The Shield of Faith Hebrews chapter 11

November 19th, 2017

There’s a war on. Every one of us in the middle of a spiritual battle. Whether we realise it or not, whether we are Christians or not, there’s a war on. The apostle Peter warns us all.
1 Peter 5 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith.

At every moment we should be on our guard because the devil and the powers of evil are plotting and planning to entice us away from God. We must defend ourselves using the armour God gives us. We have already thought about the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Last week we thought about our gospel shoes. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Whatever will help you to stand firm and stop you from slipping and sliding all over the place when you are talking about Jesus. This week we are thinking about how to stand up against all the attacks of the evil one.
Ephesians 6 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

We all need the shield which is our faith. Life is full of temptations – the flaming arrows the devil fires at us. Temptations to do wrong. Temptations not to do the right things we should be doing. Temptations to say bad things. Temptations not to speak out for truth and justice. Temptations to stay silent about Jesus. Temptations to doubt God. Whenever we are tempted to give in to sin or selfishness or pride, whenever we are tempted to deny our faith, or to pass by on the other side, that’s when we need the shield of faith.

But what is faith? Faith simply means relying on God. Depending on God. Hebrews chapter 11 talks about faith and it challenges us all. What do you put your trust in? What do you rely on? These questions are really important in the heat of temptation. What are you depending on? What are you relying on? What are you putting your trust in?

Many people go through life trying to cope by relying on things within themselves. Education, Skills, Experience, Talents, Training. Determination. Hard work. None of these things count for anything in the life of faith. Nor do other things around us which everybody takes for granted and and rely on in times of trouble: things like Money and Possessions and Healthcare. None of these things are any use in the life of faith. When it comes to following Jesus, things we might rely on within ourselves or in the world around us are even less use than a chocolate teapot! We need just one thing – we need faith in God. If we are serious about following Jesus in this world which rejected and crucified Him, we need to put our trust in God and learn to rely on Him for everything.

Hebrews chapter 11 tells us what real faith is and points us to countless examples of the heroes of faith from the Old Testament. Their lives are full of encouragement and inspiration and challenge. We need to learn to depend on God in every part of our lives. None of us relies enough on God and His grace!
Faith means RELYING ON GOD RATHER THAN ANYTHING ELSE

George Washington once wrote that we all need: “a due sense of the dependence we ought to place in that all wise and powerful being on whom alone our success depends.”
Faith means depending on God, stepping out and trusting God to act. Luther called faith “a DARING confidence in God’s grace.” Faith means going out on a limb and relying on God to help us. It means putting ourselves in situations where if God does NOT act, we fall flat on our faces, or worse!

ENOCH
Hebrews 11 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Faith begins by believing that God exists and deciding to live our lives to please the God we believe in. Other people may live lives based on possessions or money and things in the here and now which they can touch and feel. But we believers base our lives on the God of the Bible. We trust in His saving acts. We believe His Word the Bible as God’s word to us even today. We claim God’s promises. That is how we depend on God.

NOAH
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
GK Chesterton wrote, “A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr but to be a fool.” Even if nobody else hears God’s voice, if we believe then we hear, and we trust, and we obey. It may make us look foolish to everybody else. But we still rely on God!

ABRAHAM
11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age- and Sarah herself was barren- was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

Faith means clinging on to God’s promises, even when they seem impossible.
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) “Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will!”

ISRAELITES
28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
So the Israelites were rescued out of slavery by faith and they won victory after victory through faith – relying on God to act on their behalf! What about OUR faith? Do WE rely on God more than anything else? Do we depend on God from day to day? Not just that he will bless our Christian work and witness. But relying on God from moment to moment in every part of our lives? One of the most important lessons I learned visiting Christians in Uganda is that in countries like that you simply can’t depend on money or transport or technology or healthcare in the way that we all do in this country all the time. You learn the value of praying over every meal, over every journey, every time you meet a friend. You learn to rely on God for the simple things of life. After that you can begin to depend on God for much bigger things.

It was that great theologian Cliff Richard who said, “The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find he is.”

Faith means BASING YOUR LIFE ON THINGS YOU CAN’T SEE

Our materialistic world is full of people who base their lives on possessions or money and things in the here and now which they can touch and feel. Hebrews 11 tells us
1. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

The eternal realities can often seem remote and uncertain. In fact they are MORE certain than anything we can see or touch, because this world is passing away but God and His truth will endure forever!
The truth about CREATION

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

The challenge for all of us is to live every moment recognising that we are CREATED beings in a CREATED world, and that every one of us will be accountable to our Creator on Judgement Day.
The truth about HEAVEN

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Even the Old Testament saints were looking forward to the unseen realities of the Heavenly City. Too many people in Britain today never give a thought to their own mortality – three score years and then what? In our funeral services we pray that God will help us to “live as those who truly believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, the communion of the saints and the life of the world to come”! When the going gets tough it matters much more what we really believe about eternal life and the hope of heaven!

A.W. Tozer - “What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God. Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away, and we shall have only God.”

What about OUR faith? What do we rely on? Do WE really base our lives on things we can’t see? On the truths of Scripture and the promises of God? Are we really laying up treasures in heaven rather than on earth because heaven is more real than earth is! Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to base our lives on things we can’t see!
Faith means OBEYING GOD HOWEVER MUCH THAT COSTS

This is where the rubber hits the road. Faith isn’t just about what we believe in our minds. Faith is about those beliefs changing how we live from day to day.

ABRAHAM
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

Abraham was 80 when God called him to leave his home and step out in faith towards the promised land. So we can be reassured that none of us are too old for a new exciting fantastic adventure in trusting him! The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will be with us leading and protecting you every step of the way. We should rust Him - rely on him – depend on him – as the Patriarchs of Israel did, however much that costs.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

God called Abraham to be prepared to give up His only son, his heir, the son who would be the channel of God’s promise. In fact, that was only the same sacrifice that God the Father was preparing to make, giving up His only Son for the salvation of the church. Trusting God will always demand sacrifices. Material sacrifices and emotional sacrifices. But this is the God who was faithful to Abraham and Isaac. This is the same God who raised His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ from the dead. So we can certainly trust Him, rely on him and depend on him, however much that costs us.

MOSES
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Standing up for God and God’s people against Pharoah. Choosing to be ill-treated. Choosing disgrace over treasures. True faith will often lead to rejection and persecution. That is part of the cost of faith. But the God of Moses and the Israelites will never fail you or forsake you! Trust Him - rely on him – depend on him – however much that costs. That is the shield of faith! And then we come to the really cheery part of the chapter!

HEROES OF FAITH
35b Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated- 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Those Old Testament heroes of faith really put their money where their mouth is. Standing up and being counted for God won’t ever be a picnic, wherever in the world we do it! So what about OUR faith? What do we rely on? God calls us all to put our trust in him, to rely on Him and to depend on Him! THAT is the shield of faith which will help us resist temptation when the devil attacks us. We need that kind of Hebrews 11 faith! TS Eliot wrote, “The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyse his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief.”

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to escape on to the roof. His father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As you will imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father replied, “But I can see you – and that’s all that matters.”

Faith means letting go and jumping and trusting that God will catch you. That is the shield of faith. Faith believes the incredible, sees the invisible, achieves the impossible! We need to be relying on God rather than relying on anything else! To base our lives on things we can’t see! To obey God HOWEVER much it costs! THAT is the shield of faith which will help us to resist all the attacks of the devil.

