The Cross

 

The crucifixion

The Cross of Jesus

The Cross was Foreordained

The death of Christ on the cross was foretold and foreshadowed in the OT. The first promise given concerning it is found in Gen 3.15. The prophets spoke of it e.g. Isaiah 53, David in Psalm 22 and Daniel 9.26. After His own resurrection, Christ referred to these prophecies about Himself Luke 24:25,26

But God had planned the cross long before the OT was written or even before He created the world. In his wisdom he fore knew that man would need a way of salvation and so he planned the cross, which would be the means of bringing eternal life. He promised it before creation Began Tit 1.2.
It was his purpose from eternity to save all that believe on his son Jesus Christ 2 Tim 1.9.
The Lord Jesus Christ is spoken of by Peter as being a lamb foreordained before the creation of the world. 1 Peter 1.20. God provided for a way of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ before the first man ever sinned.

The Cross was Necessary

Because of Man’s Sin

God made man without sin and placed him in the garden of Eden. God had given to this man just one command, and had made very clear what the terrible consequence of sin would be. “You shall die”
When Adam disobeyed the command of God, sin entered the world Rom 5.12 and death by sin. We can say that when he fell, we all fell in him, for in a manner of speaking we were all in him at that time. (He being our ancestor). Rom5.l8a,l9a. SIN had entered the world and none of us could take it out of the world or get rid of it.
All mankind is in a sinful condition. Ps14.3. We are born in this condition. Ps51.5 We are all sinners. Rom 3.23

Because of the inadequacy of animal sacrifice

Through the OT, God taught the people that there was only one way that sin could be taken away and that was by sacrifice, by the shedding of blood. Even in the garden of Eden, after Adam sinned, God killed an animal so as to clothe Adam & Eve and this was possibly also to show them the importance of sacrifice.
God emphasised this truth to the children of Israel in many ways. Firstly, in their deliverance as a nation from Egypt-it was the blood of the lamb that protected them from the destroying angel. Later, the animal sacrifices that God required them to make in their service to Him told them of the importance of the shedding of blood for remission.
Of course, no amount of animals blood shed could ever take away sin. These sacrifices were pointing ahead to a greater sacrifice, the one made by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, where he offered himself for us.

To satisfy divine justice.

According to God’s holy law, the soul that sins must die. By death, we do not just mean the separation of the soul from the body, which is what happens to us when we die physically. We refer to that spiritual death which is eternal separation from the presence of God. This does not mean that we will cease to exist or be unconscious. Spiritual death is not oblivion – it is not nothingness. Jesus spoke of this condition as being “outer darkness” – outside the presence of God who is light. He said there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus often referred to a particular place when speaking about spiritual death. He called it hell “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” This death is the punishment or sentence of Divine justice upon all that have broken God’s law i.e. those who have sinned. And we’ve already seen that that’s all of us.
It should always be kept in mind that God is love, and that He Himself does not want anyone to go to this awful place of punishment. Yet as a holy God, He is of purer eyes than to behold evil. He cannot just close one eye and say, oh well it doesn’t matter, it was only a small sin, I’ll forgive you. He is the judge of all the earth. He simply cannot. So what could God do in order to save us?
The answer is substitution.
Divine justice had to be satisfied- yet God wanted to acquit the guilty, you & me. How could it be done? God had already planned it. The Lord Jesus Christ was ready and willing to come into this sinful world and be made a man like us. Although he never had one sin of his own, he was willing to suffer and to die in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve for our sins. It was on the cross that he felt the sentence for every crime ever committed against God as He was made sin for us. Every sin that every man has ever committed or ever will commit even to the end of time, He has carried the punishment for. 1 John 2.2. Heb 2.9 So now that someone else has paid for our crimes we, the guilty, can go free.

Just as sin entered the world by one man and death by sin, so sin was taken away by one man, Jesus Christ. He became sin and took it (as a whole) away, nailing it to his cross. Heb 9.26
SCRIPTURE SAYS ROM 3.26. So at the cross we see the legal grounds upon which God can meet with man and justify him. It is there that Psalm85.10
The cross, by which we mean the death and shed blood of Christ, not at all the wooden gibbet, is the only way that we can approach a holy God without being consumed.
Not only that, but it is the only ground by which God may approach us without destroying us. Throughout history up to the time of the cross, God had shown his forbearance toward guilty man, and now by the cross He has been justified in this. Rom3.25. He knew that the time would come when sin would be judged upon the cross. His forbearance is the same at present as he awaits men & women to repent and turn to him for forgiveness of sins – through the cross,
Even the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ whilst here on earth was done in the light of what he was going to accomplish upon the cross – salvation for the whole man.
The fact is that whilst all God’s gracious dealings with man are originated in his love they are only vindicated by the cross. Without the cross, He had just as well have damned Adam as soon as he sinned.
But now we have a way that has been made for us into the presence of God. As Paul exhorts, let us make use of it, let us go often, let us come boldly to the throne of grace. Heb 10.19-20.

The Cross is the Theme in Glory.

It is the theme of the choirs of the redeemed in heaven. The centre of the throne is the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.
I once heard an esteemed preacher say that in heaven, we won’t be singing “only a sinner saved by grace”, for we had been made righteous. I looked to the New Testament for my answer. Yes, we will be there clothed in garments of righteousness, but not our own righteousness. We will always remember the great cost at which they were purchased for us. Rev 5.9-12
We will have nothing else ever to boast of but the cross. Gal 6.14

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Word, Light, Life. JOHN Chapter1:1-16 sermon outline.

Lightoftheworld

Christ the Word.
a) Christ the Eternal Word. v1,2. Gen 1.1. Col 1.15, 17. He is before all things. “Fisrtborn of every creature” is actually “begotten before all creation”. John 8.58

b) Christ the Creating Word. Col 1.16; 1 Cor 8.6; Eph 3.9 God spoke His Word. All things made by His word.

c) Christ the Revealed Word. Made flesh. Bethlehem. Image of God. God unseen, a spirit, but now was revealed, seen by angels 1 Tim 3.16

Christ the Light.
a) The Light Reveals. Reveals God. 1 Jn 1.5 Reveals the sin of man Jn 3.19,20. Reveals the darkness that men are in 1Pet 2.9. Reveals the way of salvation. Through God’s word. Ps119.105. Jn 8.12

b) The Light is Revealed. Visible light is transmitted by light waves. But the divine Light is transmitted by those who bear witness to it. Who are witnesses to the Light?

i) John the Baptist was sent ahead of Christ to bear witness of Him to the people of Israel. v6-8. Isa 40.3

ii) Christ Himself bore witness to the light. In fact, He is the light of the world. John 9.5

iii) Today the Church is a witness to the world of this saving Light. Phil 2.15,16.We are to bear witness to the word of God which is life changing and life giving.

c) The Light Revives (gives Life). Although many rejected this Light. John 3.19-21, there were those who received and accepted this Light into their lives. They found that this light was a life giving Light. 2 Cor 4.6

Christ the Life.
a) He Gave Life to Man in the Beginning. In the garden of Eden God breathed life into man’s nostrils and the man became a living soul.(Gen2.7). Since then it is He who gives life to every man that comes into the world (v9). Man has received a knowledge of God because of this very fact. Because we have life, we can be sure that there is a life giving creator. Sadly, men do not wish to maintain God in their knowledge. Rom1.28

b) He Gives New Life (Eternal Life) to those Dead in Sin.
Because of our sin the Bible tells us that we are dead, separated from God, but when we receive Christ as our Saviour He brings us to life. Eph 2.1 This is to all that receive him. v12,13. Born, not of flesh, but of God.

