Google+ Followers

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Practical Issues for the church: Ephesians 4.



Paul  applies practically the theology that he has been at great pains to teach in the previous 3 chapters. He has reminded us that our salvation and faith are gifts of God freely given by His good grace and that our salvation is all of Him and has nothing to do with our own efforts. He has prayed that we might recognize the real cost of our salvation; that it is blood bought. The perfect sacrifice has been made which has brought us into relationship with God. We have learned about our pure-converted state and that since our conversion we are united with the body of Christ which is the church. We have learned that the church is the one chosen nation of God and  that He no longer favours people of Jewish descent but that His favour rests upon a people from every tongue, tribe and nation who are called into one body (the church) by their relationship to Him through Christ who is the head of the church. In the church there is no inequality, all are equal Jew and Gentile alike. We have been taught that we must be rooted and grounded in our faith in order that we might know the fullness of God through His revealed word; the scriptures.

This is a quick overview of the theology or doctrines that we learn from this letter so far; it is a soul refreshing view of what God has done through Jesus Christ on our behalf.

(Now in chapter 4 Paul makes application of these vital doctrines.)

Unity of the Church:

Paul’s letter is an open letter primarily for the New testament church but inspired by the Holy Spirit for the benefit of congregations universally through every age. So this is for both us and the church of Christ throughout the world today and therefore is relevant for us even though written nearly 2000 years ago. God’s word is alive and is vital to all generations of believers.(Heb. 4:12-13)

Paul is keen to make the point that we are one people (see verses 4-6) where he is summarizing chapter 2:11-22 Threrefore he reminds us in verse 4 that there is one body etc. he is really saying remember the sound doctrine I have taught you; now apply it to your life in the church. 

So how does he go about applying it?

  1. He appeals to them. Verses 1-3
He urges his readers to live a life worthy of their calling of which he reminded them of in the first 3 chapters. But before he does that he states his own predicament. He reminds them that he is a prisoner for the Lord. 

Why does Paul keep harping upon his incarceration? 

 Remember in Chapter3:13 he has already told them not to lose heart on his behalf but to recognize that his sufferings are for the glory of the church. It should be an encouragement to us! 

How can imprisonment be an encouragement? 

 Even Paul the prisoner is counting himself to be a part of the church, the united people of God! He may seem to be isolated and alone but he knew that he was still at one with the people of God. When we feel lonely and uncared for Paul’s example is that we belong.

What then does Paul urge us to do?

Verses 1-3
  • To live or walk (ESV): 
     
  • Humbly: 
     
  • With gentleness:
  • With patience:
  • Loving each other:
  • Led by the Spirit:
We are to live our life worthy of our calling and to display the characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the responsibility of both the church and individual Christians.

  1. The unity we have: verses 4-6
  • One body:
  • One Spirit:
  • One hope:
  • One Lord:
  • One faith:
  • One baptism:
  • One God and Father of all:
The emphasis is on oneness and not multiplicity. The church throughout all ages is stable and never changes in any way because we have a God who is always the same. The builder of the church is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb.13:8) Therefore that which He builds is on that same stable foundation. We are at one with the great saints, past present and future this is our great encouragement.

  1. More doctrine: verses 7-10
Paul in his applications is concerned that he is speaking  according to scripture and that what he says is rooted and grounded in the truth! Therefore he continues by telling us that grace is given to each one of us. That is to us individually; we are saved individually. 

Individuals are important to God! 

We are reminded of the teaching of our Lord who said that the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the air are important to Him but that we are even more important. (Lk. 12:27 & Mt. 10:29)

Grace has been given to us, according to the measure of Christ’s gift therefore it is extravagant, lavished upon us, pressed down, full to overflowing! (Eph. 1:8; 1John 3:1; Lk. 6:38)

Paul’s application is proven by his use of scripture; he quotes Psalm 68:18 He was able to understand and apply this verse to the Lord Jesus Christ and His ascension and the gifts that He gives to His people from His risen status in heaven. The gifts are to fill all things; they are immeasurably more than we can think or ask for.



