The Significance of The Ascension.


It is important to notice that the Ascension plays a significant role in salvation history, it is not something that can be pushed to the margins of the faith. Everything that Jesus said and did is important and the Ascension has a particular significance for the mission of the Church. The Ascension also has implications for the life of discipleship. We, therefore, need to look at the New Testament teaching in this area with some care. In this article, I will first of all look at Luke’s two accounts of the Ascension and then, later on, unpack some of the implications of the Ascension from the letters.

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
The New International Version. (2011). (Lk 24:45–53). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

It is immediately prior to the ascension that Jesus instructs his disciples in the teaching about himself in the scriptural revelation after they gain this understanding he commissions them to preach the gospel to all nations. But they were to wait until they were clothed with power from on high. It as he blesses them after entrusting them with this mission that he is taken up into heaven. One of the important things for us to grasp is that Jesus would accomplish more by his exaltation to the Fathers right hand than he could by staying here on earth. from on high, he could empower his church for its mission to a needy world. Their response to the events of the ascension is to worship the Lord. Sometimes we think of the disciples being gathered together as they wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as if this was a time of sombreness but this account paints a very different picture, they return to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the Temple praising God. They knew they had been commissioned for a great task but they also realised that Jesus is Lord and they rejoiced in this fact. sometimes in Charismatic circles, we so focus on Pentecost that we tend to see this as the root of all joy but this is not the picture the Scripture gives to us. Joy springs from our relationship with the Saviour not from just one event but from who he is. The disciples had been privileged to see the Lord throughout his ministry and now in his being exalted to the right hand of God the Father, no wonder they were praising God. We ned to look also at Luke’s second account which adds some details we have not already looked at,

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The New International Version. (2011). (Ac 1:1–12). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Here Jesus explicitly tells them that in a few day time they will be baptised with the Holy Spirit who will empower them for their ministry. I believe that there are times when we are called to wait upon the Lord to be empowered by him, this should never be an excuse for not obeying the Lord but rather a time when we seek the Lord so that we are equipped to do his will. the disciples did not passively sit around they worshipped and prayed seeking the Lord’s empowering presence and guidance. I feel that is important for us to seek the Lord so that we might know his will and when we know what he wants us to do to seek his face for the power to do it.

the Apostle Peter explicitly links the event of Pentecost to the reality of the Ascension, he said this,

33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ac 2:33). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Peter here spells out clearly that it is because Jesus is exalted that the Holy Spirit is poured out. The saving work of Christ is marked by these historical acts which are vital to our salvation, his life, his death, his resurrection and his ascension are all vital aspects of his saving work.

the first Christian martyr was comforted by the reality of the ascension, this account shows something of the reality of Christ being in heaven for his people,

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

The New International Version. (2011). (Ac 7:55–56). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Seeing Jesus like this gave Stephen the assurance that whatever happened Jesus was there for him, this increased his confidence in his Saviour, he has already boldly witnessed to Jesus and his saving grace, now he knows in a very deep way the presence of the risen and exalted Lord Jesus.

The writer of the book of Hebrews spells this out for us when he says,

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

The New International Version. (2011). (Heb 4:14–16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Here the writer explains a little of the purpose of Jesus having ascended to the Father’s right hand and how that has a practical relevance to us in our Christian life. In our times of weakness, we can know that we have a great high priest in heaven who understands us completely but not does he understand us, he helps us. The risen and exalted saviour is the one who can give grace at our time of need. This should give us a sense of real assurance in Christ’s love for us. It is because he is the ascended Lord that we can approach the throne of grace with boldness.

The book of Revelation gives us a glimpse into the glory of the Ascended Lord,

4 John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
The New International Version. (2011). (Re 1:4–7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth because he is the one who has risen from the dead and is ascended to heaven. But John also spells out what Jesus has done for us, he has freed us from our sins and made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve his God. Because of all that Jesus has done our identity has been changed from being sinners to that of being priests of God. The whole thrust oof the book of Revelation is to show the people of God that Jesus is on the throne even when life appears tough. He shows himself to be Lord of the Church but perhaps, more importantly, we can see that he is the Lord of all history.

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Ascension Day Meditation.


