The Gospel of Mark Ch 1:1-13

3 Mar

rotator-gospel-of-mark1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way;
The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.’”

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

12 Immediately the Spirit *impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.

The good news of the Messiah had begun. John the Baptist was sent of God to prepare a way for the Messiahs Kingdom to be ushered in. In order to prepare for this imminent Kingdom and King, John preached to Israel (the people) a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Baptism was part of Jewish culture and tradition, especially in regards to ablutions surrounding temple practices. Baptism was to signify and aform part of holy living and to prepare for the attainment of a closer communion with God. The Greek word for repentance used in Marks gospel is “metanoia” meaning a change of mode of thought and feeling, or to turn. John publicly announces that Israel must change their mind in regards to the coming Messiah and His Kingship; they must turn to God and be prepared for His coming. John not only proclaims a water baptism, but something far greater, namely the Christ who will baptise with the Holy Spirit, and in Matthews gospel is associated with fire, in Jewish thought true baptism was to be performed with fire. The Holy Spirit would enable those who receive Him to have true communion with God.

Directions for Hating Sin by Richard Baxter

6 Feb

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Directions for Hating Sin

by Richard Baxter

Direct. I. Labour to know God, and to be affected with his attributes, and always to live as in his sight.—No man can know sin perfectly, because no man can know God perfectly. You can no further know what sin is than you know what God is, whom you sin against; for the formal malignity of sin is relative, as it is against the will and attributes of God. The godly have some knowledge of the malignity of sin, because they have some knowledge of God that is wronged by it. The wicked have no practical, prevalent knowledge of the malignity of sin, because they have no such knowledge of God. They that fear God will fear sinning; they that in their hearts are bold irreverently with God, will, in heart and life, be bold with sin: the atheist, who thinks there is no God thinks there is no sin against him. Nothing in world will tell us so plainly and powerfully of the evil of sin, as the knowledge of the greatness, wisdom goodness, holiness, authority, justice, truth, &c. of God. The sense of his presence, therefore, will revive our sense of sin’s malignity.

Direct. II. Consider well of the office, the bloodshed, and the holy life of Christ.—His office is to expiate sin, and to destroy it. His blood was shed for it: his life condemned it. Love Christ, and you will hate that which caused his death. Love him, and you will love to be made like him, and hate that which is so contrary to Christ. These two great lights will show the odiousness of darkness.

Direct. III. Think well both how holy the office and work of the Holy Ghost is, and how great a mercy it is to us.—Shall God himself, the heavenly light, come down into a sinful heart, to illuminate and purify it? And yet shall I keep my darkness and defilement, in opposition to such wonderful mercy? Though all sin against the Holy Ghost be not the unpardonable blasphemy, yet all is aggravated hereby.

Direct. IV. Know and consider the wonderful love and mercy of God, and think what he has done for you; and you will hate sin, and be ashamed of it. It is an aggravation which makes sin odious even to common reason and ingenuity, that we should offend a God of infinite goodness, who has filled up our lives with mercy. It will grieve you if you have wronged an extraordinary friend: his love and kindness will come into your thoughts, and make you angry with your own unkindness. Here look over the catalogue of God’s mercies to you, for soul and body. And here observe that Satan, in hiding the love of God from you, and tempting you under the pretence of humility to deny his greatest, special mercy, seeks to destroy your repentance and humiliation, also, by hiding the greatest aggravation of your sin.

Direct. V. Think what the soul of man is made for, and should be used to, even to love, obey, and glorify our Maker; and then you will see what sin is, which disables and perverts it.—How excellent, and high, and holy a work are we created for and called to! And should we defile the temple of God? And serve the devil in filthiness and folly, when we should receive, and serve, and magnify our Creator?

Direct. VI. Think well what pure and sweet delights a holy soul may enjoy from God, in his holy service; and then you will see what sin is, which robs him of these delights, and prefers fleshly lusts before them.—O how happily might we perform every duty, and how fruitfully might we serve our Lord, and what delight should we find in his love and acceptation, and the foresight of everlasting blessedness, if it were not for sin; which brings down the soul from the doors of heaven, to wallow with swine in a beloved dunghill!

