Belonging

As a Christian, as a believer in Jesus, where do I belong?

Yesterday at Saar Fellowship we looked at Hebrews 13.1-6, and said that as believers in Jesus we belong to each other (vv.1-4), and ultimately this is possible because we belong to Him (vv.5-6). 

We belong to each other, to the Christian family, to those who have the same key interest and insight as you. That is possible because, by faith in His faithfulness, we belong to Jesus.

He has said that there is never any chance that He will leave or forsake us (v.5). In the original language of the New Testament, this is written in the most emphatic way possible. Our belonging is sure, our belonging is permanent as it rests in Him and not on us. It looks like this…

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Simply, we belong to Him and because of that, to each other.

Inherent and Intrinsic- Esther 3

Yesterday we saw the providence of God, and today the story continues. If you haven’t read Esther 3 recently, you can do so here.

After his assasination plot is foiled (2.21-23), the King appoints what looks like a Prime Minister (v.1), and Haman the Agagite seems to be enjoying this new-found power and respect. The Agagites were historical enemies of God’s people (Exodus 17.14-16), and this may explain why Mordecai was reluctant to bow down or pay homage. Haman obviously didn’t like this, and sought to destroy all the Jews. He engineers a situation wherein the King probably doesn’t realise who or what Haman is talking about (vv.8-11). The Jews in all the land were, essentially, given prior warning of their impending death sentence (vv.13-15), and Haman cosied up to the King as all this took place (v.15b).

The de-humanising of people has been a perennial problem that is often the pre-cursor to terrible atrocities. Here Haman refers to God’s people, people made in the image of God, lives with inherent and intrinsic worth and value, as a certain people, …their laws…, it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate themthe peopledo with them

This way of thinking leads, inevitably, to conflict, loss of life, slavery, oppression, and generally nothing positive. How grateful we are that Jesus made the very important point that human life is of infinite value, regardless of national origin, culture, language, or tradition in Luke 10.25-37. Paul writes very explicitly that we are all one in Christ Jesus, regardless of things that may differentiate between us in an earthly sense (Galatians 3.28). Simply, there is more to unite us than divide us.

Today, let us see those around us as humans made in the image of God, lives with inherent and intrinsic value and dignity, people loved by the Lord and redeemed at such a high price, and those that God wishes to reach with His love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace…through you.

2 Timothy 3.2-5 – The Human Condition

Straight after the sad but true news that people are difficult, Paul goes on to detail the human condition.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

The list is so long that breaking it down characteristic by characteristic would simply take too long. The easiest and simplest thing to say is that all of these things centre on self. “I” and “Me” become the most important words and ideas in life, and conduct and character are totally detached from anything other than how you feel about yourself.

People will be lovers of self is a fitting way to start this section, loving yourself unconditionally at the expense of anything and anyone else leads to everything else we read in this list, and Paul’s advice to Timothy (and in principle to us) is to avoid such people.  

This is, if we are honest, the condition that comes with our human nature. Left to our own devices and choices, we know that we will become the type of person detailed here. If we don’t think we will, we are more swollen with conceit than we even realise. 

What is the remedy to this? What do we do with this sad but true state of affairs?

We turn to the Word of God. As a good friend wrote in his book titled ‘Contented‘,

After all these years of reading the Bible, I am amazed at its ability to continually reveal who I am while at the same time transforming me into a more holy person. The more submissive I am to the Word of God, the more I understand His perfect will for my life.

Jeff Gipe

Today then, be an unconditional lover of the Word before yourself, put His will above your own, put others before yourself, and let us see ourselves for what we are – sinners in need of the life-changing, life-transforming, life-saving, life-giving grace of God. 

2 Timothy 3.1 – People Are Difficult

Someone once told me that the ‘best and worst thing about pastoring a church will be the people’. From what he writes here, it would seem that Paul agrees.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

Paul will go on to say that these times of difficulty will come from people (v.2), but for the new minister Timothy this is what he needed to know first;

that as time progresses the times will get progressively more difficult.

This should not be a surprise to us, that as time goes on time gets tougher. Time of difficulty carries the meaning of stressful times, times of trial, times of tribulation…think of trying to swim in a sea that is wild, windy, and wavy. No matter which way Timothy turns, there will be difficult people to minister to.

It seems like Paul wanted to communicate this to Timothy so that he was going forward in his task with his eyes open, so to speak, knowing that people are difficult.

People are difficult, people are broken, and people are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

If we are honest, so are we.

We are difficult to love, we are broken past the point of self-repair, and we are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

Pastor, these are your people; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

Friends, this is all of us; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

The answer for both is the same – the free gift of grace available to us through faith in Jesus. Paul will go on to remind Timothy that the Word of God makes us wise for salvation (v.15), and it is on this solid foundation that we must stand as we seek to navigate these times of difficulty. People are broken, you are broken, and without the Word of God to stand on and soak in, this will never change.

Turn to the Word today!

Revelation 4.5-11 – People and Living Creatures

5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:

7 the first living creature like a lion,

the second living creature like an ox,

the third living creature with the face of a man,

and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.

8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

who was and is and is to come!”

9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they existed and were created.”

Today there are people and living creatures present, present in heaven with the Lord God Almighty (which, by the way, is a triple strength superlative for our great God; Lord, God, Almighty). There is life in heaven!

The first person present is the person of the Holy Spirit; before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.The Holy Spirit is a visible presence in heaven, quite a contrast to His current role as the active member of the Godhead in the world today, unseen but very present and at work.

There are also cherubim present, angels of the Lord God Almighty. Not people, but living creatures. Could they be the creature Ezekiel saw in Ezekiel 1.4-14 and 10.20.22? Quite possibly. Quite possibly they are the cherubim of the Lord God Almighty. What are cherubim? This sums it up well,

The cherubim serve the purpose of magnifying the holiness and power of God. This is one of their main responsibilities throughout the Bible. In addition to singing God’s praises, they also serve as a visible reminder of the majesty and glory of God and His abiding presence with His people.”

So, we have the visible presence of the Holy Spirit, cherubim magnifying the holiness and power of God through constant worship, and we have people. The twenty four elders (12 tribes and 12 apostles) are also engaged in this never ending cycle of worship of God,

9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they existed and were created.”

Basically, then, all the time!

The elders are definitely people, not more angels. God has promised those who love Him a place in this eternal forever. Paul had a firm grasp on this truth;

Romans 8.16-17

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

2 Timothy 2.11-13

The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself.

 

The question today then, is, do we want to find ourselves part of this never ending cycle of worship in heaven?

Do we want to see and experience this all first hand, with our own senses?

 

If we do, the Word of God is so clear on what we must to ensure this, Romans 10 reads

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.

6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”