259. JESUS’ TRANSFIGURATION AND HOW WE CAN BE TRANSFORMED. (Suggestions for sermons on Mark 9:2-9 the Gospel for Sun 11th Feb 2018.)

One of the great blessings of being involved in Christian ministry is seeing individuals transformed by the grace of God. Often one could not have imagined that people could change so markedly and often so quickly. It seems that some of those folk were radically transformed from within as they opened themselves to the transforming power of God.

The Bible does talk about the transformation of humans and actually uses the same word used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. So we will examine that before examining what human transformation might look like.

Jesus had previously asked His disciples before His transfiguration, “Who do you say I am?” God gave Peter the revelation that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, and also the Son of God. Jesus accepted what Peter had said about Him, but He then went on to tell them that He Himself had to suffer and die in His role as the Messiah. Peter found that hard to accept.

But God in His mercy allowed something to happen that was going to give them hope when that tragedy would eventually strike.  The memory of an incident that was about to happen, would bring them meaning and hope in the dark times ahead.

  • They would know that Jesus was not just a deluded man.
  • They would know that He was in reality the Son of God who had come to do God’s will.

The incident that was about to happen has been called the “Transfiguration of Jesus.”

1).        WHAT THE TRANSFIGURATION REVEALED ABOUT JESUS.

We read that about a week after Peter had recognised Him as the Messiah, Jesus had taken the inner three, Peter, James and John up onto the mountain to pray. Three amazing things happened.

i.. Jesus was transformed or transfigured before them. 9:2,3. “There he was transfigured [metamorphoō, μεταμορφόω] before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.”

  • A metamorphosis took place. He was bathed in the glory of God. It’s as though the veil that hid His pre-existent glory as the Son of God, was lifted, and for that short time, the disciples saw His unveiled glory. The vision of that day, would never leave them.
  • His clothes became exceeding white (leukos). (eg, the root of the word “leukemia” describing the production of abnormal white blood cells.)

ii.. There appeared two representatives of the Old Testament with Jesus.

  • Somehow the three disciples recognised them as Moses and Elijah.
  • The disciples were amazed, and didn’t know what to do. What a joy to have 2 of the most famous people in Israelite history standing with Jesus.
  • Peter in his astonishment suggests that they build shelters. He wanted to “encapsulate the experience”, as I heard someone once say.

But experiences aren’t just given for their own sake. There was meaning behind those 2 people appearing with Jesus.

  • The significance of Moses representing the Law of the Old Testament [OT], as the law giver.
  • The significance of Elijah as a representative of the Prophets of the OT, a man powerful in word and deed, as Jesus was.

The “Law” and the “Prophets” formed the major part of the OT. They pointed to Jesus, they witnessed to the Christ, and now Jesus as the fulfilment of the Law and Prophets was present with them.

There was about to be a third witness to Jesus, God the Father Himself.

iii.        From heaven God the Father bore witness to Jesus.

Mark 9:7)  Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

God Himself bore witness to Jesus that Jesus was His Son.

From that time, Peter, James and John would know for certain that Jesus was not only the Messiah, but also that He was God’s eternal Son.

It’s obvious that the whole incident made a great impact on them, for we find Peter writing shortly before his own death, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honour and glory from the God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.” 2 Pet 1:16-18.

Peter was writing about facts, not myths;

  • about Jesus the Messiah who had come in power, not weakness;
  • about Jesus as God’s beloved Son, not simply a man bearing the curse of God in crucifixion.

The apostles came to recognise

  • that Jesus was the Messiah sent to redeem His people.
  • that Jesus was none other than the eternal Son of God who had come to live in the world He had made, and to die for the sins of His people.

2).     WHAT THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS REVEALS ABOUT US.

  • What the transfiguration says to you and to me is this. “You are significant. You are loved”.
  • Why? Because the One who was transfigured, who later died for us on the cross, is none other than the Son of God Himself.

