Don’t Wait (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Don’t wait until you are in trouble to fully seek the Lord – start now!

While times are good, it can be all too easy to forget God. Yet when things start falling apart, He is the first one we turn to.

No one likes to go through troubled times or trials, and when we do, we usually ask “Why would God allow this to happen to me?” There is no easy answer to such a question, but one possibility is to encourage us to seek God more fully.

When you find yourself in a situation you cannot handle alone – a serious health problem, financial difficulties, or the loss of a loved one – you turn to something bigger than yourself, and that is God.

My pearl today recommends you don’t wait until the trouble comes to start seeking God. Start today! Commit yourself to Jesus, and walk with Him closely every day. Spend time in the Bible and in prayer, and make the effort to have a great relationship with Him.

If you do, then there will be no need for the trial that brings you back to God. Even if trouble comes for other reasons, you will be in a much stronger place to face them.

If nothing else, then the COVID-19 crisis has served to bring many people back to God. Praise Him for that GOOD THING COMING OUT OF THIS PANDEMIC.

How is your relationship with Jesus right now? Has it been neglected, or is it stronger than ever?

If you are reading this and you don’t know Jesus personally, then please allow me to introduce you! God made everything, including you and I. He had only one rule, and we broke it introducing something called sin into the world. Sin separated us from God and none of our good deeds can fix it. 

God became a human being who we know as Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life, but humanity executed Him on a cross even though HE was innocent. He was our substitute and took our place and the punishment we deserve. If we put our trust in Him, He will save us from our sin and give us eternal life in heaven.

Three days after His death, Jesus rose to life again. Likewise, you and I can escape death and live again through Him.

To start a relationship with God, all you need do is ask. Talk to Him now, which we call prayer. Ask Him to become your friend and to forgive you of all the wrong things you have done. Ask God to come and live within you, and He will put His Holy Spirit in your heart to guide and help you.

Get yourself a Bible or read it online, it will tell you all about God and how He wants you to live. Find a good local church which teaches the Bible, and join with a group of other believers. They will help and pray for you.

Lastly, please get in touch with me. I’d love to pray for you and celebrate your new relationship with God! Bless you this day and always!

Loved Much

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Luke 7:47 (ESV)

God has put this verse before me this morning, and it is hard to put into words its impact. I definitely need to study this more, meditate on it and may be able to share some thoughts on it at a later date.

I had another post lined up for today, but felt strongly I should put this verse out there with my initial reactions. I hope it blesses you, and please comment below if it does.

While I was at university, I remember clearly discussing this verse with some Christian friends. Someone asked, “Does that mean those who are worse sinners can love God more than others?”

It seems to imply that doesn’t it?

As I read it this morning, the following thoughts moved through my mind. “I know I am a sinner. I know I could love God more than I do. When I reach heaven, I’ll see the depth of my forgiveness and will love Him fully then…”

These thoughts are true to some degree, but even as I thought them, I knew I had it backwards. My thoughts were an expression of seeing before believing. And that is not faith. Faith believes first, and sees later.

Am I a worse sinner than others? Perhaps, or perhaps not. We do tend to get all too hung up on comparisons to others. We somehow feel better if we can look on someone else and feel we are performing better than they. That’s pride and judgement, and don’t tell me there isn’t a small part of you that thinks that way at times. I confess it to you this day that I am sometimes (even often) guilty of this.

I love God little (that is, less than I should) not because I am not a terrible sinner, but rather because I don’t fully appreciate the depth of my own sinfulness. That is true for all. The more we realise how deep our sin is, the more we realise our need for God’s saving work and the more – certainly – we will love Him.

Mary was the subject of Jesus words above. She loved much because she knew she was forgiven of much. Her love was so astonishing that I cannot wait to meet her in heaven one day.

At the tomb on Resurrection Day, the other women fainted at the sight of the angels, and yet Mary said, “Where is my Lord?” Most people hit the ground in the presence of an angel, yet Mary was so focused on Jesus that not even the glory of an angel would deter her.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

John 20:11-13 (ESV)

I want to love God with all of my heart. If i truly knew how forgiven I am, then my love would abound. I’m guessing the same is true for you too.