Gospel Shoes Ephesians 6:15

November 15th, 2017

The gospel is the Good News that Jesus has died for our sins and has risen from the dead to offer the free gift of eternal life to everybody who puts their trust in Him. But it is a spiritual battle to help people to believe this good news. The gospel is spiritual warfare. Talking to the Apostle Paul, God explained the task of proclaiming the gospel in these words.
Acts 26 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
For somebody to believe in Jesus, God has to open their eyes so that they can turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan, the devil. So it follows that proclaiming the gospel is spiritual warfare – it is always going to be a real spiritual battle.
2 Corinthians 4 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The reason people don’t believe in Jesus is that the devil, the god of this age, has blinded their eyes so they cannot recognise Jesus for who He is, the Son of God and the Image of God. Talking about Jesus is a spiritual battle.
This gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s way of bringing His peace to human beings who are lost without Him. It is the gospel of peace.
Romans 5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
In the Bible peace means much more than the absence of conflict. It means being reconciled to God, reunited with God. It is all the blessings of wholeness, shalom. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way that lost human beings can find true peace and wholeness.
We have thought about the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness and some of the lies the devil uses to lead people away from God. How the devil wants people to think that there are all kinds of ways to God and any religion is as good as any other. At the same time the devil wants people to think that they are alright without God, that they don’t need saving and indeed that God doesn’t even exist.
With all these lies of the evil one we need to be bold sharing the good news of Jesus with our friends and neighbours. We need to be a church who believe what we preach and who preach what we believe. Believing what we preach – that Jesus is not an optional extra in life but that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the way the truth and the life and the only way to God the Father. That following Jesus is not just one way to live your life but following Jesus is the only way to life in all its fulness. And without Jesus, people are lost and without hope. This is the gospel we believe and it is the gospel we need to preach and announce and proclaim in any and every way that we can. For that we need the third element of the armour of God which Paul talks about.
Ephesians 6 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
The Good News Bible talks about putting on as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace.
The Jerusalem Bible talks about eagerness to spread the gospel.
But in this case the New Revised Standard Version says it best 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
If you’re climbing mountains you need a good pair of climbing boots. If you are running a race you need a good pair of running shoes. To be ready to share the good news of Jesus, you need to put on whatever helps you be ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
The church exists to preach the gospel. Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” Being ready to preach the gospel is not an optional extra for super-keen Christians. God calls every one of us to be prepared to talk about Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God has made every Christian an Ambassador for Jesus. We represent God and we have been given his message to deliver – the life saving message about Jesus, the gospel which brings us peace. I have quoted before these challenging words of Karl Barth.
“The life of the one holy Universal Church is determined by the fact that it is the fulfilment of the service as ambassador enjoined upon it.
Where the life of the Church is exhausted in self-serving, it smacks of death; the decisive thing has been forgotten, that this whole life is lived only in the exercise of what we called the Church’s service as ambassador, in proclamation. A Church that recognizes its commission will neither desire nor be able to petrify in any of its functions, to be the Church for its own sake.
There is the “Christ-believing group”; but this group is sent out: “Go and preach the gospel!” It does not say, “Go and celebrate services!” “Go and edify yourselves with the sermon!” “Go and celebrate the Sacraments!” “Go and present yourselves in a liturgy, which perhaps repeats the heavenly liturgy!” “Go and devise a theology!”
Of course, there is nothing to forbid all this; there may exist very good cause to do it all; but nothing, nothing at all for its own sake! In it all the one thing must prevail: “Proclaim the gospel to every creature!” The Church runs like a herald to deliver the message. It is not a snail that carries its little house on its back and is so well off in it that only now and then it sticks out its feelers and then thinks that the “claim of publicity” has been satisfied. No, the Church lives by its commission as herald. Where the Church is living, it must ask itself whether it is serving this commission or whether it is a purpose in itself. If the church becomes a purpose in itself, then as a rule it begins to smack of the “sacred,” to affect piety, to play the priest and to mumble.”
The church runs like a herald to deliver the message. The Good News translation puts it this way.
2 Corinthians 5 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
God has made us Ambassadors for Christ. We are God’s heralds. So we need to put on our gospel shoes. Whatever will help us be ready to share the gospel of peace with a needy world. We heard lots of sermons two years ago about being prepared to give an answer to the questions our not-yet-Christian friends might have about Jesus and the Christian faith.
What is salvation?
What is the point of life?
How can we have a relationship with God?
How should we respond to the Good News?
Didn’t He used to be dead?
What makes you believe that God exists?
Just how did God create the world?
Can we trust the New Testament?
Is Jesus the only way to God?
How can we believe in God in a world so full of suffering?
What happens when we die?
How can we have a relationship with God?
We talked through answers we might give to questions like those. And we thought about how we can prepare ourselves to talk about Jesus.
Why we don’t and why we should talk about Jesus
Preaching the gospel necessarily includes using words
Praying about talking about Jesus
We thought about Sharing my story
And we talked then about what it means to be Ambassadors for Christ
Everything we said then is in my book Prepared to Give an Answer. If you didn’t receive a copy last year, please do take one this morning. Read it and use it to help you to be ready to talk about Jesus when God gives you the opportunity.
15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
Put on your Gospel Shoes!
At school and university I used to play a rather dangerous sport called lacrosse. It involved running up and down a field throwing and catching a ball in a stick. Lacrosse is the national sport of Canada and it is rightly called the fastest sport on two feet. Good players can throw the ball at more than a hundred miles an hour. It is said that the only rule of the game is that you aren’t allowed to hit your opponent if he hasn’t got the ball. Like any field sports, we played in all weathers, rain hail and snow. And by the end of the winter season the pitch was always more mud than grass especially around the goal area. So like soccer players and rugby players next to a good lacrosse stick and a good helmet, the most important piece of kit were good boots. To stop us falling over in the mud our boots had studs to keep us on our feet – the very best footwear for the job!
But studs on football boots are not a new invention. For Roman soldiers, the most important thing about their battle shoes was that they wouldn’t slip when the enemy charged. So they also had nails in the soles of their boots to keep them on their feet in the heat of battle. And that is the picture here. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
Just as sportsmen need good boots, in the same way Christians need our Gospel Shoes to stop us from slipping and falling over in the middle of sharing the gospel. The best equipment to help us talk about Jesus is to know what the Good News is, inside out, and to have experienced the life-changing gospel of peace in your own life. Knowing the gospel and living the gospel will keep your feet steady. When we are confident that we won’t slip or trip ourselves up when we are talking about Jesus then we will be more wise and bold and effective in sharing the gospel with other people.
Proclaiming the gospel will be a spiritual battle. We need to prepare ourselves. The devil will do everything he can to distract us from doing the job God has given us to do. He will try to convince us that we aren’t good enough to be God’s Ambassadors, or that we will make a mess of talking about Jesus. We may feel unworthy or inadequate to do the job of telling North Springfield about Jesus. Indeed we are. But we are the people God has put here and that is the job God has given us to do! So we shouldn’t try to duck out of the task God has entrusted to us.
There is a lovely story about Hudson Taylor, the missionary who took the gospel to mainland China in the nineteenth century. One day Hudson Taylor was approached by a man with only one leg who said to him. “I want to go as a missionary to China.” “But, how do you think you can be a missionary?” Hudson Taylor replied. “When you’ve only got one leg.” “I have to,” said the man, “Because I don’t see any men with two legs going.”15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
We must get ourselves ready to share the gospel! Put on your Gospel Shoes! A story is told of a competition in hell for ways to keep human beings away from God. 3rd prize went to the suggestion, “Tell them there’s no heaven.” 2nd prize went to, “Tell them there’s no hell.” But the 1st prize was won by the simple suggestion, “Tell them there’s no hurry.”
15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Put on your Gospel Shoes!

How Great is Our God!

November 15th, 2017

Ps 145:3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no-one can fathom.

Ps 150:2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

We are going to think this evening about the surpassing greatness of God. About the greatness no-one can fathom. About the fact that our God is truly All Mighty, All powerful, omnipotent. That our God is completely able to do ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING HE chooses.

Job was struggling in his sufferings. One of Job’s friends, his “comforters”, Elihu, reminds him of God’s greatness.

36:22 “God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him? 23 Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, `You have done wrong’?
24 ¶ Remember to extol his work, which men have praised in song. 25 All mankind has seen it; men gaze on it from afar. 26 How great is God- beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.

And then as Elihu continues, a storm is approaching, and Elihu points to the storm.

37:14 ¶ “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.
15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash?
16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is
perfect in knowledge?
17 You who swelter in your clothes when the land lies hushed under the south wind,
18 can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?

God explodes our of the storm and speaks to Job out of the power of the storm. Job realises that God is much bigger, much greater, much more powerful than he can possibly imagine.

38: 4 ¶ “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you
understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a
measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone- 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

CREATOR

38:16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this. 19 “What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

“Do we want to contemplate God’s power? We see it in the immensity of the creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth.” Thomas Paine (1737–1809)

And Creation is far far bigger than the earth!!

38:31 “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? 33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up [God's] dominion over the earth?

Our concepts of measurement embrace mountains and men, atoms and stars, gravity, energy, numbers, speed, but never God. We cannot speak of measure or amount or size or weight and at the same time be speaking of God, for these tell of degrees and there are no degrees in God. All that he is he is without growth or addition or development.
A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)

To say that God is infinite is to say that he is measureless. Measurement is the way created things have of accounting for themselves. It describes limitations, imperfections, and cannot apply to God. Weight describes the gravitational pull of the earth upon material bodies; distance describes intervals between bodies in space; length means extension in space; and there are other familiar measurements such as those for liquid, energy, sound, light, and numbers for pluralities. We also try to measure abstract qualities, and speak of great or little faith, high or low intelligence, large or meager talents. Is it not plain that all this does not and cannot apply to God? … He is above all this, outside of it, beyond it. A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)

Before anything in the universe existed, there was God Almighty!

