The Pastor’s Pen

Lincoln writes to encourage and build up God’s people with God’s Word.

God’s Beloved

It goes without saying that for most of us, there is nothing on this earth more precious than the people we love. And within that group of people, there exists those we love above all others, and we rightly refer to them as our “beloved.” So it is with God. Although God loves the world (John 3:16), there exists those especially loved ones who are most precious to Yahweh.

Towering above all others, is the divine relationship between God the Father and His Son Jesus. Of whom the Father spoke on the day John the Baptist baptized Jesus saying, this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17). Even though Jesus was rejected by men… in the sight of God He is chosen and precious (1 Peter 2:4).

However, when considering the Lord’s love for earthly nations, Israel remains the greatest example of the security that exists for those whom Yahweh has attached His love to as His beloved. Despite repeated idolatry, rejection of their Messiah, and dismissing God’s discipline, the Lord remains true to His covenant promises for Israel. Psalm 89:28, 33-34 says it all; My steadfast love I will keep for him (Israel) forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. But I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. So, when Paul asks in Romans 11:1, has God rejected his people (Israel)? The emphatic answer is immediately returned, By no means! God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew… (Romans 11:2).

Yet within humanity, there exists a grouping of people who uniquely have God’s love eternally focused on and attached to them. It’s those whom Jude, Jesus’ younger brother spoke of in Jude 1:1, …those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. It is those who were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19). These people, God has delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We call these people Christians because they believe in and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:6, Paul calls Jesus’ believers the Beloved.

Therefore, Paul calls us to be imitators of God, as beloved children (Ephesians 5:1). Being in such a highly privileged position comes through God’s grace and carries earthly responsibility. As always, those things God calls us to be, He also graciously enables us to be. He provides multiple tools for accomplishing this, including putting on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Ensure no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit… and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8). Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). As God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… forgive one another… as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love… (Colossians 3:12-15).

I encourage you to implement God’s tools to accomplish God’s will in your life. May He be glorified as we give expression to our appreciation of being His beloved from hearts filled with gratitude and love.

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Christ’s Glorious Gospel

Unaided by the Holy Spirit, the world cannot grasp the eternal significance of knowing Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ. It seems such an absurd notion to them, mortals in a relationship with the invisible Creator God. Surely, the world would argue, to claim a real relationship with a God who lives separate from His creation is foolishness at the highest level.

The world wrongly assumes God to be like them, reasoning as they reason, and operating as they operate. But no! God reveals Himself to be uniquely holy and different to mankind. As Solomon prayed, O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath… (1 Kings 8:23. Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). Plus, Yahweh declares Himself to be separated from the sin which mankind loves so passionately (Habakkuk 1:13). When forced to consider God, proud humanity simply does not seek Him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God” (Psalm 10:4. Cf. Psalm 14:1).

Therefore, the apostle Paul explains that a person needs to become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God (1 Corinthians 3:18-19). When God chose us for salvation, God chose what is foolish in the world… God chose what is weak in the world… God chose what is low and despised in the world. That’s us. Before salvation, we were the foolish, the weak, the low, and the despised.

But now, because of God, you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:27-30). On the Cross, Jesus became all the things God required of us, but we were incapable of. Think of this for a moment. On our behalf, Jesus became wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. The very things we sinners thought of as foolish and inconsequential, Jesus became as our substitute.

This is why Paul delivered to the Corinthians that which was of first importance, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Peter turns up the volume by adding, Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

This is the gospel which the world energetically rejects. But it is, none the less, the only gospel which brings sinners’ forgiveness and acceptance before Holy God. This is why God declares that salvation depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy (Romans 9:16). Paul amplifies this truth to the Ephesians, by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God… (Ephesians 2:8). Following Pentecost, Peter boldly declared to the Jewish leaders, there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

At the very least, these truths magnify Christ’s Glorious Gospel. Indeed, Christ is beyond compare! In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). All glory and praise to God. May the Lord flood our souls with worshipful thoughts and words today. Let others hear of the hope that exists in Jesus Christ. Let those who are timid in faith hear of the available strength in Christ through our words, in the tone of our voice, and see it in our smiles today.

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Why lose anything for Jesus?

Modern society has a demanding sense of entitlement that does not hesitate to challenge those who fail to deliver what they assume should be theirs. This mindset not only fails in the secular world, but it also fails in the spiritual realm. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament, we read of the cost of following Jesus Christ, which does not sit well with the me-centric mentality of the world.

From amongst biblical people, the apostle Paul had lost all this world claims to be precious. Ironically, it was the very society who promoted earthly treasures and self-advancement, who violently stripped all these things from Paul. Such is the hypocrisy of me-centric thinking.

So, Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi, that I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8). Paul knew and felt the price he had incurred when writing these words. Writing this while chained to a Roman soldier during his house imprisonment, Paul was not self-righteously spouting superficial words that had not come at great personal cost. He truly had lost everything. What motivated this self-made and prosperous Pharisee to accept everything being taken from him by the society he helped build.

Philippians 3:9-10 provides the answer. Paul continues to explain that to be found in Him (Christ), not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know Him… Paul could not have written words more counter everything that the world and religion represents if he tried. You see, at the heart of the matter, Paul recognised that only faith in Christ qualified him to be gifted with Christ’s righteousness. The righteousness Paul had previously attempted to earn through adhering to the law proved to be unattainable and self-deceiving. The status he had previously sought through rising in the Jewish religious system had robbed him of the very thing he was in pursuit of.

As with many of us, Paul learned the hard way, that he could not dictate his right standing before Holy God. He could not use the world’s society and religious system to become acceptable to God. No, the only path for Paul, as with us, was humility. Having realised the impossibility of achieving  what he so desperately wanted, Paul exercised faith in Christ. And so it happened, upon believing in Christ, God the Father authorised the transaction of Christ’s righteousness being credited to Paul.

