Tag Archives: Jesus

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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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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The Practice of the Presence of God

God’s Presence is with us Always – Image courtesy of SXU/fotoviva

I am currently reading through The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence and it is a profoundly inspirational book.

Although not compiled by Brother Lawrence itself it provides a great insight into his practice of seeking constant communion with God. It details his methods and practices and gives a good inspiration to fulfil the words of the Apostle Paul when he states that we are “to pray without ceasing”. Brother Lawrence seems to have mastered this during his religious life.

A word of warning, though – it appears that Brother Lawrence was devoutly attached to the Romanist Church and the monastic life, and there are aspects of both that make me, as an evangelical Christian, somewhat uneasy.

Yet the descriptions in this book, through a series of conversations and a series of letters, give a good impetus to me to seek to be in greater and closer communion with my God and remain in fellowship with Him.

Brother Lawrence’s view is quite profoundly stated in the opening section of this book:

[He] related that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s Presence by continually conversing with Him. It was a shameful thing to quit His conversation to think of trifles and fooleries. We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him

It is too often in the Christian life that our minds wander from a sense of God – yet Brother Lawrence, after many years of struggle with sin and condemnation, seems to have found that by constant prayer he was able to enjoy a peace and joy that is truly the mark of the Holy Spirit working in us.

Brother Lawrence did have times when this conversation slipped, and also had times when upon a reflection after tasks had been done had found himself to have fallen short. In such instances he advises: “Without being discouraged on account of our sins, we should pray for His grace with a perfect confidence, as relying upon the infinite merits of our Lord.”

Brother Lawrence would confess his sins and shortcomings and then think upon them no more as he returned to his conversation with God.

So much can be learned from this book and from Brother Lawrence’s experience and practice and I would thoroughly recommend it to your reading.

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Putting the Poor in Their Rightful Place

A short while ago I wrote a blog post saying that we should not place the poor as equal to the Lord – we should not base our doctrine on our relationship with the poor but rather on our relationship with Christ.

Run down housing

We must love the poor and provide for them

Yet it is also important to say what the proper regard of the poor should be. In Matthew 25 Jesus Himself identifies Himself with the poor:

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ – Matthew 25:37-40

Jesus makes clear that if we love Him we will love the poor – if we truly love Him we will consider the poor and give to them, because it is primarily with the poor which Jesus identifies Himself. He is the outcast, the rejected, the oppressed. He is the Man of Sorrows.

We should regard others before ourselves and be interested in the welfare of others before our own welfare – now that is a continuing challenge to me and I am sure to many – for it is through loving our brother whom we can see that we demonstrate that we are capable of loving Jesus whom we do not see. If we neglect the poor we are, effectively, neglecting Jesus. Whilst our doctrine must be based on our relationship with Jesus, the application of that doctrine should effect in us a compassion towards the poor.

Psalm 112 speaks of the nature of the righteous:

Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is established;
He will not be afraid,
Until he sees his desire upon his enemies.

He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted with honor.
The wicked will see it and be grieved;
He will gnash his teeth and melt away;
The desire of the wicked shall perish.

– Psalm 112: 4-10

Do not neglect the needy. And do not neglect the Lord.

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Sin and Repentance

Prayer

If we fall into sin, our response must be to come to God and confess

I have had reason today to spend time in prayer confessing and repenting from certain sins.

There is a danger when we sin of reacting in two ways: either we can treat it as a light thing, something that doesn’t really matter, or we can be so consumed by our wrongdoing that we feel condemned and unable to approach God. Both responses are in grave error.

Firstly, we must remember that Jesus died for our sins. It wasn’t a “cheap” or unimportant death – He did not die a painless and sorrowless death – He suffered enormously. Our sin is a great and heavy burden – it should never be regarded as something that “does not matter because Jesus dealt with it”. Yet in that death Jesus did pay the full price for our sin and our sins. We have a God that does not condemn but rather loves to show mercy.

