September 2023

Worthy of your attention

For the most part, the world does not consider Jesus Christ to be worthy of their attention, let alone their belief or acknowledgement, other than blasphemy. The apostle Paul tells how his life was radically transformed from this worldly state in Acts 26, when Christ met him on the road to Damascus. Intrinsic in Paul’s salvation was Jesus’ revelation of Himself and His calling of Paul to a life in His service. In Acts 26:16-18, Jesus stated this to Paul. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness… I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

It’s no wonder that Paul was compel as a man possessed by the living God to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). This heavenly calling was not unique to Paul and Peter, but to each believer in Jesus Christ as Lord. This is why Peter’s words were addressed to the whole church in general (1Pe 1:1). Like Paul, Christians have within them the God given capacity to assist those who are blinded to the truth of Jesus, to provide the biblical information needed by them to correctly understand Jesus.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Like Paul, in our pre-Christian life, we were not interested in Christ. However, it was God who illuminated a right understanding of Jesus in our innermost place of decision making, our heart. From there, faith empowered by knowledge pervaded our lives, and Jesus was understood to be Lord. Now, instead of spiritual darkness, there is the light of Christ.

It’s not surprising then, that Satan works hard as the god of this world… to blind …the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Make no mistake Christian, unbelievers, which we all were, are not simply operating independent from God, they are blinded by Satan to the glorious truth of Jesus Christ. Spiritual ignorance of Christ is not only inherited from our parents, but is influentially supported by Satan and taught by the world.

John 1:9-13 explains it this way. The true light (Jesus) that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jesus Christ is worthy of every person’s attention, and especially of those who profess faith in Him. In reality, there is no such thing as a Christian who is not interested in Christ as Lord. A tough reality which calls for our attention. It is good for us to sharpen our focus on Christ daily and to share Him with others regularly. Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name (Hebrews 13:15).

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Working next to others

Church life, as with family and employment life, requires coexistence with others. It’s inescapable, the church is comprised of many different people, existing and operating as the body of Christ. Therefore, as members of this diverse body, we do things together; worship, pray, fellowship, eat, serve, make disciples, etc. Working together is central to most of our activities as Christians. It takes work with effort, to pull it all together, functioning as a healthy family of God, operating in unison for His common purpose.

As Nehemiah describes how Israel went about rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, Nehemiah chapter 3 records some revealing phrases; “next to him,” “next to them,” and “after them.” A few words which  communicate much about the attitude and actions of a large work force. Nehemiah makes his point even stronger by repeating these phrases approximately 30 times in chapter 3 alone. While there are many lessons to be learnt from Nehimiah, a few catch my attention today.

As Nehemiah was God appointed, and assigned by the King as leader of this rebuilding project, he unashamedly informed those who opposed him that the God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build… (Neh 2:20). Opposition strengthened their resolve to get on with the job God had set for them. They had both a spiritual mandate and determination to carry out God’s will. Nehemiah 3:1 tells us that Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they started the building project. As soon as stage 1 was done they consecrated it to the Lord. Spiritual leadership set the standard and ensured everyone knew this project was God’s work.

Then we have the first use of the statement, and next to him; that is, next to Eliashib the high priest, the men of Jericho built (Neh 3:2). The labourers followed the working spiritual leadership of Eliashib. Nehemiah wisely joined with Eliashib to head this massive project. These 2 men first bonded in doing God’s work themselves, then in calling others to follow them by working with them. Of necessity, everyone had to sacrifice fierce individuality to operate as a unit. This was the only way God’s rebuilding project could ever succeed. This huge work force, from priest to rubble carrier, along with all the required support people, worked together. They worked next to each other, in close proximity to one another, one after the other in the structured  chain of operations needed for their single minded purpose – get the wall rebuilt.

The spiritual leadership and building principles implemented by Nehemiah and Eliashib were simple enough, yet they required the typical everyday labourer to join in and make it happen. Otherwise, the wall would remain nothing but a pile of useless rubble. This is a timeless principle for all of God’s people in all of God’s work. God’s people must work in single minded close proximity with one another to accomplish God’s purposes.

The apostle Paul requested this of the Philippian’ church. Paul wanted to hear that they were  standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents… (Philippians 1:27-28). While God’s opponents will always try to divide and separate God’s work force, God’s people pull together. Unity is powerful when it begins in our hearts and minds with soft humble attitudes towards one another.

May this principle be true in each of our lives today, as we seek to serve side by side in harmony for the common purpose of Jesus’ gospel, beginning in our own local church congregations.

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God of Rescue

Israel’s 400 year enslavement under Egypt and their subsequent deliverance offer us numerous important lessons. Among these, a significant quality of the Lord that would have resonated with Israel at that time was Yahweh’s role as the God of rescue.

Exodus 2:23-25 reads, During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.

God permitted Israel to remain enslaved in Egypt far longer than they thought necessary (400 years). Yet a full rescue of the entire nation came precisely when Yahweh appointed it. Not a moment too late.  The man God used for the rescue mission was Moses, a man Israel neither recognised, nor wanted as their saviour. So it was, and remains today, with Jesus. Many fail to recognise Jesus Christ as their  Saviour and miss their only opportunity of rescue from the power of sin and the coming wrath.

Today, Israel remains in the safe hands of their divine rescuer. As Paul asks and answers in Romans 11:1, has God rejected his people Israel? By no means! …Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27).

Through Moses, God used methods of rescue that neither Israel nor Egypt, in their wildest dreams, would ever have imagined. The Lord displayed His power and His determined will through the 10 plagues upon Egypt (Exodus 7-12), until Egypt finally released Israel. What’s more, Yahweh performed Israel’s rescue without asking their permission or getting them to contribute. In the end, Israels’ rescue through the divided waters of the Red Sea became Egypt’s’ judgement, drowning their entire army as they pursued Israel (Exodus 14).

For God, Israel’s rescue was personal, resulting from the covenant He had made with Israel’s forefather Abraham, then confirmed with Isaac and Jacob. When Israel called out to be saved from Egypt, God knew them as His covenant people, therefore divine rescue was inevitable.

While others watched God’s rescue of Israel with hatred, for those being rescued, the Lord’s deliverance was life changing and irreversible. There was to be no going back to Egypt’s enslavement, even though some later wanted that. So it is today, for those who put repentant faith in Jesus Christ, others may not understand, some may ridicule you or even cut you off. But rest secure, from God’s perspective, there is no going back.

As Christians, we have entrusted our lives to Him who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Galatians 1:4). It’s important for us to view our relationship with God through Jesus, to be our daily rescue from the sin that took Jesus to the cross on our behalf in the first place. As recipients of such grace, we are to have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 1:22-23). Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore (others) on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). Through Jesus Christ, God is still the God of rescue.

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