Sin

Walk in a manner worthy of God (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

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shutterstock_774641692_1078_375_s_c1“For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

Spend time contemplating this phrase; ‘walk in a manner worthy of God’. The Christian life is a journey; it’s a road we walk. And according to this passage, how we walk really matters.

So spend some time now and ask God whether there is anything in the way you’re walking, in how you’re living that is not honouring to God. David used to do this by praying these words; 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalms 139:23-24 in NLT)

Why not spend some time reflecting and praying that prayer and if God shows you anything in your walk that is not worthy of God, then just repent of it, turn away from it, stop it and ask God to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and then walk free, and keep walking to honour God with your whole life.

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Discontentment (Numbers 16)

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Discontentment is dangerous. The anthem of our age is self-determination. You can be whoever or whatever you determine!

The deep root of this is often nothing less than discontentment with the way God’s created you (sex, shape, temperament, etc.), gifted you and where God’s placed you.

But the story of Scripture is filled with God’s glorious and detailed design for people’s lives. Right from Adam and Eve, Moses, Aaron & Miriam, all those filled with a spirit of skill (Exodus 28:3) the different tribes of Israel with various assignments and roles and the family of Aaron the priests. We could go on through Scripture, finding the same pattern repeated.

However, it is hard to find anyone in Scripture who is on a personal journey of self-determination or self-discovery. But, Scripture records countless people discovering who they are in God and finding their purpose within His purposes for them.

In Numbers 16, God had chosen Moses & Aaron and given them leadership over His people (Exodus 3-4). God had also chosen Korah (part of the Levites set apart to minister in the tabernacle see Numbers 1:47-54) for a specific role.

But Korah was discontented. Possibly even jealous of Moses & Aaron’s role. His discontent festered to the point that he shared it, spread it and raised a rebellious rabble against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1-3).

Discontentment is hardly ever a private thing. Discontentment often fixates on one thing emphasising it at the expense of other things that are also true. Korah effectively said we are all equal; “all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them” (Numbers 16:3). And that was true, God’s people were all equally set-apart for God, and yet God had assigned specific roles to individuals, including Moses and Aaron.

Korah accused Moses and Aaron of appointing and exalting themselves as leaders over God’s people. But was Korah not present when God’s people similarly moaned at Moses in Numbers 14 and wanted to appoint their own leader to take them back to Egypt & God? When God then appeared and killed the ten spies? Was Korah not aware of when Aaron & Miriam had opposed Moses? And God had spoken to them saying; “Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:8) and Miriam became leprous? Discontentment blinds us to what we know.

Discontentment robs us of joy and empties of us of thanks to God. Korah was part of the Levitical tribe appointed to serve in the ministry of the tabernacle – they had a significant role to play in helping the whole people of God to worship. But his discontentment had blinded him to this honoured special role and robbed his joy, making him ambitious and jealous.

And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?” (Numbers 16:8-11)

Discontentment closes our ears to reason. Moses reminds Korah of the special place and role God had assigned to them and pointed out that their discontentment is actually directed at God, not Moses or Aaron!

But Korah would not relent and assembled his rabble against Moses the next day by the tent of meeting (vs19). And then…

What happened next is like a Sci-Fi movie which is hard to get one’s head around. God appears in His glory (vs19) and then warns others to step back from these rebellious ones (vs23-26). And then the earth opens up and swallows them all alive and fire comes down from heaven and consumes the 250 offering their incense (vs31-36)!

Discontentment is dangerous.

In what ways are you prone to being discontent? What do you grumble about regarding who you are, what you’re good at?

Psalm 139:14 declares that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ by God and Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship! God has perfectly formed us for an assigned purpose/role; “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Note that it is God who made us, it is God who shaped us perfectly for His own God-assigned roles in life that are good. We do not self-determine according to Scripture.

So, may we learn the secret of contentment! Discontentment is dangerous, but godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).

Take to God any discontentment you have harboured and repent of it.

If you have imbibed the poisonous modern thoughts of self-determination then repent of those.

Ask God to help you accept how He has made you and the roles in life He has assigned to you. Ask God to help you find joy and contentment in these so that you will know great joy and God will be glorified.

Strange but gracious (Numbers 5:11-31)

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Unjust accusations. Who hasn’t felt the powerlessness of allegations made or words spoken that are not true? What a horrible feeling to not be able to clear one’s name or to alter people’s ill-formed impression of you.

