The Wonderful Liberty Given by a Sovereign God

(Image courtesy of SXC.hu)

(Image courtesy of SXC.hu)

I am discovering more and more about the wonderful and glorious liberty of the Gospel – a liberty which does not mean license to sin but does mean that I can trust God, even if I should sin.

This freedom comes about because of the wonderful doctrines of grace, so wonderfully espoused by Paul and yet for those doctrines he and godly men through the ages have had to contend against abominable heresies.

At present my focus is on the Sovereignty of God.

It is through my belief that God is Almighty and is the Sovereign Lord that I can trust Him – trust Him to keep me as being His just as Jesus said that no-one can snatch me out of His hand.

I have often been tormented with thoughts that “yes God, I know You have done Your best, but I am simply unable to live in obedience to You as my own best is sorely not good enough.” I had a God that “tried His best” to save me but was ultimately impotent in the face of my own iniquity. Such a view may be popular in some circles but it is the damnable heresy of Pelagianism and Semipelagianism, whereby we are the final arbiters of our salvation and can freely choose to gain or lose salvation through our own choices or frail mistakes.

God is Sovereign

To believe in a God that “does His best” to save us, as the aforementioned heretical systems teach and that the Arminian philosophy also teaches, denies that God is Almighty. He “tries” to save everyone but only succeeds with a few.

Yet to my mind the Bible is clear: God is Sovereign and if He has in His mind the purpose to bring a person into His Kingdom then there is no manner or means in which He will fail to achieve His purposes.

This brings a great comfort. For if God has so purposed to grant me mercy then I know there is no circumstance nor action nor any frailty on my part that would cause Him to repent of the mercy He has had upon me. I can, therefore, live in freedom from the fear of man and the fear of the present and the fear of the future, and place my hope and my trust fully into Him.

It is by grace that I have been saved

It is by grace that I have been saved. I did not earn it – I could not earn it. And so, because that grace was given by a Sovereign act of God, so I know and can fully trust that He will not rescind on His mercy. Therefore I have liberty – not to sin, to be a slave of sin – but a liberty to serve my Lord with peace and gladness of heart.

God is just. He is, through and through, a just God. But with a beauty which could only be formed in the glorious wisdom of God He has caused justice and mercy to meet at the Cross of Christ – that Christ bore my sin and my sins, taking the just wrath of God upon Himself, that I may go free. Christ didn’t die so that I could choose Him to take those sins upon Himself – He took my sins and sinfulness upon Himself before I could know that He had. The realisation of that is the Gospel message, the Truth that sets me free.

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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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PRISM – A Danger to Democracy, but Christians Need Not Fear

Liberty is under threat but we need not fear.

Liberty is under threat but we need not fear.

The scandal of the US intelligence agency, the NSA, allegedly accessing and storing vast swathes of information on the citizens of the world, even including US citizens, is the nightmare of those with serious concerns for both civil liberties and democracy itself.

The whistleblower, Edward Snowden, himself said that the Prism project, which it is suggested has direct access to data held by most of the big Internet companies, presents an “existential threat” to democracy.

The intention of this post is to show that whilst these revelations do matter greatly, we as Christian believers need not fear.

Do Prism and the other revelations matter?

Simply put: yes. It matters a great deal. Remember that democracy isn’t simply a vote every four or five years, it is a living, breathing expression in which there is, by its nature, a friction between the will of the people and the will of the rulers. Rulers will always seek more power – very often with the best of motives. Yet it is the duty of citizens to resist power grabs by the government. Turkey – currently experiencing mass unrest – is a demonstration of an immature democracy where the ruling party, on 50% of the popular vote, has enacted and continues to pursue policies which are detrimental to half the population and is now claiming that “democracy only happens at the ballot box”. No, it does not. If it did then most liberal democracies would now be run by dictators.

Democracy happens when concerned citizens voice their disquiet over certain policies and developments, led by a free press and the comfort of knowing that the rule of law is respected – journalists and judges are often the first to be targeted by oppressive regimes. If the press and judiciary are neutered then democracy is on its last legs. This neutering can be done by the secret intelligence agencies (which often lack morality of even basic standards) having huge amounts of information on their errors of judgement (possibly made when in their teenage years) which then allows blackmail and intimidation to take place on a large scale.

The revelations matter in many other ways, yet I do not want to debate that here but rather say why you, if you are a Christian believer, should not fear because of these intelligence gathering systems.