We should never feel that our sins are too great to prevent us from approaching the throne of grace. Remember that one of the greatest tools of the enemy the devil is to make us ineffective as Christians through making us feel condemned and unable to approach God. Jesus is our Advocate. In the ongoing courtroom of justice, the devil is the accuser, yet Jesus pleads His Blood and by such we are forgiven and assured of salvation if we have trusted in Him.

So how do we experience in the here and now that very precious gift of forgiveness? We must come before God, confess our sins and turn from them and to Him (repentance). It doesn’t matter how many times we need to do this. My own battles with sins have lasted many years and I do fall into the trap sometimes of thinking that all hope of deliverance from those sins is gone. Yet even if a particular stronghold has gone on for many years we can place our hope and trust in our Redeemer, and indeed we must.

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Putting the Poor First?

A fellow Christian blogger, Miguel Labrador, has been writing a series of blog posts on poverty, and yesterday I read the third of these posts which was on the topic “Which comes first, their need or our creed?”

As I prayed on this post I was struck by the verses in the Gospel according to Mark where the story is related of the woman who poured very costly oil on the head of Jesus. Some of those around Jesus, chief amongst them Judas Iscariot, objected vehemently, saying that the oil should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor.

Here are the verses:

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.  But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted?  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.  For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.  She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” – Mark 14:3-9

From this we can see that the desire to put the poor first is, in fact, a matter of the flesh. To attempt to place the poor first and then base our interpretation of Scripture and our application of it on the poor is to “put the tail before the donkey”. It produces a distorted view of Jesus in which we place the poor of equal value to our Lord.

Instead we need to be placing Jesus as supreme – for He is the worthy Lamb of God, not us – and that applies equally whether we are rich or poor.

If we place the poor as the defining aspect of our belief then we will not see the true Jesus, but rather a distorted view. Of course, we are to do good to the poor. Yet we must let our love for the poor be born out of our love for Jesus and we must see the poor in the Light of Jesus. It should never be the other way around.

The danger of an inverted view may well be seen in the Occupy Faith movement (Occupy Faith is a loose grouping of people of faith – not just Christians – who seek to be part of the Occupy protest movement). Economic justice is a good and wholesome aim. Yet, as Christians in Occupy Faith seek to fight for economic justice, Jesus has been sidelined. That  is gravely wrong. Jesus must be the Centre. To do good separate from Jesus is not possible – we must abide in Him in order to bear good fruit, for He is the True Vine.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 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.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. – John 15:1-8

Unless we seek “First the Kingdom of God” then we will not do good. If we seek to do good, but abide not in Christ, our works are fruitless in any real and eternal sense.

Indeed, the subject of justice for the poor can become an idolatrous situation that is simply an inverted prosperity “gospel”. The prosperity movement with its insistence that God wants us to be rich is an abominable doctrine, yet if we believe that God wants us to care for the poor over and above our regard for Him then we are equally so following a falsity.

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Aspiring to greatness? Or for Jesus’ Name to be Honoured?

The following post I have directly purloined from a fellow blogger.  I do not usually do this, but it is just too good not to re-share.  Indeed, Arthur Sido, who wrote this, took it himself from a fellow blogger.  It is just superb.

Aspiring to be a nobody

Loved this from Dave Black yesterday regarding the desire to raise up leaders.

Personally, I’m not all that eager to raise up a new generation of leaders. I want to raise up a new generation of butlers and scullery maids. A generation of nobodies who are content to be obedient to the simple teachings of Jesus. A generation of Christ-followers who die to family, fame, fortune, success, patriotism, and the American Dream. A generation of Dietrich Bonhoeffers who realize that “when Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die.” I want to raise up a generation of men and women who give without counting the cost, who deny themselves, who willingly take the cross as the path of union with Christ, in whom there is no trace of triumphalism, who put their lives at Christ’s disposal with unconditional surrender, who place Christian allegiance over their national allegiance, who act as though they were part of an upside-down kingdom, who die to all claims of the self-indulgent life, who refuse to lionize success or repudiate pain, who “share in suffering as good soldiers of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3), who stand high and lift their drooping heads because the Son of God inhabits their lives in the power of His resurrection. We cannot all be seminary grads or professional ministers. But we can all be engaged in fulltime Christian ministry. We can all bring others to faith in the Savior. We can all be devoted to prayer. I am concerned not so much with raising up a generation of leaders but with training a generation of men and women who are consumed with a passion to understand Christ better and make Him known. This does not invalidate the educational enterprise. It gives it purpose.