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A Neglected Parable Rev 21.6

Alpha-Omega

Truth for Today

Christ, the A – Z of all things is:

 Inexhaustible

In terms of His eternity

Christ is the beginning and the end. He Himself has no beginning, but He is the beginning of all things. The bible says that in the beginning God… John 1.1. He is before all things. Col 1.17,18.
He was the Son of God before creation began Col 1.15. Not only does he have no beginning, but he has no end. Psalm 90.2 and Deut 33.27.

In terms of His Power

Batteries are exhaustible. So is coal. Once it is burned, it is gone. But not God. When he made the universe it did not drain his resources one little drop. Isa 40.28. The power of God is unlimited. If he were to use it all he would still have all of it left. All things are possible with God. Luke 1.37
God is inexhaustible in his wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Isa 40.28. 1 Cor 1.25.

In terms of His Love.

Who can measure the love of God? Eph 3.18,19. It is measured only in terms of what it was willing to give and to do. Jn 3.16. Rom 5.8. It is an eternal love. God’s love for us has no beginning and it will never end. Jerermiah 33.3

Indispensable

In Creation

At this present time, he continues to uphold all things by the word of his power. Heb 1.3. It is in Him that all things consist. Col 1.17. Paul told the Athenians that we could not live or exist without him. Acts 17.28. Christ is indispensable, for without him, all things would cease to exist.

In Salvation

Because there is no other way of salvation. Acts 4.12. We cannot do without Christ and still hope to be saved, for he himself declares himself to be the only way to God and heaven John 14.6 There is no other teaching but his that shows us the way to eternal life. John 6.68

Adaptable

He is all we need. This is so in any and every situation. Christ is adaptable because He Himself comes to us and becomes that which we need.

In our sickness – He is our health and healing. Ex 15.26 and Ps 103. 3

In our sorrow – He sympathises and comforts. Heb 4.15; Isa 61. 1,2; Isa 51.3 ; 2 Cor 1.3,4.

When we sin – He cleanses and forgives. Ps 103. 3; 1 John 1.9

In our weakness – His strength is made perfect. 2 Cor 12.9

In our distress – He is our peace. Eph 2.14; 2 Thess 3.16

In our despair – He is our hope. 1 Tim 1.1

In our sadness – He is our joy. Jer 31.13; John 17.13

Perhaps more than anything else in this life, we need a friend. And Jesus is and always will be a friend to us. He has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Prov 17.17 Prov 18.24. John 15.13-15. We all need someone to share our experiences with, a companion and friend and that is what Jesus is to us. We should be willing to offer such friendship, as much as possible, to each other too, because we won’t have it from outsiders.

So Christ is the alpha and Omega, He is our all in all. Eph 1.22,23.

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Cross Over from Death to Life – 2 Kings 4.38-41

(c) Lightkeeper

God’s love brought us Jesus the bread of life

Sin – The bringer of Death
a) The Famine of Sin.
There was a famine in the land, bringing emptiness to lives. Food was hard to come by. There is a famine in our nation today. Despite our affluence, there has never been a worse time of famine. The nation is full of emptiness. Men’s hearts and lives are empty for they have no hope and they have no God.

at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph 2:12

They are empty for they have no life in them. Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. John 6:53
They do not have life for they do not have the Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:12

The people of our nation are filling their hearts with every kind of excess of pleasure and lust – but they remain empty. Just like Elisha’s followers, in trying to satisfy their hunger they only find death – there was death in the pot. Sin brings emptiness to our lives.

Only by knowing Christ as Saviour can our lives be filled. Jesus said ” I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it to the full.”

b) The Enmity of Sin.
Not only does sin make our lives empty, it makes us enemies of God

you were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, Col 1:21

for if when we were enemies we were reconciled to god through the death of his son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Rom 5:10

Only by knowing Christ as Saviour can we be reconciled to God, and have peace with God. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Rom 5:1

c) The Poison of Sin.
One man went out and found a gourd which was poisonous and put it in the pot. This made the whole stew poisonous, bringing death to all who ate it. In a similar way, sin entered the world through one man and death as a result of sin.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned– Romans 5:12

There would have been no sin and no death in the world if Adam had not at first opened the door to it. Now it is a deadly poison in the hearts and lives of men and women all over the world.

Sin is like a poison because of its destructive properties. Think of a life marred by prostitution or ensnared by drink, drugs or crime. Sin pays harsh wages, and in the end it pays death, for the wages of sin is death. Not just an end to this life, but eternal death – separation from God and punishment in hell.
The death in the pot spread to infect all, and so the poison of sin affects every man and woman today.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23

In his great discourse on the condition of fallen man before a holy God, Paul concludes that no man who has ever lived, apart from Jesus Christ, has lived up to the Divine standard:

there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who does good, no, not one. and the way of peace they have not known. there is no fear of god before their eyes. Rom 3:10, 17-18

Paul goes on to describe the judgment day, when men and women from every nation will be raised from their graves and stand before God to give account for their sins. At that time he says “every mouth (will) be stopped, and all the world (shall) become guilty before God.”
John describes the same scene in these words

Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before god, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Rev 20:11-15.

Unlike our courts of justice, God still has the death penalty. This is what will happen to the guilty:

Then he will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matt 25:41

Only by knowing Christ as Saviour can we be spared the eternal consequences of sin. Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thess 1.10

d) The Ignorance of Sin
As men fill their lives with the poison of sin, they remain willfully ignorant that one day that sin will take them to hell. Sin brings ignorance. It was in ignorance that Elisha’s man picked the poison gourd. He wouldn’t have put it in the pot if he had known what effect it would have. Millions of men and women today are blinded to the consequences of their sin. They say I don’t harm anyone else. They do not realize that they must give an account to God for every action – yet Jesus said: for every idle word men may speak, they will give account in the day of judgment. Mt 12:36

Why do men remain ignorant of the consequences that sin brings? It is the devil who deludes men into thinking that the judgments of God are nothing but idle threats, fantasies, fairy stories. We are told

The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2 COR 4:3-4

If men remain in this sinful, ignorant condition they will be lost eternally, without remedy. Don’t let yourself be deceived.

Only by knowing Christ as Saviour can we know the truth. Jesus said ” you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

e) The Helplessness of Sin
Man has no answer to his sin problem.
None of them can by any means redeem his brother, Nor give to God a ransom for him-Psalm 49.7
Even when the men in our text found that the pot was poisoned, they were powerless to do anything about it. It was only fit for throwing away. So what could they do? God had provided an answer. They took their problem to the man of God.
And God has provided an answer for sinful man. He has given men a way for men to have their sins forgiven and to escape eternal punishment. Jesus came to take the death out of the Pot.
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mt 20:28
Man is unable to save himself.

Only by knowing Christ as Saviour can we be saved from sin. you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Mt 1:21

Jesus the Bringer of life.
When the men brought the pot to Elisha, he threw flour into the pot, and the stew was healed. Jesus Christ is the bread of life. Bread is made from flour. Before bread can be made the grain must be crushed and bruised. So Christ, to set us free from sin was crushed and bruised.

and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 1 Cor 11:24

On the cross the life was crushed from his body, as he gave his life for us, to save us from sin and death and hell. On one occasion, Jesus referred to himself as a grain of wheat

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24

That grain gives us the bread of life.
For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. John 6:33

This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” John 6:50-51

Jesus took our sin on himself and then by voluntary choice, took the punishment that we all deserved for our sin. He died in the place of every man and woman that has ever lived. It is hard for us to imagine – we read earlier of the eternal punishment which sin brings – that Jesus bore that punishment in the few hours that he hung on the cross. Yet it is so. As he cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” it was not just the physical sufferings, though these were the results of sin, but the wrath of God that Christ bore as the Father turned his face away, unable to look upon sin as Jesus became sin for us. Christ was cut off from God during the time that he hung on the tree. Finally Jesus cried “it is finished”. The work of redemption had been done, the price had been paid in full, Jesus had suffered the awful penalty of sin and drained the cup of God’s wrath to the very bottom. After three days God raised Jesus from the dead. Today God will give free pardon all who believe in his Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus, the Bringer of life takes away:
a) The famine of sin
Christ fills the empty void in our lives. No more looking in vain for satisfaction from worldly pleasures, for Christ fully satisfies.

