272. THE WORLD IS SCREAMING OUT FOR TRUE HUMILITY NOT FOR HUMAN GREATNESS! Philippians 2:1-11

True Humility Is Necessary, Very Costly But Ultimately Rewarding. Philippians 2:1-11. 

It’s very sad to see people who are living far below their potential. They might be very intelligent but have never committed themselves to study. They might be gifted athletically but never bothered to compete. They might have been blessed with a wonderful spouse and children but never bothered to invest quality time in those relationships.

A friend once described “hell” like this. It would be like looking at a film of our life as it could have been, if we had fully trusted in the Lord. For some people it would be a living hell to see what they had missed out on in their lifetime by living as they did and by their unavailability to the Lord. What a shock it would be to some people to discover how life would have been so much better and so much more fulfilling if they had given themselves over completely to the Lord.

Paul looked at the church in Philippi and realised that they were far short of their God-given potential. They were not taking hold of all the resources they had in Christ. That was so especially in their failure to love one another as they should have. Instead of being united as one, they were divided. It was time for Paul to introduce the antidote into his letter to them.  They needed to be reminded of the unity they had in Christ. Then he would challenge them to be humble. The example of humility he set before them was the example of Christ Himself. Jesus had humbled Himself to come down from heaven to become a human to die for the sins of the whole world. They needed to follow His example of humility to become what they were meant to become personally and in their relationships.

1).    THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT.  It exists and must be lived out in practice.

Firstly, the unity of the Spirit exists. Paul writes in verse 1, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy” . The “If” here could be translated as “since”. Paul knew that these things mentioned in verse 1 actually existed. That is his point. These things already exist says Paul.  As he wrote in Ephesians 4:3, “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We notice he says “maintain”, not “create”. You maintain something that is already existing. (That is why prayers for Christian unity should not be asking God to do something He has already done. He has made all believers one in Christ. However we should pray that God would show us all the human barriers that He sees are preventing us from sharing in that unity. And ask His help to remove them!)

Secondly this unity must be lived out in practice. It is as though Paul is saying, “Become in practice what you are by the grace of God.” He writes in Php 2:2 ,“complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” [NOTE 1]. That is, “Let the Holy Spirit of God make you become what you are meant to be, as children in the same family of God”. All believers are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. They are ALL children of the same Heavenly Father. They are to live out this reality in their everyday living.

 2).      THE PATTERN OF HUMILITY SEEN IN JESUS.  His is the only true genuine pattern of humility to follow. Even Paul the writer observed, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. “1 Cor 11:1. He saw a pattern that believers were meant to follow. It was the pattern of the life of Jesus Christ Himself. He patterned his own life on that example. Others could follow his example but only inasmuch as it reflected the true humility seen in Jesus. He begins to spell that out in verse 3.

i).  Having The Right Attitude Towards Others. Php 2:3 “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It appears that some of these elements existed in the church in Philippi.

“Rivalry” (eritheía) is also translated as contention or strife. It is the attitude, “I want what you have and I will use others in my quest to get it.” Such people are users. They may use their money or their position or even their friends to gain what they want. No wonder they tear apart a Christian fellowship. (See NOTE 2 below for all the other uses of the word in the New Testament. It is not a pretty picture!)

“Conceit”, kenodoxía from kenos = empty and doxia = glory.  Vainglory, a desire for praise (The attitude “I deserve it more than you.”) There are those who will not give praise to another person because in their conceit they imagine that that they have done better or could do better.

By contrast the right attitude is that which is focussed on others, “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  The word [huperéchō] means to hold above or to see someone as superior to someone else. It is the attitude that says, “I am here to serve you “rather than “You are here to serve my purpose.,” Jesus had spoken of the necessity of that attitude in Matthew 20.  The mother of the sons of Zebedee wanted Jesus to guarantee that her sons gained the highest places in the kingdom of God. Jesus took the opportunity to remind His followers of the nature of greatness. Mat 20:26  “… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave. “ He Himself would set the example, 20:28  “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 ii).   Having The Right Focus On The Needs Of Others. 2:4)  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. “We do need to take care of our own interests, but should not be focussed only on them. It means taking time to really notice people. It has the added dimension of looking even further to see what their needs might be and how one could be used in meeting those needs.

 iii).   Having The Right Mind (The Mind Of Christ). 2:5,  “Have this mind (phronéo = have a mindset) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Jesus in His incarnation determined to do the will for God for Him. It meant that He was willing to forego many of His privileges as the Son of God.

He had status as the Son of God. He was willing to put those priviliges aside. (6) “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (He didn’t hang on to what was rightfully His.)

He once had power and authority as the Son of  God. He limited Himself to live as a human (7) “but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (He could not empty Himself of His divinity as the eternal Son of God but He emptied Himself of all His divine privileges. He did not draw on His omniscience (knowing all things) but had to ask questions. He did not draw on His omnipresence (being able to be in all places simultaneously) but was confined to a human body. He did not draw on His omnipotence (able to do all things) as He lived as a human. He attributed His teaching and His miracles and healings to the work of His Father working through Him. He was the Father’s instrument. (John 14:10, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.“ In  human form He had rely on God for all these things.

He handed Himself over to do the will of God, come what may. (8) “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” That was God’s eternal purpose for Jesus as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) to bring forgiveness and salvation to humans

His purpose for us is not the same ( to be the sin-bearers of all the sins of the world). But God requires the same sort of commitment from us, to humble ourselves before Him, to do what He wants us to do in this life.

3).    GOD EXALTS TRUE HUMILITY.  Jesus humbled Himself to do the will of God throughout his life. When He prayed just hours before his death in the garden of Gethsemane, He cried out, Mat 26:39  … “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  His humility in becoming a man and living and dying as a man was followed by His exaltation by God to the highest place in the purposes of God.

