Don’t be Sorry

“Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me” 1 Samuel 8:7

School Children will be well aware that they are now in the final term for the year and that means Christmas is drawing near. They will soon, if they haven’t already, be making a list for parents and grandparents. No parent will give their child that they love a gift that will harm them.

God loves all people and will not give any gift that will bring harm but He sometimes allows people to have what they demand so they can experience the consequences with a view to a change of heart. Those who do not know God in a personal way interpret God’s restrictions as hatred and so they respond to God and His people with hatred. They fail to understand that the commands of God are to lead us into green pastures and keep us from the dead barren desert.

In Ezekiel 18:32 we read, “’For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God.” God has no pleasure in judgment after a person dies (Hebrews 9:27). God has provided the greatest Gift possible in Jesus Christ who takes away our sin by bearing it in Himself. The Lord is not willing that anyone perish (2 Peter 3:9). The evidence of this is that Jesus Christ has already borne our sin on the cross.

While some may attest that they want to go to hell to be with their friends, if they had any real idea of hell as described by Jesus (Mark 9:42-48) they would not wish for such a thing. There is only one reason a person will end up in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 15); they have rejected Jesus as God’s only remedy for sin. They will have what they wanted; existence without Jesus Christ but they will not be at all happy or content.

As with Israel in Samuel’s day, God sometimes gives people what they demand but they will be sorry they rejected Him. There is no way to God except through Jesus because He is the only One who has dealt with sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Peter wrote “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

People who do not know Jesus see God as a harsh dictator out to spoil their fun. In reality He loves them and sets boundaries to protect us in the way a good shepherd does his sheep.

Well Meaning

“It shall be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 1 Kings 17:4

There have been occasions when I have asked my wife a question but, instead of answering the question I asked, she has answered a question she thought I meant to ask. We are quite different people when it comes to conversation. This can be very helpful or, as in this case, a little frustration to me. My usual response is something like, “Please just answer the question I asked.” My wife’s response to that is something like, “Well I thought you really meant ….” Perhaps we cause a little frustration for the Lord when we treat His word that way.

Imagine if Elijah had done that with the word of the Lord on this occasion in 1 Kings 17? He would have said that the Lord could not have meant what He said because a raven could not sustain him with enough food. It’s impossible! Later the Lord sent him to a widowed Gentile woman who, with her son, was on the verge of starvation. How could she provide for him? It’s impossible!

The Bible is replete with these kinds of situations where people received a word or command from the Lord and they must take His words in the normal literary sense even when what He was asking seemed impossible. What if Moses had refused to return to Egypt because he interpreted the Lord’s command on the basis of what he thought possible? What of Joshua being commanded to march around Jericho thirteen times to bring down the walls. No, the Lord couldn’t mean that because it was illogical and impossible. When Jesus sent men to obtain the colt of a donkey that was ready and waiting for them they could have decided that a donkey already broken in would be better and safer risk for their Master. Well meaning but wrong.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews mentions many men and women who took God at His word and acted upon it without interpreting it through a grid of what is logical and possible, or that there may be a better and safer way.

Seven times in his letters Paul writes to the effect that he didn’t want his readers to be ignorant of some truth, so he wrote plainly. That is how God writes. Twice in 1st Thessalonians he writes for his readers to be comforted by what he has written (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11). Unless his words were intended to be taken in their normal literary sense there would be no real comfort at all. God wants to communicate truth not confuse the truth.

The Whispering Voice

“It happened that night that the word of the Lord came to Nathan saying …” 2 Samuel 7:4

Generally we would have a high regard for the prophet Nathan especially for his courage in pointing out King David’s sin as recorded in chapter twelve. But at this point he got it wrong. In the previous verses we read that David had expressed to Nathan his desire to build a house for the Lord. David had a house of cedar and it seemed reasonable that the Lord should also have such a place to dwell with men instead of the “tent.” Nathan responded to David’s desire without seeking counsel from the Lord and got it wrong.

However, he had ears toward the Lord and that night, in the quietness of his home and heart, the Lord corrected him and gave him the words he should speak to King David.

Since the advent of radio, television and telephone our evenings have not been so quiet that we might hear the quiet gentle voice of the Lord. These electronic creations have their place and can be helpful but they can also blot out the voice of the Lord. We live in an age of noise. Mobile phones are always at hand and, for many, play music or games whenever it is not being used for phone calls or texting. We live in an environment of noise.

It should be of no surprise then that few hear the voice of the Lord. If we want to have conversation with our spouse, a family member or a friend we will shut out noise as much as possible. We should do the same for conversing with the Lord, that we might hear Him.

