Monthly Archives: March 2015

Case Concluded

CASE CONCLUDED

For, ‘In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.’ And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved (Heb. 10: 37-39).

The writer concluded his magnificent case for the superiority of Jesus over all the people and systems of the Old Covenant with two quotes from Habakkuk:

‘He who is coming will come and will not delay.’ (Hab. 2: 3). And

‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ (Hab. 2: 4)

The first quote should read: For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

What was the writer’s point? To understand, we need to back up to his whole concluding argument. Having proved without a doubt the superiority of Jesus’s high priesthood and sacrifice over the Levitical system, he issued a serious warning that, to go back the Judaism was to trash Jesus, His blood and the work of the Holy Spirit, to remove themselves from God’s grace and to put themselves under judgment because, outside of Christ, there is no forgiveness of sin.

For those who “shrink back”, judgment is coming, as surely as it was for the Israelites who shrank back from believing God’s promise and refused to enter the Promised Land. Judgment came to the people of Judah in the form of the Babylonian captivity as God prophesied through Habakkuk because the Jews failed to trust God by obeying Him and walking in His ways. Jesus is coming soon to bring judgment on those who shrink back from following Him because the price is too high.

The second quote was an encouragement to persevere in spite of the circumstances. Judgment would surely fall on those who went back, to dodge persecution but, for those who kept trusting God in spite of suffering, there was a rich reward. God’s pleasure rests on those who put their trust in Him and obey His word, regardless of the cost.

These readers had started off well by paying the price for their faith and suffering joyfully all the indignities heaped on them by both unbelieving Jews and the officials of the pagan government of Rome. The danger was that they were becoming weary of this way, and they were seeking an easier way to make life a little more comfortable, not realising the implications of drawing back.

Faith is only true faith when it perseveres through the difficulties which make faith legitimate. Faith has no value when it has no need to be exercised. God has no pleasure in “fair-weather” believers whose faith is radiant when there is no need to trust Him. The true value of faith lies in the confidence one has in the faithfulness of God when the wind blows and the storm rages and the world is utterly dark.

The entire message of the Bible is that there is limitless grace for those who return from their own way to follow God’s way. His mercy is extended to anyone who repents of sin and trusts in Him for His provision of forgiveness through the blood of His Son. But, on the other hand, there is no mercy for those who reject His offer of salvation and choose their way over His way. Why should He have mercy on those who trample the blood of Jesus underfoot? God paid the highest possible price for our salvation. There is nothing more He can do.

The writer concluded his warning with a word of encouragement. The history of his readers proved that they were once sincere believers and followers of Jesus, the Messiah. His reassurance and confidence was that they would not give it up but continue to press on in spite of their hardships, and would eventually receive the end result of their perseverance, the eternal salvation which no one could take from them.

Faith and perseverance – two non-negotiables on this journey into life. Shrink back, and you lose it all; persevere and you will receive your reward – a place in God’s forever family and everything He promised as your inheritance.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublshing.com.

 

Free To Suffer

FREE TO SUFFER

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence. You need to persevere so that, when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised (Heb. 10: 32-36).

For the readers of this letter, this was their very real experience – persecution, insult, suffering, loss of property, and imprisonment – and all because they confessed that Jesus is Lord and faithfully followed Him. What was so criminal about that?

Once again we are faced with the reality as well that we are locked in a cosmic conflict between the forces of darkness and the God who created the universe and requires us to honour and obey Him. Strange, isn’t it, that believers in Jesus have to defend and die for the right to live honest and upright lives by being loyal to the one who set them free from the powers of darkness!

Jesus had something to say about this in the early days of training His disciples.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5: 8-11).

Jesus made peace between God and man, and between Jew and Gentile by reconciling these alienated parties through His blood. He has entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to us.

All this is from God who reconciled us to Him though Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5: 18-19).

But in a world under the dominion of the devil, righteousness is not to be tolerated. People are not just indifferent to God; they are enemies, God-haters, no matter what religious persuasion they subscribe to. Yes, Jesus exposed and overcame the devil at the cross, but Satan still deceives those who refuse to believe in Jesus, that he is in charge of this world. He fights back to retain his hold on those who prefer to live in darkness because their hearts are wicked.

Jesus taught His disciples that persecution is a cause for celebration because it sets God’s people apart as truly being His sons and daughters. Why? Because they are evidencing the same passion for righteousness that brought persecution and suffering to the prophets. Persecution should not be a cause for apostasy. ‘Don’t run away from it,’ he urged his readers. ‘Embrace it because you are in good company. There is a reward at the end of the road far in excess of the persecution you are suffering now.’

