The Extra-ordinary and the ordinary (Luke 1:1-25)

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Are you like me? Sometimes thinking; “If only God could speak to me audibly, then I’d follow or obey!” But then I read the account in Luke leading up to Jesus’ birth and I realize that’s probably not true. I am not sure about you but I sadly tend to give myself more credit than I should – assume I’d have more faith would be more obedient than is the case in reality.

Luke 1 is an account of ordinary people with very ordinary responses to an extra-ordinary God and His dealings with us.

In Luke 1 we read about a guy called Zechariah, he is one of the priests in the temple, he is advanced in years and he and his wife have not been able to have children up to this point. One day while serving God in the temple the angel Gabriel appears to him in response to his prayers.

I identify with Zechariah maybe more than some might as you could say that like me, Zechariah was “in the ministry”. So he should be a man of faith, prayer, should expect God to answer prayer, to be present when we seek Him…

But that is not the case in Luke 1. Zechariah is serving God in the temple, there are a multitude of people are outside praying, he is making sacrifices to God – which is all good. But then God does something! God actually shows up. God shows up in His temple of all places, in response to the prayers of a His people, of all things!

Zechariah is flawed, shocked, even “troubled” Scripture says. He clearly was not expecting this manifestation of the presence of God.

I am slow to criticize Zechariah though, because I see myself in him. Maybe you are like me, often no different from Zechariah? I know that I can easily slip into “low expectation mode” – and I have to fight it off. I pray for healing but do I actually anticipate God responding and healing, I along with others pray for His presence in our meetings every week but would we be shocked if He sent an angel to represent Himself?

Although I have never served in the temple like, Zechariah I do spend my days ministering to God’s people. There are many times that I have prayed for people and they have sadly not been healed but there have been quite a few times that I have prayed for people and they have been healed. And in those moments my response often has been similar to that of Zechariah’s, I have been surprised, even doubtful in the moment of this other persons rejoicing of pain that is gone…!

I wish it were not so but it often has been.

Or we will be driving home from a Sunday meeting where God was tangibly present in some way, and while reflecting on the morning yes we are grateful but sometimes I catch myself in conversation together with Nadine and there is a hint of surprise in the conversation, “wow that was unexpected”, even though what we had just witnessed is what we pray for weekly…!

Are you like me? Like Zechariah?

Have you ever thought, “I will believe if God speaks to me audibly”?

Reading Zechariah makes me wonder whether we will in fact believe in those moments. Zechariah is in the temple, people are praying, an angel of a God appears and makes some monumental and good promises to him and his response is to be terrified, his response is unbelief and a request for more confirmation please.

“And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

“How can I trust you?” – that is essentially what he asks. “How can I believe you?”

Here we have the extra-ordinary (Zechariah is speaking to an angel of God) and a very ordinary response (How can I believe?). We know that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had not been able up to this point to have children, we know that Elizabeth was considered barren, so we can empathize with the struggle for faith but Zechariah is speaking to the angel Gabriel after all.

Will we believe even when faced with the extra-ordinary and God speaks to us audibly with a visible manifestation of His glory?

The good news is that a God is very patient and gracious in His dealings with guys like Zechariah, yourself and myself. God could have changed His mind, chosen someone else who was “performing” better, had more faith than Zechariah – but God didn’t!

God is so gracious and forbearing, His work in our lives is always by grace, never by our works our good effort. In my 30+ years of following Jesus, I have had so many “Zechariah moments”, even in the past 11 years of serving God as a pastor, I have still had and still will have so many “Zechariah moments”, but my Father is gracious, He is patient and He loves me very much even though I and my faith are so ordinary.

And for that I am so grateful.

Having said that, my Father and your Father does want us to believe, He does want us to have expectation and faith in Him and for His in-breaking power, and faith is always better than unbelief or just low expectations…

After all, Zechariah’s stumbling faith did cause him to loose his voice for nearly a year! Our unbelief does have consequences, but this is the amazing thing…

God used even that unbelief for a His good plans. God doesn’t waste anything, uses all things to work all things according to His good plans and purposes for us.