Direct. VII. Bethink you what a life it is which you must live for ever, if you live in heaven; and what a life the holy ones there now live; and then think whether sin, which is so contrary to it, be not a vile and hateful thing.—Either you would live in heaven, or not. If not, you are not those I speak to. If you would, you know that there is no sinning; no worldly mind, no pride, no passion, no fleshly lust or pleasures there. Oh, did you but see and hear one hour, how those blessed spirits are taken up in loving and magnifying the glorious God in purity and holiness, and how far they are from sin, it would make you loathe sin ever after, and look on sinners as on men in bedlam wallowing naked in their dung. Especially, to think that you hope yourselves to live for ever like those holy spirits; and therefore sin does ill beseem you.

Direct. VIII. Look but to the state and torment of the damned, and think well of the difference betwixt angels and devils, and you may know what sin is.—Angels are pure; devils are polluted: holiness and sin do make the difference. Sin dwells in hell, and holiness in heaven. Remember that every temptation is from the devil, to make you like himself; as every holy motion is from Christ, to mike you like himself. Remember when you sin, that you are learning and imitating of the devil, and are so far like him, John 8:44. And the end of all is, that you may feel his pains. If hell-fire be not good, then sin is not good.

Direct. IX. Look always on sin as one that is ready to die, and consider how all men judge of it at the last.—What do men in heaven say of it? And what do men in hell say of it? And what do men at death say of it? And what do converted souls, or awakened consciences, say of it? Is it then followed with delight and fearlessness as it is now? Is it then applauded? Will any of them speak well of it? Nay, all the world speaks evil of sin in the general now, even when they love and commit the several acts. Will you sin when you are dying?

Direct. X. Look always on sin and judgment together.—Remember that you must answer for it before God, and angels, and all the world; and you will the better know it.

Direct. XI. Look now but upon sickness, poverty, shame, despair, death, and rottenness in the grave, and it may a little help you to know what sin is. These are things within your sight or feeling; you need not faith to tell you of them. And by such effects you might have some little knowledge of the cause.

Direct. XII. Look but upon some eminent, holy persons upon earth, and upon the mad, profane, malignant world; and the difference may tell you in part what sin is.—Is there not an amiableness in a holy, blameless person, that lives in love to God and man, and in the joyful hopes of life eternal? Is not a beastly drunkard or whoremonger, and a raging swearer, and a malicious persecutor, a very deformed, loathsome creature? Is not the mad, confused, ignorant, ungodly state of the world a very pitiful sight? What then is the sin that all this consists in?

Though the principal part of the cure is in turning the will to the hatred of sin, and is done by this discovery of its malignity; yet I shall add a few more directions for the executive part, supposing that what is said already has had its effect.

Direct. I. When you have found out your disease and danger, give up yourselves to Christ as the Saviour and Physician of souls, and to the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier, remembering that he is sufficient and willing to do the work which he has undertaken.—It is not you that are to be saviours and sanctifiers of yourselves (unless as you work under Christ). But he that has undertaken it, takes it for his glory to perform it.

Direct. II. Yet must you be willing and obedient in applying the remedies prescribed you by Christ, and observing his directions in order to your cure. And you must not be tender, and coy, and fine, and say his is too bitter, and that is too sharp; but trust his love, and skill, and care, and take it as he prescribes it, or gives it you, without any more ado. Say not, It is grievous, and I cannot take it: for he commands you nothing but what is safe, and wholesome, and necessary, and if you cannot take it, must try whether you can bear your sickness, and death, and the fire of hell! Are humiliation, confession, restitution, mortification, and holy diligence worse than hell?

Direct. III. See that you take not part with sin, and wrangle not, or strive not against your Physician, or any that would do you good.—Excusing sin, and heading for and extenuating it, and striving against the Spirit and conscience, and wrangling against ministers and godly friends, and hating reproof, are not the means to be cured and sanctified.

Direct. IV. See that malignity in every one of your particular sins, which you can see and say is in sin in general.—It is a gross deceit of yourselves, if you will speak a great deal of the evil of sin, and see none of this malignity in your pride, and your worldliness, and your passion and peevishness, and our malice and uncharitableness, and your lying, backbiting, slandering, or sinning against conscience for worldly commodity or safety. What self-contradiction is it for a man in prayer to aggravate sin, and when he is reproved for it, to justify or excuse it! This is like him that will speak against treason, and the enemies of the king, but because the traitors are his friends and kindred, will protect or hide them, and take their parts.

