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Archive for April, 2010

A Nation waits with baited breath, as the bands play, the army presents arms, the media cameras roll, all the VIP’s and celebrities dressed in their very best stand to attention as the President takes his position to present his ‘State of the Nation’ address, which high-lights the past, addresses the issues of the present and offers hope for the future. The budget speech and policy decisions that will follow in due course will all reflect elements of the ‘State of the Nation’ address. The President’s speech forms the principal political framework for the year ahead.

The world waits, not in Parliament or a Palace, not dressed in their best, but sitting on the grass on a hillside, VIPs and celebrities conspicuous by their absence, the armies invisible and silent as the King finds a suitable rock to sit on and prepares to deliver His ‘State of the Kingdom’ address.

“Who is this King of Glory?” someone once asked…. (Psalm 24:10)

He is the express image and brightness of God’s glory, supreme over all creation for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. He holds the whole of Creation together and He is the Head of God’s people known as the church, having been the first to rise from the dead making Him preeminent in all things. It gives the Father great pleasure that all of God’s fullness dwells in Him. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords and of His Throne and Dominion, there will be no end. [Colossians 1:15-19]

God had spoken many times in the past from Heaven, but was now about to speak on earth in human form, as He delivers His ‘State of the Kingdom’ address. [Hebrews 1:1-2]

The family of man had been on the go for about four thousand years at the time of this address and the human race had produced its fair share of rich, successful and famous but at the cost of its relationship with their God. Man’s history was covered in blood and had left in its wake the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the merciful, the hungry for righteousness, the peacemakers, pure in heart, the persecuted and the insulted. It was to these that the King turned His attention in His opening remarks.

The State of the Kingdom Address – in a nutshell

(A full transcript of the King’s address is available from Matthew 5:1 to 7:28)

Compensation offered to the poor, the persecuted, the sorrowful and the needy comprised the following:

  • They will own the everlasting Kingdom, with no sickness pain or death.
  • They will be comforted
  • The earth will be given to them
  • They will have their fill of justice and righteousness
  • Mercy would be shown to them
  • They will look upon God in all His glory and see Him.
  • They will be given the most illustrious title in the Universe, they will be called the sons of God
  • The persecuted in particular will be given a great reward.

The Purpose behind the difficulties

The King reaffirmed the purpose for the suffering and deprivation experienced by these humble servants; it is to be the salt of the earth and to let our lights shine in a dark world under all circumstances, so that others would see our good character and recognize God the Father in us.

No Change to the Established Truth

The King then turned His attention to the judiciary system that God had established through Moses and confirmed that there would be no change to the high moral standard of the Kingdom. In fact He went as far as to say that keeping the code of ethics superficially, fell far short of the required standard. The Decalogue deals not only with outward actions but also the intentions and attitude of the heart. He then astounded His audience by underscoring God’s commitment to these rules, saying that Heaven and earth would pass away, but this moral code would not change.

Primary Motivation

The King then addressed one of the primary motivators of sinful human behaviour – PRIDE! He sighted numerous examples of behaviour, which under normal circumstances would be considered good, but having exposed the human heart hungry for recognition to feed its insatiable pride, these good works and the do-gooders themselves are disqualified. Those who seek these things will be rewarded temporally by men’s recognition, but suffer the loss of Heavenly recognition and eternal rewards.

Getting Personal with the Father

Having spoken on a variety of issues in general, the King then focused on a unique privilege that the Father is prepared to grant each individual; a personal and private interview behind closed doors.

Fasting, prayers and the act of giving are private and confidential arrangements between an individual and the Father Himself. The King indicated that the Father would respond to these private consultations by rewarding this devotion publically. (Impure motives in this area having been dealt with above).

A Sample Prayer

To facilitate these intimate moments with the Father, the King provided a prayer template, not to be repeated parrot fashion, but to be studied carefully and internalized, as a protocol when addressing our Heavenly Father.

Fiscal Policy and Crime

Turning to the economy of the earth and the chase for wealth, the King warned of the short-sightedness of accumulating material wealth, which is exposed to erosion and a target of crime. He re-focused our attention to the reward of building a bank balance in Heaven, where security is assured and our motivation and focus will be purified from greed and selfish ambition.

