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“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Co 5:17)

We know that the Bible is true and completely reliable. Jesus fully endorsed the credibility of Scripture when He used the Bible as a defence against temptation when on three occasions He told the devil, “It is written” and then proceeded to quote Scripture. He also said that heaven and earth would pass away but that God’s Word would remain. It does seem to be a contradiction, however, when we don’t always experience this ‘newness’ of 2 Corinthians 5:17. We may even wonder if we are not just using wishful thinking or the power of positive thinking when applying the above verse to ourselves.

Am I really a new creation if I still succumb to temptation?

To unpack this and get to a meaningful understanding of this apparent contradiction, we need to consider a profound statement made by the Lord Jesus. When a rich young ruler (of the Jews) asked about eternal life, he said: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”

Jesus answered with a question (as He so often did): “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. . . “(Mt 19:17) This statement unlocks a very vital and all-encompassing principle: The only source of “good” in the Universe is God Himself.

On a practical level when we look around us in the world, there is some ‘good’ in almost everyone; even the worst sinner may have some kindness or goodness in them. As an extreme example, look at Hitler, it may be very difficult to find any good in him, but if he showed kindness to his cat, that would still register as a tiny fragment of good. The point being, where ever the smallest gesture of good is observed, the source of that good is God. To quote Jesus again, “No one is good but One, that is, God” The influence of the goodness of the Creator can be observed even in the worst sinner.

Of course, even though the source of all goodness is God, no amount of ‘goodness’ in us will save us, we MUST be born again to qualify for eternal life.

Here is the bottom line; there is no inherent good in anyone of us, any good thought, feeling, behaviour in us, comes from God. The closer we are to the Lord, the more goodness is seen in our behaviour. The further we drift from the Lord; God’s goodness in us diminishes accordingly. This can be seen in the lives of individuals and also in the corporate lives of nations. When a nation honours God, the goodness of God can be seen in many facets of society. The opposite is also true when a nation excludes God, there is deterioration on all levels of society. Although the world is predominantly evil, God is actually restraining the evil at the moment. If (when) God removes His restraint of evil, the world will disintegrate into a cesspool of moral depravity.

When we are born again and become a new creature in Christ, God places His Spirit within us and makes all His goodness available to us. We don’t automatically become good, but we now have full access, as new creatures, to God’s goodness. We need to take full advantage of this and allow God’s goodness to influence every aspect of our lives.

Sadly the behaviour of many Christians is often far worse than the behaviour of some unbelievers because they have not grasped this principle that they are not good in themselves, but any goodness in them comes from God. A born-again, new creature in Christ has to rely on God for his or her goodness. We are not inherently good even though we are born again. Paul said: “In me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing” (Rom 7:18)

Summary:

  • God has breathed His Spirit into us again and we have become a new creation in Christ (born again or newly created)
  • Old things have passed away – Sin is no longer our Master, it has been dealt with.
  • All things have become new – we are in a new standing with God and therefore face temptation as Jesus did by quoting what has been written in Scripture and holding fast to it.
  • The more we open our hearts and minds to God and honour Him by our actions, the more of His goodness is seen in us, there is no exception to this rule.

 

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My church leaders taught me not to vote as a Christian. They based this on the fact that “Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules.” (2 Ti 2:4–5).

I have since changed my mind and believe as South Africans we have a duty to vote. I am sharing these thoughts in the South African context. I know that in other countries, like the USA, to many Christians, voting is almost part of their belief system.

Firstly let me express some thoughts on the principle from a Scriptural view point. We certainly are not of this world, we are born from above and our destination is the New Jerusalem. We are citizens of the heavenly Kingdom and as far as this world is concerned, we are just ‘pilgrims passing through’.

Having said that, we also need to note that we should ‘render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God, that which is God’s’. Being responsible citizens in our ‘temporary’ country of residence, as we make our way to the ‘City that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God’ requires us to pay taxes, abide by all the laws of the land (provided they do not contradict God’s laws) and voting affords us an opportunity to have a say in who will be placed in power to Govern the country.

Looking at the current political landscape in South Africa

In the election next year the ANC will try their best to get a two thirds majority. They need this to make changes to the Constitution. Once they are able to change the Constitution, they can take back land and nationalize the mines. The reason they want to do this is obviously to own and control the two primary sources of the economy – the mineral riches and the food producing farmland. Julius Malema has formed his own political party, which should rob the ANC of a fair slice of their support base, because as radical and militant as he is, he has a lot of support among the youth. This may seem a good thing, but what could happen after the election, is that the ANC buy an alliance with Julius in order to get their two thirds majority. Should this occur, the international community will downgrade our credit rating, pushing up the price of borrowing money to fund our deficit. (The difference between what we buy – import and what we sell – export) This will send our economy down the rocky Zimbabwean road to ruin.

