October 2023

Fear that Saves and Worships

Fear is the multifaceted emotion which exists at the deepest level of the human heart, expressing itself in different ways according to the situation. Fear is a primal internal activity that impacts our conscience, our emotions, our beliefs, our stress levels, our desire for self-preservation, our loyalties, and our worship. To influence these diverse aspects of life, fear must operate in both the positive and negative realms. Likewise, it must be able to whisper direction and wisdom while also shouting warning and advice when life demands assertive action.

In the wisdom of God, He created mankind with both the capacity for fear and the ability to understand its different types. A healthy level of fear is critical for knowing God and our spiritual well-being. Solomon says in Proverbs 1:7, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. It is this strong reverential and emotional attitude that Solomon says is the start line for knowing God. Buried in there will be a measure of being afraid of God’s power and wrath also. Understandably, Solomon warns that to ignore God’s wise council and instructions on this matter is just plain foolish.

When Yahweh revealed Himself to Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:18-19). Moses responded to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of Him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20).  God kindly tests us by allowing us to see within ourselves, if our knowledge of His greatness and  holiness will motivate us against sin. A right understanding of God’s perfections should create fear, causing us to hate evil, like how God hates evil (Proverbs 8:13).

If we, like Israel, fail this test of the heart, we should realise that we need a Saviour to rescue us from God who will judge us for our sin. Praise God, there is a Saviour up to the task; the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son (Romans 5:10 NLT). You see, a healthy fear of God directs us to His Son who reconciled us to God  by taking our death penalty on the cross for our sin.

Without realising it, Solomon pictured the response that believers would have to Jesus’ hundreds of years earlier. In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge (Proverbs 14:26). Our fear of God dissolves our hearts in grateful confidence of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf. Therefore, we take refuge in Christ, we worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). It is confidence in Christ that moves our fear of God from terror to awe, from being a terrified enemy to being a worshipping child of the Almighty.

The writer of Hebrews captures both aspects of fear in Hebrews 12:28-29. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. May our conversations and prayers today reveal true fear of the Lord, for His glory and our blessing.

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Life Beyond Measure

When the Bible speaks of eternal life, it’s not merely referring to longevity of years, or of never ending spiritual life. No, the phrase “eternal life” is laden with implications critical to Christian faith. In John chapter three, Jesus enlightened Nicodemus, who was Israel’s lead teacher, how he could see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Jesus informed this enquiring Pharisee that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Poor Nicodemus, his lifetime of religious achievements counted for nothing, and he didn’t understand what it meant to be born again. He was outside of God’s Kingdom and therefore without eternal life. His religion had failed him badly!

As part of Jesus’ answer to perplexed Nicodemus’, Jesus explained, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15). Drawing from Nicodemus’ knowledge of Numbers 21:9, Jesus shows that He would be lifted up to crucifixion in order to save the lives of everyone who would look to Him believing to be saved from the eternal condemnation of death resulting from personal sin.

Nicodemus now had gospel truth to work with, which, by the way, he later put into practice following Jesus’ crucifixion, leading him to bury Jesus (Jn 19:39). So, eternal life, entry into God’s Kingdom, occurs when a person attaches their dependant belief to Jesus, realising that Jesus had their sins placed in His body upon the cross by God, and their punishment from God for their sin was taken by Jesus. The sinner confesses their sinfulness in repentance, turning from disbelief to belief. Faith reaches out to Jesus as the only possible source of forgiveness and cleansing of sin. It is this specific belief that initiates God’s gift of eternal life.

Having believed in Him, (you) were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14). While God often uses our circumstances and struggles in the lead up to salvation, it is belief alone in Jesus as forgiver and Lord that actions salvation. The instant authentic belief occurs, never ending spiritual life is granted. Simultaneously, God the Holy Spirit moves into the life and body of the new believer, sealing the permanency of His irreversible regeneration.

The inheritance of eternal life and the certainty of heaven is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, galvanising this irrevocable gift until we transition from earthly mortality to heavenly glorification (1Co 15:42-44). This spectacular gift is all of God, planned from eternity past and enabled by Jesus’ substitutional death and resurrection, then actioned by the Holy Spirit. Every step leading to salvation, with the subsequent blessings, were purposed for the praise of His glory. As redeemed sinners, we are the earthly expressions of praise, declaring the excellencies of Jesus Christ.

For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses – as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself (Hebrews 3:3). The only appropriate response to all that the LORD graciously does for the saved, is to think, speak, and live worship. Eternal life’s ultimate purpose shall reach its zenith when we join the heavenly hosts saying with a loud voice, 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). May we today, walk in worship of God’s gift of eternal life, which really is life beyond measure.

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Everyone Loves Grace

It’s a word we don’t hear often in society unless it’s used as a name. However, occasionally we hear the term “grace period” when referring to additional time that is granted to complete a task or fulfill a commitment without incurring penalties.

In the spiritual realm, grace speaks of the undeserving love of God towards people who have no relationship with Him, no interest in Him, and prefer to live isolated from Him. In other words, God focuses His loving grace upon people who do not want His grace and happily live without any understanding of Him.

The apostle Paul spoke openly of grace in his life. In 1 Timothy 1:13, Paul admitted that in His pre-Christian life, he was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man. Everything about Paul’s life displayed his indifference to, and hatred of Jesus Christ, even though he was a religious man. So, we could hardly blame God if Paul was taken off any list of favourites. But that’s not what happened. Paul continues in verse 13, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. While grace and mercy are similar, mercy focuses more on compassionate love, while grace focuses on love in spite of the recipient’s unworthiness.

Then, in verse 14, Paul says the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly. Appreciating God’s mercy heightened Paul’s awareness of his unworthiness and God’s grace in loving him. This is why Paul could say, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst (1Ti 1:15).

Our appreciation of grace’s beauty increases as we think of how grace saved us from God’s wrath, keeps us secure from judgement, and shall deliver us to heaven. God’s grace is like the ground under our feet and the glue that keeps us stuck to the LORD through both the sweet and sour times of life.

Grace empowers us to embrace His love in exchange of our old and less than pure affections. Grace strengthens our resolve to filter out old voices from a past lifestyle when they speak loudly. Grace energises our desire to walk away from the place of temptation looking instead for those places and friendships which advance Christlikeness.

It’s good to pray like David; Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace (Psalm 86:6). God’s response to such prayers begins by locking our attention onto the fact that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Therefore, focusing on the character and work of Jesus Christ is essential to experiencing His power in our lives. This involves an intentional exchange in our affections, in how we allocate our time and personal resources. But most of all, it’s a deliberate and ongoing shift of our deepest desires, from being self-oriented to being Christ-oriented. This monumental shift of our passions is fuelled by faith in Christ, and stubbornly leans upon His grace to keep the forward movement of our hearts towards Him (Eph 2:8-9).

While this redirection of our hearts began at salvation, it continues over our entire lives in  God’s transformative work. Which Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom… And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image. God’s grace works over time, bringing the heart and mind changes needed within us. Everyone should love grace, as grace patiently implements God’s love, bringing   Him glory, and His blessing to we who don’t deserve it.

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