I am Alive

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”

Ephesians 2:1

There can hardly be sweeter words than these to a person who knows that they were spiritually dead with no fellowship with God but now have intimacy with Him. What real joy can one have if they only have a vague and uncertain hope of heaven? John writes, “These things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). He is referring to the very words of Jesus who said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Joy is in knowing (1 John 5:13).

Our Creator had placed Adam in His beautiful garden and said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). We know that he did eat and he did die immediately in regard to intimacy of fellowship with God and he brought both spiritual and bodily death to all mankind (Romans 5:12).

Clearly, from the verse at the head of this article, we can be made alive to God again and this is the foundation of our joy. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul writes that being made alive is a gift. That is, we have done nothing to deserve or merit God’s favour. “The gift of God” might be better translated, “The Gift which is God.” God Himself is the Gift in the Person of Jesus Christ. At Christmas we focus on the arrival of that Gift and at Easter we focus on the means by which He made it possible for we who were dead to be made alive.

We will be filled with joy when we are aware that salvation is God’s gift to anyone who will believe Him. Who can attain to God’s righteousness and holiness from conception to bodily death? Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and he goes on to write, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As we read Ephesians 2:1 again, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” our hearts leap with joy that He has given the perfect Gift which is His Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

God With Us

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel.”

Matthew 1:23

It may be that I have shared something like this with you before but I cannot stop having joy in my heart over this name given to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Emmanuel” means God with us. The name Jesus which means that He takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and Emmanuel has the promise of His permanent presence with us now by the Holy Spirit and forever by His physical presence.

On that first evening in the Garden of Eden God came down to meet with Adam and Eve. He had spoken to Adam earlier in the day and given the one restriction to his freedom but now He came to socialise with Adam and gave him the responsibility of naming all the animals and birds. As I read the Bible the theme of Emmanuel (God with us) is consistent and insistent. God wants to dwell with man who He created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Sin had made that impossible but God had a perfect plan to make an end to sin. He would send His Son. In order to deal with mankind’s sin His Son would have to take on humanity. This was accomplished through His birth. Mary was the mother of His humanity and she is a physical descendant from King David. Jesus is the eternal Son who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-4).

Jesus’ presence on the earth was Emmanuel, God with us, but until the cross, empty tomb and resurrection it could never be as intimate as God intended. That is now possible and when He returns He will dwell with His creation forever.

There are many things people give as the reason for Christmas but the only real reason is, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

We do not worship a baby as the shepherds did nor a young child as the men from the east did. We worship the risen Saviour and as part of this we remember how He entered the world. In the process we do not forget why He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He took on humanity in body to “take away the sin of the world.” The giving and receiving of gifts reminds us that God gave His Son in order that we might receive His Son as a gift with thanksgiving (John 1:12).

Fully Persuaded

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

Romans 8:35

It isn’t unusual for new believers and sometimes people who have been Christians for a long while to question their faith. There are a number of triggers that the accuser may use to set raise doubt in our minds. He is the accuser so when we stumble in our walk and sin he is quick to accuse us to our spirit, our conscience and to God with a view to creating doubt in our minds. He did that with Eve in the Garden of Eden; “Has God indeed said …” (Genesis 3:1) and has been at it ever since. Jesus gives us the correct response to this; “It is written …” (Matthew 4:1-11).

There will be occasions when we sense the biting accusations of Satan more acutely but God allows them for His purpose and our benefit. He may let us remember past sin to humble our hearts and remind us of His grace and forgiveness. That will produce a thankful and worshipful heart in one with a right spirit toward God. Quite likely we have all done something immensely foolish and/or sinful at some time, perhaps many times. The memory of these is intended to restore humility before God and a thankful heart. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We are as secure in Christ as Christ Himself is in God.

If Satan’s accusations bring doubt or a sense of failure then they are God’s means of bringing us back to that place of reaching out to Jesus. Peter was able to confidently step out of the boat and walk on water but when he was reminded of the circumstances around him he began to sink and would have drowned. He reached out to Jesus and Jesus was immediately there with a strong arm to lift him out and walk him to the boat.

