Archive for December 2007

Covenants 2

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60. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Bible Covenants 2

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 2 Corinthians 3v6-8

Following on from the Edenic, Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants, comes the Covenant given to Moses. But before we continue our journey in Old Testament Covenants, first an explanation regarding some nuances about them.

Covenants were common in all kinds of life, and not just between God and humanity. For instance where a powerful nation had taken over a weaker nation, a covenant was in place to give benefits from the powerful nation to the weaker nation, such as protection as well as sanctions if the weaker nation rebelled. There were covenants between equal partners in deals similar to contracts of law today. The Covenants of the Old Testament had several things about them regarding the relationship between God and humanity.

Firstly, God always took the initiative – sometimes by surprise as in with Abraham or in Noah's case, through his obedience.

Secondly, God has promised certain commitments and has given His solemn promise to fulfil His end of the bargain.

Thirdly, God waits for a response from humanity. God does not coerce or force but waits for humanity to take the responsibility of replying and acquiescing to God's covenantal promises.

1. The Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19v5-8)

This is the fifth covenant between God and humanity and also the second theocratic. It commences with the stipulation “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.” (Exodus 19v5). This covenant was to Israel in order that those who believed God’s promise to Abraham, could know how to live righteously.

This Mosaic covenant covered the three areas of life:

The commandments were given so they would know how to correctly relate socially to God (Exodus 20v1-6)

The judgements were given in order that they could relate socially to each other properly (Exodus 21v1 - 24v11)

The decrees dictate their religious life so that God could be approaced by humanity on His terms (Exodus 24v12 - 31v18).

This Mosaic covenant however, does not replacethe Abrahamic Covenant, but rather as an addition (Galatians 3v19) to it until the Messiah Christ came and made the perfect sacrifice (Galatians 3v17-19). The Covenants pointed towards this momentous event. The Mosaic Covenant was never meant as a means towards salvation. It was given that they could realize their helplessness of their own efforts, and their need of God's help. Galatians 3v22-24 Explains that the Law was only a protective fence until through the promised Messiah, humanity “could be made right with God through faith.“

6. The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7v4-17)

This covenant is the sixth covenant and third theocratic covenant.

The Davidic Covenant promises three things :

* A land forever (2 Samuel 7v10);

* A dynasty without end (2 Samuel 7v11, 16)

* A perpetual kingdom (2 Samuel 7v13, 16)

2 Samuel 7v12 predicts the birth of Solomon as David's successor to the throne with his role being to establish David's throne forever (2 Samuel 7v13). We see this link to Jesus Christ, though the genealogies to both Joseph: a legal right to David's throne (Matthew 1v1-17) and to Mary: a blood right to David's throne (Luke 3v23-38).

7. The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31v31-34)

This covenant is the seventh covenant between God and humanity, and the fourth theocratic covenant.

Four features of this covenant are:

* Regeneration – On the hearts of people, God will write His law (Jeremiah 31v33)

* Restoration - God will be their God, and they will be God's people. (Jeremiah 31v33)

* Promised Holy Spirit – God will indwell people and they will be led by Him (Jeremiah 31v 34)

* Justification – Sins will be forgiven and removed eternally (Jeremiah 31v34)

This new covenant is sealed only through the perfect sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus on the cross. His blood ensures the truth of this New Covenant. His death pays the penalty for the sins of all people who say yes to God and His New Covenant. This New Covenant is contrasted with the Old Covenant or the Mosaic covenant (Jeremiah 31v32; Hebrews 8v6-13) because this New Covenant finalizes what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to: the follower of God living in a righteous life conforming to God's holy character.

Through all these Covenants we see a God who is willing to interact with His creation and bless it. When first century Christians such as Paul, Peter and John checked all the events surrounding the life of Jesus, they searched their Scriptures (our Old Testament). It was as the Holy Spirit illuminated their minds, that they wrote down and passed on the whole gamut of Old Testament promise which was fulfilled in God's Messiah and the world's hope: Jesus Christ and Him alone. That is why it is important for us as twenty-first century Christian Disciples to read our Old Testament as well as the new. For by reading the Old Testament, new light may be shed on our own understanding of the New Testament.

For more to think about please do read for yourself: Hebrews 9v24 to Hebrews 10v25. 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 does Jesus Christ's death and the New Covenant, mean to me as a Christian Disciple?

