September 24, 2007

Armour

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25. The Christian Disciple and the Armour of God

Paul writing in Ephesians 6v13-17: “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery darts of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We have learnt previously something of satan’s strategy.  Satan wants you, as a Christian disciple, to compromise your faith.  He wants you to be fearful.  He wants you to have doubts and blasphemous thoughts.  He wants you to be a hedonist that only thinks of themselves and living a materialistic life.  He wants you to put off till tomorrow what you can do today.  He wants you to be an individual, instead of being involved in your local Christian community. At times we feel like giving up being a Christian disciple with the pressure applied on us by sin & temptation.  The thoughts that satan implants in our minds like “Did God really say that?” or in the insatiable thoughts of lust, revenge or pride. Doubts set in.  Guilt appears constant.  To help His people, God has designed spiritual armour for us to wear during our constant battle with sin & temptation.  This armour is what God wears according to Isaiah 59v17, when He goes out to battle! What are the hallmarks of this spiritual armour?  Cast all thoughts of a Roman soldier out of your mind!

· Truth - know, understand and live truth. Our lives are to be controlled by truth as revealed in Scripture. When we know truth so well, we can recognize the lies that we are told!

· Righteousness - live a righteous life.  Live the truth! When we started as a Christian disciple, before God we were given the righteousness of Jesus!  But that righteousness needs to be lived out in the lives of Christian disciples.  If it isn’t, then satan will attack!

· Gospel - be ready to share it and rely upon it. Because we have peace with God, we are able to withstand without fear the attacks of the enemy!  We have peace with God, but we are also to exhibit peace with others.  Where peace is, the discord of our enemy cannot prevail!

· Faith – show total trust in God for your life.  The faith we have is a defensive weapon against the mistruths that come into our head: lies, blasphemy, lust, greed, selfishness are all little darts thrown at us by satan.  By maintaining our trust in God’s promises and God’s power, these little darts are extinguished.

· Salvation - assurance of salvation.  Be assured! Let your mind be controlled by the Holy Spirit, so that you are not led astray.  Your salvation rests in nothing apart from God’s promises and Jesus’ righteousness!

· Bible - read and study God’s Word.  The Word of God, the Bible, is our attack weapon!  That is why we are to study it and learn from it, trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead and reveal it to us!  We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus according to 2 Peter 3v18 and that is only achieved through studying the Scriptures!  Then when we hear that nagging little voice that says “God didn’t say that”, we can say “Oh yes, He did!!”

· Prayer – talk to God.  This is how we are energized!  Fighting in our own power is useless! When we talk to God, we strengthen our relationship with Him!  When we ask other Christian disciples to pray for us, the Church unity is strengthened!  A solo Christian is an anomaly.  Except in extreme circumstances, there is always a way to ask for prayer and help.

How do we put on the armour?  It is not through some mystical, deep and secret process that the spiritual armour is put on.  If it were, not many of us would be wearing it!  It is revealed, whenever we resist the works of satan, and don’t listen to the lies he tells us in our head.  When our marriages, reflect the sacrificial love that Jesus has for the church, our spiritual armour is displayed.  When children are taught  the Gospel and instructed in the Lord, our spiritual armour is being worn.  When we are diligent in the workplace, our spiritual armour is exhibited.  When God is glorified in your life, you are wearing the spiritual armour! When are living fruitful lives for God, and giving all glory and honour to Him without compromise, we show we are wearing our spiritual armour!  We can stand up for Jesus and say with honesty and integrity that He is our Lord and our master.  When we meditate on God’s word, we nourish our minds with the truth of salvation! When we tell others of this message of peace with God, our enemies flee!  When we ask others to pray for us, as Paul did, we show we are part of the Church, the beautiful bride of Jesus! All these and more, reflect that as Christian disciples, we are clothed in spiritual armour.  It is our own responsibility to wear it and use it with confidence.  We are to be alert to the prowling of our enemies and relying solely on God’s power to overcome sin and temptation.  In our own strength we will surely fail, but by using God’s strength and clothed in His armour, we will prevail and overcome.  The Christian disciple prevails and is an overcomer when reliant solely upon the God they seek to serve wholeheartedly.

For more to think about please do read for yourself Psalm 1. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What are the contrasts between the ways of the godly and the ways of the ungodly?

Q2. In what ways am I bearing fruit in my life for God and showing I meditate on His word?

Q3. What can I do this week, to stop somebody walking down the path that leads to destruction?

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September 18, 2007

Sin

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22. The Christian Disciple and Sin

1 John 5v17-21 “All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death. We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”

...See???...

As Christian disciples we live in a constant battle of our new inherited nature battling our old sinful nature. Sin is a constant thorn in our sides. But as John wrote in those bible verses I reat out, we are not to continue the “practice of sinning”. How should the Christian disciple deal with sin? In order to deal with it, it is helpful to understand first of all what sin is, then the cycle of sin and then finally, how the Christian disciple deals with sin in their life.

1. The Nature of Sin

All humans are moral beings who have an awareness of what is right and wrong (Romans 2). Sin is an expression of what we are - sinners. We sin because we are sinners. We all sin because we are all sinners! It is the product of our own will being in opposition to God’s will. All humans are by very nature, enslaved to sin and powerless to free him self (John 8:34, Romans 6:19-20). As all humans are sinners (Romans 3:23; 1 Kings 8:46), with the notable exception of the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:15). there is no position of neutrality - we are born sinful and are therefore guilty. Guilty because God is a holy and righteous God, who cannot abide sin!

Sin is lack of conformity to the Moral Law of God, either in deeds, attitudes, or state. Remember Jesus saying the two greatest commands were to love God and love others. Any breakage of those two commandments is sin. There are two kinds of sin: sins of commission and sins of omission. Firstly there are the sins, which are active, or the sins of commission. These are where God’s commands are actively broken! Then there are the passive kinds, which are sins of omission. These are where we are not doing, as we ought (James 4:17)!

