Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the riddle of the Old Testament really.  

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

Enough! (2 Kings 17)

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After a period of nearly 200yrs since Jeroboam’s succession from Judah, the northern tribes of Israel are eventually conquered by the Assyrians and deported into exile (2 Kings 17:6).  Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the writers of Scripture are very keen to make it plain as to why this happened.

“And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God…and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel…” (2 Kings 17:7-8)

This was an event that came about not because of bad military or political strategy (although the passage reveals there were mis-steps made), Scripture attributes the source of the capitulation and capture of Israel by Assyria as being God Himself as the active agent.

The whole of the chapter reads like a charge sheet being read out in a court room, the list of charges against the accused, the guilty one; 

      • You have sinned against your God who brought you out of Egypt and into this Promised Land
      • You walked in the customs of the nations whom I judged and drove out before you
      • You followed wicked evil kings who lead you into sin
      • You built for yourself your own places of worship, altars to false gods & served idols
      • You did wicked things before me, and made sacrifices to these false gods
      • You provoked me to anger (says God)
      • I warned you again and again through the prophets, but you would not listen and were stubborn (vs13-14)
      • You did not believe
      • You despised my commands
      • You even burned your sons & daughters as worship to false gods provoking me to righteous anger

And because of this the judgement comes; 

18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only… 20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight. (2 Kings 17:18&20)

23…the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. (2 Kings 17:23)

Yes, God is ‘slow to anger and abounding in love’ (Exodus 34:6) but that does not mean that eventually God will not say; ‘enough!’  God was patient, forbearing with Israel but eventually love for all those sinned against, all those who lost loved ones, love for all those babies sacrificed to false gods looked like God judging sin.  God had appealed again and again, urged them to turn from their wickedness – but they refused to with hard stubborn hearts.

So what can we learn from this for our lives?

May we not ever trust our hearts, which are so prone to lead us astray from serving the living God.  May we hold on to His words, will and ways laid out for us in Holy Scripture.  May we never tamper with His Word and make our own false gods suitable to our fancies and our modern culture’s preferences.  May we repent when and if we have sinned against Him, and may we worship our Holy God with holy reverence and as our loving response to all the love He has poured out to us through the gift of His precious Son, Jesus.

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

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In what is a long section of brutal narrative… 

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

What can we learn from this for our lives?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little cameo’s like;

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

What can we learn for our lives?

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

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

Showdown (1 Kings 18)

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It’s been three years since Elijah told Ahab and Israel that there would be no rain until he said so… God tells Elijah to go to king Ahab.

On seeing him Ahab exclaims; “Is it you, you troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17) This is an important little moment – who is responsible for the suffering in the land? Is it Elijah’s fault because he spoke and the rain stopped? Or is it Ahab’s fault because of his sin?

Elijah greets Ahab back with the following retort; “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.” (1 Kings 18:18). Scripture makes it clear, the famine is the result of God’s judgement on the gross sin and idol-worship of Ahab, his foreign wife Jezebel and his predecessor’s.

Ahab might be king, but Elijah is calling all the shots! Elijah instructs Ahab to gather all of Israel and the 950 prophets of Baal and Asherah who eat at his wife’s table (1 Kings 18:19) at Mount Carmel. Elijah inspired by God, wants a showdown to help Israel choose whom they will worship.

Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

Compromise and double-mindedness is massively offensive to God. The Ten Commands start; “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments…” (Exodus 20:1-6)

God wants His people to choose. Either God is God, or Baal is God but they can’t both be God, because God makes an exclusive claim on being God and so makes a rightful jealous call for devoted and exclusive worship and trust. Elijah asks the people to choose therefore, but they remain silent, they say nothing, refuse to choose (1 Kings 18:21).

The stage is set and Elijah (still calling the shots and making demands on the king) tells the 450 prophets of Baal to make an altar, place an offering on it and then to pray for fire… The prophets of Baal cry out for Baal to answer them for hours from ‘morning to noon’ for Baal to send fire.

“But there was no voice, and no one answered” (1 Kings 18:26) “And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation (evening sacrifice), but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:29)

Poignant! No reply, nothing because Baal like all other false-gods is nothing, man made nonsense that can say and do nothing.

Then Elijah makes an altar like theirs, but does even more than them by dousing his altar and offering with copious amounts of water to underline the sign and wonder that’s about to happen.

Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36-39)

The One true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel and Elijah is personal, He speaks and guides and instructs and answers prayer – He alone is God and worthy of trust & worship. He is the God they should have chosen when Elijah challenged them to make up their minds. Now, on the evidence before them, with this contrasting display of power and God’s responding to the prayer of his servant – the nation fell on their faces proclaiming the truth about God.

Baal worship has been exposed as futile, Baal’s ‘prophets’ exposed as charlatan’s and therefore executed.

What relevance does this have for your life and mine?

Confidence – God alone is Almighty God awesome in power & majesty and ready to respond to prayer!

Consider – Am I in any way compromising by being double-minded effectively, putting my trust in anything or anyone other than God?

Repent – If you’ve doubted God in any way or been dabbling with the worship/trust of anything other than God, repent and turn back to exclusive worship of God alone.

Tragedy (1 Kings 9-11)

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The man who loved God (1 Kings 3:3), the man God chose to use to finally build Him a dwelling place, the one who had the privilege of fulfilling promises and had promises made to him by God who revealed Himself to him personally twice, the one God blessed by answering his prayers and going beyond just answering into exceeding blessing and peace and prosperity…

That one, did the very thing his dad had warned him not to do, the very thing God had spoken to him twice about directly in a very personal way.  After the overflowing blessing of chapters 9-10, 1 Kings 11 is a tragedy of monumental proportions!

We can be tempted sometimes to think something along lines of; “if only I had…….. then I’d be content”.  Solomon is probably the clearest example in all of Scripture exposes that thinking as false.  

Solomon had God’s favour as a chosen man with destiny, God’s promises, God’s blessing financially, God’s blessing in his role as king with peace in the nation, God’s blessing with wisdom.  More than this he wasn’t single wanting to be married but was married…

And yet he wasn’t satisfied!  That’s because things don’t satisfy us, only God can truly satisfy us.  

Solomon’s desire for more is most clearly expressed in his insatiable lust for women.  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines!  His lust for women blinded his eyes and shut his ears to the words of his father and more expressly the words of God and the commands of God which urged him to follow God’s ways and God’s commandments.  

God had specifically instructed him not to marry foreign women for a specific reason – God knew that they would cause him to compromise and would lead him astray to the worship false gods.  And that is exactly what we discover happening in 1 Kings 11. 

So God eventually swore He would tear the kingdom from Solomon, divide the kingdom into two parts.  Was God not gracious in swearing to do this?  Sometimes we read the Old Testament and make a wrong conclusion that somehow the God depicted in the Old Testament is different to the New Testament- but that is not true.  After all, God didn’t make this pronouncement after the first foreign wife or the second or the third or the 300th or 600th….!

God is is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and yet God is also holy and pure and righteous and He can not leave sin unpunished…

And so the glorious reign of Solomon has a dark lining – it’s a sad end and at the end of his life Solomon himself declares;

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV84)

So sad, what a tumultuous fall from grace and favour!  So what can we learn?  How does this apply to our lives?

If the one guy in Scripture who literally ‘had it all’ wasn’t satisfied by earthly things, by relationships by sex, money and power – do you honestly think you’ll be?

Seek God, find your joy in God, He alone can truly satisfy as God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (Piper).  So don’t be tempted and distracted by temporal things or even the good blessings given to you by God, love God more than anything find your joy in Him.

A warning (1 Kings 3-4)

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Our enemy is patient.  He is happy sometimes to bide his time, he lays down land-mines in our lives (if we let him) but then waits to detonate them at some point in the future when the impact will be greater than it is now.

Solomon becomes king as a young man, he loves God Scripture says, and is even a humble young king at this point (1 Kings 3:7).  But sadly he is already making some wrong choices, disregarding the charge given to him by his father David (1 Kings 2:3) to walk in God’s ways and commandments.

Solomon unwisely, disregards God’s commandment to not marry foreign women.  Through Moses God had warned about not doing this because these foreign wives would cause God’s people to compromise and end up worshipping their false gods (Deuteronomy 7:3-4).  Solomon however marries Pharaoh’s daughter in a political move designed to give him political allies.  

