Gospel

Do vs believing it’s DONE (Matthew 19:16-30)

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Religion says Do Jesus says i've DONE it for you...

A young man, an achiever in life wants to know how to ensure that he obtains eternal life.  He seemingly has everything he wants in this life, but maybe he is intrigued by things Jesus has been saying about eternal life and he wants to know how to obtain it. 

So he asks Jesus what he needs to DO to get what he wants (vs16).  This young man is steeped in religion.  Religion always gives one something to DO in order to be accepted.

Following Jesus is nothing like religion and so Jesus is going to reveal the difference between following Him and religion.  The man wants to DO something to gain God’s acceptance (that’s religion) and so Jesus plays along with him; 

“Keep the commandments” – Jesus says to the man.  “Done” the man says, I have kept them all (vs20).  ‘You want to be perfect?’ Jesus effectively says to the man?  ‘You want to know you DID enough, then just do one more thing’, Jesus says.

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:21-22)

This man, in fact no person can DO enough to satisfy God’s requirements.  No one is righteous (Romans 3:11-12), all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), the only way to be right before God is to accept the righteousness of God that’s apart from what you DO (Romans 3:21), a righteousness that’s from God through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:23). 

That’s grace, that’s the gospel, that’s the good news Jesus brings for each one of us – the way to eternal life is to believe in Him, to trust in what He has DONE for us. And that is the only way to obtain eternal life.

It’s a funny thing, but grace is not appealing to all people.  Although God’s grace offers us forgiveness and acceptance soley on the basis of believing in what Jesus has DONE for us, that very offer is offensive to a religious person!  How so?

It’s offensive, because in order to receive grace you have to accept that you have not been able to DO enough yourself!  In order to receive grace you have to accept that you need grace and that is a humbling hit to the pride that religion breeds.

Scripture says that the young man went away sorrowful, he did not believe Jesus who answered the question he had asked at first.  He did not believe that letting go of everything that he had been trusting in, to trust in Jesus was worth it, was the right choice.  He didn’t want to humble himself so as to receive grace, and so he went away sorrowful…

Receive Jesus’ grace daily.  Trust in what Jesus has DONE for you and don’t ever put your trust in what you can DO in order to please God.

Believe Jesus, believe Scripture.  Believe that nothing in this life is worth living for, saving up or hoarding when compared to what Jesus offers those who will lay everything down to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Surrender your whole life, all you have to Jesus – you will never reget it.  Not in this life and not in eternity either.

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Disqualified? Qualified! (John 4:1-45)

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Life is a sequence of many moments isn’t it? Yet not all moments are equal in their importance for our lives. Some of the moments in our lives are what one could call; ‘God-moments’. These are moments, which are often unexpected in which radical change can happen, faith can be birthed or strengthened, in which we can learn something new about ourselves, God or others.

Today, God wants to bless you. This devotion could be a God-moment in your life. God wants to bless you, to encounter you, change your view of Him, to change you, to pour His love into you, wants to heal and restore you…

Back to the story, this woman at the well is about to have an unexpected God-moment in her life as she comes to draw water at the well but finds Jesus there! After some interaction about Jesus’ thirst, Jesus’ offered her water that would satisfy her thirst forever, she then asked Jesus to give her this water so that she would never thirst again.

Jesus knowing everything about her, asks her about her husband, asks her to call him. She didn’t want to talk about these things, it’s too personal, she tries to cover up this sad aspect of her life. We are often like this woman aren’t we? At first she resisted God’s loving, kind advances, and she tries to hide from the King of Glory. But He’s all-knowing, He knows about all 5 of her previous husbands & He knows of her current sinful relationship with the man who is not her husband but whom she is with.

At this point you might expect Jesus to draw back. After-all, she has been exposed and it’s messy. Yet,
amazingly, graciously, God still pursues her as He pursues you and I. Amazingly, what God knows about you and I doesn’t cause Him to re-coil and run from us.

Yet Jesus stays with her keeps pursuing her in this moment and reveals to her that He is the Messiah (vs26). God accepts us as we are, warts and all, God wants to transform us from who we have been and who we are today into worshippers who will worship in Spirit and truth!

And so in this God-moment the woman has a revelation of God, a revelation of the grace, mercy & forgiveness of God. What she thinks about God, what she knows is re-written in a moment as God reveals His true character to her in this God-moment…

You might have thought that her past and her present disqualified this lady. And yet actually her mess strangely qualified her to speak to others about who God is and what God is like! Having slinked out of town to come and get water, ashamed, at a time when not many others would be there.