Social Welfare

The King acknowledged the need for social security and welfare. He undertook to provide every individual, who seeks God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness as a lifelong priority, with all their basic requirements to live. He removed all stress from these issues with His personal assurance and two simple examples to clarify His Father’s position:

  • “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
  • “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

The King then emphasized His assurance of God’s provision with this rhetorical question: “Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Criteria for Judgment

The King, who is Himself the Supreme Judge of all men, warned of the hypocrisy of fault finding amongst our peers, observing that not one of us is faultless and stressing the need for personal analysis before offering admonition or advice to others. He further warned that admonition and advice to the unreceptive is like giving what is holy to dogs, or casting pearls before swine.

Requests Processed

The King gave assurances that perseverance with prayerful requests for assistance are acknowledged and will be processed ( in terms of all the previously stated criteria). He offered the very insightful analogy of an earthly father responding to his son’s requests as an example of the parameters of the Father’s willingness to respond to our appeals.

Stringent Entrance Standards

The King acknowledged that the entrance to the Kingdom and the path of progress are stringent, not always obvious and will require constant tenacity in discerning God’s direction from the far easier and more popular route to destruction.

Charlatans Exposed

The King then gave a very stern warning that we should be ever on the look out for Con-men who appear to be His servants, but are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” These pretenders should not be assessed by what they say, but by what they are and what they do. Their track record will expose them when their lives do not measure up to the foregoing criteria.

Conclusion

Finally addressing all wannabe loyal subjects, He said that there would be a large number who called Him Lord and will lay claim to a successful career in service of the Kingdom who will be disqualified on the grounds that they had not done His Father’s will. He then drew His Royal ‘State of the Kingdom’ address to a close by articulating unambiguously how we will stand the test of time and qualify as an esteemed subject of His Eternal Kingdom.

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

 

Those who were privileged to attend the live presentation by the King of kings, Jesus the anointed Son of God, unanimously agreed that He had spoken with unprecedented authority.

 

Post Script:

It must be noted that those who respond to the call of the Gospel and wish to be included in the Eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ, need to acknowledge their sinful state before God, repent of their sin and accept the death of Jesus as their only means of forgiveness, believe that He rose from the dead and that He is indeed God. [Romans 10:8-10]

Jesus explained this in these famous words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. (John 3:16)

Adulation:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

 

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 

 

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:18-23)

 

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I must admit that I am not a great fan of old hymns. Simply because the tunes tend to be outdated and are generally sung in a dreary churchy dirge,  with facial expressions to match the agony of endurance through each melancholy verse  followed by the slightly upbeat chorus, until the merciful conclusion. I suppose singing some of the old hymns in School Assembly at the beginning of the day, has not enhanced my appreciation of hymns. Having said that though, I must also admit that most of these old hymns have absolutely wonderful words, that challenge the deepest recesses of the heart and raise one’s spirit to the highest Heaven.

Old tunes that still do the job

Some old tunes, I will also grant you, are timeless and very uplifting, for example “My chains fell off my soul was free, I rose, went forth and followed Thee” or “Crown Him with many crowns, the Lord upon His throne, “ of course “Amazing grace” and “The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want” have stood the test of time, both tune-wise and lyrics-wise.

Christian Music is Big Business

The ‘Christian’ Music Industry has spawned a multitude of new Christian songs with lovely up-to-date tunes, generally sung by Superstar singers and played by master musicians with the finest sound and music systems that money can buy. All professionally mixed and crafted into highly sought after marketable merchandise. This multimillion dollar genre is testimony to the popularity of these Christian songs. The tunes are lovely and many of the lyrics do touch the heart.

What are we singing about?

