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.

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Children matter, as do lost people…

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Text: Matthew 18:10-14

Historical Context

This parable is placed just after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah and then also just after the transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John.

Literary Context

Jesus is speaking to the disciples (18:1), they have just asked Him the question; “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Jesus’ reply starts with an action; he invites a child to come and stand with Him…

Then Jesus answers their question by telling them they need to become like this child to enter the kingdom – you have to humble yourself.  Jesus also gives real value to this child saying that to receive a child is to receive Jesus and to lead a child to sin is grave danger before God…

Jesus then warns them of the seriousness of sin and the fearful judgement to come on sin, and so urges these disciples to take drastic action regarding dealing with sin.

Then we have Jesus parable of the lost sheep which comes back to the value in God’s eyes of each person, in each child even.

The compatibility principle (compare to other Scripture)

This parable is not the same as the one found in Luke 15 with a similar theme, the context is different.  This parable was told to the disciples, that one was directed at the Pharisees in the presence of tax collectors and sinners who were drawing near to Jesus.

Content (who, why, what, how, when, for what….?)

What questions does it address, ask or answer?

This parable speaks to the value of children

Jesus warns the disciples to not despise, to not think little of these children (vs10).  God does not discriminate on age, all people have equal value before God.  They had asked who’s the greatest and Jesus’ response is for the disciples to see the value (as God does) of these children that are so precious to Him.

Application: Lord please help me to “see” the children you have placed around me and to value them as you do!  Not just my own, but to value all children.

This parable answers the question; ‘Is there a heaven?’

Heaven is just spoken of as an accepted fact, Matthew as a gospel was evangelistic and aimed at fellow Jews, so heaven is not even argued for but assumed.  Jesus however does challenge any false idea that God was somehow like the royalty of the day who would have had little time for children and challenge any idea that God was somehow disinterested in sections of the population (those marginalised people like the sick, the outcast, the sinner, the women and children, the gentile, the slave…).

God is mindful of the lowly, of children who are ever before Him in that the angels ministering to them (Hebrews 1:14) are always before God.  Our God is accessible always to all who approach through His appointed mediator – Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)

Angels!

In his commentary Michael Green mentions the fact that angelology was highly developed in that day with common belief that nations, churches, individuals had angels representing them before God.  At this point in his gospel Matthew does not teach against this belief but uses it to make a point about God – that he is attentive to the lives of children continuously.

From the perspective of the whole of Scripture there are two errors that can be made regarding our understanding of angels; to disregard them entirely or to give them too much attention.  Jesus is our one mediator and yet Scripture is clear that angels are ministering spirits serving those who are the elect.

Application:  Know that in addition to the continuous presence of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 13:5) God has sent angels to minister to you if you have believed in Jesus.  Ask God to reveal to you (when you face danger or trial) His armies of angels that are with you (2 Kings 6:15-18) as Elisha prayed Ghazi would see.

This parable tells us something about God’s nature

God’s nature is to seek out the stray, to pursue the one who is lost.  God takes responsibility for keeping us in close proximity with Him and with the rest of the flock!

Application: How often do we not preach from the other perspective ignoring this clear teaching by Jesus that God personally is committed to finding us when we go astray.  What good news, what assurance flows from this knowledge that our lives are ever before God and if we stray He Himself goes out in search of us to bring us back into proximity with Him and the rest of the flock.

This parable tells us something of Jesus’ relationship with God

Jesus describes His relationship with God when He says; “my Father who is in heaven.”  The literary context informs us that this statement is after Peter’s revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah and after Peter, James and John’s experience at the transfiguration of Jesus.

Jesus – who is God, Messiah is also a son.  God the son has a relationship with God the Father who is in heaven.  This therefore is a partial trinitarian passage referring to two of the members of the Godhead and describing the relationship as a Father/Son relationship.

Jesus’ heart was the same as the heart of the Father expressed here in this parable when He said elsewhere to Zacchaeus; “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).  Just as the Father’s heart was for the lost, the stray – so too was this Jesus’ heart.

Application: Is my heart concerned about any who know God who have gone astray?  Is my heart concerned about children or anyone who have not come to faith in Jesus for their salvation?  Does it concern me like it concerns God?