Gen 1:3 ¶ And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

John 1:1* ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

African Proverb : “No rain, no mushrooms. No God, no world.”

SUSTAINER

38:39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions 40 when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? 41 Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?

Sustaining not only the earth but the whole universe.

Isaiah 40:25 “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Heb 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Colossians 1:15 Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Sometimes we forget that God is the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth. We limit God. Philosophers say things like, “God can do anything that is logically possible.” What they mean is that God can do anything which is consistent with the rules which underpin the whole universe. But remember, God created the universe. He can change the rules any time he likes! God could change the rules of the universe so that what used to be logically impossible becomes possible! God is THAT great and Almighty.

“God can change the future, but he can’t change the past.” That’s not true. God can change the future but he CHOOSES NOT to change the past!
After Noah and his family and all the animals came out of the ark, we read this promise in Genesis 8: 22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

The laws of nature, the rules of space and time, only exist because God created them! They only continue because God keeps them going. God is powerful enough to bend or break or change those rules whenever and wherever He chooses. God is THAT great and Almighty!

SAVIOUR

The Old Testament – Exodus, Crossing the Red Sea, Miracles in wilderness, victory over Canaanites and claiming of the promised land.

Psalm 77:11 ¶ I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your
miracles of long ago. 12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. 13 Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

The New Testament

Miracles of Jesus
Lu 7:22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

Calming of storm, feeding of 5000 with just 5 loaves and 2 fishes.

Greatest miracle of all – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jim Packer wrote: “Your thoughts of God are too human.” This is where most of us go astray. Our thoughts of God are not great enough; we fail to reckon with the reality of his limitless wisdom and power. Put this mistake right: learn to acknowledge the full majesty of your incomparable God and Savior.

God is beyond our ken—infinite, immense, and his real greatness is known to himself alone. Our mind is too limited to understand him.

Novatian (D. 258) God is greater than mind itself. His greatness cannot be conceived. Nay, could we conceive of his greatness he would be less than the human mind which could form the conception. He is greater than all language, and no statement can express him.

GOD’S GREATNESS IN OUR LIVES

1 Chronicles 29:10 ¶ David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the
kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

Eph 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Phil 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Halleluiah. For the Lord the omnipotent God reigns! Nothing is impossible for God! He is indeed ALL MIGHTY

The Spirit and the Bride say “Come!” Revelation 22:17

November 6th, 2017

I do love a good wedding! One of the perks of being a minister is going to so many weddings. and so many receptions of course! The whole day is always wonderful. The bride more beautiful than ever, the groom looking smart for once, the guests happy and smiling, the delicious food at the reception of course. But I guess my favourite part of every wedding is the bit where I get to say, “I now pronounce you man and wife” and the groom finally gets to kiss the bride! That wonderful moment where all the months or even years of waiting and preparation are eventually over – the two have become one – husband and wife are married.

The Bible tells us we are looking forward to a very special wedding. A marriage not of an ordinary man and a woman. Rather a marriage truly made in heaven. That wonderful event which the book of Revelation calls “The Marriage Feast of the Lamb” – the glorious day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns and is united to His Bride, the church.

REV 19 6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.

What a wonderful day that will be – the wedding day between the Lamb Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church!

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

There are so many blessings waiting for us on that glorious day of the marriage feast of the Lamb when Jesus will come back to take us to be with Him. Some preachers have nothing better to do than to create sermons with 8 points all beginning with the same letter, neatly divided into 25 subpoints. Less gifted preachers just borrow those points and subpoints and describe the day when Jesus returns like this.

1 It will be a day of Reunion,
Reunion with Christ Himself
Reunion with other Christians and with our loved ones

2 It will be a day of Rewards
The day will itself be a great reward,
it will be a full reward,
it will be a sure and certain reward,
it will be a satisfying reward,
it will be an inestimable reward,

We could list some of the amazing rewards which Christians will receive on that day when Jesus returns:
- being with Christ, John14:3; Phil. 1:23; 1 Th. 4:17
- seeing God and Jesus face to face Rev. 22:4
- being glorified with Christ, Rom. 8:17-18
- sitting in judgment alongside Christ, Mt. 19:28
- reigning with Christ, 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4
- having a kingdom, Mt. 25:34; Lk. 22:29
- having an eternal home in heaven, 2Cor. 5:1

3 It will be a Day of Rejoicing,
We will rejoice over our new status – the redeemed of the Lord will return with rejoicing
We will rejoice over the rewards we receive;
We will rejoice when we see again the souls we have helped to win

4 It will be a day of Restoration
Paradise regained – delivered from the limitations of this life

5 It will be a day of Resurrection
the dead in Christ will rise first
followed those of us who that are still alive

6 It will be a day for Revelation
bringing to light the hidden things of darkness

7 It will be a day of Regrets for some
Jesus will return like a thief in the night,
His coming will be unexpected,
That day will bring judgement as the sheep will be separated from the goats

8 It will be the day of Retribution
with God’s punishment on evil and wickedness

The return of Christ will indeed be an amazing day, count the 8 points – a day of reunion and rewards and rejoicing, of restoration and resurrection and revelation and regrets and retribution. The day when we look forward to receiving the crown of life, the crown of glory, when we receive our inheritance in Christ. The wonderful day of the Lord. And hear the inspiring and encouraging promises Christ Himself makes!

7 “Behold, I am coming soon!; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” …..
12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” AMEN COME LORD JESUS!

What a wonderful hope we have in Christ – the happy certainty of the Day of his return. As a bride looks forward to her wedding day, we should be looking forward to Christ’s return and praying for his return. We should be ready for Jesus’s return and anticipating his return. No wonder we read:
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Of course we are longing for Jesus Christ to return – at least I hope we are! But wait a minute. Did anything in that passage in Revelation 22 surprise you? Strike you as strange? How about verse 17? 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”

As Christians, as the Bride of Christ, we cry out “Come Lord Jesus”. But why should God the Holy Spirit also be saying “come”? How is the Holy Spirit affected by the return of Christ? Just what part does the Holy Spirit play in the return of Christ?

Let’s step back for just a moment to think about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Church, the bride of Christ. When we think of the work of the Holy Spirit we think about the Spirit who is the Lord, the giver of life, who gives us new birth and new life. We maybe think about spiritual gifts as the Holy Spirit equips the church to serve Christ. We think especially about the communicating gifts like prophecy and tongues which enable Christians to communicate with God and God to communicate with us. But my guess is that we often forget about one whole area of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and of the church. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, making us like Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit is to get us ready for heaven! The Spirit preparing the Bride so that she will be ready to meet her Bridegroom on her wedding day!

We know that Christ has died to make the church his bride.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

But how exactly does Christ make us holy? How does he get rid of our stains and wrinkles and blemishes. Because we know very well that so far in this life we Christians are anything but holy and blameless.

This is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit! Making us holy. The Spirit inside us who bit by bit, day by day, is changing us to make us more like Jesus. To prepare us for heaven. A long hard process of transformation which begins in this life but won’t be finished until that wonderful day when Christ returns.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This transformation is like the metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians and in the life of the church.

The Holy Spirit helps us develop the character of Christ Himself in us!
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Spirit helps us to know God better and better so that heaven will not be too much of a shock for us when we get there.

Ephesians 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

The Holy Spirit also helps us when we pray:

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

More than these things, the Holy Spirit himself gives us a foretaste of heaven.

Romans 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

Christians have already received the firstfruits of the Spirit – the foretaste, the appetiser, the first instalment of heaven. More than that, the Holy Spirit within us is God’s guarantee to us that he will keep his promises.

Ephesians 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

So we can be absolutely certain that one day we will receive all the blessings God has promised us – because we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts now as first instalment and guarantee of our inheritance.
Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 ¶ Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

So the Holy Spirit within us helps us look forward to heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

The Holy Spirit is working in us preparing us for heaven, preparing the Bride of Christ to meet her Bridegroom. No wonder not only the Bride, but also the Spirit cry out “Come, Lord Jesus!”

We might even say that the Holy Spirit is the BRIDESMAID – helping the bride to be ready for her big day.

But then there is something even deeper in this passage. Something mystical and profound revealed by the phrase, “The Spirit and the Bride say come.”

From eternity God has been three in one and one in three, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
In the Incarnation – God became man, In one sense that introduced a distance between Son on the one hand and Father and the Holy Spirit on the other, because God the Son has experienced humanity in ways which the Father and the Spirit have not.

On Calvary, when sins of world were laid on Son he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Our sins caused a deep division in the Holy Trinity as Son of God took upon himself the alienation of rebellious sinners which we all experience.

