Jesus shared our humanity

I was reading Hebrews 2 today and the wonder of the truths contained in this passage hit me afresh. In particular verses 14-18 where we read about how Jesus shared our humanity.

These verses teach us that:

  • Jesus became like us. He shared our humanity. Jesus was made like us in every way.
  • By his death Jesus destroyed the person who holds the power of death i.e. the devil.
  • Jesus set us free from the fear of death. We no longer need to be a slave to this fear.
  • Jesus did this for us (i.e. humans) and not angels.
  • Jesus made atonement for the sins of the people (i.e. you and me!)
  • Jesus suffered when he was tempted and is therefore able to help us when we are tempted.

What glorious truths these are.  How we need to remind ourselves of them. The wonderful benefits made available to us through Jesus sharing our humanity.

And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus

The Spurgeon devotion from yesterday morning was based on Acts 4:13:

And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus”

I found it encouraging, inspiring and challenging too. The devotion can be found here  on the Heartlight website.

I’ve included it in full below:

A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ.

You have read lives of Christ, beautifully and eloquently written, but the best life of Christ is his living biography, written out in the words and actions of his people.

If we were what we profess to be, and what we should be, we should be pictures of Christ; yea, such striking likenesses of him, that the world would not have to hold us up by the hour together, and say, “Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness;” but they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, “He has been with Jesus; he has been taught of him; he is like him; he has caught the very idea of the holy Man of Nazareth, and he works it out in his life and every-day actions.”

A Christian should be like Christ in his boldness.

Never blush to own your religion; your profession will never disgrace you: take care you never disgrace that.

Be like Jesus, very valiant for your God.

Imitate him in your loving spirit; think kindly, speak kindly, and do kindly, that men may say of you, “He has been with Jesus.”

Imitate Jesus in his holiness.

Was he zealous for his Master? So be you; ever go about doing good.

Let not time be wasted: it is too precious.

Was he self-denying, never looking to his own interest? Be the same.

Was he devout? Be you fervent in your prayers.

Had he deference to his Father’s will? So submit yourselves to him.

Was he patient? So learn to endure.

And best of all, as the highest portraiture of Jesus, try to forgive your enemies, as he did; and let those sublime words of your Master, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” always ring in your ears. Forgive, as you hope to be forgiven. Heap coals of fire on the head of your foe by your kindness to him.

Good for evil, recollect, is godlike. Be godlike, then; and in all ways and by all means, so live that all may say of you, “He has been with Jesus.”

The Mortification of Sin – chapter 6

In chapter 6 Owen considers what it is to mortify sin and gives us three descriptions of what mortification is.

Mortification Consists in a Habitual Weakening of Sin

  • The crucifying of the flesh and it’s lusts (Galatians 5:24)
  • The body of sin is done away with (Romans 6:6) i.e. it is destroyed.
  • Unless the root problem (i.e. destroying the body of sin) is tackled little or no progress in the work of mortification will be made.

Mortification Consists in Constant Fighting and Contending Against Sin

  • We need to know that we have an enemy that needs to be destroyed by all means possible.
  • It is a vigorous contest that is about the things of eternity.
  • We should not be unaware of the tactics and methods that our enemy uses against us, including where it has prevailed against us.
  • What advantages does it use to make use of occasions, opportunities and temptations?
  • Always be ready and prepared. This is an important aspect of warfare.
  • Load it daily with all the things that can kill it. The battle never stops. Continue to put it to death (Colossians 3:5)

Mortification Consists in Frequent Success

  • Frequent success against any lust is evidence of mortification.
  • Success is victory over sin and the pursuit of it to a complete conquest.
  • Whenever sin is discovered at work it is apprehended and brought to God’s word and Christ’s love. The sin is condemned and executed totally.
  • Weaken the indwelling disposition that it attempts to entice to fight against God by implanting a principle of grace that directly opposes and destroys it at its foundation. For example: the implanting and growth of humility weakens pride, uncleanness by purity of mind.
  • The promptness, eagerness and speed that we fight the lust that attacks us by the means provided are an important part of the frequent success in the mortification of sin.

