A Day Like No Other (Mark 15:1-32)
From the time of Jesus’ instructions to the disciples to find a place to prepare for and then celebrate the Passover with a meal we now call ‘The Last Supper’ to Jesus death is a period of just 24hrs.
And yet, these 24hrs take-up 92 verses in Mark, 103 verses in Matthew, 74 in Luke 74 and a massive 225 in John’s gospel. The gospel’s all slow down at this focal point of our faith. So much happens in this one 24hr period of Jesus’ life;
- Preparations for the Passover
- The Last Supper
- An agonising prayer in the garden
- Jesus’ betrayal and arrest
- Peter’s denial & the abandonment of all Jesus’ followers
- An unjust trial before the Chief Priests utterly alone
- A night of mocking and mistreatment by soldiers
- A hearing before Pilate & the crowd
- A hearing before Herod
- Pilate’s capitulation to the blood-thirsty mob releasing Barabas and sentencing Jesus
- Scourging Jesus by the whip
- The walk to Golgotha through the streets
- The crucifixion & death
So, what was the joy in the heart of Jesus that sustained Him through this most terrible 24hrs?
We know from Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus’ passion was to please Father God in all He did. Jesus desired to obey God the Father and fulfil the will of the Father. We know this because Jesus prayed;
“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)
Therefore we can say that the greatest joy in the heart of Jesus, the joy that sustained Jesus was the joy of pleasing the Father, fulfilling the plan and the will of the Father.
Jesus’ whole life, His coming to earth as an incarnate human being, His 24/7 life and obedience and His death was all fueled by this same passion. Jesus prayed in John 17:1-4 that the Father would glorify Him ‘so that the Son might glorify’ the Father and He prayed saying that He had ‘glorified the Father on earth, by accomplishing the work the Father had given Him to do.
In addition to this, we also know that Jesus endured all that happened in these 24hrs because He also had another joy in His heart. Hebrews 12:2 reveals to us that part of what sustained Jesus through these horrific 24hrs was His longing for you and me.
“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” (Hebrews 12:2 in the NLT)
Brothers and sisters, you and I were in Jesus mind’s eye when He endured all of this pain and suffering. The joy awaiting Jesus was us! It was our being reconciled back to a right relationship with Him, which was only possible because of what He was doing by suffering in our place for our sin.
This means that as we see, as we contemplate the ghastly ordeal Jesus endured in these 24hrs we should feel the love of Jesus in each injustice committed against Him, in every droplet of spit sliding down His face, in every strike of the whip tearing flesh from His back, in every agonising step being led like a lamb to the slaughter in silence (Isaiah 53:7-8), in every thunderbolt of pain from the nails in His wrists and the crushing suffocation of the crucifixion. This is love!
“This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10 in NLT)
Why don’t you pause now and pray? Contemplate these 24hrs Jesus endured, bring the details to mind and know this, He did this all out of love for you! Bask in that incredible love of Jesus’ for you! And then love Jesus back in this moment, love Him with your whole life, don’t give Him the left-overs give Him everything. What a Saviour!
Pour out your heart (Psalm 142)
Sometimes we feel trapped in situations and powerless to change them like David felt when writing this Psalm (vs 7). In moments like this, it’s hard to know what our next step should be. It can be overwhelming. Perhaps you remember being in a situation like that or you might find yourself feeling like that today.
I cry out to the Lord;
I plead for the Lord’s mercy.
2 I pour out my complaints before him
and tell him all my troubles.
3 When I am overwhelmed,
you alone know the way I should turn.
Like David, telling Jesus how you’re feeling is a step in the right direction. He already knows what’s in your heart and the struggles you’re experiencing, but when we pour out our hearts to him, we are inviting him to walk with us and do it together rather than alone. It’s crucial that we acknowledge him and the fact that he knows what the way forward is. By acknowledging God we are showing him that we trust him. We are also helping ourselves by speaking truth to our troubled hearts.
5 Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.
You are all I really want in life.
Putting Christ at the centre of our lives is the best decision we could make. It’s about coming to a place where we genuinely want his input above any other in our lives. He should be the only thing that we put our hope in and the biggest desire in our life. He is the best thing for us and should be the longing of our hearts.
6 Hear my cry,
for I am very low.
Rescue me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me.
Once we’ve acknowledged him and invited him into our place of need and trouble, we can confidently ask him to help us and rescue us from this place where we feel stuck. He wants us to ask him. He is our Father, and he loves us with unfailing love. He also happens to be the Lord of Heaven’s armies and is powerful and able!
7 Bring me out of prison
so I can thank you.
The godly will crowd around me,
for you are good to me.”