At the Ascension the Father and the Son were reunited – but then Father and Son sent the Spirit into the church to accomplish the work we have been talking about tonight – the sanctification of the church, the work of first fruits and guarantee.

So perhaps there is a great longing actually WITHIN the Godhead for these last days to be over. For the Bride to be ready for her Bridegroom. A longing for the day when Christ will claim his Bride. A longing within the Holy Spirit of God for the process of sanctification to be completed. For the battle against human sin to finally be over. For the Holy Trinity to be completely united once again. No wonder not only the Bride but the Spirit says “Come”
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Postcards of Heaven Revelation 21:1-22:5

October 30th, 2017

1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”

We don’t know what heaven is going to be like. But we have had some hints already in the Book of Revelation. Back in chapter 7 we were given a glimpse of the saints in glory and of all the blessings of heaven in three wonderful pictures.

Life in God’s presence

Revelation 7 15 Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

They are before the throne of God. Now we see in a mirror darkly. Then we will see face to face. We will be in God’s presence in the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. We will see Jesus face to face! This is the heart of our Christian hope.

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
As Richard Baxter puts it.
My knowledge of that life is small, The eye of faith is dim,
But it’s enough that Christ knows all, And I shall be with him.

Life in God’s presence, where

God will meet all our needs

Revelation 7 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat.

A place of everlasting joy

Revelation 7 17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Life in God’s Presence. All Our Needs Met. A Place of Everlasting Joy. This is our hope!

Since chapter 7 we have seen the victory of the Lamb who was slain over the Dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil. We have seen that Jesus Christ is not only the Lamb but is also the Commander of the Armies of Heaven, the one who is faithful and true and whose name is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His victory is certain, the church will be triumphant, and those who share in that victory will be blessed forever. And here at the climax of the Book, Revelation gives us three more postcards of what heaven will be like.

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Behold – I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

A new creation. The old order of things has passed away. The new has come. CS Lewis ends the final book in his series about Narnia, The Last Battle, like this:

“The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say
that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

All things new! Everything is transformed, not so much by God’s actions but simply by God’s presence.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

God will be with us and we will be with God. Face to face in glory. And that will take away all the suffering and pain we have experienced this world. No more death or mourning or crying. And then we have an amazing postcard of heaven – which is two pictures in one.

THE BRIDE – WHO IS THE CITY

. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

The Bride and the City are both pictures of the church, the people of God, the children of God. Together all believers will make up the Bride of Christ and at the same time the City of God, the New Jerusalem. Now we find out more about this glorious bride.

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

The Bride and the City are both pictures of the church, the people of God, the children of God. Together all believers will make up the Bride of Christ and at the same time the City of God, the New Jerusalem. The Bride, beautifully dressed for her wedding. A breathtaking image of holiness and virginity and anticipation.

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Some people pay great attention to the details in this description of the Holy City. The gates being the 12 tribes of Israel and the foundations being the 12 apostles. These features remind us of the continuity between God’s plan of salvation begun in the Old Testament with the nation of Israel, brought into reality by the ministry and Jesus Christ continuing in the Early Church, and brought to fulfilment in glory in heaven. We can also notice the riches of the city, so much gold and so many precious gems. But never mind the details – just take in the big picture. Because it is a VERY BIG picture.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.

12,000 stadia is 2,400 km. That is about as far as it is from here to Moscow. Or to Athens. 2,400 km is a long way. So this heavenly city is 2,400 km long by 2,400 km wide by 2,400 km high. That is big. Very big. Very, very big. The volume of that city will be about the same as the volume of the moon. That is big. Very big. Very, very big. But of course the heavenly city has to be big. God lives there!! The Bride and the City.
Next we have a second postcard of heaven.

GOD’S DWELLING PLACE

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The heavenly city is remarkable for many reasons, as much for what it does not contain as for what it does.

NO TEMPLE
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
The city doesn’t need a specific place to go and meet with God. Because God Himself is there. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are everywhere in the city.

NO SUN OR MOON
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
The sun and the moon are the great lights which have lit the world and marked out day and night and times and seasons throughout the world for all of time. They have brought growth to crops and safety to travellers everywhere. But in heaven they won’t be needed. There won’t be any darkness and there won’t be any night – because in the heavenly city the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

And there won’t be any need for walls or gates because God will give his safety and security and peace to the city forever.

25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

And there is one more thing there won’t be in that glorious city – ever.

NO SIN

27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

None of the things which spoil life in this world will ever enter heaven. I jumped over these verses from earlier in Revelation 21

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

No more sin. Just the spring of the water of life and a relationship with God as Father and children. As part of this Holy Bride, in this heavenly city where God dwells, we will truly experience heaven as is revealed in the third postcard:

PARADISE REGAINED

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God by disobeying his only commandment, they were banished from the Garden of Eden and the whole of creation was cursed. Now in the new creation, that curse is removed. Through Jesus Christ, Adam and Eve’s descendants may once again drink from the waters of life and eat from the tree of life. Paradise regained.

All things new. The Bride and the City. God’s dwelling place! Paradise regained

Believing in heaven is not running away from life – it is running towards it!

When we looked at Revelation chapter 7 I quoted these words from Richard Baxter.
“Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not there in constant comtemplation?…Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom and cursory, but bathe thyself in heaven’s delights.”

All things new. The Bride and the City. God’s dwelling place! Paradise regained. Let US bathe ourselves in heaven’s delights!

The Breastplate of Righteousness Ephesians 5:1-20

October 30th, 2017

Ephesians 6 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
There’s a war on! Two weeks ago we started to think about the spiritual battles we face and the challenge to stand firm for God in today’s world. We thought about the battles we have to fight to proclaim the truth of God in this post-truth world. This morning we are continuing to think about the armour of God as we look at the second part of Ephesians 6:14.
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
The belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Truth and righteousness actually belong together and we will think about that in a few minutes. But let’s start by focusing on “the breastplate of righteousness.” The Old Testament tells us that God Himself puts on a breastplate of righteousness.
Isaiah 59 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

God wears righteousness as His breastplate. In the Old Testament, righteousness refers to the righteous actions of the God who is always holy and just. Isaiah 11 contains a prophecy about the Messiah which we often read at Christmas.
Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD –
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash round his waist.

Here righteousness is God’s belt. God judges the world with righteousness and justice. The Hebrew word for righteousness comes from the word for straightness, in other words actions which conform to the standards which God has revealed in His commandments. English uses the word “upright” in a similar sense. Absolutely everything that God does is always righteous and pure and upright and just and fair. God always does the right thing.
God is righteous. That is the background to the breastplate of righteousness in the armour of God. There are other places in the Bible where the same word for righteousness has a different meaning. We have thought before about the letter to the Romans where Paul talks a lot about righteousness. In Romans Paul is concerned with how sinful human beings can move to the status of being righteous before the Holy God. How can we be “right with God”? So in Romans Paul talks about the gift of righteousness which God gives to everybody who puts their trust in Jesus. There the idea of righteousness means being in a right relationship with God – a right standing before God who is Creator and Judge of all. But that isn’t the meaning of the word here in Ephesians. Instead here putting on the breastplate of righteousness is concerned with right living – doing the right thing.
Isaiah 59 tells us that God puts on righteousness as His breastplate. It makes perfect sense that in our battles with the devil and all the powers of evil, Christians should also put on righteousness as our breastplate. We show we are in a right relationship with God by our righteous actions, by living upright and blameless lives.
What does that actually mean in practice? Paul is calling Christians always to do the right thing and never to do the wrong thing. Ephesians says very similar things elsewhere.
Ephesians 4 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
So Christians should take of the old shabby clothes associated with their old sinful lives and put on the new suit which God gives us – the new self, characterized by righteousness and holiness. We should be righteous in all our actions. Paul says the same in Ephesians 5.
Ephesians 5 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
As children of light goodness and righteousness should characterize all our actions. We thought about what that might mean this time last year in our series of sermons on the Ten Commandments.
No putting false gods before the one true God. No compromise with other religions. No worshipping today’s false gods of Money, or Shopping, or Entertainment, or Celebrity. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No misusing the name of God by claiming to speak for God when you aren’t, or claiming to be acting for God when you aren’t, or hijacking God’s name to promote some particular cause of your own. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No murder – because killing people is wrong. And no thin end of the wedge when it comes to abortion or euthanasia either. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No adultery. No sexual immorality. Christians should never compromise when it comes to God’s standards of morality. Marriage is between one man and one woman. And sex belongs within marriage. That has been the Bible’s teaching and the church’s understanding for 2000 years. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No stealing. Christians should be known to be scrupulously honest and trustworthy. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
No coveting – no sinful thoughts. No greed. The battle to live a holy life begins with holy thoughts. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
The devil likes nothing more than deceiving Christians into committing sin. And there are many more ways of disobeying God beyond breaking the Ten Commandments. Ephesians contains several warning lists of sins to avoid.
Ephesians 4 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. ….
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. ….