Solomon loves God (1 Kings 3:3) but again he is unwise not paying attention to God’s commandment in Deuteronomy 12:1-8 to not worship or make sacrifices anywhere they pleased but rather to only worship God in the place God had chosen (where the tabernacle was at any given time).  Solomon does exactly what Deuteronomy 12:8 specifically instructs not to be done and makes sacrifices at the ‘high places’ of worship used for worship of other gods (1 Kings 3:3).

The remainder of chapters 3-4 record Solomon’s good request from God and the blessing that flows from this request for wisdom.  God blessed Solomon in incredible ways with wisdom (we see this in his adjudication of the difficult scenario of the two women in 1 Kings 3:16-28), prolific writing and song writing and blessed the whole nation with peace and prosperity.

And yet the seeds of compromise had been sown!  Solomon didn’t know it but his compromise was germinating beneath the surface and would later result in his effective downfall.  Satan is patient, happy to sow sin-seeds and to leave them there for a later time for greater impact.

How many church leaders or prominent people have years later when they have profile been exposed for some thing that was private that they never dealt with which then later becomes public only to destroy them?

So what relevance does this have for your life and mine?

What might there be in your life that seems small to you at the moment but is in fact an area of compromise?

Is there anything in your life that you are tolerating or turning a blind eye to even though you know God’s will for you is contrary?

I urge you to never see sin-seeds as small things, but to see what they become and to deal with them as soon as the Holy Spirit points them out to you.  Remember that Satan is patient, happy to wait for the moment when detonating that land-mine, causing that seed to germinate will have greater impact on you and on others.

But God… (Colossians 2:13-15)

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Although I am a devoted Christ Follower, I am not a good person in and of myself! There are plenty of people who are more loving, more generous, more patient , more kind — than I am sadly. There are far too many times when I don’t like who I have become in this scenario or that one, when I’m provoked or prodded.

But then a passage like this one reminds me, that I was hopeless without Christ. I was more than hopeless, I was DEAD, living breathing but spiritually DEAD before I came to the point of trusting in Jesus and asking Him to be my LORD and Saviour (vs13).

Sometimes we look at people and think they’re ok, they’re not that bad really. But Scripture never allows for that false perspective – outside of Jesus we are all DEAD in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1 & Colossians 2:13), without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12), not one of us is righteous enough (Romans 3:9-12), everyone of us is morally corrupt and bankrupt (Romans 3:23). I was, we were or still are in a bad situation…

But God. “God made us alive together with Him” (vs13)! God forgave us all of our many sins, God cancelled the long list of all my, all our wrongs against Him and against others (vs13). What good news this is for a person like me, like you. God set aside our sin, by nailing it to the cross when God nailed Jesus to the cross, so that Jesus could pay the punishment for our sin (Romans 6:23) so that we could be ransomed, set free from the consequences of our sin.

And so now, I am free from sin’s consequences and I am free to love and obey and follow God, I am not under the control of sin or the devil anymore (like I once was – see Romans 6:15-23) but am under the loving command and control of Jesus Christ my LORD.

I still mess up, but praise God I am forgiven and I am able to continually keep becoming more and more like my LORD and Saviour Jesus, keep becoming more loving, more kind, more generous and patient…

But only because I have been ‘made alive together in Him’ (vs13) and because of that I have the life and the light of Jesus in my life which keeps having the effect of transforming me daily. Thank you Jesus!

Sharp Contrast (John 3:16-36)

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The Gospel explained in three verses.  Verses 16, 18 & 36 of chapter 3 of John’s gospel present a full and clear picture of the Gospel hope that we have in Jesus and the desperate situation of those who reject Jesus.

‘For God so loved the world(vs16)

The good news Jesus introduces here is news that would have been radical to the Jewish hearer – that God so loved, not just Israel but the whole world.   God had foretold of this widening of His blessing to encompass the whole world when He covenanted to bless Abraham and that Abraham in turn would bless all the familes of the earth.  The prophets had prophesied about this too like when Zechariah prophesied about the future incarnation of Christ and the impact this would have on the nations not just Israel;

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord.  And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:10-11)

‘that whoever believes in Him(vs16)

The offer is as wide as can be, it is to anyone, to whosoever.  But the offer is not without condition.  The condition for all people, whoever they are, is that they must believe.  They must have faith in or put their trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

‘should not perish but have eternal life(vs16)

The result of believing in Jesus is that the believer can be assured that they will not be die/perish or be destroyed in the judgement to come but will enter into perpetual/eternal/everlasting/forever life!

