16 November 2014

A FRIEND IN HIGH PLACES




Heb 4:14-26

We have all used the expression, "Been there, done that!" When we say, "Been there, done that," we can usually relate to what a person is going through! I came across an example of this though my studying this week. A story about a boy who had lost an arm in a terrible accident. The story says “He had become bitter and depressed. “He withdrew into a shell and refused to see the people who came to try to cheer him up.  But he experienced an abrupt change of heart when he was visited by another Christian who suffered from a similar handicap [this reminded me of my buddy Darrell].  The sight of that one-armed man coming into his room gave the youngster new hope. He felt he had found someone who could really identify with him and his feelings. His outlook immediately improved." It was if that one armed man was saying to that boy, "Been there, done that!" Another story I came across was about a man named Booth Tucker, who was conducting evangelistic meetings in the great Salvation Army Citadel in Chicago. “One night, after he had preached on the sympathy of Jesus, a man came forward and asked Mr. Tucker how he could talk about a loving, understanding, sympathetic God. 'If your wife had just died, like mine had,' the man said, 'and your babies were crying for their mother who would never come back, you wouldn't be saying what you're saying.' "A few days later Mr. Tucker's wife was killed in a train wreck. Her body was brought to Chicago and carried to the Citadel for the funeral. After the service the grieving preacher looked down into the silent face of his wife and then turned to those who were attending. “The other day when  I was here, he said, a man told me that, if my wife had just died and my children were crying for their mother, I would not able to say that Christ was understanding and sympathetic, or that He was sufficient for every need. If that man is here, I want to tell him that Christ is sufficient. My heart is broken, it is crushed, but it has a song, and Christ put it there. I want to tell that man that Jesus Christ speaks comfort to me today.” What’s amazing about this story is that the man was there, and he came and knelt beside the casket while Booth Tucker introduced him to Jesus Christ. Booth Tucker could say to that distraught husband, "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!" 

In the course of a life time you will face many problems, many hurts, many difficulties and many temptations. There are even going to be times when someone can relate to you and say, "Been there, done that!" Other times you will feel that nobody is relating to what you are facing and you feel all alone. I have a reminder for you this morning we have a friend in high places we can seek when we feel all alone. There is a person who always understands your problem, always feels your problem, can always relate, and can always say, "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!" He may have not faced the exact trial but he faced trials so similar that he can always relate. The person's name is The Lord Jesus Christ! Turn with me to Hebrew’s chapter 4 this morning as we look at this friend we have in high places. A friend we can turn to when we are faced with approaching storms of life. He is no ordinary friend! He is King Jesus and He is always there no matter what happens in our lives. WHY?

OUR FRIEND IS SEATED IN HEAVEN

See, this is no ordinary friend, according to the writer of Hebrews he is a “High Priest”. What I find interesting is that the author of Hebrews contrasts Jesus with the ministry of the Levitical High Priest in this portion of scripture. A priest according to Old Testament writings once a year passed from the sight of the people into the Holy of Holies bearing the blood of atonement? Once a year the High Priest representing all the people entered the Holy of Holies. Where he would sprinkle blood with his finger on the mercy seat to symbolically atone for the sins of the people. But even before this could be done, he would have to offer a sacrifice for his own sin. Then he would be able to enter, but would only stay long enough to sprinkle the atoning blood. Historically it is said “bells were sewn to the hem of his robe so people outside could hear him moving and thus know that God had not struck him dead.” And the Hebrew writer wants us to know who are High Priest  is as we face our next trial, temptation or decision in life. A High Priest who made it possible for us to approach God on our own though the Holy of Holies! How has Jesus made this possible? “who has passed through the Heavens” See the priest entrance into the Holy Holies was though portals or sections of the Tabernacle. The first portal was he bore the blood through the door into the “outer court”. The second portal he entered a door into the Holy Place. The third portal he entered through the veil of the Holy of Holies. Understand! The priest had to do this year after year

IN CONTRAST:

Jesus our great High Priest, after once only sacrifice for sin on the cross passed “though the heavens” First Jesus went through the first heaven “the atmosphere”. Second Jesus went through the second heaven “outer space”. Third Jesus went through in the third heaven “the most HOLY of places…the presence of God”. A place where He is seated, something that no priest had ever done. Why? The spotless, sinless, perfect Lamb of God once and for all appeased the Father’s wrath though His offering for sin…….Himself “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Heb 7:26-27. This is our friend in High Places, so hold fast to your confession in Him, because God holds you in His sovereign arms.