  • No greater name. Php 2:9 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” No one at any time has compared with Him or will ever compare with Him. He is supreme.
  • No greater Person or Power in the Universe. Jesus is Lord! Php2:10 “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.” Everyone and everything will ultimately be subject to Him.
  • Jesus is exalted as King of Kings and as Lord of Lords, the Ruler of this whole universe. Nothing or no one will ever take His place. We have to submit to Him in every area of our lives, for every moment of our lives. He is to be Lord of all.
  • What does that mean for those who have no time for God in this life, and who reject Jesus? Unfortunately for them it means rejection by Jesus when He comes. It means eternal rejection. It means being barred from the presence of God and from all that is good. Paul put it like this in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” What strong language! What does the loving Jesus say? He told us in Mat 25:46  “And these (unrighteous) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The world has had enough of human greatness. As I write, leaders in Russia and China and many other countries are wanting to grab ever more power to exercise over their peoples. Lord Acton once warned us about such longings for more power, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Humans find it difficult to be in positions of power. Some may have an exaggerated view of their own importance and see their position as their entitlement. But all of us are the recipients of God’s grace. None of us would have our “important” position were it not for His over-ruling in our lives. But having been placed there, we are meant to be the dispensers of His grace to others in loving service to them.

The question that all of us in important positions should ask ourselves is this. Am I serving people to help them reach their greater fulfilment in life in God or am I using people to help me achieve my own goals in life? As I mentioned above and in Note 1, self-seeking and selfish ambition are never pretty, but are destructive for society!

How challenging for all of us are these words in verse 3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.“ (NASB)

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[NOTE 1.] Notice the unity or oneness in this verse. Php 2:2  “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

“Same mind” is from  autos phroneō [αὐτὸ φρονῆτε] which means “thinking the same”.

“Same love” is  autos agapē [αὐτὴν ἀγάπην.]

“In full accord” is sympsychos [σύμψυχοι] which means “of one soul” where [σύμ] means “together with” and [ψυχοι] is from ψυχή, psuchḗ meaning soul.  

“of one mind” is from heis phroneō  [ἓν φρονοῦντες] which means “thinking the one thing”.

[NOTE  2.] One can see the divisive nature expressed by this word (underlined) in the following verses,  Php_1:17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.  Rom 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 2Cor 12:20, For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. Gal 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions.  James 3:14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Jas 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

Blog No.272. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog Sunday 25th March 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Glorification, Judgement, Prayer, Salvation, Second coming of Jesus, STUDIES IN PHILIPPIANS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

271. Love Makes The Most Of Every Opportunity. (Sermon suggestions for Mark 14:1-9 for Palm Sunday 25March 2018).

Our reading begins and ends with deceit and the deliberate planning to murder Jesus.  But in between, there is a beautiful story of love that was shown to Him.

  • As Jesus reclined at table in a private home, a woman came to Him carrying perfume valued at perhaps a year’s salary.
  • She came to show that she loved Him.
  • Others might be plotting His death, but at least one person was showing Him that He was special, to her.
  • I want us to look at how love behaves, as we see her loving attitude to Jesus. The expressions of love are shown as follows.

1). LOVE TAKES THE INITIATIVE. SHE CAME TO HIM

We don’t know what sort of contact this woman had had with Jesus before this.  

  • She may have been grateful for a blessing she had received at His hands.
  • She may have been overcome with the sheer integrity of His life.
  • Whatever it was, she wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass to express her love. She came to Him.
  • She was perhaps the last person to show Jesus He was special, in her eyes.

2). LOVE OFFERS THE BEST THAT ONE HAS

When the woman anointed Jesus she was parting with the best that she had.

She could have thought with worldly wisdom,  

  • “I’ll use some cheap perfume. Then I can pour it all over his head.”
  • Or she could have thought, “I’ll just put a little dab on His forehead and keep the rest for another time.”

But there wasn’t going to be another time. Within hours He was going to be dead.  She broke the jar and poured it all over His head and anointed His head with it.

Love offers the best that one has, sacrificially and generously. [Perhaps the value of a sacrificial gift lies not so much in what is given but in how much is left for oneself after the gift is given!]

3). LOVE MAKES THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY

It would have been so easy for the woman to put off what she wanted to do until a later time.  

  • But she wanted to do it, today! It meant crashing a private dinner party.
  • It meant her actions may have been misunderstood.
  • Some might have questioned her morality.
  • Others may have been secretly jealous that Jesus had been the recipient of such unashamed love.
  • Some may have been secretly jealous that they had never been free to be so uninhibited in showing love to their own loved ones.

She did what she could, when she could. St Paul described such an attitude as, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Eph 5:16. NIV.

Not taking advantage of the opportunities

As a young person, I was deeply challenged by the words that go something like this, “I shall pass through this world but once. If therefore there be any kindness that I can show, or any good thing I can do, let me do it now, let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again”. (Attributed to Stephen Grellett 1773-1855).

The moments for expressing love which are never taken up, may be lost for eternity. Many families worldwide and throughout the ages have lived with regret expressing such thoughts as, “Why didn’t we tell [him or her] that we really appreciated and loved [him or her]. Now it’s too late! If only we could turn back the clock!” No human can!

4). LOVE IS NEVER WASTED

I want us to notice the different values placed on her action in pouring ointment on his head and anointing Him.

i).         The crowd’s value judgment. “Waste!”

  • Many there perhaps, including some of the disciples were thinking, “What a waste.” And they rebuked the woman publicly.
  • In fact they tried to be spiritual about it, saying, “This ointment could have been sold and given to the poor”. They saw it all as a terrible waste. They were indignant with her.
  • But wait a minute! It was her ointment, not theirs, to do with as she pleased.
  • There was something sinister in what they were saying. What they were really saying was this “He isn’t worth it!” He isn’t worth it!”
  • What a terrible thing to say about the Creator of the world.
  • Everything belonged to Him for He made it all.
  • A little bit of the creation He made was being poured over His head and people didn’t like it. “It’s a waste. He isn’t worth it”.

ii).        Her value judgement. “Precious”

  • Jesus was precious to her.
  • No sacrifice would be too great for her to make for Him.
  • She didn’t have the truth we know now, that within hours, He would be hanging on a cross bearing the sin of the whole world.

iii).       Jesus’ value judgment. “Beautiful”

What did Jesus think? He rebuked those who had rebuked the woman, and told them to leave her alone, for what she had done was no waste, but a “Beautiful thing.”

