Friday, 24 December 2010

CHRISTMAS

CHRISTMAS
As I read and reread the Christmas story I have become increasingly staggered over recent years by the nature of what really took place. The problem for some of us is that we have grown up with it, and we could recite it just like that. We have become over familiar. We know the surface story, but we haven't plumbed the depths. For others it's no more than a good story - great for the kids, but hey, "I've grown up."

To appreciate a good meal, it can't be rushed, the food needs to be eaten slowly, it needs to be tasted .... So it is with the Word of God, we will never get the full benefit by casual or speed reading. Just so with the Christmas story. It needs to be dwelt on, reading the different scriptures relating to it (Prophetic, Gospels and Letters), building up the story, savouring every part, letting the Word speak for itself.

As the Early Church Father Gregory said, "The unussumed is the unredeemed," or as the writer to the Hebrews (Chapter 2) put it, Jesus "had to be made like us in every way."

In order to bring about our salvation Jesus had to enter our fractured, weak, humanity to redeem every part of it - not just our alienation from God, but what such alienation had done to us, spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally, and in doing so he undid what the Fall had done, and offered it back to God as the life we should have lived but couldn't have lived (Romans 8:1-4), and so he was able to offer himself ultimately as an atoning sacrifice for all our sins.

The story of the Cross and Resurrection begins with the Incarnation. If we don't get that right, we will not get the rest right.

No wonder the hymn writer said "Hallelujah, what a Saviour!"

May the Lord bless you and yours with his peace and joy this Christmas, and the richest of his blessings in the New Year!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Importance of the Incarnation

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave his One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

"(God) condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin's domain." Romans 8:3 (HCSB)

The incarnation is as important to our salvation as the death and resurrection of Jesus. As Gregory Nazianzen (one of the old church fathers) put it, "The unassumed is the unredeemed." Jesus therefore had to enter our very real, fractured humanity, in order to redeem it and heal every part of it, and offer it back to God.

Glorious mystery, wonderful Saviour, so great a salvation!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Insignificant Is In

Another good read in a day of stars and heroes, and world changing vision:

Insignificant Is In

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Glory of Plodding by Kevin DeYoung | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Here's a thought provoking article from Kevin DeYoung. Part of it ties in with a blog I wrote on the ordinariness of life some months ago.

The Glory of Plodding by Kevin DeYoung | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Go read.

What do you think?

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Spirit Filled Life & Church

Back to Pentecost and the things of the Spirit
Jesus on the last day of the feast “cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive…” (John 7:37-39). Then in John 20 he breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Receive in the Greek means, receive now, at this moment.

Initial Experience
Throughout the book of Acts there are various ‘initial’ experiences of the Spirit

• Disciples at Pentecost Acts 2,
• Samaritans – Acts 8,
• Saul/Paul – Acts 9,
• Cornelius (Gentiles) – Acts 10
• Ephesus – Acts 19

An Ongoing Experience
In fact throughout the New Testament you see not only initial experiences but an ongoing experience of the Spirit, a dynamic of life about the church. As Larry Tomczac put it some years ago, “Remove the pages from the book of Acts where supernatural activity is recorded and there’s hardly anything left!” Larry Tomczak, Beyond the Ordinary – A Supernatural Lifestyle, Restoration Magazine, July/August 1990, Harvestime Publications, Leicester.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The essence of the Christian position is experience – experience of God! It is not a mere intellectual awareness or apprehension of truth.” Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Ephesians Chapter 6:10-13 – The Christian Warfare, Banner of Truth, Edinburgh (1976) – (p197).

“The Spirit is thus the empowering Presence of God for living the life of God in the present”. Gordon Fee, Paul, the Spirit and the People of God, Hodders, p183.

Such experiences of the Spirit were the normal part of church life for the first 8 centuries of its life. They were the very soul of the church, take them away and you have a body, a form, a structure. Excesses crept in, theological balance was sought, but the balance tipped too far in the other direction, and such experiences of the Spirit began to die out and the church became institutionalised. Form became everything. There was no longer any expectation of such a thing.

Lloyd-Jones said, “If your doctrine of the Holy Spirit does not leave any room for revival, then you cannot expect this kind of thing. If you say the baptism of the Spirit was once and for all on Pentecost and all who are regenerated are just made partakers of that, then there is no room left for this objective coming, this repetition, this falling of the Holy Spirit in power and authority on a church. But thank God – there IS room left! The teaching of Scripture plus the long history of the Christian church shows this so clearly.” Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable, Kingsway Books, Eastbourne, p44o.

‘There must be more than this’
Praise God there have always been people who have not accepted the status quo and said ‘there must be more than this,’ people who are hungry for the reality, and so there have been revivals, fresh outpourings of the Spirit, new manifestations of His presence and power.

Paul exhorts, no, commands in Ephesians, “Ever be filled and stimulated with the (Holy) Spirit.” Eph 5:18 AMP

Bible Versions

A NEW PURCHASE
Just side stepping things at the moment, this week I purchased a Holman Christian Standard Bible having read something about it on the internet.

IMPRESSED
I had briefly considered it some time ago but got taken up with the English Standard Version, which for a few years now has been my main study/preaching bible, but, having read more about this one and bought a copy (just under £5 and an excellent example at that price!), I’ve been suitably impressed by the translation, so much so that I’m beginning to think of moving over to it!!!!

TRANSLATION
Not only is the translation good (it also includes many of the verses missed out of modern bibles, which has been a real issue for some people), it reads extremely well having moved away from what some term ‘Biblish.’ In many ways I think it stands between the NIV and ESV as transalations go.

You can find out more about it here: http://www.hcsb.org/

Friday, 11 June 2010

Pentecost - Past Event or Present Reality?

Pentcost

What a day in the life of the church! And what a difference it made to those who were there! In fact if you took the dynamic of the Holy Spirit out of the book of Acts you wouldn’t have a story to tell.

The big question is, is it simply a past event or should it be a present reality? The question has caused all sorts of discussions and disagreements in the church. Church history though reveals that it experienced the Spirit in a powerful and dramatic way for at least the first 8 centuries – so such experiences certainly didn’t die out with the Apostles. So much for cessationism.