5 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. …. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.

So many sins to avoid if we are to live holy lives. But, of course, righteousness is not just about avoiding doing bad things. It is also about intentionally doing good things. Living a righteous life is not a life full of negatives but rather a life full of positives. Righteous living means loving our neighbours as we love ourselves. Righteous living means showing God’s compassion for the widows and the orphans and the refugees. Righteous living means fighting for justice and fairness on behalf of the marginalized and the oppressed and the forgotten. Righteous living means loving our enemies and forgiving other people as God in Christ has forgiven us. Every time we try to do the right thing in this world which has rejected God, it is part of the great unseen spiritual battle. Every time we let our light shine forces back the darkness. Putting on the breastplate of righteousness means devoting our lives to doing the right thing.
Ephesians 6 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
It is not a coincidence that truth and righteousness sit side by side in this one verse. Righteousness is usually expressed in our actions. Truth is usually revealed in our words. God calls Christians to be holy both in our actions and in our words. We should always do the right things, and at the same time we should also be careful always to say the right things.
This same combination of righteous actions and speaking the truth is very clear back in Ephesians 4
24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.
Righteousness and holiness in our actions must be accompanied by speaking truthfully and rejecting any falsehood or lying. And we saw the same in Ephesians 5.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
Goodness, righteousness and truth all go together. Our words must match our actions.
No lying. Back to the Ten Commandments and to the Ninth Commandment – no false witness. Always tell the truth. No lying! In the words of Ephesians 4:15, we should always be speaking the truth in love. Christians should be known as people who can be relied upon always to speak the truth, whatever the circumstances, whatever the pressures or temptations to lie. No bending the truth or stretching the truth. We must be truth-tellers. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount,
Matthew 5 37 All you need to say is simply “Yes,” or “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one
More than that, beyond truth and falsehood, all our speech must show God’s righteousness.
Ephesians 4 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths …
Ephesians 5 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
Righteous and pure and upright in all our actions and righteous and pure and upright in all our speech. These are the qualities of character which every Christian needs. Absolutely everything we say and do should be worthy of our God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ! If we want to stand firm for God in the spiritual battle of everyday life, this is the armour God gives us. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
In his commentary on Ephesians, my old professor Max Turner sums up these first two pieces of the armour of God like this. “The church’s basic equipment in the spiritual battle is integrity and righteous living, and they are effective because these qualities bear the stamp of Jesus and the new creation he brings.”
Integrity and righteous living – because that is what Jesus is like. That’s a very high standard to live up to! The belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Put on the armour of God !!!

The belt of truth Ephesians 6:10-20

October 15th, 2017

I have never fought in a war. I was too young to fight in the second world war, although my parents did, or to do National Service, although I do have friends who have served in each of the forces and seen combat in Northern Ireland, in the Falklands and in Afghanistan. But most of us have never fought in a war.
Actually, that’s not correct. Because the Bible tells us that we have all been in the middle of a war for our whole lives. The Bible tells us that there is a war which has been going on since the beginning of time and will continue until time ends. This war is unseen – but just as real and just as deadly as all the human conflicts we could name. There’s a war on between good and evil, between God on the one hand and the devil and all the powers of evil on the other hand.
Ephesians 6 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Here is the battle which is raging behind the scenes of human history and behind the scenes of our own lives, not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The good news is that Jesus has already won the decisive battle. Through his death on the cross and the triumph of his wonderful resurrection Jesus has defeated the devil and all the powers of evil once and for all. The outcome of the war has been decided, but until Jesus returns in glory we are still caught up in the mopping up operations. Although they have already been defeated, the devil and his demons are still fighting to drag Christians down. So the Bible calls us all to put on the armour of God.
Ephesians 6 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
This is all that God calls us to do. To stand. To stand our ground. Not to let the devil drag us down. Not to let the devil drag us away from God. To hold firm to our faith. To hang on to the victory which Jesus has won for us. And to stay standing.
To help us to stand firm, God has given us armour to wear. This is a picture from the Roman army of the kind of armour they used to wear. And Paul spiritualises these pieces of armour and says here are six things all Christians need if we are going to stand firm for God in the spiritual battle we are caught up in. Six things which will keep us safe from the attacks of the devil and his minions and which will give us victory.
13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The armour of God. Six pieces of spiritual armour Christians need to “put on” to help us to stand firm against the devil and all his evil schemes. And the first piece of the armour of God is the belt of truth. Truth. In a way, truth is not only a piece of our Christian armour but it has also become part of the battleground. The devil is a liar and a deceiver. He deceived Adam and Eve and the devil has been deceiving people ever since. Truth is a great defence and a powerful weapon in our battle against the all lies the devil tells. So it is not surprising that the devil has attacked truth and people’s understanding of what truth is, especially in recent years. We can recognise at least three ways in which the devil has tried to distort the importance and the meaning of truth.
PLURALISM
We no longer live in a world where everybody we know believes the same things. Through widespread travel and migration and modern communications we live in a multi-cultural multi-faith world. This is what is meant by pluralism. There are different world religions believing different things to be true. This has produced a supermarket of beliefs which gives people the impression that it doesn’t matter what you believe – the impression is that all those different ideas are true. And that is the lie the devil wants people to believe. It is a lie because these competing world religions are NOT the same. Different ideas about God are NOT all true.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The one true God, Creator of heaven and earth, has revealed Himself through his one and only Son Jesus Christ. Other gods are false. We only find the truth in Jesus! Aldous Huxley once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Just because lots of people believe in other religions does not mean that all religions are true. The facts of the incarnation and death and resurrection of Jesus cannot just be ignored. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
PRIVATIZATION
For thousands of years everybody knew that if something is true then it is true for everybody everywhere. Truth is universal. The lie the devil is telling today is that truth is no longer universal. Instead truth is relative. The devil wants to deceive people into thinking that truth can be different for different people. What is true for me need not be true for you. That is what is meant by privatisation. Truth is now personal and private and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We are expected to be tolerant of other people’s opinions. And it is politically incorrect to tell people that you are right and they are wrong.
Among other things, this leads to the pressure on Christians to stay silent about our faith. The devil had been telling the world for decades that it is rude for Christians to be forcing their “opinions” on the world. And the world is falling for that lie.
Last week the Junior Common Room of Balliol College Oxford banned Christian Union representatives from taking part in their Freshers’ Fair over concerns over the potential harm Christians might do to new students.
JCR vice-president Freddy Potts, on behalf of the JCR committee, reportedly told a CU representative: “We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers’ fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.”
He added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.” (Guardian 9/10/17)
That is just one example of the impact of privatisation on Christian freedom, in Oxford, a centre of learning where freedom of speech and freedom of religion should be championed, not stamped on. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
PLAUSIBILITY
We live in a world of spin and an age of image manipulators. It doesn’t seem to matter what is actually true any more – all that matters is what seems to be true. What appears to be true. What feels like it is true. What is most plausible. It is as if we have moved beyond truth.
A year ago Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” as its 2016 international word of the year,
“Post-truth” is defined as an adjective relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.
Oxford Dictionaries said: “Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time,” he said. “We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and again in July when Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination. … I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.” (BBC News website 16/11/16)