2. What Sin does

Now as a Christian disciple and as one who has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, sin still has an effect! That should not surprise you! However, unlike unbelievers who are separated from God due to sin, the Christian disciple when they sin, it mars the fellowship they enjoy with Jesus. But separation has not occurred because Jesus still has you firmly by the hand. That does not mean as a Christian disciple that we are to deliberately and wilfully sin, it is not necessary to do so. Sin in the life of the Christian disciple should never be tolerated! So how is sin to be dealt with?

3. Dealing with Sin

As John said in those verses I spoke earlier, we are not to continue sinning! In 1 John 1v7, we are commanded to walk in the light! A lot of people think their eternal life will start when they die. But our eternal life with Christ has already started, so we are to live now as we will then! But we do sin, so what do we do about it? One man who know what to do was King David in the Old Testament, and Psalm 32 typifies his reaction to his sin! In that Psalm he speaks of his confession of sin and his abandonment of it. That is also to be our reaction to when we sin! We are not to just ignore it! We are not to wallow in self-pity! We are to take God’s view of it and call it sin! Nor are we to claim we are without sin, because as John writes in 1 John 1, we are living in self-delusion and we make God out to be a liar! So, when we realise we have sinned, we are to confess it quickly and ask for our Lord’s forgiveness! For as John writes in 1 John 1v9, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That is why it is a very good idea to start the day with a simple prayer of general confession so that your fellowship with Jesus through the day will not be scarred! That is why in a lot of churches, there is a general confession at the start of the services. Jesus wants us to have complete fellowship with him, and by confessing sin, our fellowship with Him is made richer.

For more to think about please do read for your self 1 John 1. Ask yourself the following question and suggestions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1 – As a Christian disciples, what areas of my life do I need to let Christ in?

Q2 – If you have specific sins that entangle you habitually, try to memorise a verse of Scripture concerning it and pray that verse daily and ask that the Holy Spirit will help you avoid the temptation!

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

September 14, 2007

Materialism

20. Partake -  Materialism

The Apostle John writing in 1 John 2:15-17: "Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. "

I wonder what you think is the greatest challenge to the Church and Christian Discipleship at the beginning of the 21st century?  What is possibly one of the greatest challenges to Christian Disciples to stand alone and be faithful to God?  Some people I speak to think that the surge of rampant atheism fuelled by the thinking of Richard Dawkins and the writings of Philip Pulmann are the greatest current threat.  Others say it is the weak liberal theology in parts of the church.  Certainly those two examples are threats but they are not what I think is the greatest threat.  I want to propose to you that quite possibly that biggest threat to Christian Discipleship is the temptation of materialism.  This is where following Jesus' command to take up the cross becomes practical for us.  This is where loving God and loving others becomes difficult.  Materialism grips both the Church community and also Christian Disciples if it is allowed.  Eschewing and casting off materialism will see Christian Disciples who are radical by the very society, which we are trying to win for Jesus.

What is materialism?  Every person has in differing quantities: possessions and money.  These things in and of themselves are not evil.  It is however our reaction and attitudes toward them that causes us to be seduced in this area.  Materialism is a reliance on possessions, money people or even the church, as our ultimate objects of trust instead of God.  The Apostle John writing in 1 John 2v16 gives a very accurate picture of materialism: "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life." That, brother and sister, is materialism!

If there were to be a sin that marks our particular generation, particular in the West, then it would be the sin of materialism and the worship of objects and people. Every day hundreds of thousands of people die from lack of food, water, clothing and shelter.  For each of us, these things are taken for granted.  When we feel like a change of house or location, we just move.  The whole Christian community is one which reflects the Holy Trinity, and that the Church is to be a community where the strongest members support the weakest members.  This applies not only to the local church, but also to the universal Church and therefore has a national and international context as well.  Too often as Christians we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the bare necessities of life are in sparse existence.  Too often we gather possessions and people, instead of giving up our time and money generously to help the poor and needy of both our world and local communities.

As Christian Disciples living in the world of the twenty first century, where wealth is seen as a sign of success, the cult of celebrity is rife and where family, morals and God have taken a back seat, how should a Christian Disciple respond to materialism?  A lot of Churches measure their success solely by the number of members in the congregations or by how much money goes into the offering pot each week.  However, not just good things grow.  Islam measures its success on the so-called growth in those who would consider themselves a Muslim.  It is the fastest growing religion in Australia, albeit due to immigration.  However, every gardener will tell you that even weeds grow! So counting numbers is not the best way to measure success.

The measure of a successful Christian Disciple can be seen in those verses I read earlier and also in Matthew 22v37-40: Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

By doing these two things, we show we trust in God and not in anything or anybody else.  By doing those two things, both as a Church and as individual Christian Disciples, society will see we are neither dangerous nor deluded.  To Richard Dawkins and his aficionados who think all religion is pure evil, based on delusion and that religion has never done a good thing in history to benefit humanity, it will help show the folly and irrationality of their thinking. If Church communities and Christian Disciples make radical steps such as eschewing materialism, both in being and making Disciples, I think the Church and Christian Disciples would no longer be seen as a deluded and irrelevant.  Rather they would be seen as thriving resulting in Jesus being glorified and holy transformation sought.  After all, Jesus is the master of the Christian Disciple and the Head of the Church.

For more to think about, please do read for yourself Matthew 22:37-40.  Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1 - As a Christian Disciple, in what ways are you being seduced by materialism?

Q2 - What things can I do, not do or give up to aid the weakest members of my community?

Q3 - How can you use your "passion and prayer and intelligence" this week for the glory of God?

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