Lingering doubts, on the other hand, can gnaw away at us. We might want to trust the person in question but we can’t ignore our suspicions even though we know they are not verified with proof.

These are the types of situations God’s gracious but foreign and strange command to Moses covers in this passage.

Imagine your husband has suspicions regarding you that you can’t disprove. Imagine you have doubts about your spouse that gnaw away at you and are damaging your relationship.

This strange Old Testament practice of the ‘test for adultery’ made a way for the husband to either remove doubts and suspicions or to have the truth revealed. Yet, it also made a way for their spouse to be cleared of suspicion or to face the consequences of their sin.

In this process, we see God’s protection for both the husband and the wife. If she is not guilty she will be vindicated; shame will be cleared, suspicion gone. If she was guilty but had been deceptive, the guilt will be exposed, which then protects the husband.

Sin is always hurtful; it damages relationships. He will be hurting her if he continues to suspect her falsely, hurting her by not trusting her. She would be hurting him if she had sinned and been deceptive. This process instituted by God sought to provide a way of dealing with sin, with accusation or with the doubts due to sin or potential sin.



It is worth noting that both men and women caught in adultery would have both been guilty! It is not just the woman but both who would have been sentenced to death for their serious sin. (Deuteronomy 22:22)

Adultery, as with all sexual sin, is very serious in God’s eyes. So, we ought not to set our moral thermostat by the culture of our day but let it be re-sensitised by the Word of God.

 From this, we also learn that there are no secrets before God; God knows the secret sins that no one else knows about. God, who sees all will ultimately judge all.

The passage ends affirming that the one who asked his wife to consent to the ‘test for adultery’ will be innocent of any wrongdoing for being jealous and needing confirmation or alleviation of his doubts, whereas the guilty one would then bear the consequences of that sin.

A strange yet gracious and no longer relevant practice instituted by God to remove suspicions & to clear the innocent with God as the witness but also to deal with sin.

What can we learn, what ought we to do?

God cares for relationships. God wants clarity in relationships, clear air, suspicions removed. So talk openly and honestly with each other. God defends the innocent and vindicates them. Sin is damaging to relationships! The covenant of marriage really matters. God punishes sin, so repent of sin and be forgiven and set free to sin no more, to hurt no more but to please God.

Love Demonstrated (Romans 5:6-11)

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We sinned, Jesus died. Why did Jesus do this for you and me? Could it be that we were somehow worthy of this incredibly selfless act? Paul is at pains to show that we did not merit this act of selfless love. He describes the state we were in at the point when Jesus chose to die for us in four ways;
– we were utterly helpless, unable to help ourselves (vs6)
– we were ungodly/wicked/irreverent (vs6)
– we were sinners entrenched in our rebellion against God (vs8)
– we were the enemies of God (vs10)

How worthy were we of this selfless act on the part of Jesus?
Totally unworthy!

Jesus died for us ‘at just the right time’. Waiting any longer would not have helped matters. We were not going to improve our situation with more time none of the four characteristics Paul used to describe us would have changed with more time. But, what made it just the right time?

Jesus’ coming was preceded by the entire history of the people of God, the choosing of Abram, the covenant and the promises, the formation of a people, the exile, the giving of the Law & the system of atonement for sins & worship, the journey to the Promised Land, Israel’s rejection of God as King followed by one failed king after another, Israel’s continued cyclic disobedience and God’s grace & mercy and forgiveness & God’s sending multiple prophets to speak to His people of another era to come & more specifically of the coming Messiah God’s King of kings – all this made the timing of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death & resurrection just the right time.

Jesus’ coming to die in our place for our sin wasn’t just at the right time it was the primary demonstration of the love of God! (vs8)

The cross of Christ is the zenith of the demonstration of God’s love for you and me. Yes, we feel loved when there is an answer to some prayer of ours, or we feel God’s protection or provision or blessing. But these are secondary demonstrations of the love of God; nothing can compare with the cross as the ultimate expression of His love for us. Later in the letter, Paul will use this same argument, saying if God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, how much more will God not then also along with giving us Jesus give us all these other little things we need (Romans 8:32).