The current Government’s track record is also not good at all, but it is the Government that the majority have put in power. According to statistics, on average per year in South Africa there are:

  • 71000 sexual assaults
  • 15000 hi-jackings
  • 18,148 murders

Since 1994 over 3000 farmers have been murdered (this shows the determination to get their hands on farmland); and in total 290,368 people have been murdered. Besides these shocking statistics, there is the enormous amount of corruption and mismanagement in every Government department from the top down, the only exclusion being SARS – the efficient collection of taxes.

Despite the above, there is every likelihood that the majority of South Africa will vote ANC, but in my view (for what it’s worth) the stronger the opposition, the more checks and balances there will be and the Constitution will at least hold the Government in check to some degree. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, I believe it is our duty to vote. Abstaining from voting is a vote for the current Government.

On a practical note, you need to be registered to vote. Registration will be opening this weekend 9th November in a public building near you. Take your ID and register, and then at least you are eligible to vote next year when every vote will count.

May the Lord hasten His coming! The only true and just Government will come when Jesus, King of kings rules the world with a rod of iron.

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Time vs Eternity

The difficulty of comprehending eternity

It is very difficult to imagine eternity, especially if we try to quantify it from a time perspective. Or if we think of eternity in a linear format as having an infinite past and an infinite future, with the passing of an infinite amount of time. The metaphors that I have heard, such as “eternity is like a bird rubbing its beak on a diamond the size of the earth and when the diamond is worn away, eternity has just begun” gives a completely wrong perspective that will never explain eternity.

The Bible gives us insight on eternity

The Bible does however shed light on how we can conceive of eternity. When Moses was instructed by God to free Israel from Egypt, he asked God, who he should say had sent him and by what name God should be made known. God’s profound answer opens a brief curtain on eternity and gives us a perspective from which we can begin to understand the concept of eternity. “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” (Ex 3:14) ‘I AM’ is not really a name but rather indicates a state of existence. God was therefore indicating His eternal Being. There is no “I was” or “I shall be” with God, there is only “I AM”. He exists outside of time and does not have a beginning or an end.

We need to add to this the invaluable insight that Paul gives to us when he says “…  the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Co 4:18) To complete the picture we need to also consider what the writer of Hebrews says about creation. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Heb 11:3)

The picture of eternity forms as we put these facts together

With these facts before us we are able to conclude that there is an enormous or infinitely large, unseen, but eternal arena in which God dwells. Within this arena God placed a ‘time capsule’ by creating a visible material universe. “In the beginning ..” (Gen 1:1) indicates the start of time. Paul tells us that there is an end to time; “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” (1 Co 15:24) The visible, material universe therefore has a time limit placed upon it.

God steps into time to offer us eternity

At God’s appointed time, which the Bible calls the ‘fullness of time’ God stepped out of the unseen eternal arena and into the material visible creation, in the form of a man; the man, Christ Jesus.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14)

He came to offer us an existence with God in His eternal arena, or quite simply; eternal life. Eternal life is therefore not an infinitely long life, but an eternal existence with God.

A man got a glimpse of eternity

Paul had a glimpse of this eternal arena when he was caught up to the 3rd Heaven (God’s eternal arena), it had such an impact upon him that he made the following statements:

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,” (Php 1:23–25)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Ro 8:18)

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Co 4:17–18)

If we have received the gift of eternal life from the Lord Jesus Christ, we will continue to pass our time in this visible universe, but we by grace, qualify to live in the eternal arena with God.

What happens when we die?

When we die, we vacate this visible world which has an expiry date and we are immediately present with the Lord in His eternal arena. We wait in this arena, while time passes on earth, until the moment of the Resurrection.  “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Co 5:1)

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Co 5:8)

At an appointed time God will give the signal, the Trumpet will blow, there will be the shout of the Archangel and everyone who has received the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, will receive a body that is fit for our eternal existence with God.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Co 15:50–53)

It is for this reason that Paul says:  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Co 4:16–18)

 

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Having briefly discussed the significance of Albert Einstein’s formula on Facebook, I was asked for a more detailed explanation, so here it is.

Einstein saw how that all matter is in fact a different form of energy. His famous formula E=MC squared, demonstrated this principle, where E represents

energy which he worked out is equal to the mass (M) x C x C, (C represents the speed of light at approximately 300,000 km/second).

Perhaps this is best understood by looking at an example of this formula. Water is made up hydrogen and oxygen, the hydrogen component of 1 kg of water weighs  .111 kg. We therefore have the ‘mass’ part of the equation. Applying Einstein’s formula we are able to calculate the amount of energy, this hydrogen portion represents. (Mass) .111 x (speed of light) 300,000 x 300,000 ( because it is C squared) = 10,000,000,000,000,000 Joules (a joule is a unit of energy).