In this Psalm, David asks God to free him from this trapped and powerless place, so that he can thank him. Let’s not forget to thank our Father when he does show us a way forward and lead us out of difficult situations. When we focus on being thankful for what he has done for us, it helps us to see life in a different light.
Lamenting before him and sharing what’s in our hearts is an important thing to do; however, we can become stuck in this mode if we don’t focus our eyes on Jesus and allow him to help us out of that place. If we are intentional about thanking him, our hearts become more focused on the wonders and goodness of knowing Jesus in our lives.
So let’s turn to him, acknowledge him, ask him and be thankful for all the goodness he brings into our lives.
[All references are from the NLT translation]
Nadine is one of the elder’s wives at Reconciliation Road Church in Amanzimtoti, South Africa – click the link to get more information about our church.
What are you devoted to? (Colossians 4:2)
What are you devoted to in your life? What things are you committed and dedicated to with your time? Is it prayer?
Perhaps your life is devoted to your job; you want to be successful and do your job well. Maybe it’s your family, or your goal is to excel at a specific sport. Though none of these things is wrong, be careful of being more devoted to them than the things that will draw you closer to Jesus.
I think many people pray in times of crisis and need, even those who don’t follow Jesus. That, however, is not being devoted to prayer. Being devoted to something is committing time and energy into it; giving it a place of prominence in your life.
Prayer isn’t always easy, sometimes it can feel like hard work, but remember who you get to speak to when you pray. Because of Jesus, we get to enter the throne room of the King of kings and talk to him, who made the universe. The most amazing part is that he loves you and cares for you and wants to hear what’s in your heart. Ponder that for a moment. It is a privilege.
Along with devoting ourselves to prayer, Paul encourages the Colossians to do so with an alert mind and a thankful heart. When I was thinking about this, I realized he is saying that because we have the tendency to become dull and unaware of influences around us and we are naturally selfish.
Reading your Bible and speaking to Jesus, letting him know what’s in your heart, will make you alert and thankful because you’ll be allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your heart. It’s also important to be alert to what’s happening in the world around you and your community so that you aren’t just aware of your own life and needs. So, read the news, and you’ll have many things to pray for, that aren’t self-centred. Paul was wise in saying we should have grateful hearts when we pray because prayer is way more than coming to God with a list of requests, or even demands.
Prayer is about recognizing who He is and being in awe of that; which will produce joy and hope in our hearts. It’s about asking him for what we need and trusting that he knows what’s best for us. It’s about yielding to him and believing that he has a plan for our lives which goes beyond our understanding.
I have found that reading the Psalms has helped me in prayer. It has helped me with what words to use to praise God. God wants to hear everything that’s in your heart; the good the bad and the ugly. He isn’t shocked by your prayers of anger; he knew you were thinking like that before you spoke the words. Be open with him and ask him to change and transform you as you yield yourself to his will.
So, are you devoting yourself to prayer? If you know the answer is no, then take decisive action. Join the church prayer meetings, set time aside to speak to Jesus and get into a habit of talking to him throughout the day. He welcomes you with a big smile and arms wide open.
Nadine is one of the elder’s wives at Reconciliation Road Church in Amanzimtoti, South Africa – click the link to get more information about our church.
Tapestry: Assurance & Action (Colossians 3:1-17)
In his book Future Grace, John Piper shows how God’s grace to us in the past is the foundation for faith in both the present and future.
When when we consider what God has already done for us in the Gospel when we are secure in what has happened to us purely by God’s grace – that rock-solid assurance motivates and mobilises us to live a certain way in the present.
God’s grace motivates us! It doesn’t leave us unchanged and unmotivated to change; rather, it puts a fire inside of us that spurs us on to even greater life change.
However, what is critical is that the motive for that action & intentionality in us is not anymore to try to earn God’s favour or forgiveness but rather because those are ours already because of Jesus.
So we don’t have to get all knotted over whether we should take the imperatives of Scripture seriously or not, wondering whether they apply to us or not. Of course, they do! The issues worth considering are;
- Motive: Why do you do what you’re doing?
- Purpose: What you think what you’re doing is achieving?
All through a passage like Colossians 3:1-17, I see the Apostle Paul interweaving assurance & action like a tightly-knit garment that only makes sense when all the weaves remain together.
Read the passage, and look for all the assurances woven into its fabric. I count at least nine assurances in the past-tense, two assurances in the present & future tense.
These nine assurances inform us of the correct motive for our action, which this passage commands us to take in its thirteen odd imperatives.
Do you see what Scripture is teaching us? Present-day action and obedience are founded on past grace. We obey God’s word in the present because of what we know; God has already graciously done for us in the Gospel. Because we are so secure in grace and God’s love for us, we respond actively working to see our lives transformed more and more into the image of God’s Son, Jesus(vs10).