Isn’t it incredible that the same action can be taken so differently by people.

  • She said to Jesus by her action, “I love you, I appreciate you.”
  • Most others there said, “It’s a waste!”
  • Jesus said, “It’s beautiful.”

 Not only was it beautiful, but it was timely.

He needed to have that love expressed to Him at a time when He knew His final hours had come. The poor could benefit from help at any time, but He had only hours to live.

  • Her opportunity to show love, was not wasted.
  • Love is never wasted, it’s a tremendous investment, because it releases more love. As the apostle John wrote of the love of God, “We love, because He first loved us.”
  • It was His initiative in sending His Son into the world to die for sinners that made some respond in love to His love and in turn be motivated to love others.
  • Love gives in spite of not being appreciated. It can bring forth love in the other person.  It is never wasted.

 5). LOVE IS ETERNAL

So significant was this expression of love in the eyes of Jesus that He gave it eternal value, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” 14:9.

  • Lots of important things have been done in the history of the world in human terms, but so many have faded from memory.
  • But this action of the woman will never be forgotten.
  • Even up to the Second Coming of Jesus, people will still be saying, “Remember the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ head with costly perfume, as an expression of her love for Him?”

 Our expressions of love are also eternal.

  • They help change the world around us for good.
  • Then they spread out to touch the lives of others, who in turn acting in love, touch more people.
  • But our failure to express love shrivels us up. It shrivels the world around us and affects the lives of many people.

This is a very powerful story. But the tragedy may be, that we see it simply as a nice thing she did for Jesus.

  • Judas was unmoved by such a display of love. Immediately after, he went out to betray Jesus to the chief priests.
  • Jesus obviously saw it as more significant than that. The story was meant to be shared wherever the gospel is shared.
  • Why? Because He knew we needed to be challenged with a human example of someone who loved.

To whom do you need to reach out in love?

Parents? They are the only parents you will ever have! They sacrificed much and risked much in bringing you into the world. They supported you as best they could in the good times and the bad times. Their own family lives may have been difficult and they may never have had a good pattern of fathering or mothering to follow, but they did their best. Praising them for the good and forgiving the not so good or even the bad, releases you to be a better parent to your own! It also provides a good pattern of parenting for your own children to follow in their family lives. St Paul wrote, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim 5:8. We mainly associate that with the responsibility of parents towards their children. But it applies also to the responsibility of children to their siblings and parents and the wider family. Perhaps financial AND emotional support!

Do you need to reach out in love to your spouse? How recently have you told him or her that you really appreciate them and deeply love them? How many negatives do they cop from your mouth before breakfast? Could you increase the positives and decrease the negatives? Perhaps get rid of the negatives altogether?

A friend? They were thoughtful and kind to you but have you ever bothered to say, “Hey. Thank you. I deeply appreciate what you did for me.”

A child? You are the only father/mother your child will ever have. You have an unique relationship with them. They are part of you. Your expressions of love to them will often mean more to them than the expressions of love given by other people.

A son in law or daughter in law? You may think that no one is “good enough” for your beloved child. But they are doing their best in most cases and need to be appreciated for every kind or thoughtful thing they do for your child. But have you bothered to notice those things or have you labelled them as “losers” and fail to see any good?

Mother in law/ father in law? Being loving to the parents of the person you married shows you appreciate your spouse and the parents who brought him/her into the world.

The woman in our story ministered to Jesus! Did He need it as the Creator of the universe and the Son of God? He deeply appreciated all she did for Him as a human and called it “beautiful!” He noticed. He cared. He communicated His love and appreciation

Well how about us? How do we go in expressing love to those to whom we should express it? Can we do it? No? But we can with God’s help.

The question is, “Will we do it?” We begin by beginning! We can love those we should love, as we allow God to fill us with His divine agape love. As Paul wrote, as we commit our lives to Jesus He can fill us with His Holy Spirit. Then His love can flow through us to those who need it, “… because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Rom 5:5.

A SUGGESTED PRAYER

“Lord fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can love other people with Your divine love.  Please use me as an instrument of Your love, to bring blessing and healing into the lives of others, especially in the lives of those You are placing in my mind now and in the future.  I ask it in Jesus’ name and for His sake, AMEN.”

Blog No.271. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 18th March 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Sermons and articles on the Gospel of Mark | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

270. Good Mental Health. A Brief Overview from a Christian point of view

[This article is adapted from an article I wrote recently for a Christian magazine in Florida USA. It gives a brief overview of factors contributing to Mental Health.]

Good mental health? How is it possible? Our enemies in life have to be recognised and strategies adopted to give us victory over them. Well, what are the enemies in life that all humans face?

Amazingly we get one of the best explanations as to the enemies we all face as we look at the teaching in the Baptismal and Confirmation services of the Church of England (Anglican, Episcopal church.) The services are of course based on the biblical teaching on these subjects. In these services, three enemies of humans are recognised which need to be renounced as being dangers to us.  They are, the World, the Flesh and the Devil. In the words of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer the wording is as follows: “DOST thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by them?” Answer. “I renounce them all.”

How do these enemies seek to influence us, and how can we gain victory over them?

I]. THE ENEMY AROUND US. The World. The World And Its Influence On Us

Jesus spoke of “the world” as being the people who do not know God and who do not submit to Him. He warned His disciples that they would suffer misunderstanding and rejection by the world, “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19.