OUR FRIEND FEELS YOUR PAIN

The bible says our High Priest our friend “sympathize with our weaknesses” Sympathize means “to share the experience of another”..…which gives the expression ”been there, done that”
Jesus the most sensitive man who ever lived and walked this earth feels for you and me. That’s a comforting truth as we face today and the next, isn’t it? No one truly understands like Jesus, when it comes to your pain, failures and sin. Isn’t that true in your life? I know it is for me! The God of the universe came in likeness of man to demonstrate His love for fallen sinners like us. And to top it off he shares in our weaknesses and faced the same trials you possibly face today. He experienced every kind of temptation you could invent or come up with. As the bible says “He was in all points tempted as we are”. Every kind of unpleasant, every kind of circumstance you face or about to face, he has also faced them. Jesus not only had all the feelings of:
  • Love
  • Concern
  • Disappointment
  • Grief
  • And Frustration that we have

Jesus knows the limitations to our human capability and we need to understand He faced each of these temptations to the maximum! John MacArthur said “there is a degree of temptation that we may never experience simply because, no matter what our spirituality, we will succumb before we reach it. But Jesus Christ had no such limitations. Since he was sinless He took the full extent of all Satan could throw at Him. He had no shock system or weakness limit, to turn off temptation at a certain point. Since he never succumbed, He experienced every temptation to the maximum. And he experienced it as a man, as a human being. In every way he was tempted as we are, and more.” Remember what Paul wrote? “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor 10:13. We will never be able fathom the depth of the temptation Jesus endured. Yet He withstood the depth, as well as the force, of these temptations…..He overcame them as the sinless One. This gives me great comfort! To know that whatever I face in this life he has faced it before me and has faced it head on to its full maximum capability. What I find also confronting about this is that earlier the Hebrew writer pens these words about our friend in high places. “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Heb 2:18
  • When you feel like committing adultery on your wife
  • When you feel like committing adultery on your husband
  • When you’re all alone, mouse in hand on the internet ready to search the web.
  • When you feel like gossiping about someone else.
  • When you feel like giving up your purity to find love.
  • When you feel like abusing a loved one physically or with words.
  • When you feel unloved and want things to come to an end.
  • When you feel nobody cares and God isn’t real.

Jesus knows the depths of your pains because he has also endured to their fullest before you. Do you want sympathy from this friend? If your answer is YES, Do not go anywhere elseIf your answer is NO, then keep listening.


OUR FRIEND HAS OPENED THE DOOR

Our friend has open help line 24 hours, 365 days a year. This High Priest who has fulfilled the requirement for sin once and for all, and has made His presence available to all who are call upon the name of the Lord. This is amazing! Something only a High Priest could do once a year with a rope around his waist and bells attached to robe. Jesus has made the Holy of Holies available “the veil was torn” to all His sanctified children at any time! No matter where you are. And the Hebrew writer says “come boldly to throne of grace”. Boldly or confidence means “to be free and open speech of citizens with one another.” What does that look like? We are to come to God without hesitation or tentativeness! Why? He has completed everything that is required to be in God’s presence. He has removed the requirement to enter His throne of grace. The place from which grace flows for saved sinners like you and me. And here is the promise! When we hold to our confession and have a boldness or confidence….we receive “mercy” for past failures and “grace” to meet our present and future needs. So we can say with Jesus’ brother James “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." James 4:6. The One who understands us perfectly will also provide for us perfectly and accordingly to His will. God’s throne of judgement is turned into a throne of grace for those who trust in Him! Most ancient rulers were unapproachable by the common people. Historically it says “some would not even allow their highest ranking officials to come before them without permission.”. But because of the finished work in Christ! We can approach the throne no matter how sinful and undeserving we are. We may approach God’s throne at any time for forgiveness, restoration, help and time of need. You and I, having this confidence that we will be received with mercy and grace! How can anyone reject or ignore such a friend? Jesus, not permits us to come before His throne for help, but pleads with us to come in confidence. Many of us sometimes feel……

“God doesn't want to hear about my problems”
“Who am I that he would even care”
“I don’t feel worthy enough to come to Him”
“I’m too ashamed of what I done”

Exactly, this is the reason he went to the cross for me and you! And he has not left us alone to fight this fight. He is calling us to approach Him because he is filled with grace and mercy and he wants to lavish this upon you. Please, don’t miss or take this truth lightly! His death gives you an open door into His presence not for a moment for as long as you need. “Trials reveal our weakness. Weakness reveals our need. Need moves us to pray. And prayer opens the door to God’s endless supply. ”Paul Washer
  • Are you a born-again Christian? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE.
  • Do you hurt? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE.
  • Do you have troubles? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE
  • Do you need strength? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Are you tempted to sin? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Are you worried? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Have you failed God? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!

Andrew Bonar was ministering in a service at Northfield, Massachusetts. D.L. Moody, who was in charge said impulsively, "Dr. Bonar, these people would like to know how you live this victorious life about which you have been preaching. Tell us your experience…." With some hesitation Bonar quietly replied, "I do not like to speak about myself; but for 50 years I have had access to the Throne of Grace." So do we…….a friend in High Places.

