Sanctification

The Danger of Closed Ears (Hosea 5:1-15)

Posted on Updated on

1*hAqarioLSLUNAOnvl6MdPQ

Hosea Chapter 5 reads like a charge sheet or the pronouncement of the judge of the misdemeanours committed in a court proceeding against Israel/Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom).

The priests, the royal family & the leaders of Israel have led Israel into a snare/trap with their idol worship and their ‘deep slaughter’ (vs2 in ESV might refer to child sacrifice see 2 Kings 17:17).

Israel was so thoroughly gone, so far from God that reconciliation at that point seemed impossible; “Your deeds won’t let you return to your God. You are a prostitute through and through, and you do not know the Lord” (vs4 in NLT).

They might go and seek God to make sacrifices with their livestock, but they will not find God for ‘he has withdrawn from them’ (vs6). Nothing is more terrifying than this! That God removes Himself from us, that He won’t reply any more to our calls. That is the very definition of hell – existence without God, without the possibility of God, listening, without God willing to respond to our cries for mercy, grace or help. Hell, CS Lewis said was a monument to human freedom – people want nothing to do with God and so that is what God eventually gives them.

The leaders of Israel are full of dishonesty, corruption & injustice like those who move their neighbour’s landmarks (stealing land from people) (vs10 in ESV).

And because of all of this the day of judgment is coming, war is coming, and Israel will be reduced to a pile of rubble (vs 9 in NLT), ‘The people of Israel will be crushed and broken by my judgment because they are determined to worship idols.’ (vs11 in NLT). 

When Israel realised the terrible moth-eaten state of her clothes, when they saw that destructive rot had set in to eat away their wooden things (vs12) – they called out for help.

But they did not call out in repentance to God the only One who could truly help them. Rather they sought political & military alliances with surrounding nations to secure protection. They paid money to Assyria (2 Kings 15:19) to buy protection – but these nations, these men can’t help Israel (vs13)! 

We are like this sometimes aren’t we? We have made some mess of our lives, wandered from God, and when we realise our predicament we don’t repent and turn back to God the only One who can truly help us, we make a plan, seek wisdom, solace or solutions from those around us. And yet we know, God is the One we need. Christ Follower, don’t be like Israel was.

Foreign nations will not be able to stop what God has determined. Israel and even later Judah too are going to be punished by God (vs14). God is going to ‘tear them to pieces’ and ‘carry them off’ like a lion does it’s prey (vs15). Israel will be judged, punished and taken off into exile for God has finally declared; ‘enough!’ (see 2 Kings 17). 

And yet even this terrible day that awaits Israel is not the end of the story;

Then I will return to my place until they admit their guilt and turn to me. For as soon as trouble comes, they will earnestly search for me.” (vs15 in NLT)

God is anticipating that judgement will produce repentance in the future and a change of heart and a longing for God again. There is a flicker of hope still as God vs15 hints at God’s desire for this to be restorative justice that will re-unite His people to Him in the future.

What does this mean for you and I today?

  • Remember that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. This judgement of God on Israel was a long time in coming (approximately 200yrs and the reign of 13 kings).
  • God had spoken over and over and over again to Israel through the prophets (2 Kings 17:13-14); however, they would not listen but rather were stubborn in their idolatry and unbelief.
  • Decide today not to be like Israel was! Decide today to listen to the soft inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, the whispers of God through your own Bible reading and listening to Bible-based preaching, listen and repent, turn back to God when He whispers to you. Because if you don’t listen to the private whispers, God will eventually raise the volume and what was private will become more and more public.
  • What’s God been trying to whisper to you about that you’ve maybe been shutting your ears too? Speak to God now, repent now, return to Him the only One who can truly help.

The Secret of Contentment (Philippians 4:10-20)

Posted on Updated on

photo_d

Contentment is a rare thing. We are bombarded by a myriad of multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns that reach into every nook and cranny of our conscious lives. These campaigns have saturated our senses with images and taglines all carefully designed to breed discontentment to fuel sales.

And so, whatever device or vehicle or shoe or item of clothing we have or holiday we had is quickly superseded by a new one we now desire.

Against this background, from prison, Paul’s statement strikes a stark contrast;

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

Wow! As we have seen before in Philippians, it is the “whatever” that makes this sentence remarkable. It is easy to be content in good situations or in blessed situations – therefore ‘whatever’ is code for being content in bad situations.

