Eggs; the inner egg and the outer shell

In Romans 8.2 we read that the law of the Spirit of life has set us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. We are no longer bound by meticulous religious rules covering everything from our dietary intake to our haircut (good news for some…).

This freedom is liberating, we are now bound only to live the life of the Spirit, in the Spirit, for Christ. If we want to mix milk and meat in a meal, that’s fine. If we want to cut our hair short on the sides and round off the corners of our beards, that’s fine. If you want a tattoo, or to pierce your ears, fine too. If the ladies don’t want to wear a head covering in church, that’s fine too. We are no longer under the law as a heavy yoke, which invariably we would break, which leads to sin, which leads to death. Bad. Now we are living under the Spirit of life. Good.

This means, in a strange sort of way, we are like an egg.

We are free to associate with whoever we want, go wherever we want, eat and drink whatever we want, watch anything we want on the tellybox, be friends with anyone we want. Jesus was not concerned with His outer shell or its appearance, was He? He hung out with some pretty down and dirty people during His incarnational ministry (His time on earth living as fully God and fully man, incarnation literally means ‘in the flesh’).

Like a toddler at meal times, Jesus’ outer egg shell was covered with all sorts of things that people thought it should not be; don’t talk to her, don’t touch them, don’t stay at his house…

Jesus trashed His outer shell, ultimately breaking it for us, but never compromised His inner self.

Therein lies the lesson for us; we are free from the law as a heavy yoke and now have a wonderful liberty as Christians. But, as Jesus ultimately broke His body for our benefit, we need to use our liberty for love, for the benefit of others, not to simply have a good time. 

So yes, we are free to eat, drink, watch whatever we want, but the bigger Christian principles still apply; who is being glorified through what you are doing? Things too, like Philippians 4.8,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So, yes, we can dirty up our outer shell, but we must never compromise our inner egg. And, if we are dirtying up our outer shell, let us make sure that it is for the benefit of others, using our liberty for love, not lusts.

1 Timothy 1.5-7 – Know and Grow

Yesterday the main idea was that Timothy as the newly installed church leader, and us by extension of principle, need to focus on the right things, not the wrong things.  

If you missed yesterday you can catch up here. 

Today we see why.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

These are lofty goals, aren’t they, love that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faithThe problem in Ephesus seems to have been that certain persons were not focusing on the fundamentals of love and faith and instead desired to be teachers of the law, without understanding. This is one of the reasons why Timothy was told to stay in Ephesus, to charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine (v.3).

What do we take from this then? Are we all to be running around stopping people who don’t know what they are teaching? As noble as that may sound, no, we aren’t. 

I’d suggest that first and foremost we focus on those fundamentals – love and faith. Then, as we do, let us build ourselves up in the faith (Jude 1.20), and let us not be like those who wish to teach without knowing, let us know and grow in our faith, and our knowledge of the faith. Let us be confident in what we believe, sure on that which we stand, let us learn more about the faith that we possess.

As we do, as we commit to learning more about God, His Word, His ways, we will discover more of His will for our lives. We will help ourselves and others to stay away from false teaching and error, we will stay away from vain discussions. We will see the Bible as the grand narrative of God’s redemptive love that it truly is, and we will see Jesus at every turn in our lives. 

In Memory of Jarrid Wilson

This morning I woke up to the terribly sad news that a Pastor in the U.S. took his own life and went to be with the Lord. He was not old in any sense of the word, barely 30. You can read the story here


Pastor and Mental Health Advocate Jarrid Wilson Dies by Suicide

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from Harvest Christian Fellowship.


Jarrid Wilson served at Harvest Christian Fellowship and started a ministry aimed at helping those with mental health issues called ‘Anthem of Hope’. He spoke out many times about depression and was open and honest about his ongoing struggles. 

When things like this happen we have so many questions;

Why did this happen?

What went wrong in this person’s life?

If we knew the person we think could I have in any way prevented this?

Society can often be quick to call suicide a sin, mental health issues a sin, depression a sin. But think, would you convict a cancer patient of being in sin because their body does not work according to its intended design? Yet somehow mental health issues are quick to be cast aside as iniquity, depression as something you can just think away, and suicide as the ultimate and unforgivable sin. The Bible does speak of an unforgivable sin, but friends, suicide is not it.

Dealing with grief and loss brings many emotions to the surface. We feel deep, all-encompassing sadness, we feel anger, we feel anxiety, we feel guilt, we feel lost, and we feel confused. Why did this happen Lord?

At times when we do not understand, we must fall back on things we do understand. 

We know that God loves us.

We know that He sent Jesus to redeem us from this fallen world we live in.

We know that He proved His love for us by offering Himself as a ransom for many, for all, whilst we were still sinners. 

We know that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not now, not ever. 

Larry Taylor, whose son tragically took his own life in 1986 wrote this,

I know the sorrow of loss, but I also know the comfort of the Holy Spirit. I know God’s forgiveness, and I know first hand that God can take a broken and ruined life and transform it into a thing of beauty and grace.

He goes on to say

Our society is plagued with the scourge of sin, not least of which is the horror of suicide which appears to be on the increase…The answer is a personal relationship with the living Jesus who loves you and can forgive you, restore you, comfort you, and heal you. When He returns, may He find us bringing His healing love to others. 

