another in Him. A major part of that was living in submission to Him and to one another, in Him.

‘Heavenly Father, I want to live in the centre of Your will for me. I open every area of my life to You, and ask that You might keep on filling me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can submit myself to your rule over my life.  I want to be motivated and empowered by Your Spirit to humble myself in my family and working life, in ways that will be a blessing to others and will bring glory to You. I ask these things in Jesus’ name, and for His sake. AMEN.”

Blog No.340 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Monday 6th January 2020

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

339. “A New Beginning! When The Eternal ‘I Am’ [Jesus, The Son Of God] Became Something He Never Was Before- A Human! Because Of Us, And For Us!” John 1:1-18

The Challenge of Jesus Christ to every person ever born into this world

The Prologue in John’s Gospel [1:1-14 especially] describes firstly just who Jesus is, and later what He became. In this first section of the Prologue, we find that the word “was’ is often used in regard to Jesus. Then comes a change in verse 14 where the word “became” is introduced  to describe Jesus. The One who eternally “was,” now “became ” something else at a certain point in history. Jesus at his birth “became” a human or took on human flesh. [NOTE 1]

What John does in this Prologue is to give the reader a wonderful overview of the majesty of Jesus as the eternal, pre-existent Son of God responsible for everything in creation. This is outlined as follows for your convenience. Bible verses in Bold print. 

A}.      WHAT JESUS “WAS” FROM ETERNITY

  1. JESUS PRE-EXISTED BEFORE HIS BIRTH ON EARTH, Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
  2. JESUS WAS PART OF THE ETERNAL GODHEAD [TRINITY] Jn 1:1 and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
  3. JESUS WAS GOD’S AGENT IN CREATION, THE CREATOR OF ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. Jn 1:3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
  4. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE AND LIGHT, Joh 1:4  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
  5. JOHN [THE BAPTIST] CAME TO PREPARE PEOPLE FOR JESUS’ COMING, Joh 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
  6. JESUS THE TRUE LIGHT WAS COMING INTO THE WORLD. Joh 1:9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
  7. JESUS CAME INTO THE WORLD AS ITS CREATOR, BUT WAS NOT RECOGNISED AS SUCH BY THE WORLD. Joh 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
  8. JESUS CAME TO HIS OWN CREATION AND TO HIS OWN PEOPLE, Joh 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [NOTE 2]. It was not a total rejection, as the next verse indicates.
  9. JESUS WAS RECEIVED BY SOME AND REJECTED BY OTHERS, Joh 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name.” Believing in” is a decision of the mind when confronted with the truth. “Receiving” is an act of the will. Both are needed to be born again. One can believe that Jesus is the Saviour of the world and is its Lord but every individual has to receive Him as such, personally, in receiving Him as their own Saviour and in submitting to Him as Lord and Master of their lives.
  10. JESUS GAVE THOSE WHO BELIEVED AND RECEIVED HIM, THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD,Joh 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [NOTE 3]

B}.       THE NEW EVENT THAT DIVIDED HISTORY! WHAT JESUS BECAME AT HIS BIRTH

Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  

Jesus became a human, lived as human and died as a human! For us! During His ministry, in John 14, he told His followers that He would leave them. But He would send them another [allos = another of the same kind] Comforter who would remain with them for ever. His “tabernacling” [“dwelt” in Jn 1:14] among them as a human was for a limited time but His presence by His Spirit would be with them forever. John 14:16-17. [NOTE 4].

 C}.       WHY HIS BECOMING HUMAN IS SIGNIFICANT FOR US

Why would the eternal Son of God, the Creator of all things, want to come down from glory to visit the universe He created and sustained?  The angelic message to Joseph who was betrothed to Mary, gives the answer, Mat 1:21 “ She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” In brief, He came to be the Saviour of the world by dying for the sins of the whole world.

So you and I are involved! We cannot escape the fact that Jesus died for all the sins of all the people who ever lived and that includes you and me. As the wonderful old hymn “There is a Green Hill far away” put it, “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the gate of heav’n and let us in.”

