With All My Heart

“We know that when He [Jesus] is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

1 John 3:2

We may wonder what life will be like when we have passed on to be with Jesus. The Bible doesn’t give as much of a description as we might like but there are clues. Most descriptions have to do with nature rather than material things although some passages do describe physical attributes of the new material world.

To Jesus and the New Testament writers the physical aspects are of secondary importance. The prime aspect of our future with Jesus and with each other is that of what we will be like in nature. In the verse above, John writes that we will be like Jesus. Since Christ is in us we should expect that His nature will be expressed more and more as we learn of Him and grow in faith in Him and His word. For the present, we fall short and that grieves us but in the resurrection we shall be just like Him.

When Jesus was asked by an expert in the law what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked him what was written in the law. His response was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This man knew that he couldn’t achieve that so asked for clarification. Jesus’ answer gives us the account of the Good Samaritan.

For now we all fall short but it is a description of what we are in Christ and shall be when with Him (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus loves the Father in this way and so will we. Little by little His nature will be expressed in our lives as we allow Him to live in us. It will be completed and perfected when we pass into His presence.

Read and pray the verse again; but this time, personalise it as a witness of faith that He will accomplish it:

“I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, and with all my mind. And my neighbour as myself”

This is a description of you and all who have trusted Jesus as we will be in His eternal kingdom. It is the fulfilment of the New Covenant. What is left but to give glory, praise and thanks to God for His amazing Gift in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and to work out what He has worked in? “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”  (Philippians 1:6; 2:12).

With All Your Mind

“The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.”

1 Timothy 4:1, 2

None of us like to hear that someone we love and care for has taken on board teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ that we know is false. We like it even less when that person is someone we have prayed for and shared the truth with. However, denying that they are deceived doesn’t help. It is the truth that sets people free, not lies.

We live in a world that gives false hope. Many churches that claim to be “Christian” also give false hope. The doctrines (teaching) they give is contrary to truth and no matter how moral an organisation may be, if it teaches contrary to the Bible then it is leading people into hell.

We would do well to heed Paul’s warning. Hiding our heads in the sand will not help. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy was to give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (4:13). The Bereans were commended for doing just this so as to protect themselves from erroneous teaching.

In the past few decades, in churches, there appears to have been a move away from absolute truth in favour of appeasing the ideologically perverse world or having a good feeling in “worship.” For many, worship has become an experience in which the truth of the Bible is inconvenient. The cry in many churches has been to cut back on teaching the Bible and have more bland songs that touch the emotions and not the intellect or mind. Jesus said we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Worship without sound teaching is not worship and it must involve the mind. Jesus said that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30) One of the saddest things is to see someone we care for reject the true Gospel and accept the lie. The best thing we can do for them is to cling to the truth, not water it down or compromise it. Love and truth go hand in hand and are inseparable just as worship and sound teaching go hand in hand and are inseparable. These are foundational aspects of the Divine Nature of our God and essential for our fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3).

Choosing a Destiny

“God is not a man that He should lie” Numbers 23:19

The basis of all the covenants that God has ever made is that He speaks the truth with no hidden agenda. To doubt or reject God’s word is to call Him a liar. An example of this can be seen in Romans 3:10 where Paul writes, quoting from Psalm 14, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are those who reject these truths and thus call God a liar. John writes as much in his letter, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Jesus claimed to be Truth (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; 8:32) and God’s word to be truth (John 17:17). In so doing He was saying that God does not lie and therefore His word can be relied upon. Men do lie so when it comes to a choice whose word are we going to believe?

In his greeting to Titus, Paul states clearly that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The best a man can say is that he is not lying or will not lie but he cannot truthfully say that he cannot lie. Paul gives us the reason God cannot lie in 2 Timothy 2:13, “He cannot deny Himself.” What this means is that God always speaks and acts according to His Divine Nature. We can observe this in His Creation. All creatures and plants conform to their kind and can do nothing else. In breeding animals and growing crops we rely on this fact.

When it comes to God’s covenants and promises we can rely on them because God cannot lie. If we create an image of God in our minds that is like people we will not be inclined to believe His word. As such we call Him unfaithful and a liar. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He lied to Eve (Genesis 3:5) and he has been lying to people ever since.

