I read this excellent post earlier today setting out who we are in Christ.
It does not matter how you feel, or what you think, this is what the Bible says about you.
Hope you enjoy reading it, and many thanks to Kathleen Riley who posted it.
I read this excellent post earlier today setting out who we are in Christ.
It does not matter how you feel, or what you think, this is what the Bible says about you.
Hope you enjoy reading it, and many thanks to Kathleen Riley who posted it.
Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.
Revelation 3:20 (ISV)
In my experience, the pulpits are fairly quiet on the book of Revelation. For many, it is hard to understand and lacks practical application for us to use in the here and now. I would dispute this, but I understand why many don’t venture into this amazing book.
Revelation is full of imagery and typology, and it passes most of us by. however, there is a good reason for this… we don’t know our Old Testament well enough!
Many of the pictures or images you see in Revelation can be found in the pages of the Old Testament. Most of us are not as familiar with the Ol Testament as we might be, and therefore don’t recognise much of what Revelation is pointing to.
Revelation makes a special promise to those who would study its pages:
How blessed is the one who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy and obey what is written in it, for the time is near!
Revelation 1:3 (ISV)
So if you want to get into this book, i’d suggest you begin with the first three chapters.
The first chapter gives an overview of the book, and in fact gives a clear synopsis in verse 19 of chapter 1:
Therefore, write down what you have seen, what is, and what is going to happen after this.
Revelation 1:19 (ISV)
On the point about Revelation having a practical application, you need look no further than chapter 2 and 3. many people think the New Testament only has 21 epistles (letters from the apostles) but in fact, there are 28. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 shares an additional 7 epistles written by none other than Jesus Himself.
Our verse for today picks up in one of these epistles. You may well be familiar with Revelation 3:20, which imagines Jesus standing outside and knocking on a door – just waiting for someone to let Him in so they might eat together.
It is a famous verse that is often used to describe Jesus’ attitude towards those who have yet to commit to faith in Him. Evangelists tell people that Jesus is standing outside the door of their lives, knocking to come in.
This is a nice image and not incorrect, but that’s not the context of this verse at all.
Who’s behind door number one?
The answer is the church.
It should be astonishing, challenging and humbling to us to realise that Jesus is stood outside of a church, knocking to come in. Surely of all places to find Jesus, inside a church would be one of them? Not so apparently.
In our modern world, we have somehow come to a place where you are no longer guaranteed to find Christ in the local church. Some buildings are labelled as “churches” and yet have little or nothing to do with what the Bible defines a church to be.
Some churches are social clubs; places where people gather to meet and climb the social ladder, caring little for the Word of God or His worship. Other churches bend and adapt to every whim of society, ignoring God’s standards and just going whichever way the prevailing wind takes them.
I don’t mean to be negative. And apologies if I have come across that way. I love the church, and truly believe it to be a sleeping giant. If the church were to awake, unite and stand together, we could change this world for the better. In the Bible’s many references to the end times however, there are prophecies of apostacy and the church not being what Christ intended it to be.
Let’s read Jesus’ epistle in full, and see what we can learn from it.
To the messenger of the church in Laodicea, write: The Amen, the witness who is faithful and true, the originator of God’s creation, says this:
15 ‘I know your actions, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16 Since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, “I am rich. I have become wealthy. I don’t need anything.” Yet you don’t realize that you are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore, I advise you to buy from me gold purified in fire so you may be rich, white clothes to wear so your shameful nakedness won’t show, and ointment to put on your eyes so you may see. 19 I correct and discipline those whom I love, so be serious and repent! 20 Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. 21 I will give a place to sit with me on my throne to the one who overcomes, just as I have overcome and have sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 ‘Let everyone listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Revelation 3:14-22 (ISV)
We’ll begin at the end – verse 22 – just to realise that what Jesus is saying specifically to the Laodicean church can also apply to us.