God is Sovereign and Protects His People

God is a Sovereign Lord. (Habakkuk 3:19). Although the details of how man’s choice and God’s sovereignty so wonderfully interplay may bring disagreement on some doctrines by Christians, none can argue that God is not the Almighty, All-Powerful Lord of all creation. We can have full assurance that ultimately God is in control. The US President has to take orders from the King of Kings. The secret services have to obey the Lord of Lords. Neither the US nor any other nation has the freedom to ultimately go against the will of God. In fact, reading over the details of the Book of Revelation and any particular standpoint on matters of eschatology, the over-arching theme of Revelation is the Victory of God and His Sovereignty over those who oppose him.

If God is sovereign, then we can have peace and not fear. Romans 8 tells us that we need not fear, that we need not worry or be distressed at the trouble in the world. God works things for our good. If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, in all things we are more than conquerors through Christ who saves us.

God is Sovereign and it is His justice and mercy that shall prevail.

God is Sovereign and it is His justice and mercy that shall prevail.

Fear God, not man

It is not often preached on now, but Jesus Himself has told us to fear God. Why? Part of the reason is that He should be feared. He can cast your soul into eternal hell. Will He? That depends on whether you believe in His Son Jesus Christ or not. But the truth is that He can. Does that not make you fear Him? As a child fears his father when he comes to discipline him, so we should fear God and cry for His mercy continually.

But there is another reason we should fear God. It is because when we realise that God has power over us to cast us into eternal punishment of helfire then we can realise with the many saints and martyrs before us that nothing man can do compares to the power God has, and so because we fear God yet also trust Him we have no reason to fear man, who once he has killed the body can do no more to us.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:28-31

We have Jesus’ peace and are told not to fret

We are told by Jesus that we need not fear and that He has Himself given us His peace. He says in John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Because Jesus has given us His peace we can rest with full trust in Him. We need not be dismayed even though terrible things come to pass. Jesus was to be crucified and the disciples would be fearful, yet Jesus here reassures them that they need not fear, for His peace – the peace that enabled Him to go to the Cross without resisting – has been given to them, and to us.

Many of the psalms also speak against worry and fretting. Psalm 49 gives us a picture of the poor and oppressed compared to the rich and powerful, and the Psalmist assures us that the wicked will perish and be no more. We need not worry if we trust Jesus, for He will defend us and destroy the wicked.

I, um…er….a friend of mine hasn’t always been well behaved on the web…

Yes, I am close to that particular friend too. He gets around a bit, here’s what I try to tell him:

We have all made some pretty big mistakes in our lives. None of us have been perfect, none of us were born sinless. We have made possibly some great errors of judgement and some pretty grotesque sins. For those of us who have used computers and the internet a lot, many of these errors of judgement (and in some cases our sins) are now preserved on the web. Prism means that these are likely to be stored indefinitely not only on particular corporations’ data treasure trove, but also be in the hands of the US government.

That you may have done something wrong is not, however, to be a reason to fear. Although the sins or errors of judgement may be grave, you are, if you believe in Christ as your Lord and Saviour, forgiven. Yes, there may be consequences to sins committed or indiscretions you have allowed. Yet! Those consequences will be determined by God – it is He that is King of Kings and the Lord over every President – and the decision is not simply in the hands of depraved intelligence agencies and power-hungry politicians. If and when you will need to face consequences for your past actions is determined wholly by God, and we can trust in Him as our loving Father that when and if those consequences come, the ultimate fruit will be for our benefit. (Rom 8:28)

Pray for those in authority

Even though the US government has apparently over-stepped its mandate, and the US constitution, in setting up PRISM, and is allegedly guilty of serious human rights abuses, we should still seek to honour those in authority and pray for them. We are told to pray for the leaders not just that they get elected or unelected, but that God would guide their decisions whilst in government. We must be praying for our own governments and for other governments in the world, that Christians – and others – may be able to live peaceably and quietly in our lands.

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Our Brothers and Sisters – #SaveSyria13

I have a friend. She lives in Syria. She gets depressed. Her father has been shot at. She doesn’t know who to trust, as the old certainties under the Assad regime crumble away.

