October 2020

Surviving Self – Part 2

From the very first sin, self has been in the heart desire and ambition. With ‘self’ being the idol of the heart, it strives to raise itself to the highest possible position in all areas of life. From religion to relationships, ‘self’ lurks as the internal resident, always looking for dominance.

Surviving Self – Part 2Woe 2 – Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” These fake religious leaders were self-righteous in their pursuit of reproducing error. Travelling long distances, they used their money, time, and energy to win others over to their false beliefs. While ‘self’ hijacks its own affections, it also looks to replicate its self-styled religious passion into others. ‘Self’ is evangelistic by nature, with the scribes and Pharisees providing a good example of the many ways it works.

But it all started with Lucifer in heaven. Even before his sinful intentions were exposed, the Lord had identified his core problem, your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god’… (Ezekiel 28:2). Pride and self-promotion as god were in Lucifer’s heart. Likewise, these crippling qualities exist in the heart of every sinner to this day.

Lucifer, not being content to suffer the consequences of his original sin alone, took a great number of other angels with him in his heavenly revolt (Rev 12:4). So, it comes as no surprize, that in the garden of Eden, Satan successfully got Eve to think of self as she considered the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate… (Genesis 3:6). Eve’s heart was won over by appealing to her self-desires, how she would benefit from eating the forbidden fruit. To this day, the seductive force of ‘self’ works powerfully in sinful humanity, always striving to concur within, then to concur others.

Realise that ‘self’ never affects only one person. It, by nature, must infect others. Everyone surrounding the self-orienteered person is impacted, no exceptions. What’s worse, is that the ‘self’ missionary wants its followers to cover it’s sinful dominance by lying, or even worse, by choosing silence on the subject as ‘self’ continues the conquest.

So, with such a determined enemy working within, Scripture speaks clearly on how ‘self’ should be dealt with in the church of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, realising the deceitfulness of self, addressed it head on in Ephesians 4:22-24, where he gives pointed instruction. Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

This is simply another way of explaining repentance, which reverses the thoughts and behaviour of ‘self’ by continually turning its focus onto Jesus Christ as Lord (Rom 10:9-10; Heb 3:1). Repentance begins by acknowledging the danger of ‘self,’ then, it takes action to change the desires and behaviours of the pre-salvation expressions of self. Why, because the believer understands that the old self only corrupts through deceitful desires. Now, the child of God chooses to put on the new self, which expresses God’s righteousness. In this, the missionary efforts of the old self are replaced with the new missionary efforts to replicate Christ in others instead.

To be continued…


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Surviving Self – Part 1

Israel’s Pharisees developed the most elaborate works-based system imaginable. With over 600 laws requiring strict observance, they had finely tuned the machinery of self-righteousness for looking right on the outside while being wrong on the inside. As always, self-righteousness first blinded them to their own error, sin, and hypocrisy. While being pleased with their outward achievements of religious format and displays of piety, they were completely uninterested in heart sins and how their sin negatively impacted others.

Surviving Self – Part 1Self-righteousness always self-vindicates, quickly justifying sin with blind determination. The ‘self’ person energetically pushes ahead to promote the virtues of ‘self,’ with the words ‘I, me, my, mine, and myself’ being the common giveaways in its speech. Whenever self comes first it blinds the mind and heart to its ‘self’ pursuit of establishing ‘self’ in a parallel position with God. This form of idolatry is happy to acknowledge God by focusing on detail which gives the appearance of devotion to God, but in so doing, the heart fortifies itself as an idolatrous sanctuary of self.

The Pharisee’s self-control was used for the appearance of obeying rules and regulations. The importance of right appearances driven by pride consumed them. In their lust for recognition, they moved their religious acts into public places to “do all their deeds to be seen by others…” (Matthew 23:5). The more they chased after religious law, the more blinded they became to God’s righteousness which was to be lived by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).

Pharisees provide us with many lessons on the ways in which ‘self’ hides the inner nightmare of sin, going to great lengths in appearing to be good, happy, and God focused. Religious formality often ranks high in the priorities of ‘self,’ giving much attention to observing the details required by religious format and liturgy.

Matthew 23 records Jesus’ final blistering condemnation of Israel’s false spiritual leaders, who had a strict set of rules for the people to obey, but for themselves, “they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:3). Self-righteousness will always exempt you from submissive obedience to Jesus as Lord, always providing an excuse for disobedience. The Pharisees were not only happy living this lie themselves, but they actively deceived others into living the same lie.

Among the many corrections given by Jesus in this sermon, were 7 damning woes, which we shall briefly consider over the next few weeks.
Woe 1 – Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”
The scribes and Pharisees boasted a fancy and unique way for people to earn entrance into God’s kingdom. But the ugly reality was that they were shutting themselves out of God’s kingdom by their self-righteous works. They effectively removed the truth of Old Testament scriptures from people so that they could not identify any other way to live for God. By design, the deception would increasingly take people further from seeking truth to seeking self-righteousness as the only way of earning entrance into God’s kingdom.