I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling that Zechariah being mute all those months probably ended up being used by God to prepare people for the extraordinary work God was going to do through John in preparation for Jesus Himself. Word would have gotten out about Gabriel’s appearance, even if it was the genesis moment for a game we now call Pictionary. Word would have spread of Zechariah’s being struck mute and sudden burgeoning art career as he tried to communicate with Elizabeth and others about what happened to him and what had been promised. And once John was born to this couple who were previously barren, and Zechariah could speak I have no doubt that his account and his experience prepared the hearts of people for what was going to be an extra-ordinary ministry.

So God can and does use all things for His purposes, even our unbelief, our very ordinary faith. God is so good and gracious, He does not waste anything and can even use our weak faith and low expectations, our being so ordinary to work in extra-ordinary ways to fulfill His amazing purposes for us and for His glory through simple ordinary people like you and I.

I identify with Zechariah, do you? In his story I see the ordinary of my life and the extra-ordinary of God colliding and I am encouraged that God is not shy of ordinary people like me, God is not limited by our weak faith, God is not impatient with us but works through us to bless us and to use us in His amazing purposes, to bring glory to His Son, Jesus.

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Grace reflections what it means to be “ready”! (Matthew 25:1-13)

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“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13) 

There is clearly an urgency in this parable!  Something inside everyone of us wants to not be  one of those 5 young women who weren’t ready in the moment when suddenly the Bridegroom is here and there is no time to prepare or get ready any longer…

…And then “the door was shut.”

What terrible finality.

‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

Jesus is clearly urging us to be ready, to be alert, to be watching, waiting for His return.  No one listening to this parable would have wanted their experience to be that of these young women who had not prepared for the delayed yet imminent arrival of the bridegroom.

I have no doubt that this parable has been used many times to preach that we as believers in Jesus need to “be ready”, “keep our lamps filled with oil”, “tarry in prayer”, “be ever watchful”…

The problem is that this all too easily slips into a teaching which is not the gospel – the good news about a righteousness and a new relationship with the Father because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross alone.

You see, before you know it our salvation is not by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, it is no longer that we are saved by Jesus + nothing because we have added something!  We need to keep our lamp full of oil or we need to be ready…

This is such a slippery slope towards trusting in our works our ability to stay ready, to be prepared and this is not what is being taught here by Jesus.

“But we need to persevere” – I here you say.  I love what JI Packer has written in his Concise Theology concerning perseverance;

Let it first be said that in declaring the eternal security of God’s people it is clearer to speak of their preservation than, as is commonly done, of their perseverance. Perseverance means persistence under discouragement and contrary pressure. The assertion that believers persevere in faith and obedience despite everything is true, but the reason is that Jesus Christ through the Spirit persists in preserving them…

…Reformed theology echoes this emphasis. The Westminster Confession declares,

They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. (XVII.1)  The doctrine declares that the regenerate are saved through persevering in faith and Christian living to the end (Heb. 3:6; 6:11; 10:35–39), and that it is God who keeps them persevering. That does not mean that all who ever professed conversion will be saved. False professions are made; short-term enthusiasts fall away (Matt. 13:20–22); many who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” will not be acknowledged (Matt. 7:21–23). Only those who show themselves to be regenerate by pursuing heart-holiness and true neighbor-love as they pass through this world are entitled to believe themselves secure in Christ. – JI Packer (Concise Theology)

Having believed in Jesus, we need to persevere, but it is God who preserves us, keeps us persevering to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8) and therefore we can be assured of our salvation and God can be glorified as the One who calls, saves, sanctifies and will glorify us (Romans 8:29-30).

Back to the parable…

There is a real urgency and a real finality in this parable, a warning that if ignored will be followed by being shut out with no opportunity for reversal.

So the real question is how does one get ready for the bridegroom’s return?