I want to consider one or two aspects of the ascension which can speak to us in a practical way. Quite often we overlook the significance of the Ascension and I feel we impoverish ourselves by doing this. The implications of the Ascension crop up in all sorts of contexts that we tend to forget. We need to grasp that the ascension is an important part of the work of Christ. Paul in his letter to the Philippians demonstrates this,

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The New International Version. (2011). (Php 2:5–11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

When we look at this passage we tend to think mainly of the verses that emphasise the incarnation and the saving work of Christ but we also need to see that Christ is now exalted to the highest place and this was accomplished through the Ascension. This gives us the context of his exaltation and the very reason that we bow before him as Lord of all. The Ascension of Jesus leads to his exaltation in glory. Through his exaltation, we learn that he is the great high priest in the heavenly places.

34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us

The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 8:34). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, this is a result of his ascension and this should be a comfort to us because we can see from this passage that the Lord’s intimate care for us is demonstrated here. It is because he is the exalted Lord that he can intercede for us.

Also because Jesus is exalted to the highest place that gives us a real encouragement to approach the throne of grace,

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

The New International Version. (2011). (Heb 4:14–16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The writer emphasises how we can be encouraged to boldly approach the throne of Grace because we have a high priest who understands all of our difficulties and temptations. Here is one who is truly approachable and this gives us a real incentive to pray. The vision we sometimes have of God being distant and unapproachable is contradicted by this passage, rather here is a God who understands us and in his exaltation draws near to us and encourages us to draw near to him.

There are many other implications of the Ascension that we need to look at but I wanted to start with these.

Glorious Lord, we thank you that we can come to you boldly and bring all our cares and concerns to you. We praise you for your willingness to come down to this earth to live and die for us, we also thank you that as the risen and exalted Christ you continue to pour out upon us the blessings of your grace. Lord help us to lift up our hearts to you and  that by seeing you that we will  be transformed by your powerful grace Amen

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Some thoughts about the General Election 2017


As Christians, we are called to be salt and light in society to show forth the truth of God’s word as it applies to every aspect of our being. let me spell out a few key principles that we need to remember as we go into this election.

Firstly God is Sovereign over all things and that includes the United Kingdom, the ultimate sovereignty that we recognise is not the Queen or the people but that of God, as Christians we are called to live out lives in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are therefore people who realise that the principles that should guide us are found in the pages of the Bible. This is absolutely vital as we try to consider the future of this nation Post-Brexit. We have become a divided nation in many ways and it is only as we submit to God and his ways that we will see any real change for the better in this country. I am aware that this call for both revival and reformation in our land. we need revival more than anything else but revival by itself will not affect the nation in a profound way unless it is accompanied by reformation.

Secondly, The dignity and importance of all human life, all people are made in the image of God and must be treated with the love and respect that God has commanded us to give. There is no room for Racism or totalitarian ideas in the Christian framework. The Christian view is naturally pro-life but this must not be seen in a narrow sense. To be pro-life logically means to be opposed to immoral armaments that cause mass destruction as well as being opposed to abortion and euthanasia. To be pro-life means to seek true justice for all. The danger is that if we conceive the idea too narrowly we will end up electing people who will have unjust policies in other areas. For more on this see https://pneumaandlogos.com/2012/10/18/what-does-it-mean-to-be-pro-life/

Thirdly, Economic Justice, the Bible is concerned about the plight of the poor and indeed in the Laws of Jubilee sets forth a mechanism for the redistribution of wealth. The prophets denounced those who exploit and called for justice in society, Jesus came with good news for the poor. This means that we must oppose the whole concept of zero-hours contracts where people are exploited not knowing whether they will be able to work or not. On the other extreme bankers and other businessmen are lining their pockets with unjust bonuses even when their companies are being bailed out by the government. I wonder at times if we should introduce a maximum wage to stop this unjustified income. since the last election, there have been several instances where exploitation has been shown to be occurring on a large scale, this needs to be dealt with.

International Justice, We need to maintain aid to poor countries to suggest otherwise is to avoid our responsibilities as a nation, for years as a colonial power we exploited these same nations and we should make amends through giving aid to them now. It is vital that in our changing state as a nation that we do not forget the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

We also need to remember that we serve the Prince of Peace and we must be seeking true wholeness in the world. This world is a dangerous place and it is our task to be agents of the Kingdom of God as such we are called to bring truth and reconciliation to bear in the in the international situation. In the West, we have been quick to condemn other nations for having weapons of mass destruction yet we cling onto our nuclear weapons. The use of nuclear weapons can never be justified from a biblical point of view, their use goes against any just war theory let alone the Biblical injunctions, to not destroy fruit trees etc. This nation was wrong in its way that it bombed Dresden in the second world war, nothing can justify such carnage. So we need to ask of our political parties will they work for peace.

