Thoughts for July 31st. “ANYONE WHO DOES NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST” 

 

Todays readings.. 2 Samuel 17, Jeremiah 21, Romans 7&8

            How challenging – to our minds – no, more than that – to our hearts, are the words of Paul that we read today – the words he addressed to the believers in Rome.  His 7th and 8th chapters are among the most challenging – for our meditation – in the whole of God’s word!  They demand our heart-felt meditation.

            There are two ways before us – two options as to how we should live our lives; it is fatal to just drift along: our hearts and minds must have a clear focus on the way ahead.  In this respect let us see our minds as a spiritual camera, a camera that does not have an automatic focus.  The more we read God’s word then the more our minds will come into focus – on things Divine.  It will become evident in our conversation and our actions that we have done this.

             Looking for a moment at the other side of the coin – how ‘eternally’ meaningless each day is the conversation and actions of those who never read God’s word!   They do not sense the reality of God – especially his all-seeing eyes!   However, the time is coming when they will no longer be able to do this!  Let us recall what we read in Isaiah last month, he was caused to write of the time coming when, natural (and spiritual) people  “will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” [29 v.23]

              Wonderful – but let us reflect on the warning in the words of Paul we read today! “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” [8 v.9]  How challenging! Let us ask ourselves – to whom do I belong?  How vital that we “have the Spirit of Christ!  But, as we read, in particular in ch. 7 v. 22,23, having “the Spirit of Christ” leads to a sort of ‘battle in our hearts and minds as we strive to “serve the law of God.” [v.25]

            Let us read again – and again – chapter 8 – to see how it provides the triumphant sequel to the battle. Verse 9 is the one we should, indeed must, memorise! “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spiritif in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”  Let us read the Spirit-inspired word every day – this alone lays the foundation for truly developing “the Spirit of Christ.”  

Thoughts for July 30th. “THAT GRACE MAY ABOUND” 

      Todays readings.. 2 Samuel 16, Jeremiah 20, Romans 5&6                                                                                                                                    

            What is grace?  Simple question, but the answer is not exactly simple. The 4 words in our heading, that grace may abound” are at the start of Ch. 6 in today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Let’s try to understand the way in which ‘grace’ operates.  The word ‘grace’ became a special word for Paul!  He had been persecuting believers; he had put them in prison and had been complicit in the death of the first martyr, Stephen.  But the Lord Jesus had picked him out as a ‘chosen instrument’ [Acts 9 v.15].  

            We must put the word ‘grace’ in its context; regrettably, in much popular Christian preaching, this is not done, the Catholics set the example long ago by selling ‘indulgences’. Twice in Chapter 5, which is also our reading today, Paul makes the point that those who have sinned, following the example of Adam (and this is everybody) can experience the “free gift” [v.15,16, 17] of gracewhich means unmerited forgiveness; their sins are blotted outof God’s sight, Paul experienced this.

            Wonderful!  What then? Paul writes, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” [v.20].  Some read this as though it is saying that it does not matter how much you sin, grace keeps on abounding! If they, or you, think that, they are completely missing Paul’s point. He realized how much grace had abounded for him at his conversion; and now he has a faithful race to run on the ‘narrow path’- look at what he writes in 1 Cor. 9 v.24-27 – drawing a parallel with the original Olympic Games.

            There is a misleading slogan, ‘Once saved, always saved’ but it is a distortion of the words of Scripture. Note Paul’s question, “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” [6 v.1,2] This immediately causes us to ask, how can we ‘die to sin’ when we are surrounded by it. Our world has become so utterly godless, it constantly bombards all of us with a great variety of temptations, visual temptations!.  

            Consider what Paul next writes: he says the result of having “died to sin” was “in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” [v.6]   He previously knew of Christ, but what he knew he completely misunderstood. 

            All that changed at his conversion. Not only did he put on Christ’s name through baptism, he now belonged to Christ. As he moves toward the climax of this most challenging epistle, he writes, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” [Ch. 13 v.14] Having a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus is the vital factor.  

             More texts will challenge our thinking on this as we come to Chapters 7 and 8 tomorrow.

Thoughts for July 29th. “THAT IS WHY IT DEPENDS ON FAITH”

Todays readings.. 2 Samuel 15, Isaiah 19, Romans 3&4                    

            How important it is to get into our minds a balanced picture of the reasoning Paul develops in his letter to the Romans.  With his background training and practice from when he was a Pharisee he was more conscious than anyone else – that – to have a real relationship – from our hearts – with God – through his Son Jesus Christ – was vital. May we all realize the wonder of this relationship – and make sure ours is real – from our hearts – not just in our heads.