Because we are saved by grace we;
- Seek things that are eternal (vs1)
- Set our minds on things that are eternal(vs2)
- Put to death old earthly ungodly sinful practices(vs5-7)
- Put away ungodly attitudes and speech(vs8)
- Do not do certain things anymore (vs9)
- We put off the old sin-soaked life (vs9)
- We put on the new in-Christ-life (vs10)
- We put on God-like character traits since we are God’s chosen children (vs12)
- We forgive just as God forgave us (vs13)
- We put on love which sums up our new life (vs14)
- We let the peace of Jesus rule our hearts (vs15)
- We let the WORD of God saturate our daily lives (vs16)
- We give thanks in whatever we do! (vs17)
The Scriptures are jam-packed with imperatives, commands for us to obey, instruction that ought to be observed and followed. This passage alone is an example of that.
But notice that it’s the assurance of what is already ours, and what will be ours who’ve believed in Jesus that is the thing that motivates our action in response to God’s grace.
God’s grace teaches us (Titus 2:11), motivates us to work harder than anyone else at our growth in godliness (1 Corinthians 15:10), motivates us to really consider our lives carefully and the thirteen imperatives in this little passage that challenge us!
May your life and mine be an endless tapestry of threads of assurance that look back and stretch forward woven daily into action that’s inspired by the myriad of imperatives in Scripture and the voice of the Holy Spirit in the present.
Gareth is one of the elders at Reconciliation Road Church in Amanzimtoti, South Africa – click the link to get more information about our church.
Magnificient! (Colossians 2:11-15)
How do you express or explain the wonders of the miracle of our salvation? Paul, in these verses, draws on five distinct word pictures in an attempt to make real to us the wonder of our salvation.
1. Circumcision (vs11)
Male circumcision was the mark of the covenant God had established between Himself and His people (see Genesis 17:10-14). It was the physical sign that this person was set apart for God, was part of God’s people.
Paul takes that whole concept of circumcision and applies it to believers in Jesus. Having believed we are spiritually circumcised, ‘cut off’ from the body of sin (Romans 6:6) that was ‘in-Adam’, and are now correctly described as being ‘in-Christ’ and free from the dominion of sin.
The moment of salvation cuts us off from our old life, our old habits, our old slavery to sin and so we are now free from sin and able to walk in obedience and love for Jesus. We don’t have to try to cut ourselves off from the old life of sin, we have been cut off from it by the finished work of Jesus. His victory is our victory and freedom. We now ought to consider that freedom and victory to be ours and live accordingly (Romans 6:9-11).
We who believe in Jesus and worship Jesus by the Spirit are God’s chosen people now, God’s circumcised ones (Philippians 3:3).
2. Baptism (vs12)
Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:3-6 both teach that when we believe in Jesus and are baptised as believers, we are united with Jesus in his death and resurrection!
The symbol of baptism in water isn’t just a symbol, but somehow spiritually we are united with Jesus through baptism.
Our going under the water represents our unification with Jesus and His death, and our dying to sin and our old self so that the ‘body of sin might be brought to nothing’ (Romans 6:6).
Our coming up from the water represents our unification with Jesus in His resurrection and our being raised to new life through faith in Jesus (Colossians 2:12-13 & Romans 6:8-11).
Jesus’ death & resurrection remind us of our death to the old life of sin, satan’s control and fear of death and our new life (Colossians 2:13) and hope and freedom that was obtained for us by Jesus on the cross.
[Application point]: If you have not yet been baptised in water as a believer, note how the Apostle Paul has a high view of baptism as having not just symbolic but spiritual significance. I urge you to speak to your pastor about getting baptised in water if you have believed in Jesus.
3. A Record of Debt Notice (vs14)
The third word picture Paul uses is what was known as a ‘cheirographon’ in the Greco-Roman world of the day. This was a legal written note of indebtedness that someone would be given if they had a debt that was as yet unpaid.
Paul uses this metaphor to make clear that when we put our faith in Jesus the legal and moral debt that we owed to God, the debt we carried around with us as a ‘cheirographon’ – that debt was set aside in full.
We were duty-bound to pay that debt, but God set it aside when Jesus stepped in our place and said in effect; ‘I’ll pay for that in full!’ on the cross. When Jesus cried out on the cross in the moment of His death; ‘it is finished!’ (John 19:30) we can understand this to mean that He had paid the price for our freedom from debt in full. And because the price was paid in full, the debt is set aside (Colossians 2:14), the ‘cheirographon’ is annulled, and we are free! No more debt before a Holy God, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last!
4. Crucifixion (vs14)
But what did God do with the ‘cheirographon’? In the time of Jesus and Paul, when someone was crucified, a note would be nailed to the cross to tell everyone what they were guilty of, being executed for.