Q2. Why and how can I, as a Christian Disciple, draw near to God?

Q3. As a Christian Disciple, what and how can I encourage those I meet?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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Covenants 1

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Bible Covenants 1

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9v14-15

If we as Christian Disciples are now under what the writer to Hebrews calls the “New Covenant”, what were the Old Covenants that preceded it? Over the next two Podcasts we shall look briefly at these Old Covenants and also the New Covenant.

Old Testament Covenants

1. The Edenic Covenant (Genesis 2v15-17)

This was the first covenant between God and man. Adam is commanded in the Edenic Covenant to

  • Populate the earth (Genesis 1v28)
  • Subjugate the earth (Genesis 1v28)
  • Exercise dominion over animals (Genesis 1v28)
  • Tend and enjoy the garden of Eden (Genesis 1v29; 2v15)
  • Refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2v16-17).

When Adam & Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the Covenant was terminated and the consequence was their spiritual and physical deaths. This failure required God to make a new covenant with Adam.

2. The Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3v14-21)

This second covenant between God and humanity, is also titled the covenant with all of mankind, as it lay down the terms and conditions which hold until sin's curse is lifted (Isaiah 11v6-10; Romans 8v18-23). Because of Adam's sin, we are all born under the curse of sin.

The terms and conditions of this covenant include:

* Satan is judged although- he will enjoy limited & temporal success (Genesis 3v15), but ultimately he will be judged (Genesis 3v15).

  • The first Messianic prophecy is given (Genesis 3v15)
  • Childbirth now involves pain and the woman is made subject to her husband (Genesis 3v16)
  • The ground is cursed and weeds will grow amongst man's food (Genesis 3vv17 - 19)
  • Physical changes occur and now people sweat when they work all their life (Genesis 3v19)
  • Because of the sin and disobedience, people die spiritually, and inevitably physically. (Genesis 3v19).

3. The Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9v1-19)

This is the third covenant between God and man given after the flood had wiped out earth's population, apart from Noah and his family.

The terms of the Noahic covenant are

  • Populate the earth is reaffirmed (Genesis 9v1).
  • Subjection of the animals to humans is reaffirmed (Genesis 9v2).
  • Humans are allowed to eat animal flesh but are to refrain from drinking/eating the blood (Genesis 9vv3, 4)
  • Human life's sanctity is established. (Genesis 9vv5, 6).
  • God promises to never to destroy the earth again by flood (Genesis 9v11). But as 2 Peter 3v10 tells us, God will destroy it by fire!
  • The rainbow is given as a symbol of this covenant and its existence (Genesis 9v12-17)

4. The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12v1-3)

Whilst the Edenic, Adamic and Noahic Covenants were universal covenants, the fourth Covenant is the first covenant which is theocratic or relating to the rule of God. It is dependent on God alone, who by means of grace in the “I will,”. to bestow promised blessings.

This Abrahamic Covenant is also the basis for the theocratic covenants which follow and provides blessings in three levels:

  • Personal level: “I will make your name great; and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12v2)
  • National level: “I will make you into a great nation” (Genesis 12v2)
  • Universal level: “all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12v3)

Initially this covenant was in broad outline, but God later confirmed it to Abraham in greater depth (Genesis 13v14-7; 15v1-7, 18-21; 17v1-8). The Abrahamic covenant is a link to all of God's activities and programs until the end of time, when Jesus returns to gather His people to Himself.

The personal aspects of the Covenant, particular to Abraham are:

  • father of a great nation (Genesis 12v1)
  • receive personal blessing (Genesis 12v2)
  • receive personal honour and reputation (Genesis 12v2)
  • He will be a source of blessing to others. (Genesis 12v3)

The aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant, pertinent universally are:

  • blessings on those who bless Abraham and the nation of Israel which comes from him (Genesis 12v3)
  • curses on those who curse Abraham and Israel (Genesis 12v3)
  • blessings on all the earth through the God's coming Messiah, who is Abraham’s son and brings universal salvation. (Genesis 12v1-3 and Galatians 3v8)

The Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants all look forward to the coming of the Messiah, as do the Mosaic and Davidic Covenants. All of history points to His coming. This was all part of Paul's reasoning from Scripture with the Jews he came in contact with. Of course for Paul, as for us, the Messiah is Jesus Christ.