Thirdly caring for people. The National Health Service is under threat from many quarters and we must strive to protect it so that it can go on providing first-class medical treatment to all who need it. We must make sure that it stays a free service so that medical bills are not added to everybody’s daily concerns. The NHS I was always taught and I believe today enshrines so much of value from our Christian past. The NHS is facing many problems and we need the next government to adequately deal with them.

We need also to be active in supporting any attempts that deal with the modern day slavery of human trafficking, We must make sure that those who are doing these things are brought to Justice but we must seek the restoration and healing of the oppressed

Fourthly, We need to be caring for god’s creation and making sure that it does not suffer too much from pollution and the consequent Global Warming. we are seeing the effects of Global Warming already and we need to do all that we can to preserve this world that God has placed us in.

I can not and will not tell anyone who to vote for but these are among the principles that I will apply to reading the Party Manifestos when they are published in the coming few days.

We need to be praying that the number of Christian Members of Parliament will be increased and that the group “Christian in Parliament” may increase in numbers and through that the cause of Christ will be advanced in Westminster. For more details about the work of Christians in Parliament see their website http://christiansinparliament.org.uk/

For more useful information see the Christians in Politics website http://www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk/showup/

Christ is King and it is, therefore, important that we honour him in the way that we vote and in putting his standards before all else.

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Grace flows from the Cross of Christ.


We should often be people who meditate on the amazing grace of God, this is not something to think about just on Good Friday but rather all the year round. Paul in his letter to the Romans illustrates this well and I want to look briefly at the teaching of chapter 5.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 5:1–5). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Paul has been showing the believers at Rome that they are justified because they have put their faith in the finished work of Christ. It is through Jesus that we have peace with God, peace in Paul’s Hebrew mind was not only absence of conflict but also the presence of blessing. The believer stands in the grace of God because of what Jesus has done for them. This causes Paul and the believers to boast of the glory of God. What surprises us in our day is that Paul could rejoice in the midst of all the problems that life throws at him and he expects believers to do likewise. He sees how troubles can cause us to grow more Christlike. But in this context, he also emphasises the work of the Holy Spirit who has poured out the love of God into our hearts.These few words alone spell out the abundance of God’s grace yet in the rest of the chapter he adds, even more, content to this.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 5:6–11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Paul stand amazes at the grace of God which is shown to sinful people, Christ died at just the right time for the ungodly, we are all by nature ungodly and deserving of the wrath of God but God displays his love for us because it is for sinners that Christ died. although we receive our justification by faith, that justification comes to us at great cost because Jesus shed his precious blood that we might be saved. We are reconciled to God because of what Jesus has done for us. But Paul does not just stop at the subject of being reconciled through the death of Christ, he speaks also of the new life that comes from the risen life of Christ. so once again our boasting is to be of God and his amazing grace.

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 5:12–6:1). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

In this passage Paul compares the roles of Adam and Christ, We must here see that Paul believes in the fact that Adam was someone who really was a historical figure. Paul here is contrasting the way Adam brought sin into the world with the way Christ brought salvation. Paul shows that god’s salvation is much greater than the power of sin. Notice how Paul says that the gift of salvation is far greater than the consequences of sin. The gift of salvation follows many trespasses. Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for our sin and he did so in the sure knowledge of the enormity of the cost. In Christ, we receive an abundant provision of grace and many will be made righteous.

As I said we need to meditate more on the wonder of God’s grace, we need to glory in the cross of Christ and see that at the foot of the cross we receive our forgiveness.

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Serve the Lord with Gladness


We are called to serve the Lord with glad and sincere hearts, this calling is not the result of some legalistic obligation but a heartfelt response to God’s grace. It is not surprising therefore that we find the Lord Jesus teaching about serving at the time of the Lord’s supper.