While I do not think it healthy to focus on our sin all of the time, I think too few of us really consider how enormous God’s forgiveness is towards us. Examine your life, recognise your sinfulness yes, but lift up your hearts in praise to the One who has cleansed you of all unrighteousness!

Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and resurrection is the solution to all of our sin! Worship Him today and may your love grow as you realise what He has done for you.

Spiritual distancing #2

In Monday’s post, I talked about spiritual distancing as opposed to social distancing. In that post, I said that one version of spiritual distancing was to distance our spirits from anything harmful. We need to protect our souls in the same way and to the same degree we are protecting our bodies right now. 

You can read that post here – Spiritual Distancing #1.

Today, I want to explore another meaning of spiritual distancing. This is one we do not want to practice. 

We should not be spiritually distancing ourselves from the rest of the church now or at any time. 

Here in the UK, we are not allowed to leave our homes except to do essential work, shopping or caring, or to obtain medicine. All places of worship, christian or otherwise, are closed indefinitely. It might be much the same where you live. 

This is to, of course, prevent the unnecessary spread of COVID-19, and so churches and Christian fellowships across the world are not physically able to meet together right now. 

That being the case, how can we fulfil the following Scripture?

Do not stop going to church meetings. Some people do stop. But help each other to be strong. You must do it all the more as you see the Great Day coming closer.

Hebrews 10:25 (WEB)

This verse seems to contradict the law of the land and tell us to “go to church.” Of course, I am certainly not telling you to go against the law! We must be obedient to the law and not go to places of worship, but there are other ways to fulfil this Scripture.

Firstly, we must remember that it is only church buildings that are closed, not the church itself! The church is not a building, but a group of believers – a family. Even if our buildings are shut for any reason, we remain a family. 

Our church has been on something of a journey with live streaming. When UK restrictions were first put in place, our church building remained open (in line with guidance at the time) and the services were streamed from the premises. We had some technological issues, with a lot of buffering and such like. 

Since then, restrictions meant that the building itself had to close and so services have been conducted from someone’s hone. To overcome the buffering, things have been pre-recorded which makes for a much smoother watching experience! 

The thing I really enjoy about our streaming services is that our church leadership have made a real effort to include as many people as possible. Some have recorded video messages and sent them in. Others have phoned in audio, or written letters. We now have a church phone where people can text in messages during services to say hello or join in. 

It reminds us that church is not a spectator sport, but one in which we are all a part. 

Perhaps your church is doing something similar, or perhaps it is not in a position to work with technology in this way. Either way, how can you avoid spiritually distancing yourself from the rest of the church? 

Another local church I know of does not have the ability to stream services at present. Instead, they have divided the church membership into groups and are ensuring that everyone gets a phone call at least once a week. 

We need each other. We were not created to be alone. In this world where Christian values are no longer valued, we need to spend time fellow shipping with  other like-minded believers. 

Now more than ever, we need to support and encourage one another. We need to be praying for other members of our church on a daily basis. Hard as these times are, they are also a great opportunity for us to witness to the world. When the world loses all hope and is being swallowed up in fear, they should be able to look to a united church and say, “I want to be a part of that!” 

Who can you call today? Who can you send a little encouraging note to? IF you venture out shopping (for essentials), can you pick up one or two extra items for an elderly church member who may need them? Can you record a video to share with someone? Don’t forget that young family whose children are going stir crazy stuck indoors – perhaps you can send them something to do?

There is something you can do, and it will bless someone today. 

So then, when we can, we should do good to all people. But most of all, we should do it to those who are in God’s family.

Galatians 6:10 (WEB)

While practising social distancing today, do not practice spiritual distancing from the Body of Christ. 

Spiritual distancing #1

If there was a single phrase to sum up 2020, it might be: social distancing. Not many of us could claim to have heard of such a thing before the outbreak of COVID-19, but now it’s a phrase forever burned into our memories. 

Social distancing is one thing, but spiritual distancing is quite another. 

In my mind, there are two ways to define spiritual distancing – one we will think about today, and the other tomorrow. 