Direct. V. Keep as far as you can from those temptations which feed and strengthen the, sins which you would overcome.—Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out, by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life.

Direct. VI. Live in the exercise of those graces and duties which are contrary to the sins which you are most in danger of.—For grace and duty are contrary to sin, and kill it, and cure us of it, as the fire cures us of cold, or health of sickness.

Direct. VII. Hearken not to weakening unbelief and distrust, and cast not away the comforts of God, which are your cordials and strength.—It is not a frightful, dejected, despairing frame of mind, that is fittest to resist sin; but it is the encouraging sense of the love of God, and thankful sense of grace received (with a cautious fear).

Direct. VIII. Be always suspicious of carnal self-love, and watch against it.—For that is the burrow or fortress of sin, and the common patron of it; ready to draw you to it, and ready to justify it. We are very prone to be partial in our own cause; as the case of Judah with Tamar, and David when Nathan reproved him in a parable, show. our own passions, our own pride, our own censures, or backbitings, or injurious dealings, our own neglects of duty, seem small, excusable, if not justifiable things to us; whereas we could easily see the faultiness of all these in another, especially in an enemy: when yet we should be best acquainted with ourselves, and we should most love ourselves, and therefore hate our own sins most.

Direct. IX. Bestow your first and chiefest labour to kill sin at the root; to cleanse the heart, which is the fountain; for out of the heart come the evils of the life.—Know which are the master-roots; and bend your greatest care and industry to mortify those: and they are especially these that follow; 1. Ignorance. 2. Unbelief. 3. Inconsiderateness. 4. Selfishness and pride. 5. Fleshliness, in pleasing a brutish appetite, lust, or fantasy. 6. Senseless hard-heartedness and sleepiness in sin.

Direct. X. Account the world and all its pleasures, wealth, and honours, no better than indeed they are, and then Satan will find no bait to catch you. Esteem all as dung with Paul, Phil. 3:8; and no man will sin and sell his soul, for that which he accounts but as dung.

Direct. XI. Keep up above in a heavenly conversation, and then your souls will be always in the light, and as in the sight of God, and taken up with those businesses and delights which put them out of relish with the baits of sin.

Direct. XII. Let christian watchfulness be your daily work; and cherish a preserving, though not a distracting and discouraging fear.

Direct. XIII. Take heed of the first approaches and beginnings of sin. Oh how great a matter does a little of this fire kindle! And if you fall, rise quickly by sound repentance, whatever it may cost you.

Direct. XIV. Make God’s word your only rule and labour diligently to understand it.

Direct. XV. And in doubtful cases, do not easily depart from the unanimous judgment of the generality of the most wise and godly of all ages.

Direct. XVI. In doubtful cases be not passionate or rash, but proceed deliberately, and prove things well, before you fasten on them.

Direct. XVII. Be acquainted with your bodily temperature, and what sin it most inclines you to, and what sin also your calling or living situation leave you most open to, that there your watch may be the stricter.

Direct. XVIII. Keep in a life of holy order, such as God has appointed you to walk in. For there is no preservation for stragglers that keep not rank and file, but forsake the order which God commands them.—And this order lies principally in these points: 1. That you keep in union with the universal church. Separate not from Christ’s body upon any pretence whatever. With the church as regenerate, hold spiritual communion, in faith, love, and holiness with the church as congregate and visible, hold outward communion, in profession and worship. 2. If you are not teachers, live under your particular, faithful pastors, as obedient disciples of Christ. 3. Let the most godly, if possible, be your familiars. 4. Be laborious in an outward calling.

Direct. XIX. Turn all God’s providences, whether of prosperity or adversity, against your sins.—If he gives you health and wealth, remember he thereby obliges you to obedience, and calls for special service from you. If he afflict you, remember that it is sin that he is offended at, and searches after; and therefore take it as his medicine, and see that you hinder not, but help on its work, that it may purge away your sin.

Direct. XX. Wait patiently on Christ till he has finished the cure, which will not be till this trying life be finished.—Persevere in attendance on his Spirit and means; for he will come in season, and will not tarry. “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning, and he shall come unto us as the rain: as the latter and former rain upon the earth,” Hos. 6:3. Though you have oft said, “There is no healing,” Jer. 14:19; “He will heal your backslidings, and love you freely,” Hos. 14:4. “Unto you that fear his name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings,” Mal. 4:2: ” and blessed are all they that wait for him,” Isa. 30:18.