Paul had discovered that faith was the only way through which He could know Christ. The priority of achieving worldly success and religious status was immediately replaced with the greatest treasure of all, knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. Now that Paul was acceptable to God in Christ, he understood that everything this world offered was of no value in his relationship with the Lord.

Consequently, when the world removed everything from Paul that it could remove, Paul still possessed that which was most precious, Jesus Christ. Knowing Christ is the greatest treasure a  human can be gifted with. To know Christ is to have sins forgiven and washed clean, it’s to possess eternal life, it’s adoption into God’s family, and it’s to have the joy of salvation with the hope of heaven. While the devil may try to deafen Christians to these truths, the believer in Jesus Christ stands secure and content in them, as did Paul.

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A right response to mercy – Part 2

God’s mercy is intended to produce a righteous response in its recipients, as mercy expresses God’s compassion for us. Mercy should never be experienced without allowing a right flow-on effect, which is Paul’s point in Romans 12:1. In response to God’s mercy we worship Him through surrendering our lives, including our minds and bodies, to holy living. But that is not to be the end of God’s mercy story for us.

Mercy, by nature, has a ripple effect in the lives of those who are touched by it. Yes, its impact is first experienced by its immediate recipient, but the effects become visually and audibly undeniable as its influence radiates outward. The apostle Paul shows this outward direction of mercy in Romans 12:2, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Mercy triggers, then fuels, the ongoing transformation of the believer’s mind, enabling nonconformity to weak and sinful worldly thinking and behaviour.

It’s impossible for such a transformation to go unnoticed, as renewed thinking produces renewed behaviour. As values and priorities change under the government of God, patterns of thought and behaviour will also change, some immediately and others over time. Mercy impacted believers increasingly respond to life and people in a different way, because the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

God’s mercy is seen at its brightest through Jesus’ accomplishments on the cross and His resurrection. Faith in Jesus’ substitutional death opens the floodgates of forgiveness, of changed status from sinner to innocent child of God, and of eternal life with promised heavenly security (Romans 3). These spiritual realities form the foundation on which the Christian stands.

Life’s circumstances change, personal struggles often persist, and God’s enemy will be relentless in his opposition, but our standing before God “in Christ” will never alter (Romans 8:1; Galatians 3:26). Therefore, it’s essential for believers to discipline themselves in a constant focus on the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews  12:2). We choose  to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might (Ephesians 6:10). We do this by letting the word of Christ dwell in us… and by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God (Colossians 3:16). We do this by intentionally putting on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11, 14-18). We do this by inviting and allowing the love of Christ to control us and to determine our gospel centred responses to life (2 Corinthians 5:14). And we do this by using God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT).

God’s Word, energised by the Holy Spirit, provides us with an arsenal of spiritual artillery in the battle against sin, against destructive thinking, and against the devil. And it is God’s mercy that motivates us to be on our guard; to stand firm in the faith, to be courageous, and to be strong, doing everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Cf. Jude 1:20-23). May the apostle John’s greeting of 2 John 1:3, be true in our lives today; Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love. Amen.

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A right response to mercy – Part 1

Often we take God’s mercies for granted, as they mostly operate invisibly in our lives. While “grace” describes the underserved nature of God’s love, “mercy” expresses God’s compassion in His love for we unworthy recipients. It’s God’s mercy which compels His desire to administer life’s daily provisions, not to mention the enormous number of unseen heavenly blessings. In this tangible world, we can only physically  experience and identify very few of God’s mercies compared to the gigantic reservoir that exists outside of our earthly senses (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4; 1 John 3:1-3).

Our appreciation of God’s mercy operates at the same level within our hearts as our love for God. As we increasingly recognise mercy, so we are enabled to respond more with love for Yahweh. As Peter knew and stated,  our love for God is not dependent upon a tangible manifestation of the Lord. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9). Peter, who suffered greatly for Jesus Christ, understood that the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls, is of first and ultimate importance, everything else falls second.

The apostle Paul expands on a right response to mercy in Romans 12:1, I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. The foundation for all our experiences of God, including our capacity to perceive Him, is His mercy. God’s mercy turns our fleshly hearts towards heaven, often in confusion and desperation, calling out for God to intervene in our lives.

Worship is the only right response to God’s mercy, and Paul specifies the precise nature of appropriate worship. Paul gets to the heart of the matter, explaining that we are to surrender our bodies, with all the complexities and implications that make up our daily lives. This is what he means by the words “as a living sacrifice.” Real world surrender to holiness is right and best reflects God’s holiness. This is what God calls acceptable spiritual worship!

Most will acknowledge, that this response to God’s mercy is not natural or always easy. It requires faith, sacrificial commitment, and discipline of our hearts and minds. This is why in the following verse (Romans 12:3), Paul reminds us that its God’s grace that enables us to examine ourselves to ensure that we are not proud. Because it’s human pride that challenges both God’s grace and mercy, claiming to be worthy of so much more than we really are. Whereas humility bows to God in gratitude and expressions of appreciation.

Although God’s mercy is often mocked because He dispenses it in His desired ways and in His timing, the fact remains, God’s patient blessings stand upon His mercy. God’s mercy and love are Siamese twins, conjoined in God’s heart, inseparable, and delivered to us through His Son Jesus Christ, His indwelling Holy Spirit, and His written Word, the Bible. 

Paul told the Ephesian believers that God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5). Only our arrival in heaven will permit us to fully comprehend the significance of these words. But for now, may we speak well of our Lord in word and deed, because of His mercy!

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