‘Whoever believes in Him is not condemned(vs18)

All those who believe in Jesus are not and will not be condemned.  They will not be judged or damned by God the righteous judge.

‘but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God’ (vs18)

In sharp contrast is the current and future position anyone is in who does not believe in Jesus.  There is no nuetral ground here.  Our post-modern pluralistic world likes to make space for and validate every perspective but that is not the teaching of Scripture.  As inclusive as the ‘whoever’ is positively in vs16, that same ‘whoever’ is now inclusive of all who do not believe.

All who do not believe are at this very moment condemned by God!  They are in the most dangerous position imaginable right now and will be into eternity if there is no change.  They will be damned by God because they rejected God’s only Son whom God lovingly sent to save them from their sinful condition and consequences.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.’ (vs36)

Re-iterating what He has already said, Jesus repeats the wide offer that anyone may believe in Him and that those who believe already have in this life entered into the eternal life only He can give us.   The Christ follower is not waiting for something that is only future but enters into real life now in this present age already.

However, again in sharp contrast whoever disbelieves/not believes/is disobedient/obeys not/is unbelieving will not experience this life that’s possible now or into eternity because their position is that the justifiable righeous indignation of the Holy One remains on them now and forever.

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All are invited to believe, all who believe will be forgiven and be given life eternal now and forevermore all because of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, because of the love of Father God.  And yet not all will believe, and those who reject Jesus are right now in this present moment condemned already and have the wrath of God focussed on them.

May we who have already believed, tirelessly take this kind offer God’s made to ALL so that whoever believes will be forgiven, saved & will receive everlasting life now and forever.

How to handle persistent sin (2 Thessalonians 3:6-18)

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prayer-churches

How should a community of believers (a church) treat someone in their community who is persistently disregarding the clear instructions on how to live a God honouring life?

These people Paul is referring to have been persistently disregarding the apostles teaching on what a right response to the gospel looks like in life.  This person or group of people had already been urged to change through his first letter (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and are disregarding the life modelled by the apostles (vs7-8) & the apostles teaching (vs10).

So how should we handle such a person, where there is disregard for the clear will of God in terms of some serious misbehaviour?  2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 gives us five practical guidelines on when, why and how discipline should be exercised:

(These 5 points are inspired by John Stott’s commentary on Thessalonians)

  1. The need for discipline arises when there is consistent deliberant disobedience to the plain teaching of Scripture.  The issue is not ignorance regarding God’s will, but a disregard for God’s will and a disregard of the appeals of the community of faith.
  1. The nature of the discipline which was required by the apostle was a measure of social exclusion because softer approaches had been disregarded already by the person(s).  Discipline should start soft and private, but becomes more more insistent and public in nature if people persist in their disobedience to God’s revealed will. Persistent unreported of disobedience should result in some degree of exclusion (‘not to be associated with’ see vs6 & 14), the congregation was to ‘take note of that person’ and together to not ‘mingle or associate with’ them (vs14).  The phrase used can have differing degrees of exclusion, ranging from total separation (as in 2 Corinthians 5:9-13) to more moderate avoidance of free and familiar fellowship (as at Thessalonica) according to John Stott.
  1. The responsibility for administering discipline to a persistent offender belongs to the congregation as a whole. Paul does not address his instructions merely to the elders of the Thessalonian church.  Leaders may need to take the initiative, but then a corporate response is needed by the whole church membership.
  1. The spirit in which discipline is to be administered must be friendly, not hostile. It is to be done ‘gently’ (see Galatians 6:1-2).  In 2 Thessalonians we find the apostle saying; ‘Do not regard him as an enemy’ (15a) rather the spirit here is to, ‘warn him as a brother’ (15b).
  1. The purpose of this discipline is positive and constructive. Although being excluded will result in shame (vs14b), the intention however is not destructive but meant to cause the person(s) to come to their senses, see the seriousness of their sin and repent.  John Stott says; “Paul’s intention is not that he be excluded from the community, but reinstated in it.”  We remember that Jesus’ instructions on this matter was that our desire should be that we could win our brother/sister back, be reconciled (Matthew 18:15-17)!