We are able to conclude from this that 111 grams (.111 kg) of hydrogen represents 10,000,000,000,000,000 Joules of energy. A very small amount of matter equates to a huge amount of energy.

Now armed with this understanding, imagine if it were possible to know the mass of all matter in the entire universe, then multiply that figure by the speed of light squared. The size of this hypothetical calculation is mind blowing and represents an unimaginable amount of energy. To put the energy aspect into perspective a relatively small amount of uranium was converted into a massive amount of energy, using Einstein’s formula, during WW2. This energy generated in the atomic bomb flattened a large city and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The point of all this from a Christian and Biblical perspective is that the Bible tells us that everything that we can see has been made from an unseen substance. “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God; so that what is seen, was not made out of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 (NASB). God created the invisible atomic energy and brought it together, so that the material universe can be seen.

The Bible also tells us that Jesus, as Creator not only made all things visible and invisible, but that He holds all things together.

Colossians 1:16-17 NASB

For by Him all things were created,  both  in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

With a tiny grasp of the insight that Albert Einstein brought to the fore, we begin to appreciate the unimaginable amount of energy or power involved in the creation of the invisible and visible creation. We also get a very small sense of the amount of power that the Lord Jesus uses to hold everything together. If He chose to convert all matter back to energy, the whole universe would disappear in a flash and with an explosion of energy that we could not possibly imagine.

Peter does talk about this happening at some future time. 2 Peter 3:10 NASB

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

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For many of us, justification is just a word that sounds important, but it is not often the spark that lights up our morning. To theologians, justification is a very involved debate. In Scripture justification is such a critically important issue, that it is worth the effort to explore its Biblical meaning to get a handle on its great value to us.

It is Human to Err and just as Human to Justify Ourselves

All of us at some time or other justify our actions, by blaming something or someone else, or offering explanations, or excuses as to why we did what we did. This is not a new practice as we well know. Adam’s first reaction after sinning in the garden was to blame his wife. Eve blamed the serpent and we continue this dodging tactic today. The devil, the influence of others, my circumstances and my human weaknesses are all cited as the cause of my transgressions. Justifying ourselves is the only human way of relieving the pain of a guilty conscience. When you think about it, we spend a lot of time justifying our actions to others and comforting ourselves with self-justification. This is the legacy passed down from Adam to the whole human race which has to live day and night with a guilty conscience.

God’s Generous Offer Image

We are told that we have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24) , but what does this mean and how does it happen?

We may have been successful in justifying our actions to others and we may have made peace with ourselves, through self-justification, but when we are confronted by God’s Spirit, we are exposed and stand as naked as Adam and Eve before Him. All of our justifications melt away in the light of His righteousness.

The Gospel and Justification

Let’s briefly examine the Gospel in the light of justification. Jesus is the Gospel, He is the good news. This revelation is presented to me by the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Gospel. I become inexplicably aware that Jesus is alive and true; what follows is a dismantling of my own justifications; I realise in light of the fact that Jesus exists and is the Son of God, that I am a sinner and am responsible for my sin. I then discover the wonderful forgiveness that was bought for me by the death of Jesus and I reach out in faith and embrace Him and the forgiveness that He offers.

And the Verdict is…

Then God, the Judge of the whole world, Creator of the universe, examines our heart and pronounces His judgement:  “You are justified! And this is offered freely to you by grace because of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.”

The Importance of this …

How important is justification to us? When the Creator of the universe and the Judge of all the earth, pronounces you justified; it is the most important thing that can happen to you. The value of God’s justification cannot be estimated in human terms or in time, it is priceless and timeless! We have been set free from the need to justify ourselves before God. We are justified!

Our legal standing before God has been changed from “Condemned” to “Justified”. Our conscience is freed from the need to justify ourselves. It is hard to make this adjustment in our behaviour, but as this great truth dawns upon us, little by little we release the grip on all our well formulated justifications and we learn to rest in His wonderful forgiveness and begin to enjoy our new status as ‘The Justified”.

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A friend on Facebook introduced the subject of prayer, with some great insights and challenging thoughts. With this in mind I read John chapter 11 again and saw the genius of the inspiration John received, while recording the events in the life of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

To fully appreciate this we need to note that Jesus was not welcomed in many places; he never seemed to sleep over in Jerusalem, which is His rightful abode, as a descendent of David. He did find a very warm reception, however, in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. From a number of accounts in Scripture it is clear that He spent a lot of time there and often slept over in their home.

John skilfully shows us two sides of a dramatic and serious problem that occurred in their home, while Jesus and His disciples were on a mission. Lazarus had fallen sick with a life threatening disease. The sisters sent word to Jesus advising Him of their brother’s condition. This is the equivalent of us praying for healing of a family member, or presenting the Lord with our serious problem, whatever it might be.

