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Saturday, 29 August 2015

The fourth anchor!

In Acts 27:29, we read these words: "... fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come."
Over the past few posts, I have been suggesting that certain 'anchors' are essential if we are to survive the storms that life so often sends our way.   So far, I have suggested hope - hope that is in the Lord Jesus, the Christ; duty - duty that is steadfastly carried out; and prayer - prayer that is fervent and believing.

In this post,  want to suggest that the fourth 'anchor' which is so very necessary if we are to voyage safely, should be love.  I wonder, is there any anchor in the world that is quite like it?  Of course, I am not referring to the sentimental 'love' of the Mills & Boon novel; or the natural love of, e.g., a parent for a child; and certainly not the 'love' that is actually no more than lust.  What I am thinking about is the love that is described in the Greek language word: agape.  This is the love that has been described as "the minimum of emotion, and the maximum of evaluation." (Rev George B Duncan).

It was this love - extended towards you and me - that brought the Lord Jesus to this sinful Earth.  It was this love - extended towards you and me - that took Him to Calvary, there to suffer what has been described as the most cruel form of the execution of the death penalty that the twisted mind of man had yet devised. 

And those of us who claim to be His disciples are bidden to love in like manner.  We are called to love one another: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another." (John 13:35).  Indeed, we are called to go much further than even that!  We are called to love our enemies - those who hate us!  "...  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, ..." (Matt 5:44).

The anchor of Hope - hope that is founded in a living relationship with the Lord Jesus, the Christ;
The anchor of Duty - duty that is faithfully, and steadfastly, carried out;
The anchor of Prayer - prayer that is fervent and believing;
The anchor of Love - 'agape' love, that is modelled on the infinite love of God.

Four anchors.  Do you have them on board as you travel through on that voyage that we call life?  May none of us find, when the storms of life are raging, that our anchors have grown rusty with neglect or, even worse, that we are at sea with no anchors aboard!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Prayer!

The third of our four anchors should be, I would suggest, prayer.  Some might even suggest that it should be first - but, like the best competition results announcements, I am working in 'reverse order'!!

There is little hope for the ship that leaves for the open seas of life without this anchor aboard!  So many do - and many, who once possessed it, have long since cast it away.  It is sad, but true, that there are a lot of people - including some who would make the claim to be Christians - who seldom, if ever, pray except when in a tight corner.  One wit has commented that the most sincere prayer ever uttered is "God help me!"  I would dispute that conclusion - but I can understand it being made.

But how can God possibly be real to such people?  Even the Lord Jesus, as we read often in the Gospel narratives, "... continued all night in prayer to God." (Luke 6:12; KJV).  And if He, God the Son, the Second Persona (see the chap on the 'Trinity' in "Great Words of the Faith") of the Godhead, had need to pray - and to spend much time in prayer - how much more do we need to pray?!

It is, surely, much more than mere coincidence that great times of spiritual awakening have times when men and women have fervently sought God's face in believing prayer!  Someone has written that, "To neglect prayer is to play around with one's very soul.  Without it, we cannot commune with out Maker."

 James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, wrote: "The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.  Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit." (James 5:16-18).

But "None is righteous, no, not one;" writes Paul (Rom 3:10), referring to Psalm 14.  So where does that leave us?  Praise God, He has not left us helpless.  The same Paul writes to the early believers in Philippi: "... whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 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 refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;" ( Phil 3:7-9; emphasis added).

Be certain that you have that righteousness - that you may effectively make use of the anchor of prayer!

Hope - in the Lord Jesus, the Christ; Duty - steadfastly carried out; Prayer - that is fervent and believing.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Duty!

This post is part of a brief series based on some words from the Acts of the Apostles: "... fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come." (Acts 27:29).  I have suggested that, in the Christian life, we need to have four anchors to keep us steady in the storms that life throws up against us.  In the last post, I suggested the necessity of Hope.  This time, I would suggest Duty.

Sometimes, we are inclined to rebel against our daily duty.  Yet duty is a sheet anchor (old salts will understand!).  There is little like it to make men and women of us.  We may chafe under it; we may sigh for leisure; we my wish to freed from bondage to set hours, appointments, rules and regulations, the apparently 'treadmill' round.  Yet this is, so often, part of God's schooling for us.