D}.      WHAT SHOULD BE OUR RESPONSE TO WHAT HE DID FOR HUMANS (including me)?

A previous verse from the hymn “There Is A Green Hill Far Away” succinctly put it, “He died that we might be forgiv’n, he died to make us good, that we might go at last to heav’n, saved by his precious blood.” Unless He had come and died as a human for humans there would be no forgiveness, and no new quality of life to be lived! It was achieved through His death for us on the cross.  It was the process known as “salvation” accomplished for us by our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Or in the words of St Paul in 2 Cor 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” He died for us back then! We are meant to live for Him now!

There may be those who say, ”Well it doesn’t affect me in any way. I am an atheist and all this is nonsense to me.” Unfortunately you can’t reverse or deny reality. Jesus DID come and die for the sins of the whole world, including the sins of every atheist, agnostic and any other xxx-ist or xxx-tic that ever lived!

There may be others who say, “I want my freewill! I don’t want anything forced on me. I didn’t ask Jesus to die for me, nor do I want to go to heaven.” Well, the “good news” for you is that you have a choice. You can’t change the fact that Jesus died in Your place to pay the penalty for your sins, but you can refuse to reject the offer of forgiveness and eternal life He offers to you in Himself. The bad news is that if you refuse to receive Him and to believe in Him, you do miss out on all He offers you in Himself. So you miss out on being forgiven of anything! You miss out on receiving eternal llfe which is life in abundance [God’s life in you] from the moment you receive Christ into your life! You miss out on sharing in His love and His joy and ultimately on entering into heaven when you die.

So there is the choice every human must make in every generation. John put it like this, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. “John 3:36. I know what choice I would make, and DID make, way back on New Year’s Eve in 1958.  I began to really live that night and to enjoy the Lord’s blessing as a child of God! If you are interested I have told my story in articles Numbers 248, 307and 338 on this blogsite. [You can  just click on the numbers to be taken to them or you can find them in the Index on the right.]

I encourage you to read the articles and to see if they are a challenge to you.  I would love you, the reader, to become a brand new creation in this New Year of 2020! It is your choice! “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.

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NOTES:–

NOTE 1. Jesus ‘was’ many things before he came to earth at His birth in Bethlehem. The word used several times in this passage is [ēn; ἦν]. It is the Imperfect tense form of the verb ‘to be’, [eimi; εἰμί] and is usually translated as “was.” However it could also be translated as “was always being” to denote its continuous aspect.

For example, Jesus as The One who was always being with God, always being the creator, always being the light and the life etc, but at a certain point in time Jesus “became” something He had never been before.

The word ‘became’ is from a different Greek root and is [ginomai; γίνομαι] to ‘cause to be’ or ‘to become.’ It is called in theology, the “Incarnation”, when Jesus was born as a baby. He ‘became’ a human and took on human flesh to live as a human.

NOTE 2In this verse John shows that Jesus came to His creation, His own things, [the neuter, ta idia;  τὰ  ἴδια  is used].  He then adds that His own people did not receive Him [the masculine oi idioi; οἱ ἴδιοι is used here]. Joh 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

NOTE 3. In earlier translations of this verse, there was cause for some misunderstanding. For example the Authorised Version [AV] put it as, “to them gave the power to become the sons of God.” That could cause some folk to believe that God gave power to people to live in such a way that they could eventually, through a process of improvement, become the children of God.