This parable tells us something of what God’s will is that no children perish 

God’s will is that none (we are all children so it applies to children and beyond) should perish in hell (in hell is understood from the context of Matthew 18:9).  So God has made a way through faith in Jesus’s finished work and His offer of forgiveness for our sins and His perfect righteousness for those who are not perfect but decidedly flawed!

I have a, we have a responsibility to be like our heavenly Father and Jesus who’s passion was that all accept the offer of salvation He gives.

Hearing precedes obeying

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If one wants to hear “well done” on That Day we need to hear God today – so that we can obey.

If my children don’t hear me they can’t obey what I have asked of them.

Yet many, including myself, will testify that at times they battle to hear God’s voice.

Just the other day I sat with a man in my offfice who needed to hear God for a workplace decision, last weekend good friends needed to hear God’s guiding voice again to make a decision about their future and that of the church, just today a young woman I know asked for prayer that she’d be able to hear from God and that He would guide me in the direction He wants me…

And yet in John 10 Jesus has an expectation that those who are His will not only hear His voice but will know it, recognise it as His.

John 10:3-4 & 27 ESV
…The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice…(27)My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

So what do we do when our experience doesn’t line up with the clear reading & interpretation of Scripture?

Two options present themselves:
1) Alter our interpretation of Scripture to fit our experience or
2) Believe Scripture and so pray for our experience to change.

God does speak, I believe He’s speaking all the time, so why not start today by deciding in your heart that you are desiring to hear God your Father so that you can obey, why not start praying daily that you’d recognise His voice.

God speaks in many varied ways (creation, Scripture, other people, a peace or unease in our spirit or conscience, through something that happens or something we experience, through something written, sung, painted…) how exciting to go into every day with a sense of anticipation knowing your Father is speaking, you just need to discover & discern His voice!

Do you find your default, when you think you might have heard God, is to disbelieve that it was God?

If you believe God your Father wants to speak to you in everyday life, why not decide now to err on the side of belief rather than unbelief. Next time you feel like God’s speaking, why not believe that He is?

Hearing God, is essential for daily living, we need to get out of the bad habit of only seeking God, trying to hear God when facing big life decisions. If developed a practice of hearing God in the daily little things, we’d surely find it easier to recognise and therefore hear God’s voice in the big moments of life.

Join me in this adventure of hearing God & obeying what He says, not doing more than He told us to, not doing less but obeying quickly.

Imagine that life… It’s your inheritance as the child of God.

Lazarus – a picture of the saved yet stuck believer (John 11:44)

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When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
 
Lazarus here reminds me of salvation, he is raised to new life but comes out looking more like an Egyptian mummy than a person!  He is still bound up, unable to move, see or talk freely…  Jesus doesn’t just raise him to new life though, Jesus says to those watching on in amazement, unbind him, and let him go.

This for me is a picture of the total salvation that Jesus purchased for us on the cross.  It would have been ridiculous for Lazarus, having been given new life to keep his grave clothes on!  Yes he has been given new life but he needs those things taken off to really allow him to enjoy his new life.

Lazarus is a picture here for me of someone who is saved yet stuck.  Stuck with the things that weigh us down, the things that hinder us and the sin that entangles us (Hebrews 12:1-2),  restricting our freedom in Christ.  Jesus’ concern is for Lazarus to be totally free (Luke 4:18-19) and so he said to…
Interestingly Jesus does not tell Lazarus to unbind himself.  I presume that’s because he was so wrapped up that he couldn’t help himself free.  So Jesus tells those around Lazarus to unbind him and to let him go, let him be truly free.
We need others to help us walk into our own freedom in Christ, Jesus raises us from the grave of sin and shame, Jesus gives new life and Jesus’ desire is for us to walk in total freedom – and yet we need others to unbind us so that we can enter into our freedom that is in Christ.
  1. In what ways am I saved but stuck?
  2. Do I have grave clothes still restricting my freedom that was given to me in Christ?
  3. Who in my life right now has Jesus said to me; “Unbind them and let them go”?
  4. How do we unbind people (get them unstuck)?