            Paul appeals to the Romans (and all other readers) to have a correct understanding of the foundation promises made to Abraham; these were given by God long before the law was given through Moses.

            Paul writes,  “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” [4 v.13]

            Is that an understandable phrase, ” through the righteousness of faith“?

            For ‘faith‘ to be genuine – it has to be fully focused on the object of that faith – what we have faith in!  Some Jews had been ‘converted’ to belief in Christ – yet still felt they had to keep all the precepts of the law.  This was made even worse if they were influenced by the way the Pharisees had embellished them.  Therefore Paul is building up some ‘powerful’ reasoning – to set their thinking on the right path: no one had kept the Law perfectly, so in the end “the law brings wrath” [v.15.]  We are seeing this graphically illustrated in our readings in Jeremiah.

            The climax to Paul’s reasoning is from v.16, ” That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’.”  Yes!  “also to” us – as being among those nations!

            Paul is quoting God’s words to Abraham in Gen. 17 v.5.  Let us make sure we are part of the “many nations.”  Our chapter ends with Paul’s reasoning about belief in Jesus –  “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”    Think of ‘justification’ as meaning ‘righteousification’! Let us get our minds around that! 

            Finally look at the first verse of the next chapter, for the chapter break is in a poor place.            “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in …” 

            How real is your faith?  Real faith leads to us being sure Jesus “was raised for our justification” and we can truly “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Thoughts for July 28th. “PRAISED FOR HIS HANDSOME APPEARANCE”

Todays readings … 2 Samuel 14, Jeremiah 18, Romans 1&2

            What a challenging set of readings we have today, powerful lessons as to the wise way to live  before God can be drawn from all 3 of them. Our chapter 14 in the 2nd book of Samuel provides us with the lesson “the LORD looks on the heart” as we saw in the 1st book of Samuel16 v.7] when the prophet was sent to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the next king.  In Samuel’s 2nd book we again have a lesson as to how appearances are deceiving – viewing from the human perspective.  In ch.14 today we read how “in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.” [v.25]

            The lesson for us should be obvious – what is the “appearance” God looks for?  In his final letter, his 2nd to Timothy, Paul gave him – and us – some invaluable advice – and a prophecy about “the last days” – our days!  We are to “understand this” wrote Paul, “that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self”  [3 v.1,2] Absalom was any outstanding example of this, no doubt enjoying the praise “for his handsome appearance.”

            Let us take to heart the warnings of Paul about conditions in the last days. He predicted that people will be “lovers of money, proud …. swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,”   Paul said theywould have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”[v.5]   As with Absalom, appearances are attractive – but deceiving.  

            Let us make sure our “appearance” in words and deeds is genuine – then it will be “praised” by our Lord when he returns. The words of Jesus to the “scribes and Pharisees” we read a few days ago are most appropriate as a warning to us. You “outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy” [Matt. 23 v.28] Let us never cease trying to be genuinely righteous.  A final thought today comes from our readings chapter 1 in Romans. “… the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” [v.17] and we show faith by our actions – not just words.

Thoughts for July 27th. “BLESSED IS THE MAN THAT TRUSTS IN THE LORD”

Todays readings… 2 Samuel 13, Jeremiah 17, Matthew 28 

            What a meaningful, indeed spiritually powerful message came to Jeremiah – that we read today in his 17th chapter. May we all be able to take it to heart – in such a way that his words become guiding principles in our lives.

            Sadly , as in the time of Jeremiah, today very few do this; but the Eternal Lord and His Son are looking for individuals who daily “trust in the Lord” and who absorb from His word the guiding principles that ‘rule’ their lives. 

            We read today (from v.7) “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORDwhose trust is the LORDHe is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

            May we not cease to bear fruit in the “drought” of genuine spirituality that surrounds us – because our “trust is the Lord”. This is an extra dimension to trusting in Him.  May we be inspired to do this because we meditatively read his word every day, being particularly inspired by verses such as Psalm 34 v.8 & 9 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORDyou his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!”  That is, they have “no lack” of the things that matter, the things that lay the foundation for eternity.