04 November 2014

BRIGHT LIGHTS BIG CITY



Luke 15:11-32

I want us to look at one of the greatest acts of grace that anyone could show someone. I also want us to look at a story that has spoken to my heart on many occasions as a reminder of God’s love for me. It’s a story that displays the mercy of God when we make mistakes. It’s a story of the natural state of man…lost and without Christ. It’s a story that represents all that God is and the complete dependence we have to be accepted into His family. It’s a story about each and every one of here this morning, those who are saved and those who are still wandering the streets trying to fulfill self. Ask yourself this question! Why does the world get so fascinated by the idea of wanting to live in the big city. Take for example Toronto! With all its shopping, restaurants and everything a person needs just outside their door almost fascinates and draws people to herself. The city is so convenient and makes things easier to get when everything is so close and accessible. But! The city also has something else that is too convenient and accessible. The city is filled and riddled with………
  • Drunkenness
  • Fashion and covetousness
  • Lewdness
  • Power struggles
  • Deception
  • Pornography
  • Drugs
  • Prostitution
  • Disease
  • High Crime rates
  • Homeless
  • To many choices
  • And dreamers with high hopes and big plans that will never come to fruition.

THE OLD TESTAMENT SPOKE OF THESE KIND OF CITIES……….In Jeremiah 51:7 we read “Babylon was a golden cup ( outwardly beautiful but inwardly the cup is full of poison) in the LORD's hand that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; Therefore the nations are deranged (the nations are mad or foolish).” Blinded by their own ignorance and motivations of a ME CENTERED LIFE. PAUL SPOKE ABOUT THE KIND OF PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE! In Rom 3:10-18 we read “As it is written: "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD. THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE." "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN TOMB; WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY HAVE PRACTICED DECEIT"; "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS."  "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD; DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR WAYS; AND THE WAY OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." The city is an easy place for people to find out how low they can really become....because it’s easy to get lost in the city under the bright lights and big building! Jesus spoke a parable about a young man....a father and older brother....it’s a story that speaks volumes to my heart because I can relate to the young person in this story. I grew up in a small town, with very little to do!! I used to think about going into the city and doing what I wanted to do and not have to worry about anyone! THIS IS A STORY DIVIDES ITSELF INTO 3 PARTS

1ST PART............A story about a young man who lived for self, who wanted what was coming to him, who was very impatient and not content with his present situation.

A story about a man who said in his heart “I must have it now”. Does this sound a bit like you and me sometimes? I know it does me sometimes.

2ND PART.............A story about a father who loved his son dearly and had a heart of forgiveness and a joy that only can come from God.


3RD PART..............A story about an older son who did everything to gain favour with the father and had no true relationship with him or anyone else for that matters.This is a story about God’s mercy and grace to any lost sinner. This is a story about you! It’s a story about me! It’s a story about the true Gospel that saves to the uttermost!

1ST PART...............THE YOUNG MAN (V11-V16)

We see three things this young man does that each and every one of has done at some point in time in life or at least wanted to! A life of living for self! Getting what is mine....Whether it’s freedom from living under your parent’s roof or a life that is waiting for retirement! Buying into the American dream of being independent and free to do whatever you want. I want what’s coming to me!! Blatant (open) sin without any regards for anyone else. HE WAS ONLY THINKING OF HIMSELF........Look at (v12) “give what is mine” Basically he was saying “I want what you were going to give to me when for when you die” But he isn't dead yet! “So I wish you were dead” HE IS ONLY THINKING OF HOW HE IS GOING TO SATISFIES HIS CRAVINGS AND PASSIONS...........Look at (v13) “prodigal living” Jesus called his life...... “the prodigal living” The Greek word for “prodigal” means dissolute, it conveys the idea of an utterly immoral lifestyle. HE PRODIGAL LIVING ENDS WITH HUNGER AND DISAPPOINTMENT......... Look at (v14) “there arose a severe (powerful, mighty) famine” The people listening would have understood what it meant to go through a severe time of no food! God allowed many famines to come upon the land. For example 2 Kings 6:25-29 where the women made a pack, or a promise to cook their babies for food. They actually ate one the babies......... until the mother of the other child wasn’t hungry anymore............and she refused to give up her child (2 Kings 6:29) A severe famine makes people do some strange and unusual things! You become desperate and utterly helpless…because you have nothing or anything to live for. William Manchester writes about the famine that hit Europe in the Medieval Era “The years of hunger were terrible. The peasants might be forced to sell all they owned....In the hardest times they devoured bark, roots, grass, and even white clay. Cannibalism was not unknown. Strangers and travelers were waylaid and killed to be eaten, and there tales of gallows being torn down...as many twenty bodies would hang from a single scafford.....by men frantic to eat warm flesh raw.” In the mid-nineteenth century Ireland.......a million people more than 10 percent of Ireland’s population at the time died of starvation over a three year period.....this was called the “Potato Famine” More recently in the Ukraine in 1930s, when multiple millions died of hunger.....that famine believed to have been deliberately caused by Stalin as an act of genocide. This young man was hungry and helpless because he spent it all on pleasures

“Thinking that the high life was the good life”