  1. Gifts for the church. Verse 11
  • Apostles: they are envoys of the risen Christ. The pre-requisites of the Apostles were that they had met with the risen Christ; (1 Cor. 9:; 1 Cor. 15:7) and that they had received the mandate from Him to witness for Him. (Mt. 28:19; Jn.20:21; Rom. 1:5; 1 Cor. 1:7) Clearly there can no longer be any Apostles of this order, but we are all called to witness for him under the direction of the Apostles directives.
  • Prophets: those who had a direct revelation from God for His people. The canon of scripture is now complete, it is finished, nothing to be added ( Rev.22:18-19) He has revealed all that is necessary for mankind to know about Himself, about sin and death and hell; heaven has been accomplished through the finished work of Christ on the cross. He has declared His plan of redemption the forgiveness for sin and salvation by His good grace etc. There is nothing more to reveal therefore there is no longer any need for prophets of the order of the scriptures. There is however a prophetic word to be preached which is the Gospel which reveals God’s truth into the hearts of sinners, but that is the work of the preacher and not a prophet with new ideas!
  • Evangelists: messengers of the evangel, the good news, preachers of the gospel. This I believe to be an ongoing gift to the church, by the evangelist or gospel preacher that the Lord chooses to build His church, how can people be saved without a preacher? (Rom. 10:14-17)
  • Pastors and teachers: Paul puts these two together; the Pastor is an under shepherd, one who tends the flock (Acts20:20.) In the previous verse (Acts 20:17) Luke indicates that the responsibility of the elders is to tend the flock. It is the elders who are the pastors of the church, (see also 1 Peter 5:1-12) The role of Pastor is a caring role under the authority of the Chief or the Good Shepherd, (John 10.) Teaching is also the responsibility of the eldership. An elder must be able to teach sound doctrine. In Titus 1:9 In 1 Tim. 5:17 Paul gives the impression that not all elders are called to be the preacher and teacher of the church but that there us a role for individuals from within the eldership who have been set apart for the purpose of preaching and teaching and that they are to be looked after for their labours. We believe that to be a good principle but it does not mean that the paid elder has a greater authority or is of greater importance than the other leaders of the church!! Double honour must surely mean that he is honoured by the church as they pay him to be diligent in the scriptures and to pass on to them the truths contained within.We need to make sure we do not set up our evangelical papal figures! The eldership is a unity; a united gift to the church!
That is why Paul goes on to explain that the gifts are given to the church in order that the church may be equipped.
  1. The gifts are to equip the church. Verse 12
For what purpose?
  • The work of the ministry; notice that it does not say for the gifts to do the ministry! But they are given in order that the church will be equipped for it’s ministry.
  • To build up the church, that is the body. It is a body building facility. A good body builder will take advice from others as to what is best for him. He makes sure that he has a right diet; he will drink wisely; exercise properly; rest correctly; all with great diligence. If that is how we build up a healthy body how much more important it is to build the body of Christ properly and effectively. 

    As the church we need to take wise counsel from the elders who are under the authority of the scriptures. We need a good diet of sound doctrine as found in the scripture. We need to feed on the bread of life which is Jesus Christ our Lord (John 6:35.) We need to drink of the fountain of life by coming to Him who gives water abundantly that we will never thirst again (John 4:14.) We need to rest right, this is a requirement of every body. The body needs to be relaxed and not tired and agitated. Christians we really need to learn this lesson. Sometimes I think our church timetable is not conducive to a people who are relaxed in their faith! There are many texts about rest in scripture we need to learn lessons as to how to rest. Jesus said “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. His burden is easy and his yolk is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)
     
  • To work out or exercise Body building of course is not just rest that is slothfulness! We are meant to exercise right. To “work out” our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) We need to be exercised in the truth of God’s word but also to be active in our faith. Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us to prepare ourselves to run the race that is set out before us, the Christian life is a marathon for which we need to be fit! How do we get fit? We look to Jesus for strength and for the good example that we need. There is also great value in physical fitness, our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and it is our responsibility to look after it in order that we are not too weary to run the race.
  • Great diligence. So much in today’s lifestyle is halfheartedly done. The church is to be noticed for its diligence. The perseverance of the saints is a doctrine that is vital for today. The church too easily takes on the credit card attitude of the world we want easy and quick access to blessing that we do not yet deserve. The Christian life and the witness of the church is a hard slog therefore we need to be diligent in our efforts. Our perseverance has saving consequences not only for ourselves but others also! (1 Tim.4:16)
The responsibility of the Pastors and teachers of the church is to build up the body in order that we might attain:

Verse 13
  • Unity of faith.
  • Knowledge of Jesus.
  • Maturity.
  • A likeness to Christ.

Verse 14;
In order  that we might not be:
  • Immature.
  • Easily swayed by heresies.
  • Easily led by crafty persons.

Verse 15-16

But that we would rather be:
  • Speakers of the truth lovingly.
  • Growing more to be like Christ.
  • Belonging to the body.

Church Membership Colossians ch. 3




What do you believe about Church membership?


a) What is the Church?