However the word here for ‘right’ is exousia; ἐξουσία] ‘he gave the right to become children of God.” It means “authority” or “delegated power.” Receiving and believing in Jesus brought the status and experience of being a child of God as a privilege conferred, rather than being an honour earned! It is God’s grace at work, for and in the believer! As St Paul wrote, Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

NOTE 4.  John affirmed that Jesus became human and also lived as a human. Joh 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” However there is an interesting aspect to the word “dwelt”. It is the Greek word [skēnoō; σκηνόω]. meaning to “tent” or “to tabernacle” or to “reside” (as God did in the Tabernacle). It is used only by John in the New Testament writings.  Jesus indicated that he would be with them for a short time but when He left, He would send them another Comforter [allon paraklaton: ἄλλον παράκλητον] who would be with them forever. Many will recognise here a version of the word “Paraclete” a name for the Holy Spirit often translated as Comforter, Advocate, Helper, Counsellor, Strengthener. It comes from para = beside and kaleo = to call, literally “one called to the side of.”

Blog No.339 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 2nd January 2020.

 

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338. New Year’s Eve Greeting, 2019 from Jim Holbeck

In a couple of hours, at midnight, on New Years Eve, it will be 61 years since it took place. “It” being the most momentous decision and action of my life. I wrote about that incident in my life in an article I posted on New Year’s Eve 2018. This is the link to that article No.307 if you would like to read it.

https://jimholbeck.blog/2018/12/31/307-people-really-can-change-new-creatures-for-a-new-year-2-corinthians-517/

“It” was the time on New Year’s Eve in 1958 in which I knelt beside my bed in our holiday accommodation at Coolangatta and asked Jesus into my life to be my Saviour from sin and to be the Lord and Master of my life. I really had no idea what life might be from that point, having made myself vulnerable in handing my life over to Someone whom I had never seen. But what a wise decision! What a privilege to be guided by Him and to know His blessings since that time.

It was only weeks after that encounter with the Lord that I was led to the church where I would meet Carole, the love of my life and ultimately my very best friend who would later become my wife for almost 54 years before cancer struck its final blow just 2 months ago.  I am amazed at the number of people who have since remarked, “You two were really meant for each other!” I suppose it is only naturally supernatural when the Lord is in control of two lives He wants to bring together. What joy, What blessing when He is in control of our lives.

Wishing every reader a very “Happy New Year!” and  may the Lord bless you “real good” [as the late Billy Graham used to say] in the coming year of 2020.

Blog No.338 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on New Year’s Eve 31st December 2019

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337. Honouring Jesus at Christmas! And All Year Round! Affirming More Of The Truth About Jesus During Holy Communion Services. Hebrews 12:2.  

I was thinking today! About the Christ of Christmas! About whom St Paul wrote, in simple but all-encompassing words in Rom 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”  He is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega!

The Holy Communion service from the 2nd Order for Holy Communion in the APBA [A Prayer Book for Australia] also has majestic encompassing words. They are to be affirmed by every person present at the service. They are,

“Christ has died

Christ is risen

Christ will come again”

I personally love affirming them with all who are present at a Communion service.

However wouldn’t it be helpful and ‘nice’ if we added some additional words so that the affirmation became the following, [even if only as an addition in the Advent-Christmas season.]

“Christ was promised

Christ was born

Christ has died

Christ is risen

Christ will come again”

This would give a more meaningful narrative about the Person of Jesus, His promised role as The Christ [Messiah, Anointed One] and would tie in the truths about

  • all the promises regarding His coming at that first Christmas [as seen in Old and New Testament passages]
  • His Birth in humility as a human
  • His Death as a human
  • His Resurrection, Ascension and Session [His sitting down at the right hand of God] and the subsequent pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the people of God
  • His coming again in glory.

Anyway, I thought it would be a helpful thing to do! Do I expect the Liturgical Commission in Australia to suggest shredding all the existing copies of the ABPA prayer books in order to include my suggestion? Oh, me of little faith! NO!

Perhaps I might just think about the words when I am present at Communion services in the future, whilst “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2. Joy for Him was fulfilling the Father’s purpose for Him! Our joy, because of all Jesus has done for us, is to live for Him and to endeavour, by the grace of God, to fulfil the Father’s purpose for us! What an exciting prospect! To be doing what God wants us to do!

The Promised Christ who was born at that First Christmas is worthy to be praised, all the time! By all His people! To His everlasting glory!

