Pray for Sussex CU's mission week
Saturday, 31 January 2009
Thursday, 29 January 2009
'Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it... It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.'
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
We don't deserve anything from God. But God gives, He's gracious. John 1:12 says that God offers us rights in His courtroom. In other words: God is able to give us a claim on His goodness. Once you have 'God-rights' you can make a claim. You get 'God-rights' by receiving Christ; believing and relying on Jesus.
When we have a right to God's goodness God is bound to respond out of His own joy. God offers us the right to become His children. He asks us to receive Christ and call Him Dad. He wants us to enjoy His Fathering.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
Listen to my first sermon titled 'Obey, because God is for you' here.
Saturday, 24 January 2009
Friday, 23 January 2009
Gratitude is the produce of seeing and experiencing past grace. In Exodus 20:2-3 God says: 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.' God is encouraging the Israelites to obey Him based on grace He has already given, the deliverance from the house of bondage.
Hope is the produce of seeing and experiencing promised grace. In Deuteronomy 8:6-7 the Lord motivates obedience by reminding the Israelites of the good land He has promised to them. 'Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills'
It's then that I looked up what Piper had to say and found this:
Piper's argument is this: God is more glorified when the Christan is motivated by hope to obedience because hope requires more relying faith than the faith required in gratitude. Gratitude requires a simple accepting faith. The faith we have in past events, that have happened by God's grace, is a not relying faith it is only an accepting faith. Something like this: 'I thank you God that you did this or that for me and I believe that it was for my good and your glory.'
Hope say things to God like: 'I thank you God that I will be like you (1 John 3:2)' Saying this requires more faith than that of gratitude because I'm yet to experience the grace for which I'm trusting God for. I'm simply trusting that I will be like Him. This trusting is based upon God's faithfulness displayed in promised grace.
If then hope is the main motive for Christian obedience, is hope the main motive for other types of obedience? How do you get a child to eats it dinner? You would never say to that child 'Don't you remember what I got you for Christmas?' You would say something like 'Remember that Christmas is coming soon. I've got presents for you.' By using the second statement the child is more likely to eat his or her dinner and the parent is seen to be greater because the child has expressed a trust in the promise of the parent.
So what God is doing in asking us to be mainly motivated to obedience by hope is firstly, glorifying Himself and secondly, setting our hearts on a future enjoyment of His goodness. Gratitude makes us thankful and appreciative people but gratitude lacks vision and courage. Hope makes us an expectant, lively, excited, people to more of a God-glorifying degree.
Thursday, 22 January 2009
"You can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently... the gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligon, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservativism or liberalism. Nor is it something halfway along the spectrum between two poles - it is something else altogether."
The gospel is all about loving, adoring, being happy in, and praising Jesus! Hooray!!
HT: Dave Bish
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It's an amazing hymn of confidence in God when times are hard. When writing this hymn Horatio Spafford was dealing with the loss of four of his daughters from a boat collision. His wife Anna and survived and sent him a telegram reading 'SAVED ALONE'. In 1881 Spafford and his wife founded the 'American Colony' an outreach mission in Jerusalem to benefit the poor.
My favourite verse is verse three: 'My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord'. Spafford's joy was found in God. For Him happiness derived itself from what Jesus had already done- being condemned by the Father for Spafford's sin.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Saturday, 17 January 2009
Thursday, 15 January 2009
‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’
It is for this reason that Thomas Watson’s work ‘All things for Good’ based on this text was originally published in 1663 named ‘A Divine Cordial’. The book is exactly that: A divine cordial. It has a medicinal affect on spiritual health. It sooths anxiety, it arouses affection towards God, it comforts the soul, it seeks to crucify unbelief, and it strengths the root of faith in the precious doctrine of God’s sovereignty.
Watson in the preface explains his intent: 'To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that all things which fall out shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction, water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.'
Watson is concerned with our joy. He wants us to see God. To see God’s love in ordering all events to bring us closer to Him- the source of goodness. Watson wants us to attack every doubt which claims ‘God is not for you’ and replace it with God’s promises. Promises like: ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.’ (Psalm 34:19) and “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12).