In Luke's account of the Gospel record, we find these words of Jesus to His disciples: "So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" (Luke 17:10).  It is surely worth noting that the duty was done!

There are, I believe, ships - the lives of men and women - sailing the seas of life today, that would have been smashed on the rocks long ago, but for the anchor of duty.

Are you faithfully doing your duty today - to God; and to your fellow-man?


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Hope!

Continuing from the previous post, may I suggest that the first anchor should be hope?  The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, speaking of the impossibility of God ever proving to be false, says, "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain." (6:19).  As long as we have hope, sunk deed down in our inmost being, then life cannot ever destroy us.  It may, and often will, hurt us, but it cannot break us.  As long as hope holds out, we may weather the fiercest storm.

Most will be familiar with the old adage: "Where there's life, there's hope."  I would suggest that it is equally true (if not more so!) to say that "Where there's hope, there's life."!  Many of the survivors of the Holocaust have spoken of the hope that kept them going in the midst of the most terrible of conditions.  In many countries, today, there are those who are persecuted - predominantly those who profess a Christian faith - but who live in hope.  I can never forget the commercial traveller who, during a particularly bad snowfall in the N.E. of Scotland survived being buried for some days, in his car - when others had succumbed to the cold, and to the difficulty in breathing.  His comment, when rescued, was: "I never gave up hope!"

Of course, the hope that is an anchor for the soul is not just a vague optimism that 'things will turn out alright; that, as Dickens' character, Mr Micawber, would have said, "Something will turn up!"  Rather, it is the hope of which Paul writes to the early disciples of Jesus in Colossae: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col.1:27).  It is, in fact, more than hope, in the popular sense of the word.  It is an assurance that is based on the unchangeable character of Almighty God.

One of the old hymns states:
"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name." (Edward Mote)

Do you have the anchor of hope on board, today?  Is that hope grounded in the Lord, Jesus the Christ?  I encourage you to hope in Him.  It will be for your good, and to His glory.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Anchors!

Whilst having lunch with another retired clergyman, and good friend, I mentioned that I love being able to preach a series.  Whether it be working thorough one of the books of the Bible, or following a particular theme, it ensures that I deal with passages, or topics, that I might otherwise avoid.

I was also attending to some "consolidation" this afternoon, as we prepare for our new home in Gardonne to be fully rewired.  I came across a small ring binder in which were the notes from messages that I have shared in the past - most of them at the 'Worship before Work' service that was held, every Monday to Friday, in St.George's-Tron Parish Church, Glasgow, when the late Rev. George B.Duncan was the minister (and I was but a lowly Divinity Student!).

One message 'jumped out at me', and I want to share it here, on my blog, as a brief series!  I read the following verses: "When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of A'dria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they sounded and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they sounded again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, 'Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.' Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it go." (Acts 27:27-32).

How many anchors have you on board your ship?  Are they strong enough for the day of storm?  Are they fit for the strain of life and death; joy and sorrow; and everything else that may happen on the seas of life?

The faith that some people claim to have is purely a "fair weather" thing - it's strong only when circumstances are favourable!  Because of that, they have constructed their lives on the assumption that they are going to meet nothing else but calm seas and favourable winds.

In that passage from the Book of Acts, we read that the sailors "... let out four anchors from the stern ...".  Over the next four posts, I plan to suggest four anchors that each of us ought to carry on the voyage of life.

Don't forget to follow the series through!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

A work in progress!

One of my regular activities is commenting on online newspaper articles.  Such comments may be totally secular but, quite often, I have an opportunity to witness - in one way or another!  I have also become friendly with some of my fellow commenters, including one obvious believer who uses the pseudonym "Happy"!

A couple of days ago, I was disappointed by a comment made by Happy - and told him so!  He responded: "Sorry C.B.  As you can see, I am not perfect yet.  But the good news is God is still working on me!"

What a refreshing reply!  He is, of course, absolutely correct - and not only with regard to himself!  In spite of the claims of some - particularly high-powered American speakers - there is no such thing as 'sinless perfection' while we reside in our mortal bodies.  John makes this abundantly clear: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ... If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." (I John 1:8,10).

