The Crisis Of This World

                “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will be.  My father will honour the one who serves me.  Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”

                                                                                                                                                                                John 12:23-28a

                In John chapter 12 something changes.  The Lord Jesus Christ has entered the Temple area in triumph.  Lazarus has been raised back to life from the dead.  The crowds are in a frenzy of excitement about Jesus and Lazarus.  The opposition to Jesus and His word has solidified with the intention to put Him to death.  Up to this point in the gospel Jesus has kept stating that His hour had not yet come (John 2:4; 7:30; and 8:20).  Now something has changed, a delegation of Gentiles, John calls them Greeks, are brought by Andrew and Philip to Jesus.  Their conversation with the Lord Jesus Christ is not recorded by John.  What he does record for us is the statement which Jesus makes on this occasion.  Something has changed.  Jesus’ hour has now come.  In verse 31 Jesus says that the judgment of the world and its prince has now come.  Literally what Jesus says here is that the time has come for the division, separation, judgment of this world.  The actual word here is crisis.  The crisis of the world has come.  A crisis is an event which brings change.  This is the hour that Jesus has now come to. 

                There is something about the coming of some Gentiles to Jesus which brings Him to the hour of His glorification.  He speaks to them, and His disciples, about what this crisis will require of Him and of them.  The Son of Man is about to be glorified through the cross.  Jesus’ hour is a cross centred hour.  So Jesus begins to speak about how He will glorify the Name of His father through His death on the cross.  He must die so that God’s redemptive purpose can be accomplished. 

                God is glorified through the cross of Christ.  Those who follow Jesus must be those who are crucified with Him.  We are called to heed the call of the Lord to follow Him to the cross.  There is no life for us or for others apart from the cross of Christ.  In fact Jesus tells his audience here in chapter 12 that, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am my servant must be.” We serve and follow Christ crucified.  The disciples, and us today, are called to follow Him to the cross.  Where He is found we are found and that is living the crucified life.

                George Whitefield tells us about this crucified life, which he applies to preachers, but which can be reasonably be applied to all true disciples of Christ when he writes the following.

                “Yea…that we shall see the great Head of the Church once more…raise up unto Himself certain young men whom He may use in this glorious employ.  And what manner of men will they be?  Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace.  They will be men who have learned what it is to die to self, to human aims and personal ambitions; men who are willing to be “fools for Christ’s sake”, who will bear reproach and falsehood, who will labour and suffer, and whose supreme desire will be, not to gain the earth’s accolades, but to win the Master’s approbation when they appear before His awesome judgment seat.  They will be men who will preach with broken hearts and tear-filled eyes, and upon whose ministries God will grant an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit, and who will witness “signs and wonders following” in the multitudes of human lives.” (Dallimore, Arnold, George Whitefield, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1970, Vol. 1 page 16)

Spiritual Mindedness

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”

                                                                                                                                                                James 1:19-22

                A number of years ago, when I first read John Miller’s little book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church I was struck by one of the phrases that he used.  This was that for him faith involved his giving himself to God without reservation, and then taking his courage in his hands and obeying God in everything that God commanded.  I wondered just what Miller meant by such a powerful statement.  It seemed that he was trying to define for us just what a life of faith looked like.  How do we know if we are living by faith or in the flesh?  How do we live in the Spirit, being spiritually minded as we live out our lives?  We use these expressions so glibly.  What does a truly spiritual life look like?

                Of all places to find answers to these questions the book of James seems to be an unlikely place.  Here is a book that seems to teach salvation by works.  At least that is what we think.  However, when we take a closer look we discover that James is really calling us to live a lifestyle which is truly spiritual because it has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  What does such a life look like?

                James tells us that God has willed to give us new birth through the word of truth.  He anchors the Christian life in regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit bringing us to new life through faith in the LORD Jesus Christ.  In the eighteenth century young missionaries like John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield discovered this teaching about regeneration by the work of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.  Their testimony was that as they came to believe in Christ they found, to use John Wesley’s word, “their hearts strangely warmed.”  They began to preach this Word throughout the villages and towns in Britain and many thousands came to faith in Christ.  They had returned to the Gospel message of the New Testament.