In 1 Kings 19:11-12 we read of one of Elijah’s encounters with the Lord. Elijah stood on the mountain and felt the wind, an earthquake and a fire, but the lord was not in any of them. “After the fire a still small voice” or a delicate whispering voice came to Elijah. God has trouble getting our attention if we have constant noise so He may have to try more intensive, less comfortable, ways to get our attention.

Fortunately for Nathan, he was not engrossed with his phone, he was not watching his favourite TV show or movie, and his Hi Fi was not blasting his ears. Had he not heard the whispering voice of the Lord, his incorrect confirmation to David would have proceeded against the will of God. The Lord has a word for you but will you hear it above the noise in your world?

Drifting Anchors

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” Hebrews 6:19

The anchor is God’s Word and Jesus Christ (vv13,14). Sometimes we have the wrong anchor. Many years ago I had a small open boat that I used for fishing and crabbing or just relaxing in either of the gulfs in South Australia. I had two anchors. Which anchor I took  depended on where I was going. One anchor was like a grapple and was used where the ocean floor was rocky or had obstacles on which the anchor could snag. The other anchor had flukes and it was designed for sandy sea or river floors. As tension was increased the flukes dug into the sand. On occasion I had the wrong anchor. The grapple anchor would not hold in sand if there was wind and waves. The boat would then drift away from where the fish were and it also opened up the possibility of drifting onto rocks.

When our understanding of Scripture is challenged we may respond in several ways. How we respond will have a lot to do with whether we have the right anchor in use. If our anchor is based on the teaching of other people, regardless of whether what they taught was correct or not, our anchor may start to drift. When that happens we will feel insecure or confused and may be at risk of shipwreck of our faith. On the other hand, if our anchor is our personal first-hand relationship with Jesus Christ and knowledge of God’s word then our anchor will hold securely just as the writer of Hebrews writes. After all, “It is impossible for God to lie” (v18).

I haven’t heard this hymn sung for a long while and perhaps it is time we revived it to encourage assurance and trust in God’s word.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love

If you feel that your anchor is drifting it could be because your anchor is someone else’s teaching and not what you have personally received from the Bible confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Our anchor must be God’s word, not the teaching of another no matter how good we may think their exposition.

Consequences Remain

“And the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves’” 1 Samuel 12:19

After suffering years of conflict with their neighbours, who had kings, the people of Israel thought that they should also have a king. The conflicts arose because Israel turned from following the Lord; but the conflicts were the means the Lord used to bring them to repentance and renewed faith. Each generation had to learn this anew.

Israel had God as their King, but they were not satisfied with the way things were going for them. They didn’t want the attacks from neighbours – and reasoned that a great king would prevent the attacks. They did not recognise that this was a spiritual war and that the physical wars were serving God’s objectives for Israel.

The Lord had warned them through Samuel on several occasions not to seek an earthly king and told of the costly consequences, but they persisted. We notice that this was a trait of Saul also (13:12). He felt compelled to act even against what he knew to be the command of the Lord (13:13).

In demanding a king, Israel was rejecting the will of the Lord. They were following the way of the world when they should have been leading the world in God’s ways. When Christians follow the ways of the world instead of leading the world in the ways of the Lord we sin in the same way as Israel.

What we observe in the verse above is that Israel eventually realised their sin and repented of it. In God’s grace He forgave them but He did not remove the consequences – and those consequences would bear a great cost to the nation. Samuel records that cost in 8:11-18. There would be great economic loss; there would be great loss in family relationships (due to the military and public service); and worse, there would be great spiritual loss, “The Lord will not hear you in that day” (8:18).

When we sin, forgiveness is available if we truly repent and confess that sin to God. Our fellowship with Him will be restored. However, the consequences of that sin will often remain. Remorse will demand that the consequences be removed; a contrite heart accepts whatever the Lord grants. Words spoken cannot be taken back and deeds done cannot be undone. Better to obey the Lord from the outset.

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Mature in Christ #9: Fullness of Joy on the Path of Life

Reference: Psalm 16

If you would like to turn with me to Psalm 16, we are talking about “Mature in Christ”. We are looking back to the Old Testament, but it’s a Psalm that looks forward into the New Testament, and it may well be one that Bob will mention this afternoon as he deals with Christ in the Old Testament. Psalm 16 and Psalm 22 are two of the most well known Messianic references in the Psalms, amongst others. I hope this will encourage you.

As it has spoken to us, particularly verse 11, which is where our main conclusion comes, that you may know fullness of joy on the path of life.

“Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
I have no good besides You.’
As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
Nor will I take their names upon my lips.
The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to Or see corruption or the pitundergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

Psalm 16 (NASB)

Alongside agape [ἀγάπη] love, as we touched in recent messages, joy is a key marker of the maturity in Christ that we are to grow into. In fact, joyless Christians are a paradox, an enigma, or (as I’ve said before) even an oxymoron. If we’ve truly received salvation as a gift from God, received by faith in Him, a faith which is itself a gift from Him; and are being transformed from glory unto glory into His very image, then both love and joy ought to be the markers of our belonging to Him. We have great reason to rejoice, no matter what our circumstances may be. Of course the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self-control. Love and joy are right there at the beginning, at the pinnacle of that list of aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. Paul says in Philippians 4:4, “rejoice in the Lord always – you know it! Do you do it? “Again,” just in case you didn’t get it the first time, “again I will say, rejoice.” And in 1 Thessalonians 5:16: “Rejoice” (there’s that word again) always.

Psalm 16 is about experiencing joy and pleasure in God. …

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Regular Tests

“Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them.” Judges 3:1

With each generation of Israel, the Lord sent a test to see “whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them …, or not” (Judges 2:22, cf. 3:4). Ever since God breathed life into Adam this has been the way of the Lord. No generation, Jew or Gentile, may live by the faith of their parents (although there are great advantages in having believing parents). Each person, each nation, each generation will be tested. The book of Judges records various groups in Israel being tested.

Chapter one of Judges reveals Israel’s failure to perform all that the Lord had commanded. It would appear that they failed because they lacked faith in the Lord and did not persevere in the task given. From God’s perspective we discover in Judges 2:20-3:4 that the Lord left the ungodly nations in order to test Israel.

The professing church is facing a similar test today. We are being tested by the ungodly to reveal whether we will hold fast to and obey the word of the Lord, or not (3:4). Testing is a good thing; without it many might go through life believing their eternal destiny was heaven when in fact it was not. I have heard many testimonies of people who had believed they were Christians but on hearing a faithful Gospel presentation discovered that they had been “Christian” in name only.

This current test is revealing a division among professing Christians; between those who believe God’s word and those who do not. The tares and the wheat are being exposed by their fruit in preparation for the harvest when a complete separation will be effected. Following that separation the Lord will remove His true Church from the earth in readiness for the outpouring of His wrath on the whole earth.

In His prayer the Lord prayed to the Father, “They were yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word,” “I have given them Your word” and “Sanctify them by Your Word” (John 17:6, 14, 17). That which separates true believers from merely professing believers is their faith in the words of Jesus expressed in their own words and actions. Those who deny the words of Jesus, and thereby call Him a liar, cannot possibly be His disciples.

Each generation must be tested to expose false profession and reveal the truly born of God. That is what we are observing today.

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Mature in Christ #8: Nourished for Growth

Reference: 1 Peter 2:1-3

If you would like to turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 2:1-3. They may be fairly familiar words to you, but we trust that as you dig and delve into them, as we do that together, that you will be blessed, encouraged, and challenged – to do what that song said – that we would hear God as He speaks through His word. Our subject is Nourished for Growth.

“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”

1 Peter 2:1-3 (NASB)

In the Last Days newsletter, Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronising way, one tourist asked, “were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “no – only babies.”

Babies have four distinctive desires: to be clean, to eat, to grow, and to be loved. Peter uses the picture of that basic form of life – the earliest stages of human life – to describe for us what’s necessary to accomplish what he’s already brought out that God is doing in us: preparing us for heaven. By the way – heaven will be nothing like anything we’ve ever seen upon this earth. Why? Not only because it’s the domain of God, but because He will have stripped everything from us that is not of Him. We will be a radiant reflection of Him, we will be pure love, pure grace, because we will be in the presence of eternal love and grace. There will not be one contrary aspect to our lives.

Sometimes, if you’re not careful, it’s easy to rest on your laurels: “well, I am the way that I am – and you just have to put up with it.” God doesn’t want to put up with it. He wants to change you. He started when He first drew you to himself. He isn’t finished with you yet – in case you think you’ve arrived – you’re still a work in progress. …

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Mature in Christ #7: “Marks of Maturity”

Reference: Philippians 1:9-11

We are going to come in our Word to Philippians 1:9-11. This is number 7 in our series “Mature in Christ”. One of the things out of the previous series on the life of Joseph that really struck us was the contrast between the spiritual maturity of Joseph, and the immaturity of his brothers – even at the later stages of life when they feared that he would have retribution on them; they had not understood that all the way along the principles upon which Joseph’s life was operating. It’s deeply concerned me that often in church life we see an inconsistency between the length of time folk have been in Christ, been in the church, and some very irreconcilable behaviours. It lay on me as a burden that we look at the issue of Maturity in Christ. Continue reading