Paul wrote in Rom 5:6-8, that God’s love isn’t based on prejudice nor on discrimination. “While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why one will hardly die for a righteous man- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

We see the great contrast between human commitment where we commit ourselves to one another, and God’s commitment to us.

  • In human commitment we might go out of our way to help someone whom we feel is worthy or whom we feel, deserves it.
  • By contrast the love of God is shown in the death of Jesus as He died for those who were unworthy, rebellious, and largely ungrateful.

3).        THE COMMAND AT THE TRANSFIGURATION.

Not only did God say of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son.” He also said to the apostles, “Keep on listening to Him.” That was significant because Luke records that both Moses and Elijah had appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration, speaking with Him about His exodus (departure, death) at Jerusalem.

As we have seen, Moses represented the word of God in the law of God, and Elijah represented the word of God through the words of the prophets of God.

At the transfiguration, there was the threefold witness; the law and the prophets and the voice of God Himself bore witness to the truth about Jesus.

The new factor was the command from God, “Listen to Him.” That is, “As you have obeyed the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), now observe His teaching.” The word of Jesus was being added to the word of God through the ages. His word had authority because He had authority as the Son of God and as the Messiah.

The attitudes we adopt to Jesus and to Jesus’ words, are the attitudes we are adopting to God Himself.

4).        OUR TRANSFIGURATION. (INTO THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST). 

“Who do you think you are?” Do you see yourself as a rotten person, and that you’ll never be any different? When you look in the mirror, do you worry that you’ll keep on seeing the same person you don’t like much, and thinking the same negative things about yourself?

Well the transfiguration of Jesus can help us with our own personal transformation. Paul wrote in Rom 12:2, using a word that was used to describe the transfiguration or transformation of Jesus. He wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (transfigured) by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God…”  As your attitudes are renewed, you will be transformed.

Two main attitudes need to be renewed.

  1. The first is our attitude to Jesus. What you think about Him, determines to a great extent what He can do for you. If you think He was just a good man who preached a nice message of love, then that’s not going to be a great deal of help to you.

But if you begin to see Jesus as the Person He really is, the Son of God Who came that He might fulfil His role as the Messiah by dying on the cross to bear your sins and your illnesses, then such a thought makes all the difference in the world.

The more you see Him as what He claimed to be, and the more you act upon that knowledge, the more you allow Him to touch your life in every way.

2.. The second attitude is that which we have to ourselves.

If what you see in your mirror is an unclean, useless and absolutely insignificant person, then that’s not very helpful for healthy living or for receiving God’s healing power. You’re almost saying to God, “I don’t matter. Please don’t take any notice of me.” Because God doesn’t barge in where He’s not invited, He can’t really do anything for those who shut Him out of their lives through pride or through false humility.

What we can do is to face up to the facts.

  • The fact is that you matter intensely to God. Would Jesus the Son of God have left His glory in heaven to die for us individually if He didn’t care for us individually?
  • The fact is that God has shown His love for us in Jesus taking our place on the cross.
  • The fact is that He doesn’t want us to remain as we are, but wants to bring us into a deeper degree of wholeness and healing.

Do you deserve it? No! But God in His amazing grace wants to bless and heal His people. What more can Jesus do to prove His love? It’s a matter of affirming what He says about you, how He sees you, and living in the light of the facts, not how you feel.

NOTE. WE don’t transform ourselves. It is the Holy Spirit of God Who does the transforming as we get our focus right in life. ( I have written previously on this passage from 2 Corinthians 3:18 which you may care to look at later. However, in brief, it is saying that when we get our focus right in life by focussing on Jesus, we behold and reflect that which we are looking at, namely Him and His glory. As our focus remains on Him the Spirit brings about an inner transformation so that we become more like Him.

Paul wrote these words about such a transformation, “And we all, who with unveiled (anakalúptō, ἀνακαλυπτω) faces, contemplate (katoptrízō, κατοπτριζω, meaning to behold or to reflect) the Lord’s glory, are being transformed [metamorphoō, μεταμορφόω] into his image (eikṓn, εἰκών meaning image or likeness) with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:18.