Thus I have given such directions as may help for humiliation under sin, or hatred of it, and deliverance from it.

Seeing The Gospel Objectively

31 Jan

Seeing the bigger picture in the gospel is highly important in giving us insight, deeper understanding and meaning to Christianity. The gospel subjectively is one of a very personal nature, in that God saves me from my sins that have separated me from Him. Now I have personal access to the God who walks with me every day, I have a relationship with Him. These facts may be very true, however to naively focus on the subjective gospel would do salvation an injustice. Seeing the gospel through an objective lens is essential for contextualising our individual and corporate experience/journey.

The promise fulfilled in Christ

2 Corinthians 1:20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

In order to understand the gospel more fully there has to be an understanding of the promise given to the fathers, as the gospel is a fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham.

Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

In chapter 12 the promise given to Abraham has three focuses.

1/ The Land – Abraham is to go to the land God shows to become a great nation

2/ The Nation – the Nation is to be blessed

3/ The Nations – all the Nations are to be blessed by this formed Nation

Abraham gives birth to Isaac and Isaac gives birth to Jacob. In Jacob God forms the Nation Israel. Israel is to enter the Promised Land to be a blessing to the surrounding nations, sharing the light of God. However, cutting a long story short, Israel had failed to be a blessing to other nations because of disobedience and turned away worshipping idols and false gods, therefore invoking the wrath of God in the form of exile (Babylonian and Assyrian invasion).

Israel’s rebellion sets the stage for the long awaited Messiah who will redeem the nation back to God, therefore enabling it to become once again a light to the other nations through Him(Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 60:3). 700 years after the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

The Nation Israel who were commanded to be a light had failed, therefore the Light of the world (Jesus) appeared in the form of a man to be a light unto the nations (gentiles). In Matthew 4:15-16 the writer quotes the prophet Isaiah:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles
16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”

Here we see the Messiah promised to Abraham (Galatians 3:16) and prophesied by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) accomplishing the promise by fulfilling Israel’s destiny. Christ chooses His disciples and walks with them for 3 years founding them on the revelation of Himself and The Kingdom. The gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed through Him telling of God’s ruler-ship and reign, not of an earthly Kingdom but of a heavenly one.

Nearing the end of His ministry on earth, Christ is put to death at the hands of gentiles and Jews. Israel due to disobeying God’s law had bought a curse upon themselves and although now not in physical exile, were exiled spiritually (Deuteronomy 27:26), therefore Christ became a curse on Israel’s behalf (Galatians 3:13).

He is then buried in a tomb; however He could not be held by death and therefore rises from the dead in the form of a resurrected body. Jesus then ascends in to heaven 40 days later after a period of revealing Himself to His disciples where He must remain until the period of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). The redeemed nation in Christ (Church (1 Peter 2:9)) receives the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus and go into the known world (nations) preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins through Him.

We see this gospel preached in Acts 13:32-39:

32 And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today i have begotten You.’ 34 As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

So in summary the gospel is the good news that all people can be part of the promise given to Abraham by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ through the forgiveness of sins. This gospel Jesus bought to earth in Himself was the fulfilment of the promise given and repeated to many other Israelite generations. The promise was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection in that Christ is the Messiah, foretold to come from the Kingly line of David (the blessing of David). David served the purpose of God in his generation, however died. Christ served the purpose of God in His generation however lives.

Returning back to the promise, we look again at the focuses in the light of Christ’s fulfilment:

1/ The Land – Abraham is to go to the land God shows to become a great nation

Christ fulfils the land promise in that He forms a nation in Himself, called in Galatians 6:16 “The Israel of God”. This new nation is not an earthly but a heavenly nation, God does not replace Israel (Romans 11 (The Church does not become Israel, however Jews and gentiles must be saved and grafted into Christ through faith)), He forms a new creation (one new man) of people through faith in His son. It is formed not through ethnicity, for Christ brings down the dividing wall of Jew and Gentile and fashions a commonwealth of believers through faith and not allegiance to the law.

The hope of the promise is fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of the heir of promise (Christ) affirms that the promise inherited through the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:3), to all who believe and have faith, past and present have the hope of a bodily resurrection on earth. Therefore the promise that Abraham and his seed would inherit the land is confirmed in Christ’s resurrection. This promise to Abraham is still yet to be completely fulfilled at the consummation of age when the righteous dead are raised and given new embodiment in the eternal Kingdom of God.