In verse 22, He says “Let everyone listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” Firstly, everyone means everyone. And note the plural of “churches” at the end. This letter isn’t just for Laodicea but for all the churches listed in chapters 2 and 3, but also for all the churches – including the one you and I belong to.
Jesus is fairly scathing of the Laodicean church. And the church itself would have been totally shocked by this. They thought they were doing well, but often our perspective is somewhat different to God’s.
You may well have heard before this idea of being cold or hot, and in this case lukewarm. The challenge here is not to be like the Pharisees who Jesus had the strongest words for during His ministry. Their issue was hypocrisy. They prided themselves on being the religious leaders of the day, putting on a constant show of their “religion”. While they talked the talk, they did not walk the walk.
I believe Jesus is challenging the Laodiceans in a similar way. They claim to represent Christ in His church, and yet clearly their actions have resulted in Jesus being excluded.
An alternative view of this lukewarmness could be a mixture of grace and Law. Perhaps they were preaching grace, but restricting and forcing the church to be bound by the Law. It’s another view which you can consider.
Whatever the cause of their lukewarmness however, it had resulted in a church without Christ. That is a place we do not want to be.
I ask you to consider your own church for a moment. How does it compare to the Church at Laodicea? Is Jesus standing outside and knocking to come in?
If this challenges you, then please don’t misunderstand my point today. I am not telling you to leave your church or criticise it. No church is perfect, and if you are looking for one, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
The idea that Jesus is knocking to come in is encouraging in one sense. It means He has not given up on you. It means He still wants to join you and share with you. Leaving your church or criticising the leadership will not help. The best thing to do is open the door and invite Him in.
Reflect also on your own relationship with Christ. While these verses are clearly talking about churches, i think there’s also an application to our own personal journey with Jesus.
Do you need to invite Him in? My meaning is not in a salvation sense, but rather in fellowship. Are you a believer who has lost their way? Have the troubles of life led you to put Jesus outside? Invite Him in today, He’s right outside the door.
All the prophets testify to this: everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Acts 10:43 (ISV, emphasis added)
I don’t remember a time before I believed in God, but that doesn’t mean I was always a Christian. When I first started to hear about God, the truth is I was afraid. I was afraid that I wasn’t forgiven, and was really motivated by not wanting to pay for my sins in eternity – although I would have had little idea what that meant!
I remember going to bed at night asking God to forgive me for as much as I could remember. I’d go back through my day trying to recall every little thing I’d done wrong – likely forgetting most of it.
I was terrified that Jesus might return in the night, and that I hadn’t asked Him to forgive me for some thing or other. I’d ask over and over again, accutely aware of how bad I was. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a bad kid at all, I just felt that way when faced with the reality that there is a God who judges us.
The cycle would go on and on. I’d go about my day, make various mistakes along the way, then lay in bed at night asking God over and over to forgive me. I’d get up the next morning and do it all over again.
It was exhausting!
One day I listened to someone teaching who shared a very similar experience that they had gone through. At one time while they were repeatedly asking God to forgive them, God interrupted them to say – “I forgave you the first time you asked.”
This hit home to me.
Truth be told, I had no real understanding of the cross or what Jesus had done for me. I didn’t know that God had washed me clean, and that I was a new creature in Christ. Through my ignorance of this, I just kept repeating the same request for forgiveness over and over, hoping God would be gracious enough to grant me my request.
In many ways, I was acting as though I was living under the Old Covenant as described in the Bible. I had no temple or animal sacrifice to make, but I kept coming back to the altar day after day, offering up my apologies and ever falling short of God’s glory. I was “hoping” for God’s mercy, and had no concept that it was already mine in Jesus.
I don’t believe I am alone in this.
Perhaps it is not as obvious as what I am about to express, but our thought process goes something like this:
Does that seem in any way familiar to you?
If it does, then the Gospel really is good news for you!
The first two steps are healthy; when the Holy Spirit shows us we have sinned, it is right for us to ask God to forgive us.
Everything after that is wrong however.