But leaving the tunes out of the equation, if we compare the modern Christian songs with the old hymns (I am generalizing and there are always the exceptions), there is a fairly significant difference in most cases. The modern songs stir the senses with words like “I just want to be where you are” or “There is none like you, no one else can touch my heart like you do” and “You are beautiful beyond description”. Compare these words with hymns like: “Five bleeding wounds He bears, received at Calvary; They pour effectual prayers, They strongly plead for me” or “Crown the Saviour! Angels crown Him, Rich the trophies Jesus brings; In the seat of power enthrone Him, While the vault of heaven rings; Crown Him! Crown Him! Crown the Saviour King of kings.” These words stir the spirit, with glorious Biblical truth, the emotions follow suit and one is able to worship in spirit and in truth, whereas sometimes I fear that the modern songs may pluck at the more sensual strings of our hearts, but leave our spirit unmoved.

Lovely words but to whom?

Another observation I would like to make about modern Christian songs in comparison to the old hymns is that many modern songs do not have the name of the Lord in them, which leaves them wide open to be sung as songs of love or praise to anyone, be they a lover or a god.

Of course the attitude of the singer makes all the difference as we lift our hearts to the Lord in faith and express our love for Him, by whatever song we choose to sing, but this does take personal discipline and focus. The Lord  is not reliant upon the tune or the lyrics, He tries the reigns of our heart. Music is such a powerful medium and is the language of the soul, we should therefore use it to glorify the Lord Jesus and our heavenly Father as we direct our praise to them, trusting the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with the words that reflect our love for Him.

There is a great need for us to get back to the spirit of the old hymn writers and compose songs, devoid of the sensory expressions of love, inspired by the Holy Spirit, grounded in the Word, to glorify the Lord and edify the Body of Christ, with no commercial gain in mind.

“And be not drunk with wine, in which is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God, even the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Eph 5:18-20)”

When the music fades…. It’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus!

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Iceland Volcano Eruption

Pictures of the erupting volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull Glacier in Iceland. This volcano has not erupted in 200 years.

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I am a companion of all them that fear you, and of them that keep your precepts. (Psalms 119:63)

The Commandment to Love  

Jesus said: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another. “(John 13:34-35)

John said: “If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20)

Loving one another as Christians is therefore:

  • a commandment of Jesus Christ
  • a true demonstration of our Christianity
  • proof of our Christianity

Loving one another is an enormous challenge and begs the all important question, “Who is my brother?”

This question needs to be answered with clarity and firm conviction in this day of spiritual deception, doctrines of devils and the spawning of millions of people, of hugely varying persuasions and practices, who lay claim to the title of ‘Christian’.

The importance of this question is also amplified by the Global Village syndrome which has vastly expanded communication between Christians across the world through the internet and placed ‘Christian’ doctrine, apologetics, teaching, testimonies and explanations of every religious persuasion under the sun, at the finger-tips of most Christians around the world. While the accessibility of all this information has obvious benefits, it also creates the monumental task of sifting through truth and error, often confusing the less established Christian rather than informing them and leaving many in a quandary as to who we should regard as a brother in Christ and who we should regard as an unsaved sinner or heretic.  I acknowledge that Scripture teaches that we should also love our enemies and that God so loved the ‘world’, but in this article we are limiting our focus to establishing who my brother is and my obligations towards him.

Some of the Complexities

The question of ‘who is my brother?’ is neither new, nor is it a simple one to answer without a clear Biblical definition of who would qualify to be regarded as my brother (or sister) in Christ. This definition has changed many times down through church history, depending on the time period and church affiliation. The various ‘Creeds’ were an attempt to define the ‘body of truth’ to which all Christians should subscribe, failing which, many in the dark ages were branded as heretics and burned at the stake or beheaded. The countless millions, who met their fate in this manner, as documented in Fox’s Book of Martyrs, portray a blatant violation of the Lord’s command to love my brother and a despicable indictment against Christianity as a whole.

We tend to console ourselves with the fact that martyrdom of ‘Christian’ against ‘Christian’ was confined to the dark ages, but John said, “Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).

If we demonstrate hatred for our brother by our words and our actions, according to John, we have as good as burned him at the stake or beheaded him and I wonder how many millions more have met this fate at our hands in this modern-day?!

We have barricaded ourselves behind Denominational divides to justify rejection of a brother who does not subscribe fully to ‘our vision’ or interpretation of Scripture. A simple definition of a Denomination is: Any truth, other than Jesus Christ, that forms a common denominator, uniting a group of people.