Post truth - emotional appeals over-riding objective facts. We are indeed living more and more in a “post-truth” world! 30 years ago you could ask people to consider the life of Jesus and answer the rational question, was Jesus mad? Was Jesus bad? Or was Jesus God? Using CS Lewis’s words, was Jesus a lunatic, or a liar, or was He really Lord of all? You could ask people to think logically about who Jesus is. But nowadays if you ask somebody to think about whether Jesus was mad, bad or God, you will probably get the answer, “who cares?” In this post-modern world reasoning is irrelevant. Image is everything. People make even important decisions in life not based on logic but based on their feelings which depend on outward appearances. Whether something is true or false doesn’t matter. What matters is how it makes people feel. It this plausible? Is this convincing? What is my gut feeling about this? People really don’t care about whether Jesus’s teaching and his claims to be God were true or not. All most people will care about is whether your presentation of the gospel is entertaining. Plausibility. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
So the devil has attacked truth which is true for everybody with pluralism, lots of different truths, with privatization, truth is just a matter of opinion, and with plausibility, does something feel like it is true. We can see the battlefield in places where Christians are not allowed to speak about their faith in public, in case somebody gets offended, and in this world of political correctness offending people has been redefined as “harming” people. .
We can see this erosion of truth in debates about Same Sex Marriage and the next big issue, gender transition. Stores are removing gender distinctions between boys and girls in their ranges of clothing. Children are being encouraged not only to explore their sexual orientation but even to explore their gender. All this is only possible because truth is no longer universal. Truth is relegated to a matter of opinion and everybody’s opinion and everybody’s choice has to be respected. But in all these debates we really do not need to hear lots of different opinions. Christians need to understand and listen to God’s truth revealed in the Bible and through the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
And even within the church, post-truth has begun to get a hold. The Bible clearly teaches the reality of hell – but to some Christians that doesn’t “feel” right, so they ignore what the Bible teaches and say, “there is no hell.” The Bible clearly teaches that judgment day is coming – but that makes some Christians “feel uncomfortable” so instead of sticking to what the Bible says some people are teaching that everybody will be saved in the end. Christians need to stand firm for the truth and resist the lies the devil is telling.
The founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther, said this in a sermon in 1531.
(The Church) must have people who can beat down their adversaries and opponents and tear off the devil’s equipment and armor, that he may be brought into disgrace. But for this work, powerful warriors are needed, who are thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures and can contradict all false interpretations and take the sword from false teachers—that is, those very verses which false teachers use and turn them round upon them so that they fall back defeated.
But as not all Christians can be so capable in defending the Word and articles of their creed, they must have teachers and preachers who study the Scriptures and have daily fellowship with it, so that they can fight for all the others. Yet each Christian should be so armed that he himself is sure of his belief and of the doctrine and is so equipped with the sayings from the Word of God that he can stand up against the devil and defend himself, when men seek to lead him astray.
Truth is under attack more than ever before. We all need to stand up for the truth. We all need to put on the belt of truth which will protect us from the lies the devil is telling. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

David and Mephibosheth 2 Samuel 9:1-13

October 13th, 2017

2 Sam 9:1 ¶ David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

This lovely story of David and Mephibosheth was much loved and often preached on by ministers of a century ago. They often looked at the Old Testament through the eyes of the New Testament. They loved to find ways in which the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament. They called it the principle of Typology. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is One and the same as the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David. So they saw patterns (which they called “types”) in Old Testament events and characters which are fulfilled in New Testament events and characters (which they called the “anti-types”).

So preachers a century ago told their congregations that David is a “type” for Christ. And in this story David’s grace to Mephibosheth gives us a wonderful picture of God’s grace to us. David represents Christ and we are Mephibosheth.

• We are hiding, poor, weak, lame, and fearful before our King comes to us
• We are separated from our King because of our wicked ancestors
• We are separated from our King because of our deliberate actions
• We separated ourselves from the King because we didn’t know him or His love for us
• Our King sought us out before we sought Him
• The King’s kindness is extended to us for the sake of another
• The King’s kindness is based on covenant
• We must receive the King’s kindness in humility
• The King returns to us what we lost in hiding from Him
• The King returns to us more than what we lost in hiding from Him
• We have the privilege of dining at the King’s table
• We are received as sons at the King’s table, with access to the King and fellowship with Him
• We receive servants from the King
• The King’s honor does not immediately take away all our weakness and lameness, but it gives us a favor and standing that overcomes its sting and changes the way we think about ourselves

David represents Christ and we are Mephibosheth. Many preachers will preach it! This is all very well. If that is a blessing to you, great! But if that is what it is all about what does this passage really have to say to us? I prefer those preachers who tried to make the passage practical relevant and practical to their hearers. Those few preachers who saw that David’s grace to Mephibosheth is much more a pattern for us in serving and ministering to others. For me in this story, David gives us an example to follow - we are meant to be like David!

TWO REASONS WHY DAVID LOVED MEPHIBOSHETH
FRIENDSHIP

2 Sam 9:1 ¶ David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

David remembered his friendship with Jonathan. We thought before the summer about David and Jonathan and friendship. We thought about the importance of true friendships and caring for our friends, about hospitality and about sharing our faith with our friends. Here we see that true friendship will be forgiving, will be generous, will reach out and bless not only our friends but their families and their friends too.

Jonathan sent David a message which saved his life. David owed Jonathan a debt of friendship and he wanted to repay it. There is an example for us here not to take our friends for granted, but to reach out in love to them even across the generations. Here was Jonathan’s last surviving son Mephibosheth. To honour and remember his dearest friend Jonathan, David could show kindness to his son.

“A faithful friend is an image of God.” Christians should be known as people who know how to be good friends!

PROMISES

David kept his promise to Saul. We looked before the summer at the occasion when David spared Saul’s life when he could have murdered him in a cave.

1 Samuel 24:18 You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD gave me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.
21 Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” 22 So David gave his oath to Saul.

David had given Saul his word. So I believe at the back of David’s wish to find Saul’s descendents, as well as his friendship with Jonathan, David was motivated by his integrity. His wish to keep his promise to Saul. As well as being good friends, Christians should be known as people who keep their promises. As people who can be relied upon to do as they say they will.

Of course we always keep our promises – you will say. But let me share with you one painful lesson from my visits to Uganda. Sometimes in our English way of speaking if somebody asks us to do something, we will put off making a decision one way or the other. “We’ll see.” We reply. “I’ll let you know.”

In Uganda that kind of talk is taken as a “yes”. Unless you say bluntly “no”, the African mindset takes anything else as a “yes.” Sometimes we are afraid to say no. Afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings. Afraid sometimes of making difficult decisions.

Christians should be known as people who keep their promises – and part of that is never to commit ourselves to something we are not certain we can do. Politicians are very good at hedging their bets – giving noncommittal answers. Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” We Christians should be very careful always to do what we promise!

Whether David’s principle motivation was friendship for Jonathan or keeping his promise, this is still an inspiring and challenging story. There are at least
FOUR WAYS IN WHICH DAVID’S LOVE WAS REMARKABLE

1. REMARKABLE BECAUSE MEPHIBOSHETH WAS LAME

3 The king asked, “Is there no-one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
3 Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”
13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet

In those days there was great prejudice against the disabled, the impoverished, the disadvantaged, the widows and orphans and blind and lame. Just as there is in many parts of society today, against AIDS victims and refugees and single parent families as well as those of different races and colours and religions and sexual orientations.

It is striking that three times when Mephibosheth is mentioned in 2 Samuel, his disability is also mentioned. It was significant that David should help somebody who was lame. Like David, we should look out for the poor, weak, lame, and hidden, and work at ways of blessing them. Christians should be known as those who welcome and care for other people who are different from us in some way.

2. REMARKABLE because MEPHIBOSHETH WAS DAVID’S RIVAL

Mephibosheth was Saul’s grandson. He was the last survivor of Saul’s house. This means that according to the prior dynasty of Saul, Mephibosheth had the right to the throne. He was a son of the first-born son of the king Jonathan, and other potential heirs were all dead. In a political sense David could have seen Mephibosheth as a rival or a threat. Mephibosheth was clearly in hiding or David wouldn’t have had to ask if any of Jonathan’s family were still alive. I am sure Mephibosheth was terrified when he appeared before David. Was this talk of “showing kindness for Jonathan’s sake” all just a trick by David to capture him and eliminate his last rival? The fact was, this was no trick, but genuine grace.

We thought about loving our enemies when read how David spared Saul’s life. We saw how David resisted the temptations to make all his problems go away by murdering Saul, to take revenge or take a short cut to God’s blessings. And here again we see David blessing his one remaining rival instead of taking revenge on him for all the hurt Saul had brought to David. David loving his enemies yet again.

Who are your rivals? In work? In family life? Among your neighbours? In the church? In this competitive age of yuppies and guppies there is so much rivalry for success and popularity and power. The pressure is on all of us from a very early age. Time and again the Bible warns us of the dangers of envy! 10th Commandment warns us, do not covet! “A person is truly great when he is not envious of his rival’s success.”

History tells of a statue that was erected to celebrate a famous victory in the ancient Olympic games.. It so aroused the envious hatred of the rivals that one of them sneaked out at night to topple the statue. He found it so heavy he had to put quite an effort into rocking it back and forth. When he finally got it to topple it fell the wrong way and crush him to death. That is what bitterness and envy and rivalry can lead to.

Whoever your competitors or your rivals or even your enemies may be, the Bible teaches us not only that it is wrong to envy. This story reminds us that God also calls us to bless our rivals, to reach out in love towards them and to care for them!!

3. REMARKABLE BECAUSE OF EXCEPTIONAL GENEROSITY

Note how David gave Mephibosheth so much more than he could possibly have hoped for!

7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your
grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
9 ¶ Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your
master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.