May you know the Lord’s richest blessings in this Christmas-New Year season.

Blog No.337 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Monday 23rd December 2019.

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336. Christmas! The Good News That Can Overcome The Bad News! Victory!

Christmas! A time of great joy and peace! As it should be! “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king!” But not everyone experiences joy at Christmas! I have found in ministry over several decades that it can be, for many people, a time of deep sadness, intense emotional pain and a feeling of isolation.  It can be a time when we see the best of humans as they take the time to get together as families, expressing love to family members and becoming more friendly to those around them.  Some would say that we see the best of human nature at such a time as Christmas. Yet for some people it is a time when they are forced to deal with memories of experiences of the worst of human nature.

One of the articles I wrote on this blogsite way back in 2012 is being looked at more frequently in the last couple of years. I have some idea of why that is so. It was No. 089 titled, Humans. Basically Good? Or Prone To Evil? Mark 7:20-23.”  As we see so much evil taking place in the world around us we are forced to wonder why it is that humans can be so unloving towards their fellow humans. So inhumane! Are humans basically good or do they have an inbuilt bias towards evil? The above-mentioned article gives many clues towards an answer.

Jesus’ View Of Human Nature

Let’s start with Jesus’ view of human nature, recognising He is the Creator of humankind.  As the eternal Son of God He knows what took place at the fall of humankind and the disastrous results for humankind and the world that ensued. He is the One who came at that first Christmas to become a human so that He could live as a human and ultimately die as a human for humans. When He was asked what it was that defiled a person He replied, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23.

Every human has that propensity to do evil as well as doing what outwardly seems to be excellent and ‘good.’ We need to remember that behind every human action is a motivation. Sometimes motivations can be pure and loving and kind seeking the best interests of the other person. Sometimes seemingly good actions or attitudes may have a different motivation, based more on what one can gain by the action rather than what one can contribute willingly and selflessly to the other person!

St Paul’s View Of Human Nature

St Paul in Romans chapter 1 wrote of what happened when humans turned away from God in rebellion at the Fall. Humans became involved in idolatry, sexual impropriety and many other forms of sin. He described such behaviour in verses 29-32, “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” In other words, they broke God’s requirements for living as His creatures in his world. Note how many of the Ten Commandments are broken in the list above.

Paul also put it clearly when he wrote of the difference between the new Spirit nature given to humans at conversion [their new birth] and the nature they inherited as humans. He wrote of the characteristics of the old flesh nature as being “the works of the flesh,” in this way, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21. In other words the outworking of our fallen nature can result in any or all of these sinful manifestations.  As I mentioned in that article No 089 above, even believers who have been born again of the new nature by the Holy Spirit can allow the old nature tendencies to be manifest in their lives at any time.

What denominations believe about our fallen nature!

The old flesh nature never leaves the believer.  The Anglican Church 39 Articles of Religion state in Article 9 [which is titled, “Of original or Birth sin”] “Man … is of his own nature inclined to evil. … This infection of nature doth remain in those who are regenerate (born again). The Presbyterian Westminster Confession article [V] agrees, “This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated.”  It means this proneness to do evil is characteristic of all people. All born-again people still possess this old nature with its bias towards evil and can give way to it unless they are careful. That’s why they are to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh (the old nature). Gal 6:8 “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

What that means in practice

It means that any human can commit sin at any time. St Paul warned about that in 1 Cor 10:11-12 where having shown that the people of God in the Old Testament initially followed God, later many departed from their trust in God, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Paul uses the failure of the Old Testament people of God, to warn that presumption can sometimes over-ride an ongoing confidence in God. It is when you think you are strong in your own resources and certainly beyond temptation, then you can fall.