We go around the country and we see many great church buildings some are ornate with exquisite architecture, others less ornate but with equally good architecture. Still others are rather plain, the building in which we now meet is an example of this.

The particular building itself is a reflection of the theology of the people who attend services in there. Some worshippers believe in celebrating a weekly sacrifice of Christ therefore have a large altar at the front, others believe in the primacy of preaching – preaching being the pinnacle of worship as a result their buildings are represented by a large pulpit or platform area. The Church, for most people is a building that reflects the particular beliefs of the people who attend. 

BUT is this really what the church is?

If we look in the NT we find following the Acts of the Apostles there are various letters which were written to the Church: The first one is to Rome then Corinth, Galatia etc. these letters were not written to buildings but to people. 

The Lord Jesus Christ said that he is building his Church. He was not concerned with the building but the people. His whole purpose of coming into this world as a man was to build his church.
 HOW? 
By the redemption of sinful humanity. Each person saved is another brick in the Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore all who are saved are automatically members of the Church!  As Christians born again of the Spirit of God we are automatically a part of his universal Church! So why do we insist that Christians become members of the local church?

1. The local Church

The local Church is particular gathering of Christians in one place see Galatians 1:2 – To the Churches in Galatia. Paul recognised the local gatherings of Christians to be distinct churches. It is to these gathered bodies of people that the NT letters were mainly written. So how do we belong to a local church?

2. Belonging

There are no rules for belonging or becoming members of the local Church laid down in scripture therefore each local church has an amount of licence as to how they go about this. Some believe that those born into the family of believers automatically become members. Others believe in baptism being the outward evidence of a person’s salvation and therefore they are then admitted into Church membership. Others like ourselves admit people into membership upon application, followed by an interview by a representative from the eldership and then when they are satisfied they are truly saved are admitted into membership. The only rule I would say that is absolute is that the applicant be truly born again and belongs to Christ’s Universal church.

But what are the privileges of belonging to the local Church?



3. Privileges

Our first privilege is that  we belong to the family of God in our own locality. There is much talk in the scripture of the church being the family of God. No child can truly flourish outside of his family. Some children are orphaned but when they come into an adopted family they find the security and love they so need. It is just the same for the children of God. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ belong to His family. The local family meet for Praise, worship, learning, mutual encouragement and fellowship. Until a Christian truly belongs to the local church then he is an orphan.

Another picture of the Church both universal and local is that of the body. The local church is a small picture of the body of Christ. The body of course needs its members. Just as a body with only one leg is disabled – so the local church is disabled without all its members.  There are many Christians who just like are legs without bodies. They often say that they attend a local church and that is enough. That is simply not good enough  we need to belong to the body, joined by every sinew necessary. A leg inside a pair of trousers that is not joined at the hip is not a part of the body – in fact it is a nuisance and out of control! How can it know which way to turn unless it fully belongs. It does not feel as the other leg does, it does not belong. Christians who are separated from the church are just like amputated limbs.

By saving Grace we belong to the universal Church of Jesus Christ – Why not go the whole way and belong to the Church of Christ in the locality of where you live? 

Colossians was written to the Church that worshipped together at Colosse. In his letter Paul teaches the church many things but the passage we read earlier highlights the privilege these believers had by belonging to the church gathered there.

What are these privileges?

a. Rules

Paul laid down a set of rules. This is not pharisaical or oppressive but they are helpful rules for Godly living in order that the church glorifies the Lord Jesus in all that she does.

Firstly Paul reminds the church of their position before God; they are a saved people. The first rule being that we should constantly remember what God has done for us. This is why we regularly celebrate the Lord's supper which is an ordinance instituted for the local Church to celebrate regularly.

Other rules include a holy life. Paul says put to death immorality,impurity,passion,evil desire and covetousness in verse v5. 

But how do we do that? 

By knowing the ways of God! The whole purpose of Paul’s letter is to teach the churches and its leaders how to be good Christians. That is why the church should concentrate on sermons and bible studies etc.

The privileges of the local church are:
1. Belonging to each other
2. Knowing the God given rules and how we should operate
3. To be taught what to do.


b. The purpose

V 2 to set our minds on things above! Not on earthly things below. 

How do we do this? 

TOGETHER

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us to meet together regularly and not to give up for this very purpose.  Paul also says this in this passage.

V 15 ff

i. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts – corporately
ii. Be thankful
iii. The indwelling word of God.
iv. Teaching each other
v. Admonishing –
Disciplining is a vital part of life. But it must be done with wisdom: All wisdom – the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, not the authority of men.
vi. Worship –
Vitally important to join together for worship I wonder if you know how difficult it is for others when you cant be bothered???
vii. Everything we do!