For today, spiritual distancing is a good thing, and something we do to protect our spirits from contact with unwanted things. With social distancing, we keep a physical distance from others to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. With spiritual distancing, we keep our distance from anything that might harm or negatively affect our inner man. 

Don’t be deceived! “Evil companionships corrupt good morals.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 (WEB)


But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness.

1 Timothy 4:7 (WEB)


Also don’t take heed to all words that are spoken, lest you hear your servant curse you;

Ecclesiastes 7:21 (WEB)

Here are just a few verses which warn us to be very careful about what we listen to. 

Washing your hands regularly, keeping at least two metres away from other people, and wearing a face mask may help to keep your body safe, but do you treat your spirit with as much care? 

I have seen many social media posts and blogs suggesting we catch up on our TV streaming, bulk binge-watching episode after episode of one show or another. While I’m not against watching TV, if it is full of violence, sexual content and foul language, it is not going to build you up spiritually. Sadly, TV and movies are largely full of sinfulness and a poor excuse for entertainment. 

Since our movement has been restricted in the UK, I’ve been using social media a lot more. This is largely to stay in touch with people I am not able to see at the moment. The problem with social media is that much of it is downright negative. One person complaining about another, someone moaning about the service they received in a local store struggling to cope under stockpiling pressures, and sometimes just jokes in bad taste. 

There is no such thing as a spiritual face mask, or latex gloves which fend off spiritual germs. There is only one way to protect against such negatives – that is, cut it off. 

If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.[i] 30 If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.[j]

Matthew 5:29-30 (WEB)

Jesus was very clear.  If there is anything in your life causing you to sin, you should get rid of it altogether, even if it costs you a great deal. It is better to go without and not sin. 

Jesus may or not be talking literally here. While I am certain He does not want us harming ourselves, cutting off limbs or plucking out eyes, even that would be better than to end up in eternal punishment. 

Practically, if using your laptop late at night leads you into temptation to look at web sites you should not, then get rid of that machine! If you phone causes you to sin on social media, then throw that thing out. It is better to live without a phone than sin against God. 

It may sound extreme and of course, you may be able to find other ways of limiting your temptation without throwing out the device itself. The point is to do whatever it takes. Don’t play with fire. Don’t get burned by sin. 

What does this look like in your life? To what do you need you ensure you have adequate spiritual distance from? Media, internet, people? Whatever it is, protect yourself! Keep a safe distance! 

We spend a lot of time and effort on our bodies. We clean them, dress them, feed them and exercise them. These are all beneficial things to do. But don’t neglect your spirit. It also needs feeding with the Word of God. It needs exercising by doing good and being kind. If you wade it through the mire of sin, then there’s a chance it could get sick. 

For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come.

1 Timothy 4:8 (WEB)

Paul reminds us, in his letter to Timothy, that although physical exercise is good for this life, spiritual exercise is good for both this life and the next. 

The UK Government is allowing us out for one period of daily exercise. By all means, take advantage of that. But with all this extra time some of us have while in lockdown, why not take two, three or more periods of spiritual exercise as well?

What might spiritual exercise look like? 

You will never have a strong relationship with Jesus unless you spend frequent time in prayer – both speaking and listening. Likewise, you can’t hope to know God and His truth unless you spend a lot of time reading and studying the Bible. 

Meditation is another important discipline. Let me be clear though, I do not mean Buddhist or eastern meditation. Biblical meditation is about using your mind to think and ponder on the Scriptures. Imagine what it would be like to have been there with Christ in the flesh. Don’t empty your mind, like in eastern practices, rather fill your mind with God’s Word. 

Additionally, you must fellowship with other believers. That is difficult, i’ll admit, in our current situation but not impossible. Use the phone, use social media (in a positive way) and use good old fashioned paper and pen! The Apostle Paul wrote letters which have been read for two thousand years! Now, of course, those letters were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but there’s no reason you can’t write an encouraging letter which someone will treasure. 

There are many other ways we can exercise our spirits, but I want to close by asking you to exercise the fruit of love. Again, that may be more challenging in our current environment, but by no means impossible. Share God’s love with anyone and everyone you can. They need it right now, and it will do you no end of good either. 