The answer is, by believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and your adoption as God’s child.  If you have believed in Jesus already, then you ARE ready for His return!

The urgency and the appeal here is for those who have not yet accepted that Jesus is Lord and Saviour for all people can only prepare for His return before He returns.  No one will in that moment of His return be able to suddenly prepare so as to gain access into the Kingdom, into the wedding supper of the Lamb.

Just as the young women who had not prepared earlier could not borrow oil in the moment, so too we cannot “borrow” or “ride on the coattails of” someone else’s faith.  Each one of us needs to be prepared prior to that moment when suddenly the Bridegroom (Jesus) will appear.

I have always been struck by the contrast in the experience foretold in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.  On the same day, in the same moment those who didn’t “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” will suffer wrath, will be afraid of King Jesus while at the same time those who had during their lives believed the gospel will be marvelling in the splendour and majesty of their King who has come.  What a contrast.  It sounds so similar to Jesus’ parable – some are delighting in a wedding feast and the Bridegroom who has come and others are outside a locked door.

The gospel invitation is for all; as Randy Alcorn says; “No man can get out of hell but each man can keep out of it.”  The appeal is for all to get ready, and to do so now, today.  It might appear as though the Bridegroom has been delayed but He will come suddenly.

So, how can people prepare?

By believing in Jesus Christ who is Lord and Saviour for the forgiveness of their sins and then by receiving God’s adoption of them as His beloved children (John 1:12).

Having believed in Jesus you then are like one of those young women who was ready, Father God sends His Holy Spirit to fill us, enabling us to walk with Him and for Him – we are ready, because we believed in Jesus.

As Angus Buchan always preaches; “good people (you could say ready people) don’t go to heaven, believers in Jesus do!”

If you have believed in Jesus, you are ready.  Don’t read this parable wondering, worrying whether you will be ready when He returns, you are ready, already.  So rest assured, thank God that He has made you ready and that He will preserve you to the end…

…And, invite everyone you can to come to Jesus to receive His free gift of righteousness and right relationship with God the Father through believing in Him for the forgiveness of their sins.

Lessons from a persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8)

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I loved this parable from a few weeks ago!

Just an explanation of the pictures, Alexandra my daughter (7yrs) draws during family devotions at breakfast, she draws “what she sees in her head” – love it.  Here she has drawn the widow and the judge and then herself and God who chose her!

Why is this parable recorded in Scripture?

Luke tells us why in verse 1…  This parable is in Scripture so that we would always pray and not loose heart in our praying.  Why is this necessary, well it’s because we do loose heart in our praying (haven’t you?), because from our perspective, when God’s answer is seemingly delayed we tend to unravel…

We can identify with the widow, who has a need and she needs to persist to get an answer.  Sometimes, actually oftentimes when we are praying there appears to be no answer.  We can learn from this widow and her example to persist in our prayer and not give up.

What questions does it address, ask or answer?
1) Unanswered prayer or delays in answered prayer.

God always answers our prayers, He just doesn’t always give us the answer we are looking for or in the time we would like, but He does answer our prayers.

One of my greatest lessons in life came through unanswered prayer…

We had left everything, sold everything to follow God’s call to come and lead Oasis Church in Amanzimtoti.  One of the things we needed was for me to sell my shares in a private company to help us buy a home in Amanzimtoti.  I concluded a deal to sell my shares and we moved, bought a home knowing that the money for the house would only be due on transfer of the property and so we had some time before the money from the sale of my shares would be needed.

But then the purchaser didn’t pay!  In fact he didn’t pay ever in the end.  We were stuck having bought a house and not able to afford a bond at the full purchase price and nothing seemed to be happening, my prayers were dominated not with prayer for the church but wrestling with God over this delay, disappointment and very real financial problem that presented itself and seemed not to be resolving itself.

Eventually on a prayer walk about 7 months later I felt God speak to me about my heart in the whole issue, God told me to forgive the man who had reneged on the deal.  It was at that time that God taught me that it is possible to be right but not Christlike, but that is not being right at all!  So I repented and within a short time someone else offered to buy my shares and the problem was resolved.

