Charles’s quotes

"It is surely ours to combine these elements of mourning for sin and joy in our salvation in one complex and composite experience which keeps us perpetually humble and yet perpetually joyful too."— Rev William Still

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Holy Spirit in the Life of Faith

The Holy Spirit is the Breath of God. All Scripture is God-breathed. We experience the Breath of God upon our life when we listen attentively to the God-breathed Scriptures. Paul speaks, in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, of the  relationship between the Breath of God (the Holy Spirit) and the God-breathed Word (the Holy Scriptures) - 'the Holy Scriptures ... are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work'.

1) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make us wise.

    The wisdom which comes from the Spirit and the Word is a special kind of wisdom. It is not the wisdom of this world. It is the wisdom which is bound up with Christ, salvation and faith. Worldly wisdom places great value on intellectual attainment. It emphasizes the importance of getting on in the world. True spiritual wisdom has quite different priorities. As we feed upon God's Word, the Spirit imparts wisdom to us, a wisdom which the world can neither understand nor receive. This is the wisdom of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 2. He describes this wisdom as 'a secret and hidden wisdom' (v.7). This wisdom is no longer hidden from us - 'God has revealed it to us by His Spirit' (v.10). It is hidden only from those who refuse to read and hear with faith the 'words ... taught by the Spirit' (v.13).

2) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to lead us to Christ.

    Jesus has given us His promise concerning the Holy Spirit: 'He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you' (John 16:14). If we are to honour the Holy Spirit in our preaching, we must focus on the cross of Christ' - 'we preach Christ crucified', 'I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified' (1 Corinthians 1:17,23; 2:2). We must pray for 'the Spirit's power' (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). How are we to preach Christ crucified? Will it mean preaching only from a select group of 'gospel texts' which refer explicitly to the death of Christ? Preaching Christ and Him crucified does not mean that we must narrow down the focus of our preaching. What, then, does it mean? It means that we must learn to see Christ in 'all the Scriptures' (Luke 24:27). At the very centre of all of our preaching from God's Word, there must stand Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We do not read Christ into places where He is not to be found. Rather, we emphasize that Christ - 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29) - is the central Theme of the Scriptures. The Spirit of God points us to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We are to 'keep our eyes on Jesus' (Hebrews 12:2). As we keep our eyes on Him, we will find that the Spirit directs our attention to the cross, graciously reminding us that we have been 'redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ' (1 Peter 1:18-19).

3) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring us to salvation.

    Jesus Christ is 'our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and redemption' (1 Corinthians 1:30). He is our full salvation. From beginning to end, our salvation is in Him. There is no room for boasting on our part: 'Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord' (1 Corinthians 1:31). Our salvation is an 'out of this world' salvation. It is 'out of this world' in its origin. It is a salvation which has its origin in the 'before the ages' love of God, the eternal love of God. It is a salvation which has, as its destiny, 'our glorification' (1 Corinthians 2:7). When Paul speaks of this eternal salvation, this glorious salvation, he emphasizes its 'out of this world' character. He writes, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived ... God has prepared for those who love Him' (1 Corinthians 2:9). This salvation is not only 'out of this world'. It has entered into our experience: 'God has revealed (His salvation) to us through the Spirit' (1 Corinthians 2:10). Salvation has been revealed. It has come 'from above'. Here below, we experience salvation. Here below, we confess, with gladness of heart, that salvation has come to us. Tempted to doubt God's salvation, we must allow the Spirit to bring to our remembrance this salvation which comes 'from above'. Tempted to think that we 'know it all', we must remember that we are still here below. When we speak of God's salvation, we  must speak with deep gratitude to God 'for His inexpressible gift' (2 Corinthians 9:15). Our words can never give adequate expression to God's great salvation. Nevertheless, we must not be hesitant in preaching Christ and His salvation. As we preach the gospel of salvation, we must never lose sight of the way in which the Spirit has revealed God's salvation to us. Salvation has not come to us from the depths of our own heart. It has not come to us from some 'great beyond' which makes the whole matter so private that we dare not speak of it. Salvation has come to us through 'words ... taught by the Spirit', the words of Holy Scripture. To those who live below, salvation has come 'from above'. When we think of God's salvation, we will come to appreciate its greatness, as we learn to see the greatness of our sin, the greatness of our need.

    God's salvation corresponds to our need. We have a need for forgiveness. The Gospel speaks to us of 'peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1). We doubt our ability to keep going in the life of faith. God's Word says to us, 'Do you not know ... that God's Spirit dwells in you?' (1 Corinthians 3:16). We wonder if there is hope. God assures us that there is hope. He does this by pouring His love 'into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us' (Romans 5:5). Peace with God provides us with the God-given foundation for living the life in the Spirit. Before we are called to the life of discipleship, God says to us, 'There is ... now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus' (Romans 8:1). To the believer, God says, 'You have been set free' - set free 'from the law of sin and death', set free 'for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus' (Romans 8:2). This freedom is in Christ. The Lord Jesus says to us, 'if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed' (John 8:36). His way of setting us free is emphasized in John 8:32 - 'you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'. Our experience of freedom, given to us by Christ through His Word of truth, is to be an ongoing experience. This experience of freedom is described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18. It begins 'when a man turns to the Lord' (v.16). Freedom is the gift of God. It is the gift of the Spirit: 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom' (v.17). Our ongoing experience of freedom - freedom from sinfulness, freedom for Christlikeness - grows 'from one degree of glory to another as we 'behold the glory of the Lord' (v.18).

4) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring us to faith.

    God's salvation is a gracious salvation. When, however, we join in Paul's affirmation of Ephesians 2:5 - 'by grace you have been saved' - , we must take care to look down to verse 8 where we find the additional words, 'through faith': 'By grace you have been saved through faith'. There must be no hint of a grace which works apart from faith, a grace which makes faith redundant. That would be 'saved by grace without faith' which is very different from 'saved by grace through faith'. In our preaching, we must emphasize both the absolute necessity of grace and the absolute necessity of faith. It is important for us to ask some key questions about faith.

    Our first question is this: 'Where does faith come from?' Is there a basic inclination in man towards believing? The parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14) gives us, in the proud Pharisee, a striking picture of man apart from the grace of God. We may not believe that we are absolutely perfect but we will, nonetheless, look around ourselves until we see someone to whom we can point and say, 'Lord, I'm not as bad as him. I'm better than him'. The Holy Spirit has a very definite answer to such sinful pride - 'you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things' (Romans 2:1). How do we move from being the proud Pharisee, boasting of our own self-righteousness to becoming the humble publican, crying to God for His mercy? There is only one way, the way of the Gospel. It is when the 'Gospel' comes to us 'not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction' that we are brought to faith (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13). Let us not imagine that we can bring others to faith without the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.

    When we move on to our second question, 'What is faith?', we find that the parable of the Pharisee and the publican provides us, in the publican, with a simple picture of faith. The contrast between the faith of the publican and the works of the Pharisee is total. The faith of the publican was not a 'work' by which he earned salvation. He received salvation as a gift of God's grace. The faith of the publican points in one direction only: the mercy of God. His prayer, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner' (v.13), points away from the sinner to the Saviour. When we observe Jesus' use of the word, 'justified', in verse 14, our thoughts tend to move towards Paul and the doctrine of justification by faith. The doctrine of justification by faith was Jesus' doctrine before it was Paul's. What does say Paul say about justification by faith that is not already said - in essence - by Jesus in this parable? Paul contrasts grace and works in Romans 11:6 - 'if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works'. He contrasts faith and works in Romans 9:32 where he states that Israel did not fulfil the law because 'they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works'. While Paul contrasts both grace and faith with works, he never contrasts grace and faith. They belong together. In our preaching, we must emphasize both the offer of grace and the call to faith.

    There is a third question we must ask - 'Why is faith so important?' Again, the parable of the Pharisee and the publican answers this question for us: 'this man went down to his house justified rather than the other' (v.14). It is faith which marks the difference between the man whom God has declared righteous and the man who is robed in the 'filthy rags' of his own religion and morality (Isaiah 64:6). The contrast between Pharisaism and saving faith is brought out well in Luke 7:36-50 where a sinful woman is forgiven as the Pharisees 'say among themselves', "Who is this, who even forgives sins?"'(v.49). Jesus' words to the woman, in verses 48 and 50, consist of three very short sentences which are packed with Gospel truth. 'Your sins are forgiven' - these words were spoken to the woman, but not to the Pharisees. Why? The answer is found in the next sentence - 'Your faith has saved you'. The reason that the woman, and not the Pharisees, heard the words, 'Your sins are forgiven', is clear. She believed. They did not believe. The Lord Jesus then said to the woman, 'Go in peace'.

    From these words of peace, we may find our thoughts turning to the Dove of Peace, the Holy Spirit. In giving to the believer the forgiveness of sins, the Lord Jesus also gives the Holy Spirit. In grace and mercy, God gives the Holy Spirit to us: 'regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit', given to us by 'the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour ... poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour' (Titus 3:4-7). The direct connection between Christ and the Holy Spirit is emphasized in John the Baptist's prophecy: 'He (Jesus Christ) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). In Galatians 3:14, Paul stresses that it is 'in Christ Jesus that we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith'. He goes on to emphasize that 'faith works by love ' and speaks also of 'love' as 'the fruit of the Spirit' (5:6,22-23).  Love - this is so important. Love - this is the practical context for all of our theological reflection concerning the Holy Spirit in the life of faith.

5) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God for our profit.