If you sincerely ask God to forgive you, and put your trust in Jesus Christ, you can count on His mercy and receive your forgiveness. You don’t need to beg or plead, you can’t earn it, and all you need do is trust God.
We err when we stray into the third step and beyond.
It really is that easy! God is not making it hard for us to be forgiven. He does not put barriers in our path or frustrate us, rather He wants to forgive us far more than we want to be forgiven!
Beating ourselves up for something we have done wrong is an attempt by us to add to the cross of Christ. I’m certain we would not say that aloud, but it’s true. If we truly believed that Christ’s death at the cross was sufficient, then we would not need to add to it by punishing ourselves.
He has no need to offer sacrifices every day like high priests do, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he sacrificed himself.
Hebrews 7:27 (ISV)
This verse speaks of Jesus. Firstly, He does not need to offer a sacrifice for Himself as He never once sinned against His Heavenly Father. Secondly, because He was the perfect Sacrifice, He does not need to offer Himself over and over again. Rather, Jesus did it once and for all.
When He cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” It really was.
I don’t believe that forgiveness is something you must keep refilling on. I think it is something God gives you once and it covers you for all eternity. Christ’s sacrifice was a one time event and will never be repeated. It never needs to be.
I rarely ask for forgiveness anymore, and certainly not because I get everything right! Instead, I thank God for the forgiveness He has already given me, and rejoice in that truth.
Don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying sin is not important and that we should not deal with it. Indeed we should. When the Holy Spirit reveals to us that we have fallen short in some way, we should thank Him. We confess the mistake we made, ask for His help to not do it again and thank Him for covering us in the blood of the Son.
There’s a good chance you will sin this week… same goes for me. Instead of beating yourself up and asking God over and over to forgive you, ask just once. Put your faith and trust in Christ and move on.
If you don’t, I can guarantee that you will spend more time thinking about it than God is.
For I will be merciful regarding their wrong deeds, and I will never again remember their sins.
Hebrews 8:12 (ISV)
Truly live in freedom this week. Jesus has dealt with your sins once and for all. You are clean and free! Rejoice in that truth! Don’t spend your time asking God to forgive you, instead receive the free gift He offers.
To find out more about the Gospel – good news about Jesus – check out my Resurrection Sunday blog post.
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Ephesians 4:26 (KJV)
In my last blog post, I began to explore the above verse and what it means. As I said last time, I’ve usually heard this taught as a call not to go to bed on an argument. Good advice this may be, but not necessarily what Paul is getting at.
We considered how the first part – Be angry and sin not – isn’t just an instruction not to let your anger get the better of you, but could also be read as a command to be angry.
You may have read this verse a hundred times in the past, and perhaps each time you read it, your brain said “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…” But what does it actually say?
It says – don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Or to put it another way, don’t let your anger ever go out and grow dull.
I know this may seem like an odd idea, as surely the Bible teaches us to be loving and not to get angry. Can it really be a command to get and stay angry?
As we explored a little last time, anger is sometimes a right response. In the event of injustice or sin, we ought to be angry. Like God, we ought to hate sin and its effects on humanity. And while our sin may result in other people getting hurt, ultimately we are the ones who hurt the most as a result of sinfulness.
To truly love the good, we must also hate the bad. We must stand against sin in all of its forms. To do that, we need a holy anger, and one that does not go out.
Am I taking this verse out of context though? Is it correct to interpret it this way? I believe it is, but understand those who may disagree.
Context is always important when reading the Bible, and we ought never to take a single verse out of its proper context and form a doctrine out of it. Falsehood lies down that path.
For some doctrines, we need to examine the entire Bible in order to see a complete picture. Of course we don’t have time or space to do this here, but lets look at this verse with it surrounding verses to get at least a small idea of context.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.