It’s been said that God always answers our prayers either with; yes, no or not now.  Why are my prayers unanswered?  This is a common question.  Luke makes Jesus’ purpose clear in prefacing the parable with; “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)

God wants us to persist like this widow did, even in the face of seemingly unanswered prayer or delay.  When we read this parable and we hear what the unrighteous judge says, we need to then hear Jesus’ words spoken to encourage us

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.

God will never be rightly charged for forgetfulness or not paying attention or not caring about us or not loving us – His children.  We need to remember these things when there appears to be delay or when what we prayed for did not happen.

We pray to the Father who loves us, we are taught in this parable that God is attentive to the cries of His chosen ones (“His elect”), He does not delay long over them.  The question is not whether God is faithful to us, mindful of us or listening, the real question in this parable is whether we will continue to trust God even when there are delays or when the answers to our prayers are not what we have asked for or thought was best.  Will we trust God then?  That’s the real question.

We put God on trial but in reality we are the ones on trial not God.  Which leads to the next question/issue raised by this parable…

2) The parable ends with a question focused on us…Will God find faith on the earth?

The question Jesus poses to each one of us is; “Will we persist in our faith, in our prayers like she did in her requests?”  We know God will find faith on the earth, the question is whether it will be our faith?

What mystery does this text speak to?
The mystery of election.

In making His point, Jesus contrasts two things:
1) God and the unrighteous judge
2) The elect of God and the widow

We who have believed in Jesus are incredibly valuable to God.  We are “His elect” (ESV) “His chosen one’s” (NIV).   Jesus is making a similar argument to the one found in Matthew 6:25-34 where we are told not to worry because if God our Father cares for the lilies of the field, the grass and the birds HOW MUCH MORE will our Father not care for us?

Here in this parable, Jesus is making the same type of argument, God chose us, we are very valuable to Him, she was unloved and with little value and yet she was heard, HOW MUCH MORE will we who are so valuable to God be heard by God!

In our day, many believers wrestle with the doctrine of election, it is full if mystery and an offence to the modern mind in a number of ways.

However, it was not some topic to avoid for Jesus, but rather a truth that was meant to encourage the disciples.

Application

May we be like this widow who persisted in her requests to an unrighteous judge who saw no value in her, being encouraged knowing that we come not to some unrighteous judge but to our Heavenly Father who loves us and who chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) because He loved us (Ephesians 1:5).

May we like her therefore not give up but continue to trust God, believing even when we can’t see the evidence of His love and continual care for us, may we believe that He knows what is best for us and often it is not what we think is best for us, may we trust Him and His purposes for our lives.

No time like the present (Luke 16:1-13)

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This seemingly bewildering parable addresses questions concerning eternity, money & possessions.

Although this parable is perplexing at times, it helps to remember that parables are truths wrapped in story form. There is normally a single truth or big idea that’s being communicated…

Just as in the secular parable about the boy crying “wolf”, the detail (where he was, what he was wearing….) is not essential, the big idea is.  So to this is helpful in understanding parables…

So what is the big idea?
I think there are two in this story:
1) We are managers/stewards and not owners.
2) This life is a test that impacts eternity

We are stewards not owners
This changes everything! “Our money” is not our money after all, and so we are not free to use money as we choose but rather need to consider the wishes of God who owns all things including the money held in our trust for Him.

This life is a test that affects eternity
We are managers/stewards of God’s resources (time, money, skills….) and we should use those resources wisely while we still can, to effect eternity.

The manager in this parable knows that his days as manager are about to end, and so he does what he can while he still can to effect his future and Jesus calls this shrewd or wise.

He knows that he is about to loose his job, loose control of the wealth of the owner, but he still has this moment in the present while still manager that can affect his future.

This is what he is commended for, having a future perspective that changed his life now in the present, changed his actions now.

In the same way, one thing is certain for all of us, at an hour unknown we will be ‘dismissed’ from his present realm into eternity.