In Colossians 3:1-3, Paul calls us to guard against, and proactively do the opposite of such self-righteousness, “if then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The life of faith begins with Jesus Christ as Lord, not self, and not religious format, but Christ alone.

To be continued…

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God is not confused – Part 2

As God is not confused, we can expect that the revelation of Himself will not cause confusion either. As we faithfully walk with Him, He increasingly grows spiritual certainty and confidence in Him, which hatches assurance of eternal security in Christ.

God tells us in Numbers 23:19, that He is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Great news people, God knows His own mind perfectly!

The apostle John writes to remove confusion, to clarify uncertainty, and to remove doubt. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). John is categorical concerning the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit to rebirth sinners into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3, 23). These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31). Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ replaces doubt, surrender replaces indifference to God, and trust replaces fear.

Psalm 19:7-9 catalogues the absolute sufficiency and certainty of God’s written Word as the Lord reveals Himself through Scripture.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
   the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
   the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
   the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.

The Lord has provided the most comprehensive provisions in His Word. Jesus declared God’s word is truth (John 17:17), as such, God’s Word provides knowable absolutes which meet our needs and gives assurance for eternity. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). God increasingly unleashes His power within us as we obediently believe His truth. Behavioural knowledge is the path to discovering God’s glory and excellence in our thinking and living (Romans 12:2).

When we withhold our obedience to the truth of God, we interfere with the growing and controlling work of God the Spirit. Biblical truth must be obeyed if we want to receive the blessings. Solomon highlighted this in Proverbs 16:20, whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD. John reinforces this in 1 John 2:3, by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Knowing God’s truth opens the possibility to increased obedience, which delivers assurance. 1 John 3:18-19 explains this, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.

In 1887, John H. Sammis wrote a hymn with the refrain that says it well:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

God’s ingenious design for Christian living is explained perfectly in the Bible and well proven by millions of believers over thousands of years. Knowledge of God is essential. Applied knowledge of God through obedience is essential. Conviction from knowledge expressing itself through repentance is essential. The result is wonderfully inescapable, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). There is no room for confusion in the Lord Jesus Christ.


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God is not confused

The world empowers people to be always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). People often step into confusion, using it as an excuse to separate from others and justify indecision and indifference to God.

God is not confusedYet, for God, confusion creates for us an opportunity to look for and latch onto conclusive truth which is precisely what God offers through His Son. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Humanity is therefore without excuse (Rom 2:1). Jesus Christ offers mankind order with knowable and definitive truth through a relationship with Him. God became a man in order that man may know God.

This is why Satan puts so much effort into hatching confusion and division amongst Christians. Spiritual anarchy is an effective weapon against God’s people, and it begins with a little confusion. God’s enemy quickly tells the confused person that their state of indecision is their truth. “This is your journey; you must walk it alone” is one of Satan’s most foul lies. Isolated thinking always leads you away from fellowship with God’s people, away from the Bible, away from prayer, away from the gospel of Jesus Christ, away from unity in the Church, and away from the pursuit of Christlikeness. What a rotten deal!

No matter how confusion manifests itself, it always works to remove clear thoughts and understanding. When people were of one language and they proudly decided to build the tower of Babel, the Lord responded with, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech (Genesis 11:7). The confusion resulting from not being able to understand each other resulted in the tower project getting abandoned and everyone separated.

Many years later, when the Lord defended Israel against the Philistines, He simply removed the Philistines clarity when they needed it the most – battle time. And behold, every Philistine’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion (1 Samuel 14:20). The Philistines were certain this battle would exterminate Israel, yet it turned out to be their own defeat as they killed themselves in their own confusion of thought and mistaken identity.

When we speak of God and His Word, we never see confusion, for God is not a God of confusion but of peace… (1 Corinthians 14:33). The apostle Paul, instructing the Corinthians on orderly worship, centred their thoughts on the character of God, which was to determine the character of their worship. Two of God’s character qualities stood out to Paul; first, was the absence of confusion, and second, was the presence of peace. When it comes to our understanding of God, these two qualities are inseparable. I call them the “clarity twins” because where one is present, the other is also. Where God’s truth is clear you will find peace. Likewise, where you have peace from God, you will find the absence of confusion about God.

Similarly, Paul requested the Colossian believers to pray that God would open up opportunities through his imprisonment to proclaim the gospel. What’s more, says Paul, pray that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak (Colossians 4:4). That gospel message is not at all confusing, as Paul explained to the Corinthians, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

God is not confused, and neither should we be!   To be continued…


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