For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. Psalms 107:9

David describes the satisfaction which Christ brings in these terms: My cup runs over. Ps 23.5

In God’s presence there is fulness of joy. (PS 16.11). Paul speaks of believers being filled “with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3.19) and declares “you are complete (fully whole) in him.” Many people are searching for wholeness and satisfaction today. Wholeness and satisfaction are only found in Christ.

When we know Christ as Saviour our lives are filled.

b) The enmity of sin. Christ reconciles us to God, by his death he brings two warring parties together in a state of peace. He does this by satisfying the demands of God’s wrath on the one hand and by justifying, cleansing and sanctifying us on the other. Now because of Christ’s sacrifice we are holy in his sight – we cal that being sanctified. We have been given a right relationship with God – we call that being justified, which means Christ has put us in a position where God regards us as right with himself. All this was accomplished by his death.
and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Col 1:20

When we know Christ as Saviour we are reconciled to God, and have peace with God.

c) The Poison of sin.
Jesus undoes the effect of one man’s sin and takes away its poisonous effects. By his one act of righteousness – his offering up of his perfect life in the place of ours upon the cross – he makes salvation available to all men.

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:14-15

When we know Christ as Saviour we are spared the eternal consequences of sin.

d) The Ignorance of Sin
When we receive Christ as our Saviour, we are no longer ignorant. We know the Lord. The Holy Spirit whom God gives us to teach us and lead us into all truth.

None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD, for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Heb 8:11-12

When we know Christ as Saviour we know the truth.

e) The Helplessness of Sin
We have found a helper. We have proved that he is alive and mighty to save.
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, Heb 7:25

When we know Christ as Saviour, we are saved from our sin.

Faith – The means by which we cross from death to life
Elisha’s miracle took place by faith, in fact Elisha is regarded in the scripture as a man who had faith. Yet we can all have that same faith, for it is through faith that the miracle of salvation takes place, and this faith is the gift of God. It is available to all who will believe on God’s Son Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Eph 2:8

Only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ can men be saved.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31

There is no other way to cross from death to life. There are many ways that man has tried – religion, good works, charity. But only faith in Christ bridges the gap between life and death. Jesus said

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. John 5:24

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10

Have you taken that step of faith. Have you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? If you have not, but would like to, then you may do so today. I will be available at the end of this service should you wish to ask more about how you can place your trust in Jesus Christ today.

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“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16)

Redeeming the Time

Redeeming the Time

Introduction
What is time? Paul’s concept of time is that brief moment before the vastness of unending eternity. Time has been solemnly committed to man by God that he might make the use of it His maker intends. Time is man’s domain. God is above and beyond time. To Him all periods are alike; but to man, time is the past, present and future of his life in the body. Paul warns Christians that our lives on earth will be reviewed and appraised by Christ in the final day “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
In light of this, the words “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16) become even more important and challenging. Let us consider carefully this exhortation, and understand its truth.

I. We Must Put a Correct Value On Our Time
“Redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16). Just as trader would set a value on an item before trying to buy or sell it, so the Christian must correctly value his time. In order to do this, we must understand:

1) The Sanctity of Time
The Christian’s time has been made sacred by the work of Christ on the cross. In redeeming our souls, Christ has given us the precious gift of the rest of our lives with which to serve God. We have only been given one life and will never have another opportunity to serve God. Our lives have been made sacred so that we might use the rest of our time for God’s will and service.

How much of a Christian’s time is sacred to God? All of it, not just the “holy” bits. Not just the time in church or the time in prayer, although those things are very important. All our time belongs to God, whether we are on the bus, shopping or visiting a friend. Our time is not our own, but His, not to do with as we like so much as to do with as he likes. For although the Christian lives in time, he or she lives for eternity. Since Jesus Christ has given us the gift of time, he has first claim on our time and so we should return that time to him. Are we doing so?

2) The Brevity of Time
Paul writes to the Corinthians, “the time is short” (1 Cor. 7:29). He recognized that of all God’s gifts, time is the only one which He gives to us sparingly, in a limited measure. He gives only one moment at a time, and when that moment has been used, it is gone forever. Imagine you were standing on the bank of a river, watching the water carry along fallen leaves and branches — first within your grasp, then beyond your reach, and finally, out of sight—into the infinite ocean of eternity. That is like the flow of time – it speeds by and none of us can stop it. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. James 4.14

3) The Urgency of Time
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). As Paul wrote there was terrible persecution of Christians by the Romans. Christians were seized, tortured, and committed to the lions. But if the days in which Paul lived were evil, so are the days we live in. As the darkness of a sinful world deepens around us, God alone knows how much longer we have to buy up our opportunities. God alone knows how long we will have religious freedom in our country so that we can meet together publicly to worship God. God knows how long we have to share a Christian message in schools. God knows how much longer we will be allowed to run children’s clubs to evangelize children. In some countries all these things are illegal. Since we do not know what evil days the future may bring we must be urgent in using our time and opportunities now, stretching every sinew to ensure that no opportunity is lost. For:

II. We Must Make the Best Use of our Time
Having correctly valued our time we will see that we must make the very best use of our time. “Redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16) The idea is of stopping time being wasted. We must maximize our useful time in serving Christ by avoiding self-indulgent time wasting. How easy it is for the Christian to be absorbed in the cares and interests of everyday experience, only to find later that we have been turned aside from God’s greater purpose in our lives.

In 1 Cor. 7:29-31 we are given five of life’s experiences – marriage, sorrow, joy, business and pleasure – that we are told to keep in balance, if we are to make best use of our time for the Lord:

1) The Isolationism of Marriage
“They that have wives.. as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29). This is not a contradiction of what the Bible teaches of the goodness of marriage. The Word of God dearly states, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Prov 18:22) and “marriage is honorable in all” (Heb 13:4). So what did the apostle have in mind? Without doubt it is the possessive isolationism which so often characterizes friendship, and in particular, marriage. In any group of children – especially girls – many of them will have just one special friend and will not let anyone else be that person’s friend. They are jealous and resent anyone else being a friend to their friend. No Christian husband or wife should resent their partner’s time being given to the Lord. Instead they should join together in agreeing to give of their time to the Lord. It is plain from the context that the Christian aim, whether for marrieds or singles, is to “attend upon the Lord without distraction” (1 Cor. 7:35). This should not lead to neglect of a marriage relationship. Rather, the perfect bond which joins a Christian marriage together is the love that both partners have for Jesus Christ. Whenever couples leave Jesus Christ out of their plans then time that could be invested for eternity is wasted.