It is said that, one day, Michelangelo entered his studio to examine the work of his students.  As he came to the work of one particular student, he looked at it for a long time.  Then, taking a brush, he wrote a single word across the canvas - "amplius"!  The word meant 'larger'.  The master-painter was not rejecting the work of his student for it exhibited great skill, and was as good as could be expected at that stage of his training.  However, the small size of the canvas made his design appear cramped.  It needed to be expanded.

Often, the Lord may have to write 'amplius' across the lives of many of His disciples.  Our spiritual outlook becomes confined; our vision of what God wants to do, in and through us, is restricted by our limited spiritual growth.  The Lord is aware of the progress that we have made - but He encourages us to keep expanding our horizons.  He wants to increase the dimensions of our spiritual lives; widen our outreach; strengthen our witness.  He's not finished with us yet; each of us is "a work in progress"!

Writing to the believers in Philippi, Paul gave them this encouragement: "... it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Phil 1:9-11).  He knew that they were "works in progress", but he wanted them to 'keep on keeping on' that theyu might bring praise and glory to Father God.

So, "... let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:1-2).
Sorry C B , As you can see, I am not perfect yet, But the good news is God is still working on me.!
Sorry C B , As you can see, I am not perfect yet, But the good news is God is still working on me.!
Sorry C B , As you can see, I am not perfect yet, But the good news is God is still working on me.!
Sorry C B , As you can see, I am not perfect yet, But the good news is God is still working on me.!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Seeing the signs!


It was not  a matter of national importance but, about a year ago, the Dartford Crossing over (and under!) the River Thames, closed its Toll Booths, and "went automatic"!  Now, vehicle registration numbers are scanned by special cameras, and payment is made online - with a heavy fine for failure to pay within the allotted time! 

Recently, a number of people have mentioned to us that they, or friends, have received notice of the fine - and that they had not realised that the system had changed, but thought that the tolls had simply been cancelled!


Yesterday,  my wife and I drove from Wishaw to Maidstone (Kent) to spend the evening with longstanding friends before boarding the ferry for France this afternoon.  The first mention of the new Dartford Crossing was a full 171 miles from the crossing.  Then, at 137 miles, there was a second warning of the tolls that have to be paid.  And so it went on.  I simply fail to understand how some people can claim that they didn't know!

There is a coming event of cataclysmic proportions.  It is the Rapture of the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He meets with His people "in the air" (I Thess.4:17).  It will be followed by a time of tribulation that will make the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to which I referred yesterday seem like a playground scuffle!  That will last for seven years, at the end of which the Lord Jesus will return, with His bride (His disciples) to reign on earth for a thousand years.

My point is that no-one should be surprised by all of this.  He is constantly providing 'warning signs'.  The Bible is full of them -

  • The return of Israel to their land (1948)
  • Decline of morality
  • Natural Disasters
  • Wars and rumors of wars
  • Increased Technology
  • Global Government
  • False Prophets and False teaching
  • People will follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
  • Exponential global population growth
  • Translation of the Gospel and preaching of the Gospel to the whole world. 
 
      The tragedy is not simply that so many seem to ignore the signs, but that the consequence of               doing so will be, not a monetary fine, but eternity cut off from the God Who longs to have them         with Him.

     Jesus said: "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the        signs of the times." (Matt 16:3).

Sunday, 16 August 2015

VJ Day.

These past few days have seen a great deal of activity in connection with the 70th anniversary of VJ Day - the day on which the Japanese Forces formally surrendered to the Allies, and brought to an end what we refer to as the Second World War.  Of course, the pre-cursor to that event was the horrific consequences of the dropping of two Atomic Bombs on Japan - the first on the city of Hiroshima, the second on Nagasaki.

I have never been to Hiroshima - but I have been to Nagasaki, and visited the Peace Memorial Hall in the Peace Park.  It was an unforgettable experience.  One does not easily forget the image of a human being literally burned into a wall!  

There is still much debate about the morality of those bombings.  The deaths of some 250,000 people - the vast majority of whom were civilians - may be claimed to have saved the lives of many times that number if the alternative invasion of Japan had taken place.  However, I imagine that that was little consolation to those who survived the atomic bombs and the aftermath of radiation sickness and associated conditions.