John then gives us a unique ‘behind the scenes’ view of the Lord’s reaction to this prayer request. Jesus immediately correlates this request with God’s will saying, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it”. This fact was not conveyed to Mary, Martha or Lazarus. They continued to face their worsening situation, without any answer to their cry for help.

Let’s stop for a moment and look a little closer; Jesus was not being callous or uncaring, He in fact loved this family and they were particularly dear to Him. Mary was the woman who had anointed His feet with ointment and as we have mentioned, He often stayed in their house. We can take great comfort in the fact that Jesus was fully aware of every detail of their predicament, He understood how this fitted into the plan of God and had received the sisters’ request.

On the other side of the ‘prayer wall’ the sisters and Lazarus, believed that Jesus was Messiah, they also believed that He was their hope of resurrection, they knew of His miracles, they loved Him, they had willingly invited Him into their home and regarded Him as their friend. With great faith and confidence they had sent word (prayed) to Him, fully believing that He would immediately drop what He was doing, because of His love for Lazarus and come to Bethany and heal him. This in their minds was the obvious and caring thing to do. Back on God’s side of the prayer wall, when Jesus received the message that Lazarus was sick, He purposely continued an extra two days, without letting the family know that he was delaying His response.

Lazarus died, the sisters had to contend with this tragedy on their own, they had no idea why Jesus had allowed this to happen.

Jesus was well aware of all the developments back in Bethany because He told His disciples that Lazarus had died. He allowed the funeral to take place and only after four days of knowing about the death of Lazarus, did Jesus arrive on the scene. By this time the situation could not have been worse because Lazarus was not only dead, but his body had already begun to decay.

However, as we well know, one word from Jesus and Lazarus was miraculously raised from the dead and restored to good health!

Lessons that we can learn from this:

  • The Lord always hears our prayers.
  • He loves us and therefore His apparent lack of response is not an indication that He doesn’t care.
  • The delay in response, is not inefficiency on God’s part, but is purposely done, so that the Son may be glorified.
  • The lack of response is not because we are disqualified; His ear is inclined to our prayers.
  • God will only answer and respond to our prayers in accordance with His will.
  • We should not build false expectations in our own hearts, by prescribing to the Lord how we expect Him to act on our behalf.
  • Our faith should not be focussed on our expected outcome, but on the sovereignty and kindness of God.
  • No matter how bad the situation becomes, God has the matter in hand and has our best interest at heart.
  • Even if the situation is beyond any human help, God has a solution and it is always the best solution.
  • More of our prayer energy should be focussed on understanding the will of God and less on pleading for Him to accede to our requests.Image

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The insignificant Jesus

I was inspired yesterday while reading a Blog on A Vanishing God. The thoughts expressed in the Blog were so similar to my own meditations on the subject and out of it, this Blog was born.

Let me put your mind at rest from the outset, Jesus is the most significant person in the whole of Creation. That said, it is astounding to see his insignificant, understated, unassuming, modest entrance into the world. For four hundred years Heaven was silent, no prophet, no angel, and no word at all. Then without much warning, prophecies began to be silently fulfilled in a stable where the animals feed.

The ruling Empire of the day had no knowledge of this event, a few star-gazers in the East got wind that something  had happened and a few shepherds saw angels and heard the news. Other than that, there were no trumpets, no city criers and no news casts. The Saviour of the world had silently slipped into human History. “He had no particular form or good looks that we would desire him”, is the way Isaiah the Prophet put it.

The ministry of Jesus to the established Religious order was confrontational, offensive, he was regarded by them to be divisive to the point that they conspired to put him to death. The Roman Rulers regarded Him with curiosity and amusement, but saw Him as no threat.  The common people who believed in Him had such high hopes that He would overthrow the Romans, resurrect the supremacy of Israel and re-establish the Throne of David. They were devastated when they saw His torn and limp body hanging on the cross. His own disciples misunderstood him often and scattered when he was arrested.

Even after Jesus had conquered death, Hell, the grave and had paid the full redemptive price for our sin, having risen victoriously, Mary saw Him in the Garden and mistook Him for the gardener.

This same Jesus comes into our lives, silently slipping into our hearts by faith.  He confronts our religious beliefs, He challenges our expectations of Him and so often does the unexpected. We build expectations through our prayer requests and are sometimes devastated when He doesn’t respond as we had hoped, or prescribed.

Even in His resurrected glory and High Priestly ministry, we still see Him as the Gardener, whom we can order around.

When the enormity of this truth dawns upon us, and we really get to know the Resurrected Saviour, we will begin to grasp what Jesus at 12 years of age, meant when he said to His mother: “Why were you looking for me, did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  The Creator of the world has silently slipped into our hearts, in such insignificance, to be about His Father’s business in our lives and to bring us into the significance of God’s eternal purpose, which is to be in Jesus and like Jesus.

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