Decisions to make?

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​“The mere reading of the Word of God has power to communicate the life of God to us mentally, morally, and spiritually.”

– Oswald Chambers

Living in this part of the world, you often hear people say ‘Insha’allah’, or, ‘God willing’. If you’ve lived here long enough you’ll know that this can actually mean a whole manner of things…

But, the notion of ‘If the Lord wills it’ is actually very Biblical (have a look at James 4.13-15 for example).

People then ask, ‘How can I know God’s will for my life?’, and that is a great question.

God (most usually) speaks to us in four ways…

Through prayer, through His Word, through circumstance, and through other believers.

So, if you’ve prayed about a big decision and nothing is happening, if other believers are unsure about the road you’re heading down, if everything about the circumstances points to a bad choice, and if you’re doing something that goes against how the Bible says we ought to live, its hard to say that God is in it. 

But, if you’ve spoken to other believers and they are positive, if all the circumstances align in a way you could never have engineered or even imagined, if you’re living in the light of His Word, and if you’re prayed up and God is opening doors, then what are you waiting for? 

He is speaking to you, He is opening a door for you, He is directing your steps. 

If we wait for the audible voice of God – Jesus’ baptism-style – we may be waiting a long time. 

Pray, read His Word, look around at how He is already working in your life, and talk to other believers…then go for it!

Hebrews 1.1-2 – Many Into One

The letter to the Hebrews is a great part of the Bible. It almost typifies the whole thing; it’s a book about how much greater than everything else Jesus is. We have been preaching through it verse by verse for a while at Saar Fellowship, and we’ll resume this study in a couple of weeks. If you want to refresh yourself before we do, you can do so here. The letter begins like this,

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Hebrews 1.1-2

The anonymous writer begins by referencing his shared Jewish past with his audience by saying long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. As we have been working through the Minor Prophets over the summer, we have said that each and every one of them points to Jesus, as does all of Scripture (John 5.39-40). So God spoke to the previous generations referenced here by the prophets, who all pointed to the coming of Jesus. 

Now, says the writer to the Hebrews, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.


 

The whole counsel of God’s Word anticipates Jesus, previews Jesus, prepares us for Jesus, reveals Jesus, details Jesus, reviews Jesus, and promises that He will come again.

For us, today, now, just think – how does this change me? How does this affect my day? How does the fact that the entire Divine narrative points to One person impact me? 

God’s message is now so concentrated, the smoke has lifted and we see clearer than ever that Jesus is the way, Jesus is the truth, and Jesus is the life, and that without Him, we will never be in right relationship with God the Father (John 14.6).

In visual form, it looks like this,

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many into one.

This One person wants to have a personal relationship with you. This person died a substitutionary death for you so that, if you believe in Him, your sins won’t be held against you. As the message of the Prophets went from many into One, so did the consequences of our sin; many consequences into One person. 

Now we know this to be true, the choice is ours – what will we do?

29.07.19 – Refreshing – Philemon 1.20

Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the
Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

At first glance, there is nothing different about what Paul says here, is there. He has been writing to Philemon and begins his closure with this confident exhortation, refresh my heart in Christ.

The funny thing is though, where we read heart, Paul actually used the word σπλάγχνον, which, most commonly, means bowels or intestines. So, is Paul writing to Philemon to schedule a colonoscopy?

Literally, σπλάγχνον does mean bowels or intestines, but figuratively it carries the meaning of the place of deepest emotion in your body. So, for us in 2019, we would say something like ‘He has a broken heart’, or, ‘My heart is just so full of love for her’, or something to that effect. Simply, when we describe the deepest emotion we could feel, we would connect it to the heart. Back in Paul’s day, the deepest emotions were thought to come from the deepest place inside you, in the same way you may hear something like ‘I feel it in the pit of my stomach’.

All this to say, Paul is talking about serious, deep rooted, from-the- inside-out refreshment, and this certainly doesn’t come from temporal or temporary sources.

In context, Paul is talking about receiving a runaway slave back as a brother, and he knows that just as Philemon came to a saving faith in Christ through Paul (v.19b), it appears that Onesimus did too (v.8-16). Paul knows we all share in one Lord, we all have one Saviour, and in Him there is no distinction.

So, the deep refreshment in Christ that Paul is looking for?

Seeing others live out the business of the Gospel.

Someone Paul has pointed to Christ is now doing the work of Christ; forgiving, restoring, fellowshipping, and encouraging. What deep refreshment this would bring to Paul.

Think on this today – Who can I refresh in the Lord by doing the work of the Gospel?