    At our local primary school, I began a lesson on the Old Testament prophets by asking the question, 'What is a prophet?' One boy gave the answer, 'It's when you sell something for more than you bought it for'. We profit from the Scriptures because Scripture is a word of prophecy: 'men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God' (2 Peter 1:21). How do we profit from the prophets? How do we profit from the Scriptures? The answer is given in 2 Timothy 3:16 - 'All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable'. Scripture is profitable because Scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is the Word of God. That's why it profits us. If the Bible is not the Word of God, no amount of our saying, 'I derive profit from reading the Bible' will make it the Word of God. It is not our faith or lack of faith which decides whether or not the Bible is God's Word. Our faith or lack of faith can neither add to nor take away from Paul's great declaration, 'All Scripture is God-breathed'. Our faith rests on a sure foundation: 'How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!' Despite our unbelief, 'the Word of God is not bound' (2 Timothy 2:9). Through His Word, God is able to lift us out of our unbelief and bring us into the assurance of faith. We profit from God's Word when we allow the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, to breathe His God-breathed words into our hearts and lives.

6) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to teach us.

    Jesus tells us, in John 7:17, that if we want to understand His teaching, we must commit ourselves to doing the will of God. True understanding of Christ and His Gospel goes hand in hand with a practical commitment to living as His disciple. If we are not to be 'blown here and there by every wind of teaching', we need to commit ourselves to being 'doers' of God's Word (Ephesians 4:14; James 1:22). There are 'some things', in God's Word, which are 'hard to understand' (2 Peter 3:16). Many demands will be placed on those who take seriously the task of 'correctly handling the Word of truth' (2 Timothy 2:15). As we wrestle with the many-sided complexities of gaining an accurate understanding of God's Word, we must never lose sight of 'the simplicity which is in Christ'. We must take great care to maintain our 'sincere and pure devotion to Christ' (2 Corinthians 11:3).
In our learning from God's Word and in our teaching God's Word to others, we are to honour the Holy Spirit. He is our Teacher. This is what Jesus says concerning Him - 'the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you' (John 14:26). As we walk with the Lord, 'letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly' the Holy Spirit will not fail us. He will not leave us without a word to speak for Him (Colossians 3:16; Luke 12:12). In the ministry of God's Word, we are to say only what the Holy Spirit gives to us for the spiritual feeding of the people.

    When I was a student, this lesson was impressed upon me by my Minister, George Philip. He pointed out to me that there may be many things which will interest me in the study, but they may not be what God is wanting me to share with the people when I go to the pulpit. I have never forgotten his words. They have provided an important framework for my ministry. Our goal is not to impress people with our great learning. Rather, it is to give them a glimpse of the greatness of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jack Rogers gives us a thought-provoking account of a sermon preached by G.C. Berkouwer while he was in the U.S.A. - 'The worshippers were disappointed by his sermon. They could understand it! They expected the great professor to be profound (i.e. abstract, dull). Instead, he preached a simple gospel sermon of pastoral comfort and affirmation' (Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical, p.141). If our preaching is a disappointment to those who bring with them the wrong expectations, let us not be perturbed. If our preaching is a help to those who are eagerly seeking to be instructed in the Word of God, let us rejoice. We are to help our hearers to 'grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 3:18). This is 'the work' for which we have been 'set apart' by 'the Holy Spirit'. This is 'the work' to which we have been 'called' by 'the Holy Spirit' (Acts 13:2).

7) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to reprove us.

    This ministry of the Spirit - His reproving ministry - is vitally related to His correcting ministry. These ministries belong together. In His reproving ministry, the Spirit is concerned with showing us where we have gone wrong. In His correcting ministry, He is concerned with bringing us back to the right way. There will be those who are reproved by the Spirit of God yet they refuse His correcting ministry. The Word of God speaks very directly of this in Proverbs 29:1 - 'He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing'. This, however, is not the intention of the Spirit's reproving ministry. The Holy Spirit reproves us so that He might bring us back into the way of holiness. In Hebrews 3:7, we read words which 'the Holy Spirit' speaks to us, 'Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts'.

    In Paul's letters, we have two different yet related instructions concerning obediennce to the Spirit of God - 'Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God' (Ephesians 4:30). and 'Do not quench the Spirit' (1 Thessalonians 5:19). While these two instructions may be similar, there is a difference of emphasis. The warning against grieving the Spirit is more related to the Spirit's reproving ministry while the warning against quenching the Spirit is more related to His correcting ministry. When the Spirit is reproving us for our wrong living, we must not grieve Him by continuing in the wrong way. When the Spirit is seeking to bring us back into the pathway of holiness, we must not quench Him by resisting His holy promptings within us.

    In connection with the Spirit's reproving ministry, we must consider Christ's warning against committing the unpardonable sin, 'the blasphemy against the Spirit' (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10). What is Jesus saying to us here? He is urging us to be responsive to the Spirit in His ministries of reproof and correction. We must not isolate this sin against the Spirit from all other sins of resisting the Spirit. Jesus is pressing home the urgent importance of not grieving the Spirit and not quenching the Spirit. In His ministries of reproof and correction, the Spirit speaks to us as the Spirit of Christ. He speaks as the One concerning whom Jesus says, 'He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you' (John 16:14). The Spirit convicts us of our sin with a view to bringing us to the Saviour who graciously forgives our sin.

8) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to correct us.