But he finally realized that was a lie from the pits of Hell. And sadly this is the same lie the world is trying you to entice you and your family with each and every day. Look at (v16) “my father’s help live better than me” He goes on to say “I’m hungry and empty but my father’s servants are doing better than me” Slavery is much better than this according to the son who has hit rock bottom. This is how I felt about my life when I was in my 20’s! Lost and going all direction which in reality only leads me around in circles! This is what a person without Christ looks like........lost and utterly helpless......broken and penniless (not physically, but spiritually) REMEMBER WHAT JESUS SAID in Matt 9:12-13 “When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." This was a person who was broken.......he thought he could find love or fulfillment by finding it from something else....like so many people today! Pleasure consumed......Look at (v14) “he spent in all” He was hungry! He had no food...........no money.............. Or a job! This is what it took! For this young man to see that he was utter broken......sick......poor.........Look at (v17-v19) This is what happens to a sinner who needs a Saviour.....a Physician in 2 Peter 3:9 we read “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

2ND PART...........................THE FATHER (V20-V24)

We see a loving father “full of compassion”.........Look at (v20) We see a loving father who doesn’t wait, but he runs to rescue as if you were a person was drowning in the water.....he comes with urgency and joy! He couldn’t contain his affection towards his lost son. This is a wonderful picture of our God who loves lost sinners! Micah 7:18-19 “Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.” God is a just God......a God who loves.....delights in mercy! That’s the Gospel. AS PAUL WROTE! In Rom 5:8-11 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” That’s the Gospel and His great salvation plan for sinners! The Gospel reconciles us back to that relationship mankind once had back in the garden. When the Lord our God walked with Adam in the coolness of the day......Look at Jesus says in (v22-v24) Robe......reserved for only a special occasion. Specially reserved for a master’s child..........(today’s terms the equivalent of a tuxedo).....this is like the robe of righteousness that we get through Jesus Christ.......salvation is a special occasion to any believer! Ring.......a signet ring that had the families crest or seal, so when the ring was pressed into melted wax on a formal document.......a symbol of authority and honor........seal of approval. Sandals........these were not usually worn by slaves. Only the masters and their children wore footwear......and therefore signified his full restoration to sonship. The Forgiveness of sins! Fattened calf.......reserved for only special occasions.....a feast for a great celebration. Salvation is a wonderful celebration for the sinner and the Heaven’s.....Look at (v10.....v24) That’s salvation....that’s the Gospel! What’s even more amazing is, the prodigal son did nothing to earn or work for those items...they were freely given by the father who loves lost sinners.......you and me! Remeber what Paul said in Eph 2:8-10 “It’s by grace you are saved....not of works...that any man should boast” But it’s interesting to see how Jesus finishes off his story...he finishes by talking about the older brother! Equally as lost as the younger son, but doesn’t realize it!  We are going to see something that would make His listeners disgusted or uneasy (in this case the Scribes and Pharisee’s) ...............going back to (v2) and (v14 of chapter 16). Sadly this isn’t new teachings of Jesus.........this goes back the Sermon on the Mount and many other occasions, when he spoke to the multitudes. EVEN THE PROPHETS OF OLD AND THE APOSTLES WARNED US AGAINST THESE TYPES OF PEOPLE!
  • The False worshippers
  • The Ravenous wolves
  • The Empty confessions
  • The Empty tombs
  • The Deceiving hearts
  • The Religious
3RD PART........................................THE OLDER SON (V25-V32)

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS WE SEE ABOUT THIS OLDER BROTHER?
  • Self centeredness
  • Bitterness and resentment.........
  • Self righteousness........
  • Hatred towards another person
  • Pride and arrogance
  • Slanderous
  • The closet sinner...outwardly good inwardly rotten to the core (the Pharisee’s)
Let me ask you something! Why didn’t the father rush to tell his older son that his brother has come home? Answer: He has no real relationship with the father otherwise he wouldn’t have asked the servant the question in (v26). The same thing the Pharisee’s had with the true Living God of the Bible.....no true genuine relationship as Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets of old did. The father knew he had no real relationship with his older son...he knew his secret heart, otherwise the older son would has stood up and said something to the younger brother for being so disrespectful to their father, when he asked for his inheritance. As the oldest...the first born! Should have....No! Instead he did what any self righteous person does! .......Woe always me. The older son was angry (v28-v29).........I’ve been serving.....slaving for you for so many years” It’s interesting to see the father didn’t scold him for his behaviour but pleads with him in (v28). The older brother is so disgusted he doesn’t even acknowledge his little brother as a brother! (v30) “.........this son of yours...” He also says to the father how can we rejoice when he as used inheritance for “prostitutes and wicked living” look at (v30). BUT I LOVE HOW THE FATHER RESPONDS TO HIS WICKED AND SLANDEROUS SPEEECH! Don’t worry you to will get what’s yours in this meaning his inheritance. Which in reality the older son would get more! He is the oldest...and his birth right entitles him to 2 thirds over his younger brother who would have been given 1 third.....Deut 21:17  “But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.”
BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS.....it’s what the father said after this! Look at (v32) this verse literally means “it was necessary to celebrate” WHY? He was dead and now is alive......he was blind.....but now he see’s. 