  • The businessman talking things over deeply with his secretary feels she “understands him” more than his wife does. He begins to spend more time with her. An affair begins. He never thought he was capable of being unfaithful. But he was human. With a fallen nature.
  • The Treasurer of a group is meticulous with his handling of finances. But one day he makes a mistake. No one notices.  Later he is a bit short of money and makes the same “mistake”. A pattern begins. A meticulous treasurer with a developing flaw. Human. With a fallen nature.
  • The empathetic counsellor feels deeply for the woman he is counselling who has been neglected and sometimes abused by an inattentive husband. He gets too close, in his attempt to help her. Two marriages come to an end. Human. With a fallen nature.

One could give many examples one has come across personally where a person with the highest set of morals was tempted and suddenly fell. They did not “take heed” lest they fall. They were human. With a fallen nature. But all of them were accountable to God. They couldn’t say, “I did the wrong thing, but that is who I am! I have a fallen nature!” That is why I often sin!” That is excusing one’s sin, not repenting of it!  Repentance means saying to God, “Lord, I confess what I did was wrong in Your sight. Please forgive me and give me the grace never to do it again!” When we realise how much God hates sin, we would want to be honest in confessing it to Him, and utterly sincere in asking Him to empower us by His Spirit to have victories, rather than ongoing defeats, in that area of our lives!

Dangerous Human “Solutions’ To Complex Problems

One of the problems regularly reported on in the news these days is that of domestic violence. There are some who feel they know the reason for it and also an answer to it. The reason for violence as they see it, is “toxic masculinity” or “patriarchy”.  Males are the problem! So putting down men or building up antagonism towards men or trying to exclude men, becomes their answer to the problem. In the process they build up a tendency for females they influence, to see all men as evil and never to be trusted.

However they fail to recognise that the females of the species can be violent as well. Violence is not confined to the males of the species. It is not masculinity as such but the fact that all humans both male and female have a fallen nature that is prone to sin. Any human being can begin to entertain angry, hurtful or even murderous thoughts when under great pressure by another person or persons or in challenging circumstances. How males and females respond to such situations may differ but the negative response is not just due to some external factor. Rather they have been tempted from within as James indicated about temptation in his epistle, “ Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:13-15. Anyone, at any time, can begin to follow the dictates of their fallen nature. As Jesus said, these wrong attitudes and behaviour come from within, not just from an external influence, though the words or actions of others may help to trigger off a negative or inappropriate response!

A “Walking Civil War?”

It is the testimony of most believers that there is a tension within them as they seek to live sincerely for the Lord. Paul expressed it thus, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:19-24. One writer many decades ago described the believer as being a “walking civil war!” In the words of Paul in Gal 5:17, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

Having read those words, one could wonder if there could be any victories in life. But Paul continues on in a triumphant note, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 7:25- 8:2. Not only are believers set free from condemnation. They are also set free to live victoriously in the power of the Holy Spirit, having ongoing victories over their fallen flesh nature [that still remains within them.]

Christmas?

What has this got to do with Christmas? Everything! If Jesus had not come at that first Christmas there would be no forgiveness of sin, no eternal life to be enjoyed and no victory over the power of sin. But His coming at Christmas led to forgiveness and eternal life becoming available to those who trusted in His sacrifice for them on the cross.  His resurrection and ascension and His sitting down at the right hand of God meant that He could send His Holy Spirit to indwell His people, to enable them to live in the power of His Spirit and to have victory over the dictates of their lower flesh nature. As new creatures in Christ, they would be able to obey the promptings of the indwelling Holy Spirit to live lives of genuine love expressed in sacrificial service to others.

The bad news is all about the inability of humans to live as they should.]

The GOOD NEWS [the Gospel] is that when Christ came at Christmas He set into motion the plan and purpose of God [through His death, resurrection and ascension] to set His people free to live and love as they should! Praise God for our Redeemer whom Paul described as the One “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:14.

Good news to receive with thanksgiving! Good works to flow from hearts filled with thanksgiving to God , as Paul expressed it, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” 2 Cor 9:15.

The best Christmas gift that could ever be given! CHRIST HIMSELF! To be received by faith!

Blog No.336. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 21st December 2019.

 

 

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