We know that Pilate had a note nailed to Jesus’ cross that read; “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matthew 27:37). This is ironic since this was both the charge against Jesus – that He claimed to be God, and also the truth about Jesus that He was God! This note above Jesus’ head as He is dying for us on the cross reminds Paul of the ‘cheirographon’ that God was setting aside through Jesus’ dying in our place for our sin.
Paul then says, God took that ‘cheirographon’ and nailed it to the cross, this is how God could set aside our debt, Jesus paid for it on the cross in full!
5. Victory! (vs14-15)
The death and resurrection of Jesus was the most glorious victory. In Jesus’ time when a military victory had been won, the defeated king or military officials and their soldiers would be paraded in humiliation and defeat behind the victorious king in a victory parade.
This is the picture in mind for Paul when thinking of the cross of Christ and its impact on our lives as believers. The devil and his devilish host have been utterly triumphed over by Jesus death & resurrection; they have been humiliated and defeated, put to shame openly by Jesus’ magnificent once and for all victory!
What good news this is for us who have believed in Jesus. We are on the winning side for eternity; the battle is won, we know how the story ends. His victory is our victory. So live in the good of His victory and never cower in defeat before satan, sin or death.
Gareth is one of the elders at Reconciliation Road Church in Amanzimtoti, South Africa – click the link to get more information about our church.
God’s Delight (Psalm 18:1-19)
‘I love You, O LORD, my strength’ (vs1)
What a relief, what joy to be able to declare that God is our strength! What a relief to not have to try to be strong, to not have to seek to hold it all together. Yahweh is our strength, and for that, we love Him (vs1)
Yahweh is our strength in that He is our rock, our strong, immovable foundation, Yahweh is our fortress the strong tower into which we can run and find refuge in times of danger. Yahweh is also a shield defending us from the attacks of the enemy (vs2).
Yahweh is my strength because He is the one I can call on and call out to for help (vs3) when desperate situations or challenges greater than my strength present themselves (vs4-5).
Yahweh is my strength because when I cry to Him, He hears and recognises my voice from His holy temple (vs6). And so my cries are not in vain.
Yahweh rips open the heavens to respond to my cries for help; He rides the wind and thunders on my behalf (vs7-19)!
And why does Yahweh act in such a way?
“He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” (vs19)
What astounding words. That the God of angel armies, the LORD most high, the Alpha and Omega delights in me! God takes pleasure in me in us.
I know myself. I know my limitations, my failings, my weakness and my sin, and yet You delight in me. Psalm 18:19 helps us to understand Hebrews 12:2 which explains the motivation in Jesus’ heart as He looked upon the cross;
Jesus, ‘who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Psalm 18 depicts Jahweh his strength saving him from his temporal earthly enemies. But the great enemy and the greater eternal salvation for you and for me who have believed in Jesus is that we are saved eternally from our enemies of sin, shame, satan & death because of Jesus.
Why did Jahweh do this? Because He delighted in me, in us. Scripture is clear that it was God’s love for us that caused the Father to send the Son (John 3:16) so that He could have the joy of having us in heaven with Him forever and ever (Revelation 21:3).
LORD, thank you for choosing to love me, despite me, for loving me enough to send Jesus to make a way to cleanse me from my sin so that I would be in close relationship with you forever.
And if You did this massive thing in saving me, I am sure that there is nothing in this life, nothing on this earth that you will not rescue me from (Romans 8:32).
‘I love You, O LORD, my strength!’ (Psalm 18:1)
Confidence! (Philippians 1:1-11)
What are you confident in? What are you relying on when it comes to faith and the continuation of that faith? Life is filled with unexpected complexity and challenge – so what anchors you and your faith?
Paul prayed for these Philippian believers, thanking God with great joy and certainty for their faith because he had great confidence that was anchored in God alone.
The early converts of this church were a successful businesswoman, a redeemed fortune teller & a converted jailer (see Acts 16 for the full story of this churches inception). This diverse bunch of newly saved ones must have faced many challenges to their faith. Challenges that came from both from within & from outside the church.
To this group of believers in Jesus Paul could write;
“I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (vs6)
He wasn’t there to hold their hands! But he was confident that they would make genuine progress in spiritual growth. So what was Paul’s confidence anchored in?
1. That salvation is a work of God
No doubt Lydia, the Slave-girl & the Jailer could all remember the day that they put their faith in Jesus. But this is not Paul’s confidence; it is not that they ‘really’ believed. His confidence is that God started it all! Acts 16:14 says of Lydia’s salvation moment; “the LORD opened her heart”. God was at the bottom of it all as Charles Spurgeon said;
One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me; How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures.