    The Spirit's ministries of reproof and correction belong together. In Ephesians 4:30, we see both reproof and correction. We are warned - 'Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God'. We must take care that we do not follow a pathway that will lead us further away from the Lord. We are encouraged - 'in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption'. We must not lose sight of the glorious destiny towards which the Lord is leading us. In His ministries of reproof and correction, the Lord does not treat us as strangers. He treats us as children. 'Sent into our hearts' by 'God' the Father, 'the Spirit' enables us to call God our 'Father' (Galatians 4:6). In love, we are reproved - ' the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives' (Hebrews 12:6). His goal is our correction. He wants to transform our life, to bring us out of a life dominated by sin and into a life filled with His blessing.

    Calling us back from a life that dishonours God - Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery', He invites us to live a life that brings glory to God - 'be filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit corrects us as we respond, with the obedience of faith, to the Lord's command - 'be filled with the Spirit'. Paul does not say, 'Fill yourselves with the Spirit'. He says, 'let the Holy Spirit fill you' (N.E.B.). God is calling us to 'the life-long walk in the Spirit' (A.W. Tozer, The Divne Conquest, p.110). He is calling us to 'keep on being filled with the Spirit'.The Spirit-filled life is a  gift of God, a gift of grace. There can be no room for boasting of our own moral superiority. All the glory belongs to the Lord. We can only look away from ourselves to Him and say, 'the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes' (Psalm 118:23). Our testimony must always be this, 'Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness' (Psalm 115:1).

9) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to train us in righteousness.

    Whenever a preacher speaks about being baptized with the Spirit or filled with the Spirit, different hearers hear the words in different ways. An important biblical way of thinking about the baptism with the Spirit is indicated in Matthew 3:11-12 and Luke 3:16-17. The baptism with the Spirit is a baptism with 'fire' - 'His winnowing fork is in His hand and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the granary, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire'. The Spirit led Jesus, after His baptism, into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-2). The Spirit leads us into the refining fire where we are trained in righteousness. Training in righteousness is not fun. Compare training in righteousness with the training of a sportsman. It is hard work. There are times when it is difficult to see the goal. When we are going through hard times, we must remember the goal - 'praise and glory and honour at the revelation (or appearing) of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:6-7).

    When we are being trained in righteousness, there will be difficulties arising from the fact that loyalty to Christ is not welcome in an unbelieving world. God's Word tells us that 'all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted' (2 Timothy 3:12). When we are being trained in righteousness, we must recognize that God's way for us may not be the way that we would have planned for ourselves. When Paul prayed about his 'thorn in the flesh', his prayer was answered - but not in the way he had hoped. The weakness remained, but in it Paul experienced something greater - the grace of God. God can turn even the most unlikely circumstances into ideal situations for training in righteousness. We can be assured that God knows what He is doing. Over the whole process of training in righteousness, He writes these great words - 'My grace is sufficient for you' (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

10) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make the man of God, complete for every good work.

    'Man of God' - isn't that a wonderful expression? That's what God calls us! We don't deserve to be called this, but this is what God has made us in Christ. God is determined to make us worthy of this marvellous title which He has so graciously bestowed upon us! We are called to maturity. We are called to mature holiness. We are to mature in our response to God's call to holiness, that call which is at one and the same time both a command and a promise - 'be holy, for I am holy', 'You shall be holy, for I am holy' (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). God's call to holiness is clear - ''God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness'. This call is followed by these solemn words of warning - 'whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you' (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8). Maturity is bound up with holiness. The nearest we have, in Scripture, to a definition of maturity is found in Hebrews 5:14 - 'solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil'. 'Trained by practice to distinguish good from evil' - what a practical definition of maturity! May God grant a revival of such maturity in our day. We are being 'equipped for every good work' These good works are the works of faith - 'By grace you have been saved through faith ... to do good works' (Ephesians 2:8-10). These good works are produced in us through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. As we 'let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly', the Spirit works in us to make us more like our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - 'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control' (Colossians 3:16; Galatians 5:22-23).

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Lord, we pray for a revival – a revival of looking to You, listening to you, learning from You and living for You.

Proverbs 14:20-35
“Righteousness lifts up a nation, but sin is a disgrace in any society” (Proverbs 14:34). Lord, we wonder about the future. Can times of blessing come again to our nation? Yes! They can – but there needs to be a big change in our way of thinking and our way of living. There needs to be less “This is what we think”, and more, “What is the Lord saying to us?” There needs to be less, “Look at what I’ve done”, and more “This is what the Lord has done for us.” Lord, we pray for a revival – a revival of looking to You, listening to you, learning from You and living for You.

Help us, Lord, to live a Godly, Christlike, Spirit-filled life – a life of love.

Proverbs 17:1-12
What kind of people are we to be? What kind of life are we to live? Lord, You’re calling us to live a life of “love” (Proverbs 17:9). How, Lord, do we learn what love is? – We learn from You. You show us what love is – “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son … ” (John 3:16). In Jesus, we see perfect love – “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The Holy Spirit fills our lives with Your love – “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22). Help us, Lord, to live a Godly, Christlike, Spirit-filled life – a life of love.