As I read about some of the commemorative events, my mind went back some 2,000 years, and to a hill named Calvary.   There, one man died, on a wooden cross - and did so voluntarily.  He died, not that some tens of thousands of people might live, but that the whole of mankind might have the opportunity to be saved from the ravages of sin - it's power; its penalty, and, ultimately, its very presence.

That man, of course, was no ordinary man.  That Man was Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, in the Persona of the Son, in human flesh.  He lived a perfect, sinless, life - so that He could be the perfect sacrifice that paid the penalty for your sin and for mine.   Some debate the morality of that sacrifice, too.   Of course, the difference is that Jesus was willing to die for us.  The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not given the choice!

Some 250,000 died that perhaps three times that number might live.  One died, that each and every one of us might live - not just now, but throughout eternity!  Of course, salvation is not forced upon anyone.  You must make that decision for yourself.   It would have been tragic if, after the bombings on those Japanese cities, the Allied troops had still invaded the country, and hundreds of thousands had still died conventionally.  The loss of life due to the bombings would have been a total waste.

Did Jesus die for you so that you could continue to live your life without Him?  Or are you willing to hand your life over to Him - confessing your sins and your sinfulness; repenting; inviting Him to take control of your life.  It's the way to real life!  Jesus gave us that assurance: "I have come that you might have life - and have it in all its fulness." (John 10:10).

The choice is yours.  The consequences are eternal.  Make sure that you make the right choice!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Grace.

As the clearing up, and clearing out, continues before we make the final move to France, I am coming upon all sorts of things that had been forgotten about.  The following is a poem that I recall starting to write while we lived in Motherwell.  It's not Poet Laureate material - but it is sincere! 

Where would I be without His grace
Who gave His life for me?
Where would I be, had He not hung
On Calvary's cruel tree?

Lost in my sin, I trod life's way;
Pleasure my only goal
But, deep in my heart, my conscience would say
'This never will make you whole'!

Still I rebelled; I put myself first;
Ignored that urgent call.
I know, now, I was of sinners the worst
E'en 'though I still tried to 'walk tall'.

But, praise to His Name, His Spirit broke through,
And opened my eyes to my need.
Now I am His, and He is mine -
His prompting I seek to heed.

He's there for you, too, whoever you are.
Respond to His love and His grace.
Then, with me, you'll stand on that wonderful Day
And gaze on His beautiful face.

That's where I'll be when the trumpet shall sound,
And the saints rise to meet, in the air,
The Saviour they've loved, and Who now bids them 'Come!'
Where will I be?  I'll be there!

Only one question - where will you be?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Faithful in little things!


Jeremiah is the prophet of the Old Testament who seems to get the worst 'press'!  It is true that his prophetic utterances do contain a fair bit of 'doom and gloom' - he lived for some forty years just before the people of Judah (the southern kingdom) were exiled to Babylon, and his message was, basically, "It's too late to avoid God's discipline, so accept it, and repent"!  Needless to say, such a message didn't find favour, and the prophet even ended up in prison!  However, there are also words of hope in the message and, in the Lamentation (a funeral dirge) of Jeremiah, are found some of the most wonderful words in the Old Testament: "The faithful love of YHWH never ends; His mercies never cease.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning." (Lam.3:22-23).

Jeremiah also had messages from the Lord for individuals.  One of those was his own 'secretary', a man named Baruch.  It was the pastor and author, F.B.Meyer, who said: "Don't waste your time waiting and longing for large opportunities that may never come; but faithfully handle the little things that are always claiming your attention."  That, by the way, is advice that I certainly need to keep in front of me and that, I suspect, need to be heeded by many - especially disciples of Jesus!  We must learn to be content to work, diligently, where Father God has placed us, remembering that He is more concerned with our faithfulness (read Matt.25:14ff) than with what we might consider to be 'success'!

God's message to Baruch, through Jeremiah, received such a message.  He was a man of noble birth who had been kept busy transcribing that message of doom about Jerusalem.  But he was disappointed because his own dreams and aspirations were being thwarted.   Others were being promoted to more important posts in the royal court, while he was engaged in routine duties!  Perhaps he had expected that he would have been offered some noble position as a reward for his faithful service.  Instead, he was rebuked for not being satisfied with the task that YHWH had entrusted to him.  Through the prophet, YHWH spoke: "Are you seeking great things for yourself?  Don't do it!  I will bring great disaster upon this people, but I will give you your life, wherever you go." (Jer.45:5).