THAT’S THE GOSPEL THAT SAVES TO THE UTTERMOST! That’s the God I serve the One who ran to my rescue and saved me from myself! I thought the world was what I wanted!!.....but in reality it only left me empty and lost like both of the brother’s in this parable.....William MacDonald said “the world cries out for all that we have and we are....our time, our evenings, our weekends, the time that we should be giving to the Lord.” The Bible says “were your heart is.....there your heart will be also.” One loving and forgiving father who desires that nobody perishes. Two lost sons...but only one is found! Which one are you of the sons are you this morning? Because as Jesus said “there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” 

13 October 2014

A CALL TO DISCERNMENT


1 Kings 3:6-13

An elderly woman stood on a very busy street corner in rush hour traffic. She was fearful, confused, and therefore hesitant to cross by herself. Finally, a man came up to her and asked if he could cross the street with her. Grateful and very relieved, she took his arm and stepped into the busy intersection. As they proceeded, she grew progressively alarmed as he zigzagged randomly across the street, to the blare of horns and screech of locked brakes. Finally, after reaching their destination, she turned to the gentleman and complained, "You almost got us killed! You walk like you're blind." "I am," he replied. "That's why I asked if I could cross with you." That dear lady did not make the best choice. The man who she thought was a steady arm and sufficient guide, was actually desperate for guidance himself. He didn't have a clue! Remember what Jesus said when it came to following after one another Jesus. When the blind lead the blind, they both end up in the ditch! Matt 15:14. We sometimes don’t make wise choices or examine things clearly! We sometimes go in like a blind man accepting whatever happens. Or say that it’s ok. We are constantly blitzed by powerful influences such as the media, peer pressure, social trends, moral relativism, culture driven religion and cults, each of which can lead us astray! The one thing the church is desperately lacking is discernment! The Church needs to reclaim this truth. Discernment is the synonym for the word ‘discriminate’ which in a way has a negative connotation, but the word itself is not! It simply means “to make a clear distinction”. People used to call someone “a discriminating person” if he or she exercised keen judgment. The same goes for someone who displays discernment in their life. Discernment signifies a positive line between good and evil, true and false, right and wrong. In today’s society! A person who was discerning (discriminating) would be considered radical bigotry!

For example:
  • Homosexuality is immoral (1 Cor 6:9-10) (1 Tim 1:9-10)
  • Women are to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22) (Col 3:18)
  • Children are to obey their parents (Eph 6:1)

In fact the Greek verb translated ‘discern’ in the New Testament means “to make a distinction” It is commonly translated into English as ‘insight’ or ‘understanding’. In essence it means to separate things from one another at their points of difference in order to distinguish them.......Jay Adams said this about discernment “the process by which one comes to know or understand God’s thoughts and ways through separating things that are differ.” Discernment is the process of making careful distinction in our thinking about truth. Discernment is a skill we need to live a life that is morally and ethically pleasing to God. John MacArthur said “Discernment is black and white thinking..... the conscious refusal to color every issue in shades of gray. No one can be truly discerning without developing skill in separating divine truth from error” How do we do that? First of all Paul penned these words to the church in Thessalonica. “but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess 5:21-22
Why are we to have discernment? And why is this so important to the church? As Paul continues in (v23) “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I like what Tim Challies said “we need to be discerning first in what we believe and then in what we do. Spiritual Discernment doesn’t come from within. Paul said “the natural man can’t discern the things of God” Remember what Paul said to the church about the unconverted man and woman? “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” 1 Cor 2:14-15. 

There is something we need to understand as Solomon made this request! See Solomon had very big shoes to fill. His father was a righteous and honorable King, despite his many downfalls and failures as a man. But none the less! David according to the word of God “was a man after God’s own heart” 1 Sam 13:14. So here is this young boy in charge of governing and ruling his people. This by the way is around 4 million. Here is a man, born into leadership and has unlimited power at his finger tips and he asks the Lord something that each and every one of us should ask on a daily basis. Look what Solomon asks for! “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" (v9) He was seeking discernment so that He could govern his people properly. To be able to determine right from wrong….justice to injustice. Innocent to proven guilty, to know the truth from error. He did this not for himself, but for the good of his people in whom God entrusted to him.

The same principle could be said of our lives. 
  • A discerning heart when it comes to my relationships with opposite sex.
  • A discerning heart when it comes to being more involved when finding a church.
  • A discerning heart when how to deal with conflict with friends and loved ones.
  • A discerning heart when I’ve wronged someone.
  • A discerning heart so that I can determine what truth from error is. 