Help us, Lord, to see the light at the end of the tunnel – “the salvation of our souls.”

Proverbs 13:1-11
“The light of the righteous rejoices” (Proverbs 13:9). We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is our Light. He’s “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). In Him, we rejoice (Romans 5:11 – “the blood Of Jesus, Your Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We thank You that, through Jesus, You have “called us out of darkness into Your marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). When, Lord, we’re going through hard times, help us to see the light at the end of the tunnel – “the salvation of our souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Help us, Lord, to throw away our bad fruit and enjoy Your good fruit.

Proverbs 14:1-19
“A perverse man will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man with the fruit of his deeds” (Psalm 14:14). Lord, You speak to us about two kinds of fruit – good fruit and bad fruit. How are we to have good fruit in our lives? Help us, Lord, to throw away our bad fruit – “strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness … ” – and enjoy Your good fruit. We need Your Word (Psalm 1:1-3). We need Your Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). – “love, joy, peace … ” (Galatians 5:19-24).

Jesus Is Our Forever Friend.

Proverbs 17:13-28
“A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). Help us, Lord, to look beyond human love and human friendship. Help us to see Jesus. His love is the greatest love. He is our greatest Friend. Thank You, Lord, for Jesus. Thank You for His love. He’s our Forever Friend. May we know, in our hearts, that His love is ‘always and forever’ love.

Help us, Lord, to invite Jesus, Your Son, to be our Saviour and our Friend.

Proverbs 18:1-24 
Lord, we thank You that ‘the fountain of wisdom is an overflowing stream’ (Proverbs 18:4). We read the joyful testimony of Paul: ‘The grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 1:14), and we say, in our hearts,  ‘This is the “wisdom” we must seek – the wisdom which receives “salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). True wisdom finds its overflowing joy in the Saviour: ‘The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe’ (Proverbs 18:10). We rejoice in Jesus. He is Your Son – ‘You shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High’ (Luke 1:31-32). He is our Saviour – ‘You shall call His Name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21). He is ‘the Friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (Proverbs 18:24). Help us, Lord, to be wise. Help us to invite Jesus, Your Son, to be our Saviour and our Friend.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

The Revelation Of Jesus Christ

Revelation 1:1-20

This is ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1). It comes from Him and it speaks of Him.
Christ ‘loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood’ (5). We rejoice in Him.
Christ is ‘coming with the clouds’ (7). We must get ready for Him.
‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ calls for our response. It is not ‘for information only’. We are to ‘pay attention to what is written in it’. We are to ‘take it to heart’. We are to ‘do what it says’ (3).
Christ reveals Himself to us. Is it for our benefit only? Is it just to make us ‘feel good’? No! We are to share with others what the Lord is teaching us.
Christ said to John, ‘Write what you see’ (19). Don’t keep it to yourself. Share Christ. Tell others about Him. Tell them what the Lord has done for you.
Speak His words of love: ‘Come...and learn from Me’ (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus loves you. Let Him save you. Let His love change you.

Luke 10:1-37
Christ’s message – ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’(9) – calls for our response – hearing with faith or rejecting in unbelief (16). Where does this response of faith come from? – From God: He reveals Himself to us (21). Questions: Why do we ask them? – ‘to put Jesus to the test’(25), ‘to justify ourselves’(29)? You cannot come to Christ until you stop trying to justify yourself – Are you trying to test Him or learning to trust Him? (a) What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ (25): The law cannot save. It can only show us our need of the One who does save – Jesus (Romans 8:3-4). (b) ‘Who is my neighbour?’(29): ‘Passing by on the other side’(31-32) – This is not love. It’s nothing like the love of God for ‘sinners’(Romans 5:8). Jesus loves you. Let Him save you. Let His love change you.

The sheep need a shepherd. Sinners need a Saviour. Jesus is our Shepherd. Jesus is our Saviour.

Many are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. We must not fail them. We must ‘teach them many things’ (Mark 6:34). In all our teaching from the Scriptures, let us point people to Christ (Luke 24:27). He is "the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep." He has come to give us "life in all its fullness" (John 10:10-11).

You, Lord, ‘give victory’ to us. Help us to receive Your victory by ‘faith.’

Proverbs 21:1-31
‘The victory belongs to the Lord’ (Proverbs 21:31). Lord, when defeat seems inevitable, You come to us with Your Word of encouragement: ‘The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save, a Warrior who gives victory. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:17). Your Word shows us the way of victory. You lead us into the way of faith in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ (1 John 5:4). You, Lord, ‘give victory’ to us. Help us to receive Your victory by ‘faith’. Living for Christ is never easy – ‘In this world you will have trouble’. Help us not to let this get us down. Help us to remember Jesus’ words: ‘Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

