Category Archives: Scripture teaching

Does God Always Heal Those With Faith?

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NKJV)

Does God Always Heal?

Many in today’s church would argue that yes, God will always heal the person who has faith. There is a tendency within these circles to blame a lack of healing on a lack of faith. But is healing so entwined with faith? It is true that Jesus performed many works of healing, and it is often the case that He praised those He healed for their great faith. (See Luke 7:1-10 for example.)

Yet it is not always the case that those healed possessed great faith. There are numerous examples where Jesus heals those who had little or no faith. See the subsequent verses in Luke 7, where the widow’s son was raised even though neither he nor his mother expressed any faith.

So if God heals those with or without faith, can it be equally true that God denies healing to some despite their great faith? Our opening passage written by the Apostle Paul gives the striking and authoritative answer to this: yes, God does deny healing to some, and it is not for any lack of faith on their part that he does so.

“By His Stripes We Are Healed”

One of the most often quoted verses in Scripture to support the claim that those with faith are always healed is this verse from Isaiah: “By His stripes we have been healed.” I want to briefly look at this because, on face value and taken out of context this does seem to plainly state that Jesus has healed us if we put our trust in Him. But let us look at the context:

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:5-6

Here we can see that when the Holy Spirit, speaking through Isaiah, says that “we are healed”, the whole passage is referring to Jesus taking upon Himself our sins, our iniquity. The first three lines of verse 5 are about His bearing our sins, and then comes the line on healing. Then the whole of verse 6 deals with how we have all sinned and how He has borne our iniquity. It would therefore be the most compelling case that this phrase, “And by His stripes we are healed,” is not an out of place declaration of physical (or mental) healing, but rather fits in well as a statement of our healing from sin.

The Danger of the “Always Healed” Doctrine

The idea that those with faith are always healed can, in fact, be dangerous and cause much discouragement to Christians who are taught such and yet do not experience the healing that they want. The teaching that you simply need more faith and you will get the healing you want can bring those who do not experience such healing to question their own faith: do I really believe? Am I really a man (or woman) or faith? Does God actually love me? What’s wrong with me that God doesn’t heal me? Or, for those with a penchant for expressing faith: “I believe I am healed,” whilst walking around with a broken leg.

Paul didn’t believe the “always healed” doctrine. He heard clearly from God that his own ailment, a messenger of Satan no less, was not going to be taken away from him. God said to Paul that “My grace is sufficient for you.” Did Paul lack faith? Clearly he did not, but would go great strides by faith and was the most prolific writer of the New Testament.

Why Suffering?

I want to close this post with a few reflections on how God uses suffering. If we believe that sometimes God allows us to suffer rather than be healed, we must at least start to address why there is suffering in the Christian life. This is a huge topic in its own right, and I do not pretend to have all the answers, but we can make some points.

Firstly, we are, as Christ’s followers, called to partake in His suffering. We are called blessed when we are persecuted and slandered, because Jesus was persecuted and slandered. The Apostle Paul says we should be “conformed to His death”. (See Phil 3:9-11.)

Then, God will often use suffering to bring about a greater good than that which can be achieved by constant well-being. Our illnesses may enable us to become more compassionate and sympathetic to others who are suffering. We may find that poor health brings us more time, and with that greater time to spend in prayer. We may find that certain sins are able to be overcome because we experience God’s discipline through sickness.

There are many other ways in which God can use suffering, and we must always bear in mind that God’s ways are so high above our ways that we cannot hope to comprehend the fullness of His wisdom this side of eternity. But what is clear, and something I hope I have been able to relate a little, is that God does both allow and use illness and does not always desire to heal everyone who has enough faith.