Don’t ever wonder whether God loves you – Jesus died on the cross for you! He did this while you were still an ungodly, helpless, sinner, who was His enemy! And now that you are no longer ungodly but righteous, no longer a sinner but a saint, no longer an enemy but a reconciled son or daughter of God & now that you are no longer helpless but have the Holy Spirit as your Helper – how much more will God not pour His love into your life (vs6)?

So when circumstances appear to shout that God doesn’t love you when your enemy the deceiver shouts God doesn’t have your best interests at heart (just like he did to Adam and Eve) – don’t listen, look again at the cross of Christ. Ponder what Jesus did for you while you were his enemy. Know that He loves you with an everlasting love and that this tough or confusing situation can’t mean that God doesn’t love you because nothing can unravel the zenith of God’s love demonstrated for you on the cross.

Friend, the future is impossibly bright for the believer. If you consider how God treated you while you were His enemy, can you imagine how God will overwhelm you now with His love since you have been reconciled back into right relationship with Him! (vs 9-11)

To underline his point, even more, Paul contrasts the results of the death of Jesus and the life of Jesus. Since the result of Jesus’ death that we were reconciled back to a right relationship with God, how much more shall our lives be healed & restored and our relationship with God be deepened as a result of Jesus’ resurrection life! Jesus resurrection life is what makes Jesus what Hebrews calls, the guarantor of a better covenant;

“This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25)

Because of Jesus’ eternal life, He is able to save us to the uttermost, to save us completely. And because of this, we rejoice!

The Bad News (Romans 3:1-20)

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Remember that the apostle Paul is helping this multi-cultural church in Rome deal with their unity in diversity. In Romans 2, Paul argued that God shows no partiality, all people are equal before Him (Romans 2:11).

So the question arises in Jewish Christian’s minds potentially – is there any value in being Jewish anymore? (Romans 3:1).

Oh yes! Replies Paul to his rhetorical question. “Much in every way.” (3:2)

After all, the Jewish people were entrusted with the word of God, with the prophecies of God – they were God’s special people. Now if you know the story, Israel had a bad history of unfaithfulness to God, but God is faithful, and so God will still be faithful to His promises made to His people (3:3-4). In one sense, the unfaithfulness of God’s people helps one to see the contrasting faithfulness of God (3:5)!

But then could one say that God is unrighteous in holding people to account for their sin since their sin shows off his righteousness? (3:5)
“By no means!” (3:6) Such talk is silly and hollow – says Paul.

He then comes back to the theme of Romans 1-2, that all of humanity is in the same terrible predicament before the Holy God – “both Jews and Greeks (and all other people), are under sin.” (3:9) In fact;

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (3:10-12)

What a bleak pronouncement! God is Holy, and we are not! No one, not even one person is holy. Everyone has turned aside from God, rejected Him. Our words are like poison, and we are prone to horrific acts of violence, we are on a miserable path away from God having no fear or proper respect for Him. (3:13-18).

More than this, no one can say anything in their defence regarding this dreadful pronouncement. There is no hope outside of the law, and there is no hope in trying to keep the law because no one can keep the whole law and hence be justified in the sight of the Holy God (3:20).

Now unsurprisingly, passages like this are not our favourites. But to disregard them is to undermine the majesty of our salvation and the wonder of God’s grace.

That’s because it’s only against the dark backdrop of our terrible sin, hopelessness and the wrath of God that’s coming against such sin (Romans 1:18), that the grace and mercy of God in salvation can be seen in all its wonder and glory.

So what does a passage like this mean for you and I today? See yourself there included in the “all” who have sinned, in the “no ones” of vs 10-18 and then thank and praise God that Jesus lived the perfect life you and I can not live and then died in our place for our sin! Praise Him for stepping in as the substitute, thank Him that you will never face the wrath of God that is coming against sin because He did for you…

Tomorrow we will begin to explore the wonder of God’s solution.

The Slide to ungodliness (Romans 1:18-31)

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Here at the beginning of Romans, Paul is going to outline the BAD NEWS. Essentially, God is holy, and yet we are not. Such is the universal problem of humankind, which is described in Romans 1:18-32, and this is my paraphrase of it.

