Posted by: forfreedomalone | 27/11/2020

And they shall know you by your symbols.

I was asked today about what one should be doing now that it is the season to decorate homes with all sorts of things. As a Scot this was entirely new and quite peculiar to me when I first came to north America. We didn’t recognise Christmas as anything other than a pagan festival celebrated by the English until the late 1950s; after that you put up a tree, in your home, if you wanted to and municipal lights were hung in the major streets of cities, but that was it. A united effort by an entire nation to drain the National Grid was quite beyond my experience. Now it seems that Santa, reindeer, snowmen, elves and who knows what else is the order of the day and (and this is where the question was leading) in some places nativity scenes are frowned upon or outlawed. It is a source of great amusement to me that people who say they worship the only God, should have appropriated a pagan feast day, overlaid it with religious images, totally against the instruction of the God they say they worship; most of which are inaccurate; then claim it to be the birthday of our Lord and Saviour (without any evidence whatsoever or instruction from God so to do) and are then prepared to defend it against the pagans whose day it was in the first place.

To take time to recall Jesus’ incarnation and to be grateful for his sacrifice in becoming a man, never mind in dying on the Cross, is a good thing to do; but there is nothing Scriptural which tells us to do this, when to do this, or how to do this. Creating what Christmas has become is certainly not within the parameters of any Feast Day God ordained. Putting up religious symbols does not make a day of craven excess into a day of heartfelt thanksgiving.

The question was about a person who wanted to put up a nativity scene, a Cross or a picture of Jesus to show her neighbours that she is a Christian and will not be cowed by the secular attitudes to Christmas. Just like the Bible says, “And they shall know you by your symbols”. If only there were more nativity scenes in the front gardens of the world the message of the love and mercy of God would reach around the globe.

Putting up a nativity scene or a Cross, or “a picture of Jesus” is to prove what exactly and how should it be done? Now a nativity scene one can sort of work out if one gets the right history books and studies how animals were kept in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. It is possible, but I have never seen anything closely approximating a proper nativity scene anywhere but the Middle East, but it is, theoretically, possible. But where is one going to get a  picture of Jesus? In what deep chamber of historical material will one search for that? Of course, one can’t; so the picture will be as inaccurate as the scene. The ‘Jesus’ will be an artist’s impression of a white, western, long, blonde haired male, who may possibly have brown hair just for a change. He will be fairly handsome and will draw you to him with his soft eyes and his general comely appearance. A man greatly loved by all. This will be the Jesus displayed on the lawn; but this Jesus is a false Jesus.

The Scripture says that Jesus was Jewish. Out with the long hair then, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” Out with the fair skin too as the Jews of Jesus day were from the Middle East exclusively, where the natural skin tone is more olive than mozzarella. Genetics dictates face shape as well as skin tone and so the face shape attributed to Jesus, in the vast bulk of images of him, is totally wrong; as are his pale blue eyes, they would have been, more likely, green or brown. We’ll have to censure his good looks too; shame though that is, if we are going to be accurate we need to stick with what the Scripture tells us and, while we are at it, get rid of the impression that he was attractive and loved by all. “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground, he hath no form nor comeliness and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.” In fact, we should just ditch the whole idea as there is no image of Jesus which would come close to what he did actually look like and that is for a very good reason.

Man has a natural tendency to make images to worship. This is why we do not know on what day Jesus was born; why we do not know where he died, or was buried. If you have ever been to Israel you will know that just about everywhere that something important was supposed to have happened in Jesus’ life, Helena, mother of Constantine, went about erecting churches. They are monuments to man’s desire to have idols to worship.

The commandment not to make idols, and its reiteration, is not to make “idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image”.  This thing you are not to make is not to be of “any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth”. An idol is a thing, a carved wooden thing, or a carved stone thing, or a painted thing which is to be the focus of worship. They are created for the express purpose of worshipping them. A “standing image” is the same thing but bigger. In the days when this was written they were called Asherah poles. I have seen the same thing in India and I think it is associated with Shiva, Agni and Shakti. They are, to all intents and purposes, enormous phallic symbols. This is what you are not to make or have. Later there were other gods included in the cult of fertility;  Legba in Africa; Venus, Bacchus, Priapus, Vesta, Venus, Aphrodite, Isis and Dionysus in Greece and Rome; the practices were known in Cappadocia, Antioch, Pamplos, Cyprus, and Bylos, to name but a few (which was a recurring problem for Paul) but the concept is contained, quite simply, in the Asherah poles. We are not to make idols of anything on earth, in the sea or under the earth. What is “under the earth”? The underworld. That is the place where you imagine gods and demons live. Again, there can be no better (or worse) places on earth than India and Indonesia to be to understand what that means.

In that case, some would argue, you cannot have any images of anything at all. No paintings, no photographs, no images at all. So IS that the same thing as having a painting of a sea scape? Or a picture of birds, or your cat? No. Absolutely NO. The reason for the former command is your intent to worship it; the reason you can have the latter is because there is no such intent. Everything in the Bible is about the heart. However, there is a grey area and that is where we have an image which we start to worship. This is where the nativity scene, picture of Jesus and the Cross come in. They have all become idols in the church; they have all become the focal points of devotion, to the point that people are willing to fight to defend them. They have all become idols and they are standing between God and his people.