            A final thought today comes from the last book in the Bible!  Yes, in the 15th chapter of Revelation we read of the time when “the song of the Lamb” is sung. It will be the time of ultimate blessing for the one “who trusts in the LORD” and has been “like a tree planted by water” – the “water of life.”   And what is the ‘song of the Lamb’?  “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! … All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

            Surely, this will be the ultimate experience of the man that trusts in the LORD” 

Thoughts for July 26th. “WHY HAVE YOU DESPISED THE WORD OF THE LORD” 

Todays readings.. 2 Samuel 12, Jeremiah 16, Matthew 27

            Today the great majority of people “despise the word of the Lord,” it means nothing to them. Less and less people own Bibles – and if they do, how regularly do they use them?   Is this affecting us? 

            The godless ‘spirit’ of life that surrounds nearly all of us is surely affecting us all in some degree. We must try harder to push ‘the world’ completely out of the range of our mental vision. Jesus poses the question (see Luke 18 v.8) – asking “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

            James was inspired to write, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord….Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” [ch. 5 v.7,8]  The coming of the Lord has always been as near as the day the believer falls asleep in death.  Remember what Paul wrote, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” [1 Cor. 15 v.51,52]

            This future is for those who have not “despised the word of the Lord”! Yet even if there is a situation in which we have – there can still be a future.  We learnt this today as we read 2 Samuel ch. 12. It reveals the message the prophet Nathan brought to David.   David had had a ‘blind spot’ in his life – and this led to his adultery with Bathsheba.  God’s message via Nathan was ” Why have you despised the word of the LORDto do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife. [v.9]

            What do we mean by ‘a blind spot.’? We mean we are so carried away by some situation that our awareness of the all seeing eye of God gets blotted out in our thinking for a time.  As a result we are – for a time, long or short, swept along by fleshly thinking!  This is a tragedy that is going to have its after affects in some way – it certainly did on David as we are going to read in coming days.

            We can be guilty of despising “the word of the lord” every time the fleshly temptations of the world provoke us into fleshly thinking – a prelude to fleshly actions.  An appropriate final thoughts jumps out at us, as it were, from Paul’s words of warning in his letter to the Romans ch. 2 from v,4.  

            “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience … God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works “  Do we really know the condition of our heart?

            Those whose “works” are ungodly show by their actions that they “have despised the word of the Lord,” What do our actions show – has our daily reading of God’s word really influenced all that we do each day?

Thought for July 25th. “YOUR WORDS BECAME TO ME A JOY”

Image result for Jeremiah 15 16Todays readings.. 2 Samuel 11, Jeremiah 15, Matthew 26

            The words of Jeremiah in his 15th chapter arrested our attention this morning.  What a difficult life Jeremiah had after good king Josiah (see 2 Kings 23 v.16-28) was killed in battle (v.29). After his death only ungodly kings came on the throne until the nation completely disintegrated and the majority were taken into captivity. As this situation developed Jeremiah became very depressed as we read today in his 15th chapter.

            “Woe is me, my mother that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land!” [v.10].  He is a lone voice in Jerusalem – but his words in v.16 jump out at us, especially as they have a real application to those of us today who live surrounded by ungodliness.  ‘Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.”

            The more we meditate – and discern with our minds – the words that God has caused to be written and preserved, the more we can each say God’s “words “have become to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”  We can say with Jeremiah “I do not sit in the company of revellers, nor rejoice with them” [v.17] Why did Jeremiah say – and do – this?   He said, “I sat alonebecause your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation.”  

            What of ourselves?  Does God’s word come ‘alive’ in our minds and fill us with indignation at – at least some of the revelling and ungodliness we increasingly see?  It depends on how we read God’s word!  How ‘real’ is it to us? It also depends on the reality of our contact with our God whether we truly sense that “in him we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17 v.28] – as Paul quoted to the people at Athens.

            Jeremiah’s words about what God declares are also most appropriate for us to take into our hearts (v.20) – especially as the life that surrounds us threatens to fall apart – as Jesus is at the point of returning to our world that has become so totally godless -.”I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the LORD.” Surely this will apply when we can say to God – “Your “words have become to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”

Thoughts for July 24th. “AT MIDNIGHT THERE WAS A CRY”  

Todays readings.. 2 Samuel10, Jeremiah 14, Matthew 25

            Today we read the ‘simple’ – yet absolutely challenging parable of Jesus about himself as the bridegroom!  It is particularly challenging because “… at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ [Matt. 25 v,6]  The virgins did know the exact time the groom was coming; certainly not at midnight! “As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.” [v.5]

            How apt is this parable for today!  We do not know when the cry will be made – we do not have a divine time clock!  This is part of the wisdom of God.  The conclusion of the parable in v.13 is a personal message to each one of us., “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  This is a clearly a message for us today – How long before it is said, in one way or another, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.”

