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One Way

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6 (ESV)

We take another little break from the ATBOB series to think about something I feel is important for us to discuss.

The other evening, I caught an episode of a Netflix show called “The Good Place.” It’s set in the afterlife, where after an administrative mix up, a woman named Elenor is mistakenly let into the Good Place (heaven).

The program makes no mention of God, and in fact states that all of the major religions on Earth are only about 2% correct.

How do you get into the Good Place? Well, according to the show, every action you take on Earth is scored and recorded. “Good” actions lead to a higher score, and only those with the highest of scores end up in the Good Place. Everyone else ends up in the Bad Place.

Similarly, when I was younger, I remember a TV show where the main character died and found himself at the pearly gates. He met St Peter, who then evaluated his life. Peter had a set of scales and every good action – represented by a white ball – was placed on one side, and every bad action – represented by a black ball – was put on the other side. If the scales tipped to the good, you were allowed into heaven.

I’m not sure where these sort of myths originated, but there are still many who essentially believe that if you lead a generally good life, then you will get into heaven.

But what is “good”? Or rather, what is good enough?

I can see why such thinking is popular. If there’s no standard of good, then we can just compare ourselves to others and grade on a curve. “I may not be the best, but i’m better than that guy…” Thus we justify being good enough.

Let me say categorically that none of this thinking is biblical.

Imagine this for a moment – you are on one side of a chasm, and heaven is on the other. You must jump across to reach heaven. The problem is that the chasm is a mile wide. It doesn’t matter if you jump ten feet or twenty, you’re still going to fall. It makes no sense to say, “At least I jumped further than them!” Because neither of you will make it.

The standard is not set by how we measure up against each other, but how we measure up against God.

God sets out His perfect standard in His Word. The Israelites lived under the Law of Moses, and that Law was given to show them how they ought to live. They misunderstood. They thought they could follow every command and fulfil every aspect of the Law. Wrong! The Law was intended to show them that they couldn’t fulfil it, and that they needed saving!

Here in the 21st century, we are no better off. Most people don’t even recognise God’s Word as a standard anymore, let alone try to fulfil every aspect of it. Likewise, we too need a Saviour!

While some believe living “good enough” will get them into heaven, others believe that there are many roads to heaven. This is another deception.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

Being better than other people won’t get you into heaven. Following the teachings of Buddha or other “holy” person won’t get you there. Worshiping a false god won’t work, nor will earning a fortune and giving it all away. You can sit in church every week for your entire lifetime, and that won’t do it either.

Sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than sitting in a garage would make you a car (I think Joyce Meyer said that…).

There is only one way to heaven. And that Way is Jesus Christ.

I know this is not a popular view, and many consider it closed minded and not diverse. Some may think me arrogant, saying “What makes him think he’s right over all of the other religions?” The only answer I can give is – it’s true.

Jesus is the only way to get to heaven. If I were to say anything else to you today, I would be deceiving you. I appreciate you must come to that decision on your own, and I completely respect anyone who disagrees or comes to a different decision. But I believe it is my responsibility to tell you the truth. And, on the off chance that I’m right, I want to give you every opportunity to come to Jesus right now.

As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Galatians 1:9 (NIV)

When you die (not wishing to be morbid), you will stand before God and give an account for your life. It won’t be about what “good” you did or didn’t do, and it won’t be about anyone else. It will be about what you did with Jesus – God’s Only Son.

The Bible teaches that one day, Jesus will return. Irrespective of what you believe about that, none of us will live forever on this Earth, and will one day have to face our mortality. When that time comes, I want you to be prepared. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait. Make a choice for Christ TODAY.

Many may say it’s one way or another to heaven, but it’s not. It’s only One Way. And His name is Jesus.

 

If you are ready to make that choice today, have a read of my blog from Resurrection Sunday or listen to the accompanying talk. In there, I set out the Gospel – or Good News – about Jesus. You can believe in Him right now, and pray that Jesus will come and be the Lord and Saviour of your life. If you do, please contact me as I’d love to celebrate with you.

Pearl of Wisdom #4

If someone is gossiping to you, then there’s a good chance they are gossiping about you also.