God is for us. This is the premise of the book. He works all things (recessions, deaths, persecution, unemployment, discouragement, traffic lights and bad postal services-even sin!) for our good. Watson writes: 'All the various dealings of God with His children do by a special providence turn to their good'. But how so we know that they work for our good? This knowing is experience more than intellect. Knowing that God is for us is not a deduction processed by our minds but a compulsion we feel. 'The Spirit of God imprints heavenly truths upon the heart as with the point of a diamond…The Lord does not leave His people at uncertainties in matters of salvation. The apostle says, ‘We know’. We have arrived at holy confidence. We have both the Spirit of God, and our own experience, setting seal to it.’ (pg10)
Watson adopts a typical puritan manner when writing about the text. It’s systematic, clear, structured and more importantly: thorough. The book is relatively short but very comprehensive; he deals with text as puritans do.
‘The best things work for good to the godly’ is the title of the first chapter. Watson spells out the most treasured spiritual realities and duties to convince his reader. God is good and He works for our good. He’s the Father and master of perfect giving and good gifts (James 1:17). The promises of God work for our good. John 10:29 ‘My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.’ Watson argues the promises of God are ‘food for faith’ and ‘springs of joy’ (pg 17). ‘There is more in the promises to comfort than in the world to perplex.’ The graces of the Spirit work for our good. Grace makes the soul elegant and beautiful. The virtuous wife will do her husband good all the days of her life (Prov 31:12). The angels work for our good. They are ‘ministering Spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation’ (Heb1:14). Fellowship, the intercession of Christ, and the payers of the saints- all these things work for our good!! J
Chapter two examines how the worst things work for our good. Affliction works for our good: 'In the word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling and damning, but we fear it no more than a painted lion; therefore God lets loose affliction, and then we feel sin bitter in the fruit of it. A sick-bed often teaches more than a sermon.' (pg 27). Afflictions give happiness in God: ‘The saints in affliction have had such sweet raptures of joy, that they thought themselves in the borders of the heavenly Canaan.’ (pg 30).
Temptation works for our good. Watson quotes Luther who said ‘there are three things that make a Christian – prayer, meditation, and temptation.’ Temptations stirs up Christians to desire Heaven as Heaven is a place without temptation. Temptation helps us to fear sin: ‘The more a child of God is tempted, the more he fights against the temptation. The more Satan tempts to blasphemy, the more a saint trembles at such thoughts, and says, ‘Get thee hence Satan.’ (pg35)
There are times in the Christian life when God is distant from us. ‘When God withholds the sweet manifestations of His favour, He does not look with such a pleasant aspect, but veils His face, and seems to be quite gone from the soul.’ (pg 39) It is at these times when you pray and you can’t feel anything. Or you commit sin and can’t feel the conviction. It’s those times when the heart goes cold that are the most treacherous to our own spiritual life. Although these moments are dangerous they do work for our good. The times of loneliness work for our good in that, we identify ourselves as a child of God. When you start to look into your soul and say ‘I can’t see the Spirit’s working and power’ it evidences that once you had the Spirit’s working and power.
Desertion helps a Christian to seek God with more passion. When it feels like God is hiding His face, you beg to see it even more. You crave it and pray until you see Him again. ‘Desertion works for good, as it prepares the saints for future comfort. The nipping frosts prepare for spring flowers. It’s God’s way first to cast down, then to comfort.’ (pg 43)
The fourth point made in this chapter is that ultimate evil of sin works for our good. Sin produces godly sorrow. Psalm 119:136 ‘Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law.’ Watson writes: ‘The sins of others work for good, as they make us more earnest in working for our own salvation. When we see wicked men take such pains for hell, this makes us more industrious for heaven.’ (pg 46).
The ultimate proof that sin works for our good is seen in Christ. It was Christ crucified that cleanses our sin. For us to come to God, Jesus had to die. And for Jesus to die there had to be death. For death to exist there had to be sin. Christ was crucified because the Romans committed the greatest sin- the nailing of the son of God to a tree. Sin works for our good. God commanded evil to exist for our everlasting joy and His eternal glory. Within the time line of history and the context of every event sin makes God look good.
In the words of Augustine: ‘God would never have ordained evil if he could not bring good out of it.’
In the following chapters Watson continues to exposit the verse by examining the two qualifications for the privilege of the verse. If all things work together for good to a certain person, this person must also love God and be called according to God’s person.
Watson defines love as ‘an expansion of soul, or the inflaming of the affections, by which a Christian breathes after God as the supreme and sovereign good.’ (pg 66). Love is breathing after God. It should be a normal natural exercise that people constantly engage themselves in. Instead what do we do? We hate him, naturally. Sinners are suffocating themselves from life if they don’t love God.