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The New International Version. (2011). (Lk 22:19–30). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

First, of all the Lord shows them the greatness of his love as he points forward to his sacrificial death upon the cross. It is only after they are taught something about God’s grace that they are reminded that they are to serve the Lord and other people.The disciples wanted to show that they were important, looking to see who is the greatest but Jesus cuts across all this and reminds them that he has come to serve and they must do the same. We are called to minister God’s grace to one another, we can only do this if we have the heart of a servant.  Jesus is the great example of one who comes to serve and he demonstrates that to the disciples in many ways, we can reflect upon so many accounts of his serving others in the gospels, but really the whole of his life’s ministry was one of service to others. But we should not only be inspired by his example but also by his bringing of the grace of God to us through his ministry because of this we should respond to him with gratitude of heart.

The Apostle Peter also shared some insights in his first letter, which help us to expand the horizons of this subject a little.

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The Apostle Peter places the whole concept of service within a life of prayer and of love to one another. It is vital that we recognise this context or we will tend to evaluate the concept of service wrongly. a life of prayer and love leads inevitably to acts of service. True love will express itself in concrete acts of service. This leads us to the subject of spiritual gifts and we are called to use those gifts as faithful stewards of God’s grace. Notice here that spiritual gifts are not given to us make us feel good about ourselves but rather so that we can serve others. Peter tells us that we must serve with the strength that God provides. Perhaps this old hymn gives a good summary of what I am trying to say,

When we walk with the Lord,
In the light of His word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
Let us do His good will;
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But we never can prove,
The delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet,
We will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

In Ephesians 6 Paul exhorts us to be strong in the Lord,

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
The New International Version. (2011). (Eph 6:10–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The real key to serving the Lord is to do so in his power, that is why we need to emphasise that the New Testament concept of faith is that of trust in God, it is only as we trust God and look to him that we can step out in obedience and do what he says. This is why it is so vital to realise that even though we are in a spiritual battle we cannot be defeated as long as we stand in the strength the Lord provides. We need to put on the full armour of God and when we have done so we will be able to stand. We are called to serve the Lord with gladness in the midst of a broken and fallen world, in this world we are constantly in a battle but we are on the winning side. The Word of God calls us to a life of serving the Lord this is not always easy but true service comes as a response to God’s grace and therefore we can serve him with gladness.

Posted in faith, gifts of the Holy Spirit., grace, Jesus Christ, love, sanctification, Spiritual gifts, Spiritual Warfare., Theology, Word of God | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grace displayed through the Incarnation


As Christmas approaches, we see many images of a child in a manger and this reminds us of the amazing fact that we are celebrating is God becoming a man. Before the incarnation, the eternal Son of God,  the second person of the Trinity was the one who brought creation to pass and sustained all things in that creation. But he laid aside his majesty so that he could demonstrate God’s saving love toward sinners. We now know that Jesus still sustains all of creation by his mighty hand but we also know the depth of his love and grace as he reigns at the Father’s right hand. Let us look at some scriptures that spell this out clearly, in this article I want to concentrate on Hebrews 1 and John 1 and look at the implications of these passages for us.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. (Heb 1:1–5)

Here the writer contrasts the way God has spoken to us through the prophets and the way he has spoken to us through his Son. He portrays the Lord Jesus as being truly God as well as truly man, he is the creator of the world and is the heir of all things. Furthermore, the Son is exactly like God and is also God, he is the second person of the Holy Trinity and as such is equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As God, he sustains all things by His powerful word, here we see that our Saviour is a strong saviour and this can be a great assurance to us when we are feeling weak. But then we come to the amazing statement that this one who is truly God became a man so that he could provide purification from sin. Having achieved what he came to do he now sits enthroned in glory as the representative of his people. Throughout the book of Hebrews, we are encouraged to draw near to God because we have a great high priest who understands us.

John’s gospel helps us to further grasp something of the amazing grace of God,

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known (Jn 1:14–18).

This passage gives us an insight into the mystery of the incarnation, John has already shown that the Word is God in the earlier verses of this chapter, now he makes the bold claim that God took on flesh so that he could dwell with us. R.H.Gundry in his commentary helpfully shows us what grace and truth are,

Grace has an aesthetic dimension. It connotes beauty and attractiveness, but above all it means favor—here divine favor to an ill-deserving world of moral darklings. Truth is what is trustworthy as opposed to falsehood, but also what is real and genuine as opposed to imitation and superficiality. The Word’s glory is full of such grace and truth. There’s no lack. The supply is sufficient for all.

Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 350). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

John goes on to show that grace is inexhaustible, he says that we receive grace in place of grace already given, there is always an abundance of grace for the believer to draw upon. although I am writing this at Christmas time this is a message that we need to heed every day because in our fallenness and brokenness we are in constant need of God’s grace. And this passage and did the teaching of Scripture as a whole is that plentiful grace is to be found in Jesus Christ and through what he has done for us.

We conclude where we started with the fact that God has spoken to us through his Son in whom he has revealed his own gracious character. In seeing Jesus and who he is we get a true revelation of the character of our gracious and loving God.

 

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Pursuing the Purpose of God in Worship.


Worship is central to the Christian life and the Bible gives us many examples of the worshipping person. Worship in scripture is not just something for worship services but rather shows the attitude of our heart in every part of our lives. Let us look at some examples of what the Scripture says.

In Psalm 119:57-64 we see one example of the worshipping believer,

57 You are my portion, LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, LORD;
teach me your decrees.(Ps 119:57–64)

Here we see that the Psalmist in confessing that God is his portion also realise that his whole life must be governed by who God is and his relationship to the living God. It is because of his heartfelt thankfulness that he sees that his life comes under the authority of God. He wants to conform his whole life to God’s ways and  therefore, he treasures the word of God. As a result of his meditation upon the word of God, he sees the extent of God’s love.

In Psalm 100 we see another approach to worship which complements what we have already looked at.

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.  (Ps 100:1–5).

This is very much more in line with what we normally think of about worship but we need to see that God is always at the centre of Biblical worship and that his Lordship is acknowledged. What is important to observe here is that our joy comes from who God is and the wonder of his gracious dealings with us. Because of this, we are to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. When we centre on God everything else falls into its proper place.

Psalm 95 helps us to fill out a little more about what Biblical worship is,

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”  (Ps 95:1–11

The Psalmist glories in the greatness of God and we here that joy and reverence are combined, he sees a place for shouting to the Lord but also kneeling before him in reverence and awe. sometimes in the Church, we separate these things and even have traditions that seem to major in one or the other. But the Psalmist does not see joy and reverence as an either/or situation but a both/and situation, we need to hold these things together. This reverent and joyful praise is followed by a call to hear God as he speaks in his word. Listening to God’s word in scripture and through the sermon are vital parts of Christian worship.

Jesus in his encounter with the women at the well also adds to our knowledge of what worship is,

Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (Jn 4:21–24).

In this passage Jesus tells us that the Father seeks those who will worship him in the Spirit and in the Truth, here we see the importance of having all our worship led by the Holy spirit and also empowered by him, this is absolutely central to biblical worship. To worship in Truth according to John is to worship with Jesus who is the Truth at the centre. Jesus is the Word of God and the Scriptures that he gives to us lead to him. This is why we need to have  a constant openness to the Holy Spirit which is deeply rooted in the word of God. The apostle Paul shows us that true worship flows as we are full of the Holy Spirit, he says to the Church at Ephesus,

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:18–20).

For the apostle Paul, one of the direct of being filled with the Holy Spirit is that it leads God’s people to worship. Notice that we also address one another as we bring our songs to God, here we see the way worship overflows into fellowship. As we worship together we are also united together in fellowship as God’s children. Singing God’s praise is a natural part of the Christian life and should be encouraged both in the corporate worship of the Church and in our private worship. Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit, being Spirit-filled is not an optional extra or a deluxe form of Christianity rather it is of the essence of the normal Christian life. so let us be truly those who are fully open to the Holy Spirit and all that he has to give us.

 

We have seen so far that our worship needs to be God centred and it needs to respond to who God is in the power of the Holy Spirit, this applies to our individual worship and our corporate worship. But there are still more dimensions that we need to look at for corporate worship. When  we come together in worship we do so as a people united together because of what Christ has done for us but we are also in different parts of our spiritual pilgrimage and this can lead to tensions and we are reminded time after time in the new testament that love is to be a mark of the Christian. We cannot just manufacture love by our own strength but we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit as he produces his fruit within us to be able to love one another.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Ga 5:22–23)

If we are indwelt by the Spirit and we are filled with him we will begin to manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit, this fruit is very important in corporate worship, sometimes we hear of what are called the worship wars, these should not exist where the fruit of the Spirit is manifest. Part of the problem that we manifest in the flesh is that we want to do things our way and we don’t like it when others don’t see it our way, Worship is all about doing things God’s way and in his power and therefore we will want to worship in a way which draws all into the worship rather than excluding any. We will want to draw closer to one another as we draw closer to our God.