Just like the manager who had limited time before his dismissal, we too can only effect eternity in the present and so we are wise to use what God has entrusted to us now in such a way that impacts our eternity positively.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

This life is a test in that our faithfulness as stewards of God’s resources now will determine what God entrusts to us eternally.

The thing with this test is we don’t know when the trumpet will sound and all pens will have to be put down… In that moment nothing else will be able to be done, how we lived will then determine eternal reward (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Matthew Henry said; ‘live everyday as if it were your last day’. There’s no time like the present to live as a good, wise manager of God’s resources.

Living in light of eternity (Luke 14:12-14)

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12  He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14  and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

This parable is brought on by Jesus’ healing of the blind man on the sabbath at the feast put on by the Pharisee.  It follows Jesus’ parable teaching humility to the guests of the host.  Now in this parable Jesus focusses on the host and reveals the motivation in the heart of the host for why he invited those he did invite to his feast.  The initial two verses (12-14) are then followed by a parable which reveals God’s heart regarding whom God is inviting to His salvation banquet.

The compatibility principle:

Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6:19-21 concerning how we ought to live for eternity, focussing on storing up treasures in heaven (which is lasting) rather than the temporary and fading treasures of this present life and world.

As believers we will all appear before God’s rewards seat (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-10) to receive what is due to us “for what he has done in the body whether good or evil”.  We are saved by grace, this is a reward ceremony but not everything will be rewarded.  How we live now really matters and will have an effect on eternity.  We ought to live every day in light of the reality of eternity.

Moses lived like this as we know from Hebrews 11:24-26.  His focus on eternity and his reward in eternity impacted his choices, strengthened his resolve to resist the temptations of sin knowing that sin’s offer of pleasure is fleeting but godliness will lead to pleasure & joy that is eternal.

What questions does it address, ask or answer?

What motivates our actions?  This first part of the total parable addresses the issue of not just of who we invite to what, but why we do the things we do.  These verses 12-14 address the issue of the motivation behind our actions.

These verses also bring the fore the issue of eternity and the relative value of the present compared to the supreme value of eternity.

What tension does this text create or resolve?

There is a tension in these verses between the outlook that considers only the present but ignores eternity and the outlook that lives a certain way now because of eternity.

When we see how much grace and mercy and generosity God has poured into our lives we the reasonable response is to love God and love people with the self-same love we have received from God.  And knowing that God will reward a godly response to His grace in our lives should motivate us to respond to His grace by living in light of eternity to come.

What mystery does this text speak to?

This parable speaks to the mystery of eternity, eternal life after death.  It raises the question what happens when we die?  Do how we live our lives on earth matter?  It speaks about the issue of rewards in heaven.

What happens when we die is;

“it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement” (Hebrews 9:27).

There is judgement for all after death, judgement for salvation – “Is your name in the Lamb’s book of life?” and then judgement for works how you responded to the grace of God in giving you salvation – “How did you live as a child of God?”

The first judgement is only passed by those who believed in Jesus (John 5:24) while still alive and received eternal life as God’s gracious gift.  The second judgement for the believer is not by grace but about the “good works God had planned for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10) having been saved by His grace.

The following passages all speak about rewards for the believer:

Romans 14:12, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Luke 14:12-14, Matthew 6:19-21,Revelation 11:18, Revelation 20:12, Revelation 22:12…

What issues in life does this text address?

Do we see people, do we value people as God values all people?

If we act in such a way as to advance ourselves, bless ourselves through using our time, money, possessions or hospitality we in fact are not blessed.  But if we use our resources to bless others, without the aim being to “get something in return” we then are blessed not by people but by God (“you will be blessed”).

If we seek to be a blessing, especially being mindful of those who are marginalized, God will bless us.  Those marginalized people will not be able to “return the favours” but God will repay you with blessing now and reward on the day of judgement into eternity.