Ephesians 4:25-27 (KJV)
Verse 25 is a clear instruction to put away lying, and to speak truth to each other. This can actually be quite difficult at times. “Do you like my outfit?” or “What do you think of my new hairstyle?” More importantly, when it comes to questions of advice or big decisions, “Should I take this job?” or “Do you think I should marry them?” an honest answer is not always easy to give, and often not the answer the asker really wants to hear.
So often we seek validation from others to agree with what we have already in mind to do. To give an alternative view can be tough.
Similarly, Paul could well be talking about correcting each other in a loving way. Often we leave it to the pastor or minister to address such matters, but indeed there is a role for each of us as part of a church family.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not giving you permission to walk up to just anyone in church and give them a lecture about how they ought to live – we must earn that right through a trusting relationship or as a loving member of church leadership.
But we must tackle sin. We must not just get by with it. So in speaking truth to one another, there may be times when we need a little righteous anger to stir us up to confront an issue. Again, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we should get angry at people; rather we should be angry at sin.
Verse 27 is short and not so sweet. Don’t give the devil a foothold. Could it be that by not following the “command” to be angry, we somehow give the enemy a route into our lives?
It is a narrow path, with ditches on both sides. Err in either direction, and you’ll end up off the road!
What i mean is this. Anger which is uncontrolled or directed at people or things, can certainly give the devil a chance to wreck our lives. How many lives have been destroyed in one single moment of uncontrolled anger? How many men and women find themselves in prison for one slip of judgement allowing their temper to get the better of them?
I’m not giving anyone an excuse to be angry in an ungodly way here.
Equally though, when we reuse to be angry at sin or to have a righteous anger, we give the devil a foothold. If we co-operate with him, the enemy can destroy our lives. If you follow every temptation to do whatever you want, to commit adultery or murder or to steal or rob, your life will come to ruin.
Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you.
James 4:7 (ISV)
James says that we must resist the devil. Often we ask God to do the resisting, but in reality it must be us who do so. We do that through prayer, our words and our actions. But notice, submission to God must come first. There is no sense in trying to resist the enemy if you are not submitting your life to Jesus.
Likewise, Jesus said:
From the days of John the Baptist until the present, the kingdom from heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people have been attacking it,
Matthew 11:12 (ISV)
The kingdom from heaven is forcefully advancing…
Christians ought not to be passive, weak or downtrodden. We are children of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in us. We should be advancing God’s kingdom with passion and determination. Not in our own strength, and certainly not without persecution but always pressing on.
So, Paul tells us to be angry and to never let the sun go down on our wrath. Are you advancing or just barely holding on? Do you need some righteous anger to take a stand against the enemy and resist his influence in your life?
Ask God to stir you up. Pray that He will help you to have a controlled anger that is pointed at the right things. Renew your mind in God’s Word and learn who you are in Christ. Don’t just put up with the enemy, resist him!
Don’t let the sun go down.
Be angry, yet do not sin.” Do not let the sun set while you are still angry,
Ephesians 4:26 (ISV)
I like the ISV Bible, but here’s that same verse from the KJV.
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Ephesians 4:26 (KJV)
The KJV has a certain grandeur to it which other translations can lack at times. For every day reading however, I prefer a more contemporary version than the KJV with its “thee” and “thou” wording.
In this case, I find that the KJV is one of the closest to the Greek language. Many modern translations render this verse slightly differently, and even stray into interpetting it for us the reader.
Whenever I have heard this verse taught in the past, it goes something like this:
This is not bad advice at all, but I’m becoming less convinced that this is really what Paul was saying here.
Some translations actually bring forth the idea that we should deal with our “heated debates” before bedtime, and again, while that may be good advice, i’m not so sure that’s what the Scripture is really all about.
Take the Amplified Bible for instance, which is one I find very helpful at times. It says this:
Be angry [at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], yet do not sin; do not let your anger [cause you shame, nor allow it to] last until the sun goes down.
Ephesians 4:26 (Amp)
The first part of the verse is very similar to the KJV – advising us not to sin while angry. It specifies the kind of things we ought to be angry about, such as injustice. The latter part of the verse advises us not to let the sun go down while we are still angry.