This has become a problem in the church today! From so-called Christian movies to books and false teachers who stand behind pulpits with their pretty faces trying to convince you of untruths. Charles Spurgeon said of his generation in the 1800’s “it’s a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God and to flatter man.” The Christian life is a life that tests all things….proclaim what is genuine and true. The Christian life is not being swayed or gullible to everything someone has to say. Paul wrote in Romans 12:9 “abhor what is evil”. See “abhor” means to hate; to turn from, to avoid. The word “evil” has reference to wickedness, or unkind. How can we avoid or turn away from evil? How can a young man govern his people according to God? By requesting for a discerning heart, not a critical heart condemn or to judge everything ignorantly. A discerning heart because your passion is for truth and for truth to be known for the glory of God.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS A GIFT FROM GOD

God grants Solomon this request in (v11) This is something only God can give through the transforming work of the gospel. As Jesus said “….I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;” Matt 11:25. We need to be discerning with everything we do, because He has granted us this gift to understand through the work of the Spirit! Whether that is our relationships, friendships, business partners and so on. This gift must be guarded as a priceless treasure instead of treating it as a Walmart special. Question is…… do you have discernment? Have you felt a special responsibility to protect the truth of God's Word by exposing that which is wrong? Do you often make a swift assessment of someone or something that was said, that others did not see but yet proved to be correct? Are you keenly aware of moral sin and doctrinal heresy? Can you read a book or hear a teacher and almost immediately uncover any false teaching?
This gift is to be used to keep us sharp and aware as we make decisions in this life.
  • For our family
  • Our marriages
  • Our children
  • Who we hang out with
  • Who we will marry
  • What we watch read and listen to and so on

This gift is to help, guide our lives to make right choices in a perverse world that wants us to be quit, be a clone and do as I say and stand in line with the world system.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS A SIGN OF MATURITY AND GROWTH.

Heb 5:13-14 says “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Solid food relates to those who are growing and maturing in Christ. The understanding of God’s word and digging deep into His word can only be understood and appreciated by those who are advanced in Christian experience. To discern both good and evil - That is, in doctrine. They will appreciate and understand what is true; they will reject what is false. That’s what happens when we grow deep each and every day, year under His grace. Every Christian over time should be a great theologian and a beautiful example of the gospel to their families, communities and so on. God in Christ has granted understanding! Something the common man knows nothing of. He has given us a discerning heart to see the difference between truth and error. Those things that is wrong and right in this life. As this verse says in Hebrews 5:14 "constant practice to distinguish good from evil". As a child who is no longer an infant is and will be able to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine. A child can put into its mouth things that are hurtful and things nutritious all at the same time, without discernment………..but not so for the maturing adult. For what purpose?  So that you will NOT “….be carried about with various and strange doctrines.” Heb 13:9

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT REQUIRES A TEACHABLE AND EAGER SPIRIT.

As Luke penned these words “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:10-11. Are you teachable? Are you excited to learn what the bible says and are you ready to conform to the bible says for your life, instead of the bible conforming to you ideologies? That only comes though discernment and testing everything to scripture.As Joseph Stowell said “Discernment in Scripture is the skill that enables us to discern. It is the ability to see issues clearly. We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill that will enable us to know right from wrong. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics". John MacArthur said “That is what the God-fearing and “noble-minded” Jews of Berea did when they first heard the gospel from Paul. They tested Paul’s word against what they knew of God’s Word, and because the two words matched they believed that what he preached was from God and not from demons. That is what every believer should do with every message that claims to be from God. No preacher or teacher of the gospel should resent having what he says judged against Scripture.” We need to test and hold to what is truth! According His word not ours but that only comes when we have a teachable spirit. The longer someone spends in the Word, the more they desire to be taught. Sadly though! Many people in our churches have become stale and are not reading or meditating on the blessed truth of our Savior, but have turned from truth and are following after men of this world for wisdom and understanding. “tickling ears” They are never growing spiritually and continue to be "babes in Christ." To some degree because they become unteachable and unwilling to listen to truth.

Discernment overlaps the Christian life at every point. And God's Word provides us with the needed discernment about every issue of life. According to Peter, God "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" 2 Peter 1:3. We are to continue, persevere, and hunger for the Word. We must have a desire for the spiritual food which can only come through reading and meditating on the Word. As the Psalmist says, “as the deer pants for water, my soul desires after you and your precious Word.” Jesus said "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14. If a person has no desire to grow, then there is only one thing that will happen. The flesh will take up residence and will control your behavior and actions because the flesh only knows how to sin! And your discerning radar will be turned off! My challenge for you this week is this! Are you seeking Him today with a request for discernment? Do you desire to discern between false and truth statements? If you are incapable of discerning truth from error. You must seek the Lord today? Do you desire that understanding heart like Solomon? Are you aware of wolves in sheep clothing? Are you resting in the wisdom of God? As the apostle Paul said “and it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” Phil 1:9. This was Paul’s prayer for the church and it should be our prayer for one another here as well.

