Tag Archives: free

TE BOOK OF ACTS – THAT WAS A CLOSE SHAVE!

THAT WAS A CLOSE SHAVE!

“‘So here is my decision. We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We’ll write them a letter and tell them, ‘Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, not to serve food offensive to Jewish Christians — blood, for instance.’ This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honoured for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.'” Acts 15:19-21 (The Message).

All the heavyweights in one place, holding the future of church of the Lord Jesus Christ in their hands! Could they be trusted to make the right decision?

It was their responsibility to interpret and implement the yoke of their Rabbi to the infant church in the Roman world then and for all the generations of believers that followed them to this day. Their decision would either set people free or entangle them in the bondage of legalism and rob the cross of its power to save.

What would the New Testament have looked like for us had the decision gone the other way? Would it have become just another rule book for another powerless religion to enslave people and keep them from access to the God who yearns for the freedom and fellowship of His people?

Thank God for the Holy Spirit who was in them to guide their thoughts and understanding at this critical moment in the history of the church! The foundation was being laid for all the generations that followed. So Paul could write to Gentile believers with all the confidence and authority of the Lord Jesus and the backing of the church leaders:

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV).

All the circumcision and law-keeping in the world had not changed the hearts of the Jews. In fact, it had only made them worse because they thought they were above everyone else; they despised the Gentiles, calling them “dogs”; they would not associate with them, much less eat with them; they considered God their exclusive possession despite their rebellion and did not think it appropriate to share His word with “outsiders”.

But now all that had changed. God had to use drastic means at times, for example, Peter’s bizarre vision before he was persuaded to go to the house of Cornelius and share the good news with him; the shocking observation of the Holy Spirit coming on and manifesting Himself in the exactly the same way as He fell on them at Pentecost, to change the minds of these stubbornly prejudiced Jews.

How could they now come to any other decision than that the Message of life in Jesus Christ was for the whole world and not just for those who had undergone a small operation? That had served its purpose for a season but had now become obsolete with the coming of the Messiah to whom all these rules and rituals pointed. Never again did they need to peer through the dark at types and shadows because Jesus had ushered in the full light of day.

Anyone who adds anything to what He has done had gone backwards from light to darkness, from life to death and from freedom to slavery all over again.

A GIFT UNUSED

Have you ever given someone you love a gift, only to find that it has been stashed away unused? How hurt you would feel that your friendship was so little valued that the gift was tossed aside!

How does God feel when we value His gift of salvation so little that we neglect to appropriate everything He has done for us?

The psalmist asked the question, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?” Psalm 116:12.

Sometimes we think that we have to do something to repay God or work to earn His salvation. We try harder to be good; we work harder to serve Him because it is our way of “repaying” Him for His love to us. Is it possible to “pay” God for His love?

Imagine if your friend, to whom you have lovingly given something that has taken you thought and planning, decides that he or she must repay you by working hard for you. He or she does everything they can to please you, to repay you for your generosity.

There is something wrong here. Does one have to pay for a gift? If so, then it is no longer a gift. How pleased would you be if your friend tried to pay for your gift? It would no longer be a gift, and the motive for giving – love and friendship – would be destroyed.

We find it difficult to receive God’s gift of salvation because we cannot imagine someone doing something so big for us without some kind of payment. What did God give us? He gave us Jesus, His only Son, not just as a person but as a bloody sacrifice to save us from our self-inflicted destruction.

I think the psalmist understood God’s heart and His intention when he went on to say, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfil my vows in the presence of all His people.” Psalm 116:13-14.

What better way of showing gratitude for a gift than to use it for the purpose it was given. The psalmist affirmed his gratitude to God by drinking deeply of all the benefits of God’s salvation and by living out what God made him to be in the company of God’s people.

Instead of forgiving those who have offended us, we hang on to our grievances and refuse to let go of our “stuff”. Jesus made it possible for us to forgive and be free.

When we embrace Jesus and all He has done for us, we are saying a big” thank you” to God for all His goodness to us.

Jesus Did Not Say That The Truth Will Set You Free

JESUS DID NOT SAY THAT THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE

“O yes He did!” you might vehemently protest, and I will just as vehemently protest that He did not, at least that is not what He meant.

Let’s read what He said, in context, of course.

To the Jews who believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:31-32)

How many times have you heard someone quote Jesus’ words out of context: ‘The truth will set you free’?