In some respects, this is a contradiction. The first part appears to be encouraging us to “be angry” and then tells us not to “be angry” when the sun goes down. So what’s happening here?
Let’s work through this verse logically, and study the text itself rather than our usual interpretation.
The first thing to note is that anger is not a sin. This verse clearly indicates that we can be in a state of anger, but without falling into sin.
Jesus Himself – who was without sin – got angry. He got very angry. In fact, He was so angry that He turned over tables and even had a “weapon”.
In the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as moneychangers sitting at their tables. After making a whip out of cords, he drove all of them out of the Temple, including the sheep and the cattle. He scattered the coins of the moneychangers and knocked over their tables.
Then he told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
John 2:14-17 (ISV)
So we see clearly that Jesus was angry, and yet did not sin even once. This tells us that anger alone is not a sin.
The problem comes when our anger is directed at the wrong things, or gets out of control.
As the Amplified Bible expanded this verse, it showed that the target of our anger ought to be things such as injustice or sin. That’s why we were given anger in the first place – to take action when we recognise that someone or something is unjust.
When a child is killed by a drunk driver, or an elderly person is robbed at gunpoint, it is perfectly acceptable to be angry about such things.
The issue is when we direct that anger against the slow checkout attendant or the person who didn’t see us and cut us off in traffic. Frustrating as those things may be, they are not real reasons to get angry.
The way to test is to examine our selfishness. Chances are that if we are angry because of a selfish reason (such as having to wait) then that is not a righteous anger. Righteous anger is directed at ungodliness, sin or the devil. Other unrighteous anger is usually a result of our own selfishness.
Anger is a secondary emotion. No one ever gets angry without reason, there is always something that comes first. It may be offense, humiliation or fear that triggers it.
Perhaps you have children and get angry at them at times. Ask yourself why. It may be because of fear – they did something daft and were in danger of hurting themselves. It may be that they interrupted something you were doing, and “self” didn’t like it. If my anger is kindled against my children, it is often because “I” just want to sit down, or “i’ve” had a tough day. It is rarely anything to do with them.
While the verse is often interpreted as “don’t sin when you get cross,” it goes even further than that. Rather than just don’t sin, it’s a command to be angry.
Actually this is a quote from Psalm 4:4 –
Be angry, yet do not sin. Think about this[b] when upon your beds, and be silent.
Psalm 4:4 (ISV, emphasis added)
Psalm 4 is a passionate plea to prayer. David starts off crying out to God, then to man, then to God about man and finally to man about God.
Paul grabs hold of this passion and says, “Be angry, and sin not.” One of the problems in the church today is that it is afraid to stand up and call sin by its name. We compromise our position, accepting the world’s way and either ignoring or dismissing the Bible, and people outside don’t always know what the church stands for.
I once heard someone say that love and hate are two separate ends of the same stick. To truly love something, you must also hate the things that come against them. I don’t know if i wholeheartedly agree with this or not, but i certainly do understand that loving good is not the same as hating evil.
When we try to love good without hating evil, we end up accepting everything and standing for nothing. We end up with watered down doctrines and a church that looks like the world instead of the Word.
So Paul’s command to be angry is not by accident. This post has already gone longer than I planned, and I haven’t yet addressed the issue of going to bed while you are still angry! Let’s pick that up next time.
For now though, perhaps you are someone with a temper and you know that you need to bring it in line. Perhaps though, you are on the opposite end, and actually need to stir yourself up and start getting angry at sin and injustice. Perhaps – slightly confusingly – you are both, and need to redirect that temper towards the right things.
Do you need to be more or less angry this week? (At appropriate things of course) Do you need to have a serious think about the things that make you angry, and the things that don’t?
If you are a father, or if you know one, then I’d like to wish you a very happy Father’s Day!