Having met Jesus though she runs back into town effectively shouting; ‘Come and see a man who told me everything that I ever did, I think He is God!’ This woman’s shame actually became her proof of who God is! Her shame was what qualified her to testify to who God is and what God is like. In that God-moment, her sin became her God-story of redemption which in turn then showed off the grace, love & mercy of God to her whole town.

In one sense, you and I can’t be entrusted by God to share with others about Him until we have received, encountered, grace from God towards us first. Receiving grace from God qualifies us to tell others about God’s grace and mercy.

God’s grace is that He accepts us, just as we are, warts and all. God accepts us not on the basis of our merit but on account of His goodness and His lavish grace and kindness to us in Jesus. Although Jesus knew every sordid thing about this woman, He still accepted her and forgave her! Jesus came to seek and save the lost, He didn’t come for those who think they’re doing just fine, stuck in their self-righteousness, He came for sinners like me, like you…?

The end of the story is amazing. One woman’s God-moment, one woman encountering Jesus as the God of grace, results in her sharing her God-story with her town so that Scripture then records that; “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)

So what are you ashamed of? What do you feel disqualifies you from being used by God, from being God’s agent for change, His channel of grace and blessing to people? Can your sin potentially actually become a God-story which ends up showing off the God of grace?

Ask Jesus to forgive you, to pour His grace and mercy into your life right now and then go and tell the world how great and good and loving Jesus is! Needing grace, doesn’t disqualify you, it qualifies you to share with others about the incredible grace and mercy and love of God.

The People around Jesus [Mark 2:1-12]

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Think about this setting described in Mark 2 and think about the various groups of people or individuals in the room that day and what they encountered of Jesus.  You know, how we see Jesus, what we think and believe  about Jesus in a large way determines what we will encounter of Jesus.

This moment recorded for us in Mark’s gospel is symptomatic of the types of responses that people tend to have to Jesus.  It is rare to find someone who has heard of Jesus who has no opinion regarding Him.  However, it’s those opinions that shape what people encounter of Jesus.  Praise God that Jesus is graciously reaches out and engages even with people who approach Him with hostility and unbelief.   Jesus came to seek and save the lost, came to die for and rescue His enemies – we see such a clear example of that in this passage.

So who was there with Jesus that day?  

There were;

  • Seekers who are curious and drawn to Jesus but who still have questions 
  • Skeptics scrutinizing everything through the lens of unbelief 
  • Physically sick and suffering people with varying degrees of faith and hope
  • Sinners stuck with the guilt and sin needing forgiveness & freedom  
  • Believers in Jesus delighting in Him

In one sense these groups of people are always around, when we are speaking to people about Jesus.  Whether that is in our everyday lives or even in any given Church meeting.  Consider quickly how each of these groups of people encountered Jesus on this day recorded for us in Mark 2;

  • Seekers: The gathered crowd that day must have had many like this.  They’d heard about Jesus, heard about his radical teachings, His displays of power and His love setting people free from demonic oppression and sickness.  That day they witnessed first hand that Jesus was willing to stop, to be interrupted for an individual.  They saw that Jesus is moved by faith (the faith of the four friends here) and that Jesus has authority to forgive sinners from their sin and to heal their physical sickness too. More than that they witnessed that Jesus was discerning, that He knew the hearts of everyone in the room and attempted to help the skeptical overcome their barriers to faith.  Seekers must have felt drawn closer to Jesus this day, we know this crowd dispersed amazed in the end saying things like; “we never saw anything like this!” (vs12)  May those who encounter Jesus in us, touch something of His love, His grace, His discernment, hear of His offer of forgiveness and encounter His power over sickness through us.
  • Skeptics:  Can you imagine this group on that day.  They’d probably decided before they even came  to the house what they thought!  Spurring each other on in their hardening towards Jesus, these fictitious fault finders were difficult and demeaning.  Such people love to group together and amplify each other’s skepticism closing their eyes and ears to the actual evidence before them misreading or reading into everything and reaching wrong conclusions.  Jesus knew they were there all along, and yet graciously He didn’t bounce them at the door.  Jesus didn’t even rebuke them, but conclusively and graciously He answered their gripes about His authority to forgive sin by showing that He also has authority to heal!  Did they go away believing?  We don’t know.  However, may you, may I like Jesus was be resolute and yet gracious with such people too.
  • Physically sick and suffering people: we don’t know how long the paralyzed man had suffered but we know that his suffering was so great that he either could not get himself to Jesus physically or he could not do so emotionally – having maybe lost all hope.  In an instant with one command of Jesus this man’s life is transformed for the better and the sickness that defined him was banished!  Jesus as King can heal anyone, at any time.  His words have power to suspend and rewrite the effects of the curse of the fall in a moment.  Let’s keep praying for people asking Jesus to say the word and to heal and restore people.   And let us note that this is a story that would not have happened had it not been for some friends who had faith that Jesus could heal and would want to heal their mate! Let’s be such friends for Jesus loved their faith and in the end of the day they might have even been as equally happy as the man who was healed.  This man’s encounter with Jesus resulted in a life-transformed!
  • Sinners: we all have the same sin problem.  The friends defined their brothers problem as physical, Jesus redefined it showing that in fact his greatest need was spiritual was the need to be forgiven of his sins.  We easily see the physical, emotional, financial needs of people, but all people’s greatest need is to have their sins forgiven by Jesus so that they can be restored to a right relationship with God.  And putting your faith in Jesus is the only way to be forgiven.  What right now feels like your greatest need?  What do you think Jesus would say is your greatest need right now?
  • Believers: the disciples and others who had already believed in Jesus must have grown in their faith, love and awe of in Jesus that day as they watched him authoritatively and yet graciously deal with the skeptics, respond to the friends act of faith and forgive and heal the paralyzed man!  They must have felt strengthened in their faith and conviction about who Jesus was!