2) The Pessimism of Sorrow
“And they that weep, as though they wept not” (1 Cor. 7:30). Paul is not exhorting us to be indifferent to human suffering and sorrow, for he says elsewhere that believers are to “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15). He is rather warning against the despair and pessimism of sorrow that paralyzes our sense of God’s calling. Even if we have not experienced such pessimism personally we have all heard of someone, overcome with sorrow, saying, “I shall never get over this. I have lost all purpose for living.”
Better to remember Paul’s exhortation to keep our eyes on Jesus in spite of our sorrow and to realize that when a loved one dies we still have a joy and a purpose in living that no parting can destroy. For our joy is to do His will, and our purpose is to attend on the Lord’s work without distraction.

3) The Optimism Of Joy
“And they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not” (1 Cor. 7:30). Here again there is no attempt to change the command to “rejoice with them that do rejoice” (Rom 12:15); it does not imply that joy should be subdued and song and laughter outlawed. The caution, rather, is that we should watch against the unrealistic optimism which threatens our loyalties. Jesus illustrated this when He told the story of the rich farmer whose obsession with the joys of earthly life led him unwisely to say, “Soul…take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” But God had to say to him, “Thou fool, this night your soul shall be required of you.” Luke 12:19
The scripture tells us not to base our confidence in our increase of goods, or on the good times that are presently rolling. For they can change immediately. Our wealth, strength, health or even our life is not promised to us indefinitely. The is only one we can trust in, and He does not change as all other things change. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 1 Tim 6:17

4) The Materialism of Business
“And they that buy, as though they possessed not” (1 Cor. 7:30). Christians are expected to “study to be quiet, and to do [their] own business, and to work with [their] own hands” (1 Thes. 4:11). It is God’s will that Christians should find employment to make the money they need to live on. But the Bible also recognizes the danger of turning our stewardship of moneymaking into the vice of greed.
“Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil” 1 Tim. 6:9-10 Beware of saying, “I’m too busy” unless you can add “about my Father’s business”.

5) The Sensualism of Pleasure
“And they that use this world, as not abusing it” (1 Cor. 7:31). Although the world is not our home the Bible makes it quite dear that while we are in it “God…gives us richly all things to enjoy” 1 Tim. 6:17. But the danger comes when the pleasure becomes a passion which turns into sensualism. The apostle Paul sums up this sensualism when he talks about “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” 2 Tim. 3:4. Even Christians can fall into this trap, as Paul says of Demas, once his fellow worker: “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” 2 Tim. 4:10. Notice that it is the “present world,” not the present evil world. Thousands of Christians today do the same thing. They love having fun going out, entertainment, having a good time – nothing wrong with that, entirely innocent pleasures, but when these pleasures are put in the place of God – in fact, whenever anything takes the place of God in our lives it is sinful and wrong. It is idolatry. Time spent living for pleasure is time spent dead to God. she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.1 Tim 5:6. It is time which can never be recovered for eternity.
That does not mean to say that Christians are not to relax and enjoy themselves. In fact it is very necessary to do so if we are working hard for the Lord. But the ultimate aim of our leisure is to make us fit again to do God’s work when we return to the master’s business whether secular or sacred. Also, it is important to spend time with each other for the relationships we have are given to us by God so that by mutual love and encouragement of the church we might be renewed to live for Him. That is why when God saves us he puts us in a church, because we need fellowship.

God help us to correctly value and make best use of this precious commodity of time, to balance our experiences of life, lest any time should be wasted.

III. We Must Carefully Guard our Time for God
“Redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16). In making the best use of our time, the apostle Paul does not indicate what we are to do, but rather how we are to make best use of our time in order to invest it for eternity. Our time must be utilized:

1) In Guarded Living
“See then that you walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). This is a reference to an earlier verse, where he told readers to have “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11). Our lives are to be so strictly and carefully guarded from “the works of darkness” that we become a living rebuke to an evil world, and at the same time a living witness to salvation in Jesus Christ. It is said that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. The Christian should go so far out of his way to avoid the works of darkness that he has “nothing to do with them.”
No one can pick up fire without being burned, and no Christian can go too close to temptation without being damaged or destroyed by it.

Reinhard Bonke gives the testimony of a man who came to him for help. He had been a Christian for several years, he was wonderfully saved. But one day he was passing by a place where he had sinned much before coming to know Jesus. So he prayed, Lord Jesus, leave just this minute so I can go in to that house and do what I want to do. So he went in, and when he came out he said Jesus was gone, and has been gone these 14 years. My life is ruined. I am an alcoholic, my marriage is on the rocks, my children won’t talk to me, will Jesus heal my broken heart and help me to start again. Reinhard Bonke led the man to confess his sin to God and come back to Jesus. But just think of all those years of suffering – all because he was not guarded in his living. We must live our lives carefully, and we must live our lives for God.

2) In Guided Living
“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). In chapter 2 of this Ephesian epistle, the writer has declared that as Christians we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared before that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). In other words, God has a wonderful plan for our lives. The tragedy is that so many are unaware of this fact. In their senselessness they aimlessly wander on through life, day after day, instead of understanding and obeying the will of God. Through listening and learning from the teachings of God’s word, by daily Bible reading, prayer and attendance at Bible study we will gain a better understanding of God’s will for our lives. And as we yield our lives to God he will guide us in his perfect will and plan for our lives.

…An admiral who starts out with his fleet, under sealed orders, does not know all that is in the packet, but he goes prepared to do two things: first, to understand fully what is the plan of his government; and secondly, having understood that plan, to obey it. If we want to live a guided life we must find His will in the Bible, follow it, and then finish it. In doing this we will be redeeming time to the glory of God.

3) In Governed Living
“And do not be drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). In order to be guarded and guided we must be governed by God. And God only governs the life that is wholly given over to His indwelling Spirit. When someone is drunk they are out of control. But those who are filled with the Spirit we are under God’s control. No Christian should ever become out of control, with drink or anything else, for once we are out of control of ourselves you can be sure that Satan is in control of us. The people tonight who are drinking themselves drunk or taking drugs are prisoners, out of control of themselves they have been chained by Satan to do his will. Far better to be under the control of God the Holy Spirit. When he governs our lives the result is righteousness, peace and joy.

A group of ministers were discussing whether or not they ought to invite Dwight L. Moody to their city for an evangelistic crusade. The success of the famed evangelist was brought to the attention of the committee. One skeptical minister commented, “Why Moody? Does he have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit?” There was silence. Then a godly old pastor spoke up, “No, he does not have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly of Mr. Moody.”
This is the point that is being stressed in the words, “Be not drunk with wine; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The Holy Spirit must monopolize you, have his way with you, just as intoxicating liquor governs and controls the drunken man. And only while we are thus governed by the Holy Spirit can we make best use of our time.

Conclusion
How important it is to stress again that the believer effectively uses his time only when he is filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is not merely a blessing to be enjoyed, but a command to be obeyed. It means nothing less than God in control of our whole life, flowing everywhere into it in order that He may flow freely out of it to a needy evil world.
Have you seen what we mean by “Christianity and Your Time”? The challenge is this: Are you living a guarded, guided and governed life? If not, remember that you will have to answer at the judgment seat of Christ for the gift of time which you have failed to value and use properly for Him.
May God enable you from this day forward to “[redeem] the time, because the days are evil.

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The Church of Sardis: A Spiritually Dead Church

Alpha-Omega

Truth for Today

You have a name you are alive, but you are dead. The church at Sardis, because of their work for the Lord, had a reputation for being spiritually alive. However, closer examination revealed that their works were not altogether what they appeared to be. Outwardly all seemed to be going well, but God, who looks on the heart, saw it as all show and sham, for the Christians at Sardis no longer had the spiritual reality in their lives which would make their works acceptable to God.