2/ The Nation – the Nation is to be blessed

3/ The Nations – all the Nations are to be blessed by this formed Nation

This new nation formed in Christ, composing of Christ’s disciples of faith is blessed. Christ fulfils the promise given to Abraham that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” by turning everyone away from their wicked ways (Acts 3:26).

Acts 3:24-26:

24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Now in Christ, His followers are sent into the entire world to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to creation (Mark 16). The gospel enables even gentiles to become heirs and partakers of the promise in Christ (Ephesians 3:6). God through Christ dwells no longer in a temple made with hands (which is how God dwelt with Israel under the old covenant) but in those who are Christ’s disciples. His disciples bear God’s image throughout the earth as people from every tribe and tongue through the good news are born in to His new covenant, preparing the way for His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. His body (Church) is sent out to usher in the “already here but not yet” Kingdom before His return to reign on earth.

So what does this mean in terms of seeing the gospel objectively?

Christ dwells in me – Christ dwells in His creation

As we have seen, in the promise fulfilled by Christ, God wishes to dwell in the earth and rule and reign in the nations. He wishes to bless the nations and become central to them, being central in their political, social and economic systems. After all, Christ’s inheritance is the nations (Psalm 2:8). Christ dwells in His believers, but to what end? The glory of God in all the earth, and as believers we are to recognise and serve as part of this much bigger plan.

The gospel changes my heart – The gospel transforms the world

The gospel not only transforms an individual’s heart, it penetrates the world systems that misrepresent and disrepute God’s Kingdom.  Fruit must be seen in a person who has heard and believed the gospel; however, the earth’s transformation is essential in a world that refuses to acknowledge its creator.

“The call of Jesus is actually much more radical than simply a moral repentance; his call is completely world altering. It defies the religious, political, economic structures, even so far as the basic family structure. What is beautiful about Jesus is he goes further with his message than even the average radical street corner proselytizer is willing to go; Jesus goes all the way down to destroying your whole world view, not just your moral code.” (http://jonathanperrodin.com/2010/08/n-t-wright-on-repentance/)

Sin separates me from God – Sin distorts and contaminates God’s creation

Sin is destructive; in Genesis we see sin separating God and man but also man’s involvement in creation. When Cain murdered Abel, Abeles blood cried out to God from the land. This murderous act not only meant his punishment was becoming a vagrant wanderer in the earth but also had an impact geologically and geographically. In Numbers 35:30-34 we see that sin pollutes the land.

The gospel enables me to have a relationship with God – The gospel restores the world into its rightful place with its Creator

When I believed in Christ and He forgave my sins I entered into a relationship with God. This gospel stretches further than my redeemed relationship, it re aligns the world into its rightful place. God is a God of order and cannot contend with sin; therefore all things stained by sin must be redeemed. This includes not only my personal relationship but order is also required in governmental, political, social and economic systems.

I speak the gospel to my friends and colleagues – We speak the gospel to creation

To belittle telling the good news to friends, family and colleagues would be wrong. This gospel must be spoken to those we interact with in our daily lives. Nevertheless it is not solely spoken to humanity, but to creation itself. To explain this further we could take the example of global warming. As I have described above, sin distorts and affects our earth geologically. The gospel therefore must also be effective in redeeming our physical earth. Scientists need the gospel to research renewable clean energy, governments require the gospel to keep recycling a priority and farmers must grasp the gospel to use ethical products in their farming.

So how can we conclude?

1/ our focus on the gospel must not be merely subjective but objective.

2/ the gospels bigger picture is one of fulfilment of the promises given to the fathers.

3/ an objective lens helps us to contextualise our personal experience of salvation.

References

http://jonathanperrodin.com/2010/08/n-t-wright-on-repentance/

How to Approach the Father

24 Jan

“Don’t come to God in relation to what you’ve done. Come to God in relation to what Christ has done.”

How often do we find ourselves coming to the throne of God saying “Lord I come to you BUT …………… I’ve messed up.”