For more to think about please do read 2 Corinthians 3, 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, how do the Old Testament Covenants fit together and apply to me?

Q2. As a Christian Disciple, how does God make me competent, and for what purpose?

Q3. As a Christian Disciple, what affect does the ministry of the Holy Spirit have on me?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you

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4 Questions

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55. The Christian Disciple

Answering 4 Questions about Jesus

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1. What’s in a name?

I wonder what your name means.  People generally name their children for the hopes and aspirations about what their child will grow to become.  For example, the name John, means “the gift of God”.  I know somebody called Grace, and her nature is that of somebody full of grace. Nigel means “the champion”. My wife’s name means “Forever Beautiful” and she is!  Some remote tribes in New Guinea, who knew no English, called their children after some English words they had heard, and liked the sound of, without knowing the meaning.  One name was “Tinned Fish”.  Somebody else was called “Second Gear”,

My name of David means “beloved” and when my parents named me, it was meant to symbolize the love they had for me.  Although when I put the cricket ball through the kitchen window or the time I crushed the vegetable patch whilst running after a football, I did not feel very beloved afterwards!

When Jesus was born, his name imbued the very reason he was born. His conception and birth, were extraordinary at every level.  So important is our understanding of the birth of Jesus, that no fewer than 4 angels come to give us a full picture of the event.  Do you think that his parents, Joseph & Mary, or God, ever gazed upon him wistfully, and thought “How misnamed He is!”  They did not, because they knew the very purpose for which He was born. His name means “one who saves” or a rescuer.  His entire birth, life and death were centered around this very role.  His role was to save all those who would follow Him.

He is the most talked about person in history.  Almost everyone has an opinion about Him.  He was born to confirm God's promises and to reveal God as a Father, and to be our representative before Him.  In doing this, He gave us an example of how to live a holy life to the full.  He was not merely a man who received some special power, as some think.  He was not some strange creation that was half man and half God, with his human nature somehow absorbed into the divine.

2. Good moral teacher?

The ancient Grecian philosopher Socrates offered “how we ought to live”, as a working definition of ‘moral‘.  Did Jesus teaching reflect a good way to live, and if he did, what did he teach?  Jesus’ moral code, revolving as it would have done around the part of the Bible we call the Old Testament, can be seen in “do to others, what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Some people refer to this as the “Golden Rule“.  However, Jesus, as ever goes further than anybody else and says that it is not only the outward actions of a person that makes them morally good, it is also the internal attitude behind it.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, people such as Gandhi hold it as a paragon of virtuous teaching and regard Jesus as a great teacher.  Although, this is the best-known teaching of Jesus, it is also the least understood, and certainly the least obeyed.  Whilst Gandhi and his ilk see The Sermon on the Mount as a call to peaceful demonstration against provocation, this was never Jesus intention regarding this teaching.  It is as somebody once said “a picture of God’s alternative society… containing the standards, the values and priorities of God’s Kingdom”.  It was this that Jesus spoke in the Sermon, not as a general guideline for a pagan twentieth century pacifist to wallow in comfort and boundless joy.  Jesus was a good moral teacher, certainly at least to his followers, but was he more than this?

To claim he was merely a good moral teacher is a foolish thing to say.  Nobody could do or say the things that Jesus did, and not be God.  He would in fact have to be who he said he was, or he is either a liar and/or a lunatic.

3. Jesus - fully human?

That Jesus was a man is not really disputed.  The primary documents about Him, found in the Bible, says that  he was born of a woman which in itself tells us that at least in a prenatal state he was nurtured and formed as any other male baby was and is.  His genealogical line is given and He grew into maturity as any young Jewish boy did.  With his humanity, he exhibited normal human emotions such as love, weeping, sadness, anger and anguish.  Jesus ate and drank. He had a body and a soul. Jesus grew tired, he slept & perspired.  Jesus died just as all mortal people do.  Religiously, he worshipped as a Jew.  Not only these facts, but the 4 ‘biographies’ or gospels written about him acknowledge his humanity.  He was human in every way that we are - physically, mentally and emotionally.

The only exception to this, is that he was sinless, and yet we must ask could Jesus have sinned?  Yes he was tempted just as we are, but could Jesus really have succumbed to temptation?  We must conclude that while he could have sinned, it was certain he would not and did not.

