Month: September 2020

The ugliness of rejection

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Rejection: I doubt anyone enjoys it. Instinctive to humanity is the need for healthy relationships, and we all know that means acceptance of others. Being created in the image of God, the significance of relational acceptance and rejection has been passed on to us by our creator. This is not a weakness in human design, but an emphasis on the strength gained from mutually supportive relationships. It should go without saying, that acceptance in Christian relationships starts with acceptance of God.

The ugliness of rejectionSadly, sin initiated and continues the painful reality of rejection which began with Adam and Eve rejecting God in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). As with everything Satan does, it’s the opposite of God’s way, and results in ugly, deformative effects in our lives. Next, Cain rejected God’s value of human life by murdering His brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-8). So, down through the ages, we continually see the effects of man’s rejection of God. With the ultimate rejection of God’s Son, when humanity crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. As Peter announced in Acts 2:23, this Jesus… you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

When Israel rejected God, they rejected God’s truth, exchanging God’s knowledge for another source of knowledge, which always led them away from God. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge… (Hosea 4:6a). As with Israel, mankind is always the first to initiate rejection of God, with people throughout the ages rejecting the Word of God. Just as the consequences for Israel’s rejection of God’s truth was that the Lord rejected them from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6a). The consequences for Israel were severe and far reaching.

From jungle tribes to inner city dwellers, man’s need to accept God is both challenged and rejected by the world. Sin proudly announces independence from God. Sinful humanity then declares God to be irrelevant, which then leads to the denial of God’s existence. This is how far sin has carried the world.

While some people are quick to complain that God has rejected them due to life’s unmet expectations, they stubbornly refuse to abandon their rejection of God by replacing it with surrender. However, all is not lost. For those who turn from rejecting God, their prayer sounds something like the Psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 130:2-4, …Pay attention to my plea for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you? 4 But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honoured. This person understands the hopelessness of self-sufficiency and calls out for God’s mercy, knowing that God’s forgiveness is both available and dependable. This person understands that mercy is first and foremost for God’s honour and not just for our blessing.

Rejection is just plain ugly! Whether it’s Man’s rejection of God, or God’s response with rejection of rebellious man. But the beauty of God’s mercy against the backdrop of rejection is nothing short of spectacular. Mercy is available to every rejector, and within mercy is forgiveness for repentant rejectors. Jesus Christ was crucified for every rejector’s sin, and on the third day he rose from the dead, 47 that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations (Luke 24:46-47). This is the amazing Gospel of God, that faith in Jesus death and resurrection for your sin brings endless forgiveness and acceptance from God. Every rejector needs to hear God’s good news for them, and it’s our pleasure to tell them.

 

Belief in Jesus’ truth satisfies

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There is a worldly misunderstanding that says biblical truth about Jesus Christ is boring and can never bring you the satisfaction in life you desire. Well, over the 53 years of my Christian life, I have never once found Jesus Christ to be boring. Plus, I have never been dissatisfied with the Lord Jesus or His Word, the Bible. I can assure you, that this is NOT because of anything special on my part. On the contrary, it is purely because Christ is not capable of being boring, or, dissatisfying to anyone who has truly surrendered in faith to Him.

Belief in Jesus’ truth satisfiesWhen Jesus began His lengthy sermon on the mount, His 4th sentence went like this; “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). A sinner who is genuine in faith, comes to the Saviour desperate for spiritual fulfilment. Exasperated by the world’s deceitful methods which do nothing more than create a bottomless pit of dissatisfaction, they turn to Christ as their only hope. And there by faith, Jesus is still saying, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

Speaking to a group of Jewish believers in John 8:31-32, Jesus said, “if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Christian living discovers incredible liberty when we spend time getting to know God’s Word and apply ourselves to living its truths. Growing out of our time in God’s Word flows new desires to be put into action. And it is Jesus’ grown actions which authenticate our testimony of belief in Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

The apostle John made the connection between God’s love and our obedience, “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected” (1 John 2:5). This is Christian reality, despite times of failure, it is the love of Christ which compels us to persevere in obedience (2Co 5:14). Our love is simply a response, “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It’s a wonderful thing to know that your creator God loves you with an undying love, with a jealous love that simply will not let you go. Such a love relationship rests us secure and satisfied.

I leave you with a Levitical exhortation to worship from Nehemiah 9:5-6, 17…
“Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.
17 …you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…

This is our God, and in Him there is full satisfaction!

 

Belief, but not like Jonah’s belief

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Jonah is possibly the worlds’ best-known Bible character story, with an unwilling prophet running from a determined God. There’s a giant fish happy to swallow human flesh, and a massive enemy city with a long and violent history which surprisingly turns in repentance to God. It has the making of a great movie and you can read it all in 4 short chapters of Jonah. Intertwined throughout this story are the extreme attitudes and behaviours which typify humanity. However, for today, it’s the later part of the story that interests me, as we watch God and Jonah both expose their innermost heart affections.