The on-going battle against sin is a tremendously important one. As I read this chapter I’m encouraged by its content but realise I need to take this battle more seriously. It’s an on-going battle and I must never let up the fight.

 

National Sickie Day

In case you did not know it last Monday (i.e. 2 February) was National Sickie Day. The first Monday in February is the day where it is estimated over 300,000 British workers take a day off work sick although the reason for absence may not be quite as genuine as it could be!

According to recruitment agencies many people use this day to go for a job interview. The extended Christmas break from work appears to be a time where individuals spend time thinking about their futures and consequently apply for new jobs in January. If they are invited for interviews these are lightly to be in February.

Whatever the truth of the matter of National Sickie Day it’s fair to say that some people do find the period after Christmas a difficult one. The cold weather, short days and the Christmas credit card bill seem to paint a bleak pattern for many people.

Also I think that after all the hype surrounding Christmas and New Year many people experience a big anti-climax. There is nothing for them to look forward to until they go on their summer holidays, which are still a few months away. Life can seem fairly boring, mundane and pointless.

Sadly it can be so easy for Christians to also fall into this trap and become negative in their thinking during the post- Christmas period. However we do not have to go down that path. Every new day offers potentially exciting opportunities to serve God.

I always find the following words from Lamentations 3 encouraging when thinking along these lines:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (v22-23)

This is wonderful news for us. Each morning provides a new start with God. We can experience his love and compassion afresh each day. That is something that can and should excite us.

We do not have to be among those who participate in National Sickie Day but rather instead people who enjoy the wonder of God’s love, mercy and compassion!

 

Learning from Past Mistakes

You would hope that if there is one lesson in life we learn it is learning from past mistakes.

Many years ago I had a car accident when I was driving in some bad weather. It had been snowing and some of the roads were icy. I was driving to a friend’s house and took a short cut down a side road. Next thing I knew I had crashed into a tree.

The big mistake I made was to go down the side road, which unfortunately was icy. I should have kept on the main roads which were fine.

I learnt two important lessons that day which I have never forgotten. Firstly, that I should drive carefully when the road conditions are treacherous. Also secondly, I should keep to the main roads in icy conditions even if it makes the journey longer.

I have never forgotten those two lessons and have certainly learnt from my past mistake in this area.

Sadly there are other areas of my life in which I have not learnt from my past mistakes. One of which is thinking before I open my mouth.

If I could write a letter back to my younger self I would stress the importance of watching what I say. There have been a number of difficult situations I have got myself into over the years due to my mouth.

You might hope that eventually I will grasp this lesson: “Think before you speak!”

Today I was reading Ezekiel 23 in which God gave a word to the prophet about Oholah (Samaria) and Oholibah (Jerusalem).

After watching Oholah prostitute herself to the Egyptians and Assyrians and seeing her humiliated we are told in v11

“Her sister Oholibah saw this, yet in her lust and prostitution she was more depraved than her sister.”

We are told in the remainder of the chapter about the full extent of Oholibah’s sin and the subsequent judgement that both sisters would encounter.

You might have thought that Oholibah would have learnt from the sin of Oholah. Surely she would not copy the bad example of her sister? Sadly though she did not learn and exceeded her sister’s wickedness.

There is a lesson for us here. It’s quite simple. Learn from past mistakes, both your own and others, and adjust your life accordingly.

 

Come and See

The following sermon entitled “Come and See” is from John1:43-51 where Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael.

As I read today’s passage the words in the second part of v46 “come and see” caught my attention. Philip said these words in response to Nathanael saying “can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

There are five things I think we can learn from the phrase “come and see” and what happened as a result of Nathanael following that advice.

It was Nathanael’s responsibility to respond to Philip’s invitation to come and see Jesus.

Philip faithfully opened his mouth to speak about Jesus. He didn’t force a response from Nathaniel but rather pointed him to Jesus. Philip gave the invitation, “come and see”. It was though Nathanael’s responsibility to respond to it.

Likewise the same applies to us. We share and point others to Jesus and leave the outcome in His hands. The outcome of our invitation for people to respond to Christ is not our responsibility.