Another vital element in corporate worship is the use of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, God has given certain gifts to his body to build it up and they are diverse gifts which should all be treasured. There are lists of the Gifts in Romans 12 and 1Corthians chapters 12 and 14, Paul also teaches about the ministry gifts in Ephesians chapter 4. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are there so that God can speak to and encourage his Church, some of these gifts reveal god’s purposes for his people, others bring his healing and encouragement. It is vital that we should be open to all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If we rejoice in our God and seek to serve him with gladness and in the power of the Holy Spirit, he will be glorified and his people will be edified. So let us worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

 

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Pursuing God’s Purpose In The Face Of Opposition.


The Book of Ezra shows us how God restores his people and helps them to follow his ways even in the midst of opposition. At the outset, we should notice that the people had returned to the promised land as a result of God’s acting in history to bring about his purposes. I want to look briefly at the flow of  chapters 3-6 in this fascinating book.

In chapter 3 verses 1-6, The Israelites reestablished sacrifice by rebuilding the altar, this meant that they could be reconciled to God and know forgiveness for their sins. The sacrifices all point forward to what Christ would accomplish upon the cross and they testify to the grace of God. It was only right that they should start in this God centred manner. They recognised that God is holy and that he has ordained by his grace the way of salvation. They, therefore, followed the instructions of the word of God in re-introducing sacrifice this must precede the building because a right relationship with God is more important than building the temple. They needed to have that assurance that their sins were forgiven and that they could now walk with the Lord.

Chapter 3:7-13 describes the laying of the foundation of the temple and we need to notice that this is in response to knowing that this is what God had called them to. They, therefore, did not see this as just a building project but also as  a time to worship the Lord. If they were going to build in the way God wanted them to it had to be with Him at the centre and therefore the ministry of the priests was vital at this point. It also shows to us the importance of worship for the whole of Christian ministry, worship shows that we are depending on God for all things it is the opposite of doing things in our own strength. Let’s look at how that is described in the book of Ezra,

10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD:

“He is good;
his love toward Israel endures forever.” (Ezr 3:10–11).

They followed the directions of the word of God for worship they came with praise and thanksgiving to the LORD, celebrating the fact that he is good  and his love endures forever.

The majority of the people rejoiced in what God was doing amongst them, but a minority looked back with sadness to what they thought were the better days of the old temple. This was a problem that would hamper the people at times as can be seen in the writings of Haggai and Zechariah.

Chapter 4 Is all about the way the surrounding people tried to interfere with the building of the temple and their opposition to it. Their first tactic was to try the path of compromise but the people resisted that because they knew that the form of religion that surrounding nations had was tainted with paganism, they knew that to compromise here would destroy all that were meant to be doing. This uncompromising attitude provoked the hostility of their enemies and brought about an enforced halt to the work on the temple. This darkness of frustration is the opportunity for God to address his people through the Prophets and get them rebuilding again.

24 Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

5 Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. (Ezr 4:24–5:2).

As the prophets spoke to the people they encouraged them to restart work on the temple and through both the rebuke and encouragement of these prophets the people began to see the way forward. As we look at chapter 5 and 6 We see that ?God is sovereign and he enables them to answer their opponents wisely with the result that the King decrees that the temple must be completed. We see here a complete turnaround in the situation. Not only are the allowed to build the temple, they are given the financial and material provision that they need to build. We see how god takes his people through times of trouble and discouragement and builds them up again..

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The Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian: an overview.


The very important subject of the Person and work of the Holy spirit is often a neglected area of study or an area where there are  imbalances of teaching. In this post, I am trying to give an overview of the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life, I am convinced that we need to realise that the Holy Spirit is a personal and empowering presence in our lives. He is not someone who can be safely relegated to doctrine but rather someone who needs to be welcomed into every area of the Christian’s life and witness.

The Spirit’s role in bringing us to faith

The New Birth is essential for anyone to become a Christian, if we have not been born again we are not truly Christians. The Holy spirit is the one who works in our lives and opens our eyes to the need of a Saviour. We need to be clear here that each testimony will be different because the Holy Spirit works with us as individuals. Jesus very clearly teaches about the new birth when he says,

Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (Jn 3:5–6).

Our spiritual life is dependent upon the Holy Spirit working within us and leading us to put our faith in the good news of the gospel.

