Articles about living out our lives in Christ Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, according to God commands.
In this paragraph, Paul tells us how to move from the bondage of self-indulgence to the sphere of life in which human behaviour is totally controlled by spiritual love. The process is simple: "live by the Spirit and you will not satisfy the desires of the sinful nature" (verse 16). Following the apostolic mandate we find a graphic catalogue of behaviours that belong to the sinful nature (vv 19-21). The order is not significant, except that envy is underlined among these non-spiritual ways of life. What exactly is envy? Envy is a universal emotion. Everyone at some point feels envious under certain conditions. People sometimes envy good looks, a successful career, someone else's possessions, spiritual gifts, etc. However, for the person controlled by the sinful nature, envy has acquired an exaggerated dimension. The envious person seeks to devalue others to protect themselves from the internal pressure of their envy. This person despises others in order not to feel envious. Envy becomes for them a constant companion. Envy accompanies them to work, is present in social relationships and does not remain outside the place of worship. The envious person observes that another person knows more or does things better than he does, and feels a deep sense of anguish and jealousy. Envy poisons everyday life, prevents Christian love and hinders spiritual growth because the envious person is always concerned about what others do. Envy does not allow them to concentrate on the life of the Spirit. Let us be led by the Spirit and we will escape the compulsions of the sinful nature.
"I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds".
For the psalm-singer it's not enough that Israel has experienced the redemptive acts of Yahweh in the past. The writer wants to rehearse and re-live them in his own life. So he "remembers, calls to mind, considers thoughtfully" the mighty deeds of the Lord. This intellectual act of recollection immediately becomes the foundation of ravishing praise. The point is clear: remembering the mighty deeds of God is a symptom of delight in the fame of God. Praise also includes mental reconstruction of the past.
In Matthew 6. 33 Jesus said: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well". Modern society has reversed the divine order. In the world people begin by wanting wealth to obtain even more wealth. This is a perversion of the correct order. The best order is to seek the kingdom and all human concerns will be met by God.
Today I finished preaching on the book of Job. The book definitely enriched my theological thoughts. Let me give you a brief summary of what I learned from Job in 8 weeks. First, the appropriate behaviour in suffering is not to yield to powerless resignation but to find a way of talking to God. This means that God’s people have a right to express their perplexity and pain. At some point, the Christian will cry out, as Jesus did: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Second, the people of faith need to be critical of accepting easy, theological solutions that lack human compassion. We have seen that during the cycle of interactions between Job and his friends, he kept challenging the foundations of their theological method: Job, your suffering must be the evidence of sin! This approach not only produced frustration with human beings but also promotes a distorted understanding of God. The consequence of using a one-directional approach with the problem of suffering is illustrated in Job 16:2 –6: “I have heard many things like these; you are miserable comforters, all of you! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief. Job’s friends are competent theologians. But made they’re making situation worse by insisting that Job must accept and apply what they say. You see! There’s no room in their theology for a different perspective. But Job refuses to believe that the actions of God are controlled by the conclusions of his friends. So, Job has learned to accept adversity even though in some sections of the book he feels that God is playing games with him. But despite all that he keeps hoping in God. Finally, Job knows that God knows what he’s done. In 23:10 He said: When he had tested me, I will come forth as gold. This text is important. Here Job is saying that God knows everything within us. He knows what we’ve done. He knows what we’re doing and God ultimately knows what we’ll be strongly inclined to do in the future. Job didn’t understand the purpose of his test. He didn’t know how the trial would end either. But he knew that he was going to emerge from it and pass the test with flying colours. This feeling was overwhelming for him: When he had tested me, I will come forth as gold. Job looks inside himself and he realises that inside him there’s a combination of metals –things that God needs to deal with. And if God is putting him through extraordinary pressures in life and if God is supporting him with his power, this could only mean one thing: God intents to draw out worlds of potential inside him. This is what Job finally understood. He interpreted all the experiences that he was going through as flames of fire, circumstances for testing gold, situations to bring into the open what is dormant inside. He saw God sitting as the Refiner, supervising the process that would finally bring him out as gold. It’s important to keep in mind that the fires of the refiner don’t burn the essential, but only the alloy; the unwanted things. What emerges from this process then is an enriched personality. And all this was the outcome of a fuller understanding of God (see Job 42:1-6)
First, find a quiet, secluded place. The only way that we’re going to experience the nearness of the Father is to stop doing something else. There are so many activities that keep us busy during the day but if we don’t actually stop doing them we can’t give God our attention. That’s why Jesus said: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6.6). Secondly, we need to shift the focus from ourselves to God. We are the people whom God has predestined in order that we might be for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1.12). The best way to praise God in prayer is to use the celebrative language of thanksgiving songs in the Psalter, as in Psalm 103.