When last did I show hospitality to the marginalized?  Not just inviting people round for meals hoping I would receive friendship in return, or that they would like me or think I am great….

How can I serve those who cannot pay me back?  How can I give of my time, my money, my resources to those who will never return it?

How can I be like God today – giving lavishly of Himself to those (us) who could never repay Him?

What does this text say about God, myself or others?

God wants me to be like Him, who gave to those who could never repay Him.  God is full of lavish grace, free mercy towards those who don’t deserve it and can never reciprocate so as to repay Him.

God rewards (“you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just”) those who are like Him in this life with their time, possessions and money.

God’s heart is inclined towards the poor, the hurting, the marginalized – He cares that we care for such people in such situations.  God affords honour to the marginalized.

Application

Godliness is the antithesis of selfishness.  Godliness will result in blessing others and especially blessing those who can not or will not return the blessing.

Seek to be like God, giving, blessing with no regard for what you can get back, but rather seeking to be like God, to reveal God’s love to others.

You will be blessed Jesus said and you will be rewarded in the realm that ultimately matters – eternity.

Humility

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7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

Literary Context

Just preceding this is the healing of the man on the Sabbath by Jesus while Jesus was a guest of one of the Pharisees homes.  They were more concerned about Sabbath observance than about the person (the man with dropsy who gets healed).

Jesus has noticed something about how they arranged themselves at the feast, Jesus had noticed how they chose for themselves places of honour…

So this parable was then told by Jesus to those who were invited to the feast.

The compatibility principle

Right after this parable Jesus speaks a parable to the man who had invited Him.

The historical narrative of the last supper can also be compared to these two feasts.  That supper was one where Jesus humbled Himself and modelled true leadership to us.

It is also noted that we who believe in Jesus ultimately get invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb at the end of this age and the beginning of the next.

This passage is also linked to the other teachings on humility:

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalms 25:8-9)

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. 6 The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. 7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! (Psalm 147:5-7)

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. (Psalms 149:4)

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Thus says the LORD: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:1-2

Philippians 2:5-11 – Jesus’ example of humility

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7  but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Peter 5:5: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (I Peter 5:5-8)

James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 

What questions does it address, ask or answer?

This passages deals with the issues of humility and pride and the wisdom/foolishness of taking honour rather than having it given to you.

Honour is best given rather than taken because “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” (Luke 14:11)

The big idea when reading through the various passages on humility is that we ought to humble ourselves and let God exalt, let God honour us in His time.

  • God leads and teaches those who are humble – Psalm 25
  • God lifts up the humble but brings to nothing the proud – Psalm 147
  • God adorns the humble with salvation – Psalm 149
  • Humility leads to wisdom, pride leads to disgrace – Proverbs 11:2
  • Humility is more valuable to God who made everything than anything else! – Isaiah 66:1-2
  • Have this in mind – Jesus humbled Himself and so God exalted Him! – Philippians 2:5-11
  • Put on humility, humble yourself so that God might exalt you at the proper time – 1 Peter 5
  • God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud – 1 Peter 5

The humble person will be adorned with salvation, lead, taught, lifted up, given wisdom, valued and will receive grace from God.  The humble person will be like Jesus!

Honour is not taken but given.  Salvation requires humility in that we have to acknowledge our sin and our need of being saved.  And having been saved by God we ought always to be mindful of how we were saved.

Pride in the believer is an antithesis.  Compared to God’s majesty, power, holiness we are not in a position to have anything other than humility.  Considering our own sinful state and fallenness we really don’t have anything to be proud about.

We have not been treated by Almighty God as our sins deserved, we have been shown mercy and grace, we have been forgiven and set free from the entanglements of our own sin, we are recipients of grace, humble servants of our wonderful King of love.

The paradox is that because God loved us in spite of our fallenness, we have had the greatest honour bestowed on us, we have been so valued by God that He was die for us in our place and to crown us with salvation.

Although we are to be humble, we are honoured by God in the most remarkable way and given a position of honour within His creation for all eternity, not because we are good but because He is good, not because of what we did but because of what He did for us.