Love for God needs to be a passionate love. We need to love all of God with all that we can. ‘God, who is the chief of our happiness, must have the chief of our affections. The creature may have the milk of our love but God must have the cream.’ (pg 71)
Watson then devotes a chapter to writing about the tests of love. How do we know we love God? How can detect our love for God? His tests are as follows:
A fruit of love is the musing mind upon God
A fruit of love is desire of communion
A fruit of love is grief (for sin)
A fruit of love is magnanimity (14C word which denotes a greatness of soul, heart and mind. A sort of courage and zeal that sustains someone with peace during trouble)
A fruit of love is sensitivity
A fruit of love is hatred against sin
A fruit of loving is crucifixion
A fruit of love is fear
A fruit of love is loving what God loves
A fruit of love is the entertaining of good thoughts abut God
A fruit of love is obedience
A fruit of love is the desire to exalt God in the eyes of others
A fruit of love is to long for Christ’s appearing
A fruit of love is humility
Watson continues on to give twenty reasons why we should love God. Twenty!
Here are a few:
‘4) God is the most adequate and complete object of our love. All the excellencies that lie scattered in the creatures are united to Him. He is wisdom, beauty love, yea the very essence of goodness.’ (pg 89)
8) Love to God is the best self-love. It is self-love to get the soul saved; by loving God, we forward our own salvation. (pg 91)
‘14) Love to God will never let sin thrive in the heart’ (pg 96)
Effectual calling is the second qualification. This calling is a double calling and is received by every Christians. There is an outward call. That is hearing the gospel. Hearing about Jesus. Hearing that God is angry with you in your sin and yet is offering you love and acceptance through Jesus. The gospel is the objective work of what Christ did on the cross. It’s an offer and an invitation. It’s the expression of God’s heart to a broken generation: ‘We implore you on Christ’s behalf be reconciled to God!’ (2 Cor 5:20).
The inward call is something different. The inward call is the sensing of God for the first time in your soul. He says ‘Live!’ and you are born. Then you respond by receiving Christ as wonderfully attractive and needed. Both of these calls are needed for salvation. The inward call is irresistible. We didn’t ask to be born. In the same we didn’t ask to be born-again. God does it and then we respond. It’s not that we ask God to start working in us and then he takes up the offer. He starts working in us while we are dead in sin. The Spirit makes us alive. The Spirit gives life!!
‘Take notice what a mighty power God puts forth in calling sinners! God does so call as to draw (John 6:44)… A man can no more convert himself than a dead man can raise himself. It is called a creation (Col 3:10). To create is above the power of nature.’ (pg 113)
The last part of the text is ‘according to His purpose’ (Rom 8:28). God does it because He wants to. The pleasure of God in His own will is the ground of the text. It is God’s pleasure to save some and not others. That’s a serious statement. It exalts God and offends men. Watson isn’t afraid to say what the text really means, he writes:
‘If it be God’s purpose that saves, then it is not free-will. Pelagians are strenuous asserters of free-will. They tell us that a man has an innate power to effect his own conversion but this text confutes it. Our calling is ‘according to God’s purpose.’… All depends upon the purpose of God. When the prisoner is cast at the bar [convicted in a court of law], there is no saving him, unless the king has a purpose to save him. God’s purpose is His prerogative royal.’ (pg 125)
‘All things for good’ is a great read. It’s an easy introduction to the Puritan mindset and literature. But most of all it’s a book of humbling comfort. Comfort because our God is large enough to order everything for our benefit and humbling because we don’t deserve that. We deserve Hell not blessing. All things work for our good. Nothing is a threat anymore to our eternal well-being. Even the sin rooted deep in us that we lust after every day works for our good. Praise God!
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
Saturday, 10 January 2009
Some of us are so keen to see people save that we pronounce a person 'in the kingdom' before seeing the fruits of repentance (Matthew 3:8). Repentance is not a change of lifestyle primarily. It leads to a changed lifestyle. Repentance is all about spiritual emotions- what you love and what you hate. Spiritual emotions cling to Jesus.