Outwardly they appeared to be going on with God, but there was a lack of true spiritual life in them.
In shocking terms, Christ describes His own church as dead, for just as a dead body is cold, a dead church is cold hearted. There is no warmth of love for Christ in service- all is done as a duty as if it were required to be done. It is tragically possible that as Christians in a Christian church, we may pray in the prayer meeting, be present in the house of God, sing songs, and read from the scriptures, and yet all the while remain cold and hardened in our hearts. When spiritual decline sets into the life of the church, things may continue to seem OK for a while – but Christ notices our backsliding from the moment it begins.

By continuing to go through the motions of Christian worship while their hearts were far from God the Sardis Christians may have thought to put on a front – an appearance that they were right with God. But God is never fooled by the double faced, for he knows our hearts. Christ knew all about their backsliding; the reason for it, and the remedy for it.

The reason for their backsliding is clear – they had one foot in the world and one foot in the church. Worldliness is the cause of spiritual death. Christ’s accuses the believers’ of defiling their garments. In the OT worshippers of God (and their clothing) were considered defiled (unclean) if they had been in contact with a dead body – this is a picture of the world. The Bible says of those outside of Christ that they are dead in their trespasses and sins. If as believers we choose to live in a way that means we mix with the world, love what they love, do as they do, then we are bringing the defilement of spiritual death into our lives. We cannot hope to draw near to the sinful practices of men and women and yet remain untainted by the filth.

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.” Therefore “COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU.” “I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY.” 2Cor 6:14-18

Christ’s judgment of these believers is all embracing – nothing was right. There is not a single thing you do that I am prepared to accept from your hand. For when the life is wrong the offering cannot be accepted. Unless Christ is first in the heart and life, unless our works are done in faith, out of love for him, nothing we do can be accepted by God – they are just “dead” works.

You see, we cannot offer God a mixture. Mixtures were one thing the children of Israel were never allowed to wear. And a mixture of godliness and worldliness is not approved by God – for it is like when you mix a good apple with rottenness – the whole apple must be rejected.

Still, there was some hope, for they had not yet lost it all, there were some good things that remained, but Christ warns – they are ready to die. Christian, let me warn you – you cannot backslide so far, and no further – it’s not possible. You may think you can go a little way back – the Lord won’t mind – you have no intention of completely going away from him. “Just a little way Lord, just so I can do what I like, but then I’ll come back” you say. “Just let me have God but also the pleasures the world can offer me”; but this is impossible.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

There is no such thing as backsliding a little bit and then staying there. Either you will repent and return to the Lord fully or you will continue going back until your backsliding is out of control. Backsliding is like a slippery slope, dragging you down into darkness. So, before you go any further back, says Christ, strengthen the things which remain. How can spiritual life be restored to the church?

The Restoration of Spiritual Life in the Church
The Receiving of the Holy Spirit v1
Christ reminds the church in his introduction that he has the Seven Spirits of God. This is a reference to the Holy Spirit – the words seven Spirits or more correctly, sevenfold Spirit, is a reference to his complete perfection. Christ is the baptiser in the Holy Spirit and if we would enjoy the fullness of spiritual life then we must receive the Holy Spirit. That receiving is initially through the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is available to every believer in every generation. Once we have received the Holy Spirit by receiving this Baptism we must continue be filled with the Holy Spirit again and again (Eph. 5) Do we wait on God, and ask him each day, to fill us afresh with his Holy Spirit? There are always signs of life where the life -giving Spirit flows.

The Resolution of Prayer
Jesus says be watchful and strengthen… When the Lord Jesus uses the verb “to watch” he always does so in connection with prayer. Spiritual watchfulness involves keeping our eyes on Jesus, seeking to find his will and looking for his coming.
The prayerless church is a dead church. Never mind how many members a church has, or what its budget is, if you really want to know how well it’s doing in God’s eyes, count the number in the prayer meeting.
Personal private prayer is the key to all spirituality, for unless we are first prepared to spend time seeking God in prayer, what else do we hope to receive from him. The children had a verse to learn last week, which was James 4v2 “You do not have because you do not ask” Without prayer, everything else falls apart. Public prayer is important in the life of the church- but private prayer is essential. We may pray in public twice a week, but are we as diligent to pray in private twice a day? For it is there that the real work is done.

Praying in the spirit is the equivalent of our and others receiving the spirit. When we pray for the fullness and power of the spirit, we will receive.
If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:11-13

It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive our spiritual life and only as we keep in touch with God through prayer can we maintain that life. When there is a dearth in the church, only the Holy Spirit can bring revival to our souls. Since Christ is the source of the Holy Spirit, it is only from him we receive, and we must do so by diligently waiting on him in prayer.

Receiving a fresh fullness of the Spirit will bring to us the gifts of the spirit, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts and a fresh desire to serve Christ with our lives. There will be a new joy in serving Jesus – we will not think of serving him as what we “have to” do, but what we delight to do.

The Remembrance of the Word
Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Rev 3:3
Christ tells them to remember the word they had heard. Notice the Lord Jesus Christ does not tell them again what they have heard. They heard it full well. They were not deaf. But they were ignoring the word. This is where the rot began. Ignore it no more, says Christ, stop putting off obedience to the word of God. Remember the word you have heard, act upon it in faith and obey it.
I say “In faith” for they were to Remember how you have received. When we first heard the gospel we heard it in faith. We believed and acted upon it. We must start again to mix our hearing with faith. Unbelief is always the beginning of backsliding. “Hold fast” means take to heart. When Christ challenges us we must take his word to heart. But if we will not – there are serious consequences for the backslidden.
Christ warns that a failure to repent would leave the Christians unready and unprepared for his coming..
Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Christ gave a similar warning to his disciples in Matthew 24.
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 24:45-51

I have heard Christians argue about this. Some say, well if you have been saved, even though your not living right, you’ll be ready to meet the Lord. Others say you must be living right, or you will not be ready. Others say you must be watching for Christ’s coming, praying constantly, to be ready for his coming. Let me explain the truth of the matter simply. When you insure a car, you want to cover all eventualities. So you take out Fully comprehensive insurance cover. If you are unsure about what the scripture means about being ready for Christ’s coming then may I suggest that you are saved, living right with Him, and watching and praying for his coming. Then surely, you will never be left behind.

The Incentive for Spiritual Faithfulness in the Church
Christ has to stress that not all had gone astray – but MOST had. Some remained faithful, if only a few. Christ’s promise of reward for the faithful is, by his grace and mercy, extended to those who, though they have strayed are prepared to repent and return. What an incentive for faithful living! They would be rewarded by Christ in a measureless way.

They will Walk with me
The companionship of Jesus is worth any amount of hard living. No one compares with him, and to be with him forever will be the highest delight of all his children. Just to see the face of him we love, the altogether lovely, and to know uninterrupted communion with him is a joy to wonderful for words. Not only that , but Jesus’ own joy will be full too, since his delight is to be with his people.

Clothed in White
These clean clothes are the garments of his salvation & righteousness. For not only will we see him as he is, we shall be like him. The perfections of Christ’s own holiness shall be ours forever, imprinted on our very souls by the divine work of the Holy Spirit who works out in our lives what has already been accomplished for us on Calvary.