We ought not to underestimate the hurt that gossip can cause. Even in Christian circles, gossip can be common and rarely given a second thought. Yet words spoken about another can cause intense pain.

Gossip doesn’t even have to be that damaging in order to be wrong. The truth is, if it has nothing to do with us, then we should not have an opinion about it.

I hear people say sometimes, “Oh, I never repeat gossip.” This is good, of course, but are you listening to it? We need to understand that if a person is gossiping to us about another person, then they are probably telling someone else about you.

Repeating gossip is wrong, but listening to it is not much better.

Do yourself a favour and don’t listen to words of gossip. If it’s not about you, then deliberately choose not to have an opinion about it. Be cautious who you spend time with, and what you discuss over coffee or around the water cooler.

May the Lord set a guard over your mouth, but over your ears also. God bless you.

East Never Meets West

All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #8

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:11-12 (ESV)

 

When I began this series, I wasn’t certain how long it would take to work through this spectacular psalm. We are now on part eight, and reach verses 11 and 12. There is so much to enjoy and appreciate in this one passage (the entire psalm I mean) and I do hope you are still getting a lot from it.

These verses tell us two things; how much God loves us, and how far He has removed our sins from us.

As high as the heavens are above the Earth

The word translated as “heavens” here is the Hebrew word shamayim referring primarily to the sky or abode of the stars. It is the same word used in Genesis 1:1 when God created the “heavens and the Earth”. For David writing this, he would have had little distinction between the sky and Space beyond, whereas we distinguish between the two. Irrespective of this, the point is clear.

David is comparing the greatness or size of the love of God to the unmeasurable expanse between the Earth itself and the sky or heavens above. It was perhaps the largest, most enormous thing he could think of to which to compare God’s love to.

Paul prays in Ephesians 3:

…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17b-19 (ESV, emphasis added)

That –

  • Believers would be rooted and grounded in love.
  • They would comprehend the dimensions of Christ’s love.
  • That they would know (or experience) Christ’s love which surpasses (head) knowledge.

David is praising the Lord for the enormity of His love, and Paul is praying that the church would know that same love through Christ. God’s love for His people is so crucial to our understanding of faith that we must not only study it, but experience it for ourselves.

Notice the phrase “steadfast love” again in these verses. It is not a love built on shifting sands or moving goalposts. It is stable, steady and cannot be increased or detracted from.

God’s love towards those who fear Him

Who is this love directed towards? Those who fear Him. This “fear” here is reverence. God directs His love towards those who revere Him,; those who recognise Him as Sovereign God. We may consider ourselves as on the receiving end of this tremendous love.

East Never Meets West

David goes on to express the idea that as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us. Similarly to the previous verse, he is trying to express an immeasurable distance – that’s how far God has taken away our transgressions.

One of the reasons this is so wonderful is that for King David, he did not experience personally the saving work of Jesus, dealing with sin once and for all. He could only look forward to a time when that would be true.

In another psalm, he says:

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity…

Psalm 32:2a (ESV)

For us as New Testament believers, we can rejoice in the fact that God, through the shed blood of Christ, has removed our sins from us once and for all time. He has not just dealt with the individual “sins” we commit, but sin itself. Sin is certainly not dead in the world we live in, yet we are dead to it (Romans 6:11).

Not only has sin been dealt with, and its effect taken away – but it has been forgotten as well.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.

Hebrews 8:12 (ESV)

How does an omniscient God forget anything? Because He chooses to.

Spend some time today rejoicing that God’s love is without measure, and that He has taken your sin away. Whatever else is happening in your life today, these are great reasons to worship God.

All the Characteristics of a Gracious God

All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #7

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

Psalm 103:8-10 (ESV)

I’m reflecting on whether “All the Benefits of Believing” is the right title for this series of posts. When we read verses like the ones above, perhaps a better title would be “All the Characteristics of a Gracious God.” Not sure if it’s catchy though…

The reality is that we believers experience these wonderful benefits of a relationship with God because He is so loving and kind. Any benefit we experience is because God is so good to us.

Merciful and gracious

This psalm tells us that God is both merciful and gracious to us. But what are mercy and grace?

There are a number of definitions of course, but to me these are two different sides of the same coin.

Mercy means we don’t get what we do deserve, whereas grace means we do get what we don’t deserve!