This definition can be illustrated by looking at a few Denominations as examples:

The converts under John Wesley’s ministry in time were known by their method of evangelism and became known as the Methodists. Another group of people believed that the church should be run by Elders or the Presbytery. They became known as the Presbyterians. Another felt the congregation should have their say and they became known as the Congregationalists. An emphasis on the importance of water baptism as full immersion segregated another group who became known as Anabaptists by those who hated them; they later called themselves Baptists. The Full Gospel group believed that by adding the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to the Baptists’ message, they were presenting a ‘fuller’ Gospel and therefore carried that tag. Another Pentecostal group saw the importance of the people being the church, rather than the building, so they adopted the name of Assemblies of God.

The question we have to ask ourselves in the light of the topic under the spotlight in this blog is:

Do other groups of Christians use methods that are Biblical or are Methodists the only ones that have the correct method, as segregation under this name tag suggests? Members of the Methodist organization may not believe that they are the only ones with the correct method, but by rallying under this flag, they are declaring this.

Similarly, are Presbyterians the only group that subscribe to the rule of Elders? Are Congregationalists the only ones, who recognize the function of each believer as a priest and an active member of the Body of Christ? Are the people in the Assemblies of God organization the only ‘assemblies’ of God’s people?

It is not my intention in this blog to fully explore the denominational divide, or consider whether there is a solution to this, but rather to note it as a major complication to the question of ‘who is my brother’. I say this because my denominational affiliation (no matter which one, even my Inter-Denominational or Non-Denominational group) dictates that all of those in my group are my brothers and all others outside my group claiming to be Christian, should be viewed at best with suspicion or as a more distant relative than brother and at worst shunned as a threatening enemy of my belief.

Doctrinal Demarcation  

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)

This verse seems to give us good Biblical grounds for shunning those ‘brothers’ who do not agree with all of our doctrine.

Doctrine is not an evil word as the Ecumenical Movement would have us believe, who suggest that we throw our doctrine out for the sake of unity, amounting to a compromise of the precious truths that we hold so dear. The Ecumenical approach is none other than a repackaged form of the age-old satanic question “Has God said”; in order to be unified with the greater ‘Christian’ community, devoid of any belief system or doctrinal frame of reference other than their compromising definition of love.

Doctrine is the backbone and foundation of our faith; it is what we are told to earnestly contend for. I am not advocating that we change or water down any doctrine which we believe to be Biblical and inspired by God, in order to be united to a brother who does not believe the same things.

Jesus made the importance of doctrine clear when He said, “He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him”. (John 14:21)

Doctrine is intended to bring me into a deeper and more mature relationship with Jesus Christ, doctrine is not to be used as a sieve to filter out all my brothers in the Lord who do not understand or agree with ‘my’ doctrine. By way of example, if a brother does not believe in water baptism, does that mean he is no longer my brother? Not one of us knows everything or believes everything we should when we are first born again. I do not have to agree with his rejection of water baptism, but I also do not use water baptism as a tool to sideline my brother.

If I take to its natural conclusion the ‘Doctrinal Unity’ idea as a demarcation to disregard contrary brothers,  I would end up not having fellowship with anyone, as it is very seldom that two individuals will agree on absolutely everything, unless there is coercion and control by the institution. Even an institution applying the ‘Doctrinal Unity’ idea to its natural conclusion will become so exclusive, that they accept no one outside their group. The Exclusive Brethren is a case in point.

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. (Ephesians 4:13)

The above verse is often seen as justification for an institution to insist on doctrinal unity; however  this verse gives us the goal of all doctrine… to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

It’s amazing how imposed doctrinal unity invariably produces pride and a yardstick by which we condemn others, rather than exhibiting the nature of Jesus Christ into whose fullness we should be growing.

May we, by God’s grace embrace all the precious promises of God, by which we become partakers of His divine nature. Adding to our faith, integrity, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. By this shall all men know that we are His disciples!

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This question challenges every committed Christian; it even haunts some and discourages others, while a few seem to have found that place of sweet contentment in the centre of God’s will for them. The often asked and all important questions are:  Can I know God’s will for me? And if so, how do I discover His will? And how can I be sure that I have found God’s will.