Then time and again throughout church history to this day there have been breakouts of the Spirit’s dynamic activity. The history of revival is largly a history of Spirit movements. They’ve not always or rarely have been tidy, but then neither was what was going on at the church in Corinth.

The problem is that when it’s no longer, or never has been our experience, instead of questioning our lack of experience we want to justify oursleves, our lack of it, so we go to the Scriptures and seek to make them fit.

To tight a theology

I grew up in a cessationist backgroud, I know the arguments, and Church and the Christian life were predictable. Then in my late teens I came into an experience of the dynamic of the Holy Spirit while I was still trying to get my head round it! The experience changed my life and witness.

I studied and developed my theology, and thought I understood, but over the years as I have gone back to the scriptures I have found that my neat and tidy package was neater than the Bibles! My conclusion? The desire to have such a neat and tidy package may have more to do with our western mindset, and little to do with God.

A straightforward reading of the scriptures gives the game away. It uses overlapping words/terminologies for the various experiences of the Spirit, and maybe, just maybe this all part of God’s design. After all, if we could define the experience and nail it down, then we could package it and God would become predictable.

But God will not allow himself to be boxed in or used by man or woman … God is still a mystery. God will not allow himself to be reduced to a formula.

Symbols & Expressions

The very symbols and expressions should tell us that: wind, fire, oil, fell upon, baptised (immersed), filled, drink, etc. …. God in his Word has used a whole range of earthly symbols and descriptive terms to show us something of the variegated work of the Spirit.

So, past event or present reality? God never intended that the experience of the Spirit should come ‘to pass,’ but to be the continuing and variegated experience of the people of God through every generation, in every land.

The promise is for you and your childrens children, and to all who are afar off. (Acts 2:39)

Friday, 4 June 2010

The Gospel/Good News

Three things to note about the Gospel:

  • The gospel is central to faith in God. There is no other name, no other way to know God.
  • The gospel is central to the church. It is the centre and circumference of the church’s existence. We exist because of the gospel, we exist for the cause of the gospel. If we forget the gospel we are in trouble! The great need of our world is not more politics or education it is salvation – a saviour.
  • The gospel is essential to the Christian life – without it we are in trouble. The gospel is as essential to the Christian life as it is to salvation.

Five problems we face today concerning the gospel:

  1. The me gospel, or the gospel as a therapy: in the modern western world of the 21st century it’s all about me, my story, what’s in it for me, and for many the gospel has simply become a means of self-improvementit’s about me, what it does for me, and a home in heaven when I die. In our therapeutic society the gospel then becomes simply another competing therapy, something to help soothe away the trials and pains of life. When we do this we make the gospel subjective, inward. It’s about what I do or don’t feel. In one sense that’s about as far from the gospel as you can get.
  2. An overemphasis on our role in the gospel that leads to confusion: modern evangelical revivalism has placed a lot of emphasis on inviting Jesus into our hearts; on our repentance, our faith, our decision in making Jesus our/my personal Lord and Saviour. So it becomes more about what I do than what he has done, and the outcome of that type of thinking is that it then causes me/us to look inwardly for assurance instead of outwardly. We ask the questions, have I believed enough? Did I do it in the right way? Is he there?
  3. A blurring of the gospel: over recent years some in evangelical circles have reworked the gospel, and now speak of final justification. In other words we receive grace to change our lives and the change results in our ultimate justification which is nothing short of the Roman Catholic teaching on infused righteousness!
  4. A lack of the knowledge of God: How many are aware today of the awesome holiness of God? Much today is made of the love of God, and what we have is no more than ‘sloppy agape’ as someone has put it. We must not speak of the love of God at the expense of his absolute (and terrifying) holiness. That is to trivialise God, to make himj in our image. In fact it is only in the light of God’s awesome holiness that is resplendent and amazing love shines through!
  5. A lack of the knowledge of sin: Today it is common to say that humaity is sick, but the Bible says it’s worse than that, humanities problem is utter sinfulness and rebellion. We have fallen totally.

When sin is no longer an issue, and God’s holiness and wrath no longer a problem, Christ’s cross is no longer needed as the solution. You will NEVER understand the gospel without the knowledge of God and the knowledge of sin.

What is the Gospel?

  1. The gospel is first and foremost an objective announcement about what God has done in Christ. The gospel calls us to look away from ourselves, our world. It is UNREPEATABLE FACTS. It is God’s story. God has ACTED. It’s not about us, how he fits into our story but how we fit into his! Mark 1:1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. ….. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”” (Act 2:32, 33, 36). We do not make Christ Lord, or Saviour. God has made him such already.
  2. The gospel announces a different relationship with God based on Christ. Everyone is in some kind of relationship to God whether they like it, realise it, or not. The question is what kind of relationship? The gospel brings about a changed relationship to God. It is not how God might help us in our world but how we might be right with him in His. The gospel is not about how we become Christians, it is the message about Christ that brings about conversion. God justifies the ungodly! We confess Christ as Lord and Saviour; We surrender to his claims, it is not something we make him to be for us. The gospel then is an objective announcement based on the facts of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, not a subjective experience based on how we feel.
  3. The gospel is a life transforming message. The Gospel doesn’t depend on anything in us. It is an external word, outside and beyond us, but near to us in Christ, and made real to us by the Spirit. It is both a justifying and transforming word. We are made new n Christ.

Sanctification is a ‘lifelong process of letting that Good News sink in and responding appropriately.’ If we do not understand the gospel and its justifying message it will not be long before our sanctification becomes our justification – We can only fulfil the imperatives of Scripture when we’ve understood the gospel.

Some practical aspects

  • Our worship: it’s about the Big Story, not our little one. it’s about remembering, rehearsing & proclaiming. It’s all about HIM. Taking our eyes off our tiny little lives and reconnecting with HiStory. As we do this the church will be what it should be, a well of living water in the wilderness.
  • Our faith: We personally need to drink and drink again of the well of salvation. It is not only the power of God unto salvation for the unsaved but also for those who are saved. It takes the emphasis off ourselves and puts it on Christ. If we don’t, as I said before, our sanctification will become our justification rather than our justification fuelling our sanctification.
  • Our witness: we are not witnesses to our selves, but Christ and his Word. We should “not be ashamed of the gospel,” for there is no other name, no other faith, no other person, no other way – Jesus only is our nessage.