Marks Of A True Christian

This originally appeared on the Saar Fellowship app as three daily devotionals in May/June 2019.


After being exhorted to serve their local assembly of believers – something we all need regular reminding of – Paul then starts a section detailing the character and actions of believers (vv.9-21), almost like instructing them how to live as a disciple of Jesus. It’s broken into three parts; relating to those in the family, relating to those outside the family, and relating to those in the church, bigger picture. Today, then, in the family. 

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

In the family, love should be genuine, and we should have the strongest dislike for what is evil. We hold fast to what is good by honouring God in all we do, both in our individual families and in the church family. One way to do this is by holding His Word in the highest regard. His Word is His revealed will to us whilst we are here on His earth, His Word became flesh and dwelt among us, His Word is what changes us, His Word is what saves our souls (James 1.21b). 

V.11 is great, isn’t it, simply – don’t be lazy! Get off the sofa and do some stuff! Get involved and serve, serve the Lord by serving His people, serve the Lord by serving His bride, the church, serve the Lord and do not be slothful, don’t be lazy! Yesterday we talked about gifts, we are all uniquely but in a unified manner gifted to serve each other, it takes dozens of people to make a church service happen, dozens of different people! Don’t be slothful, get involved and join them! Contribute to the needs to the saints by serving the Lord.

These few short verses could not be clearer; a believer in Jesus is one who serves. As James writes, I will show you my faith by my works (2.18b). 

So, mark of a true Christian in the family – one who serves the rest.


After exhorting the Roman believers, and us by extension, to contribute to the overall health of the assembly (vv.9-13), Paul now turns attention in one verse to how we interact with those outside the church family.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 

Is this not the hardest thing in the world sometimes? To bless those who persecute you seems to unnatural, doesn’t it. We are not talking about minor disruptions here, either. Paul is talking about serious persecution, perhaps even to death. Written around 57 A.D., believers in Rome were just a few years away from the first wave of organised persecution against them by the Roman Empire, so even now, in 57A.D., the climate must not have been too receptive to Christians.

Rather than trying to claim persecution for something like poor driving on the highway, rather than trying to claim persecution when we are passed over for a promotion at work which had nothing to do with your faith, rather than trying to claim persecution when things in our lives are just not going too well on that particular day, we should remember the generations that went before us, and for that matter, those who still face trials and tribulations like this in different parts of the world. There are believers who are targeted for their Christian faith, there are believers, heartbreakingly, who are killed for their Christian faith. 

What does the Word of God exhort us to do? Bless and do not curse. In such a radical call to love, we are told to model the love of Christ Himself when He was killed for His mission. In the midst of His most painful experience on earth – both physically and spiritually – Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

We too are called to love this radically, this counter-culturally, and this fervently. Bless, do not curse those who mock you for your faith, pray for those who persecute you, bless them by raising their name in prayer to the Lord.

It is what He did, and it is what we are called to do.


Finally in this mini-series right in Romans 12, Paul exhorts us to certain behaviours in relation to the church, bigger picture.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

What a list of character traits to display, we could talk for days about this! 

How do we do v.15? By doing v.16! Living in harmony with each other, genuinely caring about each other will result in us rejoicing when our family rejoices, and weeping with those who are weeping. Being in unity results in this kind of relationship with each other. 

There are a couple of key words in v.18, so far as it depends on you…Here we see that we are to do our best to live peaceably with all, but that sometimes, the world, the flesh, and the devil will put people in our paths that it is just not possible to live peaceably with. Now, how we handle this will be a mark of our true Christianity. We do not curse those who oppose us, we do not fight with those who antagonise us, we do not slander those we do not agree with, simply, we bless them and move on.

When we relate to those in our church family, those outside of it, and really anyone we cross paths with in this way, there will be something noticeably different about us.

You can take this to the bank – what we read in Romans 12.9-21 is not the standard pattern of human interaction, so when you conduct yourselves like this, you are witnessing for the Lord, you are representing your faith, you are mirroring Jesus to them. 

This will, through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit and His ability to convict people of their sins and turn them to Jesus, overcome evil with good. Our job is to simply live like this, reflect His love, mercy, and grace, and watch Him change lives for the better.

Science and God

‘…man [can] use his scientific discoveries in the advancement of human welfare.’

(H.C. Theissen).

Often times, science and God are put on opposing sides of an argument. However, science simply details and describes the wondrous works and designs of God, and can be a great tool in the hand of His people to improve human welfare, something surely close to the heart of our Father in heaven. 