What is needed by humans is a trans-formation, not continued con-formation to the world’s values and ideas. St Paul wrote that humans can have new mind-sets. They need to have them in order to understand God’s will for humans. Rom 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

New ways of thinking can lead to new ways of behaving. Correct behaviour in the sight of God will prove to be good and acceptable and perfect in the experience of humans.

II]. THE ENEMY WITHIN US. The Flesh. Our Fallen Human Nature.

Some religious teachers asked Jesus a question about what makes humans impure. His answer shows that evil comes from within people, not just from their response to their external environment, “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.

St Paul expressed the same truth in describing the characteristics of our fallen human nature, the flesh, as, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… .” Gal 5:19-21.

How can we have victory over the impulses of our fallen nature? By allowing God to fill us with His Spirit. Then and only then will the fruit of the Spirit be continually manifest in and through us. 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.” These characteristics remain as we remain open to His Spirit, as Paul describes in Gal 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Responding to His leading and to His empowering by His Spirit brings radical mental and behavioural changes to those who do it.

III]. THE ENEMY AGAINST US. The Devil.

Satan [the Evil One] has always been against God, His purposes and His people. He works through deception as he attacks the minds of humans with his lies. He is “diabolos [διάβολος] the word for “Devil” which means the “accuser.” He besieges the minds of humans with accusing thoughts. But three things are helpful in gaining victory over him.

i]. One is that he has power but it is limited power. He has been disarmed, “He [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Col 2:15. He may be like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour but you can “resist him, firm in your faith.”1 Pet 5:9.

ii]. The second is that his lies, deceptions and accusations can be overcome. How? By bringing our thought life into obedience to Christ, “We … take every thought captive to obey Christ”. 2 Cor 5:5. The Lord can free us from the power of the damaging thoughts and accusations Satan plants in our minds. It is wise to ask the Lord to help us discern the origin of the thoughts that come into our minds by handing them over to Him. He can help us by His Spirit to discern whether it is a thought from within ourselves which may be true, partly true or untrue; or whether it is from Satan who tries to sow lies and deceits as well as accusations against the people of God; or whether it is the Lord trying to get our attention. In the last case, what He puts in our minds is always in accord with His revealed truths in His word the Bible.

iii]. The third is that we can be assured of our identity in Christ when the accuser [or other humans he may use] try to tell us we are no good. All of us have had thoughts such as “You are not good enough!”  “You are nothing and you will never amount to anything.” “You are just a hypocrite!” “How could God possibly use you in any way. You’re hopeless!” “You may call yourself a Christian but your life certainly doesn’t show it!” And so on!

Jesus doesn’t condemn us. He died for us. He was raised so we could be made right with God,  “[believers] to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Rom 4:24-25. Not only that but at the present time He is interceding for us, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

We belong! To Him! We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” Rom 8:39,  as we keep on handing every aspect of our life over to Him.

Knowing AND acting on these truths will bring us into better mental health! Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” but it is only the truth that is acted on, that will bring us the peace of mind and the freedom we desire and need to have.

Blog No.270. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 16th March 2018 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Mental Health, Prayer, Temptations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

269. An Alternative Sermon On John 12:20-33. “The Hour Has Come!” (Gospel reading for Sun 18th March 2018)

Notes from a sermon preached at an Evensong service in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney almost 20 years ago.  (A significant sermon in my memory as a Cathedral choir member told me later that as he heard the sermon he gave his life to Jesus. The ‘hour had come’ for him to get right with God!)

“The hour has come.”

For many it has meant that the day had arrived to do the final examinations. Or the day of their wedding had arrived. Or a new job would begin on this day. Or it was a day to face a whole new challenge. In those situations there can be a sense of mixed feelings as those days come upon us. A sense of anticipation as we face the future. A sense of apprehension as we wonder whether we can meet the expectations of those around us.

For Jesus there must have been early in His ministry a sense of foreboding as He knew he was soon to die a cruel death. But there was also a sense of anticipation that He was soon to finish the work He came to do in bringing salvation to a world in need. The writer to the Hebrews wrote of Jesus, “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.” Heb 12:2.

  • There would be suffering eventually but there was the joy that He would make salvation available to the people of God in every generation.
  • Every new day Jesus faced brought with it the challenge that this new day was a day closer to a special day. It would be that coming day when there would come a sign that would signify that the end was near and He would soon have to suffer and die.

1).  JESUS WAITED FOR A SIGN

There were occasions when things happened when Jesus said (or John wrote of Him) that His hour had not yet come for this final stage of His life.

i). Early on His ministry. Mary His mother at the wedding in Cana of Galilee asked him to do something about the shortage of wine at the feast. (John 2:4) And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” In other words Jesus had to do things according to His Heavenly Father’s timetable and not his human mother’s.

ii). On another occasion at a feast Jesus was teaching in the Temple. But there were those who took exception to His teaching and tried to arrest Him. However we read that (John 7:30) “… no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.”

iii). Later as he taught in the Treasury there were those planning to arrest Him. (John 8:20) “He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come”. They made another attempt to arrest Him but the guards came back empty handed. When they were asked why they hadn’t arrested Him and brought Him back to them the guards replied, 8:46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”

It seems that God’s protection surrounded Jesus until the time was ready for Him to go to the cross. But what would be the sign?

The sign came clearly to Jesus as we read in our reading tonight, “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:20-24.

  • Jesus’ Ministry was primarily to His own people, the Jewish people.
  • The sign would be the coming of those who were not of Jewish background who wanted to see Jesus.
  • It would mean that Jesus’ message was about to go out into the whole world, for He had come to save the peoples of the world.

2). THE SIGN WAS GIVEN TO JESUS

The sign of Gentiles wanting to see him. These Greeks had come to see Jesus, no doubt in their hunger for spiritual reality. When He knew that the Gentiles were seeking Him He said immediately , “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

To “be glorified” in John’s gospel is another way of saying that Jesus would bring glory to God through His death, which would be followed by His victorious resurrection. Jesus expressed that as He added, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” 12:24.