To be conformed into the likeness of Christ has always been God’s eternal purpose for His children as Romans 8:29 indicates, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

The Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain means that the transformation of humans is possible as they receive Him, behold and reflect Him and allow the Spirit of God to change them progressively, from one degree of glory to another!

Blog No.259. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 4th February 2018.

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258. What is involved in Forgiveness? (A You Tube Skype teaching by Jim Holbeck recorded by The Healing Ministry at All Saints Episcopal Church, Winter Park, Florida.)

In 2015 I was asked to do a number of teachings by Skype to folk gathered at the Healing Ministry Glennon House at All Saints Episcopal Church at Winter Park near Orlando. This was my first effort at trying to do so. I was also able to sent them some teaching notes for printing out as well. There was also a time for asking questions at the end.

This was the first presentation, on the topic of forgiveness. We approached the topic by trying to address the sorts of questions people might ask about the nature of forgiveness.  The whole presentation  with questions was scheduled to take about an hour with me in Australia speaking at 8am and the folk in Florida seeing and hearing it about 6pm the previous day.

If you don’t mind my lack of experience in using Skype you will find some helpful content in the presentation. Many have told me ever the years that the Biblical truths I share in the teaching have been life-changing for them.

If you don’t have time to listen to the whole presentation then it is always sitting there in cyber space on You Tube under (Jim Holbeck ) and you can tap into it at any time.

There are in fact quite a few more of the video topics on You Tube recorded in the series by Florida folk as well as some You Tube audio presentations I have posted over the years as well. (Probably about 15 in all.)

May the Lord bless you as you take some time out (a good thing to do in Lent ) to listen to the teaching.

Blessings

Jim (and Carole) Holbeck

Blog No.258. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Friday 2nd February 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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257. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF GOD-GIVEN OPPORTUNITIES. [Sermon on Mark 1:29-39] [For Sunday 4th Feb 2018]

Isn’t it sad to think that something was available for you and you missed out on receiving it? It can happen in every area of life.

It can happen in relationships

Many years ago I was having lunch with two older folk who were very good friends. Just the three of us sharing stories together as we ate. As we finished the meal, the woman suddenly said to the man, “Did you know when we were much younger I was hoping you might marry me one day?”  The man was taken aback and after some moments said with some obvious feeling of regret in his voice “Why didn’t you ever tell me that you might be interested in me? I might have done something about it.” There was silence for what seemed a long time. I felt it was time for me to leave, which I did soon after.

They obviously had had great admiration for each other for decades. She had become a widow early in life. Much later she married someone else who was now confined to a bed in an aged care facility. He never married.

One wonders how their lives might have been different if they had known how they felt about each other and expressed it sooner. There had been appropriate opportunities in the past for sharing their feelings but they hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunities. The sad part was that it seemed they could have been so well suited and perhaps enjoyed decades of a loving marriage.

However, it doesn’t help to dwell on what might have been! Nor does it help to fail to take advantage of opportunities!

It can happen in the spiritual areas of life when we fail to take advantage of the opportunities before us

We can miss out on God’s blessings and healings. James wrote, “You have not because you ask not.” He then states a general principle that God wants us to ask Him for what we need. He respects our free-will and will not force on us what we are not ready to receive.

The hymn writer saw it in terms of missing out on peace by not bringing all our concerns to God in prayer. The hymn has these words, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” We sometimes take some concerns to the Lord. He wants us to take ALL our concerns to Him. We need to act on all the opportunities we have to open ourselves to receive the grace of God in its many forms.

In this passage there are 2 accounts of opportunities being taken to receive healing from Jesus.

1).        HEALING FOR A WOMAN WITH A FEVER. (PETER’S MOTHER IN LAW)

Jesus had returned from the synagogue in Capernaum to Peter’s house where they found Peter’s mother in law ill with a fever. She may have been delirious and not have been in a fit condition to reach out to Jesus for healing. However whether she asked for healing or whether Peter and the others brought her need to Jesus, Jesus was invited to heal her. We read how Jesus took her by the hand and healed her so that she was able to get up immediately, and make them “a nice hot cuppa”.