                In tremendously practical terms James outlines for us in his letter this message of regeneration.  It is characterized by the righteousness of God being created within us.  This is not our righteousness it is His given to us through faith.  Almost immediately it begins to work itself out in our lives.  It produces the fruit of righteousness transforming our speech and our attitudes.  It causes us to obey the Word of God.  It is almost as if that word is being written into our hearts.  In fact that is what two Old Testament Prophets said God would do.

                Jeremiah writes, ““The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah.  It will not be like the Covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my Covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.  “This is the Covenant I will make with the House of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.”” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

                Ezekiel echoes Jeremiah’s words in this way, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

                                                                                                                                                (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

                James tells us that Spiritual Christianity is a faith that leads us to obey God’s Word through the power of God’s Spirit in all manner of practical ways.  It starts with our accepting by faith the implanted word of God which comes to us in the Gospel.

It Is Finished

                “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  When He received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

                                                                                                                                                                                John 19:28-30

                Every year when we come to celebrate Holy Week I find myself wrestling with the tremendous mystery of the events that took place around the cross and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Gospel writers present these events as being the fulfillment of many prophesies.  It seems as if one of John’s favourite expressions is, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”  This is surely more meaningful than that Jesus did certain things in order to fulfill the Scripture.  Instead John and all of the other Gospel writers go out of their way to point out that all of these events, affecting numerous people, as well as the flow of history itself, were being worked out in a way that conformed them to Word of God.  The words that John uses here point out that all of these things fulfilled God’s Word completely.  What a wonderful aide to our faith.  God revealed these things through His prophets, had them write them down for our benefit, and then brought all of history together in a grand accomplishment of all that He said.

                The point here is much bigger than just the fulfillment of some promises, as important as that is in building our faith.  God revealed these things so that we would understand just what He was doing in Christ.  Here we discover God’s plan, decided on before the foundation of the world, and accomplished in Christ.  John tells us what is in the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ as He hung upon the cross.  “It is finished.”  Literally John tells us that Jesus was crying out to His Father that the purpose for which He had come into this world was completed.  This was to set us free from sin and death through His atoning death upon the cross.  The Living Word had become flesh and dwelt among us in order to go to the cross and lay His life down as a ransom for us.  In Him we can now be reconciled to God.  God revealed it to us through His Word, and He accomplished it in the Lord Jesus Christ.  What amazing love we are shown, to use Charles Wesley’s phrase. 

                These events which form the heart of our Christian faith are a call from God to us so that we will come to have real faith in God.  It is this to which Jesus calls His disciple in Mark 11.  It is at the heart of the Gospel invitation.  Zechariah 4:6-7 speaks to us about this, “So he said to me, “This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.  What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground.  Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of God bless it!  God bless it!’”  It is a call to believe God.  He is at work carrying out His Sovereign purposes in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Nothing can overturn that purpose. 

                The anonymous author of The Kneeling Christian puts it this way in calling the church to prayerful faith, “The secret of failure is that we see men rather than God. ….. Is it not time that we get a new vision of God – of God in all His glory?  Who can say what will happen when the Church sees God?  But let us not wait for others.  Let us, each one for himself, with unveiled face and unsullied heart, get this vision of the glory of the Lord.”

The Day The LORD Visits Us

                “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”

                                                                                                                                                                Luke 9:51

                “I tell you,” He replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.””

                                                                                                                                                                Luke 19:40-44

                Luke’s account of the Triumphal Entry of the Lord Jesus Christ into the city of Jerusalem is rich with Biblical symbolism.  As we read what Luke records here we are caught up into an awareness that more is going on than meets our eyes.  The Triumphal Entry is presented as the culmination of the travel narrative that Luke began in chapter 9 verse 51.  There Jesus resolutely sets His face to go to Jerusalem and the cross.  Luke tells us that this journey begins when the time approached for Jesus to be taken up into heaven.  Have you ever stopped to meditate upon the numerous times that the Word of God tells us that an event took place at exactly the right time?  At the time that God had chosen a Word of Prophesy was fulfilled.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4 that “when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”  Here is a tremendous aid to our faith; God’s timing is always perfect whether we are talking about world events such as the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, or of the detail of our own lives.  Here is a word of comfort and hope for us as we face the uncertainty of our lives.  God knows what He is doing.  Everything happens according to His sovereign will.  Praise God!