The Friendship Of The Lord, The Fear Of The Lord

Proverbs 19:1-29 
‘The fear of the Lord leads to life’ (Proverbs 19:23). ‘The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him’ (Psalm 25:14). Lord, we read these words, and we think, ‘What a strange combination – friendship and fear!’ We ask, ‘How can there be friendship where there is fear?’ Here, we have a special kind of friendship – ‘the friendship of the Lord’ – and a special kind of fear – ‘the fear of the Lord’. Why is this friendship and fear so special? It’s because You, Lord, are special! You are the God of perfect holiness – ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.’ Help us to come before You in ‘the fear of the Lord’ – ‘Woe is me! I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips…’. You are the God of perfect love. You He call us into friendship with Yourself – ‘Your guilt is taken away and your sin forgiven’ (Isaiah 6:3,5,7). We rejoice in ‘the friendship of the Lord’. Help us to respect You with ‘the fear of the Lord’.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Help us, Lord, to stop talking about ourselves – and start listening to You.

Help us, Lord, to stop talking about ourselves – and start listening to You. We can get so busy – talking about all the things that matter most to us. We forget to listen to what You are saying to us about the things that matter most to You. Hep us, day-by-day, to turn to Your Word – to come to You with the prayer: “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Saved By The Lord, Let Us Serve Him.

Salvation and service
* Salvation leads to service.
Those who have been saved by the Lord are to serve Him.
* Service arises out of salvation.
When we serve the Lord, we must never forget that we have been saved by Him.

* What God must do for us – He must save : “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
* What we must do for God – We must serve: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).


“Now you’re in a painful situation. But I will see you again. Then you will be happy, and no one will take that happiness away from you” (John 16:22).
Where does happiness come from? Is it something that we reach out for and grasp? or Is it something that’s given to us? Our happiness comes to us from our Lord. 

We Want To See Jesus.

“We wish to see Jesus … The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified … I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself …  although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him … they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:21,23,32,37-43).
When we say, “We want to see Jesus”, we are led by the Holy Spirit to the Cross of Christ. In the Cross of Christ, we see love that appeals to all people, calling them to come to the Saviour and receive His salvation. Sadly, there are many who refuse to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are some who find themselves drawn to the Saviour. They “believe in Him” but  “they do not confess Him” because “they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.” What are we to say when the love that makes its appeal to all is rejected by many? – “Not everyone has faith, but the Lord is faithful” (2 Thessalonians 3:2-3). When we are surrounded by so much unbelief, let us hold on to this: The Lord is faithful. Whatever the unbelieving world  may say about the Lord, may the Lord’s people always say, “The Lord is faithful.”

"The Word Made Flesh" - Then And Now

“The Word became flesh” then so that He might be made flesh in us now (John 1:14). 
The Son of God became “Emmanuel” (God with us) so that He might be “God with us” here-and-now.
“Jesus … has risen” (Matthew 28:5-6) – so that, as the living Christ, He might live in us.
Our faith is grounded in the great facts of the Gospel: The Word became flesh, Jesus has risen. The Saviour was born for us. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us.
All that He has done for us must become a powerful reality in us. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
‘For us’ – we must never forget this. We do not jump straight to ‘In us.’
To those who speak of a inner spirituality which is not grounded in the historical reality of the great events of the Gospel, the Word of God says, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2-3),  “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
There is no ‘Christ of faith’ without ‘the Jesus of history.” A ‘Christ of faith’ who is not also ‘the Jesus of history’ is very different from the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
‘In us’ – we must never forget this. We are not to rest content with a Jesus who belongs to a world that is both far away and long ago.
The Gospel does not leave us in the past. Jesus comes to us from the past. He comes as the living Saviour.

God Is Calling For True Obedience.

Amos 5:6-6:14
‘Seek the Lord and live’. ‘Seek good, not evil...’(5:6,14). Those who truly seek the Lord are to live a godly life. God sees right through hypocritical religion. He is not pleased with it: ‘I hate your show and pretence - your hypocrisy of ‘honouring’ Me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies... Away with your hymns of praise - they are mere noise to My ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is’(21,23). God is looking for true obedience: ‘a mighty flood of justice - a torrent of doing good’- ‘Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’(24). God speaks to us about our sins - ‘Many and great are your sins. I know them so well’- so that we might learn to ‘hate evil’ and ‘love good’(5:12,15).

Amos 7:1-9:15
‘That’s enough, prophet! Go back to Judah and do your preaching there... Don’t prophesy here at Bethel any more’(7:12-13). Amos was a faithful preacher of God’s Word - but his hearers wanted to get rid of him! This was the beginning of a time of great darkness: ‘The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it’(8:11-12). There were dark times ahead - but God was looking beyond them to a brighter future: ‘I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel’(9:14). ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation...’(Psalm 85:4-7).

I’d Rather Have Jesus Than Silver Or Gold.

Daniel 5:1-31
We are not to ‘praise the gods of gold and silver...’(4). Material possessions must never take the place of God. Seeking material prosperity is not to be the most important thing in our lives. We are to ‘seek first His Kingdom...’. We are to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’(Matthew 6:33; 2 Peter 3:18). ‘I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather be His than have riches untold...I’d rather have Jesus... than to be the king of a vast domain and be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today. I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause, I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame, I’d rather be true to His holy Name’(Mission Praise, 319).