The Wilson family, and every other family who have dealt with this unique type of loss need the healing love of Jesus today, and every day from now until He returns or calls us home.

Join me today in praying for Jarrid’s wife, children, and family. 

Jude 1.22-23 – Save Others

Earlier in this short passage we focused on have mercy on those who doubt, now let’s look at the rest. 

22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Here Jude continues his instruction as to how we interact with those stuck under the false teaching of vv.8-13. To those who have doubts of the heart we are to have mercy, but some situations require a stronger response. Jude writes save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. The response is different to show mercy, and the response is stronger too. 

The crux of it all is that we should indeed be others-focused. Looking outwardly to others and the direction they are heading shows that we care and shows we are valuing our brothers and sisters in Christ. If people are being taught a different version of Jesus than is orthodox and shown in Scripture, we ought to be stepping in to lovingly correct them (Ephesians 4.14-16). 

I read recently that “Christians should not abandon a friend flirting with false teaching. They should help him through it in love.

So, if people are flirting with false teaching, be that from an individual pastor who teaches ever so slightly away from Scripture to tickle the ears of those who listen, or if an entire church and movement is founded on principles and teachings that are not explicitly demonstrated in the Bible, we should help them see the truth of the Word of God, but always in love. 

In doing so, as Jude writes, we will save others. Not in that we become their Saviour, but we will redirect them to the One who is. 


Point to ponder – Would I know how to lovingly give correction? Am I humble enough to receive correction?


Prayer – Father we thank you for your timeless and true Word to us that we carry in our Bibles, and we thank you that this Word became flesh and lived here among us temporarily to point us to you. Give us a spirit of humility and the right words if we need to be in this situation, and help us to always keep our eyes fixed on the message of your Word, not the words of those who deliver it. Amen. 

Jude 1.22-23 – Is It Ok To Doubt?

Jude has so far told us to be different to those around us, and to build ourselves up in our most holy faith. Today, what do we do in relation to those who are stuck under the false teaching detailed in vv.8-13? What do we do in relation to those who doubt that Jesus Christ leads to eternal life?

22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

There are a couple of things that come out here – one is to have mercy on those who doubt.

Doubt, inherently, isn’t a bad thing. 

Doubt is human and doubt is universal, says Os Guinness. We live in a broken world and to doubt is sadly just a part of life.

Very simply, all that can be believed can be doubted, and it is no surprise then that our faith, the most holy faith that Jude has written about can be doubted. To doubt means to have two minds, and rather than suppress doubt, we should look into the questions we have in our minds. 

Some doubts come from the will – do I want to follow Jesus?

To this, the Bible has a strong response – James 1.6-8.

Some doubts come from the mind – can this be proven?

To this, the Bible has a softer response – Isaiah 1.18.

Here, Jude is talking, it seems, about doubts of the emotion – how do I feel about all of this?

Coming off the back of talking about mercy and love and eternal lifeJude then says have mercy on those who doubt

Psalm 73 also speaks of the response to doubts of the heart.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

So, is it ok to have moments of doubt? Yes.

How do we interact with those facing emotional doubts about their faith? With mercy

Author Charles Hummel said that a stronger faith can emerge through doubt, and that holiness and faith are strengthened in the fires of temptation. 

It’s ok to doubt, it’s not ok to reject, but it’s ok to ask questions, it’s ok not to know all the answers. There is mercy waiting.


Point to ponder – What do I have doubts about?


Prayer – Father, we know we have moments of doubt. We know we want to follow you, and sometimes we have doubts of the mind or the emotions. We know too that when this happens, your loving kindness and mercy are there waiting for us to strengthen our faith, to uphold us, and to show us that our faith is one of steadfast hope. Thank you. Amen. 

31.07.19 – 2 John 1.4-6 – The Obedience of Love

Think about someone you love. Think about someone you love that you know loves you too. When they ask you to do something for them, or perhaps tell you that you need to do A/B/C, how do you feel? Do you feel resentment that you have to do something for them? Or do you feel happy to do something for them because you love them, and, because you know they love you, you know that they would do the same for you? Today, this is what John is writing about.

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 

John shows his heart for the people when he rejoiced greatly at their Christian walk, as we may call it. Then he reminds this congregation (dear lady) to remember the true mark of being a believer, the most obvious fruit that is on display in our lives when we are walking with the Lord – that we love one another. 

John then explains what this looks like, that we walk according to His commandments. So, simply, loving one another because we are walking with the Lord in a faith relationship should also produce in us an obedience to His commandments. 

Real love produces obedience. 

We know that Jesus loves us, He proved that by giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10.45, John 15.13). He loves us and gave His all for us. Now, He asks that we love those He loves, and that we walk according to His commandments. We know they are what is best for us, again, this was proven at the cross. God in human flesh would not have died to then ask you to live a second-rate life for Him. He wants the best for you, He wants you to live in truth, He wants us to live in obedience and in love. 


Point to ponder – Am I loving those He loves, and am I walking in His commandments because I know they are what is best for me?


Prayer – Father, we thank you for the ultimate demonstration of your love for us on the cross at Calvary all those years ago. Empower us by your Holy Spirit to live a life of love. We know that love like this doesn’t come naturally to us, so we need your power and love to flow through us. Help us also today to live the life of a disciple of Jesus, one who walks in His commands, because we know they are what is best for us. Amen. 

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.