What does God want?(2) (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)

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[If you didn’t read yesterday’s devotional I would urge you to look first at part (1)…]

When you think about your salvation, God’s having chosen to save you from your sins, have you ever paused to think ‘why’?  Why did God save you?  What was God wanting?

We know that God went to extreme lengths in order to rescue us from our sin, but why did God do it.  Our salvation cost Jesus His life as He chose to lay it down for us, our salvation cost the Father immensely too as the Father willingly punished His one and only beloved Son in our place and for our sin – so why did God do it?

Every person who has believed in Jesus was called by God out of darkness and into Jesus’ marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).  But what did God have in mind when He called each one of us?

We know already from 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that God’s will for each one of us is that we be pure/holy like God Himself is.  Now in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 we learn that;

“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

When the God considered our sin-state, our brokeness and considered His great love for us and His desire to have us with Him forever…

When God determined to save us, to redeem us by giving Himself to save us from Himself and His righteous holy wrath against sin…

We know from these two verses (vs3&7) of 1 Thessalonians that what was in God’s heart, in God’s mind for us whom He was choosing to save at great cost, was that God wanted us to be holy/pure.

God called us not to be impure but rather to be pure/holy like He is holy.  He wanted this so much, He sent His own Son, Jesus wanted this so much He endured the cross scorning its shame!

So, brothers and sisters, when we live impure, unholy, sin-stained, compromised lives we are grieving God, trampling on Jesus’s costly life-sacrifice.  We are not just doing something small and meaningless we are grieving God and are choosing to live against the will of God.

And this is why this passage contains some strong warning language;

8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 

Whoever disregards what God wants from those He chose and called to save, those Jesus chose to die for makes a big error of judgement.  Such a person is not merely disregarding human traditions or ethical standards or expectations but is in fact disregarding God who not only gave us Jesus but also gave us His indwelling Holy Spirit to help us to be holy as He desires us to be.

So, let’s not take sin lightly.  Let’s not ignore what God wants from those He called, those He chose and those He paid the price for.  Let’s respond to God’s incredible kindness and mercy towards us who believe by living lives worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1).

Is your will & God’s will aligned?

What might need to change when you consider what God wants?

Speak to God now about those things.

Sin is never private (Joshua 7)

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Emotions must have been running high, God’s people had obeyed God even though His battle strategy was weird, and God had caused them to overcome at Jericho, the first victory won.  God had given clear instructions on what to destroy and what could be kept and for what purpose.  Israel’s armies obeyed, except for one man!

In chapter 7 we read how God’s people, buoyed with courage launch themselves at the next challenge as they begin to take possession of the land God gave them.  But surprisingly to them they get routed, sustain losses and are defeated.

Joshua and the elders are shocked!  This wasn’t in their script, they had been on the up, and now this shocking set-back.  What are you up to God?

In this moment of shock and defeat Joshua comes to some wrong conclusions.  We are so prone to this aren’t we!

We look at events before us, what has an hasn’t happened and we draw conclusions with our own limited thinking, conclusions which often are severely lacking in discernment and humility.  We who are finite, limited, who know so little call the omniscient into question.

This is what happened to Joshua.  Joshua lays the blame for the events at Ai at God’s feet, as he in prayer questions God (Joshua 7:7) about why He brought them into this land (a complaint so reminiscent of the complaint his ancestors had made against God in Exodus 16 – 40yrs earlier).

More than this Joshua in his shock tells God how to run the world!  Joshua tells God how what has happened at Ai with this defeat is not good for their public relations with the surrounding nations who will hear of this defeat and will come and defeat Israel (Joshua 7:8-9).

Have you fallen into this trap?

Questioning God, putting God on trial for things you don’t understand?

And yet, Proverbs 9:10 says that wisdom begins with an attitude not with knowledge.  A right reverent fear of God leads one to wisdom and keeps one from folly.

So why did Israel get defeated by such a relatively small army at Ai when they had just had such a great victory at Jericho?

Scripture is abundantly clear, the reason was that there was sin (disobedience) in the camp and this sin angered God (Joshua 7:1).

Oops, in 2017, we don’t like this language being used of God!

When Scripture rubs you up the wrong way, ask yourself why?

Is it not conforming to your little personal perspectives and preferences?

Are you placing yourself as an authority over Scripture judging Scripture?
God is not about to leave Joshua in the dark regarding the source of this defeat.  “Get up!”, God tells Joshua twice – there is sin in the camp, that is why you were defeated, not some malfunction in Me.