When a Christian continues in doubt it likely means they have not really reached out to Jesus and trusted Him to deliver them. They may want Jesus to deliver them from the circumstances but He may wish to show His strength and faithfulness by delivering them through the circumstances. Paul is convinced that tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, poverty, peril and the sword cannot separate him or us from God’s love because we are in Christ (v 35). We share in the life of the Conqueror (v 36) and nothing above or beneath can separate us from the love of God (vs 38-39). We can have this same assurance if we will choose to believe what God has said in His word.

Deifying Mankind

“The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them all”

Psalm 89:11

If we base our knowledge on the theory of evolution we might unwittingly find ourselves right where the world now finds itself. We are led to believe that the world is in crisis by way of living creatures becoming extinct and a change in the climate that will lead to the destruction of all things living, including mankind.

Listening to David Attenborough one could easily be led into thinking that evolution is guided by the intelligence and will of the creature. While he doesn’t say so directly in as many words this subtle implication is clear. He marvels at the beauty, complexity and built-for-purpose intricacies of living things but attributes them to the living thing itself as though it had guided its evolution into the perfect creature it is without any input from outside its being.

If (as many believe) living creatures have evolved, i.e. intelligently and purposefully created themselves to perfection, then the highest order in the creation must also have created itself. The highest order in the creation by far is mankind. What we have in the theory of evolution is therefore the deification and worship of man. This began in the first days when Adam and believed Satan’s lie, “You will be like God” and “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:5, 3). Ultimately, the worship of man is worship of Satan because it is his lie.

Peter (2 Peter 3:1-13) and Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-9) warned of the perilous times ahead that will result from believing Satan’s lie. The circumstances they describe are now evident. Attempts by mankind to improve itself have proven and will prove futile. Knowledge may have increased but character has not changed. Education has not improved man’s character. It has opened up new ways to express sinfulness. Turning from God, who alone gives life, means a decline into physical and spiritual death (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27). Deifying mankind will not prevent climate change in the future (see e.g. Revelation 6:12-17). Human effort to save this world will prove futile. Only Jesus Christ’s return will save the world (Matthew 24:22). Yes, we should care for our environment as a delegated responsibility from God (Genesis 2:15) but not as an act of deified mankind in defiance of our Creator (Revelation 4:11).

Face to Face

Face to Face

“I hope to see you shortly and we shall speak face to face”

3 John 14 (see also 2 John 12)

Letters and emails are terribly impersonal and can often be misunderstood. The reader is inclined to read their own thoughts and circumstances into the letter received. It can also be difficult to convey a message clearly on the phone. John had a message for his readers that he did not want misunderstood so he wanted to speak to them face to face. There have been many times that I have gone out of my way to speak to someone face to face because I didn’t want to risk confusion that may arise from a letter.

As we read the Bible we observe that the Lord appeared to quite a few men face to face at times when He wanted to communicate important information. He appeared to Abraham on several occasions in the process of making and confirming the Covenant. Each time more information was given and/or affirmed. He also met with Jacob face to face before he was permitted to re-enter the Promised Land (Genesis 32:30).

Moses met the Lord face to face on several occasions beginning at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). He was the only one who could communicate with the Lord after Israel’s rebellion and he spoke with the Lord face to face (Exodus 33:11). Before the conquest of the Promised Land Joshua met the Lord face to face (Joshua 5:14) and so did Gideon prior to battle (Judges 6:22).

The Lord promised He would speak with Israel face to face when they are restored to the Promised Land (Ezekiel 20:35). When Jesus returns and establishes His earthly kingdom He will fulfil this (Ezekiel 39:28-29). Others saw visions of the Lord that caused them to fall on their faces before Him (e.g. Daniel 10:5-6).

Job knew that one day he would see the Lord face to face (Job 19:25-26). The apostle Paul had that expectation as well (1 Corinthians 13:12) and John confirms that all believers will see Jesus face to face (Revelation 22:4). When we have an important message for someone we prefer to give it face to face. The Lord speaks to us through His word, affirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but to convey the Gospel to an unsaved person the Lord’s way is (generally) to send His messenger to speak face to face. This remains the most effective way. Jesus was the first such messenger; and if we are His, we are now His messengers.