Put simply, God’s mercy means we don’t receive the punishment for our sin. That punishment fell on Christ. And a heavy punishment it was too!

Likewise, God’s grace means we receive all the benefits of a relationship with God, which we did not and could not earn ourselves.

We get all the good we don’t deserve, and none of the bad we do deserve. What an awesome God!

Verse ten expresses this idea of grace and mercy perfectly. God does not deal with us according to our sins. If He did, we would all be in trouble! Instead, He extends mercy and grace to us so that we might receive the benefits of believing which we have not earned.

Slow to Anger

The psalm goes on to highlight that God is slow to anger. This means that He is not irritable, grumpy or snappy as we so often are. Instead, He is patient and gentle. While the way we act at times could warrant a little righteous anger, God does not inflict that anger upon us.

David wrote this psalm under the Old Covenant, which was a time before Christ came to the Earth. God’s people lived under the Law and its curses. It meant that their relationship with God was essentially conditional on them obeying the requirements of the Law of Moses.

However, we see time and time again in the Old Testament examples of God’s people going astray and yet God withholding His anger towards them. Of course a time came when enough was enough, and the people of Israel were led off into captivity but God held off that punishment for so long. And even as they went, the prophets of old spoke of a time when they would return to the land.

Unlike them, we don’t have to fear God’s anger. We live under the New (and Better) Covenant, where the righteous anger of God was spent on His Son Jesus Christ. We don’t face that anger ourselves, as Jesus took our place. There will be a time in the future when God’s anger is poured out on the Earth, and the day of judgement will come. But we need not fear it, as we are covered by the Blood of the Lamb.

Verse nine, quoted above, talks of a time when God will no longer chide, and that His anger will not last forever. This is an extension of the point above, that He is slow to anger, but also that it lasts only a short time. It may burn hot, if you like, but burns out quickly.

Verse nine could also be a reference to the time of Christ. A time when God no longer needs to chide His people, because He will have dealt with their sin and poured out His wrath on Jesus. This is not to say we no longer commit sins, of course we do not have perfect behaviour. Instead of the Law and its threat of punishment, we are now led by God’s Spirit who shows us right from wrong.

Abounding in steadfast love

Why is God so merciful? Why does He pour out His grace on us? Why is He so slow to anger? Because of His steadfast love.

God is love (1 John 4:8). It is not just something He likes to do, it is Who He is. God cannot help but love. He can’t choose to not love, as that would be denying Himself. Love is the very definition of God, and He directs it to us – His people.

God’s love is steadfast – meaning it is unchanging. It is anchored, cemented and locked down. He will not change His mind, or blow hot and cold. God’s love remains.

Due to all of this, His love is demonstrated through mercy, grace, and slowness to anger (amongst other things!).

If you take nothing else from today’s post, understand this – God is love, and He loves you.

Praise the Lord for all of His awesome Characteristics!

Pearl of Wisdom #3

Anger is a fire; while it can cook your dinner, it can also burn your house down.

We tend to think of anger as a bad thing, but it is not always so. When we think of anger in our society, it is usually out of control and directed towards the wrong things, but that doesn’t make it bad in itself.

When anger is directed towards injustice or sin, it drives us to action. This is a good thing. When we see someone being bullied, a child being mistreated or people in positions of power abusing their role, it is right for us to be angry and act.

That anger must be in control however, and must be in proportion.

What makes you angry? Is it directed towards the right things? If it is not in control, then you may need to get some help. Talk to God about this and He will guide you forward.

Bless you.

Deeds or Ways?

All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #6

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

Psalm 103:7 (ESV)

They say you should never meet your heroes, because the reality never quite matches up to the fantasy. You hear stories of people meeting a celebrity or sports star, and they come away disappointed because the person they met didn’t live up to their expectation.

The problem is we may know what someone does (on screen say) but we don’t know them.

We ought to be aware of this danger in our relationship with God. In our verse from Psalm 103 today, we see that the people of Israel knew God’s deeds, but Moses knew His ways.

In recent years, there have been a number of popular TV shows and movies about historical figures – particularly royalty. There have been dramatisations of the lives of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II and King George VI to name a few. Each of these debatably fairly accurately report the things these people did. What is often less accurate and left to poetic licence, is what these people were actually like.