                When the time was coming for Him to be offered up to heaven Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem and the cross.  The next ten chapters describe key events in the journey towards this event.  As Luke presents it in his Gospel we see it as the fulfillment of the prophesies in Malachi and Habakkuk regarding the arrival of the holy God among His people.  When He comes He will refine His people.  Malachi asks, “Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand when He appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” (Malachi 3:2)  Habakkuk tells us that on that day the very stones will testify against us for all that we have done in our sin.  It is with this understanding that Luke tells us what happened as Jesus arrived at Jerusalem as their Messiah.  God was visiting them, coming among them, and they did not recognise it.  So they fell under judgment.  It was a judgment prophesied by the Lord Jesus Christ.  It fall upon the city in 70 AD just exactly as Jesus had said.  I don’t know about you, but this certainly gives me confidence that everything else that God’s Word tells us about the fulfillment of His promises will come to pass at just the right time as well.

                There is a key question raised here however.  Who can stand when the Holy God comes among us?  How do we stand?  How do we recognise the day of His visitation, meaning when He comes in either judgment or mercy?  There really is only one way to answer this question and that is to see the Lord Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Word of God as the fulfillment of all that God had promised to us in His word.  Again the Apostle Paul puts it in the strongest possible terms when he describes Abraham as one who did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.  This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”  The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:20-25)

                It is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as God incarnate come among us as our redeemer from sin.  In Him we are able to stand because we have been credited with the righteousness of God in the cross of Christ. 

Rejoice In The Lord Always

                “Rejoice in the LORD always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The LORD is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”

                                                                                                                                                                Philippians 4:4-9

                As the Apostle Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians he must draw their attention back to the circumstances that they are facing.  The Church in Philippi is a Macedonian Church.  When Paul writes to the Corinthians, seeking to encourage them in the ministry of giving that they have been committed to, he makes reference to the Macedonians.  He writes in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, “We want you to know brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the Churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the Saints – and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the LORD and then by the will of God to us.”  The Philippians were a Church that knew trials and affliction.  This is why Paul’s concluding thoughts in his letter to them are of such great help to us in our present circumstances.

                Paul calls us to real rejoicing in the LORD in our present circumstances.  Notice that we are not called to rejoice in our circumstances.  We are called to rejoice in the LORD.  Our circumstances are a call to real Godly living, which is always the work of the Spirit of God in us.  At its heart this Godly living is to be centred upon the LORD Jesus Christ. 

                Such a life is always lived by faith.  And it is characterized by a gentle, loving care for one another.  Even now, especially now, we must be caring for one another.  The reason for this caring is because the LORD is near.  In times of testing we can be confident that He draws near to comfort us.

                Again Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians 1:3-6.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.”

                What Paul calls us to is a gentle and compassionate life of faith where we deal prayerfully with the trials which make us anxious.  This includes the one which we currently find ourselves facing.  God’s people always cry out to Him in prayer.  As we live this way we find ourselves guarded by the peace of God.  Faith, hope, joy and love are maintained as we cry out to God. 

                Paul goes a couple of steps further here.  He calls us to godly, Biblical thinking and to a life of Christian discipleship.  Biblical thinking and living are crucial.  Right now we are confined to our homes and as a result we have the opportunity to spend time in the reading of the Bible, and good Christian books that will stimulate us to wholesome, Biblical thinking. 

                I am praying that during this time you are being blessed by God as you trust Him in faith.

We Beheld His Glory

“Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is My Son, Whom I love.  Listen to Him!”