So church membership – what is it? It is commitment to belonging to the people of God . Not purely for the benefit of numbers but for the benefit of the individual, the church but more importantly for the Glory of Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Word of God: Bible Study

Read Heb. 4:12

What is the Word of God?

A person: The Lord Jesus Christ

  • John 1:1 The Word was God - in the beginning
  • The creator God is the Word
  • John 1:14 The Word became flesh, lived with us
  • The Son of God (Also 1 John 1:1 - The Word of Life!)
  • Rev. 19:13 (esp. vv11-16) The risen Lord Jesus Christ is the Word of God
  • Heb. 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever

Speech:

Creating

  • Gen. 1:3 God spoke and things were created. “Let there be light etc.” and there was
  • Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made.

  • Therefore the Word of God is powerful and creative!

Sustaining:

  • Heb. 1:3 Sustains all things by his powerful word

Personal:

  • Gen. 2:16-17 Instructive word to Adam and Eve
  • Gen. 3:9 Calling word “Where are you?”. Also Saul on road to Damascus Acts 9.
  • Gen. 3:16-19 Cursing word. Woman, man and the ground
  • Ex. 20:1-3 Directing word. 10 commandments. The Lord spoke all these words.
  • Matt. 3:17 Exalting word. This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.

God spoke many times audibly to his people. God speaks in a variety of ways.

Through human instruments:

  • God raised up prophets through whom he spoke. They were ordinary people, who spoke human words in everyday language BUT of divine origin and therefore they spoke the very Word of God. The Word they spoke was truthful and authoritative.
  • Deut. 18:18-20 “I will put my words in his mouth” The words of God were spoken by the prophet. The true ambassador only says the words of his king.
  • Jer. 1:9 Sanctified lips
  • Jer. 1:7 Speak only the commandments of God (see also Num. 22:35,38)
  • Ex. 4:12 God helps those who are to speak for him
  • There are many examples in scripture.

But what about the N.T.? What is our brief today? To preach the Word! The gospel is God’s word for life.

God’s word in writing - the scriptures:

Written by God:

Just as God instructed men to speak His word, he also instructed men to record his Word.
The first account of the written word is by none other than the hand of God. The 10 commandments were written by the finger of God. Ex. 31:18, 32:16 and 34:1, 28.

Written by O.T. authors:

  • Deut. 31:9-13 Moses
  • Josh. 24:26 Joshua
  • Is. 30:8 Isaiah
  • Jer. 30:2 Jeremiah (also Jer. 36:2-4 and vv27-31 The word of God protected)

Written by N.T. authors:

  • Promise of the Holy Spirits help to remember
  • John 14:26 Also John 16:12-13 The promise of truth and future events
  • 1 Cor. 14:37 Paul’s writings are the commands of the Lord
  • 2 Peter 3:2 Peter’s second letter reminds the people of the Words of the prophets and now the command of Chris through the apostles

The written word of God is absolutely true and authoritative. Therefore to disobey brings judgement.
  • Jer. 36:29-31
  • 1 Cor. 14:36-38
Warnings about adding to or taking from!
  • Deut. 4:2, 12:32
  • Prov. 30:6
  • Rev. 22:19

God’s written word is complete, true and infallible
  • Trustworthy
  • Living - life giving
  • Active - today and always because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
  • Sharp - cuts away even the most difficult sin
  • Penetrating - reaches the inner man
  • Judging - guilty or not guilty.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Good Friday





The Christians responsibility to the lost. Mt.9:35-38




A Right Focus is required:

  1. The Lord whilst teaching and preaching in the cities and villages saw the crowd. Jesus always saw things just as they were and still does today. In this He sets us an example in the church that we might see things as He did:
     
    • Are we “people” observers?  Very often both the church and individual Christians only see the people around us through blinkered and filtered glasses. Jesus saw the crowd whilst He was teaching and preaching. We know from other examples of Jesus looking at people that He was perfectly analytical in what He saw. As god the Son He saw them every one in their deepest need. Nothing escaped His gaze. Remember how He saw Peter when he was denying Him. He saw everything and had compassion. Remember how He saw Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, He saw the city and just wanted to gather them up but yet He knew how they would kill Him just a few days later. Jesus saw the crowd not as opportunities but as individuals for whom He had come to accomplish salvation if only they would believe on Him. he knew the heart of each one and yet He still saw them and taught them. We have much to learn about grace when we teach and preach. 