As a seasoned traveller on this pilgrimage to Heaven, I have heard so many formulae, spiritual crystal ball gazers, prophets, thumb suckers and Christian chancers, wax eloquent on the subject of how to know God’s will, that I feel compelled to add my penny’s worth to this all important topic.

Jesus’ words, “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven “(Mt 7:21), spell out the importance of doing the Father’s will in no uncertain terms.

Paul tells us that there are three aspects to God’s will:

And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Ro 12:2)

The three categories of the will of God that Paul speaks about in this verse are; the Perfect Will of God; the Good Will of God and the Acceptable will of God. Understanding each one of these categories, with God’s expectation of us and our expectation of Him, goes a long way to deciphering the mystery of God’s dealings with us, with regard to His will.

God’s Perfect Will

We are told in Ephesians that God’s eternal purpose and therefore His perfect will has been revealed to us, although it was hidden in ages past, but has now become known.

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:9-14)

By receiving Jesus as Saviour we are baptised into the ‘Body of Christ’ and have become part of God’s ageless eternal will, which He will continue to perform in us until the day of Jesus Christ.

This perfect will of God begins with the revelation that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2Pet 3:9) Under this heading of God’s perfect will for each one of us, the Bible goes on to prescribe our stages of spiritual growth until we come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, or in other words to full spiritual maturity. This aspect of God’s will is known to us and is declared in the Scriptures. The only ‘grey’ area may be, what part I as an individual should play in this great eternal purpose of God, but as we grow in the Lord, this aspect also becomes clear.

The Perfect Will of God = God’s eternal purpose, to gather in one all things in Christ.

God’s Good Will

God has likewise declared His good or moral standards to us, so this aspect of God’s moral will is also known to us. The Ten Commandments summarise the moral values that God expects us to keep. I won’t go into the whole discussion on Law and grace except to say that we all know that grace does not allow us to continue breaking these laws, but provides the mercy and forgiveness when we have broken them.

The Scripture gives us the key to keeping the Law: “Love works no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Ro 13:10) If we love our neighbour we will not steal anything that is his, we will not lie or covet etc.  If we love the Lord with all our heart we will keep His commandments.

As we know, God’s moral standards are taught throughout the Old and New Testaments.

God’s Good Will = God’s declared absolute standard of morality.

The Acceptable Will of God

It is in this area of God’s Acceptable will, where He gives us the liberty to choose, provided our choice is within the barriers of His Perfect will and His Moral will. It is also within this corridor of freedom that we learn to understand the Lord better and learn the motives of our own hearts and where our true priorities are often exposed.

Rather than list all the areas of choice that would fall under the category of God’s acceptable will, the guiding principle is: anything personal that is not clearly instructed or prescribed by Scripture.

How many of us have fasted and prayed over these issues that fall into the non prescriptive areas of God’s will ; put out fleeces, looked for confirming Scriptures, waited for doors to open or close and followed a number of other sanctified superstitions to find our answers, only to find the Heavens are as brass and our prayers bounce back from the ceiling?

As an example to illustrate the principle of choosing within the boundaries of God’s perfect and His moral will, to find what is acceptable to him, let us take the questions:

Should I marry?

And if so, whom should I marry?

Firstly, let’s consider the Biblical advice on marriage. “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot have self-control, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1Co 7:8-9) If you study 1 Corinthians 7 carefully you will find some very useful Spiritual insights into how God intends us to deal with the issue of marriage and also the underlying principles in this chapter can be used as a guide for other choices as well.

To the question, “Should I marry? Paul considers two issues, one; how will this affect your devotion to God’s Perfect will or His eternal purpose in your life (verse 32)? And secondly, if you remain unmarried, are you likely to break God’s moral will by falling into sexual immorality (verse 2)?

If you answer these two questions from your heart, honestly it will become very clear whether you should marry or not.