The book of Acts gives us many examples of the way the Lord brings people to faith, it is interesting to compare the testimonies of believers in Acts 16 ,

14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (Ac 16:14–16).

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized(Ac 16:25–33).

The contrast between these two stories is immense, the latter case is very dramatic but the first is very gentle, this illustrates the diverse way the Holy spirit works in our lives. I have heard people say that they wish their conversion experience had been more dramatic but this is to forget that the Lord works in us in the way that he sees is best suited to us.

What is your own experience of the Spirit leading you to faith in Christ?

Sanctification:  13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be sanctified is to be set apart for a good and noble purpose, the Holy spirit sanctifies us to make us more like Jesus. In other words, he leads us into Holy Living.

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  (2 Th 2:13–15).

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  (Ga 5:16–17).

Paul here holds together belief in the truth and being sanctified by the Holy Spirit sometimes today people overemphasise doctrine at the expense of being open to the Holy Spirit, or on the other extreme so emphasise the work of the Holy Spirit that truth is forgotten. We need to realise that the Holy Spirit is the one who inspired the Holy Scriptures and he leads us according to those same scriptures. The Scripture reveals to us a God who wants to be active in our lives through the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit.This means that we depend upon the Holy Spirit to make us spiritually grow. Are you depending on the Holy Spirit moment by moment to help you grow?

Are you depending on the Holy Spirit moment by moment to help you grow?

Fruit of the Spirit 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Ga 5:22–24).

If we desire to be fruitful for the Lord we will need to depend upon the Holy spirit to produce his fruit in us, how are we doing this? Look at each aspect of the fruit and prayerfully ask the Lord where do I need to grow more?

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

The Lord Jesus knew that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a vital experience for his disciples to have if they were to impact the world with the gospel. He, therefore, tells them to wait for this blessing before trying to witness for him.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  (Ac 1:4–5).  See also Acts 2 for the fulfilment of this promise.

The book of Acts shows us what can happen when Christians are baptised with the Holy Spirit, time after time we see the Holy Spirit powerfully at work as he uses ordinary men and women to minister his love. Everything that is achieved in the book of Acts is because the early church knew the reality of the empowering presence of God. We must ask ourselves do we know that same reality that the early church knew or it foreign to us.

We must realise that God is always willing to give this gift to us , as Jesus said,

13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  (Lk 11:13)

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is given to empower us for a life of service and witness for the Lord. When we are baptised in the Holy Spirit we have a deep realisation of God’s presence and blessing which is manifested through praise, speaking in tongues and prophecy.

Have you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit? If not, why not ask for it right now?

 Being filled with the Holy Spirit:

 Be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Eph 5:18–21)

We are baptised with the Holy spirit once but there are to be many fillings, in fact, the apostle expects the believers to be full of the Spirit every day. as we look at the wider context of this verse we will realise that being full of the Holy spirit is something we need for the whole of our lives. The verses following this talk about family life,marriage and work which shows how comprehensive the spirit filled life is. sometimes we can think of the Spirit-filled life as something we tack on to ordinary living, this is not the case, Spirit-filled living should be the normal Christian life.

Notice that Paul commands the Ephesians to be full of the Holy Spirit, this needs to be a constant experience because as D L Moody once said, “We are leaky vessels”.  are you seeking the filling of the Spirit every day?

Are you seeking the filling of the Spirit every day?

 

 

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The gifts of the Spirit are vital for the Christian life and the edification of the Church, they were not taken away at the end of the apostolic period, there is no evidence for that on the pages of scripture. We need to realise that God has not changed and he still equips His church for ministry. some people think that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are weird but they are not that, rather they bring the loving grace of God into a situation in a very real and dynamic way. Sometimes we will find it hard to step out in faith even when god prompts us to use his gifts, but we will realise when we do what a blessing that gift is to the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul listed some of the Gifts in 1 Corinthians,

 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines (1 Co 12:4–11).

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.  (1 Co 14:1) also see Romans 12 and Ephesians 4

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the upbuilding of the Church, not for our spiritual prestige but rather so that we can serve one another. We should, therefore, be open to all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Are you open to all that the Holy Spirit wants to give you? Do you desire to serve God in his way?

Spiritual Warfare.