                                                                                                                                                                Mark 9:7

                As Mark continues to lead his readers into an understanding of the steps by which the Lord Jesus Christ led His followers into real discipleship he brings us to his description of the transfiguration.  The more I examine this text in each of the three Gospels in which it appears the more I am convinced that it is the event that best describes the Kingdom of God coming in power which Jesus states that some of His followers will see before their death.  It may also be one of the events which John is referring to when he writes that, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  On the mount of transfiguration the disciples saw the Majestic Glory of God descending upon Jesus, and they heard the Father speaking about Him.  So many things are of great significance here, but I want to focus upon just one today. 

                This is the command of God for these disciples, and one would presume us as well, to listen to Jesus.  The grammar here supports a translation that would call us not just to hear Him but to listen obediently.  It is God’s command that we listen obediently to the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to be doing this constantly in the present.  In 2 Peter 1:12ff the Apostle tells us that this was his understanding of the significance of the transfiguration.  They may have seen a wonderful and powerful vision but what they heard was a command to listen to the word of the Lord.  Peter’s doctrine of the Scriptures seems to come out of this experience.  He has heard from the author of Scripture that he must listen to God’s word through the Prophets.  Now that word is being spoken by the Son of God.  It must be listened to obediently.

                Surely this is the meaning behind the introduction to the book of Hebrews where we read, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)  It is interesting that Hebrews follows this introduction with a repeated call for us to not harden our hearts when we hear His voice.  Here is another call to obedient listening.  How much would our world be changed if we truly listened to the Lord with hearts and minds which are committed to the obedience of faith?

A Call To Secret Prayer

“Pray without ceasing”

                                                1 Thessalonians 5:17

                In recent weeks we have been reminded that we live in an increasingly dangerous world.  There are all kinds of reasons for us to become nervous.  We have the Covid-19 Pandemic, as well as the threat of financial instability, job losses, as well as the seemingly routine day to day bad news that inundates us.  We look ahead and think that things must get better someday.  However someday never seems to come.  For some the solution to our troubles seems to be to turn to God in Prayer.  In the past we would find ourselves organizing and attending great prayer rallies.  These were wonderful things.  Today we are joining in virtual prayer meetings and Worship Services. Still somehow we find ourselves thinking that something more is needed.  When we hear a call to prayer and find ourselves moved to participate we must make sure that we really do pray.  What is needed is secret and real prayer.  We are called to seek the face of God in genuine repentance.  I believe that it was this that W.C. Burns was writing about in his journal entry regarding the day of solemn fasting on March 1, 1840. (In God’s Polished Arrow: W.C. Burns Revival Preacher, by Dr. Michael McMullen, Christian Focus Publications, 2000)

                “We had this day a solemn fast, kept by many I have no doubt very strictly, as far as the duty of abstinence is concerned.  We met at two o’clock P.M. and I spoke upon the exercises appropriate for this day:

  1. Self examination in order to the discovery of sin, of the heart and nature as well as of the tongue and life, by the law and the Spirit of Jehovah.
  2. Humbling the soul before God under sins discovered.
  3. Confession of sin, full and particular, free and filial.
  4. Penitent turning from all sin.
  5. Entering into the covenant of grace by the receiving of Emmanuel and the surrender of the soul to Him and to God through Him.
  6. Special prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon this city, and the other places united with us in this fast, the great end designed in its appointment.  There was great solemnity.”

                The beginning of any great movement of prayer must always be found in individuals who genuinely begin to seek God for themselves.  This always requires heartfelt Gospel repentance.  Leonard Griffith once asked an assembly of believers who had gathered to consider some great cause whether “they really meant it”.  When we endeavour to share the love of Christ in a city such as ours, or in a world such as we find ourselves living we must always begin by asking ourselves whether we really mean it.  Are we serious about the love of God?  This means that we must personally examine ourselves to see whether we have received that Gospel love, and then, are we truly living in it.  For this is the starting point.  We must join with others to really pray for God’s blessing in revival.  This is a vital thing.  Before we join with others we must find ourselves on our knees in secret prayer.  This is the way forward.

For This Reason

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”

                                                                                                                                                                Colossians 1:9

                It is important at a time like this that we stop and reflect upon what is of crucial importance to us as believers in the LORD Jesus Christ.  We can easily fall into a self centred panic or defiance.  I have heard, and experienced both during these past few days.  That is both from others, and within myself as well.  Phil Newton approaches at time of crisis with a reflection upon the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians with the following quotation.

