Christian life

Thirst, drink, be filled (John 7:37-39)

Posted on Updated on

1492300586136

Jesus is at the Passover Feast and He stands up and cries out;

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”

(John 7:37-38)

What is Jesus referring to?  

We don’t need to speculate because John tell’s us in vs39 that Jesus was speaking about the Spirit  those who believed were about to receive once Jesus had been glorified.  Jesus was speaking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit which we can read of again being promised in Luke 24:49 and then can read about being poured out in Acts 1-2.

But what is ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a personal encounter with the person of the Holy Spirit, who then gives us spiritual gifts to equip us to witness effectively, to break with sin and to enable us for life and godliness.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is:

  • A promise to be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49)
  • A gift (Acts 1:4-5)
  • Experiential (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 8:18, Acts 10:44)
  • Allowing yourself to be totally immersed in God (meaning of the word – baptised)
  • Power from on high for service to God (Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:8)
  • Enabling power for life and for godliness (2 Peter 1:3)
  • Most often evidenced by the receiving of the gift of tongues (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19)

The Need

Jesus told the disciples to wait until they had received power from on high (Luke 24)

Clearly Jesus thought that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was essential because in John 16:5-11 he told the disciples; ‘it is to your advantage that I go…because then the Helper will come”  And who doesn’t need help?

Different Groups of people with regard to the baptism in the Spirit

  • Those who are longing to be filled (Acts 2) spoke in tongues praising God
  • Those who were receptive (Acts 8:14-19).  These were Christians who had a second experience unclear what happened but was ‘wow!’ enough for Simon to want to buy it
  • Those who are hostile – Saul (Romans 8:1-3, 9:1-2 & then was filled with the Holy Spirit 9:17-18)  2nd experience spoke in tongues as a result of this encounter
  • Those who were unlikely (it’s for all), Gentiles (Acts 10-11) spoke in tongues praising God
  • Those who were unaware previously but grew in faith by hearing (Acts 19:1-6)spoke in tongues and prophesied

How do I get baptised in the Holy Spirit?

  • Believe in Jesus (John 7:38)
  • Look to Jesus he is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33)…
  • Thirst/desire the baptism of the Spirit (John 7:37)
  • Ask God for the baptism of the Spirit (Luke 11:9-13)
  • Receive/drink (John 7:37-38 see ESV footnote) have your thirst satisfied by the Holy Spirit

But is baptism in the Holy Spirit a second experience – do we not receive the Spirit at salvation? 

Well the answer is, ‘yes and yes’.  As PJ Smyth says;

“Just as it is biblically indefensible to underplay the receipt of the Spirit at conversion, so also is it to underplay the on-going receipt of the Spirit after conversion…Importantly, whether or not you claim a major ‘baptism in the Spirit’ experience or not, you must remain in on-going pursuit of the Spirit, because scripture speaks of ‘fillings’ of the Spirit post both conversion, and, depending on your interpretation, post a major ‘baptism of the Spirit’ experience that followed conversion.”

Way too much time has been wasted haggling over when we get filled with the Holy Spirit, what is far more important is that we are continually filled with the Spirit so as to bear fruit as Jesus’ words ring in our ears; “apart from me you can do nothing”.

We need to be continually filled with the Spirit in order to live the Christian life, therefore we believe in and anticipate an infilling of the Spirit at conversion (which can’t happen without the work of the Spirit) and also anticipate subsequent in-fillings of the Spirit that are real and tangible as recorded in the book of Acts.

So, keep being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) so that you might be full of the life of God (John 7:37-38)!

Advertisements

Unreasonable? (John 6:1-21)

Posted on

discipleship_means_we_arent_alone_xsmall

There is a crowd large gathered, after all Jesus has been doing signs and wonders.  Jesus was seeking out some down-time but as the crowds gather Jesus chooses a grassy hilltop on which to teach them.

Seeing approximately 10 000 – 15 000 men, women and children gathering to hear Him Jesus leans over to Phillip and essentially says; ‘How are we going to feed all these people?’.  Philip is astounded.  I can imagine him thinking; ‘This is unreasonable, this is not our problem, we don’t have the resources for this, Lord what are you suggesting?’

Can you empathise with Philip? 

Have you ever felt like God was being unreasonable?  

John doesn’t record Philip ever recovering from his feeling limited by their apparent available resources – in South African currency Phillip estimated that it would have cost R20 000 to buy enough bread to go around.

What is going on here?

Why would God ask us to do what only He can do?  

John 6:6 contains the key to the answer to questions such as these.