Don’t let this lockdown be an excuse for spiritual laziness! Instead, let it be the exact opposite. 

 


Last week I recorded a short prayer video, which you can find here. I’m planning another one so would gratefully receive any prayer requests you have. Please feel free to comment below or else use the Prayer page to get in touch. Thanks. 

The Sinfulness of my Sin

I acknowledged my sin to thee, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 32:5 (WEB)

The sinfulness of my sin… captivating title right? And I know what you are thinking – two blog posts in two days? What’s gotten into Andy?!

I’m pleased to report that all is well, and I’m not self-isolating with nothing to do. In fact, I am very conscious of how everyone is feeling right now, and hoping that a few extra blog posts will be well received.

A few weeks ago I spoke on Psalm 32. You can listen to that message here. It is a wonderful Psalm and I only had a short time to discuss it. This post covers one of the things I did not have time to explore.

The totality of the Psalm is about sin and repentance. It points out the depth of our wrongdoing, the wonder outs grace of God and our responsibility to confess and acknowledge our sin.

There is an interesting little phrase in verse 5 which says God forgives the “iniquity of our sin.” We might say the “sinfulness of our sin.”

Some translations of the Bible render this as the “guilt of our sin,” but this doesn’t quite cover it in my view.

If God forgives our sin, then what does it mean for Him to forgive the iniquity of our sin?

It is like saying the “saltiness of salt,” or the “chocolatey-ness of chocolate…” What is the psalmist getting at here?

Often when we say “Sorry,” we are not really sorry for what we did, but rather are sorry we got caught. When we see hardened criminals breaking down in tears in the dock of the courtroom, it is often about the loss of their freedom, money or reputation. Being sorry for the consequences of sin is of course very natural, and a great reason not to do it in the first place. But are we sorry for the sin itself? If we never got caught, are we truly repentant for the thing we did?

The sinfulness of our sin is the badness of our sin. It is to recognise that sin is wrong, not because it has terrible consequences, but because it is wrong in the sight of God.

When we are truly repentant, we are sorry to God for falling short of His perfection. We are saying that the thing we did – the things we all do – are very wrong irrespective of consequence and punishment.

God forgives us not just from the punishment of sin through Jesus’ death at the cross, but for sin’s sinfulness also. God forgives us for the wickedness of our sin, and all of its consequences. That is not to say that we are free from any consequence on Earth of course, just rob a bank to see what I mean. God can forgive a robber, but they’ll still go to jail for it.

The point is that we need to recognise that our sin is wrong. It is wrong in and of itself. The consequences are indeed terrible, if facing them without Christ, but the sinfulness alone is wicked before God.

As you reflect on and confess your own sins, ask yourself if you are sorry for what they are, or for their consequence.

Spend some time this week to reflect on where you have fallen short, and on the One who forgives all of your sins and covers all of your iniquity. Come to Jesus at the cross and surrender your whole life to Him. It will be the best decision you ever made!

Psalm 32

Andy recently spoke at a Holy Communion service at St. John’s Church, Great Clacton. He spoke on Psalm 32, one of thhe Penitential Psalms, and you can see the text of the passage and listen to the sermon audio below.


By David. A contemplative psalm.

Blessed is he whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2
Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh doesn’t impute iniquity,
in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3
When I kept silence, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4
For day and night your hand was heavy on me.
My strength was sapped in the heat of summer. Selah.
5
I acknowledged my sin to you.
I didn’t hide my iniquity.
I said, I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
6
For this, let everyone who is godly pray to you in a time when you may be found.
Surely when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach to him.
7
You are my hiding place.
You will preserve me from trouble.
You will surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.
8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go.
I will counsel you with my eye on you.
9
Don’t be like the horse, or like the mule, which have no understanding,
who are controlled by bit and bridle, or else they will not come near to you.
10
Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but loving kindness shall surround him who trusts in Yahweh.
11
Be glad in Yahweh, and rejoice, you righteous!
Shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!