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The Incarnation – A Christmas Message

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 5:2-11 (NASB)

Birth of JesusThe Incarnation gives us such a wonderfully glorious insight into the nature of God. It is often said in Reformed circles that God’s highest desire is to be glorified. Whilst this may be true – God is working in order to bring glory to Himself, for it is He who is to be exalted above the highest heavens – it is equally true that God is working all things for the good of His saints, and it is also very true that God is not a proud tyrant seeking fame, but is of a humble heart. We see this in the Incarnation.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God the Son, “emptied Himself.” He didn’t stop being God. No, that would have required Him to deny who He is, but what He did do was willingly leave the glory and unimaginable splendour of His heavenly home and come to be born as a babe, to average parents (for it was commonly supposed that Joseph was the father), in a strange town, in a place reserved for animals. Jesus took upon Himself all the frailties of humanity, yet was without sin.

As God, He could have called out to His Father at any time and have been immediately whisked back to heaven. Yet He did not do that. He remained on earth, first as a totally helpless baby, then as a child and then as an adult, until the time for His ministry had come. Then He taught, showed example and performed the miracles which showed He was, indeed, the Christ. Then, out of humble obedience, He suffered and died upon the Cross.

It is this humility of God the Son, who never sought glory for Himself but rather the glory of His Father, which we would do so well to learn from, as Philippians 2:5 directs us to do. How often we seek to gain some honour for ourselves! O how we want to shout out our rights and point out the faults of others. But this was not the way of Jesus. He sought not for His rights but the glory of God the Father and the good of His people. So, may we be like-minded this day in which we mark the Incarnation and throughout the year to come.

May God bless you all this Christmas!

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The Limitations to Spiritual Attack

In the Christian life we can expect many trials. It is not a life of cosiness and comfort in the pleasures of wealth, power and prestige. Those who teach that “you only need faith and everything will be okay” are like the false prophets of old who said “peace, peace” when destruction was coming upon Israel: they deceive with promises of comfortableness, blinding their hearers to the truth.

Tank

We are attacked as Christians, but there is a limit to what the devil can do.

Scripture says that: “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence” (Matthew 11:12). Those who belong to Christ can expect attack from both within and without the Church. Oftentimes men of deceitful and violent hearts will enter the Church with the purpose to cause disruption and harm to the true, invisible Church. Jesus warned us to beware the false teachers and false prophets, calling them “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. Like wolves they seek to devour the sheep. Others, openly hostile to God and His Church, will seek to ridicule, perform violence – sometimes literally – and cause other hardships to those who confess Christ.

We should not be arrogant in condemning these people, but rather we ought to “love our enemies, and pray for those who spitefully persecute us”. We need to remember that we also were once enemies of God, and, bar the grace of God, we would still be violently opposed to the purposes of God. No, we should not be arrogant in our salvation but rather humble, knowing that we are also sinners, though thanks be to God that we are now reconciled to God in Christ. We must acknowledge that it is not the people who are our real enemies, but rather we should heed the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Having acknowledged that it is the devil who is behind the attacks that come upon God’s people, we might become discouraged at such hostility. How do we counter this? It is through knowing the position which the devil has and the position that God holds.

God is Sovereign, He is Almighty, and He is Omnipotent. He is not limited by anything other than His own character, and there is no event, however small, which He does not know of and of which He is not the prime director. Every word of God’s mouth is sure, every word in His inspired Word is infallible. His purposes shall be fulfilled and every promise kept.

Soldier on horseIt is not so with the devil. The devil is limited. First, he is limited because by his very nature he is a created being. He is not omnipotent, neither is he omnipresent nor omniscient. Second, he has been defeated by Christ. Just as the devil bruised Christ’s heel, so Christ has crushed his head. The devil is a poor old man in his dying days, having been disarmed and defeated at the Cross.

But the most profound aspect in which the devil is limited is shown in the book of Job. I will let my friend Richard Swartz make this point, for he did it so well (you can follow Richard on Google+):

Satan can do nothing without God’s divine permission. Not one thing! “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away.” (Job 1:21) It comes down to the sovereignty of God, each and every day and each and every way. Not a single purpose of God is ever thwarted. (Job 42:2)

In order for the devil to make an attack on a man he must first gain God’s permission. Then the rules of engagement are laid down by God, and finally the outcome is again determined by God. (see Job 1:6-12, Luke 22:31-32.)