But why did Jesus need to fully human? Firstly, so Jesus death could appease God’s anger with us. Secondly so that Jesus can empathize and pray for us.  Thirdly, Jesus exhibited true and perfect humanity.  Fourthly, due to his perfect humanity, Jesus is to be our example to follow.  Fifthly, true human nature is good.  Lastly, while God is both above and beyond, He is not so far removed from us, that He cannot interact with his creation.

4. Jesus - fully God?

This is what we celebrate at Christmas.  One of the church father’s, Anselm, wrote that God’s salvation plan for humans involved triumphant victory over sin, death and the grave.  However no person could be found that was eligible or capable to do this.  Because of this, God stepped into the human history, so that this victory could be achieved.  This God-man would be fully human, so as to live every feature of humanity, including suffering and death.  This God-man would also need to remain fully God, so as to defeat sin, death and the grave.  Jesus, being sinless, was this God-man, consisting as he did of two complete natures, the God nature and the human nature.

How is it possible, you may well ask. If you take a pint of milk, and you pour the milk into a milk jug, the milk remains milk, although it is now in another container.  In the same way, God inhabited a human body, thereby still being God, but also being human.

Throughout the Bible, Jesus is acknowledged as God.  The apostle John expressly calls Jesus, the Word or God.  Later on in his life, John expressly stated that Jesus was “the true God and eternal life”.  Jesus himself claimed equality with God and when He stated “your sins are forgiven”, some of the Jewish rulers attributed this as a God alone thing and thereby accused Him, at least in their minds, of blasphemy against God!  During the questioning when He was on trial for blasphemy, again Jesus equated himself with being God.

That Jesus is both human and divine, is what makes Christianity unique amongst the world’s religions.  It is why Jesus’ claims to be the only way to God are true and make sense, and it is why millions of people today worship Him and acknowledge Him as their Lord and their God.

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Future

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52. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Things To Come

Some of the final words of the Bible say in Revelation 22v7 Jesus speaking “Behold, I am coming soon! To which the Apostle John replies in Revelation 22v20, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

As Christian Disciples living almost 2000 years after Jesus spoke those words, this is our hope – to be with Him who is coming again. He who is the object of our faith, worship and life of discipleship! And not just Christian Disciples talk about the “end of the world as we know it”. There are a plethora of books written about it from all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of opinions. But what does the Bible say about the time when Jesus comes again and how are we to respond to this fact? What does the Bible say about the future things to come, seeing as it is the authorative source for the Christian Disciple?

1. The Second Coming of Jesus

I will come back and take you to be with me (John 14v3). He will come back the same way He went to heaven (Acts 1v11)

When will He come?

  • No-one knows (Matthew 24v36)
  • It will be unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5v1-3)
  • There will be signs preceding His coming (Matthew 24)
  • When the gospel has been preached in the whole world (Matthew 24v14)

2. Our Response to Eschatological Prophecy

  • Be ready, waiting, watching and working (Matthew 24v42-44).
  • Be alert, self-controlled, sanctified and encouraging of each other (1 Thessalonians 5v6-8, 11)

3. Different Responses to Eschatological Prophecy

The three main schools of prophetic interpretation are Amillenialism, Postmillenialism & Premillenialism. These 3 views depend on whether the prophetic parts of Scripture are to be interpreted literally or figuratively (Spiritually). I wont tell you my opinion as to which I think is the correct interpretation, but let you decide that for your self!

  • · Amillenial View - Primarily a figurative/spiritual interpretation. This view sees the O.T. promises to Israel are being fulfilled in the church. The Millennium is the reign of Christ in the Church - the new Israel. The Church is already experiencing tribulation.
  • · Postmillenial View - Christ will return at the end of the millennium - a golden age of the Church.
  • · Premillenial View - Christ will return to set up His kingdom on earth for 1000 years (Revelation 19v1-7). God promises to Israel of restoration, a future king and temple will await fulfilment. God has a separate programme for the Church.

4. Second Coming of Christ

The Premillenial view sees 2 stages in the second coming:

  • · His coming in the rapture. This is when Jesus Christ returns to take His people to be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4v16). The dead in Christ are raised and the living are changed (1 Corinthians 15v51-54)
  • · His coming to Earth (Revelation - parousia). He will return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14v4; Acts 1v11). He will come with power and glory (Matthew 24v30) and everyone will see Him.