We need to focus on faithfulness to the gospel, not fads (they come and go), not programs (I’m not saying they all bad, but they can become the thing!), or goals. What we win people with, we have to keep them with. If you win them with music you keep them with music. If you win them with the latest thing you have to keep them with the latest thing. Fads come and go and we must be careful not to get drawn into them. The Gospel though is timeless and must be the reason. We are here to preach Jesus.

  • We need then to be preaching the gospel in all that we do. Everything needs to be gospel oriented.
  • We need to be calling people to repent and believe in Christ, who alone can save.

The church needs to be and must be Gospel centred, the gospel must guide and direct its whole focus. Jesus said, “GO into all the world and preach the gospel” The gospel IS the good news. Jesus Christ has lived and died and risen again. He is the Saviour. There is salvation in no other. The gospel must be at the centre of all that we do.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Living by the Faith of Christ

Galatians 2:15-21

FAITH & WORKS
One of the big questions we often encounter in our Christian life is the one of faith and works – is believing in Jesus enough or is there something I should do? This isn’t a new one – it has dogged the church from the beginning, and ensnared many a Christian. It’s what we might call Jesus plus.

In the book of Galatians we find that the churches that Paul had started in Galatia were struggling with the same question as a result of false teachers. For them the question was, should Gentile Christians become Jews by submitting to certain external things like circumcision and the law in order to become full members of God’s family?

SOME BACKGROUND
Paul started the churches in Galatia on his first missionary journey about 47-48AD, and writes this letter to them barely 1-2 years later out of great concern. Why? The churches in Galatia were in danger of losing the plot, and were turning to a different gospel (1:6). They were moving from Jesus only to Jesus plus. As a result they were getting bogged down in legalism, and the elementary principles of this world (4:9), and had lost the blessing they once knew (4:15). What’s more they claimed Paul had changed the message, and that it was incomplete!

Now Paul makes it quite clear in that there is no other gospel and that the gospel he shared with them was not man’s gospel (1:11), for he received it by revelation (1:12), and had explained it to them in all its glorious fullness (3:1).

BEWITCHED
Bewitched is not normally the way you would refer to Christians! But this is exactly what Paul does in Galatians 3:1, he says, “Who has bewitched you?” – who has put you under a spell?

Jesus plus is just as much an issue today, and it is extremely bewitching. The devil doesn’t like the gospel of free grace – Jesus only. Today there is a lot emphasis on me and my faith. It constantly calls me up, to make a new commitment, to try again, try harder, when the reality is the Bible starts and finishes somewhere else – with Christ. When the emphasis falls on me, on my faith and commitment, my holiness, my performance and perseverance we are headed the same way as the Galatians.

Have you been bewitched? Led astray from the pure gospel? Lost your joy in believing? Lost your liberty?

We need to be reminded again and again, good works do not merit grace, neither do good works done from grace merit anything! It is all of grace!

Jesus plus creeps in in a variety of ways
Jesus plus in salvation: some have used the illustration of a drowning person clinging desperately to a life belt and being hauled in as an illustration of being saved, and when they finally get him or her in the boat he or she is finally saved. That’s Jesus plus your strength to hold on. That’s faith and works. That is not a Bible picture. We are not trying to hang on to Jesus, he has got hold of us!

Jesus plus in worship: Some of our modern hymns and songs don’t help us, e.g. “I’m coming up the mountain Lord ....” Musing on this recently I found myself thinking, is this right? After all a mountain is not easy to climb, and anyway didn’t Jesus come down it for us? Another, “I really want to see you ...” and so we try to see him, when in fact do we not behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ as Paul says? We could go on, but the result is self effort, a striving to know God and get into his presence, to worship etc.. Jesus plus.

Jesus plus in Christian living/assurance: You may have heard of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which teaches that God’s people are eternally saved and will persevere to the end, but I have heard it preached and taught in such a way that it undermines the very gospel and the faith of the believer, and pushes them over into works. It’s borne out in the question I have heard more than once (from people who have believed in it), “have I done enough?” Which equals, Jesus plus. To which my answer has always been its not and never has been about what you have done, but what Jesus has done, has he done enough? And the Bible’s answer to that question is a resounding YES!

That kind of Christianity is more about striving than believing, more about getting than receiving, more about works than faith, more about me than Christ.

THE PERENNIAL DANGER
The perennial danger facing the Christian and therefore the church is mixing law and grace; works and faith. Galatians is all about that. Now there’s an even subtler version of it, faith in our faith - when we place all the emphasis on my faith we are in danger of turning that faith into a kind of work, and so it all becomes subjective (inward looking and feeling oriented) rather than objective (looking away from ourselves to another, and his word to us). Faith is not trying to believe, not trying to hang on in there - you either believe or you don’t.

• The Righteousness of the law = legal dutiful obedience = do and you shall live
• The Righteousness of the gospel = faith/faithfulness of another = believe and live!

FROM FAITH TO FAITH
Paul is his opening up of the gospel in Romans begins by saying that it is “from faith to/for faith.” (Rom. 1:17). What does he mean by that? He means that it starts somewhere else – with Jesus, it is from the faith of Jesus to ours. Now in most of our modern bibles that would not be obvious because they always translate it as if every reference is to our faith in him, and if we do that only one understanding is allowed.

OUR FAITH/FAITH IN
Now the bible does speak of our faith for example:
“Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received BY FAITH.” (Romans 3:25)
“For we hold that one is justified BY FAITH apart from/without the works/deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28). See also: Romans 4:5; Gal. 3:26; Col. 1:4.

THE FAITH OF JESUS
In the King James/Authorised Version and the NET Bible (a new translation) it also speaks of the faith of Jesus (I can’t deal with questions of translation here):
“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by THE FAITH/FAITHFULNESS OF JESUS CHRIST, even we HAVE BELIEVED IN JESUS CHRIST, that we might be justified by THE FAITH/FAITHFULLNESS OF CHRIST, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. ... I live by the FAITH/FAITHFULNESS of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:15 16). See also in the KJV or on the NET Bible (online): Romans 3:21, 22; Gal. 3:22; Phil. 3:9; Ephesians 3:11, 12. I would encourage you to read all these verses in their context and notice the difference ‘the faith of Jesus Christ’ makes.