We may learn all about what a person did in their life, and although that certainly allows us some insight into their character, it is a far way from actually knowing someone.

We must get to know God – not just what He does, but who He is.

Like most of us, I am sometimes guilty of treating God like a cosmic genie. Our prayer life can reflect the lack of depth in our relationship with Him when all we do is list our “wishes” for the day. It proves that we are more interested in what God can do for us, instead of getting to know Him personally.

My children are young and often ask for things – usually snacks. But what they really value, despite the asking, is spending time with their parents.

I’m sure we recognise that while God’s many blessings on our lives are wonderful, the truly important thing is our relationship with Him. If our prayer lives are just a long list of requests, then we need to reflect on our heart towards God. God wants to bless you, but more so He wants to spend time with you.

Jesus didn’t die to give us “stuff”, but to make a way for us to be in a full and satisfying relationship with God.

So how do we do that? How do we focus more on God’s ways rather than His deeds?

Firstly, I think we need to prioritise our relationship with God. God ought not to be one of many competing priorities, but should be the most important thing in our lives. We must make time for that relationship every single day. No relationship ever grows unless we spend quality time together – our relationship with God is no different.

Secondly, as I’ve said above, we need to take stock of our prayer lives. If they lack substance, so will our relationship. Talk to God about what matters to you, not just what you need from Him, but how your day was and how you are feeling.

Thirdly, I’d recommend you study different aspects of God’s character. When we read the Bible, we are not just reading accounts of what God has done. We also have access to many wonderful passages of Scripture which describe who God is.

Take an aspect of God’s character and study it out. For example, you could study His love, His forgiveness, His mercy or His patience. As we begin to understand God’s ways, we will get to know Him more intimately.

Once we know God in deeper ways, we will much more appreciate His deeds, because we will see them in the light of His character.

Are you more acquainted with God’s deeds or His ways? Do you need to change? Talk to the Lord about this, and He will make known His ways to you today.

Pearl of Wisdom #2

Patience is not the ability to wait, but rather the ability to wait well.

As I stepped on to the train platform, I saw an unusual number of people waiting. I immediately realised there was a delay of some kind. Looking at the boards, I saw that I had a 20-25 minute wait on my hands.

Standing at the edge of the platform, I looked up and down. Some people were huffing and puffing, others were criticising the lonely member of staff about the delay. Some read the newspaper, and others just got angry.

Every single person had to wait the exact same length of time for the train to arrive.

Waiting is not an option in such situations, but how we wait is. Patience is not about waiting, but how we conduct ourselves while we do so. How well do you wait?

Every blessing!

Justice for all

All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #5

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

Psalm 103:6 (ESV)

We pick up at verse six of this stunning psalm. Our focus now turns to righteousness and justice. Righteousness here is not moral correctness, or even right standing with God, but is a perfect pairing with justice. It refers to God’s righteous judgement. That may sound a difficult thing to face, but simply means God making things right.

The word translated as “works” here could also be translated as “executes”. We can therefore read this verse as saying “The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all the oppressed”.

Justice is an important theme throughout the Bible. God’s justice, His sense of right and wrong, are of paramount importance for us to understand – both in terms of the Gospel and how we ought to live.

Fairness is often something we struggle with. We occasionally get a sense that life is unfair, especially when hard times come. Something inside of us tells us that when something bad occurs, it just is not right! We get that sense of right and wrong, fairness and justice, from our Heavenly Father. It’s built into all of us.

While morality seems a flexible concept for some, each of us has a built in consciousness of right and wrong. That may be warped at times, but across the world there are certain things that nearly all agree are “wrong”. For instance, murder is generally outlawed, as is stealing or physical abuse.

We know these things are wrong instinctively because God made us that way.

The Gospel

God’s interactions with humanity is all about making wrong things right. The pinnacle of this effort was in dealing with sin once and for all in Jesus Christ. The Gospel therefore is the ultimate expression of justice. Sin was punished. Every wrong thing done against God and man was placed on the shoulders of Jesus, Who bore it on our behalf.