      Preacher do you weep when you see the congregation, do you have compassion or do you simply have a sermon? When you are preparing do you see the potential congregation in your minds eye and do you weep for them and thus prepare to meet their greatest needs? Are their greatest needs your passion?  If not then you are just another preacher with possibly great theology and great words but empty promises. The preacher / teacher that the congregation needs is a man who sees them through Jesus' eyes. The world needs an evangelist who sees not their obvious sin but their person and who loves them despite their sin just as Jesus did.

      We have not really begun if we are honest and I guess that is why our evangelism and preaching is so often ineffectual.
       
    •  What do we see when we are out and about? What did Jesus see? Obviously He saw the crowd but whereas we might be encouraged by so many people turning out! How proud and arrogant we are. Jesus simply saw them. He saw their need and He addressed it. 
      Paul on Mars Hill is a good example here. he had spent a day wandering around the place before he addressed the people. During that time he had not come to a conclusion that they were simply displaying total depravity. He did not have to observe that, he already knew that to be true of all people. No he was about the place looking for a way to help them out of depravity and into relationship with God. Her saw his opportunity from their religious fervour. Today we would probably rail against their idolatry and put them right in it; but not Paul. He saw that they were not fully convinced that they had discovered all deities and so marked an unknown god with a statue. That was enough for Paul to preach Christ and Him crucified as the god that they did not know and guess what many were saved that day. He saw the crowd through Jesus eyes and his evangelism was effective.
      We have much to learn, it is not about the latest method but all about seeing people as they are and where they are and helping them through their situation to see Jesus.
       
    • Do we look at the world through the eyes of the Saviour? God so loved the world! We are so often scared of that part of John 3:16 but we must appreciate that God loved the world and so He sent Jesus to demonstrate His love to the world. Jesus died in order that the world might be saved and when He ascended into heaven Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to bring the world into an understanding of how to be saved. God loves the world universally by His common grace and within common grace their is also specific grace that gathers undeserving sinners into relationship with Him. He has known them since before the foundation of the world but surprising to say we do not! Therefore we must love as Jesus loves the world and do our utmost to bring as many as we possibly can into discipleship with Him. if we truly love people it will automatically be our passion to reveal Jesus to them in  the best way that we can.

    • What do we see when we are out and about? Scripture tells us to be more like Jesus. We need to have the eyes of Jesus.
       
    • How do we see people today? I wonder whether we see them in the same light as He did. In 1 Cor.2:16 Paul tells us that we have the mind of Christ, and in 1 Cor.5:20 that we are His ambassadors to the world, we therefore ought to be concerned for the “unsaved” in the same way that He was!e was! He had a right focus, ours is somewhat fogged. Ever tried to see things through steamed up or dirty glasses? That is how I believe we mostly view the people around us. Our eyes are so taken up with the care of the world and ourselves that we fail to see the real gospel needs at all.

    • What was it that the Lord’s reaction to what He saw? He had compassion on them!

  2. What was it that He saw in the people of the towns and villages?
  • He saw people, individuals, hurting, lost, harassed and helpless. The Good Shepherd saw the people in the towns and villages like sheep without shepherds! 

    He saw a people in need, but what was their greatest need? 

    He had already been teaching, preaching and healing but what was their great need as far as the Lord was concerned?  

    They needed Christians! To Jesus the people were just like a harvest field, that was ready to gather in. Jesus we must remember was God the Son and as such He is capable of gathering the harvest alone but He has chosen to use Christians. That is a frightening reminder to us that we must be about our harvest work. We have recently experienced the wettest summer on record but when we had an occasional dry day the farmers were out all day gathering the harvest as quickly as possible. We are currently in a day of God’s grace and favour, the harvest is ripe; are we as earnest as we ought to be? 

  • The Lord was also honest with His disciples and told them that they needed help, the labourers were few. In reality at that time there were just 11 so what is the answer? Prayer for workers. For the disciples that prayer was answered on the day of Pentecost when thousands were converted and became harvesters of souls! We equally must pray for harvesters; the trouble is that today most Christians would rather be bystanders!!! They seem to think that evangelism is for the professional but if you go out into a corn field at the time of harvest, the farmer has all hands on deck, even wife and children if possible. Evangelism is an “all hands on” activity! There is no room for bystanders wew are all called to be part of the great commission. sadly the church in general is more taken up with the great omission!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Lessons from Jonah part 1.



Background.