We are involved in a spiritual battle against the forces of darkness and at times the Christian life is not easy but the Lord has provided all that we need to be involved in the battle, Paul put it this way,

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Eph 6:10–18)

We are involved in a spiritual battle and we therefore need to rely on the Holy Spirit to enable us to use all the armour and weapons he has provided for us. Paul gives us a comprehensive list of armour that God has provided for us and he has also provided us with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Paul also ties praying in the Spirit into the whole area of Spiritual warfare, it is in prayer that we depend on God. all of our praying is meant to be Spirit lead praying. The Spirit is able and willing to guide us in our praying and he helps us in our weakness to cry out to God.

Are you relying on the Lord for his strength or are you trying to live the Christian life in your own strength?

Conclusion

I have tried to show abo the importance of a dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit and I hope that as you read these words you will desire to know the Holy spirit working more deeply within you.

 

 

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Judgement, Grace and the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit


In Isaiah 44 we encounter a passage which is full of assurance of the love, sovereignty, and justice of God. The prophet has demonstrated that Israel has been justly judged by God and their time of exile is a result of their own sinfulness, but here he shows that God has not cast off his people but rather is loving towards them. In some ways, there is a tension in this chapter between grace and judgement but in the end grace triumphs. God never takes sin lightly and he, therefore, speaks strongly against it but this is not the end of the matter because He is a gracious God. We can never take God’s grace for granted and the effect of that grace is shown in transformed lives. The God of the Bible speaks to bring comfort to those who are fearful, to bring hope in times of darkness and difficulty. Let us now look at how God speaks through Isaiah to his people.

“But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
2 This is what the LORD says—
he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams.
5 Some will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’;
others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The LORD’s,’
and will take the name Israel.(Is 44:1–6).

The reason the Lord says that they are not to fear is because he is their God, who formed the nation in the first place and has cared for it ever since. Notice how he reassures them of his love, he is going to help them. they have felt distant from God and they feel as though they are dry ground, parched by the constant scorching of the sun, how can anything grow in these circumstances. God makes the promise to water the ground of their lives by pouring out His Spirit on them. This coming of the Spirit brings his blessing with it, notice that the promise is made to the offspring as well. the result of this outpouring is that people are able and willing to identify themselves as followers of God. There is a deep and profound assurance in their hearts which gives them the ability to stand firm as the people of God. This passage should encourage us to turn to the Lord at all times, confessing our sins before a gracious and holy God.

6 “This is what the LORD says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Is 44:6–8)

The LORD proclaims his own sovereignty  and uniqueness, he is the one in control of all things, the Lord of all history. The Lord knows what is going to happen and is the only one who can reveal it exactly. These statements make good theology but more importantly, they make a solid foundation for the believer’s life of faith, This God is our God and he can be trusted he is our Rock.

9 All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
11 People who do that will be put to shame;
such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and shame.

12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”. (Is 44:9–20)

The prophet then addresses the folly of idolatry in the light of the revelation of who God is, this is a scathing critique but it is a necessary warning given Israel’s propensity to go after false God’s. He hammers the point home and shows how false worship can come about in an unthinking way. We need to be careful that we also avoid the idols of our own time because we are just as likely to put other things in the place of the living God.

21 “Remember these things, Jacob,
for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
Israel, I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”

23 Sing for joy, you heavens, for the LORD has done this;
shout aloud, you earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel. (Is 44:21–24)

The Lord once again reminds his people of their love for them and his gracious forgiveness of their sins. The LORD insists that he will not forget his people. He calls them to return to him, they need to repent of their sins and receive his forgiveness and then they will be able to praise the Lord along with the created order.

24 “This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:

I am the LORD,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself,
25 who foils the signs of false prophets
and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
and turns it into nonsense,
26 who carries out the words of his servants
and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,

who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’
of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’
and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’
27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry,
and I will dry up your streams,’
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd
and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” ’ (Is 44:24–28)

God has decided to bring about blessing for his people and  as the creator of the earth, he is more than able to do this thing. He will overturn the teachings of false prophets and the statements of the wise, he will remain faithful to his promises and therefore he can be relied upon. The promise of these verses was fulfilled literally.

22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“ ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the LORD their God be with them.’ ” (2 Ch 36:22–23)

Ezra also records this in the first chapter of his book, the fact that God is a God who keeps his word should be a tremendous comfort to us. The sovereign Lord is on the throne and we are his children, he cares for us greatly and will use his sovereign power to protect us and bring us to the place of blessing.

 

 

 

 

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