The benefit of His death for His disciples.

He had to die to make His life available to His people.

While Jesus ministered among them He could be in only one place at a time. But His death would mean that His life would soon be released into the lives of all His people as they received the gift of His Spirit.

He dedicated Himself to His Father in Jn 17 in words that show that His purpose in dying was indeed to share His life with His disciplesHe recognised that the time had come. (John 17:1) “After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2) since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3) And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Later in the same prayer He prayed for the protection of all those who would come to follow Him,  (John 17:20)  “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21) that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22) The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23) I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  AND (John 17:26) “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Christianity would be based on the message of Jesus. It would be about people hearing about Jesus, putting their faith in Him and receiving His life within them.

  • Jesus’ death for His people meant that the Christian message would not simply be coming through His lips alone but through His disciples’ lips.
  • His life would be seen not only through His life 2000 years ago, but would be seen in and through the lives of his followers throughout every generation in the body of Christ. The church would be made up of people who had trusted Him and were indwelt by Him by His Spirit.

That’s why Jesus had to die in that 2 fold sense.

  1. To take away the sin of the world so that people might be forgiven.
  2. To make His life, eternal life available to all who would receive that life in Him.

No wonder the early message of the Christian church had that 2 fold emphasis of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 2:38)  ‘Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”’

(Acts 3:19 “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20  so that times of refreshing ( a reference to the Holy Spirit) may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus.”

Acts 5:31 “God exalted Jesus at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

 The gifts of repentance, forgiveness and the Holy Spirit.

3). OUR RESPONSE TO THE JESUS WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR US.

Jesus had spoken as to how death can lead to life. His death would make His life available to people who trusted in Him.

Now He called His disciples to die. To die to their old lives and to live for God. Jesus said, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” John 12:25-26.

Jesus knew that there could be no real meaning or purpose in a life that was self-centred. Humans are meant to live for others not just for themselves.

As Paul was later to write, Phil 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others”. He gave the great example of such humility as seen in Jesus. Phil 2:5, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.”

God honoured Jesus by exalting Him to the highest place in glory, “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11.

  • Jesus said of those who would live for God and thus live for others, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” Jn 12:26
  • To die to self and to come alive to God and to Jesus ensures that we can experience His presence and His blessing.

SUMMING UP

“The hour has come” said Jesus. He responded to the challenge those words represented and God’s blessings have flowed through all that He did from that point onwards. He went to the cross. He rose again. He ascended to heaven and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He poured out the gift of the Spirit on the church on the day of Pentecost. As a result you and I can be forgiven and know the experience of eternal life, Christ living His life in us by His Spirit.

“The hour has come”.   It may have come for us in the sense that God is calling us now to turn from living for ourselves that we might live for Him. Paul said of Jesus, “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” 2 Cor 5:15.

You see there is only one life you and I can live in this world. We can live it so that we are Number 1 and others barely get a thought.

Or we can live for God and for others by saying to the Risen Jesus, “Lord, I want to live for You, not for myself. I want to please You, not just myself. I want to do what You want me to do, not just what I want to do. I want to die to self and let You live Your life in me for the rest of my life. Please come into my life today. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.”

The hour has come and if we make the right choice to die to self we will be able to say with St Paul, ”I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is 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.” Galatians 2:19-20.

The time has come to make a choice. May you do so for your eternal benefit and to His glory.

Blog No.269. posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 9th March 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Judgement, Justification, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Second coming of Jesus, Sermons on John's Gospel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

268. Sermon on John 12:20-33. The Importance Of Significant Moments In Life. (Gospel for Sun 18th March 2018)

There have been times in the lives of all of us that something quite significant has happened. Someone said something or did something that had a great impact on our lives.  For good or for evil! Or it may have been some sudden realisation we had about ourselves that changed our lives for ever.

I can still remember taking part in a football kicking competition for the Rugby League football club I belonged to. We had 3 attempts to record the longest kick. I was only a junior player kicking in a competition along with older A grade and State representatives. Much to my and everyone else’s surprise, I won. From that day on, until I retired from playing several years later, I was always the line and goal kicker for every team for which I played, including A Grade, representative and Royal Australian Navy teams. From a person of no significance to a person with some slight significance because of a long (but insignificant) torpedo punt kick. However, it was significant for me because for the first time in my life I felt I had something of some significance to offer in life.

There was a significant moment in the life of Jesus. You may say that every moment of His life was significant because He was the Messiah and the Son of God who had come to earth. But He saw something that happened as a very significant moment in His life and ministry.

1).        THE SIGNIFICANCE TO JESUS OF THE APPROACH BY THE GENTILES. [A Sign To Jesus That He Was About To Die]

The significant moment for Jesus happened like this, “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.” John 12:20-22.

Nothing significant there you might think. Some Greeks as gentiles (non-Jews) wanted to see Jesus. Didn’t everyone? But this was different.

  • Jesus spoke as He heard this news, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” 12:23. This was a highly significant moment for Him. He had ministered to the house of Israel (the Jews) who were meant to take that message out to the Gentiles, the non-Jews.
  • However now the Gentiles themselves were taking the initiative in wanting to see meet Him. (The word for “see” is derived from horaō [ὁράω] which means more than glancing at.) They wanted to become acquainted with Him, to have a deeper experience of Him, to know Him more intimately, to converse with Him.
  • This was a sign that His ministry was about to come to an end as the Gentiles approached Him. The gospel message He proclaimed was to go out beyond the Jews to the wider world. He knew that the time was soon to come for Him to die for the sins of the world.

2).        THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS DEATH. [He Needed To Die To Release Eternal Life]

Jesus explained the significance of His death in this way. It would be a dying to release His life in others, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” 12:24.