05 October 2014

BE STRONG IN THE LORD





Eph 6:10-20

What kind of person are you, when some says “What are your strengths?” What is the first thing you think of, when asked that question? Maybe you are emotionally strong. Maybe you can handle a lot of pressure, work for long hours, day after day after day. Maybe you are the one who is the emotional anchor in your family and everyone leans on you for support. There are many kinds of strength. But the most important one is the strength you need in the Lord. True Christian strength is not of the body. True Christian strength is of the spirit, measured in faithfulness, trust, and perseverance.  By Grace we live by Faith. If we don't listen and truly trust what the Word of God tells us, then we will never function properly in this life. The outcome of that truth is that our own strength in reality is weak and feeble. God requires every Christian to put on His strength, so that we can stand in a world full of hatred and violence towards Christianity. He requires this because He know what we need and we as Christians, have to be prepared each and every day. The Bible says put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul penned these words “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Rom 13:14. Listen, our battle is not among each other, or what's happening on this earth. Our battle is not of this earth. Don’t get me wrong! There are many things to fight in this world. For instance, you can fight sickness, fatigue, death of loved ones, failure of your plans and hopes, questions without answers, and pain without reason. Yes, we fight in this world.  But we also fight in the spiritual world. It is Satan who opposes you! It is he who seeks to harm you and destroy your bodies and souls in the eternal blackness that will be his unending grave of torment. Yet the blood of Christ has guaranteed your deliverance from that awful end.

Listen to Peter as he warns Christians of the battle that's before us! In 1Peter 5:8 we read “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We so easily devour one another and forget who we're at battle with. So how do we become sensitive and alert, being at watch all the days of our lives. How? By putting on the required equipment (spiritual armor) that the Lord tells us to wear, so that we can stand and face the day that He has given us in His strength. We must put on the Armor that our God has provided for us through Christ Jesus. If we do not put the whole armor then we are susceptible to the prince of this air who is roaring around, going about seeking who he may destroy for himself and also to see who's testimony he can discredit. There are 6 vital pieces of equipment the believer MUST put on every single minute of every single day…..if we’re breathing these things must be worn at all times. This is a non-negotiable for our good! My question to you is! Have you put on the whole armor of God today? The Bible says it’s our duty as good Soldiers of the Cross of Christ is to….
  • Endure
  • Persevere
  • Fight the good fight
  • Standing firm in the word of Truth

In 2Tim 2:3-4 we read “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”

THE BELT OF TRUTH

What is this belt of truth? This is the belt of
  • Preparation 
  • Readiness
  • Commitment
  • Attitude  
  • Truthfulness, faithfulness

This is used to fasten other items to keep them in place, as we go into battle which holds our sword of truth! We must put on……
  • The belt of preparation,
  • The belt of sober and vigilance
  • The belt of truthfulness and faithfulness
  • The belt of Commitment
  • This belt will keep us prepared, sober, watchful, because the truth is what keeps everything together without flapping all over the place

Without truth we are lost and without hope and easily deceived
Paul said the believers in this letter, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” Eph 4:14-15. Without truth we reason everything by our own understanding and look to false truths (Doctrines of Demons). Let me ask you something! If you turned on the T.V at home, read a newspaper, read a book! Can you truly determine what truth, to what is error is? The reason I say that without truth there is no way we can defend ourselves in a world that says:

"There is no absolute truth"
"There is no God"
"We are not created beings"
"The Bible is full of lies and tales"

See when we gird, surround, saturate ourselves, in the truth of God's we walk by faith in His truth. As Isaiah said “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.” Isa 11:5

THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

We are to put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude  and right standing with God. This is a vital piece of Armor, which covers our major vital organs and most of all the heart. This is the breast plate of practical righteousness. A life lived out in joyful obedience to God's commands. A life of Integrity, holiness, purity of life, a deep longing and desire to live for Christ. Paul said in Rom 13:12-14 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy (Don't go to wild parties or get drunk or be vulgar or indecent. Don't quarrel or be jealous.) But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. Then you won't try to satisfy your selfish desires. We are to put off, put away, the works of darkness and live a life of integrity, holiness, purity of life.
  • Is Jesus happy with the way you are living at the moment?
  • Is Jesus Happy with what you say or watch in the internet/ TV?
  • Is Jesus happy where your feet go?
  • Is Jesus happy with what your hands touch?
  • Is Jesus happy with your attitude about someone else?
  • Is Jesus happy with your attitude towards the things of God?

It’s like that children's song

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There's a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.
Be careful little ears what you hear
Be careful little mouth what you say...
Be careful little hands, what you touch...
Be careful little feet, where you go...


HAVE YOU PUT ON THE BOOTS OF PEACE

We have been given a wonderful gift of peace as a defense to an unfriendly world. Before I was saved by His grace I had no peace because I was lost and without any real hope. The gospel of peace will give each and every Christian the sense of…
  • Joy
  • Excitement
  • Readiness
  • Preparedness
  • Purpose
  • Longing and desire to love one another

Richard Lenski said "This peace is in the heart but shows itself in the readiness of the feet" This readiness, this peace is the gospel of Jesus Christ “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15. How wonderful are those who obey God's precious Words. The only words that saved my life and yours through the feet of His faithful children. Does the Gospel truly bring joy to your heart? Does it give you that hunger, a deep desire, a passion to tell others if the opportunity is there? Does a runner trains with work boots on? Does a hockey player us roller skates on the ice? The same goes for us today. We must always be prepared. Have you begun this day and every day prepared with the word of God? We are to put on the shoes of the Preparation, training our bodies and minds with the Gospel of Peace. We must always wear the shoes of the gospel of peace and let it rule our hearts. 