How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all and that he was the Author of my faith, and so the doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.” — Charles Spurgeon
Friend, your faith is sure and secure only if God is at the bottom of it all.
2. God will bring what He started to completion.
‘So my faith had a good start, but will I be able to keep it going?’ – I hear you wondering.
Friend, Philippians 1:6 says that not only was God the originator of your faith in Him, more than that it is God Himself who will bring to completion what He started in you.
God doesn’t do half-jobs. God doesn’t get distracted or dejected because of slow progress. The writer to the Hebrews says it like this; “Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 in NIV).
It would make no sense; it would not honour Jesus’ life, death & resurrection in our place for our sin for God to start and not bring to fullness our salvation. Friend, God is supremely invested in, God is behind not just the origination of your faith but the sustenance and progress of your faith. For some more verses on this theme check out: 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 & 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 & Colossians 1:21-22.
3. The Outcome and the Day are Guaranteed
There is a timeline when this completion will be fully realised. It is not today or tomorrow or in 1years time, but it is on THE DAY of Jesus Christ – the day Jesus returns in glory.
Sometimes spiritual progress in our own lives or in the lives of those we love or lead can feel like three steps forward and two backwards! Don’t despair, don’t give in during the long dark nights when you feel like you have to hold on to what faith you still have.
There is a day coming. And you can be confident that God who inaugurated your faith will bring it to complete fullness by the time of the return of Jesus Christ. That day on which you will see Him face to face, and you will be transformed & raised in glory (1 Corinthians 15:42-43 & 51-55).
If you have believed in Jesus, you can know with absolute certainty that you have believed because God is at work within your life, and you can rest assured that what God has started in you He Himself will continue until it is fully complete at the Day of Jesus Christ. Be secure, be full of praise and thanks!
Dynamite Comes in Small Packages (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
A two-word verse followed by a three-word verse followed by a slightly longer one. Such short verses with such challenge!
In vs16, it’s the ‘always’ that ramps up the challenge factor! Who would have a problem with rejoicing in good things? Our problem is rejoicing in all things, in those hard situations and or rejoicing still when things have not gone the way we would like them to go.
And yet this is God’s will for us, so it is possible to do. But how can it be possible to rejoice always or in all circumstances?
I believe that this is possible for the Christ Follower when we consider Jesus, who He is, and what He has done for us. We can always thank God for Jesus, for loving us when we were unlovely when we were His enemies.
No matter what is happening in our lives, if we have put our faith in Jesus, we have been forgiven of our sin, set free from the wrath of God’s righteous judgement and have been granted eternal life with God. We have been given the privilege of being called the children of God! As believers we know that whatever we might be facing is going to be swallowed up by the glory to come for us; “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
So, we can always rejoice. I am not saying this is easy to do, but it is God’s will for us, according to vs18. And so it is possible, and it is for our very best.
Pray without ceasing (vs17). One more word than the previous verse and yet no less challenging. Praying without ceasing is the opposite of living a worldly life, living life as though God doesn’t exist.
To pray in this way is to practice God’s presence amid your everyday life. To pray in this way is to master the art of always being in two places at once. Being wherever you find yourself at any given moment and being with God, aware of His presence in that place or situation.
How amazing it would be to be in continual conversation with God, accessing His Help and wisdom, knowing His love, affirmation & His guidance! This is not some onerous command; this is an invitation to live a life on a whole new level.
Lastly, ‘give thanks in all circumstances’ (vs18) is not an instruction to give thanks for all circumstances. Rather, it is to be aware of God in everything and to be mindful of what you can thank your Father for. Growing in gratitude cultivates a heart of worship and breathes life-giving perspective into all of life.
The Gift of Grace (Romans 4:4-5)
Imagine the scene. You’ve worked your first month in your new job. You feel like you put your best foot forward, did all that was required of you, didn’t mess anything up. You know you worked hard, put in some extra hours wanting your new boss to be happy with the new hire!
It’s payday, and you get called into the office, presumably to collect your first payslip. It feels good, you know you earned it, and as you walk to your boss’s office, your mind is already thinking ahead a little spoil – maybe some dinner out or something.
As you enter their office though you’re a little taken aback, as they stand up to greet you with the words; “Phil, I have a gift for you!” They say as they hand you your payslip all wrapped in ribbons. A gift? No mate, I earned that. That’s not a gift, that’s my wages, that’s what I worked so hard for, that’s what you owe me – you think to yourself as you smile and stretch out to receive your payslip.
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5)
Paul is at pains here to show us that the righteousness that is from God (Romans 3:21) is not a reward for good behaviour or hard work. Our salvation is not God responding to something good or deserving in us.