This writer also urged his readers to take the long look at life. They were called to be imitators of their Master who did not shrink from the cross because the reward far outweighed the cost. Life is much more than the few years we spend on this present, corrupted earth and its corrupted society. How we live now is our apprenticeship for the life to come. Jesus lived every moment with His eye on the prize.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12: 1b-3).

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublshing.com.

 

A Serious Warning

A SERIOUS WARNING

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses, How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10: 26-31).

This is a serious and severe warning against trifling with sin. The blood of sacrificial animals was offered for sins committed in ignorance.

If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, when they realise their guilt, and the sin they have committed becomes known, they must bring as their offering for the sin they committed a female goat without defect (Lev. 4: 27).

‘But what about David?’ you may ask. ‘Surely he knew what he was doing when he committed adultery and all the other sins that went with it?’ David knew what he was doing was wrong, but he went ahead and did it anyway. How, then, could God forgive his sin since it was committed intentionally? Was it because he willingly admitted his wrong, unlike many of the kings of Judah and Israel who refused to take responsibility for their sin? The Bible does not tell us. All we know is that God forgave him but did not release him from the consequences of what he had done.

Is God saying that we have to be perfect in order to satisfy His holy standards? If we sin after we have come to faith in Jesus, will we be condemned to hell? If that were true, what was the point of Jesus’s death for the forgiveness of sin? That would contradict the very terms of the new covenant.

Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Matt. 26: 27-28).

Jesus shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins, past, present and future, otherwise we would still be held responsible for the sins we will still commit in the future.

There is something else that comes into play here. Under the old covenant, the people began to look upon the animal sacrifices as a covering for sin. They could do as much wrong as they liked regardless of what God wanted of them in His covenant because they could always come back and offer a sacrifice. What God intended as a reminder of the seriousness of sin became an excuse to sin. Such was the perversity of their wicked hearts.

Ephraim has built a lot of altars, and then uses them for sinning. Can you believe it? Altars for sinning! (Hos. 8: 11 – The Message).

This is a subtle attitude that can creep in when the lure of sin becomes stronger than the awareness of the cost of our salvation. This kind of thinking spawns three unforgivable attitudes: Jesus is not worth taking seriously; His blood is cheap and the Holy Spirit’s grace is unnecessary. These attitudes effectively cut us off from the mercy of God and place us back under judgment.

How important is it that this writer issue this kind of warning? Surely those who have recognised the value of their salvation would not trespass into this kind of perverse thinking? We will never know how subtle the devil’s ways are until we realise that he will stop at nothing to alienate us from God and bring us down. He has no rules in his game. He will do whatever it takes to win God’s children back to himself, most of all by devaluing the cost of our salvation.

If we continue in our life of sin after we have received God’s gift of forgiveness, it means one of two things: we have never really understood what Jesus has done for us or we have been lured into thinking that His shed blood gives us licence to sin because forgiveness is always available. Jesus came to rescue us from Satan’s dominion and to restore us to the family of God as His sons and daughters. His intention is that we grow in our likeness to Jesus, our elder brother. That cuts sin out of the equation.

Yes, Jesus has shed His blood for us and, yes, He has forgiven all our sin, but we must keep walking in His way, and not trifle with God’s mercy by playing the fool with His forgiveness. Outside of Jesus there is no salvation. To reject Him for any other religion, or to disregard Him or the value of what He has done and the work of the Holy Spirit in us is to place ourselves in line for the judgment reserved for the devil and his angels.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublshing.com.

 

Now Let Us . . .

NOW LET US  . . .

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another  – and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:23-25).

There is always the need for a positive response to what God has done for us. One wonders who and how many of them were sowing discouragement among them in this community of Jewish believers, and urging them to go back to Judaism where they could practise their religion without harassment.

They knew very well how their ancestors had responded to discouragement and a bad report. When the twelve spies returned from their reconnoitring trip into Canaan, they thoroughly disrupted the camp and destroyed their morale by their discouraging words.  Wonderful country, yes, but oh, the giants! Forgotten were the promises of God and the many evidences of His power and provision along the way. And so they got what they anticipated – death in the desert – and not even at the hands of the Canaanites whom they feared.

There was great need – and this writer jumped in to fill it – for his readers to be encouraged to persevere in spite of the hard times because there was so much at stake.