A friend of ours is a wheat farmer. However every year he takes some of the seed he harvested in the previous season and puts it back into the soil. Why on earth would you do that? What a waste! No, he tells me that it has to be sown again into the soil in order to enable it to multiply. Otherwise the grain just sits there.

  • The wheat seed as it were, dies to allow more wheat to grow.
  • That’s how Jesus explained the necessity of His death. Eternal life existed in Him alone among humans. But by dying He could release that life to others who put their trust in Him.

3).  THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS DEATH. [His Willingness To Die To Self Becomes A Pattern For His Followers To Follow]

i]. Dying to oneself to gain life.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” 12:25.

  • That’s what Jesus was about to do. He was to lose His life so that others might gain His life.
  • But if they weren’t willing to die to self and to follow Jesus then they would miss out on receiving eternal life.
  • Many people confronted with the claims of Jesus on their lives, choose to ignore Him.
  • They don’t want to give up their lives to follow Jesus. They want to be free to do their own thing.
  • That’s what Jesus is a talking about here. The choice is to follow Jesus by believing and trusting in Him and following His commandments, or to keep on rejecting Him.
  • The former brings eternal life.
  • The latter means eternal death.

ii.] Dying to oneself to be honoured by God.

“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.” Jn 12:26. Jesus sees us as His servants. He has work for us to do. It means following Him as disciples, doing what He has commanded us to do, walking in His steps.

  • In that way we will be where He is, in the place He wants us to be. In this life and the next.
  • If we are faithful in seeking to serve Jesus, God the Father will Himself honour us. “If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.”
  • God honours all those who honour His Son, those who live for Him.
  • Conversely God will not honour those who have rejected His Son throughout their lives.

 4).       THE ETERNAL SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS DEATH. [His death would eventually bring about judgment and life]

i.] Jesus committed Himself to God in prayer. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Jn 12:27-28. That was His commitment. To do the will of God for Him. To die so that others might live.

ii.] God committed Himself to Jesus to receive Him back into glory.  “Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jn 12:28-29.   Jesus would be glorified through His death, resurrection, ascension and session [sitting] at the right hand of God.

iii.] Judgment would follow.   Jesus explained to the crowd the significance of what had just happened, ‘Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”’ Jn 12:30. The voice from heaven had authenticated Jesus’ whole message and ministry. The crowd was meant to hear it. The message showed a number of things.

  • God’s judgment will fall on the evil one [the devil] as the ruler of this world.
  • It will also be a judgment on this world. It will fall on those who live in this world but who never give their lives to Jesus.
  • That includes a lot of people in every generation. As Jesus warned, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14. 

iv.] Life would be offered to perishing people.  

Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”(33) He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. Jn 12:32-33.

  • Jesus foretold His coming crucifixion as He would be lifted up on a cross to be crucified.
  • He would draw people to Himself. Some would be drawn to trust in Him and to place their whole future in His hands. Others would be drawn to Him but would reject Him.

An illustration of the attitudes at the crucifixion.  It was the same when Jesus was crucified. Two thieves were crucified on either side of Jesus.

  • One mocked Him in His final hours, ‘One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”’ Luke 23:39.
  • The other rebuked the criminal who had said that, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:40-41.
  • In faith, he said to Jesus, ‘And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”’ Luke 23:42.  Incredible words of faith in someone who didn’t look like a King at that moment.

The promise of Jesus. And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”’ Luke 23:43. God accepts those who accept His Son. God honours those who honour His Son. The believing criminal saw the significance of all that was taking place at the cross and chose to put in his lot with Jesus.

The mocking thief witnessed the same things but failed to see the significance of Jesus hanging on a cross. He didn’t believe. He mocked and derided.

Significant moments!   Even a significant moment as you read these words. Jesus hung on a cross in the place of sinners, bearing their sins and offering them forgiveness and eternal life [now and eventually in Paradise] with Him.

The choice is yours and yours alone. Will you be like the first criminal there with Jesus as He was crucified on crucifixion day and fail to see the significance of what was happening? Mocking and derision of Jesus on the cross means rejecting all God has planned from eternity for Jesus, the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev 13:8.

Or will your choice be like the other criminal who saw significance in what was happening? In spite of Jesus hanging there in what appeared to be utter humiliation and weakness, he was willing to look beyond that and to put his trust in Him? Only the latter heard those words addressed to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”’ Luke 23:43.

Blog No 268. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 4th March 2018

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267. A Sermon on John 3:1-17. To Perish Or To Have Eternal Life? [Gospel for Sun 11th March 2018]

The speaker at the small mission hall finished his sermon and asked those present (mainly homeless and alcoholics) to come to the front if they wanted to let Jesus come into their lives to change and heal them. One man, John, came forward in tears and kneeling gave his life to Jesus. The speaker was really chuffed that God had apparently used him to bring John to Christ. In his excitement he later asked him, “What part of my message was it that got through to you.”  He was duly humbled when John replied, “Wasn’t nuthin’ you said guvn’r. It was the text on the wall behind you”.

The speaker turned to see the text, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The word of God is powerful when it is preached (or read on a wall). God had used the text to invisibly touch John’s life and to open his heart to Jesus.

In many churches throughout the world there will be sermons based on readings from the Gospel of John during this year. Just a quick look at one such passage from John 3:1-17. Some points to consider:-

1).  Every Human Needs To Be “Born Again

We see this in John 3:1-8. To be “born again” is needed in order to understand the gospel and to enter into the Kingdom of God.  That’s what happened to John in our story. He read the text on the wall. The Spirit of God made the words come alive to him. He was “born again” as he put his trust in Jesus.  Even Nicodemus as the teacher of Israel needed to be born again in spite of his great knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures. He wondered how it was possible to be born again. Did it mean another physical birth?