Daniel 6:1-28
‘He is the living God and He endures for ever; His Kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end’(26). He is the living God. He is also the loving God - ‘His love endures forever’(Psalm 136). He is the King. He is a very special kind of king. He is ‘the King of Love’. The coming of God’s Kingdom will be the victory of His love: ‘Kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord: Love has the victory for ever!’. We enjoy the victory of His love as we lift our hearts to Him in worship: ‘Who can see Your greatest Gift and fail to worship You?’. We enjoy the victory of His love as we give our lives to Him in service: ‘Let us labour for the Master... Let us talk of all His wondrous love...’(Church Hymnary, 388; Mission Praise, 86,759).

God Wants To Bless Us. How Much Do We Want To Be Blessed By Him?

Ezra 8:1-36
The return of God’s people to Jerusalem was not simply a geographical return - moving from one place to another. It was a spiritual return. They were returning to the Lord. They were seeking His blessing (21). Without God’s blessing, we are nothing. We may have happy memories of better days, recalling ‘the good old days’. We may look back to times of blessing, remembering how the hand of the Lord was upon us. If this is all we have, we have nothing. We are no longer in the place of blessing. We need to return to the Lord. The times of blessing can come again. God gives us His promise: ‘The hand of our God is for good upon all that seek Him’(22). God wants to bless us. How much do we want to be blessed by Him? If the times of blessing are to return to us, we must ‘return to the Lord’(Isaiah 55:6-13).

Ezra 9:1-10:44
The return of God’s blessing begins with a real confession of sin - ‘our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens’(9:6). If God chooses to bless us, it is not because we deserve to be blessed by Him. It is because He loves us and wants more than anything else to pour out His blessing upon us. Despite all of our sin, God’s Word encourages us to believe that the Lord may yet ‘grant us a little reviving’. Pray that God will ‘grant us some reviving to set up the House of our God’(9:8-9). This was Ezra’s prayer. It was the prayer of ‘a very great assembly of men, women and children’(10:1). If prayer for revival is real, it will be much more than pulpit prayer. There will be much prayer, arising from the hearts of many people: ‘If My people pray... I will heal their land’(2 Chronicles 7:14).

When Your Head Goes Down, The Lord Will Lift You Up.

Ezra 4:1-5:17
God’s work does not always move forward smoothly. We face determined opposition. Where there is opportunity, there will be opposition (1 Corinthians 16:9). The servants of Satan rise up to oppose the servants of the Lord. This is what happens here. The Lord’s enemies had some success: ‘the work on the House of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill’. This was, however, only a temporary setback. God gave new strength to His servants. He sent His ‘prophets, Haggai and Zechariah’. They brought His Word to the people. Strengthened by their ministry of God’s Word, ‘Zerubbabel... arose and began to rebuild the House of God in Jerusalem’ (4:24-5:2). God’s work was back on track. His people were moving forward - again. When your head goes down, let the Lord come to you. He will lift you up!

Ezra 6:1-7:28
God’s work makes good progress when God’s people receive strength from God’s Word. Haggai and Zechariah were faithful in preaching God’s Word to the people. Their preaching ministry was very important. It was just what the builders needed. It inspired them to keep working. God’s House was rebuilt and God’s people rejoiced (6:14-16). The rebuilding of God’s House was followed by the ministry of God’s servant, Ezra. ‘The hand of the Lord was upon Ezra’(7:6,28). His ministry was blessed by the Lord. In Ezra’s ministry of the Word, there are three vital elements - studying, doing and teaching (7:10). Ezra did not only study and teach God’s Word. He did God’s Word. Obedience lies at the heart of true ministry. This is the kind of ministry that God blesses - an obedient ministry.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Help us, Lord, to choose Your way, the way that leads to eternal life

Proverbs 16:18-33
Help us, Lord, to think about the way we’re living. Is it a self-centred life? – “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25). Is it a God-centred life? – “He who gives heed to the Word will prosper, and happy is he who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20). Help us, Lord, to turn from the world’s way of living – “the wages of sin is death.” Help us to choose Your way, the way that leads to eternal life – “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Help us, Lord, to look for Jesus – and to find that He was already looking for us before we started looking for Him.

Proverbs 16:1-17
“Wisdom is better than gold” (Proverbs 16:16). Where, Lord, will we find wisdom? Your Word tells us that Jesus Christ is “our Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:30). When we find Him, we find wisdom. Jesus says to us, “Seek, and you will find” (Matthew 7:7). Set us free from the idea that we already know what wisdom is before we start looking for it. Help us to look for Jesus – and to find that He was already looking for us before we started looking for Him. We thank You, Lord, that, when Jesus finds us, we find the “wisdom” which “is better than gold.”

We thank You, Lord, that Jesus teaches us the way to live wisely.