5. Christ’s return to Earth

  • · To judge the antichrist and his followers (Revelation 16v12-16, 19v11-16)
  • · To bind Satan (Revelation 20v1-3) during the Millennium. Amillenialists see this as having already been done. However, Satan is still the ruler of this world (John 16v11).
  • · To save Israel (Zechariah 14v1-3). Israel will repent, recognizing the One they pierced (Zechariah 12v10-13v1; Romans 11).
  • · To judge the nations (Matthew 25v31-46; Joel 3v11-17)

6. Premillenial return of Christ

Christ will come and set up an earthly kingdom for 1000 years (Revelation 20v2-7). Amillenialists see this as speaking figuratively about Christ’s current reign in the Church.

7. History of Premillenialism and Amillenialism

The view of the church for the first 2 centuries was of a literal millennial return of Jesus Christ after the Holy Spirit’s return. Early church fathers such as Papias, Ireneaus and Justin Martyr taught this, and these men were not far removed from the Apostle John. Origen promoted the figurative (spiritual) method of interpretation and Augustine developed an Amillenial view, identifying the Church with the fulfillment of the O.T. promises to Israel and this became official Roman Catholic doctrine. Many scholars returned to the Premillenial (literal) view after the Reformation.

8. Pre-tribulation Return of Christ

Rapture - The tribulation is a time of judgment for unrepentant men (2 Thessalonians 2v9-12). God’s people would be excluded from such judgment (1 Thessalonians 1v9-10; 5v9). The Lord will come suddenly bringing destruction, while people are saying ‘peace and safety’ (1 Thessalonians 5v1-3). These conditions will exist before the Rapture, but not at the end of the tribulation.

Resurrection - The bodily resurrection of the dead, saved and unsaved, is clearly taught in Bible (John 5v28-29; Acts 24v15). Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15v20-22)

Christian Disciples

· Like Christ’s glorious body (1 Corinthians 15v49; Philippians 3v21; 1 John 3v2)

· Not flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15v50ff)

· Not partly spiritual (Luke 24v39; 1 Corinthians 15v42, 53)

Unbelievers

· They will be resurrected (John 5v28-29) and cast into the lake of fire

Timing of the resurrection

· 1st Resurrection - when Christ comes in the air to take Christian Disciples (1 Corinthians 15v23; 1 Thessalonians 4v16); some place resurrection of O.T. saints at the end of the tribulation.

· 2nd Resurrection - Resurrection of the unsaved after the Millennium (Revelation 20v5, 11-13)

Judgment - Certainty of judgment - He will judge the whole world with justice (Acts 17v31). Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9v27)

The Judge - God is the judge of all the earth (Hebrews 12v23). The Father has given all judgment to the Son (John 5v22-27)

Judgment of Christian Disciples

Christian Disciples will not be judged for sin - this has been judged already (Isaiah 53v4-6; 1 Peter 2v24)

· Christian Disciples will be judged for their works. We will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14v10). We will be judged according to our works (2 Corinthians 5v10). The quality of our work will be tested (1 Corinthians 3v11-15). Our motives will be exposed either for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 4v4-5) or for our own glory.

· We will give account of the opportunities and abilities entrusted to us (Matthew 25v14-30)

· Rewards may be gained or lost (1 Corinthians 3v14-15)

· Incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9v25)

· Crown of glory (1 Peter 5v4)

· Crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4v8)

· Crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2v19)

· Crown of life (James 1v12)

Judgment of unbelievers

· The Great White Throne of Judgment (Revelation 20v11-15).

· After the Millennium (Revelation 20v11-15, 21v8).

· They will be cast into the lake of fire with satan and his angels (Revelation 20v15; Matthew 25v41). This punishment is eternal (Matthew 25v46).

For more to think about please do. 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. Read 1 Thessalonians 5v6-11. How am I living out these Scripture in my life as a Christian Disciple?

Q2. Read 2 Corinthians 5v10. If I were to give an account of my work today, what would occur?

Q3. Read Matthew 25v31-46. As a Christian Disciple, how does this affect my urgency to tell others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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Testimony

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Christian Disciple and Testimony

The Apostle John, writing in 1 John 5v9-12 - "We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."

Why Is It So?