More than this, God warns Joshua that He will not tolerate this sin continuing but will remove His presence from them unless something is done quickly (Joshua 7:10-13).

The rest of the chapter deals with how Achan’s sin is revealed, confessed and punished and so the Lord ‘turned from His burning anger’ (Joshua 7:26).

What can we learn from this account?

Sin is never just private.

It is personal, never less than that but it is also more than private.  Our over individualised and ‘self-obsessed’ era of human history battles a little with this concept but Achan’s sin caused the death of 36 other men, husbands, sons, brothers, uncles…  Caused the whole nation to be in a precarious situation.

This is still true today, no sin is ever just private.  Sin has ramifications on others.

Unbelief in a husband or father impacts the whole house and marriage, pornography not only soils the mind of the user, but impacts their view of every female in their lives & perpetuates and pays for the bondage of those being used to create the content…  I could go on and on.

Achan’s sin affected God’s people, took away blessing even.  In our church there have been times remarkably similar to this account when God spoke to us as elders of sin in our church camp that we needed to deal with.

Friend, brother or sister.  We are called to be a Holy people (1 Peter 1:15)!  We are called to love Jesus by obeying His commands (John 14:21).  Let’s take this seriously, let’s see the corporate impact our sin has on others, on the wider church.

And let’s thank Jesus that when we have sinned we have a Saviour, our Mediator, the One who sacrificed Himself in our place for our sin, was punished by God so that we could be forgiven.

“He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus did all this so that we can be forgiven, so that the wrath of God against sin could be taken away from us and from His people.  Thank you Jesus!

So, if there is sin in your life – repent, ask Jesus to forgive you!

And if there is sin in the camp you know about, go to your brother/sister and urge them to repent.

No new tricks

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 I often say to people I am walking with in this journey of following Jesus; “the devil doesn’t have any new tricks, because the old ones are still working!”

In Genesis 3 we read of that fateful day when Eve was tempted and ended up sinning with Adam and the whole course of human history was altered.  And in the Scripture’s account of that moment we can see the strategy of the devil, how he drew her off God’s good plan for her life and into his.  He has no new tricks so considering the old ones will help us avoid the same mistakes. I see five strategies in Genesis 3:1-6 from our enemy, may considering them make us more alert to them and enable us to take counter measures.

1) The devil plants seeds of unbelief & doubt (vs1)

We know from verse 2-3 that Eve’s problem was not a lack of knowledge regarding what God had said, her problem was not a lack of understanding.  Her problem started with the seeds of doubt, the questions that had been sown by the devil.  He posed questions about what God had actually said and calling into question God and God’s integrity; “God told you that!”

2) The devil lies and contradicts God’s word to us (vs4)

The devil is the deceiver (Revelation 12:9) and one of his main weapons is lies, misinformation that contradicts God’s words to us.  The devil deceived Eve by sowing thoughts contrary to what God had said.

3) The devil lies about God (vs5)

The devil is also known in Scripture as the accuser.  So he lies and calls into question God’s motives and integrity (vs5).  Is God really good and loving, are His commands for us good or restrictive and bad?

4) The devil makes false promises (vs5)

He makes false promises about being able to be like God or to know what God knows, to possess knowledge equal to God’s, even to usurp God and His rightful place in our lives (vs5).

5) He awakens ungodly desires (vs6)

The Genesis 2 picture depicts Adam and Eve as happy, content in the Garden of Eden, content in each other and in relationship with God – with God as loving and involved Creator and them as happy beings created by God.  Yet in vs5 the devil proposes an idea, a desire that must have never previously existed; ‘you can be like God, you can throw off your dependence on God, and be self-determining’!  That’s an ungodly desire, that’s the essence of sin, to replace God with ourselves, His desires with our desires.

In addition to that in vs6 we read that Eve desired the tree now in a way that she hadn’t desired it previously.  The tree held an appeal to her ‘it was a delight to her eyes’ and now ‘the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit’.

Eve didn’t desire this tree or its fruit previously, she might have been curious about it or appreciative of its beauty but now she desired it for what it would give her…

May your consideration today of these very old tricks help guard you and keep you from the enemies deception which is designed to rob from you and destroy your faith and ultimately your life.

By Gareth Bowley