A person who loves God will hate sin. God's lover finds sin repulsive not tolerable, evil not excusable, horrid not delightful. A lover of God realises that sin is offending God. It's treason against a good King. It's calling the Lord a liar. Sin is lawlessness. Sin is breaking the commandments that reflect the perfect character of God. Sin is punished with eternity. Either in an eternal person (Jesus Christ) or with eternal flames. God's lover knows He should be in Hell forever. Hell is a fair place for the sinner to be.
Friday, 9 January 2009
Thursday, 8 January 2009
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
Read: Hebrews 13:5-6
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’’
1) We can only become content in God when we see how wonderful God is
Why is God a wonderful God for humans? God is a wonderful for humans because He wants what is best for us with more passion than anything or anyone else.
So what is best for us? God is best for us.
The Bible is the message of a God who has constantly giving Himself to a people for His own glory- to make Himself look great. Ultimately this happens in Christ (1 Peter 3:18).
"I didn't understand this idea of a God who says, 'You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I'm the best, and then I'll give you eternal happiness. If you won't, then you don't get it!' It seemed to be about ego. I can't see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me"- Brad Pitt
Pitt’s understanding of worship isn’t right- he sees a distinction between happiness and worship. Scripture teaches that what we are happy with is what we worship.
2) Contentment in God frees people to kill the love of money
Being content in God is the God-given weapon to attack our love for money.
Verse 5 ‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
So the reason why we can be content and not go to money is because God is enough. We don’t need money to make us happy if we have God. He satisfies my desires. He’s my joy and my life.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.26 My flesh and my heart may fail, [money fails, wealth fails to make me content] but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26
When we see God as ultimately beautiful there’s no need to find ultimate beauty in anything else.
Money isn’t needed for our satisfaction because God says I wont leave your or abandon you. He promises to be near and next to you in everything. He promises to love as a Father- a good fair Dad doesn’t leave his kids, he promises to go and prepare a place for us so that we can be with Him forever.
Why would anyone want money and reject this God?
God is better than money. This is good news for us because God is opposed to our love of money. Jesus said more about money then He did heaven and hell combined:
"One thing you lack,"... "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mark 10:21
‘It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ Matt 19:23
‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Luke 12:34
Wealth is dangerous because it sucks you in. Money demands worship from people. And when you worship money all you want is more money. Brighton is sucked in. If you want to be religious in this city you need love money- you need to be greedy. Money has cursed this city.
Wealth is more of a curse than a blessing.
1 Tim 6:6-10:
6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
If you want to be sure that you’re going to Hell start loving your wallet.
Love for money will kill God for us if we don’t kill it. It will consume our worship and make God look tiny and unattractive and unpleasant.
But we can kill this love or money if we enjoy the beauty of God- finding him more wonderful than life.
3) Contentment in God gives confidence in the face of man
If we are content with this God and the love of money is dieing- If we want more of God than we do money- If we want to make Him look God and not make money look good then we will have boldness.
13:6 ‘we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
The Spirit of God has anointed us for what God has for us to do and He will empower us. He gives power so that we can be His witnesses- His witnesses:
Acts 1:8 ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’
Man should be afraid when we are filled with the Spirit because no-one can God from doing what He does. No-one could stop the early church and they tried. Christian history shows that when you kill Christians, Christian’s grow- it’s strange! Normally when you kill things they become extinct- not Christians!
The apostles turned the world upside down because God they were broken people who relied on an external power. And we have the same power so there’s no reason why we can’t see the same thing happening in Brighton.
What can man do to us?
If they kill us we get closer to God.
If they don’t kill we get the opportunity of getting other people closer to God.
God is saving people because He is God and He does whatever He pleases. And usually He gets weak people who are content with Him and fills them with confidence and power to make Himself look great.
4) You can only be content in God by receiving Jesus
Jesus was absorbed loving His Father. He was the perfect example of what it is to be content in God. He was given boldness and confidence by the Spirit to win people into the Kingdom. He was the ultimate teacher on money and possessions- He was homeless and broke and at the same time more blessed than anyone else.
To become content in God you need to admit the you love to worship what God hates. You need to know that your God’s enemy; God hates your rebellion. You deserve continuous torture for offending a wonderful God. Hell isn’t the only thing God offers. He’s given us great news of hope: Jesus. He was fully God and fully content in God, fully hating the love of money, fully confident in His message.
This Jesus wants you to know His love, God wants you receive Him by admitting your sin and turning away from so that you can enjoy God and not money. Trust in Jesus He died to remove sinners by making them into worshippers.