What does this mean? Humanity was meant to live by faith in God, it has failed miserably. We call it the Fall. BUT God in his love has sent Jesus in flesh just like our own to live the life that we should have lived of faith/faithfulness before God. John Henry Newman captures it well in his hymn ‘Praise to the Holiest in the Height’:

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive, and should prevail;

and that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine:
God's presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

O generous love! that he who smote
in man for man the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo.

Jesus lived out a life of faith in real flesh, the stuff we are made of – remember, “the unassumed is the unredeemed.” He assumes our flesh and so redeems not only our will, but thoughts and emotions – our whole estrangement and humanity! Hallelujah!

Day in and day out, month in and month out, year after year, Jesus was tempted and tried in every way but through faith in the Father overcame and offered to God the life that we should have lived and having done so gave him-self on our behalf, as an at-one-ment for our sins.

We find it expressed in these words from the Book of Common Prayer: “By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation, Good Lord, deliver us. By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the coming of the Holy Ghost, ...”

A DERIVED FAITH
Our faith then is a derived faith, it comes as a result of the faith/faithfulness of Jesus, and therefore our justification is conditioned upon Christ’s faith not on ours – our faith itself does not justify us, but Christ in whom we have placed our faith. It is therefore Christ-centred rather than believer-centred.

It’s not about techniques, rules, law keeping, disciplines etc. but a PERSON, Christ. The only victorious life there is and you need is Christ! We overcome by recognising and participating in his victory, not getting another one!

Marcus Barth in The Faith of The Messiah says, “The faith of Christ is the means, and the faith of men and women in Christ is the purpose and response.” Our faith then is a derived faith, derived from the faith/faithfulness of Jesus Christ – his faith-filled obedience.

As the writer to the Hebrews says Jesus is the Author and Finisher of faith, or the Captain and Object of faith (Hebrews 12:1,2), and in the words of T. F. Torrance, “In the New Testament gospel Christ’s faith, his obedience, his knowledge are the foundation of my faith, obedience and knowledge, so that my faith, obedience and knowledge are objectively controlled by his.” T. F. Torrance, Incarnation.

So “the life I/we now live in the flesh I/we live by the faith of the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us!” Galatians 2:20.

Here is peace and joy and liberty and relationship and power and hope!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

LIVING IN THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION

“From now on" says Paul,"we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2Co 5:16-17).

What does the resurrection mean for us today?

Paul says, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” Phil. 3:10. This is part of Paul’s testimony, is it yours? It's not only a past experience but an ongoing one.

Do we know? Do you? Do you know the saving power of Christ?

Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians(1:15-23)for the “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him .. that you may know ..”

The question is, do we know what we should know?

Back to our verse, in the New Living Translation it puts it this way, “So we have stopped evaluating ourselves from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person ...” 2 Corinthians 5:16, 17.

What does Paul mean, “according to the flesh” or human point of view”?

The Bible speaks of two groups of people, those in Adam, those in Christ.

• In Adam, ‘according to the flesh’ – all are condemned. Romans 8:5-8.

• In Christ, ‘according to the Spirit’ – all are justified. Romans 8:5-9.

• To think of ourselves ‘according to the flesh’ as Paul puts it is to think prior to the cross and outside of Christ. The reign of sin and death.

• To think ‘according to the flesh’ regarding Christ is to think of him from a human point of view, and prior to his cross-work for us.

You see the resurrection changes everything, world history (BC to AD - Before Christ - In the Year of the/Our Lord) and our history!

That is my question to you? Are you thinking according to the flesh? Has the enemy gotten you off redemption ground onto the old ground ....?

A question that comes up all too often is, am I good enough? Have I done enough?

I came across a very good illustration the other day. Imagine you are on a long journey, and suddenly you get to a ravine and the only way to cross is via a bridge. Well you don’t stop and examine yourself, you examine the bridge! Has it been constructed well? Has it stood the test of time? Is it falling apart in any way? Does it look sure and stedfast?

The answer to the question then is not found in examining ourselves .. are we good enough ... done enough .. but is our Saviour good enough, has he done enough, is he strong enough. We look away from ourselves unto Jesus.

We move from thinking according to the flesh, from a human point of view, and we think according to his resurrection!

Living in the Power of his Resurrection:

1. A justified life – acquitted. No case against us! Declared in the right. Romans 3:21-26; 4:5, 25; 5:1, 15-18.

2. A reconciled life – 2 Cor. 5:18; Romans 5:10, 11; Col.1:21,22.

3. A sanctified life – made holy. 1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11; Hebrews 10:10

4. An empowered life – Spirit empowered. Romans 6:4; 7:6; 8:1-4.

5. An overcoming life – victory over Satan, sin, our past, circumstances is possible. Romans 5:17; 6:1-14; 8:1-17, 26, 37 ; 1 John 4:4.

“If I am truly in Christ by faith, my good works can't get me to heaven and my sins can't send me to hell.” Bob Kauflin.

Questions
The main question is do you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord?
Do you believe in Him?
If you are a Christian, where are you living? Are thinking according to the old way – outside of Christ and his cross-work – according to the flesh?
Are you allowing the enemy to knock you down?
Do you know what you should know?
Do you know what it means to live in the 5 points listed above?
Do you experience more defeat than victory? Why?
Do you preach to yourself?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

No Condemnation - New Life

A PARAPHRASE OF ROMANS 8:1 – 16

8:1 So, the conclusion of it all is this: that there is now (and neither can there ever be), absolutely no condemnation (no condemning judgment) whatsoever for those who are in union with Christ Jesus.

2 For, the law of the Spirit of life which is in and through Christ Jesus has liberated you from the law of sin that always leads to failure, defeat and death.