Name written in book not blotted out
To have your name written in heaven is to be counted as one of God’s children and secure forever. The Bible says that all whose names are not found written in the book shall be cast into the lake of fire. How pleased we are that Jesus has saved us from the wrath to come. The implied danger is that men’s names, by reason of their wicked backsliding can be removed from this book. Peter says For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 2Peter 2:20-21

Confessed before the Father
In the day when God shall sit on his throne of judgment, where would we be if we did not have someone ready to speak on our behalf. Of his own, Christ can honestly say “I have purchased them with my own precious blood shed on Calvary. They have been washed from their sin and will not come under judgment, for they have passed from death to life.” Christ will never be ashamed of those who are his own, so why should I be shamed of him? Jesus said whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Matt 10:32-33
Let us be careful to confess the Lord before men, lest we deny him by our silence. Would you be ashamed of Jesus?
When there is an opportunity to speak for him, do you hold your mouth shut? Do you tell them, I am a Christian, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ – I am going to heaven and you need him as your Saviour too? With such a reward set before us, let us not be ashamed to confess the Lord before men.
Jesus, and shall it ever be, A mortal man ashamed of Thee? Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise, Whose glories shine through endless days!

Ashamed of Jesus! Sooner far Let evening blush to own a star; He shed the beams of light divine O’er this benighted soul of mine.
Ashamed of Jesus! Just as soon Let midnight be ashamed of noon: ‘Twas midnight in my soul till He, Bright morning star, bade darkness flee.
Ashamed of Jesus! That dear Friend On whom my hopes of heaven depend! No! When I blush be this my shame That I no more revere His Name.
Ashamed of Jesus, yes, I may When I’ve no guilt to wash away; No tear to wipe, no good to crave, No fears to quell, no soul to save.
Till then – nor is my boasting vain- Till then I boast a Saviour slain; And oh! May this my glory be, That Christ is not ashamed of me.

from Mathew Bartlett at http://www.sharonchurch.co.uk

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For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away James 4:14

Introduction These words are addressed to men and women who live without God. In days when men & women (even Christian men & women!) – increasingly live for now and for self. James confronts you and me to ask, “What … Continue reading

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Jesus said “you are my friends..”

In the Bible the church of Jesus Christ is described in many ways. The collective group of those who believe in Jesus Christ is called the church, the bride of Christ or the body of Christ. In relation to Christ they are his body or bride, his people. But what about in relation to each other? Bring born of the same Spirit they are brothers and sisters. They are members of each other for they are members of the same body. Today let us to consider a description Jesus gave of His followers relationship with himself and each other.
Jesus said “you are my friends..”
3 John 14 refers to believers as “the friends”. If I were to ask you as a congregation tonight, “are you friends?” What would your answer be? Are you friends with Christ and friends with each other? Some people talk of the unity of the body of Christ as if it is an abstract concept. You can’t do that with the word friend. You can’t be friends with anyone in theory, but only in practice.

What is it that makes a friendship Christian?

I. The Basis of Christian Friendship
To be friends in Christ we must belong to Christ. The Christian cannot have close fellowship with those who are in darkness.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 2 Cor 6:14-17

If we would be friends, we must first be his friends. Christians should choose their friends very carefully.

The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray. Pr 12:26
Some people want to mix with the world and be its friend: Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

The friendship I want to talk about today can only be experienced by those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. It is the greatest friendship anyone can have.

The word “friend” is used too broadly today. If we study the word we find that it means a “lover.” Not necessarily in the sense of a courting couple, but just someone who loves. Jesus told his disciples they were to “love one another”.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The Lord Jesus made it quite plain that the basis of true friendship is a love which is both spiritual and sacrificial.

1) Spiritual Love
“Greater love hath no man than this” (John 15:13). When our Lord said this he was drawing attention to the nature of His own love. He had just said: “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love.”
It is not our, but God’s love that is the basis of all true Christian friendship. In the world, we might begin a friendship because we are physically attracted to each other – and that is quite understandable, for it is through the body that we reveal and express ourselves. How many friendships have started with a welcome smile or handshake? But it is possible for believers to be spiritually attracted to one another – to see beyond the outward into the inner man of the heart, and to love what we see there.

Christian friendship never reaches its full potential unless God’s love is at its centre – a spiritual love. This is the love that always seeks the highest good of its neighbor, and that is spiritual good. If we love as Christian friends then we will seek to go on together in the will of God, to grow in the grace of God, to be utterly yielded and surrendered to God’s will, for that is our highest good, the best we can have. Don’t you want your friends to experience that? That is spiritual love, the basis of all Christian friendship

That is why Christians are told to “build each other up” in the faith – to exhort one another about the truths of God’s word. Christian love does not fail to rebuke or challenge when a brother or sister is walking the wrong way. A friend does not turn a blind eye to you, but is concerned for your spiritual welfare. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Prov 27:6

2) Sacrificial Love
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The spirit of true friendship is always ready to sacrifice for the highest good of another. This is the love at the centre of Christian friendship. “God commends his love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The love Christ had for us is the love he expects us to have for each other. Did he not say “Love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”?

Christ loves without demanding love in return. His love is utterly unselfish in its motive. It is a love which keeps on loving despite the faults and hostility of those it cares for. It keeps loving despite the rejection of that love. So many people have self at the centre of their hearts. True love has another at the centre of its affection. When Jesus was on the cross, you were on his mind.

Friendship is not just a matter of sentiment or emotion. It is sacrificial and practical. John writes, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16) and “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Sacrificial love is a giving love. It gives itself. It is willing to give its heart even if that means risking the pain of being misunderstood or rejected. It is willing, when necessary, to dig into its pockets and help practically. We’ve just had Christmas. Why do we give gifts? Why does God give gifts? For God so loved the world that he gave. We give because we love and because we love we want to give, no other motive for giving is good enough. I’ve heard children saying to each other -I’ll give you a present if you give me one. Little children are by nature self centered and selfish. Let’s not be childish in our friendships. When we give it should be because we love, with no strings attached.

One of the greatest friendships recorded in the Bible is that of Jonathan and David. After David killed Goliath it says Jonathan became one in spirit with David and loved him as his own soul. It was a spiritual love – as his own soul. It was a sacrificial love, for Jonathan gave David his own bow and belt etc. He gave his own, of himself. What did Jonathan get in return for his love? Apart from his own love, David at that time had nothing to give him, and by the time David became king and had anything to offer, Jonathan was dead. Jonathan wanted David’s highest good – that he should fulfill God’s will by becoming King over Israel instead of him. He did not fully realize that the only way David could become king was if he died. What a picture of the love that Christ has for us – He gave his life for our highest good, that we might be made kings and priests to God.

So the basis of Christian friendship is God’s love – which is spiritual love and sacrificial love.

II. The Bond of Christian Friendship
“You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Jesus states that the bond which cements Christian friendship is threefold:

1) Christian Unity
“You are my friends” (John 15:14). Jesus said these words to the eleven, not the twelve. Judas, the traitor, had gone out into the night. Jesus could not call him, “My friend,” in the way He could call the others, for friendship involves unity. Paul calls this oneness “the unity of the Spirit” (Ephes. 4:3) and reminds us that “he that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17).
A requirement for true Christian friendship is unity in the Lord, by one Spirit.
Fulfill my joy, that you be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Phil 2:2
Needless to say, such unity does not mean uniformity. We do not all have to be the same, we do not have the same personalities, role or talents, but we must have the same mind, for “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”

While it is true that the degree of friendship may vary within the Christian church, the fact still remains that all who are united in one Spirit are friends of Jesus; and therefore they are friends of one another.

2) Christian Loyalty
“You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). True friendship is nothing shallow: it gives and expects unswerving loyalty.
Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Prov 27:10
Such loyalty results in faithfulness in all confidences. Abraham was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). And God asked Himself: “Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?” (Genesis 18:17). Concerning Moses, the Bible informs us that “the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). Just as God drew these two men into the circle of His own confidence, so the Savior did with His disciples, and likewise we should do with one another.