As we have our trials and come under attack, whether physically or spiritually, we would do well to remember that the devil is limited whilst God is without limit, and that if we belong to Christ there is nothing that can happen to us that will ultimately harm us.

And to conclude, these are Jesus’ words on fear:

And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! – Luke 12:4-5.

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Blessed to be Chosen by God

“Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.” – Psalm 65:4

This verse is wonderful. In it we see the fullness of what we need to do in order for God to call us “blessed”. The total sum of the requirement for us to be blessed in such a way is for God to choose us and cause us to approach Him. It is a sovereign act of God and we play no part other than response.

God's grace is wonderful.(Image courtesy of sxc.hu) Copyright held.

God’s grace is wonderful.
(Image courtesy of sxc.hu. Copyright held.)

The Gospel Message

The Gospel message is that of divine grace, not one where we earn favour.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His  great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” – Ephesians 2:4-5

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:6

We were dead in trespasses and had no means nor manner of attaining the knowledge of God. Nothing which we ourselves could do would be able to give us life. We were dead to God, and as such were enemies of God, by our very nature children of wrath and our thoughts were constantly inclined against God. How then could a man that hates God come to approach Him? Such a man that is not only dead to God, but actively despises God, would in no manner want to approach Him.

And so we see in the opening verse that in order to be blessed we must approach God, and we can only do that because God has chosen us.

Herein lays great comfort. If we come humbly before the Living God in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ we can have that full assurance of faith that He has chosen us and that God Himself declares us to be blessed.

Do you yearn and hunger to come before the Father, to approach His throne of grace? Then I would urge that you do so, for it is God Himself that is calling you and if you respond to His grace then you will know that it cannot be by your own effort but only that God has chosen you for thus, and therefore He calls you blessed.

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Jesus – The Name Above All Names

Jesus, the Name Above All Names

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:9-11

When we say that Jesus has been given the name above every name, what do we mean? Well, perhaps another question may be “what is a name”?

What is a name: part 1 – Identity.

Firstly it was the task of Adam to name every creature on earth. Every creature was brought to Adam and he gave to each one its name. So when we look at creation, Adam (and, by extension, man) has given a name to everything. Man loves to give things names even today. And so, in Creation, everything has a name. The sun is named, the moon is named, the cow and the sheep are named. Man has even given a name to the full sum of all created things: the Universe.

But the Name of Jesus is above every one of these. Jesus is above, beyond and infinitely superior to every other thing in existence, and above, beyond and infinitely superior even to the whole of Creation itself! It is truly an awesome God we serve!

What is a name: part 2 – Reputation.

Secondly, a “name” can be our reputation. We can often say “he made a name for himself or herself”. We can have a good name, meaning we are highly esteemed, or a bad name, meaning infamy. Xerxes has a great name. Alexander has a great name. Mohammed has a great name. Confucius has a great name.

But Jesus has the Name above every other name. His reputation, His worth, is far above, beyond and infinitely superior to every other name – there is no-one as purely and truly of eternal good reputation as Jesus.

What is a name: part 3 – Authority

I wanted to end on this point: a “name” can mean authority. We can do things “in the name of the UK” or “in the name of the President of the USA” etc. When we legitimately do things “in the name of” someone or something else, it means we have been given the authority with which that name is associated. And the ultimate, supreme authority is that of Jesus the King of Kings.

The Name of Jesus is the Ultimate Authority, and it is above, beyond and infinitely superior to every other name, whether of angels or demons, principalities or powers. There is ultimately nothing that can permanently and effectively disobey the greatest authority, the greatest Name, the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

(This post originally appeared on the Google+ community, The G+ Reformed Fellowship Church.)

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Faith in God’s Deliverance

I had hoped to write this post over the weekend, and knew that as I was intending writing on this subject of “Faith in God’s Deliverance”, I should expect to get resistance in writing it – and I did! I have just been through a few days of intense difficulty and not without doubting and falling short. We are all works in progress and none of us has yet been perfected.