On the contrary, our salvation is a work of God, despite us and in spite of what we have done and or not done. God saves the person who didn’t work to earn God’s forgiveness. God saves the person who ‘believes in Him who justifies the ungodly’ (vs5).
Tim Keller says; “And what is the gospel? It is that you are so lost and flawed, so sinful, that Jesus had to die for you, but that you are also so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for you. Now you are fully accepted and delighted in by the Father, not because you deserve it but only by free grace.”
God saves, God justifies the ungodly vs5 says! Jesus similarly said He came to help the sinner (Matthew 9:13) & the lost (Luke 19:10) not those who thought they did not need him! God saves ungodly people, not good people. As Angus Buchan says; “good people don’t go to heaven, believers in Jesus do.”
Friend, throw off all attempts to earn God’s favour or forgiveness! It can’t be done. That’s not how the righteousness of God is obtained. You can’t earn it, won’t ever deserve it. The only way to be made right with God is to receive God’s GIFT of salvation and forgiveness by believing in Jesus Christ, in His life, death & resurrection for you.
This gift of salvation is the most glorious gift of grace. And if you’ve ever given someone a massive gift, you’ll know that God doesn’t want you to now feel indebted, doesn’t want you to try to pay Him back, but rather is most honoured when you thank Him, appreciate the gift and love Him who paid the price for that gift.
Is your confidence in yourself or in the majestic goodness of God’s grace?
Repent of any pride of self-righteousness & revel in the glory of grace.
Magnificent God (2 Kings 4)
Elisha is the one true God’s representative. In a nation divided and filled with the worship of false gods, the call on Elisha is not just to bring messages for God but to reveal who God is through his everyday life, actions and interactions.
In this chapter we see God revealed in numerous ways through a collection of short stories which all put on display God’s nature as the one who sees, a personal God, involved in the intricate details of people’s lives, who is not indifferent to the cries and the pain that individual people endure. These stories reveal God as the one who is able to miraculously suspend or overturn the normal with His supernatural inbreakings of power at any time on people’s behalf.
Short story 1: Debt (2 Kings 4:1-7)
A poor widow in crisis is struggling with mounting debts and the ongoing challenge of providing for her two children as a single woman has the debt collectors at her door threatening to take away her children as slaves as payment for her debt! Crisis. She asks God by asking Elisha and God provides miraculously an abundance of olive oil which she sells and pays off all her debt and as able to live off the rest. God is the miracle working, prayer answering, need-seeing God who intervenes in remarkable ways for poor or rich people.
Short story 2: Deep Longings & Despair (2 Kings 4:8-39)
A wealthy woman is hospitable and honouring of God’s servant, she was rich but used her wealth to bless Elisha & Gehazi not to gain anything (vs13-14). Elisha discerns the true longing in her heart, one she is not even willing to express for fear of her longing being dashed again, and so promises her a child. She is so shocked she can’t receive this good news (vs16) but she does conceive and a son is given to her. Many years later the child falls suddenly ill and dies will in the fields with his father. She rushes straight to Elisha in deep despair, she would have rather not had a son than have one and then loose one like this! Elisha goes with her, and raises the son from the dead and gives him back to her alive. God knows the deepest longings in our hearts, even the ones we dare not speak of for fear of being hurt or disappointed again or opening up the wound… God is able to bring back to life people, marriages, finances – God is good and is so whether you are rich or poor.
Short story 3: Deadly Stew & Multiplication (2 Kings 4:38-44)
There is a famine in the land, Elisha is hosting around 100 of the prophets. He wants to cook for them, but Gehazi is a bad cook or one of the prophets is injudicious in his produce selection and the stew being cooked is bad, so bad it is like death warmed up. They complain. Elisha miraculously cures the pot with a little flour and the food becomes edible to them all. While they are all there, a man brings to Elisha some of his first fruits offering to supply food for Elisha. Elisha tells Gehazi to set it before the men to eat (but there is not enough – vs43). Elisha tells him to proceed and they all ate and yet there was excess and they had food to spare. God is hospitable, able to throw feasts of abundance in the midst of a famine, able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).
Our God heals, answers long-lost longings, provides financially and materially. This all makes me think of the song we sung on Sunday;
You’re my author, my maker
My ransom, my Saviour
My refuge, my hiding place
You’re my helper, my healer
My blessed redeemer
My answer, my saving grace
You’re my hope, in the shadows
My strength, in the battle
My anchor, for all my days
And You stand, by my side
And You stood, in my place
Jesus, no other name
No, only Jesus, no other name…
So, cry out to him now! Tell your Father in Heaven your deepest longings, know that He is good and when you can’t join all the dots of your confusing life, He can and He does and so having asked Him trust Him.