They needed to take a long look at Jesus. Who was He? What did He do? Why must we trust Him? What’s wrong with our old ways? Without true understanding and recognition of who He was, they could easily give up and slide back into so-called peace and safety, and lose the very salvation they were seeking in their incomplete religion.

‘Hold on,’ urged the writer, ‘and never let go of the hope you have in Jesus.’ Hope? What is hope? Not just a vague wish but an assurance, underwritten by God Himself, that everything promised in Jesus has a predetermined outcome – something like building a jigsaw puzzle. Ever done one? Your hope of the outcome lies in the picture on the box. All the disconnected pieces make no sense when they are all laid out on the table. As long as you put the pieces in their correct places, you know that your puzzle with be exactly like the picture on the box.

‘Live in community,’ said the writer. ‘It’s an important piece in the puzzle.’ When coals fall out of the fire, to change the metaphor, they lose their heat. The only hope we have of remaining in the faith is to stick together, and keep the fire burning in spite of the efforts of outsiders to put it out.

Community is much more than coming together once a week to have “church”. Community is doing life together as a family, with a strong support base of love and sharing. We don’t need complainers. We need encouragers. We need oil, not water, to keep the fire burning. Keep up the good deeds. Look around you in your community. Where can you fill the gaps? This is one sure way to show the world that you have a new heart.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Gal. 6: 10).

We live in a world of takers. Stinginess and greed are the name of the game in the ungodly communities around us. God calls us to be different. God is a giver. Look around you. There is lavish generosity everywhere in God’s world. Gods transforms us from takers to givers through the power of His Holy Spirit. We look at God’s mercy in our own lives, forgiving our sin, restoring us to His family as His beloved sons and daughters and providing everything we need to live godly lives. Our response can only be one thing – pour out our love and gratitude by meeting the needs of others.

Did the writer mean meeting together at church on a Sunday? I believe it is much more than that, important as that is. We can “meet together” in many different ways – sharing hospitality, a phone call to encourage, popping in for a cup of tea and a chat, praying over a need. Opportunities are endless to be a true community of God’s people. What better witness to a dog-eat-dog world that God is real and that He can make new people out of what we were!

And all because Jesus came, and gave His life for us. Now let us . . .

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublshing.com and order from your branch.

 

Let Us Draw Near

LET US DRAW NEAR

The Holy Spirit also testifies about this. First He says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them, after that time,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’

Then He adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary (Heb. 10: 15-18).

With the sacrifice of Jesus, God put a full stop at the end of the prophetic sentence. Everything was complete with that one sacrifice – justice satisfied, sin atoned for, forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west, the new covenant brought into effect, with better provisions based on better promises and mediated by a better high priest.

God was now free to put into effect what He had planned and set in motion at the beginning – a family of sons and daughters who would relate to Him as a Father and who would live with Him in intimate fellowship with nothing between us to obstruct our relationship with Him.

No longer do we need to go to the priest for instruction in God’s word, He has written it on our hearts and in our minds – not just the words but the spirit of His word, His nature, who He is and who we are in Christ. We are no longer slaves but sons, and the Spirit of sonship witnesses with our spirits that we are, indeed, sons and daughters of God.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Rom. 8: 15-16).

The completion of Jesus’s work brings us into a new realm of living – in God’s presence – because all obstacles have been removed. We are no longer shut out by a heavy curtain beyond which we are not permitted to go. We no longer need to rely on an earthly high priest to mediate for us. We have a permanent high priest in the presence of God, who presents His own blood as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. We no longer have to wait for another Day of Atonement before we can receive the assurance that our sin has been forgiven for another year. Our sin has been removed – forever.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is His body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Heb. 10: 19-22).

At last! This is what God has been waiting for – from the moment Adam sinned – His children restored to fellowship with Himself. What an invitation!

The Creator God of the universe, King of the nations, extends His sceptre towards us with the unconditional invitation to draw near. And yet – how few accept that invitation and truly draw near! We come with our crises; we come with our grocery lists of needs; we come with our gripes and complaints; we even come pouting, with our mistrust and suspicion, and we hope to get a reply by next week, or immediately if we need His intervention now! Is that what He means by drawing near?

David, a man who was still part of the old system, who did not know Jesus, who walked with God under the provisions of the old covenant, understood what it was like to draw near.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple (Psa. 27: 4).

Something happens when we draw near and gaze on the beauty of the Lord. We are transformed – like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon after weeks of resting – metamorphosed into something ethereal and beautiful.

And we all who, with unveiled faces, contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3; 18).

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublshing.com and order from your branch.