Perhaps that's a message for many of us. Perhaps we need to put down selfish ambition that the Christ may be exalted.  Perhaps we need to take the attitude of one of Jeremiah's prophetic successors, John the Baptiser, who said of the Lord Jesus: "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less!" (Jn.3:30).

Always remember, that it is better to be faithful than to be famous!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Don't quit!

Ten days since my last post - a record that I do not wish to break!  The problem has been lack of internet access, for a number of reasons.  However, I am back - and trust that I will be able to resume my more regular posting.

I was reading, earlier today, of a pastor who was growing rather weary in his ministry - a not uncommon situation among the clergy!  He had a dream.  He dreamed that he was pounding away at a huge chink of granite, with a pick-axe.  He knew that his job was to break it into small pieces but, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't manage to chip off even the tiniest flake.  At last, tired, disappointed, and disillusioned, he decided to give up.

Just then a stranger appeared and asked, "Weren't you given an order to do that work?  Your duty is to give it your best - regardless of the outcome."  The pastor picked up the pick-axe from where he had thrown it on the ground and, with renewed vigour and determination, lifted it high in the air and brought it down, hard, on the granite.  It broke into a thousand pieces!  He had been ready to quit - just one blow from success.

It's only a story, of course.  However, it does have a profound message.  Certainly, for the disciple of Jesus, it is that we should keep working at any task that the Lord has given us regardless of how difficult it may be.  Even when anything resembling 'success' seems to be remote, if not impossible, we are to remain faithful and obedient - assured that there will be an ample reward for those who persevere.

I wonder if you have grown weary in your service for the Lord?!  Have you become so discouraged that you are ready to "throw in the towel"?   Remember the pastor's dream.  Even better, remember the words of Paul to his friends in Christ Jesus, in the Galatian churches: "... let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart." (Gal 6:9).

Someone has said: "Failure is not defeat - unless you stop trying."!  Don't quit!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Ivy - and sin (Part 3).

At the back of the house in Gardonne are some fruit trees.  We have a pear tree (sorry, no partridge!); a cherry tree; and two apricot trees!  They all need some TLC, and both pruning and feeding but, next year,we hope that we might have a reasonable crop.  Actually,  I started the pruning of the pear tree, yesterday - and gathered 27lbs of pears in the process.  That is without any care!

However, while one of the apricot trees has a reasonable amount of fruit, the other has next to nothing.  The reason for this is, I suspect (I make no claim to any level of horticultural expertise!) the fact that the bottom half of the trunk was smothered with ivy!  I have managed to remove all of it but, if I am correct, then this demonstrates another aspect of sin.

Perhaps, at this point, I should remind you of the definition of sin!  According to the Shorter Catechism, "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God."  In other words, sin is not simply 'breaking the law' - although, for example, if I rob a bank; commit murder, or rape; or give false testimony in a court of law; I have sinned.  However, there is much that I do - and much that I fail to do - that does not break human law, but is still sin in the sight of Almighty God!

A major problem with sin is that it usually appears to be attractive!  I am not going to be tempted into a sinful sexual liaison with someone whom I consider to be ugly!  I am not going to be tempted to break into a toy-shop, and steal all of the Monopoly money!  I am not going to car-jack 30-year-old rust-bucket with smoke billowing from the exhaust!  I am only going to be tempted if the woman is, in my eyes, beautiful; if the money that I am able to steal is in a recognised currency; if the car is a latest model of an expensive marque!

However, as the old adage has it "All that glisters is not gold", and that is never more true than when we sin.  I start that affair - and then discover that it costs me my marriage, my home, my family, my personal integrity.  I steal that money - and then realise that I am going to have to be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life.  I take that car - and find out that I am unable to handle such a high-powered vehicle, as I take a bend in the road at too fast a speed, and end up in hospital (if not the Morgue!).