These groups of people are not just on the pages of Scripture but are present in our everyday lives, present in our church meetings.  May we be like Jesus to them!

A new Era! (Acts 2:14-41)

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The Holy Spirit has been poured out on those disciples who were waiting and praying as Jesus had commanded them to (Acts 2:1-13), the resultant worship and joy has drawn a crowd of people some of whom are in amazement and some are mocking…

Someone needs to say something! Peter, full of the Holy Spirit stands up and impromptu preaches the first message in the history of the church of Jesus Christ.

He addresses those present, addresses their questions coming from what they have observed (vs15 & 22-24), he draws on OT biblical texts (vs17-21, 25-28 & 34-35) to teach and to convict of sin (vs23) and to motivate them to respond, giving them hope of what God’s response will be (vs38-39).

Many in the crowd are ‘cut to the heart’ (vs37) by listening to Peter’s preaching and as a result they want to respond and so exclaim; “what shall we do then”? (vs37)

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

They asked; “what shall we do?” and Peter’s response is that they should;

  • Repent (be contrite & acknowledge your sin before God & then turn from it)
  • Receive forgiveness (ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin and then receive His forgiveness)
  • Receive the Holy Spirit (having been cleansed of sin, be filled with the Holy Spirit and His new life)
  • Be baptised in water (make an outward demonstration of the inward step of faith you’ve made)

And then those who did these 4 things, get added to the local church community. The Gospel saves individuals but joins them to a family of faith! There is no such thing as Christianity outside of local church community.

Questions for application

  • Have you responded with faith in Jesus to the good news of the Gospel?
  • Have you truly received forgiveness and received the in-filling of the Holy Spirit as a believer?
  • Have you been baptised in water yet or do you need to still take that step declaring your faith?
  • Have you added yourself, joined a local church community as a committed member?  What’s stopping you?

 

Promise Maker, Promise Keeper (2 Kings 25:27-30)

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God promised king David (2 Samuel 7:11-16) that God would establish for David a ‘house’ (a lineage, a family, a clan or tribe) that would endure forever! In the context of the books of the Kings where king after king was overthrown some within days of their appointment as king, with whole lines of families being wiped out by successive kings more than once in Israel with the constant threat of invasion and capture from powerful nations all around – in that context these are massive promises to David.

And God kept His promise! As one reads through 1 & 2 Kings phrases like this are embedded in the storyline a total of eight times;

Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. (2 Kings 8:19)

God was faithful to His promise to David, because God is faithful, He cannot be unfaithful even though we are unfaithful to Him as Scripture declares;

“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” (2 Timothy 2:13 in NLT)

And so here at the end of 1&2 Kings in the midst of lament and the tragedy of the siege and sacking and the exile to Babylon, there are four verses that offer a ray of hope, a glimmer of God’s eternal promise to David – which still stands.

Jehoiachin and the royal family are deported and not killed by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kings 24:15) and then after 37yrs in prison in exile king Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah in the NT) is released from prison by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor and is given a place of honour and provision for his family! God is faithful, God is the promise keeper, not one of God’s promises fall to the ground.

And so the line of David is preserved, the promise still stands, and in Matthew 1:12 we read of Jehoiachin/Jeconiah’s place in the storyline that all culminates in Jesus the King of kings the one who ultimately fulfills the promise made by God to David, and He is enthroned as King forever and ever.