Recounting, Praise & Prayer (Psalm 9)
(vs1) Whole hearted thanks, gratitude expressed is the bone and marrow of the Christian life! David declares that he will give thanks to God with his whole heart. Gratitude expressed is a heart matter and a head matter in that it requires a decision of the will to express what one is grateful for.
(vs2) Gratitude is founded on remembering, recounting what has happened, recounting what God has done for you and for His people. Again, David declares that he will recount, he decides to remember and as he does, recounting leads to feeling grateful and expressing it to God in prayer and in songs of thanks!
(vs3-9) David recounts God’s interventions for His people.
(vs10) When God is thanked, God is honoured, we get perspective and our faith for the future is fortified. In this verse David declares that those who know God put their trust in Him (because He is worthy of trust) and those who have put their trust in Him can testify that God does not forsake those who trust in Him.
(vs11) So it’s appropriate to praise Him with singing, for He alone is King of kings, it’s appropriate to ‘tell among the peoples His deeds’.
(vs13-20) Emboldened by his recounting and his praise, reminded of God’s faithfulness to him and to Israel, David transitions into confidently asking God for some things which is totally appropriate since his thanksgiving has reminded Him that God is worth praying to and bring your requests to.
- Decide to recount what God has done for you, for us as a church. I challenge you to write down no less than 25 things right now that you can thank and praise God for & then take some time to do just that.
- (vs11) Why not decide to tell 1 person at least 1 of those 25 things you’ve just recounted in a way that honours God today, encourages you and them
- Having recounted and thanked God, confidently bring your requests to your Father in Heaven.
Sleep well (John 10:27-29)
Sleeping is a vulnerable necessity. Our bodies need sleep. Sleep is restorative and so essential both in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. And yet sleep is a vulnerable state, one is unaware and unable to protect oneself.
Worry is one of the main enemies of good sleep and so the more one has to worry about the more allusive good sleep is.
People worry about all sorts of things. Some people worry about their salvation, they have believed in Jesus and although Romans 10:9-10 is clear that those who have believed in Jesus ‘will be saved.’ And yet they worry, which just reveals that their trust is focused in the wrong place and on the wrong person.
You and I were not good enough to be saved and we are not good enough to stay saved either! We are saved and justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
Yes, there are a number of hard to understand passages that definitely serve as warnings to us, warning us to ‘remain faithful’ to keep our hearts soft and open to God’s words to us, urging us to persevere to the end…
And yet, we need not worry!
Because if you have put your faith in Jesus, if you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sin, you are justified (declared righteous) on the basis of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, you are adopted as God’s child, you have the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance to come…
In addition to this, you and I who have believed in Jesus have words like these from Jesus Himself;
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
I love this! Jesus gives eternal life, we don’t earn it through our good behaviour. We will not perish because Jesus has given us eternal life. No one can ever snatch us from Jesus’ hand because it is Jesus’ hand, the same hand that holds the universe in the span of His hand! More than that, you and I who have believed are God’s gift to Jesus and no one is greater than God and so no one is able to snatch us from God’s mighty hand!
Sleep well my friend if you have believed in Jesus.
Live your whole life as a passionate, grateful, worshipful response to God’s grace (Romans 12:1-2), live a life that is worthy of the calling (the grace) you have received (Ephesians 4:1) but sleep well! Jesus has got you, the Father has got you! Sleep well.
Do you see the hand of your God? (Joshua 24)
Do you see the hand of your God? In chapter 24, Joshua gathers the nation again and through him God speaks recounting the story of His people’s journey to the present and shot through the whole narrative God keeps pointing to Himself and what He did for His people.
Sixteen times God says; “I….” in only 12 verses of chapter 24! God is taking a highlighter as it were and pointing out a myriad of times and ways that it was God Himself who was acting lovingly, protectively, providing, caring, always faithful to His promises to His people. Joshua points out to God’s people;
- How God called Abraham out of God’s own sovereign free will
- How God gave Abraham a miracle promised son to his barren wife
- How God gave that son a line of sons to fulfill God’s covenant promise to Abraham
- How God provided land for those sons
- How God sent Moses to deliver His people from Egypt
- How God delivered His people by dealing with the super power Egypt
- How God miraculously divided the Red Sea for His people’s deliverance
- How God answered the panicked cry of His people when Egypt pursued them
- How God showed who He really was through His powerful dealings with Egypt
- How God brought His people through the Wilderness protecting & providing for them
- How God gave victory to His people over the Amorites
- How God destroyed their enemies before them, God was their protection
- How God delivered them from the hand of Balaam
- How God took His people into the Promised Land & gave them victory over all people
- How God fought their battles for them in miraculous ways (using hornets one time)
- How God gave His people a land they hadn’t laboured for, cities they didn’t build, farms full of produce they didn’t plant or cultivate…
Do you see the hand of your God in your life?