He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. (John 6:6)

Jesus is not scatterbrained, hasn’t lost the plot, isn’t unaware of realities and constraints.  No Scripture pointedly reveals Jesus’ motive in the scenario; ‘He said this to test him’.  Jesus was not uncertain as to how He was going to deal with this dilemma of so many people and feeding them, John records; ‘for He Himself knew what He would do.’

There is a difference between what we think we believe, what we say we believe and what we do believe.  What we truly believe is revealed by our responses to situations and our actions.

I know this feeling.  It’s easy sitting in your room with your bible or sitting in church listening to preaching or in a small group discussion thinking or saying what you believe… And then it happens!  Something arises in real life and that belief is tested, is it real, do I really believe?

Philip no doubt has just been with Jesus, heard Jesus’ clear claims to being the divine Son of God, has seen Jesus do amazing miracles – but did Phillip truly believe?

Jesus sets up a scenario that will test him, will squeeze out of Philip and the other disciples whether they truly believe that Jesus is God, that Jesus has authority over all things.

Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers in such a way that it is clear that he can empathise with Phillip, Paul knew what it felt like to have God test his faith, test him to see what was really in his head and heart. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

Likewise, James urges believers to consider it pure joy when we are tested, when our faith is put on trial because such tests from God give us the opportunity  to see steadfastness grow in us so that we might mature in our faith not. (James 1:3)

What’s happening in your life that might be God testing you?

Is there anything God’s asked you to do that you think is unreasonable?

Friend.  God’s not malicious, He’s not having fun with you.  No, your heavenly Father wants to test the genuineness of your faith, wants your faith to grow and to mature.

Andrew did better than Phillip in this moment.  Philiip doesn’t manage to lift his thoughts above the challenges and constraints and reasons why he can’t do what Jesus is suggesting he do.

Andrew at least thought about what they did have and believed Jesus could do a miracle.  He probably didn’t know what Jesus would do, didn’t know the magnitude of the miracle Jesus would do, but his actions do reveal that he did believe Jesus was able to, was going to do something astounding and miraculous.

What do you have in your situation?

Focus on what God had entrusted you with.

Give that to Him for His purposes mixed with faith.

And watch Jesus grow your faith and reveal His majestic power and purposes.

What next? (Mark 16:14-20)

Posted on Updated on

nextsteps

Having died forsaken by all, and then having risen remarkably, showing Himself to a few and then to the whole group of His disciples Jesus then tells them what’s next. We know from other gospel accounts that Jesus told them about His imminent ascension.

But what next?
What were these followers of Jesus supposed to do now?
Go home? Go back to their old lives?
Is this the finish line or is it in fact the start line?

Jesus clearly commissions these ones who had given their lives to follow Him. Jesus tells them to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.

There is no going back home, no retreat, this is not the finish-line or the end of the road! This is the start of the rest of the great adventure, the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming what Jesus HAD DONE for anyone who believes in Him.

And whoever believes that message about Jesus will be saved, and those who are saved should be baptised. These believers (and all believers that were to follow) get equipped with authority over sickness and any demonic influence – to set people free so that they can believe in Jesus. They are promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues, they will do miraculous things in Jesus name… Jesus will empower them to do remarkable even miraculous things to confirm the message they carry about Him.

These last words are not just their mandate alone, but our mandate too. It is what the church of Jesus Christ is commissioned to do, what our individual lives ought to be taken up with (Jesus’ mandate to proclaim the good news about Him) and should be characterised by (demonstrations of kingdom power that authenticate the message).

Let’s live out this great adventure!
Believing in Jesus is just the start-line for us all, it’s not the end of the road, it’s the beginning of living the rest of our lives for Jesus and for His mission to reach the whole world.

Are you on-board?

[Theological Sidebar: Does this passage (vs16) teach that you must believe and be baptised to be saved? No. Note how although Jesus says whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, it goes on to only say that those who do not believe are condemned. Jesus does not say that those who do not believe and are not baptised are condemned. Baptism in water as a believer is a visible sign of the ]

Choose your focus (Mark 13)

Posted on Updated on

DrivingInFog_large

When it comes to questions regarding the end of the ages, the last days, the tribulation, judgement day & Jesus’ second coming – there are lots of questions and abounding interpretations.

Chapter 13 starts with one of the disciples remarking to Jesus how amazing the architecture of the temple in Jerusalem was. Maybe surprisingly to them Jesus replies prophesying about the imminent destruction of the temple (which happened in AD70) and launches into a discourse that teaches them regarding this imminent tribulation in Jerusalem & also instructs the disciples and us on the end times.