However, this is still an important subject: how we can have the utmost faith in God and that He will work for our deliverance. Even when we cannot see this, even when we are plagued with doubts, we can, deep inside, trust God and in due time He will bring us out of that time of trial. There are so many examples in God’s word of His saints going through truly awful times. Sometimes, as in the case of David, the examples include times of falling and even sin, sometimes times of despair as in the case of Jeremiah, and sometimes simply horrific events occurring with no apparent rhyme or reason such as in the story of Job.

God is Our Shield

God is our shield and will deliver us out of our trials.

Psalm 44 gives us a picture of how the Psalmist dealt with the very dangerous and destructive times that he and the nation of Israel were going through: he remembered God’s working in the times of his fathers and declares his faith that God will perform that work again to restore Israel. It is this trusting in the past works of God, trusting that He is still actively working for your benefit now, and trusting in the time of future working by God for the eventual deliverance, that enables one to persevere in faith.

It is also in this Psalm that we see the lot of the Christian saints – not one of earthly success, wealth and power, but one of self-sacrificial service:

Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. – Ps. 44:22 (see also Romans 8:36)

We are called to suffer but not to be cast away. God will preserve us through trials, and we can reassure ourselves that God is indeed with us even as we battle through our trials. (See Josh 1:9, Matt 28:20).

We will be tempted to sin, we will be tempted to turn our backs on God (Job found temptation came his way even from his wife), as we move along this pilgrimage of closer union with God through suffering. At such times we must remember to “submit ourselves to God and resist the devil” (paraphrased from James 4:7), and once the time of trial has passed we can see a great joy and a wonderful blessing, knowing that God has worked a work in us which could not have been performed any other way.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

– 1 Peter 1:6-7

God will sometimes allow us to suffer and yet we can have full assurance that we will never be crushed or cast away, and even if the deliverance we have faith for and which we long for does not come in our lifetime, it is no less real for that, and so we can not only live by faith when we are awake but also die in faith when it is our time to fall asleep.

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Humility, not Pride, Is Needed

Human nature tends to be selfish. Our focus tends to be on ourselves, our wants and needs. We tend to think that our view, our opinion, is not only right but that it is our duty to win converts for our view. No, not everyone by any means thinks that people are longing to be corrected out of their “error” –  some are indeed self-less and wonderfully blessed to not be made to stumble in these ways – yet many others who do not fall at the first point are so happy in their own error that they will not seek to convert anyone and will immediately shut down any conversation that could see them being challenged themselves. I am not immune from both of these faults myself.

The Way of Love and Sacrifice

The "Humbling Door" at the Church of the Nativity. Humility is a much needed virtue. Image courtesy of Backpack Foodie/Flickr

The “Humbling Door” at the Church of the Nativity. Humility is a much needed virtue. Image courtesy of Backpack Foodie/Flickr

Jesus, on the other hand, shows a far greater way: the way of love and sacrifice. The Apostle Paul in Philippians outlines the way of Jesus and how we too should follow in this pattern:

Therefore if  there  is  any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any  affection and mercy,  fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let  nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. – Philippians 2:1-8

We must be ruled by Christ as our King, and He (having through the Holy Spirit inspired all Scripture), is our shining example – we should walk in love, and love is not proud or arrogant, but rather seeks the good of others before the good of itself.

In walking in humility we must acknowledge our own faults, sins and failings. We should not boast in any good deed but only boast in the Cross of Christ. We must esteem others better than ourselves. We must act and have the attitude that everyone else is due respect before us – and we must respect them and honour them as Christ would. (That does not mean we should shy away from discussing matters where we have knowledge, but we should not do so from a position of arrogance or disrespect, but be always bearing in mind that we are not yet perfected.)