To the question: “Whom should I marry?” Paul gives us a guide to this in this verse: “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. (1Co 7:39)” She may marry whom she will. Here is the freedom of choice that God has given us. In other words it is acceptable to God if Jack marries Jane or Mary or Sue, provided Jack does not break God’s moral will and provided the one he chooses is ‘in the Lord’.  I really don’t wish to burst anyone’s bubble here, but there are many sincere young people bursting with the hormones of youthful zest, who are waiting for God to produce one special Miss Perfect, prepared just for them! Paul does have some bad news for us on this score, he says, “But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. “(1Co 7:28) There is no perfect marriage because there is no Mr Perfect and no Miss Perfect, we are all damaged goods in the sense that we have all been corrupted by sin.

Because God does not tell us specifically whom to marry, this does not in anyway suggest that marriage is an unimportant issue in God’s thinking, quite the contrary is true. Marriage between a man and a woman is the clearest picture of God’s eternal purpose for the human race and God has warned “whom God joins together, let no man put asunder”.(Mt 19:6) The decision is left to us, but if we enter into marriage, it is a covenant that God holds us to. “Let marriage be held in honour by all, and the bed undefiled: but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Heb 13:4) Marriage is therefore a serious matter to the Lord and the choice we make is therefore not a light one.

You will also notice through this chapter that Paul refers to the ‘commandments of the Lord’ in other words, where clear Biblical instruction is given and then where he uses wisdom to offer principles as guidelines for our choices, he says “I have no commandment from the Lord”.

We are also told that we have the liberty to keep a certain day holy and we may choose not to eat certain foods; this is acceptable to God, provided we don’t make our choice part of God’s Moral will for someone else. We should also not use this liberty if our choice causes someone else to stumble. (Rom 14)

It is good neither to eat meat, nor to drink wine, nor anything by which your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak. Have you faith? have it to yourself before God. Happy is he that condemns not himself in that thing which he allows. And he that doubts is condemned if he eats, because he eats not of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin.” (Ro 14:21-23)

Dreams, Visions and Personal Prophecy

We as Christians have varying views on how the Holy Spirit speaks to us. Whatever our perspective, it would be wrong to deny that the Bible talks about dreams and visions and there does also seem to be some evidence of words of prophecy spoken to individuals. This is a big subject that needs more space, but I mention it in regard to finding God’s acceptable will, for a good reason. It is interesting to note that every dream and vision recorded in the New Testament had to do with God’s perfect will, or His eternal purpose, rather than a directive for making personal decisions. I am not saying that God will not give us personal direction in this way, but there is no precedent in the New Testament of God using this method to help someone select a spouse, or select a house to live in etc.  ‘Personal  prophecy’ also only relates to the service of God in some form of ministry. Examples of this are: “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Ac 13:2) Also to Timothy “Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you through prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” (1Ti 4:14) Both of these instances involve individuals, but both of them involve God’s eternal purpose for Paul, Barnabas and Timothy, rather than some direction in personal issues.

The dreams and visions that the apostles had also related to their ministry, rather than personal issues of guidance.

Wisdom

Why doesn’t God just tell us who we should marry, which career path we should follow and where we should live? It would make life so much simpler and it would take the guesswork out of the equation. The reason is presented to us by James.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and reproaches not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (Jas 1:2-8)

Through the stress of decision making, trials and difficulties, patience(endurance) has to work, to make us ‘entire and lacking in nothing.’ In a nutshell God wants us to grow up. Through this process the one thing we can ask for; and God has promised not to withhold it, is wisdom. (verse 5)

Growing up

Another passage that teaches us that we need to grow to a point where we can discern between good and evil, (which is the definition of wisdom) is Heb 5:12-14. Verse 14 ends with “who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Our spiritual sensibilities need to be exercised and by reason of use or experience, we will learn how to discern things God’s way.

The Acceptable will of God = Areas of personal choice, that do not infringe upon God’s Perfect will nor do they violate His Moral will.

In Summary

God’s perfect will is our first priority and He will lead us by His word and by His Spirit into a clear knowledge of what He requires of us as we worship and serve Him with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. (Pr 3:5-6)

As we love the Lord Jesus and give Him first place in our lives, we will keep His commandments and His moral will.