What an outstanding example of generosity! Like David, we should seek out our enemies and seek to bless them. And we should be sure to bless them much much more than they deserve, because that is how much God blesses us!

4. REMARKABLE BECAUSE DAVID TOOK THE INITIATIVE

David didn’t have to do anything for Mephibosheth. Most people had forgotten that he ever existed. David’s friends were glad that Saul and his descendents were off the scene forever. But David took the initiative.
2 Sam 9:1 ¶ David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
3 The king asked, “Is there no-one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

HERE is the heart of the story. To whom can I show GOD’S KINDNESS??

Human love doesn’t stretch to the lame and disabled and disadvantaged – God’s kindness does!
Human love doesn’t seek to bless and help our enemies and our rivals – God’s kindness does!
Human love stops at meeting the needs of others – God’s kindness goes beyond that to give much, much more than we need or deserve!
Human love helps family and friends – God’s kindness takes the initiative to reach out and seek and save even the lost and forgotten and hidden.

Here is the message of the story of David and Mephibosheth for us today. Is there anybody I could bless today? Is there anyone to whom I can show God’s kindness?

REFLECTION – Who does God want me to bless??

What’s in it for me?

October 2nd, 2017

W.I.I.F.M. ?

Yahoo search gives 268,000 sites using that acronym, that group of initials!

W.I.I.F.M.

Do a search for the phrase it represents and you find more than two and a half MILLION web pages with that exact phrase! It is a phrase which is so popular because it is at the heart of modern sales and marketing techniques. WIIFM.

What’s in if for me? What is the benefit to me for taking the action you suggest? In marketing, “This is a fundamental element of persuasion and influence. When you can communicate a “benefit” to the target that is of more interest than his/her current situation then action/movement in the desired direction will result.”

“What’s in it for me?” Marketing is a strategy that is user centered. It is all about YOU, the most important element of the marketing plan. Satisfy the end user. Give the end-user and experience that they enjoy and they will tell others about that unique experience, therefore leveraging the most elusive form of marketing, “word of mouth”.
Get people to start a conversation about you…you want them to be asking you, “What’s in it for me?”
“One thing I think a lot of us think when we stumble upon something in life is: what’s in it for me? Not because we are extremely selfish. But we spend all day, every day in our bodies and our lives. So I think it’s pretty natural that you think about your own life, problems and challenges a bit more than you think about other people or things. … So what’s in it for me?”

Erwin W. Lutzer wrote this.
Whenever we are faced with a crucial decision, our generation has been taught to ask, What’s in it for me? Will it give me pleasure? Profit? Security? Fulfillment? We are not necessarily opposed to God; we just fit him in wherever he is able to help us. The idea that our wills should be subjected to his control, even when our personal ambitions are at stake, is not easy to accept. We can assent mentally to God’s control, but in practice, we might still spend our lives pleasing ourselves.
The truth is that there are many questions as Christians we should continually ask in life – but “what’s in it for me?” is not one of them!

I started thinking about this topic a few years ago while we were enjoying a very special holiday in America. Two experiences really struck me. The first was visiting a pretty typical American Christian book shop. The second was watching bits of the different channels of “God TV”.

The Christian Book Shop was big. Getting on for the size of Marks and Spencers in Brentwood. Of course it wasn’t all books! Maybe two thirds of the shop was what I am told in the trade is called “holy hardware”. Everything from artwork to clothing – some very interesting ties which I decided I would never dare to wear, and even some very holy socks. All kinds of decorations and trinkets, including most inspiringly a pleasingly large section dedicated to gifts you might want to give your pastor. There was a huge section of Christian music and also another of Christian teaching DVDs to buy and a vast choice of different Bibles – well hopefully the same Bible but in a bewildering variety of translations and bindings. And then there were the books.

What depressed me among the books were the limited range of authors and titles given the size of the shop. But more than that. There were small sections for Bible Study and Theology and serious thinking. But there were much larger sections on Self Improvement. 101 ways to make my life better. In the American consumer culture I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was disappointed at just how many books they were selling to Christians to answer the basic questions, “How can I be a successful Christian?” “How can I be a more happy Christian?” “What can I get out of being a Christian?” “What’s in it for me?”

It is depressing to see that it is exactly those authors whose books clog up the tiny religion sections of bookshops like Smiths and Waterstones in this country. Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen among others. Not the excellent British Christian authors like Tom Wright or John Stott or even Nicky Gumbel, but American celebrity authors whose books are bestsellers because they pander to that desire to find out “what’s in it for me?”

Then in America I was much less surprised but equally disappointed to see that the same question was at the heart of all the “God TV” programmes I watched bits of. Some of these were national broadcasts, some just local to the county we were in from the Baptist Church just down the road. But time and again the theme was the same. “How can I get God to answer my prayers?” “What can I do to get God to bless me?” What’s in it for me?
Most disappointing. I was not surprised that finding the answers very often involved sending a totally freewill gift to the evangelist or pastor or church.

I know we live in a consumer culture with its twin pillars of personal choice and satisfaction guaranteed. I know we are moving into a postmodern culture where the unholy trinity of “Me, myself and I” reign supreme. But I had hoped for better in the United States where one third of the population are evangelical Christians. I had hoped for better in the deep south Bible belt. But in the end the “public face” of American Christianity in its television and its books seemed to me just as obsessed as the world around is with the fundamental question, “What’s in it for me?”

All this self-obsession seems totally opposite to the life Jesus calls his disciples to live. It seems totally opposite to the attitude the apostle Paul had as he explained it in his farewell address to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus in Acts 20.

19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

What’s in it for me? For Paul it was the plots of the Jews severely testing him. An exhausting programme of teaching in public and in private. Prison and hardships waiting in Jerusalem which would certainly end in death. Paul goes on,

Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears….. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

It is more blessed to give than to receive. The ninth beatitude – the words of Jesus Himself! Throughout Scripture Jesus puts the primary focus on the joy of giving, not on the return. He offers us the supreme example of what it means to give: He gave His life for us–knowing there was nothing we could give Him in return. God wants us to express His heart. That means we won’t be asking all the time, “What’s in it for me?” We won’t be asking, “What can I get?” but “What can I give?”

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Mt 10:8 Freely you have received, freely give.

We live in a world that is shaped by getting. A world enslaved to consumerism and ruled by greed. If we want to break free from the chains of materialism, we need prayer and generous, sacrificial giving. We need to learn how to give freely as we have freely received.
Richard J. Foster, Money, Sex & Power: “Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed.”

Lu 14:12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“God loves a cheerful giver. He who gives cheerfully, gives better. … We impatiently await God’s paradise, but we have in our hands the power to be in paradise right here and now. Being happy with God means this: to love as He loves, to help as He helps, to give as He gives, to serve as He serves.”

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Sadly there is a way in which this truth is distorted by some Christian teachers. They teach that we should give to God so that God will give to us in return. “What’s in it for me?” They teach that the more you give to God the more God will bless you. This wrong idea is at the heart of what may prove to be the greatest danger to the Christian faith in the world today. Because the fastest growing religion in the continent of Africa is not Islam. But nor is it Christianity. The fastest growing religion in Africa is a variation of Pentecostalism which is as dangerous as it is unbiblical. It is what is known as the “prosperity gospel.” It is the mistaken and wrong teaching that if you are a Christian God will always give you health, wealth and success, just as long as you have enough faith. The prosperity gospel. Visiting Tanzania this summer we saw again so many cars in Africa, just like in America, displaying bumper stickers like “Unstoppable Achiever,” “With Jesus I Will Always Win,” and “Your Success Is Determined by Your Faith,” Distressing! There were an impressive number of Christian books in the bookshop at Nairobi airport – but they were all by these health wealth and prosperity authors. Health, wealth and success – the prosperity gospel. Spreading like wildfire all over Africa and now gaining in popularity even in England. You will have heard some of their slogans. “Say it; do it; receive it; tell it.” “Name it and claim it” “Healing in the atonement”. “You believe you receive”. “What I confess, I possess” . Pat Roberston’s “Law of reciprocity” – you give to God and he’ll give back to you”, and Benny Hinn. It worries me that if you don’t know what I am talking about you will hear this kind of teaching on Premier Christian Radio, “Name it and claim it!”

This is not the true gospel! The blessings being promised are NOT the blessings God promises to Christian believers? Very often the prosperity gospel takes Old Testament promises about the material blessings which the nation of Israel was going to enjoy in the promised land, and applies those promises out of context to the lives of individual Christians. But worse than that, promises of health wealth and success encourage people to come to God for what they get from him – to seek the gifts instead of the Giver. When the blessings don’t come as the evangelist has promised, many folk then fall away from faith, or just as bad, are overwhelmed by guilt that they have “failed” to have enough faith.