3 For what the law could never do - that is enable us to be right with God and live righteously because of our sinful flesh - God has done Himself, and He did this by sending His own Son in the very likeness of our sinful flesh, and for sin itself. He then past judgment on sin in the realm of this flesh, and condemned it once and for all, thereby destroying it’s power,

4 So that now, the righteous requirements of the law might be accomplished in us who walk no longer in the realm of the Flesh (the realm of life that is disconnected from God and lived without reference to him – a life characterised by the thoughts, values, attitudes and practices of this fallen world; a world that is judged and passing away); but now walk in the realm of the Spirit (lives lived in reference to God – the thoughts, values, attitudes and practices of the age that is coming).

5 For, those who live their lives according to the realm of the Flesh, their thoughts and affections, in fact their whole perspective, is shaped by, and set on the things of ‘the Flesh,’ but those who live their lives according to the realm of the Spirit, their thoughts and affections, indeed their whole perspective is now shaped by and set on the things of ‘the Spirit.’

6 For, the whole inclination and outlook of the realm of the Flesh, is death, but the whole inclination and outlook of the realm of the Spirit, is life and peace.

7 And the reason is this: the inclination and outlook of the realm of the Flesh is always hostile to God, for it is not subject to the law of God, and never will be. 8 So then, those who live in the realm of the Flesh can never please God.

9 But, as for you, you are no longer in the realm of the Flesh and under its power, but in the realm of the Spirit, managed and energised by Him, since the Spirit of God now inhabits you. Now if someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they cannot possibly belong to Him (and are still in the realm of the Flesh).

10 Now since Christ resides in you, that means the body is dead because of sin, and yet you have life by the Spirit because of righteousness.

11 Moreover since the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead resides in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to these mortal bodies because of His Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, we have an obligation - but it is certainly not to theFlesh, to live in keeping with the Flesh.

13 For if you live in keeping with the realm of the Flesh, you are obviously still in the Flesh, unchanged, fleshly, and you will die (unChristian); but, if by the Spirit you put to death the practices of the body (say no to sin, do not give in to it), you will live. 14 For those who so live are being led by the Spirit of God and show themselves to be true sons of God.

15 For you have not received the spirit of slavery that leads again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of full sonship that enables you to call out with confidence “Abba, Father.”

16 For the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are children of God.

A paraphrase based on the reading of several translations, comparison with the Greek, understanding of the context, different commentators and commentaries.

© R. Burgess 2001, revised 2010

Monday, 12 April 2010

How Beautiful/Proclaiming Good News

How Beautiful/Proclaiming Good News
Based on Isaiah 52:7-10.
©Richard Burgess, 2010.

In a prayer meeting a couple of weeks ago we read this scripture and as I began thinking about it a melody started to formulate in my mind. I drove home with it going over and increasing, then spent a week or so developing it ... sorry I can't put the tune here, I'll try to use some other media.

How beautiful, how beautiful
Are the feet of those
Who proclaim the good news
Wherever they may go.
News, news, good news,
News of peace and joy,
News of salvation,
Good News that our God reigns!

The watchman shout and sing with joy
For before their eyes
They see the Lord returning now
To Jerusalem.

News, news, good news ...

The waste places of Jerusalem
Break out in joyful song!
For the Lord has comforted
Redeemed Jerusalem

News, news, good news ...

The Lord has bared his holy arm
Before the eyes of all
All the earth shall now see
The saving power of God!

News, news, good news ...

HOW? How the Saviour Saves - the how on our part

The How (if you can call it that) on Our Part

Romans 3:21-26

Notice the repetition here:

“Through faith, in Jesus Christ” 3:22.

“Justified by his grace as a gift,” 3:24

“Received by faith,” 3:25

“The one who has faith in Jesus,” 3:26

“Justified by faith,” 3:28

No wonder this IS good news ... The work is done ... the call is to recognise our need of a Saviour and turn from our sin putting our faith/trust in Christ alone.

John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”

Do you believe? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved - forgiven, cleansed, made new, reconciled ...

Are you doubting then read and take in the words of this old hymn and allow the Holy Spirit to drive away the doubts and fears:

From where this fear and unbelief?
Did You, O Father, put to grief
Your spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was laid on Thee?

If You have my release secured,
And freely in my place endured
The whole of wrath Divine;
Payment God cannot twice demand
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.

Complete atonement You have made,
And to the utmost penny paid,
All that Your people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in Your righteousness,
And sprinkled with Your blood?

Turn, then, my soul, unto your rest,
The merits of your great High Priest
Speak peace and liberty.
Trust then in His effective blood,
Nor fear your banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for me.

Augustus Toplady (light revision R. Burgess)

HOW? How the Saviour Saves

The How on God’s Part

John Calvin says that God in his generous mercy dealt with our sin in Christ so that “there might be no obstruction to his love.” What a thought, God wants no obstruction to his love - Hallelujah!!

1. The Plan
"Purpose," Eph. 1:3-14 To “redeem ... a ... people,” Titus 2:14, “bringing many sons to glory,” Hebrews 2:10; John 17.

2. The Incarnation
Illustration: drowning person. A drowning person needs someone stronger than themselves to save them.
As Gregory said,the “unassumed is the unredeemed.” So God must come and take on human flesh, flesh just like our own – Jesus is both very God, and very man. Romans 1:3,4; 8:1-4.

3. The Life he Lived
He lived in flesh just like our own. In order to save us every facet of our existence (mind, will, emotions) had to be united with God so that God can overcome the sin that permeates our entire existence. So we read that Jesus Christ was born of a woman, made under the law, in the likeness of sinful flesh.

And in that flesh he was tempted in all points as we are.

Every temptation Jesus experienced was for real, but throughout his life he said ‘yes’ to God, and through dependency on his Father beat back the forces of darkness, and overcame every temptation so that he never ever once sinned. As such he was now able to offer himself on our behalf – to bear our sin and its consequences.

4. The Death he Died
John Owen, “the prince of Puritan divines,” described the death of Christ as “the Death of death in the death of Christ” – in other words this was the death that we all deserved, but through his death our death as those who believe in him would now be completely different!

Owen lists four essential elements in any propitiation – all of which we can find in Romans:

1. An offence to be taken away. Romans 1:18.
2. A person offended who needs to be pacified. Romans 1:18.
3. An offending person; one guilty of the offence. Romans 1:18; 3:1-18, 23.
4. A sacrifice or some other means of making atonement for the offence. Romans 3:21-26.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.” Romans 3:27. Note 1:18.