In creating us in His image God has given us free will to make our own choice. We can choose to believe God or we can choose to believe Satan. Our choice will determine the course and destiny of our lives. Believe God to eternal life (John 5:24) or believe Satan’s lie to eternity in the “lake of fire and brimstone” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). We are choosing to be either in Christ’s presence or Satan’s.

As We Are

“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With the blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.” Psalm 18:25, 26

Psalm 18 was written by King David after he had experienced the Lord in many ways and on many occasions. One who has only heard or learned about God could not write in such a way. He didn’t just know about the Lord, he knew the Lord personally and intimately through revelation and life’s experiences. Many people learn about God but few know Him in life experience.

We tend to see others and God as we ourselves are. The Lord says, “You thought I was altogether like you” (Psalm 50:21). The devious person will see God as shrewd; the legalist will see Him as a dictator; the compassionate person will see God as compassionate and the merciful will see Him as merciful. What we think of the Divine Nature can be seen in the way we relate to others.

The Bible is given to us by God to correct us where we are not thinking correctly on many things but especially in regard to Him. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). As we learn about God from the Scriptures and accept the teaching the Holy Spirit changes us into His likeness. When we read and receive such God-breathed words as, “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” Titus 3:4-6), we melt in our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to change us. Then we will see God as merciful, loving, gracious and righteous. “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2). We don’t have to wait until heaven to see Jesus as He is. Through believing God’s word and experiencing Jesus Christ in daily living we are being transformed into His likeness (Romans 12:2) and have in our minds a more accurate understanding of His nature.

Our theories about Jesus Christ are tested in our life experiences. When they don’t seem to match we are forced to go back to Scripture. If they do match we rejoice in having a more intimate understanding of Him and fellowship with Him.

An unbelieving world may say that it is blind faith or brain washing but the one who not only knows about God but has also experienced Him personally through Jesus Christ will not be moved by such folly (Psalm 14:1).

We will tend to see God and other people as we are ourselves. Only through God’s word can we discover the truth about Him and ourselves and then He will ensure we go through the appropriate tests and trials to conform us to His likeness. The experiences of life will either confirm we are correct or drive us back to His word for correction. When it appears that God is not meeting our expectations it may be because we have a wrong view of Him and therefore wrong expectations.

Compassion of a Mother

“We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7

There are a number of comparisons in relationships to that of a mother to her child in the Bible. The Lord Himself compares His compassion for Israel with that of a mother for her nursing child, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). It is most unlikely that a mother would ever cease to have compassion for the child she has nursed. The Lord states that He will never cease to have that kind of compassion for Israel. The Lord used a mother’s love and compassion for her child because it is the nearest earthly evidence available that compares to His own kind of love and compassion for Israel. Had there been a better illustration available he would have used it.

The other side of the coin is that the love and compassion a mother has for her child is evidence that she is created in the image of God. That a mother might forget is a consequence of the fall which has corrupted the image of God in mankind but that was never a part of the original creation.

Paul also uses a mother’s love and compassion for her nursing child for comparison (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8). In an attempt to remind the Christians in Thessalonica of his own love and compassion for them he speaks of the great affection that a nursing mother has for her child and the pain she suffers upon separation or rejection. He, too, could find no greater example of tender compassion than that of a mother for her nursing child. Clearly, the context reveals that he would be broken hearted if they turned away from him and the teaching he had given them.

The greater the love one has for another, the greater the pain when the object of love suffers. A woman suffers pain in child-birth but it doesn’t end there. “A foolish man despises his mother” (Proverbs 15:20), “a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1) and, “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

Not all pain for a mother comes from the foolish behaviour of her child. Mothers feel more acutely than others the suffering of the child they have given birth to and nursed when they suffer injury, are ill or suffer abuse at the hands of others. Mary knew this kind of suffering. Simeon told her before it happened that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35). The context is Simeon’s prophecy of the opposition and persecution that Jesus would endure. Mary’s pain no doubt was at its worst when Jesus was on the cross and the spear pierced His body. It would be as though a sword had pierced her own soul. Her pain turned to joy when she saw Jesus risen from the dead (Acts 1:14).

“God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Without the witness of mothers our comprehension of our God and His Divine Nature would be the poorer.