            The world today is in complete spiritual darkness – there is a ‘chink’ of light here and there – but it is spiritual’ light which only those who dedicatedly read, think and pray about God’s word can know and ‘see’ – those who have spiritual sight.

            A final thought comes from Paul’s advice in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians. He told them (and us) to” Examine yourselvesto see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” [13 v.5]  A plural is implied – as there is opportunity we must test each other – that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith – but above all – our own faith – helping each other to “see” – for surely the midnight hour is near. ! 

            May David’s prayer at the end of his 139th Psalm be ours also. ” Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”  Only then will we be ready for the “midnight … cry.”

Thoughts for July 23rd. “A TIME OF GREAT TRIBULATION SUCH AS HAS NOT BEEN …”

Todays readings.. 2 Samuel 8&9, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 24

 ‘The Olivet Prophecy’ as most of today’s reading of Matthew 24 is known – is full of challenging language about events future to that time.   Is it good to think that we have the ‘interpretation’ of its words exactly sorted out?  The phraseology is puzzling in parts and we must recognize some aspects of prophecy only become clear as events start to take place. It is like fitting a jigsaw puzzle together and it is exciting as the overall picture becomes more evident, this was the experience during the last 2 centuries. There are still parts that It is unwise to be too dogmatic about; we must have patience.

            The key question the disciples asked Jesus was, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” [v.3]   Part of his answer is to say, “if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved, but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” [v.22].  The previous verse says, “there will be a time of great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now” [v.21]  

            So there will be still “the elect” living at the time of the greatest crisis in human history. Verse 31 tells us the angels will be sent out to gather the elect!  Are the “elect” only the true and faithful believers that then exist?  If so, we can compare this with the time of Noah, when there were only seven God was willing to save. But Christ is not returning to destroy the world!. 

            When we consider that Israel is also called God’s “elect” (see Isaiah 42 v.1, 45 v.4, 65 v.9,22) and they now exist again after 1900 years in oblivion, we are inclined to see the reference by Jesus to “the elect” as being primarily to them – it is for the sake of Israel that “those days will be cut short” – while the christian “elect” will be gathered by the angels.

            Jesus said, “the powers of the heavens will be shaken” [v.29].  If this is to be taken literally is this work of God or of man exploding nuclear devices?; Either way this could initiate “the time of “great tribulation” – but  God will act for “the elect’s sake” but there may well be awesome events to occur as “the angels gather his elect” [v.31]. 

            What will Israel’s situation be at this time of world crisis?  In Micah 7 v.18,19 are the words, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance … He will again have compassion on us”

            For ourselves, let us live in a way that will ensure we are among “the elect” whom the angels gather – while those “in the tombs will hear his voice” [John 5 v.28] – those who, in their mortal lives, have established a relationship with Jesus as their Lord – which essentially began when they took on his name in baptism.

Thought for July 22nd. “O LORD GOD … YOUR NAME WILL BE MAGNIFIED FOREVER”

Todays readings.. 2 Samuel 7, Jeremiah 12, Matthew 23

            Today’s 7th chapter of 2nd Samuel is remarkable –– it inspires us in many ways.  We see how God’s promise to him – originally inspired David. It starts by describing God’s reaction to David’s desire to build a house, a Temple, for God to dwell in; it seems the Tabernacle was close to being worn out, it had served its’ purpose.  Nathan the prophet is told, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in?” [v.5]

            The next 10 verses are food for much thought and meditation – climaxing in v.16, when David is told, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'”

            The humility of David’s response, in reaction to this incredible promise is remarkable; he “went in and sat before the LORD” [v.18], obviously in the Tabernacle; he prays, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?  And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come” – adding “and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD!”

            Let us see how this “instruction” is for us!  We begin by noting how often Jesus is called “the Son of David”!  It occurs 10 times alone in the Gospel of Matthew we are currently reading!  In ch. 21 we read of Jesus entering Jerusalem “and the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” [v.9].  It will be through Jesus that God’s “name is “magnified for ever.”  The word “name” of course is used in the sense of ‘reputation.’

            Let us finish our thoughts by mediating on more of what we read in 2 Samuel – of what David said in his prayer. ”O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house”  [v.25] David then prays, “And your name will be magnified forever.” 

            David’s prayer concludes, “with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” As those trying to be the latter day servants we pray we will very soon see God’s word confirmed and we will be wondrously blessed to witness God’s “name being “magnified for ever.”