Did you notice the immediacy of the healing? Very often those ill with a fever take ages to get up and get going. Peter’s mother in law was up and serving them in no time at all.

It doesn’t always happen as quickly as that, but it can. You and I have to be willing to receive God’s healing whether it comes in one week or in one minute.

A true personal story. A woman had been confined to bed for several days with severe back pain and the doctors had not be able to find its cause. I was called to go to her home on a farm and pray with her. I took her female neighbour in with me. It took several [obviously painful] minutes for her to turn on her side to face us. What happened? As we finished praying she burst into tears. Then she suddenly twisted and flopped back on her back. Then she immediately sat up and embraced us. Her words, “The pain has gone!” astonished all of us. The healing had been immediate and complete. I thought of this passage and cheekily said to the woman, “Would you like to get up and get us a cup of tea?”  [knowing that she could now do so.] She replied, “NO, do you mind if I stay here and just enjoy reading my Bible for a while.” Next day she was up driving her utility vehicle over the rough roads on her farm. She had no more pain for the next few years we had contact with her.)

The doctors had no answer for her but God did as she reached out to Him for what she needed. She asked for help in prayer from the elders. We prayed. The Lord healed!

At a Healing Service, one has an opportunity to reach out to Jesus for healing or blessing with the confidence He is present to heal and to bless.

I would often encourage attendees at the Healing Services in St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney with words like these,

  • “We love to pray for God’s blessing and healing on those with needs. So please take advantage of this opportunity to receive prayer for healing.”
  • “It may be that you’re here to receive prayer for someone who is unable to be present because of distance, or because they are too ill to come to the service. It’s our privilege to join our faith with yours and to pray with you for God’s blessing on that other person.”
  • “In the service we simply join together to tell Jesus about the one who is sick, and leave it to Him to reach out to them in His love, in His way and in His time.”
  • “Healing may come instantly, progressively or at a later time as it did in the ministry of Jesus. You and I have to be willing to receive God’s healing whether it comes in one week or in one minute or progressively.“

2).        THE SICK OF CAPERNAUM

When they knew that Jesus was present to heal, people came to the home where Jesus was, bringing all their sick and those with evil spirits. In fact the whole town was outside to see what was going to happen.  They witnessed many being healed and delivered of evil spirits.

We’re not told whether it was the people who brought the sick who had faith, or whether it was the sick folk themselves.

It would appear that those who were sick and were able to make it on their own, got there, whilst those who weren’t well enough to make it, were brought by others.

What is true, is that all the people who came to take advantage of the opportunity to be healed by Jesus, were healed.

Canon Henry Twells was right to describe this incident in the words of the hymn,

At even when the sun was set, the sick O Lord around Thee lay, in divers pains they met, with what joy they went away.”

(Many of us who have been involved in a Healing Ministry have seen these things happen.

  • A sick person manages to come for prayer, and prayer and the laying on of hands is ministered, and the person receives a healing from God. Even at the service! Or later!
  • Or it may be that someone has come and asked for prayer for another person who was too ill to be present. Hands were laid on the person who brought the request, and prayer offered for the other person. Later the first person came back to thank God for the healing that flowed in the life of that other person at the time of the prayer or sometime later.
  • Whichever way it happens, it is still the same God who has brought the healing.
  • The risen Christ is the Healer, and He can heal the person who is present, or the person who is geographically distant. The reason is, that though you and I can only ever be in one place at one time, the Risen Christ isn’t limited geographically like we are.

3).        THE SECRET OF JESUS’ MINISTRY

Let’s notice what happened just a few hours after Jesus ministered in Capernaum. Mark says that He went out in the early hours of the morning to a deserted place to pray.

Here was the secret of His ministry on earth. It was the time He spent in prayer with His Heavenly Father.