Renewing Our Minds

“Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17)

It is often difficult for translators of the Bible to fully express the meaning of a sentence without becoming too ‘wordy.’ English has become a very imprecise language and even more so with each passing year.

The preaching of Jesus matches the preaching of John the Baptist exactly in its core (cf Matthew 3:2) and there is no Biblical or theological reason why our message to the world should be any different. It is as true today as it was then – even taking eschatology into account.

Entrance into the kingdom of heaven (God) has always been by the same means. On man’s part, it is repentance; and on God’s part, it is the sinless sacrifice for sin by Jesus Christ.

No person will see the kingdom of heaven who has not first repented. Repentance is a total change of direction with regard to God. Once we did not believe Him, now we believe Him; once we did not believe Jesus is God, now we do believe He is God. That is repentance! A change of direction in any aspect of life will produce a different orientation that will, in turn, produce different direction, motivation and goals. These will produce visible changes in words and actions. The evidence of reversing direction is a changed life. Without this evidence there cannot have been repentance.

The grammar used in this word means that repentance is not a once-only action. Obviously it has a starting point but John and Jesus use grammar that indicates that it will be a characteristic of the normal Christian life. This is the living reality of Romans 12:2 where Paul wrote, “… do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

As we read the Bible we will become aware of thoughts, words and actions that are contrary to the Divine Nature. When we do, we repent. That is, we change our action or thinking so that it is in accord with the Word of God which is an expression of the Divine Nature. This is what Paul meant when he wrote “renewing of your mind.”

Genuine repentance will produce a changed life and part of that changed life is continuing to repent as we become aware of anything in our lives that is contrary to God’s nature. Just as our first repentance is in response to the Spirit of God through the Word of God, so will all subsequent repentance and we will be “kept by the power of God through faith” (1 Peter 1:5).

For the Lord’s Sake

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)

One may wonder whether James had Daniel’s prayer in mind when he wrote this. The prayer of Daniel recorded in Daniel 9:4-19 seems to exemplify what James wrote centuries later. In brief let us summarise the content of the prayer.

First, this prayer was motivated by reading Scripture, in particular, that written by the prophet Jeremiah (v 2).

Secondly, Daniel was determined to commune with the Lord with a view to understanding Jeremiah’s prophecy and it’s relevance to his present day (v 3).

Thirdly, he majors on the nature of the Lord: The Lord keeps His covenants and is faithful to His word (v 4), is merciful (v 4, 9, 18) and forgiving (v 9, 19). The Lord is righteous in Being (v 7) and therefore righteous in all His actions (v 14).

Fourthly, in contrast to the nature of the Lord, Israel had been quite the contrary. Israel had not been faithful to the covenant on Mount Sinai (v 5, 7); it had not heeded the warnings and word of God that came through the prophets (v 6) and had been disobedient to the word of the Lord that came through Moses (v 10, 11).

To sum up, Daniel affirms to the Lord that the Lord is right to judge Israel as He has for in doing so He has remained faithful to the word that came through Moses and to His Divine Nature (v 13).

Israel had nothing worthy of merit as a reason for the Lord’s favour (v 18) yet Daniel asks for it. Israel had sinned against the Lord (v 8) and there was no reason or means by which they merited any favour in themselves. If Israel was to be forgiven and restored it had to be based solely on the Lord’s nature and expression of that nature.

It isn’t surprising therefore that we find Daniel basing the hearing of his prayer (v 17) and Israel’s forgiveness (v 19) as being for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of the revelation of the Divine Nature in the world, and not for Israel’s name.

Daniel was a righteous man who least needed such a prayer for himself. He did not characterise the nature of Israel as described in his prayer. But it was this very absence that qualified him to pray such a prayer. Besides, who else would? Those who love sin will never even consider praying anything.

In this Daniel is a kind of foreshadow of the Lord Jesus Christ. The only Righteous One, the one who had no need of suffering for sin, took upon Himself our sin for His own name’s sake and most definitely not because we, even in the slightest, merited any favour.

We do well to keep in mind that God responded to the prayer of just one man, just as James later wrote He would, and gave us one of the most blessed revelations in all Scripture.

Who will be a Daniel today?