Hebrews 10:15

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

So many times I come to God trying to make penance, striving, only to feel even guiltier to make up for my sins. This is me attempting to sacrifice for my sins. The great gospel message gives us rest in that no longer do we need to sacrifice for our sin any more, but we can enter with confidence into Gods holiest place, knowing that He sees us not through our efforts, works or failures but through the cleansing blood of Christ. Christ’s blood is acceptable to God; our blood is marked with sin. For those who believe and confess upon Christ that He is Lord are covered by this pure acceptable blood. This is that which gives us confident access.

It would be right of us to come with guilt, shame and fear of rejection if we were to trust in our own righteousness or works to gain access. But thanks be to God in our Lords Jesus Christ, we can enter with full assurance in our hearts because of Christ’s pure sacrifice.

The beauty of Gods lavishing grace and mercy is that we can come boldly. What does it mean to come boldly? It means without guilt, without the need to make penance. We can be confident that full atonement has been accomplished in Christ.

Below is a song by Keith Green called “When I hear the Praise Start”. This song speaks of how God now sees us through Christ. He no longer sees us as stained humans but as His Children.

My son, My son, why are you striving
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you
I did it all while I was dying
Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you

For when I hear the praises start
I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me
To Me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done remains
Only what you do for Me

My child, My child, why are you weeping
You will not have to wait forever
That day and that hour is in My keeping
The day I’ll bring you into Heaven

For when I hear the praises start
My child, I want to rain upon you
Blessing that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are My child and you know me
To me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done remains
Only what you do in Me

My precious bride, the day is nearing
When I’ll take you in My arms and hold you
I know there are so many things that you’ve been hearing
But you just hold on to what I have told you

For when I hear the praises start
My bride, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are My child, and you know Me
To me you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done will remain
Only what you do for me

Yield to God

23 Dec

Oh sinner, will you not yield yourself to God? Will you not present yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness, for the Lord Himself to play his sweet tune? Is Christ not worthy of His sufferings? If you will not yield, how will God be glorified? We might esteem the world, but to what end? Only folly and destruction. Come at once to the throne of grace, gladly bow before Him. He can only get glory out of a soul that is yielded, rendered to Him wholly. Take for instance Cain in the presence of God, at once he saw his brothers offering to God, which God esteemed. Cain became covetous of his brothers offering and his countenance fell. Sin lurked at his door, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh, the esteem and glory of self beset him, only for him to submit and yield to its power. His submission to God he despised, and henceforth he murdered his brother, the consequences of which were too burdensome to carry. God made him a vagrant wanderer on the earth and because of Cain’s lack of yielding to God, the earth no longer yielded its strength to him. The authority God had bestowed upon him, he quickly handed over to Satan and therefore he cast him out of the presence of the almighty.

What lessons we must learn from Cain’s example. Lack of yield to the almighty will cause sin to encompass our every move, it will tarry, and it will not retreat. The consequence of which is far too great to bear. Creation once yielded to Cain as he yielded to God, God endeavoured to give man authority under His, however, once coveting, the pride of life and self-glory appears, our submission is no submission at all, we are torn from the alter, wandering outside the camp, wandering through the wilderness with no divine King to be entrusted to. We must yield to Him, we must come to Him in grace and truth through the blood of Christ.

James 4:4-10

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God.Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Why befriend yourself with the world? Don’t you know its hostility toward your maker? You make yourself an enemy as Cain did if you wish to entwine yourself to the system of the world. God jealously desires you, and you resist him? Resist the Devil at once, resist not the Lords grace, he wishes to bestow on you grace upon grace, a greater grace to those who humble themselves. Yield, therefore brothers and hasten. Come near to him and let not your heart be compromised, he desires of you, no, he demands of you holiness. How may we be holy? Only by his greater grace. The more you humble yourself in His presence, the more grace He will bequeath you to find victory over sin.

Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

He gives grace to the humble; accept this free gift by the way of humility. Humility is the highway to holiness, and the highway of holiness is the only road to seeing His majesty. Grace is the only way to holiness, it can be no other way. Your own striving won’t do, it has to be Christ and Him only. Grace empowers the spirit which He jealously desires to dwell in you.

Yield therefore, I say again, yield, live not a day unyileded to God, for He is worthy of your lives, worthy of all. Come at once to the alter, be consumed, and be consecrated that the Lord may be magnified in your body. Present yourselves to Him and He will give your souls rest. May it never be that you submit for your own selfish desires, submit wholly to Him for His names sake, submit because He is worthy of His sufferings.