Justice demands action against wrongdoing. God, loving us as He does, did not want us to face the eternal consequences of sin. He fulfilled His requirements of justice by putting the Righteous One in our place. Jesus is our Substitute so we no longer face those consequences.

Justice in our everyday lives

But what about the wrong done to you? When is God going to put that right?

This is not easy to answer. If you have been mistreated, falsely accused or abused in some way, then you might be wondering what God’s justice means for you. What about the person who hurt you? They look to have gotten away with it, and you feel left behind and in pain.

Hurting people hurt people, and while that is no excuse, it does at least explain why some treat others the way they do.

God is a healer, and I believe He can heal you from the pain of your past. It may take a long time, and it will certainly be a difficult journey, but He can get you through.

God’s justice is not instantaneous and rarely is it quick. We must begin to take an eternal view of our lives. Perhaps, on this side of heaven, the hurt caused you may not be resolved, but I can assure you that God will wipe away every tear from your eye.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21:4 (ISV)

God is a just God, and everything will come right in the end. Our part is to trust Him, which can be very tough at times. God cares about the oppressed, and those who have been hurt. He knows how it feels also – as Jesus Himself faced it all.

Take your pain to the Righteous Judge, Who will do right by you.

 

Pearl of Wisdom #1

From time to time, I’m going to put up a short post sharing a pearl or two of wisdom. I hope you find it useful!

If you are spending your time wondering what others think of you, “Do they like me?” “What do they think?” “What will they say?” – the truth is, they aren’t thinking about you at all… They are wondering what you think of them.

We spend a lot of time worried about what others think of us. Many times, the fear of what others think leads to our action or inaction. If only we realised that they are rarely thinking of us at all, but spending their own time and energy worrying about what you and others think of them.

We cannot lead our lives trying to make everyone else happy. If our decisions are driven by what others think, then we will never make a decision for ourselves. We should consider the counsel of others of course, but when we try to please people instead of God, we end up miserable.

What have you agreed to lately that you wished you hadn’t? If it was just to please someone else, then perhaps it’s worth reconsidering.

Be blessed!

The Pit, the Crown and the Eagle

All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #4

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV)

We pick up where we left off last time, and today consider verses 4 and 5 of this spectacular Psalm. So far, we’ve already seen some of the benefits of believing, which include forgiveness and healing. And now find out a few other exciting reasons to “Bless the Lord.”

Redeemed from the pit

We don’t often encounter the word “redeem” in our everyday lives, and the most common use I can think of is when we “redeem” a voucher when shopping. When we shop like this, the word means “exchange” – you exchange your voucher for some product or service.

We might understand this verse – “redeemed from the pit” – to mean that we have been saved from death. Probably the pit referred to here, is the grave. So to be redeemed in this context, is to “exchange” death for life. We redeem our old sinful life (that leads to spiritual death) with our “Jesus coupon” which entitles us to life eternal.

Redemption can also mean “restoration,” “reinvigorate,” and even “renovate.” These are all relevant terms for us, as we exchange our old life of sin for our new life in Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

The above verse tells us that we are made completely new when we put our faith in Jesus. That redeeming work of Christ is exactly like renovation. When we renovate a house, we transform it from its old worn out state into a brand new dwelling place. Likewise, our spirits which were once dead in our transgressions are now fully alive and new.

Crowned with steadfast love and mercy

When you think of a crown, you probably imagine something like a queen or king might wear. This is one type of crown of course, but the Bible also speaks of victor’s crowns – more like gold medals from a sporting event perhaps.

There are a number of crowns in the Bible –

  • The Imperishable Crown – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
  • The Crown of Rejoicing – 1 Thessalonians 2:19
  • The Crown of Righteousness – 2 Timothy 4:8
  • The Crown of Glory – 1 Peter 5:4
  • The Crown of Life – Revelation 2:10
  • And more…

The crown mentioned here is one of steadfast love and mercy. A “steadfast love” implies one which cannot be moved. A love that is not fickle or whimsical, or based on shifting foundations like wealth or good looks. This kind of love and mercy endures to the end, and is God’s kind of love.

You never have to fear that God’s love will run out, or that you will somehow wear down His resolve.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)

Satisfaction with good things

Another benefit of believing we find here is “satisfaction”. God satisfies us with good things. I don’t believe this should be interpreted to mean God will give us whatever we want, but i certainly do think it means we can trust God to take care of us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that God takes care of the birds, and that we are far more valuable than they, and so, we should trust God to look after us.