It is righteousness that comes through faith, 3:22.

The practical outworking? A sacrifice of atonement 3:25.

Different translations use different words here, sacrifice of atonement, expiation, propitiation.

• Expiation – has to do with humanity. Deals with the problem. E.g. removing the stain from a shirt by bleaching it. Cleansing which removes the problem sin/stain. BUT It’s only half the job done. It just deals with us and we could get dirty again. Doesn’t deal with the relationship.

• Propitiation – has to do with God. Deals with the persons/relationship. E.g. you do something which you know will stain your shirt and your wife is rightly extremely angry with you for doing so, so you go and buy her some flowers to make up for it and she forgives you. Wrath averted. The relationship is restored. Both parties reconciled.
In expiation we have the removal of guilt through a payment of the penalty, while propitiation emphasizes the appeasement or averting of God's wrath and justice. The result is at-one-ment.

Isaiah 53:10, 11 or as the hymn writer put it, “His soul was once an offering made for every soul of man.” Charles Wesley

• Justification – the result. Romans 3:24, 26. He was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” 4:25.

Not just cleansed and forgiven but acquitted! Declared righteous!

Some think that the cross, the necessity of such a bloody sacrifice, is nothing but gratuitous violence, not so, this is warranted violence, a violence that prevents God’s love from sinking into mere sentimentality and romanticism. As Niebuhr puts it, “Only a tragic and suffering love can be an adequate symbol of what we believe to be at the heart of reality itself.”

In the words of the songwriter, "What kind of love is this ...." Now with no obstruction!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Gospel Truth

As Easter approaches Augustus Toplady's hymn brings out it's glorious truth. I've taken the liberty of modernising it so that everyone may easily understand and appreciate the truth of it.

From where this fear and unbelief?
Did You, O Father, put to grief
Your spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was laid on Thee?

If You have my release secured,
And freely in my place endured
The whole of wrath Divine;
Payment God cannot twice demand
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.

Complete atonement You have made,
And to the utmost penny paid,
All that Your people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in Your righteousness,
And sprinkled with Your blood?

Turn, then, my soul, unto your rest,
The merits of your great High Priest
Speak peace and liberty.
Trust then in His effective blood,
Nor fear your banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for me.

Augustus Toplady

Monday, 22 March 2010

HELP! Our Necessity of a Saviour

An unpopular subject
Talking about sin is not popular; some Christians now prefer to talk about ‘original goodness’ rather than ‘original sin’. Talking about sin is a bit like having an inkling that something is wrong with you and not going to the doctor because you are afraid of the diagnosis – the trouble is it doesn’t make it any better or cause it to go away.

To understand our dilemma we have to go back to the beginning otherwise we won’t get it.

“In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1).
A Statement of fact and the starting point. God has no beginning or end, and needs no one and nothing to sustain him.
God is Trinity – He is One, and Three. At the centre of the cosmos there is a vibrant, loving, joyful and eternal relationship of three co-equal persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “God is love” and love does not dwell on its own, it must be expressed. Strict monotheism (as in Islam) leads to a lack of love, domination and oppression. It gives power to a single individual.
Creation – It was out of that loving, joyful, holy, happy relationship that God created the world – not because of any need in God, but out of sheer love and delight.
Humanity – It was out of that relationship of joy filled love that the Triune God made humanity in his own image (Gen 1:26, 27), to dwell within the circle of his own love – that is why relationships are so important to us, and why we crave them. It’s also why it hurts when they don’t work or are broken.

The point to note is: God wants us in on the relationship! And the gospel is all about right relationships.

BUT, God is holy love.
We have to understand God’s love on God’s terms, not ours. The world has whittled love down to an easy going, anything goes, sentimental thing.

In John 17 Jesus reveals something of the nature of this eternal relationship of love that he enjoyed before time began when he prays, “Father ... your Son,”(v.1), “Holy Father, ...”(v.11), “Righteous Father, ...”(v.25), “Glory” (v.5).
• Father/Son. Speaks of the intimacy that exists in the Godhead.
• Holiness speaks of God’s ‘otherness.’ E.g. Moses and the burning bush which was not consumed (Exodus 3:1-5) – holy ground; first time we are introduced to the idea of God’s holiness. Also Isaiah in Is. 6. He is so much ‘other’ than we are.
• Righteousness speaks of God’s ways. “Righteous in all his ways.” Psalm 145:17. There is no imperfection. Whether in mercy or justice, God is righteous in all his ways.
• Glory – ‘weight.’ There is nothing trivial about God. He cannot, and must not be trivialised. We trivialise him to our cost. E.g. Uzzah and the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 1-7).
God made us to dwell within the circle of his own holy love.

BUT, Something is wrong
It doesn’t take much to realise that there is something wrong with humanity. Wherever you look you encounter it, on TV, in the newspapers, or just daily life. The horrifying thing is that without the restraint and discipline of parents, without law and order it would be far worse! Parents spend their time teaching their children to do what is right ... they never have to teach them to do what is wrong!! The disturbing reality is we find it easier to hurt than to heal; to break up rather than to make up.

When someone commits some horrendous crime a question arises as to their nature, what possessed them. In the James Bulger case that recently hit the headlines again, discussion was raised as to the nature, or need, of the two ten year olds (as they were then) who committed the crime. Were they demons, monsters who should be judged, or misguided and unfortunate and therefore shown compassion and understanding?

A similar situation confronted Yehiel Dinur an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor when he was called to give witness against Adolf Eichmann in 1960. Dinur on entering the courtroom and seeing Eichmann broke down. Why? Because he saw the one who had killed so many of his friends ... because he was overcome with hatred ... by the awful memories ... by the evil incarnate in Eichmann’s face? No. As he later said, it was because Eichmann was not the demonic impersonation of evil that he was expecting. He was just ordinary. Just like you and me. In was in that moment he realised that sin and evil ARE the human condition, “that I am capable ... exactly like he.” His conclusion? “Eichmann is in all of us.”

Those two boys looked just like any other, so did Eichmann, just like you and me ... normal. Eichmann is in all of us. We are capable.