Simply, science says how, but God says why. Science can tell us how things in life happen, but God gives us the reason why life happens.

In Job 38 we read of the wondrous works of God, then, a few pages forward in Psalm 111, we read;

Praise the Lord!

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,

in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the works of the Lord,

studied by all who delight in them.

God’s wonderful work invites us to study it.

Whether it be science, history, theology, philosophy…God’s great works deserve study. The greatness of God’s work invites close study. 

“There is a science laboratory in Cambridge, England, called the Cavendish Laboratory, named after the eighteenth-century English chemist and physicist Sir Henry Cavendish (1731–1810). It is distinguished by having the words of Psalm 111:2 inscribed over the entrance to its building as a charter for every believing scientist: Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”

(Boice)

So, science and God…opposing sides, no!

Working together to declare His majesty and wondrous works, yes!

22.04.19 – Romans 6.12-14 – Instruments for righteousness

In the fourteenth century two brothers fought for the right to rule over a dukedom in what is now Belgium. The elder brother’s name was Raynald, but he was commonly called “Crassus,”a Latin nickname meaning “fat”.

After a heated battle, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him and assumed the title of Duke over his lands. But instead of killing Raynald, Edward devised a sneaky solution. He had a room in the castle built around Crassus, a room with only one door. The door was not locked, the windows were not barred, and Edward promised Raynald that he could regain his land and his title any time that he wanted to. All he would have to do is leave the room. The obstacle to freedom was not in the doors or the windows, but with Raynald himself. Being grossly overweight, he could not fit through the door, even though it was of near-normal size. All Raynald needed to do was slim down to a smaller size, then walk out a free man, with all he had had before his defeat. However, his younger brother kept sending him an assortment of tasty treats, and Raynald’s desire to be free never beat his desire to eat (adapted from EnduringWord).

Today Paul writes on how we should use our bodies (your members) to please God,

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Paul has previously written that we are to consider ourselves dead to sin (6.11) in such a way that as the ways of the world have no influence over someone who has passed away, the ways of sin are to have no influence over us. Rather, Paul writes to the Romans, we are to present our bodies, our whole selves, to God as those who have been brought from death to life. 

Isn’t that what we celebrated yesterday? Being brought from death to life?

Isn’t that what Paul wrote about in 6.4-5? 

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

See, the Easter story isn’t self-contained and separate from the rest of God’s Word to us. It is one wonderful, seminal, foundational, and formative part, for sure, but the interconnectivity and interconnectedness of God’s Word is mind-blowing. 


Sin now has no dominion over us, death has no power over us, for we are not under law but under grace. We truly have been raised to a new life to walk in newness of life. 

All this considered, considering that sin no longer reigns over us, that we have a choice to not obey its passions, we have the power in us to make this choice, the logical question is how are we presenting our bodies?, and to what are we presenting them?


Point to ponder – Am I presenting my body to sin’s passions, or as a living sacrifice to God?

Prayer – Father, we thank you for the world-changing, paradigm-shifting events that took place on that first Easter weekend all those years ago. We thank you that one consequence of that is the fact that we can now present our bodies to you as instruments of righteousness, and that you have broken sin’s hold over us. Amen. 

Same same…but different

As part of the wonderful prayer we read in John 17, Jesus prays about this crazy idea that we would all be one with Him, as He is one with the Father… 

John 17.20-23

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

So we are all to be one with Jesus, who is one with God. 

Does that mean when I become a Christian I need to stop being me and start being someone else? 

Does that mean we are to be uniform in our appearance, all look the same?

Does that mean we are all to be uniform in human personality, perhaps try to all have the personality of Jesus? 

Simply, no. We are to hold the same values, be one with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…in spirit, but we certainly don’t need to all be the same people.

We need unity, not uniformity.

Unity is Divine, uniformity is human.

Acts of uniformity are acts of mankind; cutting trees to all look the same, giving a bunch of people the same haircut, etc.

However, unity is from God; trees, bushes, grass, flowers all living together for each other’s benefit, but being different.

Unity is a church of believers who are uniquely gifted, uniquely interested, and with unique haircuts, all gathering to worship God, thanking Him for a common salvation (common in that it is for all, not common because it was cheap, 1 Peter 1.17-19).

Yes, there are common traits we will all display when are saved, born again believers, but the unique part of you that makes you ‘you’ will always be there. We are fearfully and wonderfully made!

So, basically, we are to be unified in our core beliefs, same same, but unique in our gifts, service, personality, but different.