It is difficult to date the writing of the book, as there is no internal evidence as to whom or when the book was written. We do not know if it was Jonah who wrote the book or somebody later on but we can see from the account that there is no gloss or spin found in the account. Jonah does not come out of the story very well. He is in fact a very successful preacher with a bad attitude. There are many lessons that we learn from this small but very interesting book.

Jonah is one of the books of the bible that skeptics most like to pick on. Their reason being that it is ludicrous to think that a fish large enough to swallow a man is possible and that also for a man to survive in the stomach juices of a fish for 3 days is even more unthinkable and certainly unbelievable. I suppose Christians have tried to explain it away by suggesting that the fish were a whale and so size makes the story possible. We will not enter into foolish arguments, I certainly believe that with God all things are possible and we shall see from the text that the fish was specially provided just for Jonah on this one occasion. Our God who at a word created this whole universe is quite capable of preparing a fish large enough to swallow Jonah and then to sustain him whilst entombed inside the fish for 3 days. What we do know is that the lessons that Jonah was being taught were important to him and are also of importance to us. So let us get ready to learn lessons from Jonah!

Chapter 1: On the run.


Verses 1-3: God’s calling:

God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and to preach against it. We get some idea of God’s purpose from His description of Nineveh as “that great city.” His reason for sending Jonah is that He had seen their wickedness. It is God who is calling; it is He who instigates the evangelism to Nineveh. Jonah is the servant He is to use. There is only one other reference to Jonah found in the Old Testament; 2 Kings14: 25 tells of Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher who prophesied that Jeroboam II would restore the boundaries of Israel. For this he would have been a popular prophet especially as his prophecy came true in the day of Jeroboam. As a prophet I am sure that he did many things that are unaccounted for in scripture but it is this account that is recorded for posterity and from this account God’s people have been helped over the years.

We can learn from the first verse that it is God that does the calling and that it is not necessarily in the direction that we might imagine or desire!

We learn from verse 2 that the place of God’s calling was Nineveh and that the people there are wicked. Chapter 3:3 tells us that Nineveh was large and very important; (it took 3 days for a visit.) Nineveh was about 100 miles from the north east border of Israel in the land of Assyria (in modern day Iran.) Assyria was Israel’s enemy who had conquered and ruled over them from time to time. Nineveh the capital city was known for it’s cruelty; they tortured people by skinning them alive and thought nothing of either burying them alive or impaling them on a sharp pole and leaving them to die in the heat of the day. God told Jonah that this kind of wickedness had come to His attention and that He wanted the people of Nineveh to hear of His anger and judgement on them. In Jonah’s understanding this meant that forgiveness and salvation was on offer to his people’s mortal enemy.

God had called Jonah to preach against a desperately evil people. A good prophet should at this point be pleased that God had called him especially to take a message of hope to a needy people, but we can see from the rest of the chapter that Jonah was not at all pleased. Jonah decided to go on the run. He became a backslidden prophet. The marks of the backslider can then readily be recognised. When a Godly person removes their focus from God then their focus becomes earthbound, they are contrary rather than obedient. So when God said go east to Nineveh, Jonah headed off west toward Spain.

It is often thought that when we are out of God’s will then everything becomes difficult and that He puts obstacles in our way. This was not true for Jonah and neither is it true for us. Jonah headed for Joppa where it just so happened that there was a ship ready and waiting to go to Tarshish, Jonah is heading for a “well deserved holiday” in Spain. He also had enough money to pay the fare and so he sailed away on the run from the Lord. The amazing thing is that the Lord had let him go!

God is in control.

Verses 4-17:


The one message that we can safely say that the book of Jonah shouts out to us is that God is Sovereign. He is sovereign not only in the life of Jonah but also over all of the circumstances brought about by his rebellion and also over those who are innocently affected by his ways. We see God’s sovereignty over nature and His provision for the future of the sailors and also the people of Nineveh.

God provides


The first provision is for Jonah. God provides a massive storm, big enough for the sailors to be afraid. It is God’s voice being spoken through the storm to Jonah. The sailors heard the warning, they knew that God was angry but Jonah was fast asleep. He was the rebel comfortable in his sin and complacent as to the consequences whilst innocent people were scared for their lives.

The second provision of God was for the sailors who knew that God was angry with somebody but they did not know who and so they trusted God by the casting of lots to reveal the culprit. God graciously provided them with the answer. The sailors on finding the reason from Jonah displayed human kindness to him and tried every way that they could to save his life. No wonder that God dealt with them so kindly.