Holiness

22 Dec

Holiness

Holiness is the act of God consecrating a man submitted on the alter, conforming and sanctifying him into His own image. The analogy of the potter and clay is the ideal imagery of God the creator, forming man the creature, into a pot that is His creation and workmanship. God demands of us holiness because He in all His glory is Holy. God cannot contend with corruptible man, and He who started a good work will bring it to completion. God will not save a man and then decide not to sanctify him, what would be the point in saving someone whom He would not then sanctify? It would be mindless and obscene to think God does not want holiness of you.

Charles Spurgeon puts it so eloquently “Dear friend, salvation would be a sadly incomplete affair if it did not deal with this part of our ruined estate. We want to be purified as well as pardoned. Justification without sanctification would not be salvation at all. It would call the leper clean, and leave him to die of his disease; it would forgive the rebellion and allow the rebel to remain an enemy to his king. It would remove the consequences but overlook the cause, and this would leave an endless and hopeless task before us. It would stop the stream for a time, but leave an open fountain of defilement, which would sooner or later break forth with increased power.”

Holiness is not something that can be earned through self-righteousness; it is not something that a person can achieve by their own doing, it must be done by God Himself making us holy. We by nature are sinners, we are crucified with Him, however the presence of sins still lurks beneath, above and to each side of us, longing to grip us once again, urging us to play the old tune through the new instrument God has made us to be. Our own efforts therefore will only lead us again toward sin, self can’t improve self, and it can’t make itself Holy because its origins aren’t of Holiness. There’s only one who originates in Holiness, namely God Himself. If Christ defeated sins power He is the only one who can defeat sins presence. As a snake cannot be reared by a bird, our old tendencies cannot be weaned by our own self. It would be obsured to find a pheasant taming a python, the python at once would ravish the bird and swallow it whole, as with sin, the Christian born again may try to control his selfish nature, but pride swallows his attempt. The Christian is therefore powerless to overcome sins presence as the flesh weak. Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. The only way the Christian can overcome sins presence is to present himself to the one who defeated sins power, that is Christ, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). Therefore submission to the King is the only way to holiness, humility is the highway. No other way can we come than through the blood of Christ. Our coming to God must be one of presenting to Him, relying on Him to mould us into His holiness. Romans 6:13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Roy Hession, in his book The Calvary Road puts it simply “All we have to do is present our empty, broken self and let Him fill and keep filled.” 

Only Gods workmanship alone can result in our good deeds pleasing Him. God knows how He must be worshiped and we as believers give ourselves to His profound knowledge, to be shaped by the person of Christ. Ephesians 2 gives us insight into the workmanship of God. Two verses next to each other describe good works centred on man and good works coming from the centre of the Father. Good works are not to be questioned; the subject in question is man’s heart.

Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

At once we see Paul clearly condemning man’s attempt to save himself through his own works, that he may not boast before God. Yet, the next verse speaks once again of good works, this time however, it is not the workmanship of man but the workmanship of God.

As C.H. Spurgeon says A faith which works not for purification will work for putrefaction. Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness, it is no better than the faith of devils, and perhaps it is not even so good as that. A holy man is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit.”

Christ work on the cross obliterates our work, it annihilates even our good works done with a courteous spirit. His work was perfect in contrast to our work stained by the Adamic selfish nature. God calls us to holiness through our works, that we would walk in them to be pleasing to Him. However, these works are not ours but Gods, through Christ in us. These works are a sweet aroma to him, pleasant and fresh, bringing Him utter glory. The believer who presents himself as an instrument of righteousness gives himself for Christ to work in and through to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; The apostle Paul and believers of the new testament church seemed to grasp this. Not that it could be grasped in human effort, yet they yielded to His majesty, they knew the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 7 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Let’s look at these scriptures in further detail. 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1:

For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

“I willdwell in them andwalk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
“And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
18 “And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty.

7 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We are, in Christ Gods temple, God dwells in us, He does not dwell within sinners. No sinner can enter the temple and no sinner can dwell in Gods courts. Therefore the prophet Ezekiel tells us to be separate from uncleanliness. Holiness is perfected in the reverence and awe of God himself. To find an example of this in the scriptures we might look at the prophet Isaiah. The scriptures tell us that he saw God exalted, sitting on a throne and Gods robe was filling the temple. What a wonderful picture, the awe inspiring God, not able to be contained in a temple, is seen by the prophet who would incur Gods judgements on the people of Israel, not to their detriment but for Gods name sake, that He may make them holy, therefore being glorified by their holiness before Him. The account goes further as Isaiah then sees Seraphim calling to each other “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts”. Immediately, as Isaiah sees God in His glory, he perceives something else, namely his wretched self in all its contempt.