Christians are meant follow Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s life was not filled with happiness and success but rather with suffering
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Here is our pattern for Christian living. The sacrifice of the cross. There is no space here for asking, “what’s in it for me?”

And remember the experience of the Apostle Paul, and indeed of the apostles who were martyred for testifying about Jesus and preaching the Good News of the Resurrection.
2 Corinthians 11 23 I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

That is what it cost the Apostle Paul to follow Jesus. Not a life obsessed with the question, “What’s in it for me?” That’s not a question Esther asked when she went as a missionary to rural Zambia more than 40 years ago. That is not a question missionaries ask when they answer God’s call to serve overseas. It is not a question you ask when a person answers the call to train to become a minister, or throws themselves into Christian service as full-time youth workers or evangelists. When any of us gives our lives over to God, we give up any right to ask, “What’s in it for me?” We can only trust God and say, “Your will be done”.

What’s in it for me?” That’s irrelevant. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

This is why harvest time is so important. It teaches us to be grateful for all the good things God gives us so richly to enjoy. And this is why Communion is important. Every time we break the bread and share the cup, it reminds us of everything that Christ gave up for us. Jesus never asked, “what’s in it for me?” Instead He taught us all, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

PRAYER:- Prayer of Richard of Chichester:

Lord give us the grace to serve you as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To toil and not to seek for rest
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To labour and not to ask for any reward
Except that of knowing that we are doing your will.

David and Nathan “You are the man!” 2 Samuel 12

September 25th, 2017

We saw two weeks ago great King David himself sinking deeper and deeper in the swamp of sin. How neglecting his responsibilities, boredom and being in the wrong place at the wrong time led him into a temptation which ended in up in adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah. At the end of the story we read this.

2 Sam 11:26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.
27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

For most people for most of the time God leaves our sins unpunished in this life. We will only realise and face the Wrath of God at the last judgement. But God had more things He wanted to do through King David, and God had things He wanted to teach us from the fall and rise of Great King David. So this we read how God dealt with David and Bathsheba. We learn about God’s grace and mercy and in particular we learn from David about the nature of true repentance.

True repentance begins with
CONVICTION of sin
God in his mercy sends his prophet to confront David with his sin. The simple parable of the two men and the precious pet lamb which the rich man stole from the poor man.
4 “Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one
who had come to him.”
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four
times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

Have you ever had that kind of crushing experience. You’ve sinned, you’ve broken God’s commandments, you think you’ve got away with it and then… you find out you haven’t. Somebody knows. Or maybe it is not the voice of a prophet but the voice of the Holy Spirit who inspires every prophet, the Holy Spirit inside us doing his work in unbelievers as Jesus had promised.
John 16: 8 When the Counsellor comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin
and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;
10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

The primary work of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of people who do not yet believe is to convict them of sin and bring them to true repentance. And the Spirit continues that work in the lives of believers, bringing us to true repentance as part of His work of purification, making us more like Jesus.

The first step in true repentance comes when we acknowledge from the depth of our hearts, “I am the man!”

It’s very easy for people (whether we are Christians or not) to acknowledge we are sinners. Prayers of confession are very easy to say, “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sin and wickedness. We have sinned against you and against our fellow men, in thought and word and deed, through ignorance and weakness and our own deliberate fault.” Those words are easy to say, they are nice and general, and theologically correct without being particularly personal. But if somebody comes up to us and calls us a “miserable sinner” to our face we would be very tempted to punch them on the nose. And if they say, “You are a miserable sinner because you did, this and this and this,” we would be very very uncomfortable.

True repentance begins with “You are the man!” With recognising whether that challenge comes from another person or from the voice of the Holy Spirit deep within that, yes, I am a sinner because of this and that and the other specific sins. Yes God is angry with ME because of THESE things! Yes, I need to repent. Even me! Especially me! “I am the man!” Conviction of sin.

Conviction of sin lead on to
CONFESSION of sin
Did you hear how David responded when Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”? God’s prophet, Nathan, showed great courage in saying such a thing to the great King of Israel. But David didn’t lock Nathan in prison or have him executed, as many kings might have done? David didn’t try to justify or excuse his sins. He does not attempt to present his actions as if they were good, or within his rights as a king. He does not protest his innocence.
David realised the sinfulness of his own sin. Far worse than stealing a pet lamb, he had stolen another man’s wife. In his reaction to Nathan’s parable, David as King had already pronounced the death sentence on David the adulterer and murderer .
2 Sam 12: 5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four
times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
David knows he can’t escape God’s wrath. He does the only thing he can do. He judges himself and he repents. He takes responsibility for his sin. David doesn’t presume on God’s grace. He doesn’t say, “God is good, He he’s bound to forgive me because of all my good deeds. No! David simply says, “I have sinned against the Lord!”
2 Sam 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
David confesses his sin. Very unusually we actually have the very text of David’s prayer of confession written for us in:- Psalm 51:
1 ¶ [For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.]

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right
when you speak and justified when you judge.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 ¶ Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Those are the very words David used when he confessed his sin to God. David mourned greatly because of his sin. He had a broken and crushed heart before God. David ‘s faith was not superficial but sincere. He had sunk into the swamp of sin - but he didn’t want to stay there. He begged God to get him out! That is true confession!!

And David showed God he was sincere in his repentance. David showed God and everybody else he meant business by praying and fasting. True confession is not always public. But if we mean business with God then our confession will sometimes be public. Certainly there would be greater blessing if we were to “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another” more often, as James 5:16 commands us.

Conviction and confession lead on to
CLEANSING from sin
So then, after David repented, what did God say to him through the mouth of the prophet Nathan? God did not tell him, “Go and do some more good works and I will erase your sins!”? No, God never says that!

2 Sam 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.

What amazing grace! What love! What mercy! We serve and worship a God who is not only a Holy God, a God of justice, but also a God of mercy and forgiveness and loving kindness. Praise the Lord!

Looking back on the whole experience, David could write the words of Psalm 32:
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Conviction. Confession. Cleansing. Now, there are many who want the story to end here, with 2 Samuel 12:13: “The Lord has taken away your sin!” We love stories with perfect, happy endings. But this story also reminds us, sin has

Sin has CONSEQUENCES

In real life, we can be forgiven for breaking the window, but we still have to sweep up the broken glass and repair the window. There are always consequences to our actions, and like it or not, we have to live on with those consequences, just as David did.

14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”
The tragic death of this innocent child points us to an important truth; our sin affects not only ourselves, but also the people around us. The long-reaching effects of one moment of sinful self-indulgence can be disastrous. In the moments of temptation, we seldom pause to take that fact into account. If only we could see the results of our actions in advance, we would say “no” to sin much more often. You may feel that it is unfair that David got away with his sin but that this child died. You are right. It is unfair. But sadly that is often how sin works. When people lie or steal, or do much worse, it is often the people around them who end up being hurt. Even when there is conviction and confession and cleansing, sin still has consequences.
But at the same time God’s grace is at work. He had plans for both David and Bathsheba. In God’s grace there is always hope of restoration.

2 Sam 12:24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; 25 and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.
Who would think that a relationship build on such a sin spoiled foundation could even survive, much less prosper? But God demonstrates His grace in the transformation of a relationship that had once brought even the condemnation of death. This relationship was not to become “healed but always deficient”. Through God’s grace they would become a “healed and holy household”. That marriage produced Solomon, the wisest man ever born. He succeeded his father as King, and Solomon, David and Bathsheba are named as ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ. This restored, healed, sanctified marriage of David and Bathsheba bears both God’s hand and His blessing.
God never brings us condemnation without offering us grace and healing. Time and again the Bible says this - God wants to have an intimate relationship with each of us, and goes out of His way to invite us into that relationship. The whole point of Nathan’s parable was not to punish, David but to restore him, to bring him to repentance.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or where you’ve been — God’s healing, restoring grace is available for you, just like it was for David. All we have to do is be willing to face God — and ourselves — with the same painful honesty that was David’s first step toward rebuilding his life. Our lives can be healed, restored, and rebuilt, just like David’s was. It all began with Nathan’s words, “You are that man!” When we get to the point of admitting before God, “I am that man. I am that woman”, then God’s forgiveness and cleansing and restoration can be ours.
Conviction of sin – confession of sin – cleansing from sin. This is God’s grace. This is God’s mercy. If God can forgive David, he can forgive you and me. Deception. Adultery. Murder. However great the sin, God’s mercy is greater! IF we truly repent. When God convicts us of sin, if we confess our sin then God if faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered! Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit!” (Psa. 32:1,2)