The third provision was again for Jonah but also for the sailors. The Sea was made rougher; the sailors had no choice but to sacrifice the life of a rebellious prophet in an attempt to save the life of the crew and to save the ship. The rough sea was for Jonah to be thrown down into and for him to have to rely on God’s mercy for his future.

The fourth provision was again for the sailors, a calm came upon the sea, and the sailors were saved, not only physically but also spiritually. They had seen clearly from the ferocity of the storm how angry God is with the sin of Jonah. They had seen God’s almighty power and had been the beneficiaries of His saving mercy, this caused them to greatly fear Him, to make a sacrifice to Him and to make vows. They made a sacrifice in order that sin might be atoned for, that sacrifice has been perfectly made by Jesus. Other than this the way of salvation is exactly the same today.

The fifth provision is the one that causes contention with the skeptics but it was a great fish that provided for Jonah. It was to be his home for 3 days and his vehicle of restoration, as we shall see next time.

The lesson that we learn is that there is nowhere that we as the people of God can go to hide from Him, and that He has a purpose for all of us. The gospel is of paramount importance to God; He will have His name proclaimed. The prophet was commissioned to speak God’s words wherever God sent him and so are we. God has sent you and me to be where we are and to a desperately needy people. It is our responsibility to let them know of His love for them and His free offer of saving grace.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Sermon on the Mount Pt.2.



Text:- Matthew 5:13 You are the salt of the earth;

In the first part of our studies in the Sermon on the Mount we considered the beatitudes as a catalogue of the attributes and blessings of the Christian.

The Lord now directs our attention to the affect the Christian should have on the people with whom they have contact.

The Lord says that we are to be like salt.

What is salt? Combination of a very reactive metal and an equally reactive gas. Both of which in their pure form are dangerous. But when combined are vital to life.

What are the properties of salt? The first thing that we notice about salt is that most things that it comes into contact with are in some way changed. e.g. it breaks down the layer of ice on the road or pathway. It can even break down strong metals like iron. It kills many animals and plant-life. (the dead sea!) It makes bland food pleasant to eat. It is a preservative, an antiseptic and vital for animal life.

It is also very powerful. A very small amount is needed to perform most of the mentioned tasks. A small amount poured out on ice soon clears the problem. We notice around here how quickly nails etc corrode due to atmospheric particles from the sea.

Salt is truly a universal reagent that is capable of doing many things, it is powerful but yet gentle, it can preserve life and yet kill off infections. It has a cleansing affect on open wounds and sores. Salt is vital in the world.

The Christian’s Responsibilities.

The Lord tells us that we are like salt. He says that we are the spiritual salt of the earth. We are here to make a difference to all that we contact. As salt we are to work in many different ways.

We are to be:-

a) Preservatives

We are to be a preservative just like salt rubbed into meat prevents putrefaction, so we as Christians are to act as a preservative in the world. How is the world to be prevented from getting worse? We are to bring the message of salvation that stops the rot of sin. Sin is the process that causes the decay and death of spiritual life, we need to apply the salt of the gospel to souls that need saving. Are we being salt to a perverse and guilty people?

b) Antiseptic

We are to be an antiseptic in this sick world, bringing in true values that clean up the ways of people. There are open sores of bitterness and anguish, sorrow and pain, anger and hate, error and heresy, loneliness and despair etc. We are to be salt in all of these areas. You might say; our priority is to the people of God, and there are so many needs in the church that I just do not have time to be salt in the world as well. After all it is by our love extended to each other that others will know that we belong to Jesus. I am glad that the Lord did not have that attitude! There was enough work for Him among the Jews that He would never have looked beyond them. I think it is also safe to say that if that had been His attitude He would never have gone beyond His own 12 disciples. They were so complex that they needed the 3 years that He had to themselves. The Lord was our example, He was salt in every way to the people. We are to be like Him.

c) Ice Breakers

We are also to be the ice breakers of society. Not the silly jokes or games used by many in order to make friends with strangers. People are cold toward God, we have a testimony as to His grace in our lives, a testimony that warms the coldest of hearts. Look at the Lord and how He touched peoples lives, He wept at the graveside of Lazarus with the dead man’s sisters. He had a young child sit on His knee. He fed the hungry. He healed the sick. All to bring glory to His Father. To warm the hearts of those who are not naturally disposed to God. All that He did was to bring sinners into a warm and loving relationship with God Almighty. We are told to likewise, to bring others to the place where their cold hearts can be dealt with.