Now some may say that “my sins are not as serious as his or hers!” Yet do you not know that it is only by the grace of God that you have not committed the wickedness which you so despise in another? The old saying goes “but for the grace of God go I.” The real issue that all have is not the particular expression of sin, but our sinfulness itself. It is our sinfulness that lies at the root of our problems with individual sins – and our sinfulness needs to be put to death – O how wonderful that Christ died to put to death our sinfulness! So? Can you boast of how little you’ve let sin impact on your life? Even if you’ve never murdered, committed adultery or robbed, unless you know the crucified and risen Christ then your heart is blackened with sinfulness just as severely as the murderer.

So, perhaps we could boast in our good deeds? Yet, without Christ, our good deeds are worthless and not really good at all. And if we have Christ, then it is His work in us, and not our own righteousness.

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away. – Isaiah 64:6

Christ the Leveller

Jesus Christ is the great leveller of human relations. God is no respecter of persons: whether you have riches, status, position, power, ability or any other thing which man regards as a measure of success – God does not look upon such things as being deserving of favour. God shows mercy to whom He will – we can claim no credit ourselves but if we would come to Christ without regard for our position of success or lack of success then He will welcome us and receive us.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13

Will you receive Christ as your Lord and Saviour? If you already know Christ, would you be willing to seek God – His Kingdom and His righteousness – rather than your own purposes and will?

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Eternally Blessed, and Firmly Secure

We have real and eternal security in Christ. (Image courtesy of SXC.hu.)

We have real and eternal security in Christ. (Image courtesy of SXC.hu.)

Eternal security is such a foundational part of the Gospel message. Although the evangelical saying of “once saved, always saved” is perhaps simplistic and certainly not a phrase that is in the Bible, the message behind it is very true.

In Romans 8:28-30 Paul writes:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew,  He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,  that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Note how in this passage Paul shows that from God’s foreknowing us and predestining us comes the time when He calls us. When He called us He had already decided in His Sovereign will that He would save us. And especially note the last stage: “these He also glorified.” (v.30). In God’s sight we have already been glorified. There is no shadow or feathering here – the glorification we shall experience as God’s children is a certainty, so much of a certainty that God speaks of it in the past tense.

Peter also speaks of the great security we have in Christ. In 1 Peter 1:3-5 he writes:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

(Emphasis mine.)

Our inheritance isn’t one which moths and worms can eat away or one which a robber can come and steal away. Our inheritance is sure – it is certain, and if any would doubt and think that the inheritance is there but whether we are given it or not depends on our performance note what I have emphasised in verse 5: we “are kept by the power of God.” Is God’s power limited in any way that we could choose or otherwise cause this word to be of none effect? Of course not! God’s power is infinite and Almighty, and it is that power which keeps us.

Some may say, “what if we sin”? Sin is exceedingly wicked and profoundly displeasing to God. Jesus says on more than one occasion to those He has forgiven: “go and sin no more”. Sin is repugnant to God. The Apostle John writes about sin in 1 John chapters 1 and 2, and he writes this book so that we might not sin. Yet he is also aware that we do all fall short from time to time, and even says to those who think themselves to be sinlessly perfect that they are deceiving themselves.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” – 1 John 2:1-2

We can indeed to be assured of salvation if we truly belong to Christ, and we shall never be left to fall away. Yet we must, indeed, be sure that we belong to Christ in order to have this assurance, and if we doubt that we truly belong to Him we must seek after Him even more so that we may be sure, for if we are deceived that we are saved when we are not, then we are in great danger.

But for those who are earnestly seeking after God, note what God says to the saints (not the whole world, but those who are seeking God’s Kingdom and Righteousness):

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9

God will keep us, lead us, guide us. We can fully place our trust in Him and in the redeeming work of the Blood of Christ. We need not fear the future, neither fear the past, but we can trust in the present, trust for the future, and have that which is in the past forgiven. It is an amazing grace!

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Our Duty and Our Joy

Duty. Oftentimes in this era in which we live the concept of duty is decried. I know that I have had a poor understanding of duty, and in this present culture the concept is often linked to reluctance: something we are forced to do yet not really want to do.

