March 29, 2011

WISE - Christ

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Words In Scripture Explored - Christ

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The word Christ is the New Testament word for the Old Testament word, Messiah. So we look to the Old Testament first, in order to understand what the New Testament word Christ means! It certainly means more than just a swear word. It was not Jesus' surname, although it was appended to His name in the New Testament, more as a way of expressing who He was!

So how is the word Messiah used in the Old Testament?

The word translated ‘Messiah' is found only twice (Daniel 9:25-26). The New International Version translates the word ‘Messiah' as the ‘Anointed One'. The Old Testament idea of Messiah has five principles attached to it: God's chosen and anointed man; He will bring salvation for God's people; He will judge God's enemies; He is an appointed ruler over nations; He is an active representative of God. Surprisingly, these five principles can be applied to King Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1). Cyrus, is an example of a Messiah, the anointed one of God, even though he was not one of God's people, the Israelites. This shows that the word Messiah can have a non-religious meaning behind it.

The Messiah, God's Anointed One, is pictured in several ways in the Old Testament. There is the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 40-55); the Conquering Warrior (Isaiah 56-66); the Branch - particularly of David (Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8); Son of Man (Daniel 7); and finally Anointed Prince (Daniel 9:25-27).

All of the Old Testament Covenants pointed towards this future coming of the Messiah, God's Anointed One! 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. Jesus Christ is all five of those principles referred to in the Old Testament Messiah. Investigate the New Testament for yourself to find how, why and where!

For example 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).

Or the Mosaic Covenant, or Law of Moses, was given that they could realize the 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." All of history pointed to the coming of this Messiah, this Christ, if you will. 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. All of history, points to this Jesus Christ, coming back again. Coming back, not as a baby next time, but as a King in glory!

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March 28, 2011

Worldviews

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Worldviews

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Paul writing in Philippians 2v1-4: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

What was your worldview before you became a Christian? What is your worldview now that you are a Christian? Are there any similarities and differences between the two? What does a Christian worldview consist of and what are some of the thoughts behind opposing worldviews that are prevalent in Western society today?

Contemporary Society

Shock rock group, Slipknot, in one of their songs, describe people as the equivalent of excrement. Reality television programmes love to show the degradation and embarrassment of human participants. The London Zoo has in 2005 exhibited humans and treated them as animals, in order to reflect humanity's "basic nature" and place on earth. The pornographic industry, despite protests from both religious and non-religious groups, shows both men and women in airbrushed degradation, with pictorial and verbal humiliation. All these treat humans as mere, undignified 'glory-less' commodities to be used and degraded, albeit, in the main part willingly. Some treat other people as either their equal or of lesser concern than themselves. This is following what is commonly called the “Golden Rule“, which is “do to others, what you would have them do to you”. Furthermore, there is the thinking that there are no certainties or absolutes in life, just your own perspective. Morality is a private thing and what is right for you, may not be right for me and don't dare tell me that I am wrong in any aspect of my life. My morals are mine and mine alone, and it is my right. As for religion, all religions inevitably lead to some form of god or gods, that is if any exists at all.

Darwin & Scientific Materialism

Richard Dawkins, the eminent Oxford biologist and atheist, decrees that humans are merely a miniscule section in nature's rich spectrum, and Darwinism explains not only how we got here but that our purpose has evolved just as we have evolved biologically and sexually. Based on this hypothesis, he sees no reason for a creator or any form of intelligent designer, as man evolved by "chance and random variations". Further to this, he views "humanity as just one little twig", amongst the order of primates. He does however admit, that humans have probably evolved as far as they can and further concedes that there is "no definitely accepted account" regarding life's beginnings. This atheistic and naturalistic theory goes on to deny the very existence of a spiritual world and claims that our emotions such as love, fear, hatred and guilt, or our thoughts and feelings, are merely physical or chemical in origin.

A Christian Worldview

Contrast these with a Christian worldview. Atheistic views are entirely theoretical and are based entirely upon presupposed disavowal and disbelief in any form of deity, whether personal or impersonal, and belief that any kind of faith is blind, non-evidential and irrational. Juxtaposed against this thought, Genesis 1 asks us to rejoice in the knowledge of who we are, as the pinnacle of creation. Early Greek Patriarchs likened the creation of humanity to a royal leader being shown his new palace.

Again, contrast those worldviews against Scripture, which says, that humanity, both male and female, is made in the image of God, the imago dei, and is therefore according to one of the church fathers made to "reflect the Divine". Paul when writing to the Thessalonian church said: “May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

When God created humanity, it was in His image that they were created. The Bible indicates that humans are composed of 3 parts - Body, Soul and Spirit. The spirit and soul are only separable in thought and are probably best seen as two separate dimensions of the non-material side of a person - the spirit relating to God, and the soul relating to earth. All three parts, spirit, soul and body have an important role to play in our humanity. The whole person is valuable to God, not just the spirit as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Other philosophies and religions have tried to portray the body as evil or irrelevant, and this has crept into some parts of Christianity, with the tradition of priestly celibacy and asceticism. A break down in any of these areas can cause imbalance in the other areas. For example, research has shown that sometimes, physical sickness can be caused through emotional turmoil. Studies have also revealed that mental illness may occasionally be caused through guilt or unforgiveness. As humans we are created in His image, and as Christian Disciples we were bought at a price when Jesus died on the cross.