When we read sections like this in Scripture, may I suggest an approach. Focus on the imperatives – the crucial action items, the things we are urged to do.

Its a bit like driving in thick mist. Most years around this time of year when I and my family travel down to another part of the country at night, there is a section of the trip that almost invariably poses the challenge of really thick mist at night. The national speed limit is 120km/h but on those night long sections of driving safely require a speed as low as 20-30km/h. There is just too much that can’t be seen, questions as it were; is there an oncoming bend in the road (with dangerous cliffs), is there a truck or car just around the corner? In moments like this, apart from slowing down, I choose to focus not on what I can’t see, but to focus on what I can see! I can see the yellow line on the left margin of the road & I can see the middle line of the road. So I focus on those and know that what’s imperative is for me to stay between those two lines in order to stay on the road and to stay on my side of the road.

Passages like this are similar. Sometimes they uncover more questions than answers, provide more mystery than revelation. They are difficult to reconcile with other passages at times… However they also contain yellow & white lines – the imperatives.

Read again through this chapter and look for every imperative, everything you can do, are instructed to do.

What’s the overall impression you have now of what Jesus is telling you regarding the end times?

  • “Be on your guard” 3x
  • “Don’t be anxious” 1x
  • “Persevere” (implied from ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved’ vs13) 1x
  • “Stay awake” 3x

We are to be watchful & alert, not fearful, we are to persevere knowing Jesus will come for His ‘elect’ (vs20&27)! Come Lord Jesus come.  Choose your focus!

Majoring in the Majors not the Minors (Mark 12:18-40)

Posted on Updated on

wrong-focus1

To love God fully & to love people sums up all the commandments.  We can easily make following Jesus overly complicated but Jesus makes God’s will exceedingly clear.

The Scribes and Pharisees were full of questions fixating on minor issues.  However in reality they were majoring on the minor and minoring in the momentous!

Jesus was and is God in the flesh in their midst.  Jesus had come to seek and save the lost, however most of these Pharisees and Scribes were not loving Him but rejecting Him.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states; “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  This is our purpose, to love, to honour, to glorify God in all we do.

And Jesus connects this with how we treat others.  If we truly love God, our hearts will be soft toward God and the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others as God has loved us.  This is the whole message of Galatians 5:16-24.

Loving God leads to loving people, being compassionate, merciful, forgiving as we have been forgiven.  That’s true godliness, true holiness.  That’s what we should be majoring in!

And the only way to get to a life that truly looks like that, is to have a life that is overtaken with love for God.  And the only way to love God more deeply is to see God more clearly, to see who He is and what He has done for us and to live out your whole life as a response.  #moreinawe

 

Consumer contract? (Mark 10:1-16)

Posted on Updated on

Selfie with hairdresser

“Marriage is a long-term binding commitment epitomised in a covenant.” – T.Keller

In Jesus’ day, the institution of marriage had been eroded by the sinfulness of men and women to the point that marriages were discarded for ‘any and every reason’ by some.

As a result, there was a debate amongst various schools of rabbinical teaching as to what God’s will was regarding marriage and divorce with some being very permissive and others taking a stronger view of lasting covenant.

The Pharisees approach Jesus looking to draw Him into their debate, with some seeking to trap or test Him; “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (vs2)

Jesus answers with a question; “What did Moses command you?” (vs3). Here Jesus is referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where Moses gave some regulations for divorce. The Pharisees summarise saying that Moses permitted divorce.

Jesus then teaches them that divorce was never part of God’s original plan for us, but that broken covenants are now part of our sin-wrecked world and human experience because of our hardness of heart (vs5). Jesus explains that Moses wasn’t encouraging divorce, rather regulations regarding divorce became necessary because of sin.

Jesus then teaches those present about God’s original design for marriage:

  1. Marriage is heterosexual (‘God made them male and female’ vs6)
  2. Marriage is supernatural (‘two shall become one flesh’ vs8) (‘what therefore God has joined together’ vs9)
  3. Marriage is a covenant promise (the word is not in this passage but the concept is) that is not to be broken

Jesus’ day seems so similar to our day when it comes to the brokeness of marriage and how far our experiences are often from God’s original purpose. Today, for many, marriage is not considered as the only God-ordained context for all sexual relationships. In addition, marriage itself often resembles a consumer-contract more than a covenant promise.

Consumer-contracts are merely agreements that remain in force as long as both parties feel that their needs/objectives are being met by the other party and any failure to deliver or change of desired objectives is grounds for breaking the contract as it is no longer serving its purpose.