The whole truth of what He said hangs on the issue of being His disciple. Unfortunately, even being a disciple of Jesus is misunderstood today. In Jesus’ day, a disciple was a person whom a rabbi (teacher and model) called to follow him. The rabbi had implicit confidence that, after spending time with him day and night, not only learning what he believed and taught, but also learning to imitate him in every possible way, those who followed him would become a replica of him. They, in turn would teach his yoke to others.

A disciple had to learn his rabbi’s yoke – his understanding of Yahweh’s original intention in the Torah – His instructions for living that would guide him on his journey towards his destination which was Zion, the place where He had established His name. Only a rabbi with sh’mikah, the authority recongnised by two witnesses, was permitted to have his own yoke and to teach his yoke to his disciples.

Jesus had sh’mikah, authority from the Father to which both the Father and John the Baptist bore witness at His baptism, to override every other yoke and “bind” His yoke on His followers. Unlike the yoke of rabbis like Hillel and Shammai, who placed heavy burdens on people which the Pharisees and religious leaders slavishly followed, Jesus’ yoke was easy and His burden light.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt. 11: 28-30)

It was in this context of discipleship, not to the casual observer who had no commitment to follow Jesus as his model and mentor, that Jesus spoke these words. True freedom can only be experienced by those who understand Jesus’ yoke and put it into practice in their everyday lives. The core of His yoke lies in His disposition as the Son of God and His representative on earth. He said, ‘I am gentle and humble in heart.’ Slavishly trying to follow a set of rules can never bring the rest He promised.

What is this rest He promised? It is the rest of soul that has received forgiveness of sin through Jesus and has been reconciled to the Father by faith in Christ. He is no longer obligated to keeping a set of rules to gain favour with God. He has been reinstated into His family as His son or daughter; he has received God’s gift of righteousness through Jesus; he has been redeemed from the slave market of sin and transferred from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of God. He has a new nature and a new Master.

All this is God’s doing; it cannot be taken from him. He can rest in what God has done for him, and he is free to walk in God’s truth through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the freedom Jesus offers to those who throw in their lot with Him in loyalty, trust and obedience.

This is a far cry from what some people believe He said, if they even know the source of the statement! There can never be true freedom outside of Jesus and outside of being His disciple by holding to His teaching. It is not the truth that sets us free but the experiential knowledge of the truth when we believe and practise the teachings of Jesus in the disposition of the Master.

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.partridgepublishing.com.

Watch this space. My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, will soon be on the bookshelves.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Sex And Money!

SEX AND MONEY!

Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed be kept pure, for God will judge the adulterers and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’ (Heb. 13: 4-6).

Sex and money! Doesn’t the ungodly world revolve around sex and money? God has set the boundaries around which these two things are to be used for our blessing and benefit, and for His glory. When we stay within the boundaries, we enjoy God’s favour and blessing and both work for us as they should.

The problem is that human beings have said, “We don’t like your boundaries, God. They are too restrictive, so we’ll make our own rules.” However, our rules are – no rules. As far as sex and money are concerned, anything goes. The Hebrew concept of hell is a place with no boundaries. By casting off God’s restraints and refusing to believe that there are consequences until it’s too late, the human race has created its own hell on earth.

As bad as that is, what is worse is that the church, to a large extent, has followed suit. Church leaders, and prominent ones at that, rationalise sin away as though God’s standards are equal to “situation ethics” – whatever feels right to you is right. What passes for “love” is the excuse for every kind of sexual promiscuity and perversity. Homosexuality, for example, is condoned and excused because people of the same sex “love each other.” “Falling out of love” is a perfectly good reason for adultery and divorce, and pastors very often lead the way. As for fornication among the youth, well . . .

What passes for “God’s blessing” is a cover up for greed and even extortion within the church. How did we get to the place where we buy God’s miracles by being given the guarantee that, if we “sow into” so-and-so’s ministry, God will do what we want? The tragedy is that gullible, uninformed so-called “believers” swallow the bait and line the pockets of unscrupulous big-name preachers so that they can enjoy the hard-earned money of those they deceive. Guilt is the whip these “spiritual” leaders use to drive the people “in the name of the Lord.”

And what of what I call “charismatic shopping”! “For a gift of x amount or more (note the “or more” bit!), you can have this book, or CD, or DVD” or whatever is on offer. Have you ever! Imagine going into a shop and seeing the price of an article stated this way: “For a gift of . . . you can have this . . .” Isn’t is the same thing?