Happy is the man or woman who has a friend, or friends, with whom he or she can share confidences.
A true friend will not share your confidences with a third party. You can tell them what is on your heart, and they won’t tell anyone else. A whisperer separates the best of friends. Prov 16:28

There are times in our Christian experience when we need advice. God has placed elders in the church for this reason, men and women who know God’s ways and God’s word. When there is something troubling us or when we want some advice about the right thing to do, it is good to talk the matter over with someone who will give us sound spiritual advice. Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel. Prov 27.9
Jesus is the wonderful counselor and gives wisdom to those he has appointed as overseers of his church to give us wise counsel. If a person is not an elder in the church where God has placed you – don’t go to them for advice and never go to an unbeliever for guidance or spiritual advice.

The loyalty of true friendship may also be spoken of as faithfulness in all criticisms -“Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov 27:6). A loyal friend is one who will “speak the truth in love” if necessary.

“A perfect friend is one who knows the worst about you, and loves you just the same.
There’s only One who loves like this, and Jesus is His name.”

A friend will not turn against you, as Judas did to Jesus. (Ps 41:9) A friend will not join in in making fun of you. (Ps 15:3) But they will tell you the truth about yourself, which you might not like.

Loyalty in Christian friendship means faithfulness in all circumstances – “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov 17:17). The early Christian church suffered persecution and martyrdom, yet remained loyal to each other. When Peter and John were released from prison, where did they go to share their plight? To their own people, the church. They all prayed together. When Peter was in prison the church got together in groups and prayed without ceasing for him. No one said “it’s not my problem”. It was their problem, for the problem of one was the problem of all. They prayed as if they were in prison with Peter. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them–those who are mistreated–since you yourselves are in the body also. Heb 13:3

They did not forsake him – for they were loyal friends. What a terrible experience it is to be forsaken by your friends, especially your Christian friends – but that should never be.
It is important that we keep meeting together as often as possible, that we are loyal to our Christian friends. If you have a ministry of visiting the sick or elderly then don’t give it up – be faithful in it. Show your friendship by your loyalty to them. As John writes 3 Jn 1:13-14 I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face.

3) Christian Sympathy
“You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). In that word “whatsoever” is summed up the sympathies of the Savior. Jesus shared everything with His disciples and so expected them to share everything with Him. This should be true of any genuine friendship. When Paul says, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15) he is defining perfect sympathy. The word “sympathy” has been robbed of its glory by narrowing down its meaning to “weep with them that weep”; according to SFO “sympathy.. is the power to project life’s interests outside the circle of your own personality in order to share the life of another”. This will certainly mean weeping with your sorrowing friends, but it will also mean rejoicing in their joys.

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ Luke 15:6

III. The Benefits of Christian Friendship
“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant does not know what his lord is doing: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15). The benefits of friendship are too many to list: but their effect on human personality is twofold:

1) Morally Elevating
“Henceforth I call you not servants,,. but.,. friends” (John 15:15). When the Lord Jesus called these disciples to Himself, they were not even servants, but sinners. Christ’s friendship turned them into saints. First they had to know His salvation, then they must go through His school of discipline, learning from his example, before He could say “You are my friends” (John 15:14). Without Him they would have been nothing: they’d have lived and died in obscurity; but by fellowship with Him, they were raised to a place with the best of men. To be like Jesus is our highest calling. As we imitate him, we are his friends.
(Magazine: Today, 1980).
…”Jesus…wants us to imitate Him. One night He gathered with some of His friends, and—
There was a job to be done. No one would do it.
So He did it.
There was kindness to be shown. No one would show it. So He showed it.
There was humility.…No one would practice it.
So He practiced it.
There was forgiveness…No one would offer it.
So He offered Himself.
Someone had to be emptied. No one would be empty.
So He emptied Himself.
“When He finished He said, ‘Now you do as I have done to you’…This kind of living finally killed Him. But there was no other way to get the job done. And there still is no other way”

2) Mentally Educating
Jesus said, “I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15). True friendship not only elevates us morally but also educates us mentally. Solomon says: “He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Prov 13:20) Jesus taught His disciples. He educated them to the limit of their capacity. The evidence of this is seen in the life and ministry of the disciples after the resurrection of the Lord. Think of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. It was full of sound teaching and spiritual power. When people “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Conclusion
We have seen that the highest order of friendship is to be found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. His friendship with those who follow Him is the standard by which all other friendships must be measured.

His mouth is most sweet, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, And this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem! Song 5:16

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Extract from our New Book: The Prophet of Messiah, The Book of Zechariah

Zechariah Coveredited

Extract from our New Book: The Prophet of Messiah, The Book of Zechariah

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Chapter 1

Introduction: The Setting of the Prophet’s Ministry

1:1 In the eighth month of Darius’ second year, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, son of Berechiah son of Iddo, as follows:

The inspired historian who wrote down Zechariah’s prophecies dates his ministry as beginning during the reign of Darius of Persia (522-482 B.C.E)[1], meaning that Zechariah (like Haggai) began at the time when the Jews had already begun their return from exile in Babylon and were rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.

Zechariah was a prophet who heard directly the word of the Lord; his family line is noted in order to emphasise that, like Ezekiel, he was a priest as well as a prophet[2]. It appears that his relationship with the other religious leaders started off well, although by the end of his ministry the people had become hard-hearted and the challenges of this man of God were too much for them; Jesus later spoke of Zechariah’s martyrdom at their hands (Matt. 23:35).

There is a good deal of debate among scholars as to whether Zechariah is a literary unity, or whether it is actually two separate books, written by different prophets at different times[3]. For the purposes of this study, we will treat the book as being essentially one, with the prophecies from chapters 9-14 containing earlier material utilised by Zechariah and moulded by him to illustrate his contemporary God-given message to the exiles. Yet although the larger portion of the message was relevant to the Jews at the time of their return from exile, we shall find that many of the lessons expressed endure in their relevance to all believers throughout all time.

1:2 The LORD was very angry with your ancestors.

The questions of ‘Why have we been in exile?’ and, ‘What is this return to Israel all about?’ must have been an important to those returning from Babylon; especially since there were very few left alive who had ever seen Israel at all, or who could remember the former temple and their previous way of life in Jerusalem. ‘Why did our ancestors leave Israel, and why are we returning now?’ was a hot topic. A political answer might have been, ‘because Nebuchadnezzar conquered our country and took us as his slaves’; but Zechariah wants to underline the moral and spiritual reasons which lay behind these world-changing events.

Zechariah’s instruction of the exiles began with reference to the sovereignty of God. It was not because of the mere geo-political situation that the Jews had been exiled. It was God who became very angry with their ancestors because of their sin and caused them to fall into the hand of their enemies who carried them off as slaves. Their turning from God had caused him to cast them out of the land they were living in.

To a Jew, the favour of God and the blessing of living in the Promised Land were inseparable ideas. Their national identity rested largely on this: that God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt to be his people, and had given them the land to live in. Consequently a removal from the land was seen as a symbol of God’s anger, whilst returning to the land was a sign of his gracious favour.

1:3 Therefore say to the people: The LORD who rules over all says, “Turn to me,” says the LORD who rules over all, “and I will turn to you,” says the LORD who rules over all.

So Zechariah next urges the younger generation not to repeat the mistakes of the past. ‘Turn to me’, says God through Zechariah’s message, ‘and I will turn to you’. By implication God’s turning to them again meant a restoration of blessing in terms of their national identity and dignity.