You see it here and at other significant times in His ministry

  • After the feeding of the 5,000. (Mat 14:23) After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
  • After He had healed a leper. (Luke 5:16) But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
  • Before he chose the 12 apostles. (Luke 6:12) One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
  • His prayer life touched His disciples who wanted to be able to pray like He did. Luke 11:1, He was praying in a certain place and after he had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord teach us to pray as John taught His disciples”.
  • On the road to Caesarea Philippi as Jesus prayed on the Mount of transfiguration, waiting for God to reveal to the disciples who He really was as the Son of God, and the Messiah. (Luke 9:18) Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” Only then did Peter come out with the revelation of God, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  • On the Mount of transfiguration, they saw Who He was for those moments as the veil was lifted and they saw His pre-existent glory. (Luke 9:28)  About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29)  As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
  • At Gethsemane as He faced the choice of going on to suffer on the cross for our sins, or whether to turn from the cross. (Luke 22:41) He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”

At all the significant moments of His life, He prayed. Or had been in prayer.   It could be said that every moment of His life was spent in fellowship with His Heavenly Father, but there were times when He obviously felt the need to confirm His future by more intensive prayer.   [Thereby setting an example for all other humans in doing so.]

4).        JESUS WAS FOCUSSED ON THE WILL OF GOD NOT JUST ON PRAYER

In Mark 1, Jesus was praying to His Father when suddenly He was interrupted. His disciples who followed Him told Him that everyone was looking for Him.

  • His response may seem surprising. Instead of returning to Capernaum and continuing His teaching and healing ministry there, He told His disciples that it was now time for Him to leave there to go to minister in other towns. Mark 1:38) Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39) So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
  • His prayer had opened the will of God to Him. His prayer had shown that it was time for Him to move on to other places in fulfilment of His mission.

A REFLECTION

The opportunity to receive the Lord’s healing had only been offered for a short time in Capernaum.  Then the opportunity was gone. But praise God, many took advantage of it and knew the Lord’s touch on their lives.

What if, what if there had been some in Capernaum who heard that Jesus had the power to heal but didn’t act upon it? They would have missed out on their healing at that time.

What about people where we live?

  • The opportunity to receive healing has been offered in many churches for many years.
  • Some have notice boards that advertise that a healing service is on at a certain time. It is inviting people to come and to ask God for healing for themselves or for their family and friends.
  • Some have come to such churches and have known marvellous healing.
  • Others obviously have chosen not to come for help.
  • The opportunity was being offered but not everyone takes advantage of God-given opportunities.

What do we need to receive healing or blessing from God? (In the teaching of Jesus and in the experience of many who took advantage of God-given opportunities.)

a).        Faith that Jesus is present amongst us as we pray, Mat 18:20  Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (The Promise Of His Presence.)

b).        Faith that the Promise of Jesus is true. Mat 18:19 “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven”.  (The Promise of His Provision.)

c).        Humility to ask for God’s help. 1Jn 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”  (The Promise that if we are in the will of God, the following is true. “We ask! He hears! We have!”)

Only a fool would fail to take hold of a God-given opportunity to receive blessing and healing from the Lord! May every person recognise a God-given opportunity and take advantage of it! To their advantage and to His glory!

Blog No.257. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Friday 26th January 2018. (Australia Day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First revelation

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

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

The Second Revelation

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

He carefully gives these two main points to consider.

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

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

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

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

THE THREE EXCHANGES MADE BY HUMANS, AND THE RESULTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 SUMMING UP:-

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

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

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

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

3).  Those exchanges bring about erroneous behaviours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A). THE WORLD’S PROBLEM. PROBLEM PEOPLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B]. THE CREATOR GOD DESIGNED MARRIAGE FOR HIS PURPOSES

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMING UP:

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

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

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

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

What now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECTION A. WHY SOME PEOPLE CANNOT UNDERSTAND SPIRITUAL TRUTHS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMING UP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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