Before you rock back and think this is impossible for me, note that Paul wrote that this had been a process for him. He had ‘learned’ how to be content in whatever situation he found himself in. This was something he had grown in as he followed Jesus.

How content are you at the moment? What is causing you to experience discontentment? Not just materially, but in the stage of life, you are in?

How might God want you to grow, to learn to be content in that situation? How might God want to mature you, or grow your character in the situation you are in right now?

Paul could testify that he had learnt to be content in plenty and in lack – but how? What was his secret?

 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

The secret Paul had learnt, was to tap into the empowering presence of God in all circumstances in his life. God, in him, was enough. The awareness of God’s presence with him was the single biggest X-factor that enabled him to endure all things with contentment.

It’s not written here outright, but the sub-text of this section is Paul’s underlying resolute trust in the sovereignty of God. He believed that God had either brought about the circumstances he was presently facing or God had allowed them to happen – God was not having any crisis meetings to work out what to do next; instead the plan and purpose of God was relentlessly moving forward even when he could not understand it or see how it was doing so.

We see this belief and trust in his statement in vs19 and his worship in vs20.

19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen

The Unequal Team (Philippians 2:12b-18)

Posted on Updated on

River-Stream-Paddle-Canoe-Son-Free-Image-Father-Ka-9240

I love the glorious and unequal harmony of Philippians 2:12b-13. These precious verses reveal an unequal team that collaborates to accomplish something of great significance – our sanctification.

We are unequal partners, like a father and a small child in a rowing boat. We are partners. We each have an indispensable role and responsibility for progress. And yet our Father in heaven has the greater responsibility and commitment to our progress. 

We are to work out our life response to the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus – this is our responsibility (vs12b).

And yet we do so, knowing that God is working within us — working in the realm of our desires, causing us to want to live in such a way that we please God (vs13).

Both oars are in the water pulling, but we would never hope to make any progress if it were not for the work of God in our hearts changing our very desires so that we begin to want what God wants more and more.

On the back of this confidence that God is at work within every believer, Paul commands the Philippian believers to; “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (vs14). This is only possible through the enabling work of the Holy Spirit, changing us from the inside out.

We are to embrace life and life’s circumstances free from the quiet murmerings of discontent (‘grumbling’) and free from more public debate and arguments (‘disputes’). We are urged to live in such a way so that we might be blameless, known for our innocence as believers in Jesus – God’s children.

Merely seeking to work out obedience to this one command contained in vs14 will make us extra-ordinary people to those around us.  

Grumbling and moaning are like national sports in South Africa at the moment. But we are not to be like this as God’s children.

We are also to avoid public spats, disputes that do nothing to advance the cause of Christ. Social media posts and comments that have no real building potential come to mind.

We are to be those who shine amid great darkness, those who shine like stars amid a crooked and twisted generation. We are called to be different, to be holy as God enables us and places within us the desire to please Him.

We live this way by holding ‘fast to the word of life’ (vs16). God’s word is our road map, our guiding light as we navigate through life seeking to honour God in all we do as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (vs12b).

Questions for Reflection:

  • How does seeing your role & God’s role in your sanctification in vs12b-13 change your understanding of progress in sanctification (becoming more and more like Jesus)?
  • Is there anything you have been grumbling about or disputing that you feel God is wanting to speak to you about from this passage? What is God saying He wants from you?
  • In what ways do you feel God wants you to shine amidist the darkness around you? What is God challenging you to do, or to stop doing so as to shine?

Confidence! (Philippians 1:1-11)

Posted on Updated on

getty_527531592_359640

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!

Help as you Change (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Posted on

47871-desperate-woman-prayer-1200.1200w.tn

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) 

Spend some time marinating in these two verses!

What is being promised here that will produce godly hope and assurance in us? Who is doing the heavy lifting here? What is our role in our own sanctification (our continual changing more and more into the likeness of Jesus)?

Don’t rush, read these verses again and again. Let the truth in them assure you of God’s commitment to your holiness. You are not on your own as you seek to please God by growing in Christlikeness (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

Pray now and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh, and rest in the knowledge that your personal growth in godliness is something God is totally committed to according to these verses – you are not alone!

What do you rejoice in? (Romans 5:1-5)

Posted on Updated on

colombia_fans_bogota_world_cup_8ky32wkj_d4qgiep5

What types of things get your joy-juice flowing?
And what form does your rejoicing take?