1:4 “Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the former prophets called out, saying, ‘The LORD who rules over all says, “Turn now from your evil wickedness,” ‘ but they would by no means obey me,” says the LORD.

Even in such a day of grace, Zechariah found it necessary to warn the returning exiles not to be stubborn and heard-hearted as their ancestors had been; who refused to hear and obey the voice of God through the former prophets. Such a warning always remains poignant, and believers today are similarly cautioned not to follow the examples of unbelief witnessed among God’s people in history, but to readily hear and heed the voice of God (Heb. 3:7-8).

1:5-6 “As for your ancestors, where are they? And did the prophets live forever? But have my words and statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, not outlived your fathers? Then they paid attention and confessed, ‘The LORD who rules over all has indeed done what he said he would do to us, because of our sinful ways.’ “

What profit did Israel make by refusing to heed God’s voice? Although they rebelled against the word of God, that word stood fast and came to pass, whilst they were taken away in judgment.

The word of God outlived their ancestors. It always will. No word of God can ever fall to the ground; it must accomplish the purpose for which it was sent (Isa. 55:11). Jesus said ‘My words shall never pass away’ (Matt. 24:35). In view of this, an abiding principle becomes clear: it is forever unwise to ignore or disobey the word of God.

1:7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month Shebat, in Darius’ second year, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo, as follows:

A large portion of the revelation God gave to Zechariah came in the form of dreams or visions which had meanings relevant to the people that he was ministering to. The first two of these are described in this chapter.

First Vision: The Four Horses vv. 8-17

1:8-10 I was attentive that night and saw a man seated on a red horse that stood among some myrtle trees in the ravine. Behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Then I asked one nearby, “What are these, sir?” The angelic messenger who replied to me said, “I will show you what these are.”  Then the man standing among the myrtle trees spoke up and said, “These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk about on the earth.”

The vision of the four horses ought not to be confused with John’s later vision of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in Revelation 6:1-8. For these riders have no sinister intent. They are servants, possibly angels, who had been sent by the Lord on a reconnaissance mission to report on the state of the earth. We may not know whether God actually does send angels to report on human affairs, or whether their presence in the vision is symbolic of God knowing completely the affairs of the world. In either case the vision speaks of God’s complete and perfect knowledge of world events. Those returning from exile needed to be aware that everything which was happening was known to God and was ultimately in his hands. God always has a plan and a purpose, and Zechariah’s vision shows that he was about to bring that plan to pass for the sake of the exiles of Judah.

1:11 The riders then agreed with the angel of the LORD, who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have been walking about on the earth, and now everything is at rest and quiet.”

The report given by the riders was that everything on earth was at rest and quiet. Why was this information passed on to the exiles through Zechariah? Were they fearful of attack and invasion by hostile foreign powers? The word of God indicated that no such attacks were imminent or likely, and this must have reassured them to continue the work of rebuilding without fear. God had made a time of peace, so that his temple might be rebuilt. This is the reason why Christians are urged to pray for all in authority, so that we too might enjoy a similar time of peace in which we might live godly lives without fear (1 Tim. 2:1-3).

1:12-13 The angel of the LORD then asked, “LORD who rules over all, how long before you have compassion on Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah which you have been so angry with for these seventy years?” The LORD then addressed good, comforting words to the angelic messenger who was speaking to me.

Again, it was not for the angel’s benefit that this question was asked or answered. It was that the people to whom Zechariah was ministering might know the answer. God had already said that he exile would last seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10). Daniel came to understand this (Dan. 9:2); and Zechariah’s vision indicated that this period of time had at last been fulfilled. The return of the exiles to Jerusalem was neither the result of their own impulse, nor of a political decision by the earlier king Cyrus – it was the result of God’s own plan being carried out by his wisdom and mighty power. The words of assurance given to the angel indicated that God would be with his people to help and strengthen them. God’s promises through the earlier prophets would be fulfilled: the temple and the city would be rebuilt and the people would dwell in safety, walking in God’s laws.

More than that, if they only knew, the time was coming near for the Messiah to be born, and he would be born in one of those cities of Judah which was being rebuilt near Jerusalem; a place called Bethlehem.

1:14 Turning to me, the messenger then said, “Cry out that the LORD who rules over all says, ‘I am very much moved for Jerusalem and for Zion.

Whilst the vision contains symbolic elements, there are also clear utterances of what God says to his people such as the words here: ‘I am moved for Jerusalem and for Zion.’

1:15 But I am greatly displeased with the nations that take my grace for granted. I was a little displeased with them, but they have only made things worse for themselves.

God had determined to punish the nation for its idolatry and disobedience, but the nations whom he had sent to execute this punishment had gone too far in their anger. God had sought to only punish his people, but Israel’s enemies sought to destroy them. The prophet hereby reveals that it was never God’s intention to destroy Israel.

1:16 “‘Therefore,’ says the LORD, ‘I have become compassionate toward Jerusalem and will rebuild my temple in it, ‘says the LORD who rules over all.’ Once more a surveyor’s measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.’

God’s love is always greater than his anger. Though he had punished Israel, he had not forsaken her or turned away from her completely. He reassured the exiles that he – God – would see to the rebuilding of his temple. They would be his helpers in the work; surveyors and builders to work with him; but the rebuilding would be accomplished according to the immutable purpose of God.

1:17  Speak up again with the message of the LORD who rules over all: ‘My cities will once more overflow with prosperity, and once more the LORD will comfort Zion and validate his choice of Jerusalem.’ “

God wanted the people to know that when the city and its temple were rebuilt, his blessing and their resulting prosperity would be overflowing. It would be a time of abundant blessing, in which God would once again make known to all nations that he had chosen Jerusalem as his dwelling and Israel as his people.

Vision Two: The Four Horns vv. 18-21

1:18-19 (2:1) Once again I looked and this time I saw four horns. So I asked the angelic messenger who spoke with me, “What are these?” He replied, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”

The vision has now changed. Zechariah saw four horns – always symbolic of military rulers. It was true that military rulers had scattered Israel and Judah and Jerusalem. Four great empires had ruled over them since the dispersion: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes, and now the Persians.

1:20-21 Next the LORD showed me four blacksmiths. I asked, “What are these going to do?” He answered, “These horns are the ones that have scattered Judah so that there is no one to be seen. But the blacksmiths have come to terrify Judah’s enemies and cut off the horns of the nations that have thrust themselves against the land of Judah in order to scatter its people.”

But although men had scattered the people of Israel, God was already in the process of gathering them together again. Blacksmiths are not soldiers but craftsmen; and it was not military might that would restore Jerusalem. It was by the act of rebuilding that the nation would become a terror to its previous enemies. For when they saw what God had done for Israel, they realised that God was again among them (Neh. 6:16), and so they were dissuaded from attacking Jerusalem.

Israel at this time remained part of the Persian Empire, an empire later taken over by Alexander the Great. Alexander’s armies never actually fought in Palestine; the ‘possession’ of Israel merely passed to him when he defeated the Persians, at which time Jerusalem paid him tribute. So following the return from exile, there was to be no more scattering of Israel until the Romans in AD 70, nearly 600 years later.

Read more free Bible study articles at http://www.biblestudiesonline.org.uk/#/articles/4569665985

 


[1] Marvin A. Sweeney, The Twelve Prophets, p. 561

[2] Sweeney, p. 562

[3] James A. Hartle, “The Literary Unity of Zechariah”,  JETS 35/2 (June 1992) pp. 145-157

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April 2013 Living Word Magazine Out Now!

View it here for free!

http://issuu.com/mathewbartlett/docs/living-word-april-2013/1

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