Total Depravity
In the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) we have the story of the Fall, and in it we see the loss of innocence, and the intrusion of guilt, shame, fear and blame as relationships are disrupted. More, God was now an enemy.

Calvin describes it as Total Depravity a better description today would be Radical Corruption. Radical means to the core ... everything is tainted. It’s not just a blemish that’s on the surface, but something that goes to the core of our being, so that every part of us is affected.

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Rom 3:10-12).

Now that doesn’t mean we are all as bad as one another, or incapable of any ‘good,’ though the good referred to here is according to God’s standard. Humanity is capable of the most heroic and kindest of acts as well as the most heinous, and sometimes both at the same time! E.g. the father who splits with his wife, and wants vengeance on her while at the same time doting on his children; Hitler and Eichmann who went home to family and friends

Everything is affected
Sin takes on all sorts of forms from outright disobedience/rebellion to spin! It’s not simply that we do wrong, it’s now very difficult for us to be objective. This means that we almost always have a tendency to skew everything ... put a spin on it ... in our favour of course, from children to adults to politicians to scientists. The tendency is to rationalise or victimise, and it all happened in the Genesis story!

The Fall affects not only humanity but also creation, it suffers, it groans under the weight of sin and the curse ... suffering, disease, and death ... the world is not as God meant it to be.

Six things about sin
• Sin – the outward act, to miss the mark. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. Fallen completely ... you missed, whether by a little or by far! E.g. target.
• Uncleanness (Lev. 16:16) Pollution, contamination. Our sin has polluted our lives and the world so that God cannot dwell there.
• Transgression/lawlessness – a legal offense (wilful rebellion) (Lev. 16:16; 1 John3:4) Broken Law.
• Iniquity/wickedness – covers all aspects of sin. The character behind the fault.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (incurable); who can understand it?” Jer. 17:9
Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Mat. 15:19
• Dead; cut off from the life of God. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:1-3)
“but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isa 59:2)
“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” Eph 4:18, 19
• Deserving of wrath and judgment. An unpopular subject. E.g. Eden, Cain & Abel, Noah, Egypt’s god’s, Romans 1.

“If your hand, .... foot, .... eye causes you to sin.” “cut it off/tear it out” (Mark 9:43-47). Not meant literally, but a radical problem needs a radical solution ...

Next week, Who? The kind of Saviour We Need.


Some questions for further reflection and application.

What thought do you give to the holiness and righteousness of God?
How might we/you trivialise God? Do you?
Do I recognise my own sinfulness?
What about the 'small' sins ... white lies ... spin ... blame shifting etc.?
Do I understand the serious nature of sin?
Do I find it easy to point the finger at others?
Am I self-righteous?
Do I see my need of a saviour?

Monday, 22 February 2010

Today

Ground Hog Day
Have you seen the film? Is that how life seems to you. A repeat of yesterday, over and over again?

Hope of a better day
I used to live for tomorrow - the hope of a better day, even my 'big day'. The only thing was there were so many difficulties, trials etc. that just seemed to stop me getting there. If only I could get by them, then I could really live as God wanted me to.

Let me be frank, sometimes I even went to bed thinking, hoping, that it was somehow going to be different tomorrow - and do you know, it wasn't. Ground Hog day. Just another replication of yesterday! Same trials, temptations, problems - same old me, same old life.

But surely the Christian life was more than this! I mean all those promises ...

Without today, tomorrow never comes!
Somehow, slowly, by God's grace I began to wake up to the fact that this was my life, even with these difficulties, trials, problems - they WERE part and parcel of my life. Not only that, but God was there, waiting with his Word and grace, and I was missing him. Instead of waiting for a better tomorrow I needed to live with God in today - today is the day of salvation both for the Christian and non Christian. NOW is the time.

Are you missing God's heart for you today, because you keep looking for a better tomorrow?

Are you failing to get to tomorrow because you are missing God's purpose in today?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Ordinary

A New Experience
One of the big issues we face today is living with the ordinary (by that I don't mean boring - that's an attitude of mind - or unenjoyable for that matter). Life it seems has to be constantly filled with events and excitement. Advertising continually pushes us in the direction of a new experience - as if the one we've got is past its sell by date, and the church is not immune from it - new worship, new and more exciting conferences, new ways of 'doing' church, the latest etc. ...

Another Drug
It's not that new things, events and excitement are in and of themselves wrong, it's the motivation. It's when we are dependent on them to keep life going, to keep it interesting, we have a problem - they are in danger of just becoming another form of drug, and when that drug no longer works we need a stronger one.

Nothing New
We only have to look at Israel in the Old Testment who had some tremendous encounters with God and saw miraculous provision and victories. Think about it, the Manna and the Quail in the wilderness became ordinary, shoes that didn't wear out became ordinary! And dare I say it even God became 'ordinary.'

We point the finger at them and wonder how they could think like that, yet we are just as guilty. Todays miracle can easily become tomorrows ordinary, yet everyday is a miracle.

It's not that events and excitement are wrong, it's that we were never made to live on a perpetual high. It cannot be sustained.

Are you taking life and the 'ordinary' blessings of it for granted? The people around you?
Are you failing to see life's little miracles because you have relegated them to the 'ordinary'?
Do you see church as a ordinary?
Are you always looking for God in extraordinary ways and fail to see and encounter him in the ordinary? (it's walking with God in the ordinary that leads to extraordinary encounters, not the other way round).

Friday, 29 January 2010

The Beatitudes

Be attitudes?
Sometimes we hear it said that these are the be attitudes, as if its our job to fulfill them.

Well the answer might shock you.

The beatitudes are not the 10 Commandments of the Sermon on the Mount but door openers to the Kingdom of God. They are not conditions to be fulfilled but blessings pronounced on those whose experience they are. This is why they are so shocking to the religious mind. Jesus was opening the doors of the kingdom to the people the religious folks wanted to keep out!

A Re-transaltion/Paraphrase

With that in mind I have paraphrased or re-translated them:

Blessed/happy are the downtrodden, the worthless, those hanging on to life, for the kingdom of the heavens is for them.
Blessed/happy are those without status, whom the world looks down upon, they shall be lifted up, strengthened and comforted.
Blessed/happy are the lowly, the exploited of this world, those who have no say; the earth shall be their inheritance.
Blessed/happy those who hunger and thirst for justice; they will be satisfied.