Image

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Mark 12:17

The chief priests, scribes and the elders in the temple (11:27) could see that their authority was under threat. They sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus with a view to discrediting Him and not to discern the source of Christ’s authority (12:13). Paying taxes to Caesar was a sore point in Israel. Their view was that taxes should go to the temple not Caesar. If Jesus answered their question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not” (v 14) with either a yes or no it would have been incorrect and provided an opportunity to discredit Him. Neither yes nor no was the correct answer.

Jesus’ answer agrees with scripture that we should pray for and support earthly governments but that we also have the privilege and responsibility of providing for His ministry on earth.

In focusing attention on the image of Caesar on the coin He confirmed that obligations to human government should be met. It is God who raises up and puts down kingdoms. It was the Roman Empire that had provided the circumstances for Messiah to enter the world and fulfill scripture at that time.

Where there is Caesar’s image that object belongs to Caesar. The extrapolation of that is that where God’s image is, that belongs to God. We read in Genesis 1:26-27 that mankind was created in God’s image. Jesus said that the coin which bears the image of Caesar should be rendered to Caesar and therefore man, created in and bearing the image of God should be rendered to God. This is what Paul was thinking when he wrote, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1) and “You were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

That we are created in God’s image means that we belong to Him to serve and worship Him. This is the basis for Jesus’ demand of supreme love, supreme loyalty and supreme devotion to Him without which we cannot be one of His disciples (Luke 14:25-32).

The image of God in man was corrupted when sin entered the world but when Jesus, “the image of the invisible God,” (Colossians 1:15) came into the world and suffered the cross He opened the door for the image of God to be recreated in any person who will receive Him (John 1:12-13; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Insanity of Idolatry

“It is the land of carved images and they are insane with their idols”

Jeremiah 50:38

The reason for God’s judgment of a nation is expressed in several ways but it always boils down to man’s pride.

Against the people of Moab Jeremiah expresses the reason for God’s judgment as being arrogance: “Because he exalted himself against the Lord” (Jeremiah 48:42). The people of Moab are not alone in this. Satan’s lie (Genesis 3:5) is gladly consumed these days although the source of the lie is denied. In order to do what seems right in their own eyes people declare they are answerable to no one. Exalting themselves against the Lord they deny His existence and His word. In doing this they confirm their enmity with God. Mercy, love and forgiveness are available through Jesus Christ but when God’s existence is denied all these provisions are also.

Against Babylon Jeremiah expresses the reason for God’s judgment as being idolatry (Jeremiah 50:38 quoted above). We still observe people worshipping the works of their hands. The objects of worship may not be in the form of statues of wood, stone or metals. The things that are idolised may be cities, buildings, ships, bridges and other structures. There are TV programs that assist in worshipping these works of the hands of people. Likewise people may worship the talents of athletes, singers and actors.

Rarely does anyone give God the glory for these abilities and talents because they prefer to exalt themselves above the Lord. They forget that it is God who “made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, and stretched out the heaven by His understanding” (Jeremiah 51:15). It is the Lord who created all the materials, laws and principles in creation that people use to make their objects or perform their art yet they will not give Him the glory. We ought to remember that our next heartbeat and our next breath are at His pleasure.

The last time God judged the whole earth He sent a flood. The rainbow is both a sign that He has judged and destroyed the whole earth, except those on the ark, and that He will not do so again by flood. Next time it will be by fire (2 Peter 3:7, 12).

Jesus gives us the principle that we should follow: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Hiding Behind a Lie

“Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it, ‘He did not make me’? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?”

Isaiah 29:16

It seems Isaiah had a vision of our present world, for this is the great lie of our time. With the coming of the theory of evolution we have done just as Isaiah has said. Mankind is endeavouring to esteem himself as equal to God and also claiming to have better knowledge than God.

Those who believe the evolutionary lie are in effect saying that man created himself and that is frequently the inference made in public presentations such as television documentaries. If the creature created itself, it is as a god. When people attempt to discredit the biblical account of creation they are saying they have a better understanding than God of how the creation came into being.