In popular culture, the most common public expressions of joy are often supporters arms aloft, jumping, hugging strangers and yelling because their team scored.

I have the joy of serving with a fantastic fellow elder, Sibongiseni Dlamini who simply cannot contain himself in certain moments in church life. He can not stop his feet and arms from doing a little high-speed mini-dance at certain times. Like when he sees God at work in someone’s life, or that moment in one of our church services (www.recroadchurch.co.za) when a diverse crowd of Christ followers is passionately worshipping God’s name all in unison or when someone comes to faith in Christ – pure joy!

What do you rejoice in?

In Romans 5:1-5, Paul mentions two but lists four things we rejoice in as Christ followers.

1. We are at peace with God
2. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God
3. We rejoice in our sufferings
4. We rejoice that God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit

1. We rejoice because we are at peace with God

May we never tire of rejoicing in the wonder and goodness of our salvation – that God has justified the ungodly (Romans 4:5). We were saved FROM the consequences of our sin, but we were saved FOR relationship with God and access into His presence continually.

Those who have been declared righteous by God because of their faith in Jesus now are in a position of ‘having peace with God’. We were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10), but now we have been reconciled to a right relationship with Almighty God.

More than this as we will discover in later in Romans 8 we are granted the privilege of being adopted as the children of God because of our faith in Jesus (John 1:12) and therefore we have free access into the presence of the Holy God, calling out “Daddy” as we come to him (Romans 8:14-17).

When they were young (and to some degree still today) my children never asked if they could please interrupt me by bashing open my office door or bedroom door! If they wanted me, they came in without hesitation. They were confident and secure that whatever I might have been focused on was not as important as they were.

Come like that, rejoicing that you are at peace with God because you have been declared righteous (justified) by the grace of Jesus. Come knowing this is where you belong.

2. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God

We rejoice knowing that we are not what we once were (‘sinners’ & ‘enemies of God’) and that we are not all that we will one day be! The best is yet to come. Although we have access into our Holy Father’s presence already, there is greater unlimited access & proximity to come in the new heaven and the new earth when this will happen;

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new..Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 21:1-5 & Revelation 22:20)

This is our hope. Unrestricted eternal access in the presence of God living in a new earth where all of the damage of sin and death and suffering has been eradicated! It’s hard to imagine, but it is our eternal and sure hope which we rejoice in. The future is very, very bright for the believer in Jesus.

3. We rejoice in our sufferings

Oooooh. This seems to be the odd one out. Seriously is there not a typo here? The most challenging word here is the word “knowing” in verse 3. Paul expects the believer in Jesus to rejoice in sufferings because they know something. Do you KNOW it? You need to KNOW it before you’re in it because once you’re in some suffering/pressure/hardship that will not be the right to try to get to KNOW this thing that Paul assumes you KNOW.

We rejoice in our sufferings because we KNOW;

1. That although in this age we suffer because of the sin of others, and because of the effects of the fall all around us in our bodies, creation & society around us. We know that Jesus is both with us in it, and ultimately is coming back to make all things new!

We know that; “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

2. We also rejoice in our sufferings in that we know that they are not outside of the loving, sovereign control of our Heavenly Father who will use even the worst things, even sinful things to shape us more and more into His likeness and show us His love for us. We KNOW that suffering with a right perspective (Hebrews 12:10-11) results in us developing the muscle of endurance. A muscle which can only grow with the resistance training of hardship. We also KNOW that endurance produces authentic character in us, Christ-like godliness, which is only formed under pressure. And lastly, we KNOW that godly character results in a view of the world that is filled with hope because we are convinced of what Scripture says about the future coming age of Christ.

It is only possible to rejoice in sufferings if you KNOW God is still in control, if you KNOW God loves you, if you KNOW your loving Father is able to work through all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), if you KNOW that this suffering has some purpose & that it will end and be swallowed up by eternal life to come and superseded by glory!

4. We rejoice that God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit

We rejoice because God the Father loves us with a love that is purer, deeper and more powerful than anything else in all creation. And we rejoice because this love has been given to us, not in some small measure, it hasn’t been rationed to us, it has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit! So rejoice, that you get to drink deeply of the love of God, by at any time inviting the Holy Spirit to overwhelm you again and again with the fullness of God’s love.

We have so much to rejoice in!

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)!