A biblical Christian worldview should include the following:

God created humanity, in His own image therefore higher than the animal world. Humanity subsequently rebelled and disobeyed God. God then took the initiative and promised a way out through His chosen Messiah. This Messiah was Jesus Christ, and he had simultaneously both human and divine natures. It was He, who as God, stepped into history and became confined for a short while by time and space. He was born so that when He died on the cross, it was to pay the price so that all of humanity could be freed from slavery to sin and disobedience, if only they chose to accept and believe in Him as God. He rose again physically from the dead, ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Those who don't accept Him as Lord and Saviour wil spend eternity apart from Him. He is the only way to God, and all other paths lead to destruction. That is why Christianity is the only true and permanent hope for the world. As Christians Disciples, living in the 21st century, we are to place God first, others second and ourselves last. That is the path a Christian Disciple is to walk, following and serving both God and others. It is done by taking up our cross, just as Jesus Christ took up His cross (Luke 9v23) and following His life devoted to being a servant of others. As Christian Disciples, we have God in the person of the Holy Spirit, living inside us as a deposit for our future life with Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1v13-14). With His help, we are being transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3v18; Philippians 3v20-21). You may well be able to add other things to this in order to form your own worldview.

For more to think about please do read for yourself: Philippians 2v1-18. 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.

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Q1. How has and is my worldview being developed and transformed into a worldview similar to that of Jesus Christ?

Q2. How has my life been transformed in the last year and in what way can I continue to be transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ?

Q3. In what way do the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed help and reinforce my understanding of a Christian worldview?

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March 19, 2011

Peace

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Peace!

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G'day & shalom!! Paul writing to the church of Philippi :"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4v5-9

The world we live in, wants peace! We hear it all the time! Politicians want peace and they are prepared to go to war to get it! New Age folk want peace! Atheists, humanists, Muslims and Hindus want peace! The world is unified around the concept of peace! Almost all want and dream of it! However, the peace the world wants requires the manipulation of circumstances. On the other hand, God's peace comes regardless of circumstances. So what does the Bible have to say about peace between God and humanity and peace within humanity itself? What does the Bible mean by "peace"? Just how can I as a Christian disciple maintain an inner peace?

Peace Definition: 'Shalom' was the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament. It means a wholeness of well-being & mind; the total absence of conflict and turmoil evidenced by an untroubled mind and a heart that does not fear! It is a total harmony with God, man, circumstances & self. The end of peace was when Adam sinned and fellowship was broken with God and between humans (Genesis 1:3). We know that the God we serve is a God of peace (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We also know that the Kingdom of God is about peace in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9v6) and Zechariah prophecised in Luke 1v79 that Jesus would "guide our feet into the way of peace." As Christian disciples, we have peace with God through the death and resurrection of our Jesus Christ our Master! But as you know, we are still fallible humans and we all have to some degree and at different times, inner turmoil caused by all sorts of things like asserting our rights, attitudes of unforgiveness towards others and guilty consciences reminding us of things past. What does peace with God mean? How does peace with those around me work? Why do I need to be at peace with those who do not like me? How can I maintain peace within me at all times?

Peace with God.

As Christian disciples we are justified by faith and have peace with God. This peace gives us access into grace and God's blessings (Romans 5:1-2). Our Master Jesus Christ is our peace between God & humanity; also within humanity and the hostility has been removed (Romans 2:13-18).

Peace with Others

Paul commands us in Romans 12vv17-20, to live at peace with everyone and not to be proud or vengeful. We are to do what is right in eyes of other people and exhibit positive goodness in the face of insult & assault. He goes on in Romans 14vv13-19 saying that we are to make every effort to do what leads to peace & mutual edification. We are not place stumbling blocks in front of others! Mutual encouragement and edification is more important than personal rights. By being peacemakers we will according to James 3v18 show real wisdom which reaps a harvest of righteousness.

Peace within

As Christian disciples we have the gift of peace with God from the God of peace (Philippians 4:4-9) given to us by Jesus! (John 14v27). Being peacemakers and having internal peace shows the fruit of the Spirit. And according to John 16v33, we have peace in troubled times & world through an untroubled, unfearful heart & mind.

How do we maintain peace within?

By living a life in obedience to Jesus we bear the fruit of righteousness, which is peace, quietness and confidence (Isaiah 32:17). A mind controlled by the Holy Spirit of peace gives us life and peace and total trust in God! (Isaiah 26v3; Romans 8v6). Lastly by being content whatever the situation enables the peace of God to guard your heart & mind. (Philippians 4v11-12)

For more to think about please do read James 4vv1-11. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

  1. What areas of your life do you need peace in right now?
  2. Are there situations where you need peace to rule?
  3. When was the last time you asked the Spirit of peace to rule over a situation or relationship?

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