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8)

And finally, there are many choices available to us within the parameters of God’s perfect and moral will, which are acceptable to Him. Through these we learn the wisdom of God and learn how to discern the issues of life from God’s perspective and thereby grow up spiritually in Him.

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The simple and obvious answer to this question is: our Lord Jesus Christ, because without Him there would be no saving doctrine and there would be no Saviour and no salvation.

However looking a little deeper the answer to this question is not quite as straight forward as it may appear because even the simplest explanation of the Gospel of salvation is in fact a doctrine.

Doctrine means a set of teachings or instructions. There are good doctrines and false or bad ones.

We need some instruction or doctrine in order to know about Jesus because He has returned to Heaven and is no longer visible on earth.  We have to be told about Him; what He did and why He did this, in order to be saved. All of this explanation is a doctrine, without which we wouldn’t know about the one who can save us.

Doctrine

John tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. “ (John 1:1) It may be argued that there is no difference then between the “Word” (doctrine) and Jesus because He IS the Word. However, John was not saying that the printed or spoken Word is Jesus; but rather He was identifying the fact that everything that God wants to say to us is expressed in the person of Jesus.  We use words to communicate therefore everything God wants to communicate with us is best expressed and understood in Jesus Christ. He is the perfect expression of God’s truth, judgment, righteousness, love, mercy, wisdom, grace and every other aspect of God’s message to us.

In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3)

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Col 2:9)

Doctrine tells us, who Jesus is, why we need Him, what He has done and how to be saved through Him. This knowledge is essential to be saved, but it doesn’t save us. Salvation, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, is a spiritual experience, it is not just a mental acknowledgement of truth.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and in which you stand; By which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. (1Co 15:1-2)

More than Words

The conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus gives us a very important insight into what happens when we become a Christian (John 3:1-21). Jesus said that without experiencing this transition we will not see or enter the Kingdom of God. He likens this experience to a natural birth, saying that we must be ‘born again’ but the second time we have to be born of the Spirit. He then explains that the first (natural) birth gives us all the natural earthly attributes, but the second birth will give us spiritual attributes. He also tells us that this second birth is from Heaven and can’t really be explained in earthly terms, it is similar to the wind, you don’t know where it came from or where it is going to, but you see the effects of it. Our comprehension of the doctrine takes us to a point and then it is out of our hands.

Experience

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Heb 4:2)

We can understand all the doctrine we like, it won’t save us. For our doctrine to be of any value it has to lead us into an experience with the Living God.  We can understand that we are sinners; most unsaved people will admit this and even regret many things they have done, you can even understand that Jesus died on the cross for you, but this will still not save you. It is only when, coupled with the Gospel (doctrine) the Holy Spirit shows you that you have offended God to the point that He is prepared to send you to Hell, that you realise your desperate need of a Saviour. It is the Holy Spirit who then brings Jesus into focus in your heart or mind. It is at this critical point that you go a step further than understanding, you step by faith into the unknown and put your trust in Jesus. He then supernaturally causes you to be ‘born again’ by His Spirit.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Tit 3:5).

Salvation then occurs by a divine intervention of God by His Spirit and Jesus saves us. It’s not so much what we know but rather WHO we know!

The Gospel , or to put it another way the ‘doctrine of salvation’ is not a formula or process that saves us; it is an introduction to the one person who can save us: JESUS CHRIST.

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If I was not a Christian, I must admit that the most off-putting aspect of Christianity to me would be the huge variety of denominations, variations of interpretation and practice that are all part of the Christian landscape. Each group of ‘Christians’ pointing out the faults and failings of the others and vowing that their interpretation is the most Biblical. Against this backdrop of disagreement, suspicion, sheep stealing, bickering and fighting, the words of Jesus ring in very loud contrast, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another. “(Joh 13:35).

The vicious circle in our thinking goes something like this: If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments ( the doctrines taught in the Bible). If we seek fellowship with those who do not agree with our doctrine then we are betraying the Lord and compromising the Word, which belies the fact that we don’t really love Jesus. This, we feel gives us licence to disassociate from all Christians who don’t fully subscribe to our doctrinal branding.