A testimony is an assertion offering firsthand authentication of a fact. For the Christian Disciple, classically it is generally expressed as how they became a Christian Disciple. But I think it is more than just how, and should expressly include why you are a Christian Disciple. I wonder what is your testimony about how you became a Christian Disciple? When was the last time you thanked our God for your testimony? Have you even thought about your testimony of how you became a Christian Disciple? I am sure you have all heard kids in the supermarket yelling out "Why?" to their parents. We all have, I am sure, questions we want to know the answer to. Why? The question I am often asked is "You are a Christian. Why is it so?" My father, was and remained throughout his life a convinced agnostic and in the few conversations we had about religion and Christianity, he could never understand why it was, that I could not just admit that I would never know if God existed or not, far less a God who was personally interested in me. My reply as ever, was that the very question "Why is it so?" needed to be answered, in order for me to be satisfied.

Why I am a Christian?

Now I could say that at the age of 12, we moved to a town on the coast of Australia, and was invited along to a local youth group and several weeks later, gave my life to Christ and became a Christian. Of course that is partly true. I can't even claim to be a Christian because I was raised in a Christian country. Australia was and is probably the second most secular country on this planet. Sure Australia has its moral base grounded in historic Christianity, but for the latter part of its history, Australia has been thoroughly secular and non-religious. Even if I had been raised in a country such as England, with Christian parents, that would also, only be partly true and I could have rejected Christianity as many people do. The reason that I am a Christian is not because I chased God, but rather He chased me. Unknown to me at the time, God was chasing me and following my every path with the urgency of a lover after the beloved, just as described in the Song of Songs (Song of Songs 2v2-14).

God had been pursuing me

This piece of poetic Scripture speaks about the love that God has for his people, and the energy He puts in to calling his people to Himself. He is always reaching out, for all to return to His arms. As for me, it wasn't until I was a 12 year old that I heard that I needed to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Before that I didn't know I had to do anything with this Jesus. Jesus was only a curse word for me at the time. That or was just someone or something that the RE teachers bored me with at school.

We are primarily Christians, not because we come to church services or just happened to have been born in a supposedly Christian country. We are primarily Christians, because God first chased and harried us into His arms. We are Christians, if you are one, because God first loved you. And as a tremendous lover, He beckons and calls people all the time to respond to His call, and back to Him. How does He chase us with His love? He chases each person differently, just as each Christian testimony is different.

Take for instance the Apostle Paul in Acts 8 & 9. God chased him through Paul's mind and his religious upbringing and education. Paul had known about God from his childhood. Paul was a righteous Pharisee who saw persecuting these ‘Christians' as his religious duty, so that he may somehow find favour with God. As Paul was gloating over the death of the martyr Stephen, God was pursuing Him, probably raising doubts in Paul's mind as to why Stephen would say at the point of death "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and forgive them for what they do" (Acts 7v54-60). Surely doubts must have been raised in Paul's mind as he approved of this death (Acts 8v1). Paul was also wrestling with his conscience. Externally he was a righteous man, a Pharisee of Pharisees. Yet when he internally examined himself and his heart, he found himself failing regarding covetousness, which is the last of the Ten Commandments. Then finally, Jesus himself makes a sudden and dramatic appearance before Paul and confronts him directly, "Why are you kicking against me? Why are you rejecting my advances?" (Acts 9) Paul's conversion to Christianity is often described as being sudden. But the only thing sudden about his conversion was this climatic appearance of Jesus.

Just as that was true of Paul, it is true of me, just as it is true of all those who profess to call themselves a Christian Disciple. I am a Christian Disciple not because of anything I have done, but rather because He first chased me, and because He first loved me. Jesus himself said "I came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19v10).

If you are a Christian today, it is not because of anything you have done. It is because of the events at Christmas and Easter that you are a Christian, when God entered this world as a human baby and took all the necessary steps so that all people could have the choice to be His people or not. In my more smug moments I used to congratulate myself for being a Christian. How proud I was that I, was a Christian and that God was a jolly lucky God that I had decided to follow Him. It was during one of my less self-deluded moments, that I examined myself and I found God pricking my conscience and correcting me, and I read the New Testament "For the Son of Man came, not to be served but to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark10v45).

For more to think about please do read the Song of Songs 2v2-14 and 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 were the events leading up to my choosing to be a Christian disciple which symbolize God running after me?

Q2. How am I, as a Christian Disciple, continuing to listen to God's voice?

Q3. Will I be ready to give my testimony the next time somebody asks me as to why I am a Christian? As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

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