HAVE YOU PUT ON THE SHIELD OF FAITH

The True Christian believes that God is who says He is, by wearing the shield of faith. The shield of Faith is a trusting completely and unconditionally in the Lord Jesus Christ with our marriages, children, church family. We trust Him with our lives but we forget we are to trust Him with everything else as well. Because 1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Our shield of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to have victory when it comes to:
  • Temptations
  • Friends and peer pressure
  • Relationships
  • Your Christian walk

As the Hebrew writer says without the shield of faith “it’s impossible to please Him” according to Heb 11:6. So let me ask you! Have you put on your shield of faith today? What happens when you forget to put on the shield of faith? 10 out of 10 times we fail! We forget to put on our equipment that God supplies to us (the shield of faith). We lose the victory and Satan defeats us with our own doubt at times. The Christian shield of faith helps us in the areas where we’re weak, because it's powerful and effective to withstand the darts of the evil one. As Psalm 56:3-4 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Satan wants nothing more than to put doubt in your heart and mind, as he did to disciples at times. The only way to stand, or defend ourselves in that time of trials and doubt is to put on the shield of faith.

HAVE YOU PUT ON THE HELMET OF SALVATION

It all begins here! See, Satan battle begins with the believer’s security and assurance in Christ. Satan's battle is to discourage us ……
  • By pointing out our failures in life
  • Pointing our sins
  • Our unresolved problems
  • Our poor health
  • Whatever else seems negative in our lives

Why does he do this? He hates anything any anyone attached to the Lord Jesus Christ. That's why we cannot face the day without putting on our helmet of salvation. A prime example of this is found in Job “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.” Job 13:15
  • Do find discouragement easy?
  • Are you easily steered to bitterness and hatred?
  • Do you lack the trust the Bible promises to the Believer?
  • Do you have a low view of God?

Satan wants nothing more than the children of God to doubt and stumble in their Christian walk. There are many ways he achieves this…….Your personal meditation of God's word (I'm too busy or tired) Your prayer life (what's the us, nothing’s happening) Your witness to others (I'm too afraid) Attending church (I have to many things to do, soccer, hockey, baseball, and son on; or you say it’s my only day to relax) Your personal holiness ( inappropriate viewing on TV or Internet, worldly behavior) The Bible is very clear when it says that the TRUE BELEIVER never needs to doubt about their salvation. Doubt only comes when we forget to put on the Helmet of Salvation. Paul said “He who has begun a good work in you, will complete until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6. This helmet of salvation enables us to endure, push forward in our Christian walk to what is ahead of us, the temptations and trials for that day. The helmet gives us security, peace and most of all rest in the finishing work on the Cross at Calvary

HAVE YOU EQUIPPED YOURSELF THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT

This is the most powerful weapon and the only offensive Armor we have in the Christian life! This is the Divine Sword “the Word of God" The Word that is 
  • Infallible (2 Tim 3:16-17)
  • The Oracles of God  (Rom 3:2)
  • The record of divine prophecies  (2 Peter 1:19-21)
  • Authoritative  (Isa 1:2)
  • Effective  (Isa 55:11)
  • Its truthful and pure (John 17:17)

The word that is complete for every generation and culture. Isa 40:8 says “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." We have been given a wonderful and powerful sword, a sword that Jesus Himself used against the darts of the evil one. This is the only weapon that is able to defeat the blows of Satan. Satan hates the Word with a passion, and hates its divine power. He wants nothing more than to distort the truth in every generation. See our task is to use it and be equipped with it. UNDERSTAND THIS TRUTH! We're not to SHARPEN IT OR ADJUST IT! We're to just USE IT. God's word will do the work and defeat the enemy. As Spurgeon said “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself. As Heb 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerned of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Without this defensive weapon we’re helpless against Satan and his fallen angels

How important is the Armor for the Believer? It’s the only way for the Christian to survive in a world full of darkness and evil. There are many things that Satan wants to achieve in this battle against you and me. He wants you to distrust God. He wants to tempt you to forsake obedience to God's standards and calling. He wants to cause doctrinal confusion so that you become easy prey to wrong ideas about the things of God. He attacks believers by persuading them to trust their own heart and resources. He wants believers to becoming hypocrites, or two faced. He wants to cause division among the true family of God. He wants to enticing you to let the world squeeze you "into its own mold" There are many other ways he attacks us! But if we do not put on the WHOLE Armor of God we’re vulnerable and weak against his attacks. We must always be prepared for battle. John MacArthur said about William Tyndale “it was William Tyndale's vow that every English plowman and every boy that pulled a plow would one day be able to read and understand the scriptures, and to that end he devoted his life to translating it into the English language. It is essential for the Word of God to be known, and loved, and practiced if we are to win the battle against Satan. Are you ready for battle today? Have you put on the whole armor of God? If not! You are vulnerable and prone to his fiery darts! Your answer to that question will determine your walk, talk, and life!