It is not our fault if they do not respond. We may be understandably disappointed or upset but it’s not our fault. If we realise that the outcome is not in our hands then that takes the pressure of us!

Philip pointed the way to Jesus

We see in v45 that Philip tells Nathaniel that ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’

Then when Nathaniel responds “can anything good come out of Nazareth”, Philip responds by again pointing him to Jesus by saying “Come and See”.

In our reading Philip points to a person i.e. Jesus and not to an institution i.e. the synagogue.

During advent in a sermon about John the Baptist, we were reminded that we should point people to Jesus and not to church.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying don’t invite people along to church. If there is someone you are thinking of inviting to church then that is obviously a good thing to do.

I would say though that the reason we invite people should not be just to get extra people at our church but rather because we want people to experience the saving power of Christ.

The challenging question we need to ask ourselves is like Philip, do we point others to Christ?

Without Philip being the link in the chain would Nathanael have ever met Jesus?

Could we be that vital link in the chain for someone to meet Christ?

Of course God can speak to people through dreams and visions. There are stories of people in countries where the church is persecuted where Jesus has appeared in a dream and revealed Himself to a person.

However the general rule of thumb is that God uses ordinary people like us to share His word and point others to Christ. If we don’t do this then how will they hear?

There is a story of the angels looking down from heaven and seeing that God had given man the responsibility to spread the gospel became worried. They asked Him what the back-up plan was and God said, “There is no plan B!”

When you think of a well known Christian then don’t forget that someone during their life has pointed them to Jesus.

Someone led Billy Graham to Christ. If they had not done this millions of people would not have known God.

You never know how much God might do through that person who you share Christ with!

Philip was not put off by a difficult question from Nathaniel.

Philip was asked a difficult question: “can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

It doesn’t actually say this in so many words in the passage but I expect that Philip was quite excited about having met with Jesus. So he went and found his friend Nathaniel to tell him the exciting news that he had found the one that the scriptures had said would come. I wonder what he thought when Nathaniel said “can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

However rather than allowing himself to be side-tracked or tied up in a theological conversation about the place of the town of Nazareth in God’s plan he simply invited Nathaniel to “come and see”.

We do not need to know the answers to all theological questions before we can point someone to Jesus.

This does not mean that we should not attempt to answer people’s questions. Peter encourages us to “always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)

However there are some questions that are difficult to answer. For example: there is no easy answer to the question of suffering. Sometimes it is better to point to Jesus rather than get stuck down with certain questions, especially those of the red herring type.

Sadly even if we provide satisfactory answers to all the questions we are asked not everyone will respond. Some people like asking questions but don’t really want to know the answers.

Nathaniel had to humble himself to “come and see”

Nathaniel asked “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” You could tell that he was not impressed with Nazareth. In The Message translation this expression is translated as “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.”

We’ve not told why in this passage but Nathaniel decided to take up Philip’s offer to “come and see.” This would have required him to humble himself and to be prepared to admit that there was the possibility that he could be wrong.

However as Nathaniel did this and encountered Jesus he was amazed and blown away by Jesus. If he had not been willing to humble himself then he would never had met with Christ.

Humbling yourself is not something that is popular in today’s society. So often these days it about “me” and telling everybody how great we are.

However unless we are prepared to humble ourselves and admit our need of God then we will never know God.

James 4: 6 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

Nathaniel had a firsthand experience of Jesus.

We see in v43 that Philip had responded to the invitation from Jesus to follow Him. This invitation required a personal response from Philip, to which he did respond. Philip then went and found his friend Nathaniel and told him what had happened to him.

Nathaniel though could not just rely on Philip’s word or experience. He had to experience Jesus for himself. When Nathaniel met Christ he truly believed for himself. His eyes were opened. He knew it was real. He personalised his faith.

Christian faith always requires a personal response. A genuine Biblical Christian faith is not something that we can inherit from our parents or family.

Sadly it is possible to attend church each week and not have ever personally met Christ. I would say to anyone who may not have ever met Christ to “come and see.”

I could tell you how wonderful it is to experience forgiveness of sins, God’s peace in difficult times and to know hope in this world. You might say to me:  “that is fine for you”. All of us though, no matter who we are need to experience this firsthand. Don’t just take my word for it, but “come and see” for yourself.