God is good, all the time, God is good. You might not always see it, understand it, feel it, but it is true. God is at work in your life in a myriad of ways, always has been and always will be. God is faithful, even when we are unfaithful, He cannot be unfaithful, its just not possible, it’s not who He is.
Brother, sister; if you don’t recognise how your life is saturated with the activity of God, then you won’t thank God, and you won’t respond to His love for you with love for Him and worship of Him…
Consider daily, thank God daily for small things worship Him and devote yourself again and again to loving Him & serving Him only in all of life.
God renews the covenant with His people in chapter 24, calls them to respond to His goodness towards them, urging them to love Him only and to forsake anything that would seek to rob them of their faith and love for God.
Joshua warns the people of the sinfulness of the human heart to wander away from God, to be unfaithful, and yet declares that for Him and His household they will serve God (Joshua 24:15).
And Israel served God all the days of Joshua (great leader!) and all the days of the other elders of Israel who served alongside Joshua and outlived him and who knew, who remembered all that God had done for His people. Remembering, recognising God’s hand in our lives is so vital to a life that honours God. So, pause, recognise, remember…
There are two types of tests in life. We will all face them and yet they don’t come with any prior warning or instructions.
They are the test of adversity and the test of prosperity. And both have an inherent default trajectory in terms our relationship with God.
The test of adversity’s trajectory is towards faith in God. Facing adversity, facing circumstances that are clearly beyond our resources our abilities or our understanding tends to lead us towards calling out to God for help, for wisdom and or for breakthrough. And so we see the promise of Romans 8:28 at work in the midst of adversity as we draw nearer to God and as we discover things about God we would never have learnt without these tests. We might not want trials but we do often end up treasuring what is formed in us through them.
The test of prosperity on the other hand has a default trajectory that is away from God. Having the provision we need, having received the things we have prayed for ought to draw us deeper into relationship, faith and gratitude to God (who is the source of those blessings) but from my experience both personally and as a church leader the opposite is in fact often sadly the case.
I wish it were not so but I can confess that my prayer life has often felt more vital and central to my walk with Christ when I am going through adversity.
Just this week I was looking at a group of men from Oasis who meet every week to pray and I started thinking of the guys who were not in the room, guys who had in the past been in the room praying. The pattern was clear, during adversity each one of these men were there regularly but one after another had drifted away from these times of prayer just as God answered prayers for marriages, kids, finances, for businesses, for jobs, for justice in the courtroom…
God knows these two tests and their default trajectories and so he speaks to His people in Deuteronomy 6:10-12 pleading with them warning them not to forget Him in the moment He fulfills the promises He made to them. He warns them of the test of prosperity, the moment after prayers are answered…
“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
God speaks again through Moses in Deuteronomy 8:11-15 appealing to them.
Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness”
Sadly we know the story, we know that God’s people did exactly what God has implored them not to do when they did enter into their Promised land.
Just this past week my Father answered some prayers I have been calling out to Him for. I know that in this moment there is a test – will I allow these answers to overflow in gratitude and praise, will I allow them to fill me afresh with faith in my Father for other areas of life and ministry where huge questions still persist?
Gratitude to God is an amazing thing when it is expressedby us. It honours God as the source of all blessing in our lives and so simultaneously kills pride and the deceit of self-sufficiency and it fills our heart with love for our Father!
By Gareth Bowley
This week I had an experience that has truly caused me to value each day and then I read Romans 16 and I love how Paul takes the time to write to individuals, men and women that he knows and loves, people he has served Christ with and people who are worthy of honour.
Honouring starts with seeing. I love the Zulu greeting “Sawubona” which translated means “I see you”, the greeting is a recognition of the presence of another person and follows with finding out who they are (if unknown) and how they are doing.
Paul was ‘other-focussed’, as leader he wasn’t so focussed on himself or his task that he missed the people around him. I love it that this is a chapter filled with greetings and honouring of specific people for the specific ways they have served God and co-worked with Paul in the churches and in the gospel mission.
Paul couldn’t just call or sms so he wrote while he still could. He didn’t just allow his gratitude to remain private positive thoughts about the 27 people he names here at the conclusion of his letter to the church in Rome, he made it known to them and to others as he honoured them.
What an example!
I have the privilege of leading a church and am surrounded by incredible men and women who share leadership with me out of a common love for Jesus and commitment to His mission!
Someone said that one of the main roles of a leader is – “to say thank you”. I resolve to make the moments, to take the time to see, to look and recognize all the amazing people who are Oasis Church (not just leaders) and to honour them privately and publicly.
Who will you see and honour today?