Proverbs 15:1-33
“The path of life leads upward for the wise” (Proverbs 15:24). Where, Lord, does wisdom come from? It comes from Jesus. We look to Him, and we are led in the way that leads to the “Father’s House” (John 14:2-3,6). “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it” (Proverbs 15:17). We thank You, Lord, that Jesus teaches us the way to live wisely: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). “The lips of the wise spread knowledge” (Proverbs 15:7). We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is our Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Help us to “confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9).

We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is our Saviour.

We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is our Saviour – He came to save us (Luke 19:10). He is also our Lord – He wants to “reign over” us (Luke 19:27). We’re so glad that salvation has come to us (Luke 19:9). Help us to be good and faithful servants of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord (Luke 19:17).

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Teach us, Lord, to turn from the wrong way, and to turn to the right way.

Proverbs 13:12-25
What, Lord, do we do with Your Word? How do we respond to Your Word? Do we respect Your Word? Do we despise Your Word? There’s a right way and a wrong way of hearing Your Word (Proverbs 13:13). Teach us, Lord, to turn from the wrong way, and to turn to the right way (Proverbs 29:1; Psalm 19:7-14).

Lord, teach us to take care how we speak. Help us to remember that we are Your witnesses.

Proverbs 12:15-28
What harm can be done by “reckless words” (Proverbs 12:18)! Lord, teach us to take care how we speak. Help us to remember that we are Your witnesses. We have a testimony to maintain. Teach us that there is a better way than the way of “lying lips” (Proverbs 12:22). Help us, Lord, to bring “glory” to You, as we keep on confessing our faith: “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11).

Does it make any sense to follow “worthless pursuits” when we can be “filled with all the fullness of God”?

Proverbs 12:1-14
Lord, show us the way we are to go: “The root of the righteous stands firm” (Proverbs 12:12). – and the way we are not to go: “He who follows worthless pursuits has no sense” (Proverbs 12:11). Does it make any sense to follow “worthless pursuits” when we can be “filled with all the fullness of God”? You show us the most sensible way to live “Let Christ dwell on your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17-21).

Help us, Lord, not to keep Your Good News to ourselves.

Proverbs 11:12-31
Lord, You’re calling us to win others for You. You’re calling us to share Your love with them. You’re calling us to bring Jesus to them. Help us, Lord, not to keep Your Good News to ourselves. Help us to pray, “Here I am, wholly available – as for me, I will serve the Lord” (Chris Bowater).

Lord, You come to us with bread and wine. You come to us in Jesus, our Saviour.

Proverbs 9:1-18
Lord, You come to us with bread and wine. You come to us in Jesus, our Saviour. You come to us in love. You show us how much You love us. There is no love like Your love for us. It’s the best love. It’s the greatest love. It’s love “so amazing.” It’s love “so divine.” Thank You, Lord, for Your wonderful love.

Lord, Your Word shows us the ways we are to avoid – and it shows us the way we are to follow.

Proverbs 6:16-35
Lord, Your Word is our “lamp” and “light” (Proverbs 6:23; Psalm 119:105). Your Word shows us the ways we are to avoid – and it shows us the way we are to follow: Your way, the way of obedience and blessing. Help us, Lord, to watch how we live, to take care that we do not drift away from You, to keep on choosing Your way, the way that brings glory to You.

The Love Of Jesus: What a wonderful love! It’s the greatest love of all.

Proverbs 5:15-23
We thank You, Lord, for the love of Jesus. There is no love like the love He has for each and every one of us. Before we ever thought of loving Him, He loved us. Before we were even born, He gave Himself, in death, for us. What a wonderful love! It’s the greatest love of all.

Thank You, Lord, that You do not keep Your distance from us.

Proverbs 4:1-9
Thank You, Lord, that You do not keep Your distance from us. In Your Son, Jesus, our Saviour, You have come to us. This is more than “From a distance, God is watching us.” From a distance, You have come to us. Help us to come to You. Help us to know that you are near to us.

Lord, our faith is often put to the test.

Proverbs 3:19-35
Lord, our faith is often put to the test. Soon, we become aware that our faith is very weak. When we start to feel that our faith is so weak, help us to remember something – Our God is always strong. With You, as our God, we go from strength to strength. It’s not our own strength. It’s Your strength.

Lord, we want everything to go smoothly – but that’s not what You’ve promised us!

Proverbs 3:1-18
Lord, we want everything to go smoothly – but that’s not what You’ve promised us! Your way can seem like a long and winding road – but it’s better to be facing problems, as we walk with You on the pathway of holiness, than to be having an easy time of it because we’ve stopped standing up for You.

Promises Of Love - And Words Of Warning

Proverbs 2:16-34
Lord, we love to hear Your promises of love. Sometimes, we need to hear Your words of warning. In Your warnings, we hear the voice of Your love. In Your love, You’re calling us back from a way that will do us great harm. You call us into a better way – the way of Your great salvation. Lord, when we are being pulled away from You, bring us back to Yourself. Speak to us with Your Word of warning, the Word that calls us back so that we can move forward with You and for You. When we don’t want to hear it – That’s when we most need to hear it. Speak to us, O Lord, and help us to listen. “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).

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