Satisfaction goes far beyond mere material needs however. Many spend the majority of their lives unsatisfied with their work, relationships, and most importantly spiritual lives. This verse, along with many others, tells us that satisfaction can only be found in God. We cannot be content without that relationship we were born to have – that is, with God.

Youth renewed like the eagle’s

This satisfaction we briefly discussed above has a consequence. Verse five goes on to say that we are satisfied so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s! This is quite a promise!

While, in my experience, young children are rarely satisfied for very long (with dinner, clothes, TV, toys or activities), they are generally content with their lives. They never seem to worry about tomorrow, never fear where their next meal is coming from or even too contemplative about their lot in life. Most adults can’t say the same. They tend to be worried, fearful and always seeking something else.

This verse does not promise we will never grow old, or even feel it at times, it does suggest that a life lived in relationship with God can lead to mental or spiritual youthfulness.

As I draw this post to a close, remember you have been redeemed from the pit, crowned with love and can have a youthful outlook on life. These are indeed great benefits to believing in Jesus, and I pray you will spend some time thinking on them today.

The Berean Approach

I don’t want you to just take my word for it…

We take a little break from our current series on Psalm 103 to discuss something important.

It is an immense privilege to share God’s Word with you through this blog, and I take that responsibility very seriously. But you, the reader, have a responsibility also.

If you follow this blog for any length of time, then I can probably promise you two things:

  1. You will not agree with everything I say all of the time, and
  2. There’s a good chance I will get something wrong from time to time.

I think both of these are “OK” within reason. Truth be told, any Bible teacher you follow (and I very much include myself in this) will not get everything right 100% of the time. We are all learning and growing, and not one of us has perfect understanding of the Scripture.

Likewise, there are different views of what the Scripture teaches on particular subjects, and different ways people approach worship. We have many diverse kinds of churches for this reason. There are certain fundamental doctrines – beliefs – that all Christian churches should hold but others where we may disagree – yet still have a Christian perspective and fellowship as brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, I ask two things of you:

  1. Be open minded, and
  2. Don’t take my word for it!
Be Open-minded

As we approach the Bible, we do so from our own experience. Often we read a familiar passage and assume we “know” all about it. God’s Word is so deep however, that new truths can be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit from even the most familiar of passages. Be cautiously and prayerfully open minded. Make sure your beliefs are founded on Scripture, not on tradition or society’s expectations.

Don’t just take my word for it

Perhaps more importantly, please do not just take my word for it. If I teach something through this blog or a sermon, I will do my best to evidence that point from the Bible. If I cannot demonstrate it from the text, then it is only my opinion. Test what you hear and read – not just from me, but from all sources.

The Berean Approach

You, the reader, must take “The Berean Approach.”

Now these people were more noble and open-minded than those in Thessalonica, so they received the message [of salvation through faith in the Christ] with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Acts 17:11 (AMP)

“These people” here refers to the Berean Jews. They heard the message and were keen to understand it, but they searched the Scriptures to make sure that what they were being taught held up.

We must be like them. We must not just accept the newest fad teachings from the most fashionable Bible teacher, without testing it first. Similarly, we should not just swallow the teaching of our favourite teacher just because they are our “favourite”.

I know it may sound like work – checking and praying and testing – but it is worth it. There is great danger in just accepting what someone says. The Bible is so large and complex that one can take a selection of Scriptures out of their proper context and make them say whatever they want.

Context is critical in understanding what any portion of the Bible says

Guarding ourselves against deception is important. Biblical truth is wonderful and freeing, but if we get caught up in false teaching, it can warp our view of not just the Bible, but of God Himself. False teaching can lead us astray.

It is often not the outright lies that catch us, but the subtle falsities mixed with kernels of truth. We must be on our guard, and ever vigilant. We must be life-long students of the Word.

I encourage you to be a Berean!

Trusting the Unseen

All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #3

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

Psalm 103:1-3 (ESV)

I’ve included the text from verses one to three here, but our focus today is just on verse three. So far in this Psalm we have thought a little about praise and worship, and also about using our minds and memories. The psalmist – David – begins to list out some of the benefits of believing, and he starts with two of the most amazing ones.