Blessed/happy are the ones showing mercy; they will receive God’s lovingkindness.
Blessed/happy are those with an undivided heart, who are committed; they shall see God.
Blessed/happy are those who are peacemakers; they will be heirs of God.
Blessed/happy those who suffer for the cause of God’s justice, theirs is already the kingdom of the heavens.

Friday, 22 January 2010

WHAT IS CHURCH?

Church
Our English word 'church' is derived from the Greek 'kuriakon,' meaning 'dedicated to the Lord,' a word commonly used to refer to a holy place or temple, and came to mean a sacred building. The problem is it is never used in Scripture in reference to the Body of Christ, the church'.

The original Greek word that we transalte 'church' is 'ekklesia' which simply refers to an 'assembly,' a group of people gathered together for a purpose. It's therefore not a special building, nor an individual, or two or three people meeting together for coffee in Starbucks, even if it is in 'the name of Jesus.'

Organism
Today it is common to speak of the church as an 'organism' as opposed to an 'organisation,' the idea being that an organism has life and fluidity. There is also the suggestion within it that organisms can function without structure. The reality though is otherwise. All complex life forms have structure, structure and life go together, e.g. the human body.

The church likewise is NOT ‘amorphous,’ that is having no definite form, shapeless, without structure, as some would suggest.

The pictures we have in the Bible tell us otherwise:

• A Body: (Eph. 1;23; Rom 12:5) It's not meant to be taken literally, but rather speaks of connection and function – purpose is to oppose divisions. It’s about love & respect,the importance of all, and their need of each other, and that they are not interchangeable parts.

• Citizens: speaks of a well ordered society (Eph.2:19)

• A Household: speaks of family order and relationship (Eph. 2:19)

• A Temple: speaks of structure and the dwelling place of God (Eph. 2:21)

• A Bride: speaks of a ‘person’, love & loyalty to Christ (Eph. 5: 25-32)

So church then is an assembly gathered and structured for a purpose.

1. To be a people gathered before, under, and for the Lord – we are here first and foremost for God. Eph. 1:3-14; 2:21,22

2. To be a new man, a new society/new community – redeemed lives that are experiencing personal and relational transformation as we come under the authority of the Word and gathered community. Note: Personal growth is directly related to relational growth. Eph. 2:15, 19; 5

3. To be a city set on a hill – a light to the world. The church is not a castle to protect us from the world, but a place from which we go out into the world, to serve the purposes of the King.Matthew 5:14.

Therefore we should "not forake the assembling of ourselves together ...." Heb.10:25

Saturday, 16 January 2010

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

This last week I have been away doing a weeks study at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology. On Friday it was my turn to lead the morning worship, and having spoken on the scripture "Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,.." (2 Timothy 2:8) we sang, 'I Know that My Redeeemer Lives' by Samuel Medley, a hymn I haven't sung in a long time, and my what a hymn! It was so appropriate to the text!

Now when you read the text it's not that Timothy had forgotten Jesus, or the gospel, no, it's that he needs to realise and appropriate the truth of the risen - no, more than that, the alive Christ, the One who came and dwelt in this 'stuff' (this real, tangible, human flesh), who was tempted and tried just like we are, but overcame, who went down into death bearing our sin and is alive today from the dead! There is a man in heaven who is our saviour, who is able to encourage and empower us because he has, and does symapthise with us.

Enjoy the hymn! Know the truth! (The actual version we sang was an edited one from Praise, but I have included the full version here for your blessing).

I know that my Redeemer lives!
What joy this great assurance gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living head!

He lives triumphant from the grave;
He lives eternally to save;
He lives exalted, throned above;
He lives to rule his Church in love.

He lives to grant me rich supply;
He lives to guide me with his eye;
He lives to comfort me when faint;
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives to silence all my fears;
He lives to wipe away my tears;
He lives to calm my troubled heart;
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives to bless me with his love;
He lives to plead for me above;
He lives my hungry soul to feed;
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly friend;
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while he lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King!

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives, all glory to his name!
He lives, my saviour, still the same;
What joy this blest assurance gives:
I know that my Redeemer lives!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Prophetic Revelation

Prophetic Revelation
"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." (Proverbs 29:18 ESV). This is where we need to be living as we head into 2010 - prophetic vision/revelation.

Now, we must never think for one moment that this always means something new, unheard of, totally original - if we do we'll be in trouble. This revelation has to do with a people who are alive to God and his Word.

First, alive to God, a relationship that is real, vital, developing, growing .. the problem is sin disrupts it, we can take it for granted, it goes stale etc. - and the problem is not God's!

Second, alive to His Word, the Holy Scriptures (maybe that word 'holy' needs to be restored to them - perhaps its again part of the dumbing down that is frequent today). How often this verse is quoted withouth the second part - "Blessed is he who keeps the law." Christians who are deaf and disobedient to the Word are cutting off the very basis of prophetic vision/revelation. If you are not hearing God one of the best questions you can ask yourself is, when did God last speak to me and what did I do with it? We close the door to hearing God by disobedience. Logically we might say, if you are not listening and responding now, why say anymore?

Praise God his mercies are new every morning. With him there is forgiveness. Acknowledgment, confession, repentance are key. He is more willing to renew our lives than we realise! Its the devil who says 'that's it, God's finished with you.' As the Psalmist says,"The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand." (Psalm 37:23-24)

Monday, 4 January 2010

How Precious is Your Name

I finished writing this hymn last year, it can be sung to the tune 'Lloyd,' with slightly altered phrasing in a more expressive modern style.

How precious is Your name O Lord
It means the world to me.
It speaks of all Your saving worth.
Your love poured out for me.

And when I think of what You've done
(And done it all for me!)
I cannot help but lift my voice
And sing my praise to Thee.

You came and lived your life for me
In flesh just like my own
You knew temptations fullest power
yet sin you did not own.

No sin was yours, but mine you took
And bore the wretched curse
Of death upon a Roman cross
To give men peace on earth.

There on that cross You shed your blood
So freely, all for me.
A sacrifice, atonement made,
To give me peace with Thee.

Richard Burgess 2009