I’ve uploaded a Father’s Day sermon (with a difference) that I gave a few years ago. I hope you enjoy it.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Psalm 103:1 (ESV)
Read the entirety of this Psalm here.
This is the concluding part of our “All the Benefits of Believing” series, and I really hope you have enjoyed it and learned something.
Last week we reached the end of the psalm, and in this post I just want to summarise some of the things we’ve covered along the way.
Beginning and End
David launched into his song of praise by instructing himself to “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” Praise is not always automatic, and sometimes we need to encourage ourselves to bless God. We are human and subject to many trials, and this can sometimes mean we just don’t feel like it. We must go beyond our feelings however, not only because God deserves our worship, but because it is better for us.
Likewise, David concludes his psalm with the very same phrase – “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” These phrases act as bookends, always bringing us back to our created purpose of worshipping God. We would do well to pray in like manner, beginning and ending with words of praise and thanksgiving.
But what comes in between? David’s list of reasons to worship the Lord – the benefits of believing.
And the list goes on and on!
There is no shortage of things to thank and praise God for here, and I encourage you to spend some time going over the list and the psalm, and truly worshipping God. Even if you just pick one item a day and spend that day giving thanks, I’m sure you will be uplifted.
What might your list look like?
While David’s list here is extensive, your own personal list may be somewhat different. That is ok, and again, I encourage you to write one of your own. What are you especially thankful for? Perhaps a particular relationship? Perhaps your church?
What characteristics of God do you see displayed in the life of Jesus? Are there particular ones which you are especially grateful for? Read through the Gospels and find a few, then let them be opportunities to bless the Lord this week.
All the Benefits of Believing
The word “all” appears nine times in this one psalm (ESV). To me, it’s an important biblical word and not one to skim over lightly. Often we read the word, but exclude ourselves from the promise. All usually means all, which includes you. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting you force every Scripture into a promise or command for yourself, but equally don’t automatically disqualify yourself.
We do that when we feel unworthy of one of the promises of God. As I stated in this series more than once, you are qualified not because of your behaviour, but because of Christ.
It is interesting to me that David, who wrote this psalm, was not born again and could only look ahead to the promise of Christ. Yet his words of praise are so amazing. We, who live and abide in Jesus, should not only be able to enjoy David’s words, but lift up our own words of thanks.
David could only look forward to Jesus; we can know Him personally.
I’m conscious of those of you who may be reading this and thinking, “That’s all well and good for you Andy, but look what’s happening to me!” I hear you. These are wonderful things, but for some of us, they seem like a distant hope and not for the here and now.
For things such as forgiveness or being crowned with love, it is hard to prove these in our lives. What does forgiveness look like? The crown of love isn’t a physical one, so how do we know it is there? The simple answer (but not easy one) is faith. We believe these things because they are true, irrespective of how we feel about them.
Other benefits such as being satisfied with good things may require some adjustment on our part. You may be looking at a pile of bills covered in red and thinking, “so much for being satisfied with good things…” As I said in an earlier post, we have to choose between two opposing views. Do we believe God’s Word, or our circumstances?
It is the same choice that Adam and Eve faced; do they believe what God said, or do they believe the serpent?
When we encounter a promise in the Bible that is seemingly unfulfilled in our lives, there could be a number of reasons for this. Firstly, check the promise is for you. The context will help here. Is it a promise made to the church, or to a specific person, or to the nation of Israel? Is it applicable to you?
Secondly, if it is for you, then we need to ensure we have understood it correctly. In our example above, being satisfied with good things is not necessarily a promise that you will have everything you want whenever you want it. Similarly, it may have nothing to do with your circumstances, but rather your attitude. Are you dissatisfied because you are in lack, or because you covet things that others have?
Thirdly, is the promise for now, or for the future? Some things spoken of in the Bible are not for the here and now, but for heaven perhaps or another time.
Finally, if we have properly established the promise is for us, that it is for the here and now, and that we have not misinterpreted it, the only thing left to consider is ourselves. God always keeps His promises. He will always uphold His end of the bargain. If we are not receiving, then the problem is always with us and not with the promise, and certainly not with God.