I just liked that a lot. The best word in that entire paragraph? “Content”. If only we were content I think we would see so much more zeal for Kingdom work.

What is missed in so many circles is the utterly Biblical sense in which the true leaders in the church are universally the servants, the nobodies. Not only do we miss this, we tend to go in just the opposite direction. We raise men up, we elevate them, ordain them, exalt them. We buy their books and listen to the talks and attend their conferences. We cleverly drop their names and post their quotes on Facebook and Twitter. If they are dead, that is even better! I believe more each day that those who we will see as “great” in the Kingdom of Heaven will be people we never heard of or those we know but rarely paid attention to.

We don’t need more leaders, we need more nobodies!

 

Credit: Arthur Sido @ The Voice of One Crying in Suburbia

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We the People of God – Our Citizenship is of Heaven

We are a People once not a people, but now the People of God
As Christians we cannot be separated by politics, culture, locality or language. We are One Body, and our first and foremost loyalty should be to God and then to each other

We cannot, seriously, be consumed in a system that pits Christian against Christian. Yes, we will sometimes (maybe often) disagree in areas where political, cultural or ideological views are divergent, and possibly all three to the extent that much of our political and ideological view is coloured by our cultural heritage. But we must not let that hinder the work of the Gospel nor let it hinder our love for one another.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous theologian, died in the concentration camps. His loyalty was not firstly to his government nor his nation. His loyalty was to God, and he died for an attempt to bring WWII to a speedy end. In that way he showed more love to the many British and American Christians that were suffering in the battle against Hitler. Was he a traitor? No, because his primary nationality, his real citizenship, was heavenly, not German.

In our disagreements over whether the political left or the political right; the capitalist or the socialist; the libertarian or the anarchist are correct or more correct, we must be careful that we do not lose sight of the undeniable fact that we are of the same eternal Kingdom and we belong to God and to each other, and not to the systems of this present world.

Taking self-profession as sufficient and not a cause for argument over doctrinal and practicable ideologies, President Obama is the brother of former President Bush, and they (and we) are a nation of God, not of the world.

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The Offence of the Cross

I have been prompted to make this entry in my blog because of the debate about Christianity and homosexuality.  Note that this was the prompt, but I am not going to focus on gay issues as my main point in this post.

There is a difficult, and at times un-Christianly bitter, debate within the Church between those who stand on Biblical principles in moral behaviour and those who suggest that the grace of God and the requirement to love all means that all or any behaviour is acceptable, providing it conforms to the World’s standards of morality.

For example, the liberals would say that a homosexual priest is fine, but a serial murderer priest is not.  The Bible, in fact, and in the New Testament, classes both sins as equal.  The liberals dispute this.

Yet to move beyond the homosexual debate is, I believe, important.  The conflict over gay rights is currently to the fore, prompted by moves in the UK to prohibit Christian principles in the workplace and by moves in the US ordaining openly homosexual bishops.  But the charge is now often brought that the Church is obsessed with “gay bashing”.  Although the debate wasn’t started by conservative Christians, we have risen to the bait and it seems that much campaigning has been focused on this.

But it is important, I believe, to move the debate forward.  The UK, and the world, are being swamped by sinful behaviours, and they are not exclusively to do with sexual behaviour.

My own particular struggle,  with drink and drugs, needs to be brought to attention.  I would take the same approach to heavy drinkers and drug users as I would to homosexual practice, for the Bible treats them as equal sins.  Show love, offer help, but do not shy away from saying such behaviour is sinful.  I have a deep sorrow at my past drink and drug use, and now I would not thank those who said “never mind, roll around on the floor dribbling, God doesn’t mind”.  The truth is: God does mind, He calls it sin.

