Month: July 2021

Maturity – God’s plan for good

The Pastor's PenWhile the world may be content with immature adults living foolishly, this is never God’s desire for His children. Immaturity is not some type of art form, but it can easily become a lifestyle that celebrates selfish shallowness, foolishness, and an unwillingness to learn and improve. Despite what some may think, the Lord never intends for Christian maturity to translate into a boring, dull, or unexciting life. On the contrary, as believers grow towards maturity in Christ it opens up a life of understanding, of exploration, and even adventure.

The apostle Paul makes an important contrast in 1 Corinthians 14:20; do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. This double-sided instruction shows that childlike thinking is not to be a permanent condition for God’s children. Spiritual growth is God’s design, and this growth is accelerated as desires and thoughts for evil behaviour are increasingly rejected. Christian growth begins with a right attitude towards Christlike thoughts and character development. This requires a dramatic reorganising of our priorities which moves us from living to please self to pleasing God (1Th 2:4).

Patience, consistency, and perseverance are essential for this growth to take place. Determine to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love (2 Peter 1:5-7). These are the expressions of faith which grow maturity in Christ. Peter rightly instructs us to put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up… (1 Peter 2:1-2).

In 2 Timothy 3:6-7, Paul warned Timothy of people who sometimes creep into church life with sinful intentions. Their motives are dishonourable, and their purpose for others are selfish and destructive. Paul says that such people are burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Such people choose to prevent themselves from surrendering to biblical truth which would transform their minds and their entire lives in Christ (Rom 12:1-2). Contend to remain biblically and practically naïve, they are happy with spiritual uncertainty, content to have unanswered questions and unresolved beliefs over difficult subjects. Consequently, their minds remain childlike in their understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and salvation always seems just outside of their reach. For such people, this justifies their self-centredness and their sinful behaviour which keeps them from repentance of sin and loving obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 14:21; Mk 1:15; Rom 10:9-10).

Therefore, a deliberate redirection of our desires is necessary for this maturity to happen. Hebrews 6:1 explains to the would-be Jewish people considering faith in Christ; leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity. If all we do is focus on the most basic truths, we rob ourselves of fulfilling the purpose for those foundational truths, which is to set us on a path of growing faith and personal development for maturity into Christlikeness.

Paul explained in Colossians 4:12, that Epaphras understood this and specifically prayed for the believers in Colossae in this regard. Epaphras… is always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. Epaphras knew that spiritual maturity produces assurance of the sovereign working of God’s will in our lives. May we rejoice in these truths and assist our fellow believers to grow towards maturity in Christ.

Bloodshed and Mercy

The Pastor's Pen
Following confrontation by Nathan, King David faces up to the ugly realities of his life. Therefore, Psalm 51 unfolds for us an honest confession of a broken sinner and his expectations of a merciful God. David became guilty of far more than he ever thought possible. It began with coveting another man’s wife which soon led to adultery, then the extermination of Uriah, who was the innocent husband and loyal to both wife and king. Such is the seductive nature of sin, it’s never content with the status quo, it must have more. You can read the sad account in 2 Samuel chapters 11-12.

David’s guilt had gripped him, and finally he confessed; I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. His offense was first and foremost against Holy God, all other offenses were secondly. This confession included acknowledging the correctness of God in calling a sinner to account and the impending judgement should he not repent. David accepted that God was justified in His words and blameless in His judgment of his sin (Psalm 51:3-4). David knew that he was exposed and condemned before an all knowing and holy God.

David could not undo his wrongs. He certainly could never restore innocence or Uriah’s life which he had extinguished. Realising his impending judgment, and the impossibility of making things right again, he cries out have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love” (Psalm 51:1). Hope ONLY existed in the merciful heart of a loving God. David’s hope and request were simple enough; “wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:2). He could not cleanse himself of these sins, others did not even want to forgive him, but God was both able and willing to cleanse David of his shocking crimes.

But cleansing of specific sins was not sufficient to prevent David repeating history. So, he asked the ONLY one who could do the impossible, he asked God; “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). ONLY God has the desire and ability to regenerate an instinctively selfish and sinful heart to be clean and right before Him. What’s more, David knew that ONLY God could replace guilt and pain with joy. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12). Self-correction and self-determination could not maintain a righteous walk, but God can recreate a person’s heart so thoroughly that joy in God’s salvation becomes the new default. ONLY God can redesign the inner workings of a person so that volitional faithfulness becomes the joyful norm. And repentant David knew this.

However, personal reconciliation with God is never to be without its impact on others. David realised that this spiritual recreation within had to cause him to reach outside of self-interest. Consequently, David acknowledges that he “will teach transgressors God’s ways, and sinners will return to you” (Psalm 51:13). His renewed life, and his recreated right relationship with the Lord had to flow to others so that God could be glorified in their lives as in his own.

Finally, David desired to “sing aloud of God’s righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Psalm 51:14-15). Even in worship, David realised his dependency upon the Lord to enable him to verbally praise God appropriately. Silent gratitude was not to be the pattern of David’s life. The world had to know what God had done in rescuing sinful David. May this be true in each of us?