Satan, under the guise of promiscuous or perverted sex and greed, has staked his claim to be Lord, and laughs at those who follow him. He knows very well where he is leading them. He gets them exactly where he wants them, enslaved to sin and in line for God’s judgment. He knows he is heading for the lake of fire and he is determined to take as many with him as he can. He dangles the carrot of pleasure and gratification in front of the unsuspecting until they are hooked and then he laughs in their faces.

What should our attitude be to these two most powerful forces in the world – sex and money? God has set His boundaries – and our response should be to obey. The surprising thing is that, when we do, we enjoy more pleasure and gratification than all the pleasure people seek who do it by bending the rules. God is smart. He knows why we were made, how we were made and what works for us. He ought to, since He is our Creator, with apologies to the “big bang” people.

His rules are simple. Rule number one: You can have all the sex you want, within the boundaries of monogamous marriage and a faithful and loyal relationship. Rule number two: You can have all the money you want as long as you work for it and use it to serve you, your family and those who are in need. Money is a good servant but a bad master.

Within these boundaries you will live in and promote peace in your family and wherever you can be of help to others. Unity in marriage is a reflection of the oneness within the godhead.  Generosity with your money and possessions is a reflection of the generosity of our God who gave His only Son to save us from perishing in our sin. Our best and only response to love like that is to do what He tells us because He knows that it works.

A wise person, according to the Scriptures, is one who does what works. A fool is one who knows that what he does, does not work but he does it anyway. He does the same thing over and over again but expects a different outcome. How dumb is that! For us as human beings made in the image of God, there is only one thing that works – obedience to God’s instructions.

So why buck the system? You will not hurt God but you will certainly hurt yourself.

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 www.kalahari.com in paperback, e-book or kindle format, or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my blogsite at www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

All Or Nothing

ALL OR NOTHING

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again with a yoke of slavery.

“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4.

Imagine how foolish it would be for a slave whose ransom has been paid and freedom bought by a benefactor, to insist on paying the ransom price again, even though he has been a slave all his life and has never earned a cent. How silly to think that way and yet this was what the Galatians had been deceived into thinking. Although Jesus had paid their debt, they thought they still owed God something. They had to be circumcised to make sure that they were okay with Him.

Paul reminded them that Jesus was passionate about setting them free. That’s the reason why He came. Sin and Satan had enslaved them. This was never God’s purpose. He intended for people to be His sons and daughters in His family, created in His image to live in the joy and freedom of a loving relationship with Him.

The first human pair was ensnared by the devil’s deception which brought the whole world into slavery to sin. God gave the law to show His people just how enslaved they were. They were trapped into disobedience and rebellion by the requirements of the law. When God said, “Don’t!” their sin nature rose up in defiance and said, “We will!” That’s what sin does. How can we ever live in harmony with God when our very nature is against Him?

The problem is that sin brings the penalty of death, not only physical death but, far worse, spiritual death. We were all born dead to God. For most people God is a phantom figure whom they hate, fear and from whom they flee by ignoring Him and pretending He doesn’t exist. The problem is that God created us with an inner awareness that we were made for Him and that we are accountable to Him. However hard we try, we cannot escape that.

So what did men do?  They made up their own gods to try to appease their conscience. Religion is man’s attempt to get to God their own way; like Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “I did it my way.” But it does not work because every religion is a lie, even religion that believes in the one true God but tries to get to Him by people’s own efforts is a lie.

Atheists insist that there is no God and yet they use the very word “God” in their vocabulary. If He does not exist, where does the idea of God come from? Who made it up? Agnostics say that if there is a God, we cannot know Him? Who told them that? Evolutionists have concocted an unbelievably ridiculous story, against all the evidence of a super-intelligent Designer, that the entire universe just happened by chance, and that it took millions of years to happen.  Only fools believe that rubbish.

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” Psalm 14:1.

As soon as a person acknowledges that God exists, he also has to acknowledge that he is answerable to God for the way he lives. People don’t like that because they know that they are guilty of going against their own conscience and the awareness of God which He put inside them as a witness to His existence.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” John 3:19, 20.

It is impossible to free us from these false notions and the consequences of believing them. Jesus came to set us from our guilt, our sin and our slavery to deceptions. He did it all by dying in our place on the cross. Why would we think we should and why would we want to add anything to what He did?

As soon as we do that, we cancel out His free gift. Paul said when we do this, we have fallen away from grace.

Acknowledgement

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.