Belief, But Not Like Jonah’s BeliefFrom the outset, the Lord knew how this episode would play out, with nothing taking Him by surprise. Irrespective of Jonah’s belligerent attitude, the Lord remained faithful to His mission for the salvation of sinful Nineveh and the sanctification of a wonky prophet.  Despite Jonah’s’ turbulent start, he did eventually carry through with the evangelistic mission to Nineveh, even though under duress.

Having survived three days and nights in the dark acetic belly of a smelly fish, Jonah is projectile vomited across the beach onto dry land (Jonah 2:10). Having poured out his heart to God in prayer from within the fish’s digestive juices, Jonah is beached with no prophetic response from the Lord (Jonah 2:1-9). Then, Jonah is confronted by the Lord with the same instruction for the second time; “arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2).

Jonah had the opportunity of a lifetime with the protection of Jehovah. He walks the one-day journey into Nineveh proclaiming the coming judgement (Jonah 3:4). He then witnessed the largest and quickest revival this world has ever seen (Jonah 3:5-9). Yet this displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry” (Jonah 4:1). He moaned, indignant that God acted graciously toward his enemies, as he knew God would (Jonah 4:3). “For I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah was one seriously conflicted prophet.

To start with, Jonah’s belief in God somehow permitted deliberate gross disobedience. Yet, he also knew the Lord well enough to accurately predict God’s gracious response to his bloodthirsty enemies living in Nineveh. Jonah’s poisoned conscience empowered such strong prejudice against the Ninevites that God’s grace was dismissed as irrelevant. His distorted sense of justice battled to overrule God’s sovereign mercy, and he thought that was Okay.

Now, the Lord could have responded differently to Jonah’s attitude, but as is typical of our patient God, He suffered long with Jonah in order to teach him the Saviour’s character. When God challenged Jonah’s self-perceived right to be angry, Jonah replied, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die” (Jonah 4:9). Jonah preferred death to helping in the Ninevites salvation. Jonah was more disturbed by the death of the plant which shaded him, than the coming judgement on Nineveh (Jonah 4:6-7).

Jonah was missing the whole point of this mission. God was saying, “I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000…” people (Jonah 4:11). For sure, God was living out His character; “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 33:19).

God’s sovereign mercy is supreme, and it’s not for Jonah, or any of us, to challenge or defy His mercy. Just think of the celebration Jonah could have had with the Ninevites, rejoicing over God’s grace. Unlike Jonah, may our belief in the Lord “rejoice and be glad… May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’” (Psalms 70:4).

Belief that engages

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Belief is a wonderfully unique expression of the inner person. When God’s people engage in God’s work, for God’s purposes, in God’s strength, using God’s Word, ministry happens on a divine level. This is where more meaningful connections happen between the recipients of grace. This is a two-way relational engagement. The discipler gives more, while the disciple opens up to receive more. It’s not superficial, it lacks demands driven by expectations, and it patiently walks in step with whatever the Lord is doing in the other’s life. In this way we “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19).

Belief that engagesWhile King Joash reigned over Israel in obedience, he conducted much needed repairs on the temple. 2 Chronicles 24:13 explains how “those who were engaged in the work laboured, and the repairing went forward in their hands, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it.” It’s a simple yet powerful observation to make, these workers were not simply employed to do a job. They were personally invested in the mission at large, which was the repair of God’s temple. These workers humbly connected their efforts for the job at hand. They united their desires for the goal of the overall mission. They also synchronised their labour with each other for the purpose of effectively restoring God’s place of worship to being proper and appropriate for Jehovah.

For this to happen, each worker had to place individualistic attitudes in the back seat. Personal desires and goals were surrendered to effectively engage together in God’s work. This would have taken considerable humility on everyone’s part, with preferences being sacrificed. Interlocked together they set to the task, to which God responded by blessing their united efforts so that the work was accomplished in a God honouring way with a God honouring result.

On the flip side, the apostle Paul explained a whole different aspect of believer’s mutual engagement. Inherent in salvation is the believers call to accept suffering for the name of Jesus Christ. As the Philippian believers watched Paul suffering while under house arrest in Rome, he exhorted them to become “engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:30). Christians watching their fellow believers suffering pull together to strengthen, support, and lessen the load.

Difficulties, differences of opinion, and even persecution, are to be entered into with our Christian eyes wide open, looking for ways to unit and embolden each other for Christ. This is how believers engage. They don’t separate or isolate, they step into the trenches of God honouring and painful life together. They support, they share, they encourage, they empathise, they laugh and weep together. Together they explore ways to mutually participate in each other’s lives so that Christ is praised while the world gets to watch a godly testimony of the life changing power of Jesus Christ.

This is one of the greatest privileges and challenges for those born again of the Holy Spirit. Paul said it straight to the hypocritical Corinthians. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). May we choose today, to be those who exercise belief that engages for the blessing of others and the glory of our Great God and Savour Jesus Christ. May God grant us the grace to abandon anything of self which would hold us back from such a lofty calling.

 

  • Sundays @ 309 Welcome Bay Rd, Tauranga (Welcome Bay School Hall)