                “It is important to remember that whenever the New Testament writers addressed problem situations, or distressing circumstances, they always pointed the Church back to Jesus Christ and the Gospel.  It was in seeing Christ afresh and reliving the glories of the gospel that they were strengthened to persevere.”

                This is what Paul calls us to in the first chapter of his letter to the Colossians.  His response is rooted in intercessory prayer.  “We have not stopped praying for you.”  Intercessory prayer is the calling of every believer.  We are to be in prayer constantly for one another, especially in times of crisis.  In these past days we have been given a gift of time.  Time has been given where we can get down on our knees and pray for one another.  It is vital that we do so. 

                As we look more closely at Colossians one it is important that we take note of what Paul is praying for.  It is that the Colossians be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual understanding.  The word that Paul uses here for understanding is a word that is best translated as “putting the facts together”.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we are to be given an experiential understanding of God’s purposes in our lives.  He is in fact at work within us causing us to know His will for us.  Paul tells us that this understanding will be seen in at least four areas.

  1. So that we will live a lifestyle that is worthy of the LORD, pleasing Him in every way.
  2. That we will bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.
  3. That we might be strengthened with power according to God’s glorious might so that we might patiently persevere.
  4. That we might joyfully give thanks to the Father who has qualified you, (through the cross), to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
  5. For He has delivered us from darkness to light by forgiving our sins.

The LORD has a wonderful purpose which is at work in our lives.  All of this is received in faith.  Do you believe?

                In closing we have provided ministry through this website for you.  There is a video Bible Study on the Bible Study page.  Please also check out the video sermons which will be posted for every Sunday morning on the Sermon page.  We will hopefully be adding other features in the coming days.  As always we will be continuing to pray for each of you.

Some Thoughts On Our Present Crisis

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”

                                                                                                                                                                Romans 1:17

                In recent days we have found ourselves facing a health care emergency which is testing each of us.  It almost seems as if everything is out of control.  We find ourselves tempted to give into panic, joining the crowd rushing to the stores in order to hoard supplies.  Some of us are tempted to defy the advice we have been given.  We want to continue to do what we have always done.  Our world seems to be out of control and we don’t know how to best respond to the circumstances we are facing.  It is there that the Apostle Paul’s quotation from the Book of Habakkuk is so helpful.  Habakkuk was facing difficult, dangerous and uncertain times when he approached God for a word of wisdom.  In essence God said to him “trust me”. 

                No matter what we think the Lord is still sovereign over the crisis we are facing.  We, as people of faith, are called to live not by fear, but by faith.  In doing so we must first of all believe that the LORD is in control.  He has put us into a certain set of circumstances.  It is all part of His refining process as He calls us to really trust Him.

                Therefore we will be following the wisdom which we have received regarding short term decisions we must make in order to keep everyone safe.  We will therefore be doing the following over the next two weeks.  That is from now until the end of March.

  1. All Services and Meetings in person will be cancelled until the end of the month. 
  2. This includes board meetings, outreaches, Church Services, and Bible Studies.
  3. We will be endeavouring to communicate with as many as possible over social media to provide Sermons and Bible Studies.
  4. We will be holding board meetings by phone and email.
  5. We will be looking for new ways to provide ministry to each of you. 
  6. Keep checking this blog for updates on our programs.

Above all keep in mind that we are called to be people who love the LORD Jesus Christ and who want to serve Him and the people around us.  Take note of the people in need around and do what you can to serve them.   This morning I came across this helpful quotation  from Brian Zahnd in his helpful Lenten book The Unvarnished Jesus.