Don’t rely on a secondhand experience of Christian faith.

Don’t rely on the faith of another person but instead “come and see” for yourself.

Today may we all be like Nathaniel who responded to the invitation to “come and see” Jesus and truly met Him and encountered the wonder of God’s Son, Jesus.

 

 

 

Intimate With Jesus

The following devotional “Intimate with Jesus” is taken from the Oswald Chambers book My Utmost for His Highest.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?” —John 14:9

These words were not spoken as a rebuke, nor even with surprise; Jesus was encouraging Philip to draw closer. Yet the last person we get intimate with is Jesus. Before Pentecost the disciples knew Jesus as the One who gave them power to conquer demons and to bring about a revival (see Luke 10:18-20). It was a wonderful intimacy, but there was a much closer intimacy to come: “…I have called you friends…” (John 15:15). True friendship is rare on earth. It means identifying with someone in thought, heart, and spirit. The whole experience of life is designed to enable us to enter into this closest relationship with Jesus Christ. We receive His blessings and know His Word, but do we really know Him?

Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away…” (John 16:7). He left that relationship to lead them even closer. It is a joy to Jesus when a disciple takes time to walk more intimately with Him. The bearing of fruit is always shown in Scripture to be the visible result of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (see John 15:1-4).

Once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely and we never lack for understanding or compassion. We can continually pour out our hearts to Him without being perceived as overly emotional or pitiful. The Christian who is truly intimate with Jesus will never draw attention to himself but will only show the evidence of a life where Jesus is completely in control. This is the outcome of allowing Jesus to satisfy every area of life to its depth. The picture resulting from such a life is that of the strong, calm balance that our Lord gives to those who are intimate with Him.

The devotional can be found here.

Using My Time Wisely in 2015

As this year comes to a close and a new one arrives many people will be making their New Year resolutions. I have not made any resolutions myself however one thing I would like to address is that I might understand the importance of using my time wisely in 2015.

There will be 8,760 hours in 2015 (365 days x 24 hours). That might seem a lot but it soon goes quickly as you get older.

I recently came across the tweet below from the MP Ian Austin after he had watched a recent edition of Question Time.

How often do we feel like that? We might watch some rubbish on TV or spend time browsing the net aimlessly and before we realise it an hour or two has passed. We know that this time has been wasted and the time can never be recovered. It’s so easy just to waste time. So very easy!

Some people pack their life full of activities and leave themselves shattered. Others spend too much time working. You may have heard this before but how many people on their death bed say: “I wish I had spent more time at the office!”

So what will we do with the 8,760 hours of 2015? How much time should we devote to work, resting and leisure?

If you are someone who struggles with using your time wisely perhaps you might like to join me in praying the pray below from Psalm 90:12:

“So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NKJ)

Or as a modern translation has it:

“Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.”(NLT)

So that is my aim for the New Year. I want to use my time wisely in 2015.

Good News that will cause great joy for all the people

We know the story well. Jesus has just been born and an angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds, who naturally are afraid, and says:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12 NIV).

Sometimes we can miss things when we read a passage of scripture that is very familiar to us. I love the phrase “for all the people” from the verses above. It’s easy to miss that short phrase and not grasp the wonder of it.

The angel of the Lord did not say that this is good news for just a select few but for all the people. Yes all of them!

As Jesus walked on this earth he mixed with the poor and the outcast. He ate with sinners and spoke with a Samaritan woman. He healed the sick, including a Roman centurion’s servant. Jesus showed God’s love and mercy to all.

The same still applies today. It does not matter whether you are rich or poor, black or white, old or young, Jew or Gentile the birth of Jesus is still good news for all.

This Christmas may we all truly know the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

Rend Your Heart and Not Your Garments

Excellent devotional from Spurgeon on Joel 2:13 “Rend your heart, and not your garment” from the heartlight website

GARMENT-RENDING and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations-for such things are pleasing to the flesh-but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: but they are ultimately delusive, for in the article of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

HEART-RENDING is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.