The fundamental difference is in the emotion under which one acts. In control one acts under the emotion of wanting things to happen that must correspond to what one expects. If what we expect to happen does not fit with what one wants, the controlling leader is strongly inclined to stop or reorient existing processes of organisation to impose personal expectations. In the action of facilitation, the leader operates under the emotion of cooperation. Leaders who are skilled at facilitating expect certain things to happen as well. But not according to what they want but according to what God wants. The leader who likes to control feels angry when a personal performance criterion is not satisfied. The controlling leader often produces tantrums to manipulate others. In the facilitation process, the reaction of leaders is curiosity and a genuine interest in providing guidance in order to achieve goals together. Controlling leadership creates resistance. Under the influence of excessive control people usually act to free themselves from it by moving out of range or finding ways to escape. A person under the influence of excessive control, may leave church, become a backslider, or avoid contact with the culture of control.
If you are on the Australian electoral role you should receive in the mail a marriage ballot paper asking the question: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? Advocates for the ‘Yes’ campaign want to limit the debate strictly to the question. They don’t want to talk about the impact that change will bring. But the reality is that redefining marriage will have far reaching social, moral, religious and legal consequences that will be damaging to our society. Change threatens freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and will change what children will be taught in school. We are not scaremongering. One of the advocates for the ‘Yes’ campaign has said, ‘It might be stating the obvious but same sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the battle against homophobia.’ (Benjamin Law, Quarterly Essay: Moral Panic 101).
We therefore encourage you to vote ‘No’.
We ask you to pray that people might be aware of the consequences of change to the Marriage Act and vote ‘No’.
For a fuller statement on same sex marriage see the report presented by this committee and published in the Synod Reports May 2017 (Available to registered users. In PCEA congregations, see a Session member if you want to read a hard-copy).
We also need to understand that preserving a law will not save a nation. Hearts and lives need to be changed. The Gospel is the power of God that can alone change lives (Romans 1: 16). All need to be saved – the moral and the immoral – the religious and the irreligious – the heterosexual and the homosexual - for there is no one righteous – not even one. But God has shown us a way to be made right with him by placing our faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3: 21-26).
Thus, we ask you to beg the Lord to have mercy upon our land and be gracious toward us. Pray that He might revive the church, restore our vision, and refresh our souls, to the glory of His name on earth.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked problems of life is the presence of sinister forces that continually oppose everything that human beings can do to make life happy and sacred. So –beyond the disturbances that come to us from the environment and the tendencies towards evil that we are born with –we have to struggle with seductions to evil coming from Satan. Outside our physical reality, there are intelligent and evil entities all around us.
In Ephesians 5:12 Paul lifts the curtain of human reality, and he gives us a quick glimpse of this evil domain, which seems to be organised as a kingdom of “rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world”. They are inhabitants of the heavenly realms that want to subjugate the human race to their influence. If we believe Scripture, we need to face the fact that these evil superhuman beings exist in other realms of life –and that this realm is beyond the possibility of explaining it through human observations.
Now –Jesus came to show God to the human race. He also came to reveal what human beings are without God. I want to take this further, and say that Jesus also came to reveal the existence of these spiritual forces that oppose humanity. And it’s only when we study the conflict of Jesus with these evil forces, that we can understand their power and how we can conquer them. In Matthew 4 Satan comes to Jesus with three temptations –to make the stones into bread, to throw himself from the top of the temple, and to secure the kingdoms of the world.
The story of Satan confronting Jesus in the desert, not only describes three different episodes of temptation, but the text also helps us to see that this hostile spirit follows certain methods for tempting people. Let me show you what I mean. In Matthew chapter 3, Jesus has come out from the isolation of Galilee, and he came to the Jordan to be baptised. There, he heard the voice of his Father saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Then, the devil begins to tempt Jesus. This immediately tells me that Christians are more vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, when they experience a new vision or a new understanding of God. Having a new understanding God is more than thinking in a different way. When we have a new vision of God we experience practical understanding –and this understanding becomes the basis for the motivation of new actions of love and service and worship. No wonder the devil chooses this moment to tempt us. But the devil doesn’t stop there. He often comes to us with the suggestion that what he has to offer is a good thing. Look what verse 2 says:
Every baby starts the journey of life with some physical qualities that are inherited from each parent. In the field of human development this is called heredity. The Bible also speaks of heredity. But it tells us something else. It tells us that not only do we pass on physical qualities from one generation to another, but we also inherit from the people that we are connected to –a serious problem. The theological description of this problem is the doctrine of the fall of man, or the doctrine of the transmission of sin. Our text talks about this problem, and shows us very clearly that sin is part of our human inheritance. Look what Romans 5:12 says:
Therefore, just as a sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because of sin.