So worship God who bestows honour and glory on those who didn’t deserve it but received it through Jesus Christ.  To Him be the honour and glory forever and ever amen.

Application

The humble person will be adorned with salvation, lead, taught, lifted up, given wisdom, valued and will receive grace from God.  Scripture contrasts this positive outlook to the bleak outlook of the proud person who is opposed by God and who will be humbled by God…

Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?  Have you humbled yourself yet before God, acknowledged that self-salvation, reliance on self and human effort will ultimately fail, it will fall short of the requirements of God?

If not, then know today that receiving honour that lasts for eternity starts with humbling oneself, confessing that you are flawed and sinful, hopeless outside of God and God’s help.  Receiving honour starts with asking Jesus to be your Saviour, asking Him to forgive you from your sin and letting Him set you free from sin, shame, bondage and death.

The moment you do this, you get honoured by God, you get the privilege of becoming the child of God (John 1:12).

Are you a believer?  Then consider again your salvation.  Do you have anything to boast in (Ephesians 2:4-10)?  What do you have that you have not received from God as a gift?

The appropriate heart condition for the believer is humility & thankfulness giving honour and praise to the source (God) of all that you have received from Him.

Is there any situation in which you have sort to honour yourself?  Remember Jesus’ words; “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

God’s love poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5)

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“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

who has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:5)

How do you feel God’s love? (My Facebook post 17/06/2013)

We know God loves us, but do you feel it?  My kids know I love them but when I hug them they experience that knowledge tangibly.

Romans 5:6 says; “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Don’t you love the chosen adjective here? God’s love has been “poured” into our hearts, gushed into, spilled over into are the other potential translations…  The measure here is abundance not measured. God abundantly gives us an experience of his love by the Holy Spirit.

No wonder Paul encourages us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) as this results in us knowing God loves me this I know for through the Holy Spirit I feel it so…

Jane Hampton (Facebook comment on my post 17/06/2013) That’s my prayer for those I love who are battling with His reality – that He would pour His love into their hearts by His Holy Spirit so they know His love and presence. But I don’t know how?

Oh, how I want answers to this pastoral question.  Now I know no Greek, but I am equipped with some resources to delve into the Greek and I am confident that Scripture is true, and therefore true for all people.

On reflection I felt drawn to the verb “poured” and it’s tenses and discovered that this verb is in the perfect, passive, indicative, 3rd person!  Feels like I have dipped my foot into a pool that’s way too deep for me…

But having read up on this my summary is that this verb “poured” used to describe God’s action towards us concerning His love this is what I have discovered;

It’s happened already!  God’s love was poured into our hearts.  The perfect tense describes a completed action, that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present.

It’s not up to us!  The verb poured is also in the passive and third person tenses.  What this means is that God is the active person, we are being acted upon; we are those who are receiving this love that is  poured out by God.  We don’t have to work for it, do anything for it.

It is real!  Finally the verb is also in the indicative tense which means that – according to the writer what is being described as happening is real, it is not just a feeling, it is actual not just possible.

Putting it all together now…  In what way has God’s love been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us?  Verse 6 gives us the answer – Jesus’ dying for us on the cross is how God’s love has been perfectly poured out by Him for us in a real way so that we really receive the actual love of God.

What must we do?  How do we feel this love?  Firstly let’s acknowledge that the word study here reveals that we can’t strive to have God’s love poured into our hearts!  It is His action that’s being described, an action, an event that has already happened, which is real (not just a feeling) and is not up to us at all.

So what can we do?  I believe that we are to meditate on the finished work of Christ on the cross which is the demonstration of God’s love for us.  We know God loves us, because the Holy Spirit tells us that God died for us in our place because He loved us enough to give Himself for us so that we could be with Him forever.  The cross is the epicenter of God’s love and when we feel His love tangibly now today, what we are feeling are the ongoing shockwaves of that real event that is at the centre of all history and the one on which we should centre our lives as well.