Why do Christians not agree on doctrine if we all have the same Bible? It all boils down to interpretation. There are many theological methods of ‘correctly’ interpreting the Scriptures, or arriving at a correct exegesis, but then Theologians differ on these methods!  Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would teach us all things and lead us into all truth. (Jn 16:13) While this is a precious truth, it does not solve the divide in Christian circles because many who claim revelation by the Spirit, also disagree with others who make similar claims. Paul asks, “Is Christ divided..?” (1 Cor 1:13)

Here is the issue: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me. (Joh 14:6). There can only be one truth and that truth is Jesus. No true Christian would disagree with this statement. Why then the divisions? If any group of Christians focuses and emphasises “a” Biblical truth rather than “THE” Biblical truth, they inevitably go off course.

To illustrate this: John Wesley, well known effective preacher in the 1700’s, founded churches focussing upon his methods and they became known as the Methodists. Some other groups felt that churches should be run by Elders or the Presbytery and became know as the Presbyterians, still others felt that the congregation should have the say and they became known as the Congregationalists. A group with great preachers such as John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon and the like, placed emphasis on water baptism and became known as the Baptists. Pentecostal groups believed that the Gospel was not complete without the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and became known as the Full Gospel Church, the Apostolic Faith movement believed they were defending the faith preached by the apostles. The Assemblies of God believed that the church was not the building, hence their name, people assembling to worship God. I think you get the picture, they all focussed on an aspect of truth that they felt was sufficiently important to divide from other believers. Each one of these groups will claim that Jesus is central to their faith, but their very name betrays their emphasis.

I am not suggesting that these are all false churches or that there aren’t wonderful godly saints in many of them. What I am observing is that Christians are divided over issues that are not central to God’s eternal purpose, “that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Col 1:18).

It has been said that when the Gospel came to the Greeks they turned it into a Philosophy, the Romans politicised into a Government, the British conquered the world for themselves with it and the Americans have turned it into big business!

The business aspect of the church and the popularity of the ‘feel good – seeker sensitive’ gospel has given birth to hundreds of DIY ‘church’ groups each emphasising there particular ‘spiritual’ gimmick or brand of Christianity, with the king pin building his own kingdom in the name of the Lord. Paul calls this ‘winds of doctrine’ by cunning men bent on deceiving. (Eph 4:14 paraphrased)

Even ‘Bible based’ groups who love the Scriptures are prone to placing their emphases on “a” truth rather than “THE” Truth. The five fold ministries, Spiritual gifts, priesthood of believers, first principles or discipleship courses, outreach, missions, feeding the poor, looking after aids orphans, and church planting are all noble Biblical pursuits, but if any one of these is the reason for the group’s existence, then they have replaced the ‘Him’ with an ‘it’.

Any truth that replaces Jesus as the central focus becomes error!

Jesus explained this so profoundly to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; (Jn 5:39)

Jesus also gave a wonderful Bible study to two disciples on a walk to Emmaus. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. “(Lu 24:27)

It is interesting and important to discuss and understand the doctrines in the Bible, but we miss so much by not viewing every doctrine, every book, every chapter, every verse as a pointer to the person of Jesus Christ. We need to get to know Him intimately and thoroughly, so that our hearts and minds are completely captivated by His character, wisdom and glory. I believe that many of us (the church), like Eve, have been lured by the Devil’s craftiness to see the Bible as the ‘Tree to be desired to make us wise’. What do I mean by this? The Bible can be just a Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with all of us arguing as to which is which, instead of it being the pointer to the Tree of Life, Jesus Himself who is our life.

The one true biblical Church is the “general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven” (Heb 12:23) All true Christians are part of this grand assembly.

Jesus explained that the simplest expression of this church on earth is where ‘two or three gather together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20) Not two or three as long as one is a preacher, nor is it two or three under the covering of a denomination. Jesus is able to manifest Himself through two or three believers!

The more religious clutter we add to this simplicity, the less evident the presence of Jesus becomes, unless, whatever we do or say is focussed on the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ.

I am in no way intending to minimise the importance of doctrine, but saying that instead of doctrine informing us on Biblical matters, it should lead me into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

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