Joy. In this culture in which we live the idea of joy is one in which we let our selfish passions run wild, ignoring the needs and wants of others and seeking our own happiness through whatever means we so choose.

So how can we perform our duty and our joy?

If we allow ourselves to be defined by the culture in which we live this is impossible. The concepts of duty and joy are mutually exclusive: either we are dutifully miserable or we are recklessly joyful. Yet in God’s order of things we can discover that we can find our greatest joy by performing our highest duty.

If we are a believer in the Crucified and Risen Christ and seek to live according to His Spirit we can come to the realisation that there is a great truth: real joy is found through being obedient to His commandments. God purchased us through the blood of Christ. Whereas we were totally dead in sins, unable and unwilling to ever submit to a God even if we acknowledged He existed – unless we had first manipulated our understanding of the nature of God so that he became a “god in our own image” – Jesus, even whilst we were dead in trespasses and sins, died for us and thus we were redeemed, made new, and brought into a relationship with the living God, and this by the payment of the full price: the pouring out of the blood of Christ.

Because this is true – that if we are a Christian believer we have been purchased with the greatest payment ever known – then the situation is such that it is our duty to live in accordance with the word and Spirit of God. We would never have chosen to be in a position where we must submit totally to the will of the true God, yet because He loved us He chose us and bought us, so that we belong to God and should, therefore, as our first duty, submit and surrender to Him in every aspect of our lives – even, if necessary, to the lengths of persecution and death – and so we must die to ourselves and live to God.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

– 1 Cor 6:19-20

 

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

– Matthew 16:24-25

Yet we also know something that is extra to this duty. This duty, if fulfilled – even if falteringly and imperfectly fulfilled – brings with it an immense and everlasting joy. Our highest duty becomes our greatest joy. Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit, and if we walk in our duty towards God, walking according to the Spirit of Life, then we find that eternal joy which only comes from Jesus, welling up in our hearts and becoming like a fountain of life within us.

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” – John 7:38

Whilst the world may not understand the marriage of duty and joy, we as Christians have that great gift of being able to perform our duty to God and as a result being filled with joy. We must walk in the Spirit, allowing the Spirit of Christ to indwell and motivate us, allowing His leading in every area of our lives. As we abide in Christ and allow His Spirit to work in us, we will find that the more we live out our duty the more we will experience the joy of Jesus.

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Christ our Life

This devotional was originally posted as part of the “Weekly Worship” which takes place at the G+ Reformed Fellowship Church, an online “church” on Google Plus.

It is often said that “Christ gives us life”. To a degree that is true, yet it is not the full truth. The fact is that Christ isn’t just a giver of Life, but He is that Life. Jesus said: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” – John 11:25. When He gives us life it is because He gives us Himself. It is His Spirit within us that is the very reason we are alive.

“Whoever has the Son has Life, whoever has not the Son has not Life.” – 1 John 5:12. It is only by having Jesus that we can enjoy life – real, true Life – at all. If we do not have the Life of Jesus dwelling within us, then we remain dead in trespasses and sins and cannot enjoy that abundant life which Jesus has promised to His people.

We must also be constantly in Christ. It is an amazing privilege and joy to have that most intimate relationship possible: to be in Christ and have Him in us. We are at one and the same time in Him and He in us. Jesus says that this is the only way we can bear any good fruit – by abiding in Him and He in us.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4

It is by abiding in Christ, having that most intimate of relationships, that we bear fruit, because it is only by abiding in Him that we have His Life. The fruit we then bear is the fruit of the Spirit, for the Spirit is Life and the fruit is the fruit that comes from Life and brings Life to the full.

The word abide literally means “to have one’s abode; to dwell; to reside.” It is to make our home in, to have as our permanent residence. Our home is not this world – no, our home is in Christ. He is our place and our portion.

If we neglect our relationship with Christ and neglect to draw sustenance from Him we will start to wither. If we abide in Him we will flourish and bear much fruit. We cannot have Life and we cannot bear fruit unless we are in a deep fellowship and intimacy with Christ.

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