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

At once, the seraphim touch his lips with burning coals and his iniquity is taken away and his sins forgiven, Isaiah is made holy. What’s more, Isaiah could only be sent after he had seen God and had been made holy. The only way God can make us holy is by seeing Him, for we then see ourselves as we really are, we are then violently thrown on God’s grace and mercy. God only gives grace to those who humble themselves (James 4:6) and it is only grace that enables us to become holy. Titus 2:11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Therefore humble yourself that you may receive grace.

One of the marks of holiness is the man who consciously sees his sin and brings it to the cross. Spurgeon once said “The more hoy a man becomes the more conscious he is of his unholiness”. Holiness comes when we are broken before him, we are broken to his will, God then convicts us as He reveals more of His son to us, and we cannot help but see the vices that lay within our hearts. There is nothing we can do, as we have discussed before, to control them or overcome them in and through ourselves. Roy Hession puts it like this “The moment you  are conscious of that touch of envy, criticism, irritability, whatever it is – ask Jesus to cover it over with His precious blood and cleans it away and you will find the reaction gone, your joy and peace restored, and your cup running over. And the more you trust the blood of Jesus in this way, the less will you even have these reactions.”

All we can do is present ourselves to God through Christ’s blood for Him to mould us. This does not mean that we have an excuse to sin, we have now more of a reason to become holy. Christ has saved us, ransomed and redeemed His children. We are no longer slaves of sin, yet we are still slaves, slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). Therefore let us throw off every encumbrance of sin (Hebrews 12:1-2) and approach the father through the blood of Christ, let us dwell continually in His holy place by humbling ourselves before his throne of grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:6). Let us present ourselves as instruments of righteousness for Him to play His holy tune through (Romans 6:13). Let us become separate from all worldliness and our own lusts to be a people secured for His own possession (1 Peter 2:9), and let us be holy for He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). For without holiness no one shall see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14).

 

The humility of Christ in the Christmas Story

20 Dec

Philippians 2:5-11
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed
in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied
Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being
found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of
death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed
on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL
BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue
will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The birth of Jesus Christ is centred in humility, not only was Christ born in a stable, He
was made in human likeness, being found in appearance as a man. This is humility in its
fullness, the glory of God stooping down to be amongst sinners, identifying with the flesh of
wretches, made in the form of His creatures. Christ is the essence of humility, and one that
we must follow that He may be glorified through us.

What is salient about this King is not simply His physicality of a babe, or the lowly
environment that surrounds Him, but something far more noteworthy, namely The Christ
laying down His title. This glorious Saviour foretold by the ancient prophets to majestically
grace himself upon Israel, to lead her into redemption, descends in the form of man with no
fame, no trumpets to announce His appearance, not even a pin drop to speak of His arrival.
As the famous Christmas Carol describes “silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright”.
Jesus had no want of recognition and no need of reputation.

We read in Philippians 2 of Jesus humbling Himself, even to the point of death. Christ
therefore, is given the name above every name so that each person may confess that He
alone is Lord. He humbles himself, and in due time is exalted to the highest place, to the
glory of God the father.

So what can we learn from our Saviours birth and death? The heart of man by nature longs
for a title, it seeks after recognition, and this the bible describes as idolatrous. Therefore,
we might ask ourselves, “where in my heart have I sought out fame?” Maybe you find
recognition in your workplace, or discover you love being a reputable leader, or even seek
notoriety as good Christian. As we meditate in our hearts upon Jesus’ birth, we must
humble ourselves by coming to the cross, laying before it our want of a title and our longing
to be recognised. We must follow Jesus in His birth by becoming nothing in our attitude
towards our own self glory, knowing that as we humble ourselves before Him daily, we will
one day be exalted together with Him. (Colossians 3:4).

So as we humble ourselves and become obedient to death, as our Saviour gave example,
we align our hearts with the apostle Paul and “eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus
Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of
His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
(Philippians 3:20-21)