Who forgives all of your sins

From the very moment Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden, God put into action His plan of salvation. So many times in the Old Testament do we see imagery or typology of the future Christ Who would come to die for the sins of the world. Indeed in that very garden, God clothed Adam and Eve with the skins/furs of animals. Blood had to have been shed for those animals to give up theirs skins, and the principle of the shedding of blood to “cover” sins was begun.

David knew as he praised God with these words, that He is a forgiving God. Of all the characteristics of God David could have pointed to, he chose first to highlight His forgiveness. Even in Old Testament times, before Christ came to deal with sin, we see God’s patience with His people lengthened time and time again.

And how many of our sins does God forgive? All of them!

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:28 (ESV)

God, through His Son, dealt with every single one of our sins now and forever. The idea that God has forgiven all of our sins sometimes makes my head spin. When I think back over my life, I can recall the times when I’ve let God down. Sometimes it was out of ignorance, but if I’m honest, there have also been times when I’ve done or said something which I knew I shouldn’t – but did anyway. I feel unworthy and even now I can barely comprehend that I can walk right up to God as my loving heavenly Father and know that I’ll be welcomed!

It’s almost too good to be true! I just don’t deserve it – and that’s what makes it so good! That’s grace!

I hope you are still with me up to this point, and that you too are humbled and full of praise to God for forgiving you of all of your sins. But the third verse doesn’t end there…

Who heals all of your diseases

This is where it may get more difficult. If I asked a typical church if God had forgiven their sins, I’d get at least 99% of the hands in the room go up. If I then asked if God had also healed all of their diseases, I’m not sure I’d get more than one or two hands if any.

I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t believe the first part of verse three, about being forgiven. But I’ve met many who don’t believe the second part.

Why is that? The same God who forgives our sins, also heals our diseases right? If He forgives all of our sins, then it follows (according to this verse) that He also heals all of our diseases. We cannot separate the two. If we accept the former, then we have to accept the latter also.

The difference is that we cannot see the evidence of forgiveness, and have no option but to trust that God has done it. You can’t see a sin, forgiven or otherwise, so we have to operate out of faith.

When it comes to our bodies, we look and see, and if we still see sickness, then we wrongly conclude that this verse isn’t true. Perhaps we wouldn’t admit that we think it isn’t true, and instead look for other interpretations of the Scripture.

Jesus faced a similar problem with the paralysed man in Mark 2. His faithful friends lowered him down on a mat before Jesus, but instead of healing the man, Jesus told him his “sins were forgiven”. This probably wasn’t what he wanted to hear! It certainly wasn’t what the teachers of the law were expecting. In fact, they thought it was a blasphemous thing to say – who is He to forgive sins! – they thought.

That was Jesus’ point. He essentially proved that He could forgive sins by healing the man. He proved the thing that could not be seen (the forgiveness) by doing the thing that could be seen (the healing).

When we see symptoms in our bodies, it is easy to conclude that we’re still sick. Yet this verse clearly states that God heals all of our diseases. So which is true? We have the same choice that Adam and Eve had. We can choose to believe what God says, or listen to an alternative voice. In this case, our symptoms.

To be honest with you, I have a problem with my eyesight. It is a long-standing issue, and one I have prayed about many times. I have yet to receive my healing. With a sight problem, the symptoms are always before you. And I’ve “trained” myself to believe in the symptom more than in the Word of God. So I am not writing this from the perspective of someone who has it all figured out! I have much to learn myself. And we are all on a journey.

Healing is not a straightforward issue, and there are many reasons why we might not be healed when we ask for it. But we have to start from the premise that this verse is true. God is a healer. Jesus, the perfect representation of God, spent the majority of His ministry healing people. God is the same today, yesterday and forever. If He was a healer in Jesus’s day, He is a healer now.

This post is long already, so I don’t want to spend too much more time on this subject. Perhaps it is a subject for a future series. For now though, if you accept that God forgives all of your sins (something unseen), at least consider that He also heals all of your diseases. Pray over this verse, talk to God about it, and begin to trust the unseen more than the seen.