Anxiety and Gladness

The Pastor's Pen
Most people experience the stresses of life that drive anxiety to challenging levels. Relationships, health, family, business, employment, finance, the list goes on and on. What is more, the world provides an ever-increasing list of ideologies, systems, policies, and circumstances which serve as fertile ground for anxiety.

Proverbs 12:25 speaks of both reality and relief in this matter; anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Anxiety and gladness do not go together, which is precisely Solomon’s point. Anxiety can seriously impact our lives if allowed, with physical health, emotional health, and spiritual heath, all getting damaged and scarred. So, we agree with Solomon, anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, even to the point of feeling crushed breathless. Anxiety is not necessarily sin related, and it’s not necessarily connected to worry, but it can be.

Solomon knew the power of words, and here he speaks of the remedial qualities of good words. I suggest these are righteous words, possibly corrective words, both supportive and affirming. The believer’s arsenal of good words is vast, welling up from God’s Word with realistic help for those hammered by anxiety. Good words are not a magic formulae for instant success but go a long way in God’s recovery program. The heavy heart can be glad with a gladness which does not deny the realities causing anxiety. This gladness fixes its attention on someone higher and more powerful than the anxiety.

You see, good words communicate much more than niceties, although they may be included. Good words carry a host of truths which enable the anxious person, should they choose, to align their hearts with God’s truth, placing anxiety in submission to the supremacy of God. Good words are simply the vehicle a believer uses to deliver the necessary truth which can bring gladness.

Sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8) are critical attitudes necessary for those attempting to speak healing words into a troubled heart. Patient grace is another one of Christ’s qualities which communicates love and opens the heart to receive much needed help (2Co 8:7; Col 4:6). As many know, anxiety does not need verbal fluff with no substance, hollow Christian rhetoric is of no help.

Similarly, if anxiety is caused by sin, then you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness… (Galatians 6:1). Coming alongside a believer distracted by the sweet poison of sinful living is a much-needed grace in calling them to repentance. The good words an anxious believer caught in sin needs to hear is that forgiveness is available. A clear conscience and restoration await. In Psalm 51, David reveals the restoration from his own backsliding. Psalm 51:7-8 explains …wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Good words remind us that God is sovereign, controlling all that we cannot control. God is unchanging and therefore He is dependable. God is holy; therefore, He is pure and consistent in all He says and does. God is compassionate and understanding as He listens and responds to His hurting children. God’s Son really does …sympathize with our weaknesses… and, in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).

These are just some of the good words anxious people need to hear for the restoration of gladness. May we be speakers of good words.

 

God – He is worthy of worship

The Pastor's Pen
Humans worship. Humanity is designed for worship. Even the so-called atheist worships something, possibly self. There is no escaping the fact that mankind always finds something or someone to attach their affections to, and that thing becomes the focal point of worship whether consciously or unconsciously.

When tempted by Satan, Jesus reminded him; “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8). Even though Satan knew this, he continued in rebellion against His creator instead of worshiping his creator. Satan’s problem is, as Isaiah 14:14 explains, he said in his heart “I will make myself like the Most High.” Well, Satan failed miserably! Not only is he NOT at all like the Most High, but he now worships himself only, which is the ultimate form of idolatry.

It is God’s holiness which qualifies Him to be worshipped above all else. Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11). Revelation 15:3-4 tells of the coming time when as King of the nations! 4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you. As John looked forward with certainty to this future time, he could see earth’s population coming together to worship God through the Lamb as King (Rev 15:3a).

Truly, God alone is worthy of our worship, but we sinners disqualify ourselves for worship. Plus, of our own desires we do not want to worship Him. But, in the grace of God, He has provided one way by which we may approach Him to offer acceptable worship. And that one way is through the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Because the blood of Jesus God’s Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) we are able to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean…  (Hebrews 10:22). As cleansed, forgiven sinners, we now desire to worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 3:3).

Therefore, take care to let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism (self-denial which is falsely motivated) and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind (Colossians 2:18). Worship of our experience is NOT worship, but idolatry. False worship is cunning in the way it side tracts our focus from Christ alone and somehow inserts ourselves into the expression of worship, making our worship experience the thing most valued.

Worship can take on many forms, but it’s focus should always be the same – God through Christ. Everything we are, and everything we do, inwardly and outwardly, is to be expressive of worship to God through Christ. This adds meaningful purpose to the most mundane activities. It lifts our eyes above life’s difficulties to God’s glorious purposes which are uniquely fulfilled through our struggles. Worship in the midst of pain is a powerful testimony to angelic beings of God’s worthiness and our purpose in life (Ephesians 3:10). It’s a testimony to the world that Christ is of greater significance than our comfort.

We look continuously to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We understand that Jesus is our only point of access to God. In our hearts we join the heavenly proclamation, worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12). We worship, and He is worthy of our worship!

Scroll to Top