Jesus in reply described the two births. John 3:5  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. That birth “of water” is common to all humans. However to get into the kingdom of God one has to be also born of the Spirit. Jesus compared the hidden nature of this new birth “of the Spirit” with the hidden nature of wind. One can’t see wind in operation but one can see and hear the effects it produces, John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The birth of the Spirit is hidden from human eyes, but one can see the effect in the life of the person who has been born again.

Jesus challenged Nicodemus,  John 3:11 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” Nicodemus had been unable to grasp what Jesus was saying about the wind and the new birth. Heavenly realities don’t come naturally to humans. However Jesus as the Son of Man who had descended from heaven in His incarnation could reveal “heavenly things” to those who would receive His teaching.

2).           Jesus Came To Save 

God made provision for people to be saved.  Jesus came to save sinners. Joseph had been told by an angel about the child to be born to Mary, Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  How would it happen? Jesus Himself tells us, John 3:14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” 

The lifting up would be the “lifting up” of Jesus on a cross. As the Israelites turned to look at God’s provision (the bronze serpent) in order to be saved (the story is in Numbers 21:5-9) so humans needed to look in faith to Jesus (God’s provision) as the crucified One, in order to be saved.

3).           God’s Gift. The Human Choice. Perish or life?

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The love of God was so great towards humans that He gave them a gift. The gift of His Son! A gift that was meant to be received! However it was possible for humans using their freewill to reject the gift.  But there were consequences if they did!  Here were the two choices God gave.

a).           To believe and to gain eternal life.  There are 43 references to the term “eternal life” in the New Testament. The apostle John records its use 23 times in his gospel and first epistle.  The verses showing that eternal life is gained by believing in Jesus are verses 15, 16 in this passage and also John 3:36, 5:24, 6:40, 6:47 and 1 John 5:13. [see Note 1 below].

The same truth is seen in what St Paul wrote in 1Timothy 1:16, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

b).          To not believe and to perish.   Perish? Perish the thought! But a little reminder might be helpful. God as the creator of the whole universe sets the rules for life on this world. We don’t. He does! He tells us about reality, as it really is in His sight.  From this passage we see that until people trust in Jesus they are “perishing”. Verse 18 states that until people trust in Jesus they are “condemned”, John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already… .” Why are they condemned already?  John finishes the verse saying, “because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

The God who “so loved” is the God who tells us in love that in His sight we are perishing and already condemned.  Would Jesus Himself actually say that people could perish? Yes, He would and He did, in these verses in Luke 13:3-5, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. “ Some had been asking Jesus why some people had suffered in persecution and in a building disaster and others hadn’t. He used the opportunity to warn them that they had to get right with God in case disaster struck at any time! They could be prepared by getting right with God by repenting of their sin and trusting in Jesus as the One Whom He had sent to deal with sin.

 The human choice. They had a choice. To trust in Jesus and gain eternal life or to ignore or reject Him and perish.  What did God want them to do? Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

That’s what God wants people to do. To repent of their sin and to trust in Christ for salvation. What if they don’t do that? Perishing? Condemned already?  It doesn’t bear thinking about! Wait a minute! If that is the choice God offers to all of us, it DOES bear a LOT of thinking about. And ACTING on!

A PERSONAL NOTE

Almost 60 years ago I was faced with a choice as I read these words in the Bible. I could ignore them as most of my friends had done. I could rubbish them by saying that I had no intention of trusting in a God who would allow people to “perish”, whatever that meant.  I could hide my head in the sand and say I hadn’t seen these verses, so therefore I couldn’t be seen to be guilty of not acting on them.  OR I could take them seriously as coming from a God who really did love me (because He sent His Son to die for me). Not only that but who went to the trouble of telling me in His word that He didn’t want me to “perish.”

I chose life by choosing to trust in Jesus as the One Who died on the cross in my place. [see NOTE 2 for details of my personal testimony at the end of article 248.] Only later did I come to appreciate the graciousness of God in opening my eyes to understand these things as I turned to Him. Only then did I come to understand that though the words, “perish” and “condemned”  may seem to be a bit upsetting to some people, they are nothing compared with the reality behind the words.  I was glad, humbled and relieved I had made the right choice. The new birth gives rise to a whole new life lived in a living relationship with Him, who loves us and wants us to love Him in return.

===========================================================================

[NOTE 1.] Additional verses mentioning “eternal life”.

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Jn 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment,but has passed from death to life.”

Jn 6:40 “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Jn 6:47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”

1 John 5:11 “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

[NOTE 2]. My personal testimony about being “born again” is to be found at the end of article 248.

 [PS. This is an updated version of a previous post No.019 posted in 2011.]

Blog No.267. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 28th February 2018.

 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Healing, Judgement, Justification, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation, Sermons on John's Gospel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

266.Why do people do evil things? (Another High School Shooting Tragedy in the USA.)

Australians recoiled in horror when they heard the news of yet another school shooting in the USA. Parents and Grandparents throughout the world can only begin to imagine the shock and pain and the sense of loss being experienced in many families in Florida as their children went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida one day and never returned home. From this point on there will naturally be many attempts to ascertain the shooter’s motive.  In the meantime the rest of us will keep on praying for the families of the victims in their sudden crushing loss and ongoing unbearable pain whilst wondering why evil is so prevalent in the world today.

Nature and Nurture

It seems to many of us that there are always two facets to human behaviour. Some call them “nature” and “nurture”. By “nature” we mean what humans are by nature, by natural birth. By “nurture”  we mean all the factors that have influenced people from birth to the present time. It is probably true to say that virtually all of us have had nurture experiences consisting of great good but also mixed with many hurtful and painful experiences. All those influences past and present help to make us what we are now and influence how we respond to different types of stimuli.

The question is, “What are humans like by natural birth? Are they born intrinsically good, or do they have a bias or tendency towards evil?” Jesus gave us the answer about 2000 years ago. His answer should make us concerned and aware of the evil that humans can do to one another. By anyone! At any time! In any part of the world!