d) Corrosive

Just as salt attacks iron we are also to be on the attack! We are to corrode the very gates of hell. Then Lord Jesus said that He is building His church and the gates of hell cannot stand in the way. We are to attack those gates with the corrosive power of the gospel. The devil hates the gospel just as much as a slug hates salt. The devil shrinks away at the power of the gospel, when we preach it , it is just like throwing a concentrated salt solution on already badly corroded iron. It breaks what is already weakened. We seem to have the impression that the gates of hell are all powerful and of almost equal strength to the power of the Lord. There is nothing further from the truth. The power of the devil is destroyed, he is not even capable to stand in our way, scripture tells us to resist the devil and he will flee. Christians we are to be salt to the devil, the active ingredient is the gospel are we taking the opportunities that we have? The Lord; our supreme example never wasted an opportunity to attack the devil; do we?

e) Seasoning

The Lord was also a sweet savour that sweetened people around Him. In Him was no deceit or guile, He was beautiful in His personality. In a world that is ruled by deceit and dishonesty He brought honesty and reality. You can imagine how a conversation would change when His presence was felt. Again I wonder how much we are like Him. How do we affect those around us? Are people comfortable to be themselves in our presence? Our very lives should convict them of their wrong attitudes and sins. Sadly I do not believe this to be the case. There seems to be no shame in bragging of evil deeds in front of us, WHY IS THAT? Our lives should be like salt that is painful on festering sores, the festering sores of open sin should smart in the presence of the Lord’s people. Bitterness of heart should be sweetened by our influence, in the same way as food is sweetened by the addition of a pinch of salt. Not because we make a song and dance of the things of which we disapprove but because Christ is seen in us.

THE WARNING.

f) Fakes

The Lord speaks of salt that loses its savour, its saltiness, its very essence. The whole point of salt is salt!!!! Salt without saltiness is not salt at all. It is fake! It cannot be flavoured, it is useless for anything, it is to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. The person who loses their Christian identity is not really a Christian at all. We are saved for time and eternity, Jesus said “no-one can pluck you from out of my hand!” They will be thrown out and trampled under foot by men, they will be held in contempt by those who were deceived by them.

g) Effectiveness

The amazing thing about salt is that it is salt, saltiness is one of its attributes it is impossible to lose its effectiveness. In this Christians we are also like salt, we always have the savour of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will always be effective when we are available to be used by Him. The trouble is that just like salt we can come in different grades of purity. We can get salt that is impure because it is still carrying the contamination of the earth from which it was extracted. It is useful to a certain extent but its uses are limited. It will for instance be useful for clearing the ice from the road and corrosion of iron but no good for your chips. It needs to go through a purification process. Christians we can be a little like this. We were contaminated by sin, saved and purified by the Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection; made pure and holy by God’s grace. But then we so easily become contaminated by the sins of the world. Making us less useful but still capable of attacking the gates of hell. The problem being that our effectiveness is diluted by the impurities that get in the way!

Purified salt is useful for your chips, but that does not mean that it is useless for other tasks like breaking down ice or corroding iron. It will still do these things but others also. The more pure the salt the more universal the applications that it can have. How much like that we are, the purer we get the more useful we are. How do we become more pure? We can learn from salt yet again:- Impure salt is dissolved in the smallest amount of boiling water that is possible, making a very strong solution, any insoluble contaminants are filtered away, it is then cooled down, upon cooling the water cannot contain the amount of salt and the salt then crystallises out of solution. The excess liquid is filtered off and the now pure salt is dried and ready for use. The salt cannot do it for itself, it is performed by the chemist. Well the Lord is the One that purifies the Christian, it is done by us being absorbed into His presence where He removes the contaminants. We come into His presence in our submission to Him, reading and studying His word, learning from it and obeying its decrees. We are purified in our prayers, in our praise and in our worship. The more we look to Him the more we look like Him and the more effective we become in the world.

He is absolutely pure. With salt we can also get what is known as Spectroscopically pure, this is as pure as it is possible to get it. The Lord Jesus was absolutely pure. It is only the purest of salt that is used in the treatment of disease. It is the Purest that deals with the disease of sin. It is Christ who applies His savour on the heart of the sinner, cleansing them from the putrefaction that sin has caused. He is truly like salt in the world we are called to be like Him affecting the world with the salt of the gospel
.
ARE WE AFFECTING THE WORLD?

We are always an influence on others, either for good or bad! As Christians we are observed more than most, people are looking fir the smallest hint of hypocrisy so that they can use is as their excuse for their rebellion against God. Our inconsistencies become a salve to their consciences!

How do we feel about the influence we have on those who are in contact with us? I hope that we are concerned enough to be salt that moves out ready to season this sad and desperate generation.