A good example is the ‘relationship’ (consumer-contract) you have with your hairdresser. You like your hairdresser, might even love them, you’re committed to them, you only go to them to do your hair. But that ‘commitment’ is only one bad experience away from being broken. In reality, what is really happening is you’re committed to them as long as they do what you want them to do for you. It is not a relationship, it is a self-serving consumer-contract that hold reserve the right to terminate whenever terminating it serves you.

Although you won’t hear many talking like this about marriage, it is in fact the default for many these days when it comes to marriage, and it was the same in Jesus’ day – that’s how far we are from God’s ideal.

A life-long covenant promise however is what Jesus and all of Scripture reveals is God’s desire for us in marriage. Unsurprisingly, God’s way of covenant promise has incredible benefits for marriages:

1) Covenant makes love deeper because it enables a covenant relationship to grow rather than consumer-contract relationship
2) Covenant creates a cradle of security allowing for true relational vulnerability and allowing for true sacrificial service of one another
3) Covenant creates stability through tough times, and gives you something solid to hold fast to when storms hit
4) Covenant gives freedom as you are not ruled by your feelings anymore, you’re not just a slave to the moment, to impulses, to feelings. You’ve made and keep these promises in-spite of feelings which makes you a truly free person.
5) Covenant provides a reason & a resource to resolve conflicts

A marriage relationship founded on a covenant promise provides the foundation for intimacy, stability, freedom and beauty!

How do you view marriage? Consumer-contract or Covenant-promise?

Which raises a question; “What should you do when your experience doesn’t match up with what you read is God’s will for you in Scripture?”

  • Do you bend your interpretation of Scripture to line up with your experience?
  • Do you begin to disregard Scripture?
  • Or, do you repent if any repentance is needed and ask God to help your life to get restored back a place where it more closely resembles what is His revealed will for you?

Because of the brokeness of our world and our lives due to the fall and due to our sin and the sin of others against us, it is highly likely that your experience of marriage up to the present hasn’t been what God’s intended plan was for you. If that’s your story, may I urge you;

  • To repent and make changes if you have been treating your marriage as a ‘consumer-contract’ rather than as a ‘covenant-promise’.
  • To renew your covenant-promise commitment to your spouse if you’re married.
  • To come and be prayed for to allow God to begin to heal you, if you have broken marriage(s) already.
  • To honour marriage highly if you’re not married or not yet married, and to keep for marriage only, that which God has created for marriage alone (sexual relationships).
  • To repent and make changes if you have been sinning sexually, to come approach leadership so you can be loved and helped to honour God in this area of your life.

When signs aren’t needed… (Mark 7:24-8:21)

Posted on

blogs800x500_take-the-back-roads-between-joburg-and-cape-town

A road sign that says “Cape Town – 200km” is necessary because the traveller hasn’t yet arrived, and the traveller might need to know how to answer the incessant questioning of their child from the back seat; “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?”.

The sign in one sense is a comfort that you are on the right route but it is also a confirmation that you’re not there yet.  Because signs aren’t needed when you’ve crested the majestic Sir Lowry’s Pass after 18hrs of driving and you’re enraptured with the beauty of the setting sun sinking into the ocean alongside Table Mountain.  You’re there and so signs that mattered in the endless roads of the Great Karoo where everything looks the same, matter no more – you can see the mountain now.

As we read Mark 7:24-Mark 8:1-10 its hard to not be amazed again at the miraculous power and love of Jesus on display.  Jesus delivering the Syrophoenician woman’s child just like she asked Him to, Jesus healing the deaf man with the speech impediment, Jesus feeding 4000 people with just loaves & a few fish…

And yet after all this, the Pharisees approach Jesus and demand that He give them a sign to prove or explain who He was and where His authority came from (Mark 8:11).  In a rare sign of frustration Jesus sighed deeply!  What more could they have asked for, what more would convince them?

What irony! No sign from heaven would be given because Jesus Himself had come from heaven, and when you have the real thing, you don’t need a sign. God incarnate in Christ there right with them, performing miraculous wonders, and yet they couldn’t see the Him, rather they wanted a sign that would point to Him.

Jesus is God’s final word as Hebrews 1:1-4 says;

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 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. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” 

Friend, Jesus is the supreme sign of God’s love for you and for me.  There is and will never be anything or anyone greater than Jesus and His life, death, resurrection & second coming.  There is no other sign from God because Jesus is God and Jesus has come and He will come again.

Jesus is the sign and the destination we long for!