The whole Old Testament is really about Jesus, it points to Him, shows us our desperate need of Him and anticipates His coming. As Isaiah prophesied of King Jesus;

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government
and of peace there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Worship, Jesus! Thank God for His unshakable faithfulness. Trust Him.

Perfect Prophet, Priest & King (2 Kings 24-25)

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By this point in reading through 1&2 Kings it is hard not to feel exhausted by the cyclical pattern of ungodliness in the leadership of Israel and Judah.  But all of this long story of hundreds of years of  cyclical ungodly leadership is to there to tell a story…

A story which started way back when God’s people had clamoured for a human king as recorded in 1 Samuel 8, they wanted to be like the nations around them rather than be lead by God as their king leading them through his appointed prophets/judges.  God had warned them that this rejection of Him would not be a blessing to the people and 1&2 Kings records that it definitely wasn’t a blessing!

In 2 Kings 24-25 we read of the final sacking of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon of Judah, approximately 120years after the Assyrians overthrow and exile of Israel.  2 Kings 24:2-4 expressly makes God the active agent as Chaldeans, Moabites, Syrians and Ammonites and finally the Babylonians raid Judah and finally overthrow it with a siege and burn the city and the temple and break the walls down.

The sad summary statement in 2 Kings 25:21 reads; “So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.” 

The Promised Land is vacated by all except a remnant of poor people, the Temple as the place of worship is ruined and ceases to operate.  

What will happen next?  What has happened to the covenant?  

God’s place – the Promised Land and the Temple lies in ruins, God’s people have been exiled from it.

Israel’s history is littered with priests who failed, prophets who failed & kings who failed.

The people have been unfaithful to the covenants they made and to God’s word to them.

This is the riddle of the Old Testament really.  

  • God is holy, we are not – what can we do, what will He do?
  • God’s people, we need a better, a perfect, an eternal prophet, priest & king.
  • God’s people long for a place where we can dwell with God, where worship is not defiled & never ends
  • God’s people need forgiveness that’s eternal and truly transforming…
  • All this points to the ONE who was to come – Jesus!
  • Our Saviour, our perfect Prophet, Priest & King!

Sin is serious & we all have a part to play in the BIG STORY! (2 Kings 9-12)

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In what is a long section of brutal narrative… 

Exactly what God promised through Elijah in response to Jezebel and Ahab’s killing of Naboth for his vineyard in 1 Kings 21 is now fulfilled and Ahab’s sin and Jezebel’s sin and evil is punished by God in 2 Kings 9-10 by Jehu.

What can we learn from this for our lives?

Sin is extremely serious.  If we don’t recognise the seriousness of sin before a Holy God we are deluded, we cheapen grace and ultimately we don’t need a Saviour to rescue us from our sin or to forgive us for our sin.

“Salvation shines forth brightly when it is seen against the dark background of divine judgment. We cheapen the gospel if we represent it as a deliverance only from unhappiness, fear, guilt and other felt needs, instead of as a rescue from the coming wrath.” – John Stott

Don’t prematurely decide that just because people don’t seem for the moment to be accountable before God for their sin and their rejection of Him that they won’t be held accountable by the Holy One.

All people’s only hope is Jesus Christ who was the propitiation for our sin!  That means, Jesus was the sacrifice that was paid in our place for our sin, the sacrifice which took away the wrath of God;

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)

Another feature of this section and all through 1&2 Kings are the little cameo’s in the BIG STORY of human history and salvation by often unremarkable individuals who did the work and will of God in the midst of a crooked and evil age.

Little cameo’s like;

  • The little Jewish girl who was carried away by Syrians and served in the house of Naaman who believed God could heal her master (2 Kings 5:2-3)
  • The unnamed servants of Naaman who helped him not miss his healing because of his reaction to Elisha’s instruction (2 Kings 5:13)
  • The four lepers (2 Kings 7) through whom God ended the brutal siege of Samaria
  • Princess Jehosheba who hid Joash from Athaliah for 6yrs in the house of God with the priest until the priest anointed him as king at the tender age of 7yrs old.
  • Joash the young 7yr old who listened to Jehoiada who discipled and instructed him and so he did amazingly good things reforming Judah and dealing with sin and Baal worship and repaired the temple.

What can we learn for our lives?

You never do know when you are going to do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, or whether you have just done it! – Michael Eaton

God’s kingdom advances through people just like you and I doing often what might not seem like extraordinary things.  Live every day as if it is the day you will do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, live on the edge in anticipation and serve God with whatever and whoever God puts before you, disciple, reach out, love, speak the words of God….