God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness & wickedness in humanity. (vs18)

Humans in their wickedness have suppressed the truth about God. To suppress something is to know something and to hide it or bury it, to suppress something is not ignorance but an active decision. (vs18)

No one has any excuse; no one can claim ignorance since there is enough revelation in creation about who God is – God’s eternal power & divine nature – ‘so they are without excuse’. (vs19-20)

Rather than acknowledge God, although they knew about God, they have not honoured God as they should, more than this; they have also not given thanks to Him as they ought to. (vs21)

The result of this ungodly thinking is that those who suppress the truth about God become futile in their thinking. After all, all thought that denies God is ultimately empty and meaningless. The flicker of light that was in them, allowing them to see, has been snuffed out and replaced by darkness (vs21).

Although they claim to be wise, they have, in fact, become fools because of their active suppression of the truth about God that they knew. (vs22)

And like fools, they went further and exchanged the authentic glory of the immortal God for pathetic images of mortal human beings and other created things! It’s a choice that makes no sense at all. (vs23)

And so as a result of this suppression of the truth and this voluntary exchange of God’s glory for pitiful things – God responds by giving them over to the very things they have pursued. God allows them to follow the trajectory they have chosen. (vs24)

Wrong thinking leads to wrong living. The rejection of the truth and the rejection of the one true God as Lord results in a rejection of God’s morality. This rejection then leads to lustful impurity & the dishonouring of their bodies with one another. All of this happens because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie & worshipped that which is not to be worshipped rather than worshipping the One who ought to be worshipped. Wrong thinking leads to wrong living. (vs 24-25)

And so God gave them over to dishonourable passions, God allowed them to follow the moral trajectory they had chosen for themselves resulting in all manner of distortions to sex and sexuality the way God had intended for it to be. (vs26-27)

And since they chose to ignore God totally, God gave them up to a depraved way of thinking, which leads to a depraved way of behaving. As a result, they began to do what ought not to be done. So, they slid into all manner of sins; “covetousness, malice… envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness… gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (vs29-31)

Such people behave in such despicable ways even though they know what God has declared; that those who practice such things deserve to die. They act as though God never said that or that it will never really happen and so they not only do such things but give approval to those who practice them. (vs32)

These words written in the first century AD are as fresh and as relevant today as they ever have been. May you and I never be those who suppress the truth that we know about God, may we be those whose thinking is shaped by the timeless authority of Scripture and not by the transient fads of culture.

Temptation (James 1:12-15)

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In James 1, trials of any and every kind have been in view. One specific type of trial is the trial that comes through the temptation to sin.

We are prone to blaming others when we face difficulty, Eve did it, Adam did it – James urges us not to blame God when we feel tempted (vs13) but to realise that the temptation we are feeling comes from within us.

Temptation comes from our enemy (Luke 4:2&13), but his temptation is targeted at a pre-existing desire within us. We know this to be true from personal experience. What is tempting to one person is not tempting at all to another.

Take, for example, delicious roast beef that has just been removed from the oven, with the crusty bit just shouting out to be sampled before dinner. For some, this would be an irresistible temptation, but for the vegetarian, it isn’t tempting at all but that freshly chopped carrot drizzled in cream cheese dressing is!

This is what James is getting at in James 1:14-15. We are tempted when the devil matches some promise of fulfilment with a pre-existing desire within us. We are enticed, lured into the trap of that temptation by the desire within us that the temptation promises to fulfil or satisfy.

In that sense, the temptation is not from outside of us, but from within us. Ever since Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation in the garden, we have been born with misplaced desires, or with desires that are meant to be satisfied in God alone but that short-circuit and get us into all sorts of pain and trouble when we seek to satisfy them with created things.

The word picture James utilises is that of birth. A misplaced desire looking to be satisfied in anything but God alone gives birth to sinful actions, but when that sin grows up fully, it results not in fulfilment but in death of some sort.

We need to pray not just that we would be able to say “NO” to temptation but rather that our desires would change.

One of the keys to defeating the power of temptation in your life and in mine is to ask God to replace our old desires with new Godly ones. Ask God to redeem our misplaced desires, seeking to be satisfied in God, not other things.

One of the ways we cooperate in this process of transformation is by renewing our minds through a devotion to Scripture which in turn helps us to know what God’s will for our lives is, and knowing what is good and acceptable for us as Christ Followers (Romans 12:2).

Application

  • What are your strongest desires (List your top 3)?
  • How might the devil tempt you, matching something appealing or promising satisfaction for that desire?
  • In what way is GOD the only real person who can satisfy that desire?
  • Pray & repent and or ask God to help you seek to be satisfied in Him alone