Jesus was asked by the Pharisees to answer this difficult question, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy and then went far deeper than they expected Him to answer regarding human defilement, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Mark 7:14-15.

Evil Nature

Later when His disciples asked Him what He meant by that saying, 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 7:21-23. What does this internal motivation look like? How does it express itself? Jesus said it can manifest itself in many ways, proceeding from “out of the heart of man.” What a comprehensive list of evil! [For those interested in studying these terms in the original Greek language and in English, they are explained in NOTE 1 below.]

It seems then that according to Jesus, our fallen human nature (as a result of the “Fall of mankind” described in Genesis 1-3) has an inbuilt bias towards evil. It explains why even the very best of people sometimes appear to “act out of character.” In recent days we have had well respected men in many parts of the world in business, politics and even in the church having extra marital affairs when it seemed to the outsider that they had stable loving marriages. Or they were involved in deliberate deceit in some form or other. Still others exhibited violence in word or action when we never thought them capable of such behaviour. [NOTE 2 below for the influence of demonic forces on humans].

Even in terms of domestic violence it is not just patriarchy, misogyny, white privilege or white supremacy or other “nurture” factors that are the problem, even though they may greatly contribute to the problem. Rather it is the inbuilt motivations coming from a fallen human nature that are at work as well.  That is why there have been some mothers [who are supposed to have a loving maternal nurturing nature as mothers] who did horrible things to their own children. They yielded to their inbuilt nature [perhaps influenced by their experiences and often by demonic influences ] and did the evil they did.

St Paul warned against complacency in living as one should live. He gave the Old Testament example of the Israelites turning against their God and serving other gods or idols. 1Cor 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. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

The warning has been given. Don’t trust in your vision of yourself as being beyond temptation or in being greatly resistant to doing evil. Every human whether male or female, from whatever culture, race or religion has the propensity to give way to their inborn human nature and do the vilest things. The stimuli around them may trigger off their decision to act in an evil way but they don’t have to give in to their evil impulses. They can be changed to be able to live as they would like to live.

Change is possible!

The Corinthian believers had been radically changed, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:9-11. They had become new creatures in Christ through trusting in Him, 2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (However, as we will see below, even new creatures still possess a fallen human nature.)

Likewise Paul encouraged the Roman believers that they did not have to live according to the dictates of their flesh nature [unregenerate human nature] but could walk in freedom as they were led and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, Romans 8:1-4, “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. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” What the law requires is fufilled in us as we continue to deliberately turn from the dictates of our unregenerate human nature and yield to the leading, direction by and empowering by the Holy Spirit.

Victory comes through getting one’s focus right in life.

As 2 Cor 3:17-18 puts it, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 8 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” As we focus on Him, He transforms us to be like Him.)

Victory through right choices

Victory is obtained by humans as they become open to God’s grace and receive a new nature through their new birth. Now they can walk by the Spirit and not be dominated by the dictates of their flesh nature as Rom 8:4-5 indicate.  But is their victory assured at all times, for all time? The answer is “NO” because they still have within them their old flesh nature with its bias to evil. The Church of England has always recognised this truth in its formularies in the 39 Articles of Religion. Article 9 states, “whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated.”

Summing up:-

The good news is that victorious Christian living is possible by the grace and power of God.

The bad news is that our old nature will be within us until we die.

The comforting news is that as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus and walk under the direction and empowering of the Spirit we can live in victory.

BUT as Paul reminds believers through the ages, 1 Cor 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”  It takes no effort at all to let our fallen human nature dictate how we think and how we behave. To what extent do we allow “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” to become part of our lives? Unfortunately, more often than we think! Such a shame when God’s grace is available by His Spirit to give us ongoing  victory!  =======================================================================

[NOTE 1] We look at these manifestations in verses 21-23 in turn.

  • out of the heart of man. καρδία kardia; The centre of thoughts or feelings. From within.
  • come forth. ἐκπορεύομαι ekporeuomai; to proceed (out of).
  • evil. κακός kakos; meaning what is bad, wicked or destructive.
  • thoughts. διαλογισμός dialogismos reasoning, thought or imagination.
  • sexual immorality. πορνεία porneia; fornication, all illicit sexual intercourse.
  • theft, κλοπή klopē; stealing, theft.
  • murder, φόνος phonos; slaying, slaughter).
  • adultery, μοιχεία moicheia; illicit intercourse. Unfaithfulness in marriage.

22  coveting, πλεονεξία pleonexia; extortion, greediness. Taking material advantage over others.

  • wickedness, πονηρία ponēria; malice; iniquity. depravity, iniquity, evil purposes and desires
  • deceit, δόλος dolos; craft, deceit, guile, subtlety.
  • sensuality, ἀσέλγεια aselgeia; licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, sexual excess.
  • envy, ὀφθαλμός ophthalmos; the eye

AND πονηρός ponēros; bad, evil, grievous, harmful, lewd, malicious, wicked. (Together, the “evil eye” which is the covetous eye.)

  • slander, βλασφημία blasphēmia; blasphemy, evil speaking, railing. Injurious speech or action.
  • pride, ὑπερηφανία hyperēphania; haughtiness, arrogance.
  • foolishness. ἀφροσύνη aphrosynē; senselessness, recklessness.

23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

[NOTE 2] In this article I am not tackling the additional influence on humans by demonic forces. They certainly exist and humans can be “demonised” or have an evil spirit that greatly influences their behaviour towards evil. However we will take that up in a future article. Suffice it to say that  the evil one as “the deceiver” can deceive people into thinking that their thoughts are their own or have come from God. Consequently they act on those “implanted” thoughts and great evil can take place as a result. How often do crazed killers say later that “they heard voices telling them to kill” etc. Others say that thoughts of doing harm to an individual or a group of people persisted in their minds and eventually they acted on those nagging thoughts. No wonder the Bible tells us we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5.

Blog No.266. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 17th February 2018.

 

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