Psalm 32 (WEB)


Come As You Are

I saw a pamphlet recently which gave me pause for thought. It was all about welcoming people into the church, and was specifically aimed at a particular group of people. The leaflet pointed out that God loves everyone, and so everyone is welcome into the church – irrespective of their lifestyle or background. It went on to quote Jesus, and told the reader that He welcomed one and all.

I take no issue at all with efforts by the church to be more welcoming. Churches are rarely as welcoming as they think they are, nor are there any that cannot be improved. The word “welcome” has a specific meaning though, and sometimes we think to be “welcoming” we must change everything that we believe and do, so that we do not offend. Wrong!

We think to be welcoming means to accept everyone who comes through the door, no matter what their lifestyle and never point out biblical truth to them. Take a practicing serial killer who refuses to give up their lifestyle of murder – how might we welcome them? Does welcoming them mean we also welcome their life of crime?

Next week, let’s look at what it means to be a welcoming church. For now though, I want to think more about what some seem to think welcoming means.

Quoting Scripture

One issue I had with the pamphlet is that it did not actually quote Jesus properly. In fact, it misquoted Him. I am all for quoting Scripture, but not for taking it out of its context and even editing it to make it say what we want it to.

In this case, Jesus was quoted as saying, “Come to me all of you and I will give you rest.” A nice message indeed, but not strictly what He said.

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28 (WEB)

We see that actually Jesus did not say, “Come to me, all…” but “Come to me, all who labour and are heavily burdened…”

I know that some will think i’m splitting hairs here, but the danger is that we can take any Bible verse we like, tweak it slightly, apply it wrongly, and then make it say whatever we like.

Too many of us – and this can often apply to us “bloggers” – quote single verses here and there without giving sufficient thought to its wider context. We “google” a Bible verse which seems to support our point, and then paste it in. Sometimes that’s ok, but sometimes we take such verses out of their proper setting and imply a meaning that is not there.

Scripture must be interpreted by other Scripture. We must understand who is speaking and to whom, what the context of the chapter is, what the context of the book is, and finally how it fits into the whole of the Bible.

As I’ve written more lately, working on books, blogging, writing and recording sermons, I’ve felt the weight of responsibility. I do not want anyone to be misled who reads what I am teaching. No one has perfect understanding, and so we will all make mistakes along the way, but I hope and pray with fear, that God helps me to share only His truth.

Welcoming is not the same as approval

We believe in welcoming people to church, and preach the message “Come as you are!” Quite right too. No one needs to clean themselves up before they come to church! The church is full of people who know they need a Saviour! None of us is perfect, and if we were, we wouldn’t need Christ!

The problem is that many churches aren’t just saying “Come as you are,” they are adding on, “Stay as you are.”

“Come as you are” is welcoming, but “stay as you are” is not biblical.

Jesus welcomed everyone, but He taught them the right way to live. His message was not “Come as you are and stay as you are,” it was “Come as you are and repent!”

Let’s look at the woman caught in adultery from John 8.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery. Having set her in the middle, 4 they told him, “Teacher, we found this woman in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in our law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. What then do you say about her?” 6 They said this testing him, that they might have something to accuse him of.

But Jesus stooped down, and wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 But when they continued asking him, he looked up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.

9 They, when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning from the oldest, even to the last. Jesus was left alone with the woman where she was, in the middle. 10 Jesus, standing up, saw her and said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more.”

John 8:3-11 (WEB)

The first thing we notice is that the scribes only brought the woman to Jesus. Last time I checked, it took two to commit adultery. Where was the man?

The scribes here are clearly not trying to exercise moral law, but rather thinking they can catch Jesus out. If He condemns her, then it ruins His reputation as a Man of the people, and yet if He lets her go free without punishment, He breaks the Jewish law.

Jesus is cornered – right?

He drops down and begins to write on the ground with His finger. Many are frustrated that they do not know what He was writing. This is a mark of authenticity for the Bible, because if this story was fictional, then the writer would not have put such an untidy detail in. It suggests that the eye witness simply could not see.

Many have speculated about what Jesus could have been writing. I personally favour the idea that He was writing out the Ten Commandments. The ground where he stooped was not sandy or muddy, like we might imagine, but stony. And so the finger of God wrote on stone… remind you of anything?