There are other issues too, such as the oppression and exploitation of the poor.  The degree to which this happens in the UK, from the human trafficking to the exploitation by clothes shops in using overseas sweatshops, is appalling.  Christians need to speak on these issues.

I want to say one more thing: there has been a growing move in the UK to make Church “fashionable”.  To make Jesus attractive.  Sometimes this borders on attempting to con people into becoming Christians.  It is done in the name of “making Church relevant”.  Yet, the Bible is clear that we should “speak the truth”.  We cannot accept the “fluffy God” or the “it’s okay Jesus”.  God, Jesus, is Holy.

We must be clear.  A refusal to obey God will result in judgement.  But God is so loving that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

If we Christians truly live, breathe, and then speak the Truth, believe me we shall soon find, and rejoice in, the fact that Jesus Christ and His Cross are most offensive to those who refuse to believe.

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Why Doesn’t God Just Sort Things Out?

One question I remember hearing often is this: If God is so loving, why doesn’t He just stop all the wars and come down and make everything okay?

Perhaps, He did.  And we killed Him.

Jesus’ death upon the Cross marks the crossroads of life.  Many anti-Semitic Christians have asserted that it was the Jews who killed Jesus.  Christian Jews sometimes point out that it was the Romans who killed Jesus.  But we are all responsible.  The Jewish authorities orchestrated Jesus’ death, the Gentile (non-Jew) authorities carried the sentence out.  Both Jews and non-Jews bear responsibility.

Now, one may say: “But I wasn’t there.  If I had been, I would have had no part in it.”  Such a statement is understandable, yet profoundly arrogant.  Haven’t you ever said an unkind word about someone behind their back?  Maybe, as your friends laughingly mocked, you resisted for a while, but when you sensed that you’d miss out on the party unless you joined in, didn’t you throw in a smidgen of insult?  Trust me, no, trust God, when He says that “all have sinned”, and that if you had been present at the crucifixion of Jesus, you, like me, would have mocked.

But why did Jesus die?  Surely, if He’s God, He couldn’t die?  Some, such as the JW’s and Unitarians, deny that Jesus is God.  But Jesus Himself claimed to be the great I AM (one of the Names of God).  Thomas cried out “My lord and my God!”  Jesus said, “I and the Father are One.”  Maybe we can’t get our heads around God being three persons but only One God, but then I can’t get my head around the Hadron Collider.  It doesn’t make something not true just because we don’t fully understand it.

Okay, so God, as the Son, came to earth.  Why didn’t He just say: “Okay, I’m here now, stop fighting, stop bickering and we’ll have a party.”

There is the question of sin.  What would have happened if God had said that He would make everything perfect, bring justice and reward everyone.

Well, as God is just, He would have had to reward everyone according to the state of their hearts and their deeds.  Remember: all have sinned.  All are guilty.  All deserve to be punished.  So, God brings Justice and we all stand condemned.  It would have been a literal hell for everyone.

So, because God is loving, He sends His Son, who is One with Him.  God had already shown in stark clarity the method by which sin could be forgiven: only by the shedding of blood.  The Old Testament times are full with the blood of lambs, goats, pigeons and the like.  There is a law: sin causes death.  For sin to be forgiven, something had to shed its blood.

And so, at the Passover, God provides for Himself a Lamb.  A Lamb without blemish.  Perfect, pure, holy.  His Son Jesus.  Jesus’ shed blood makes the atonement.  If we accept that He died for us and believe in Him, we can receive that atoning work of the Cross: we can be forgiven.

We killed Jesus.  But Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  But that forgiveness only comes when we accept the Truth.  Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except by Me.”  Jesus is the only Way of salvation, be you Jew or Greek or Roman or Indian or American or African or Australian.

So, a just God takes upon Himself our sin, a merciful God calls us to respond, and a gracious God offers us all, as many as would respond, life joyful and everlasting.

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