      “The sixth sign of the healing of the man born blind takes up an entire chapter and is filled with drama as the man who was healed bests the Pharisees in theological debate and is expelled from the synagogue for it. The story opens with the disciples observing the man born blind and raising a theological question of who is to blame for it. But Jesus dismisses this line of questioning. Jesus is saying that when we observe suffering, the question isn’t who is to blame, but how can we help. We’ve all seen Christian leaders assign blame upon the victims of epidemics, earthquakes, and tsunamis. But blame is what the satan does. Followers of Jesus are called to co-suffering love, not theological stone throwing. So Jesus instructs his disciples that when we observe suffering, it’s not an opportunity to assign blame, but an opportunity to do the works of God by helping to heal, restore, and alleviate suffering. Blame is the devil’s game—love is the high calling of the Christian. As Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “Love alone is credible; nothing else can be believed, and nothing else ought to be believed.” And this brings us to the main point of the sixth sign. The meaning of the sign is made explicit at the end of the story. Look at the last verse of the chapter as Jesus says to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not have sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” There is an innocence in admitting that we are too blind to pass judgment on others. We don’t have to have an opinion on everything, especially when the question is who is to blame. It’s enough for us to say, “I don’t know who is to blame, I’m just here to help.” But when we claim to have 20/20 vision in judging the sins of others and assigning blame, our own sin remains. This is the sin of Job’s friends. They couldn’t resist the temptation of trying to explain what had happened by blaming Job. The book of Job is a study in the seductive cruelty of blaming the victim. The lesson we should learn from the story of Jesus healing the man born blind and the Pharisees’ reaction to it is that we should acknowledge our own blindness and let Jesus be both healer and judge.         Lord Jesus, we confess that we are too blind to pass judgment on others, so we turn away from seeking to blame and turn toward trying to love. Help us, we pray. Amen.” (from “The Unvarnished Jesus: A Lenten Journey” by Brian Zahnd)

Doctrine Matters

“The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

                                                                                                                                                Romans 6:10-11

                The doctrine that we believe matters to us.  So often in this day and age we live as if it does not.  Practically we live as if everything depends upon the body of work that we accomplish in life.  In recent years I have heard various commentators in the United States referring to their society as a “meritocracy”.  What they seem to mean by this phrase is that we get in life what we deserve, or what we have earned.  For so many even in our society here in Canada we find ourselves living solely upon the understanding that we will only get in life those things that we have earned.  We believe that what we have received is what we deserve.  We either boast about what we have, or we find ourselves depressed by how we have fallen short of what others have earned. 

                It is in this type of thinking that we must find ourselves recognising that doctrine matters.  As the Apostle Paul has been writing to the Romans he has been proclaiming the true Gospel to them this is that we are redeemed not based upon what we have earned.  If that were the case then we would all be lost for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Think about that if God gave each of us exactly what we deserved based upon the life that we have really lived we would all be lost.  He has not given us what we deserve however.  He has given us a free gift, grace in the Lord Jesus Christ crucified on Calvary’s cross.  When the Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross, Paul states in his doctrine in Romans 6:10, He died to sin once for all.  It was an even that only had to take place once.  That one act of God was eternally effective in dealing with all of our sin.  Nothing else was needed.  Therefore everything in our lives was changed when we came to believe in Him. 

                Paul applies this to us in a very practical way.  “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Robert Haldane puts it this way.  “Unless we keep in mind that we are dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord, we cannot serve Him as we ought:  we shall otherwise be serving in the oldness of the letter, and not in the newness of spirit.”  What Paul is writing here is that we are to keep the doctrine of the crucified Christ always in mind.  Nothing is more important to us than this.  Our flesh loves to fall back in all manner of practical ways into the doctrine of merit.  We trust in it for our salvation believing that we have surely overcome our own sinfulness.  We also use it as a guide for evaluating one another.  How does this other person deserve to be treated?  Consequently we find ourselves boasting in our own flesh.  In doing so we forget that we have fallen short of God’s glory.  We have nothing substantial to boast about. 

                If however we believe the doctrine found here we find ourselves cast upon the finished work of Christ.  We reckon, or count, ourselves as one who has received grace from God in Christ.  He have died with Jesus on the Cross once for all.  It is a finished work, done by God, not by us.  We, by faith, are now living unto God, receiving what Christ has graciously merited for us.  Everything has now changed for us.  Practically we now know that our future is secured by his grace.  We also have been set free to extend the same grace we have received to others.  We love as He has loved us.  Do you believe the doctrine?