He gave to Moses, when he finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets, written with God’s finger.

Exodus 31:18 (WEB)

Assuming I am correct, then as the scribes began to read the Ten Commandments on the ground, they became acutely aware of their own sinfulness. And notice that the older ones left first. Perhaps the older we get, the more aware we are of our failings.

Jesus, fulfilling the Law, says essentially that she should be stoned for her sin – but let the one who is without sin cast the first stone. The only One who could do that was Jesus Himself, and He chose not to.

Acknowledging that no one had condemned her, Jesus tells her to be on her way. But He adds something very important. “Go and sin no more!”

Jesus welcomed this woman, despite her sinful behaviour. Praise God for this! However, He did not lower His standards in order to do so. Jesus was very clear that He did not want her to carry on living as she had.

When we welcome someone into church, we should absolutely meet them where they are. I am not at all suggesting we had them a list of rules as they come in, and expect them to abide by them from then on. However, at some point, we must share what we believe. If they want to go on and become a member of the church, then they must start living their lives in line with Christ’s teaching. Refusing to do so is a refusal to submit to Christ as Lord.

Where does the welcome end, and the teaching begin? That is not an easy question. As per my silly example at the start of this post, even if we could bring ourselves to welcome a practicing serial killer, they cannot continue this way and claim to be a follower of Christ.

Likewise, whatever sin we replace serial killing with, we too must give it up to follow Christ.

Being welcoming does not give any of us the excuse to accept sinfulness and not challenge it with God’s Word.

We will think about what it means to be a welcoming church next time. For now though, consider your own life. Are there sins you continue to hold on to, despite knowing what God thinks about them? Ask for His help to change, for you cannot do it in your own strength.

Pearl of Wisdom #12

Beating yourself up is a symptom of pride.

In the past, when I made a mistake I would tend to beat myself up about it. The length and severity of my “self-beating” would depend on how serious I perceived the mistake to be.

And let’s call it what it is – not a mistake, but a sin. A falling short of God’s standards.

I’d think to myself, “How could I have done such a thing? I’m supposed to be a Christian! I’m better than that, and I shouldn’t be doing such things! I’m so unworthy. I just can’t do anything right!” And so on and so forth.

Read back what I used to say to myself again. How many times did I use the term “I” or something similar to it?

Answer: a lot.

How could I have done such a thing? Well, because I’m only human, I’m not perfect and I’m still on a journey with Jesus. As long as I live and breath, I’ll never be perfect in and of myself, only in Christ.

It is a symptom of pride. Believing we are above sin or simple mistakes indicates that we have a proud heart.

Often we think that beating ourselves up is a humble thing to do – far from it. In fact, it is suggestive that we don’t think Christ’s punishment was enough, and that we somehow need to add to it.

If you sin this week, don’t spend any time beating yourself up. It’s a waste of time. Just accept Christ’s work and forgiveness and move on.

Who’s behind door number one?

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.

Jesus would rather us represent Him truly, than to claim to be followers and act like unbelievers

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.

Receive Forgiveness

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.

My problem was not about asking for forgiveness, but rather about not receiving it from God

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.

Asking was not the issue; receiving was.

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:

  1. We are conscious of a sin we have committed (how we have fallen short of God’s standards in some way)
  2. We ask for forgiveness
  3. If you ask us, then we’ll say that God has forgiven us
  4. We think it cannot be so easy, and so either plead our case or beat ourselves up.
  5. That “beating ourselves up” can last a few hours or days, depending on how serious the sin was (in our minds at least).
  6. Once we have “suffered” enough, or more accurately punished ourselves enough, we move on.

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.

So what should we do?

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.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down

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.

Scripture should be interpreted in the light of other Scripture.

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.

We need to get angry at the devil

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

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:

If you get into an argument with someone, try to settle the matter before you go to bed…

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?

I think this verse is going beyond advising us not to be angry during night hours.

Let’s work through this verse logically, and study the text itself rather than our usual interpretation.

Anger is not a sin

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.

Be Angry

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.
Interlude

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.

It’s not enough just to love the good things, we must also hate the bad.

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?