Just as the ivy sucks the life out of a tree, so sin sucks the very life out of we human beings.  Praise God that there is an answer.  He has promised that "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (I Cor 10:13).

When the Lord Jesus hung on the cross at Calvary, He not only bore your sins, and mine, in His own body (see I Pet.2:24), but He actually became sin (II Cor.5:21), in all of its putrefaction, and ugliness, and nastiness, and blackness.  I believe that it was at that moment in human time that He uttered what is usually referred to as 'the cry of dereliction' - "E'lo-i, E'lo-i, la'ma sabach-tha'ni?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:34).  But Mark continues his account: "And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom."  That great cry was a single word: "Tetelestai" - "Finished"!  This was not the weak whimper of one who had decided to give up!  It was the mighty shout of triumph of One Who had completed the work that the Father had given Him to do.  And, with the veil of the Temple ripped in two, the way was made open for you, and for me, to enter directly into the presence of the Almighty, Creator God.

Don't let sin suck the life out of you!  You see, it's not just your natural life that is effected, but also your eternal destiny.  The choice is yours - eternity in His nearer presence; or eternity cut off from Him - and aware, too late, of your own foolishness in rejecting, or even neglecting, His claim upon you.  May you, if you have not already done so, "Come to Him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (I Peter 2:4-5).

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Ivy - and sin (Part 2).

Okay, so on Thursday I realised that the common plant, ivy, is a picture of sin in human beings.  However, this parasitic plant (I couldn't recall that adjective on Thursday!) had more to teach me.

As I hacked, and pulled, at the ivy surrounding the well-head in our front garden in Gardonne, I quickly realised that we did not have the plain concrete structure of our neighbours.  Someone had, at some time, built around that structure a beautiful, white stone, facade.  Suddenly, I knew that I had a magnificent feature just waiting to be discovered.   With almost all of the ivy now removed, I can assure you that it really is "something else"!

You and I were created by a loving God Who desires us to enter into a personal relationship with Him, through the Lord Jesus Christ (the Second Persona of the Trinity).  However, sin embraces us with its tentacles, and quickly begins to cover up what the Creator has created.   We require to have that sin dealt with before the beauty that is the real 'us' can be seen.  Of course, even that beauty is but a reflection of the Lord Jesus.  That was what some of us used to sing:

"Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me;
All His wonderful passion and purity.
Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
'Til the beauty of Jesus be seen in me." (Albert Orsborn/Tom M. Jones).

There is a certain, self-styled, pastor who has a great following - particularly among women - and who has claimed that she no longer sins!  (Crazy mad Woman Joyce Meyer Claims She is no Longer a Sinner – Sinless Perfection Heresy).  However, in making such an outrageous claim, Mrs (Millionaire) Meyer is directly contradicting the written Word of God.  Listen to the apostle, John:  "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (I John 1:8)Indeed, the 'beloved disciple' goes even further: " If we say we have not sinned, we make Him (i.e. God) a liar, and His word is not in us." (I John 1:10).  You see, Mrs Meyer has made a fundamental mistake (actually, she makes a lot of fundamental mistakes!).  The Bible does not teach that, as a disciple of Jesus, I am righteous and, therefore, sinless.  Yes, I am accounted righteous in the sight of Almighty God, but that is because I have been justified (see the relevant chapter in Great Words of the Faith) by His grace, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus!

This is the wonderful truth: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9).  However, that confession needs to be a daily exercise, because I am a sinner.  Paul who, like John, may be considered to be more trustworthy than a millionaire (actually, multi-millionaire) 'prosperity-gospel' preacher, testifies: "... I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." (Rom 7:18-19).  The ivy of sin does not let go easily, and we need to come, on a daily basis (at least!) and seek the help of God the Holy Spirit that we may be sanctified (chap. available in Great Words!) - made more like Jesus!

When I get the study in our new home up and running, a little printed notice will be going back up on a wall.  I believe it to be a Brian Ross "original".  It reads, simply, "In this life, I will never be sinless but, by the grace of God, I may sin less"!  As I do, more and more of the beauty of Jesus will be seen in me.

There was one more lesson from my dealings with ivy on Thursday, but that's all for now, folks.  Just be sure that you deal with the ivy that is hiding what Father God wants you to be, seeking His help, day by day.