Because people know that they are sinners before a holy God they must build a wall of lies behind which they try to hide their consciences. Isaiah foresaw this when he wrote, “For we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves” (28:15). Hiding behind man-made lies has got to be one of the more foolish things people do. God is not mocked or deceived. He is well able to discern the hearts of people.

Just as Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed the Lord (albeit disguised as blaming Eve), so people who have swallowed the lie of evolution will think they can, on judgment day, blame someone else. They cannot. The truth is available for anyone who desires to know it and Jesus Himself guarantees to reveal truth to anyone who really wants to know (John 7:17). In Romans Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world His visible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). God’s creative and sustaining power are available for all to see but “professing to be wise they became fools” (Romans 1:22).

Let us all faithfully proclaim the truth of God so that He is able to deliver more people from the man-made lies and the overriding lies of Satan: “I will be like the Most High,” (Isaiah 14:14) and, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

Why the Rainbow?

“And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:12-17
rainbow

The sign of the rainbow was given to remind us of the Great Flood. This flood was God’s means to destroy all men – except for those who trusted Him for salvation by entering the ark. After saving Noah and his family in the ark, God instituted the rainbow as a sign to remind all mankind that the Flood was a real historical event, that Noah and his family were saved via the ark, and that such a Flood would never happen again.

So the rainbow is a reminder of the flood judgment; and a symbol, or picture, of God’s covenant promise not to flood the world again. The ark is a picture of the salvation offered to us through Jesus Christ. The rainbow is a reminder of God’s judgment and His grace. In God’s Word we are warned of the coming judgment of fire, which will be the second worldwide judgment of all who refuse to accept God’s free gift of salvation.

Rainbow

Whenever you see the colours of the rainbow, remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that you can have eternal life free from sin!

As in the Day

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”

Genesis 6:5

This was the assessment of the Lord concerning mankind prior to the world wide flood in the days of Noah. By the grace of God Noah and his family were saved to accomplish God’s plan and purpose. The people of Noah’s day were warned by Noah’s testimony as he built the ark. Those who ignored his testimony went on as before and were drowned in the flood.

Jesus warned that His second coming will be in similar circumstances (Matthew 24:37f; Luke 17:26f). In these days God’s warning of impending judgment and the outpouring of His wrath against sin is through the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. Those who do not heed His words will carry on as before and be unprepared for His judgment. Those who receive it will be saved from wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Romans 5:9).

In the days of the Tribulation the Lord’s witnesses will be 144,000 Jews who will preach the Gospel to all nations and ethnic groups in all languages. Those who carry on as before and ignore the warning are destined to endure God’s wrath. Those who receive it will be delivered through it or from it by bodily death.

Jesus also gave the illustration of the city of Sodom (Luke 17:28f). Lot had been less than faithful in warning the people that their wickedness would bring an outpouring of God’s wrath. The judgment of God fell upon those people also.

Denying either of these historical events is to call Jesus a liar and renders one carrying on as before and unprepared for the wrath to come. His words are clear; when every intention of the thoughts of the heart of mankind is evil, then we can expect God to again judge the earth.

God is presently allowing Satan to test the hearts of nations and of individuals to reveal openly whether they are truly His or not. He is giving us an opportunity to see the world as it would be without His righteousness and without Him. Perhaps some will turn to Him and call for mercy.

Of that great city, Nineveh, the Lord said, “Their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah was sent to warn them. With reluctance he went saying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Unlike in the days of Noah and the days of Lot the Ninevites had a change of heart and pleaded for God’s mercy. They believed the warning and acted upon it through prayer and fasting believing that God might show them mercy. God will always respond to genuine calls for mercy.

It is not difficult to see that our world is at the threshold. Those who know the truth have the privilege and responsibility of warning others. We don’t know whether the world, our nation or our neighbour will respond in the way the people in Noah’s and Lot’s days did or in the way that Nineveh did so let us persevere in sharing the Gospel of grace and see what the Lord does in the hearts of people and nations.