I want to conclude the series by repeating something I’ve said more than once – but it bears saying again.
All of the benefits we have examined over the last few months are truly wonderful. There are many things to thank and praise God for, but they pale in comparison to the real benefit of believing.
I don’t think I can say it any better than Paul did when he said:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Philippians 3:8 (ESV)
All the benefits of believing are benefits of believing in Christ. If you are without Him, then you are without any and all of these blessings.
I encourage you not just to thank God for all of these wonderful things, but to thank God for the One Who made it all possible – Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus embodies these benefits. His made the way for our forgiveness, He is the One who redeems us, and through Him ours sins are removed.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, for all the benefits of believing in Him. Bless the Lord, O my soul, for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! Amen!
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Psalm 103:18-22 (ESV)
I’m slightly sad to say we’ve reached the end of this amazing psalm! But not quite the end of the series. I want to discuss the final few verses in this post, and then will put up another post next time summarising what we have learned.
God is on the throne, and that makes Him King. And there is no higher throne in heaven or on earth. God’s throne is above all others, and He is the King of kings.
We must not forget this truth. God is indeed our Father, and He loves us as dear children (as we’ve seen in earlier verses). But He is also King, and One to whom we will all bow the knee one day. God is deserving of our fear (reverence and respect) even as part of His loving family.
Again we find another use of the word “all.” This time it points to the fact that God is over all, and that He is Supreme in all creation. We may at times foolishly think that we’re in charge of our lives, household, family or career. While we have the God-given right to make our own choices and to choose our own path in life, we must all always remember that one day we will stand before Him and realise who is really in charge!
God’s kingdom reaches over us all. None of us are outside of His rule or influence, even if we say we don’t believe in Him. Some describe hell as a place without God, and with folly believe that is what they are experiencing now. Wrong! While God does not impose Himself on those who reject Him, He is still the One who holds the universe together. His grace is still extending to the earth and those who follow Him, so this is not a world untouched by God.
In our modern world, we’ve perhaps lost the impact of Kingship and royalty. I write this not long after the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan in Windsor, UK, and while millions watched and thousands lined the streets to see “royalty”, they are seen as are many celebrities in our culture. Less than 500 years ago, the Kings and Queens of Europe had great power and wealth, and commanded as rulers with the authority to give and take life itself. While many of their actions were questionable at times, we must at least respect the power they held, and bear it in mind when we consider God as King over all.
David goes on to encourage different groups to praise the Lord. He starts by exhorting the angels to bless the Lord.
To understand angels and their ministry would take far more than one simple blog post, but we do get some insights here. Firstly, angels are messengers and servants of God. To tell them to worship, is to tell them to fulfil their created purpose.
We read that “you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word” speaking of the angels. There are many reasons to speak aloud God’s Word and this is one of those reasons. The angels respond to it. They don’t respond to fear, worry or doubt, but to the very Word of God.
Along with the angels, David calls on the hosts of heaven and the ministers (servants) to bless God also. Ministers here, in my view, aren’t necessarily ordained ministers but rather all those who live to serve God. That can include you and I.
Finally David closes his wonderful song where he began it. His very first words were “Bless the Lord, O my soul” and likewise his last words here as well.
It is as though he starts by stirring himself up to praise, lists so many reasons to do so, and then again calls on his own soul to praise. More on this next time.
I don’t know where you are at today, or what is going on in your life, but let me encourage you to praise the Lord. You will certainly feel better for doing so.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. 17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
Psalm 103:13-18 (ESV)
We take a larger chunk of Psalm 103 today, not only to pick up the pace a little, but because these verses fit together so nicely. It would make little sense to split them up and cover them in separate posts, so I’ll try to cover them all here.
The section starts by thinking about God’s compassion. David uses the comparison of a father to his children, to illustrate God’s compassion for those who fear Him. This, in an ideal world, is the perfect comparison. God is our Father, and indeed loves us as dear children.