There are many other Syrian Christians who have faced far worse: some Christian women have reportedly been raped as part of the war; leading Christian leaders have been kidnapped. The situation has the international community baffled: some advocate arming the rebels – indeed, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already been flooding arms to the rebels – and some, such as Russia and Iran, have been arming the regime. Others, meanwhile, suggest that the international community should keep arms embargoes and let the efforts concentrate on dialogue and providing humanitarian assistance.  The situation is heartbreaking and solutions do not come easy.

There seems to be no doubt that both the rebels and the regime have committed serious war-crimes. Chemical weapon use now appears to be confirmed. Many within the UN are calling for full investigation and bringing those responsible to the International Criminal Court. The situation is heartbreaking and solutions do not come easy.

Yet there is Light!

There is a light shining in the darkness of the land of Syria: although a large number of Christians have been forced to flee the country there are also many who remain. Many of these do so because they see the land as being a place of ancient Biblical Christianity, and they do not want to see the Church expelled from this land.

Before the conflict Christians made up about 10% of the population. In comparison to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa they experienced much freedom to worship in their churches and to live their lives in peace and relative security. Because of this they had become very supportive of the government of Bashar al-Assad, seeing him as a good man that preserved the freedoms that they enjoyed. In the early days of the uprising against the regime Christians supported the regime and, fed with news from official sources – which were often propagandist in nature – they opposed the uprising as being the work of “terrorists”. The stories that came out of that time were horrific even then. It is now much, much worse.

Because Christians supported Assad they became targets for the rebels. Now, in rebel held areas, Christians have to live under a form a sharia law and face intimidation and persecution from Islamist groups within the rebellion. Despite this, many believers choose to remain, and the Light remains with them.

Jesus is the Light of the World

The Christians that remain choose to remain in order that the Light may remain – they seek to witness to the glorious grace of God shown through Jesus Christ His Son. Many are handing out supplies to their (Muslim) neighbours in order to give assistance in the face of severe food shortages. Many are helping to comfort others, even as they themselves need comfort and encouragement. Although many pastors and leaders have been targeted with intimidation and violence, they continue to encourage their flocks in this dark time.

The Syrian church, which is made up of a number of denominations, has been in Syria since the beginning: Paul was on his way to Damascus (the capital of Syria) when the glory of Jesus stopped him on the road, bringing about the famously profound conversion of the to-be Apostle. The Church is determined to remain in Syria.

You Can Be Light!

This post is very different to my normal postings on this blog. I felt God leading me during my times of prayer to write this post and although the news from Syria is commonplace in the media, it is rarely that a Christian perspective is presented.

Open Doors UK, which helps the persecuted Church, has begun the Save Syria Campaign. There is a plea for practical, prayerful and advocacy work by Christians in the rest of the world to stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ that are in Syria. We all need to stand with our brethren. We cannot ignore this plea. You can lend your voice to this campaign if you live in a country that frees you to do this, and you can cry out to God wherever you are. If you feel so led, you can also give towards practical support.

Please do consider this and stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Syria. Do also consider using the Twitter (and Google+) hashtag #SaveSyria13 to make some noise about the need to help the church in Syria. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post.

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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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Prayer of Praise

Dear Father, You who made the heavens and the earth, You who made all things, praise unto You, O Great and Sovereign Lord, for You have loved us and You have sent Your only begotten Son Jesus Christ, to be born as a humble babe and to be slain as the Passover Lamb – it is through Him that we have been purchased for Your Glory and Your purpose.

Dear Lord, Jesus Christ, Promised Messiah. It is by Your obedience to the Father, Your sacrifice upon the Cross, that we have been made righteous in God’s sight. And You, O Jesus, did not remain in the grave, but as Your word said beforehand You took Your Life up again, and so in Your Resurrection we have Life and fellowship with the Lord God Almighty.

Dear Holy Ghost, You have been sent to us by the Father at the asking of the Son, and You now dwell in our hearts and make us alive to God. You are our Counsellor, You comfort us as we need, and You convict the world of sin. It is You, O Spirit of God, that leads us and guides us, in order that we may take no praise for ourselves but that all Glory is due to God.

Dear Father, Son and Holy Ghost, we praise You. Jesus, You are the Lamb that was slain and, lo! You now liveth for evermore. You reign with the Father in the Unity of the Holy Spirit – One God, now and forever.

Amen.

(This prayer was originally posted as part of the “Weekly Worship” on the G+ Reformed Fellowship Church, a Google Plus community.)

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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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