We’ve talked about the problem of self. The self is our internal environment where thoughts, the sense of identity, and spiritual desires take place. Self is who we are. And the self can be a problem when we don’t know ourselves. Now –we’re going to focus on the pressures that disturb the human person from the outside. Every human person lives in two domains of existence –the domain of the bio-psychological and the domain of interactions with what is outside the skin.
In this song the psalm-singer incidentally touches on one of the most serious problems of human life –and it’s a problem that includes all other problems. The problem is to know who we are. If human beings knew who they were –there wouldn’t be conflicts in our personalities. When you know who you are –you can look into your relationship of yourself with yourself, and you become what you should be, and you also find God. So, I repeat: the most serious problem that we face as human beings is the problem of self –“knowing who we really are”.
Who I am? What I am? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is the meaning of these conflicting aspects of my personality? What is man? That’s the question! And to answer it we’re going to focus on some observations that David makes about what we are.
With the rise of secularism in Australia, and the increasingly rapid decay of standards based on a Christian ethic, is the Reformed faith best suited to weather the storms of the coming "exile"? Here is an encouraging article by Carl Trueman (Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary) about the strength of a Reformed outlook to withstand the prevailing attitude in the US, which is certainly mirrored here in Australia. It is well worth reading.
In this fresco [by Benozzo Gozzoli on the walls of Sant Agostino Church, San Gimignano, 15th Century] , St Augustine hears a voice in the seclusion of a garden commanding him to "take up the book and read". Following this command, [which he believes to be a word from God], he takes up the epistle of Paul to the Romans, and starts reading Romans 13:13 ff., which warns sinners to "put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." On the right his intellectual friend Alypius is reaching out to him with his hand. Two old friends, on the left side, are keeping their distance from his on account of his change of faith. The phrase coined by St Augustine, "credo ut intelligam, intelligo ut credam" - "I believe that I might understand, and understand that I might believe" - appears to have been visually translated into this picture. From Web Gallery of Art
Reading is fundamental to the Christian life. Reading the Scriptures (or having them read to us, and expounded in preaching) is the way by which we come to a knowledge of the Truth. Without the word written we cannot know about God (except in the general sense of what is revealed to our eyes in Creation. Rom. 1:18-20). Neither can we know His works of Creation and Providence, or the way that He has revealed how we may be saved in Jesus Christ.
Augustine of Hippo tells us in his Confessions that, when he began to be under conviction of sin, he was instructed by a voice he assumed to be divine to "take up and read" ("tolle, lege"), he took up the Scriptures and read words that convicted him of his sin. This act of reading led to his conversion. It is the same in Pilgrim's Progress, that great work of John Bunyan. The book opens with a vision of the main character, Christian, reading and tormented by what he reads, because he is under the conviction of sin that the book brought to his mind. The book is obviously the Word of God.
But more than anecdote or works of fiction, the Lord Jesus (the Word), witnesses to the power of the word by the Spirit to bring conviction of sin and new life. Upon his resurrection, Jesus not only appeared to the disciples to show that He had power over sin and had conquered death, He opened the word of God and read and expounded Scripture to them. By this, he brought them to a full understanding of the redemption worked out from eternity and recorded for all in the Bible (Luke 24:27). The regenerative power of the Holy Spirit works in the word read and preached to bring new life to us who believe (Acts 17:11; Rom. 15; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; et al.)
It follows then that we must be reading people. If we are to know of salvation we have to read, or have the word read and opened up to us by preachers. But we also need to grow in the Christian life. To grow we need to read again and again and again. We need to read and feed on that which nourishes us. Scripture first, to make us understand what God would have us do, and how we should live, but also those books that help us to understand Scripture. Read biographies - read about the lives of those changed by the Gospel, read about those who carry the Gospel forth, taking the word into all the world. Read about the heroes of the faith, the martyrs, the faithful preachers and teachers of the Word that we have read and are learning. Read theology - the study of God and His work in the world, read it in Systematic form, or from an Historical perspective, or follow the flow of theology through the word in Biblical Theology. Read works on Apologetics - books that do not apologise for the faith, but argue the Truth of the Word that we read against the worldviews of those who reject that Truth.