I understand however that for those who never had a father figure in their lives, or those who had one who did not treat them well, this comparison may not bring the impact it ought to. That’s not an easy thing to deal with. But let me assure you, any and every thing you missed out on with your earthly father, is more than made up by your Heavenly One.
God’s compassion (His love) is without end, and we will consider this more in a moment.
But who does He direct this compassion towards?
Those who fear Him.
The word “fear” here is yare’, and it means “reverent fear”. It is not about being frightened of God, and being scared to approach Him. Instead, it is about having a reverence for God. Reverence goes further than mere respect, and is that sense of presence of the Almighty that makes us bow the knee to Him.
God knows and recognises that we are “dust”. This means that we are physical, limited beings who dwell on the Earth for a little while. All of us will face death, and our bodies will return to the ground from which they came.
This is not a thought to pass over quickly. The psalmist compares the human life to grass or flowers, which fade after only a short time. Don’t misunderstand, this is not limiting us to a short life, but rather pointing out that life on this Earth is indeed short in comparison to eternity.
The older I get (and I’m not old by any stretch!), the more I realise that life truly is short. As the years move by, they seem to speed up in a way they never did when I was a child.
David does not say all of this just to get us down! His point is emphasised in verse 17. Human life is indeed short – in comparison to God’s everlasting love! Again, we find the phrase “steadfast love” – the idea that God’s love does not move or change with the wind, but is fixed, set and eternal.
There’s another little phrase here that I don’t want to skip over – “his righteousness to children’s children.” God’s love does not just extend to us who believe in Him, but also to the generations that follow. It is my belief that not only do I receive the blessings of God, but that they come to my children and theirs also.
So far, so good. We’ve read about God’s great compassion and His unending, everlasting love – but again, who does it apply to? Verse 18 brings in a strong condition.
If your heart has sunk a little after reading these conditions, then please stick with me a while longer!
Perhaps you are not entirely sure if you have kept His covenant? Perhaps you are more sure that you have NOT done all of His commands? So does this exclude you from the compassion and love David has been praising God for?
Not at all!
David wrote these words while living under the Old Covenant (I think we touched on this in an earlier blog post). This Old Covenant required God’s people to keep His law and obey His commands in order to qualify. This led to very strict legalism (see the Pharisees in Jesus’ day) and even worse, those who saw themselves as “religiously righteous” looking down on those they considered “sinners”.
What many in Israel failed to realise was that they could not keep the Law. The Law was and is perfect, setting out God’s standards for humanity. The problem was not with the Law, but with us. We are not perfect, and so cannot keep God’s perfect Law. And so… we need a Saviour!
Jesus came and lived a perfect human life, fulfilling the entire Law in every respect. Despite never being tainted by sin, He was executed like a sinner deserves, and took on the punishment that you and I deserve. Death could not hold Him however, and He was raised to new life!
That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and it is the New Covenant, the covenant that you and I now live under.
Does that mean we can do whatever we like, and break God’s laws whenever we feel like it? Certainly not! Sin is still sin, and even though dealt with, still has consequences. If you steal or murder, then you will likely face criminal charges. You could be forgiven, but still in prison!
Equally we have an enemy (the devil) who is looking for someone whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Sin very much opens the door for the enemy to work in our lives.
Even for the born again Christian, it would be impossible to never sin again or to obey every command of God. While we are new creatures in Christ, we are also subject to the whims of the flesh, the ways of the world and the temptation of the devil.
We qualify for all the benefits the psalmist sets out here not because we deserve it, but because Christ made it possible through His obedience. You need to put your trust and faith in Him.
I’m introducing something new today – audio blogs. Rather than a full length sermon, these are short talks about a particular verse or topic. I hope you enjoy listening to them.
The Lord is far from the wicked but he hers the prayers of the righteous.
Proverbs 15:29 (ESV)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.