The Scripture does not say, as you all know, that “They will know us by our symbols” it says, “They will know us by our love”. The day is coming when they will not be able to tell who we are from all the stuff we stick on cars, set up in our gardens and wear around our necks, because all that will be taken away and all the church will be left with is love, or, in most cases, the lack thereof. If Christians were doing what we were told we would be totally unidentifiable in this world OTHER than by our love for one another. As it is we are identified by a rebellious, arrogant attitude to the word of God and the laws of our lands. We see nothing in the modern Christian attitudes of the person or life of the one we say we follow. He never stuck his Sonship in the face of anyone, he never demanded his rights on anything, he never stood up and protested the rule of despotic foreigners, in fact, he said to Peter when he sent him to pay the Temple tax that he was doing it so as not to offend them. The church today is as far from conformed to the image of the one who started it as it is possible to imagine. The conforming has been to divisive and false images created by man of that he thinks a Christian should be and it has only lead the church to be a divisive institution in the world.

If you really care about what it is to be a Christian let it be that the word is fulfilled in you, that they shall know  you by your love for the brothers and sisters and forget the symbols altogether.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 27/10/2020

Do you believe in God?

There are several profoundly deep questions which I never hear discussed in church circles and which are, I believe, so fundamental to faith and the walk of faith that I cannot see how anyone gets out of the starting gate if they have not been considered.

I have often mentioned the sovereignty of God as one such. If we do not believe in the complete, total and all reaching sovereignty of God we are set on course to arrive at the wrong destination. We are sailors with a southern compass in the northern hemisphere. We have had a compass, but it does not work.

Another I would like you to consider is what it means to say, “I believe in God”. This question is rolled out and answered very quickly in Christian circles. It is the badge of membership, the secret handshake, the certificate of belonging to that greater group called ‘believers’;  those who say “I believe in God” or equally “I believe in Jesus”. But does anyone ever give thought to what they are saying? Do you mean, “I was brought up to acknowledge the potential existence of a greater power then me”? Do you mean, “I have come to conclude that there is a greater power then me”? Do you means, “I am willing to acknowledge that the greater power which is undeniable has some authority over me”? Or do you mean that “This greater power, which has undeniable authority over me, has the undeniable right to put me to death so that he may live through me and I will cooperate with that on a breath by breath basis, until it is not I who live but Christ who lives in me”?

You see, if it not the latter, you do not believe in God. Believing, like shama, is a multifaceted concept. It does not consist of making mental ascent to something, but in applying your whole life to be aligned with that which you say you believe. It is, of course, not an instant alignment, nor indeed, an instant metamorphosis; it is inch by inch, but it must be inch by inch or it is not at all. To claim belief in God and to then stay where you were, as unlike him as it is humanly possible to be, is not belief at all. To claim belief in God and to then develop in any direction but in his direct image is not belief either.

If we dare claim we believe then we must consider the implications of that claim; we must be willing to lose all to make it and we must be ready to die for it, because nothing sort of that will achieve the fulfilment of it. We must see the road ahead as, as lonely and hard as it is, we must see the bleak, struggle to let go of our lives and die at the hand of God before we can truly say, “Yes, I believe”. Only when we have seen what lies ahead and accepted it anyway will the Holy Spirit come alongside us and help us go through with out commitment to our belief. He will not, as so many seem to believe; or at least desire; come alongside and rescue us from that walk, nor make it a jolly holiday outing, nor carry our responsibilities and burdens for us. He will walk with us, encouraging us on, on our walk to death; lifting us up when we fall; empowering us when we are weak and calling us back when we stray, because his greatest goal for us is death. It is only through the death he has in store for us that we can fully, freely, truly live. There is no life this side of that death and he will never fail in his duty to get us to that death, that we might live.

Do you believe in God?

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 07/10/2020

Check the words.

A recent teaching opportunity brought home, yet again, to me and those with whom I am privileged to interact, that reading the Scripture CAREFULLY and checking what the original language says is vitally important if you are going to use the word as a guide.You wouldn’t use a map with no concept of N,S,E, or W, so why read the Scripture with next to no concept of what words mean?

The Scripture in question on this occasion was John 1:12, which says, in the KJV, “But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name”. The RSV and the WEB both say “power” and every other English translation says, “right”, that, therefore, means that the majority of readers will have been told they have the right to be the sons of God and it is no wonder, therefore, that this is what the majority of people believe. They received Jesus and, at once, they have the right to be sons of God.

However, if we look at the original language we see that the word here is, “exousia” which means, “the power of choice”. It means neither that you have some hidden power which makes you a son of God, nor that you have any God given right to be a son of God, it means that you now have the ability to CHOOSE to be a son of God. That, my friends, is a whole different kettle of fish!

Having believed on the name of Jesus you now have the ability to do what you could not do before and that is walk the narrow path with Jesus; being refined by the Holy Spirit; moulded and shaped by daily self sacrifice into the image of God’s dearly beloved son. This is neither a one time power given to you nor a right to have and possess, it is the ability to choose, daily, to be more like Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit within you.

If you think it is done and dusted, you are sorely mistaken. Keep walking, keep choosing, because the ability to so choose is something you do indeed now possess.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 05/10/2020

Evidence of being Spirit filled.

The subject of “filled with the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues” has recently come up and I think it is worth addressing here. This is a common statement and belief, based upon Acts 2. It is quoted that the disciples numbering 120 were in the upper room, where the Last Supper took place, when the Spirit came upon them like a mighty, rushing wind and they all spoke in unknown tongues in which they then preached the Gospel. It is, therefore, believed that the evidence of being Spirit filled is that you will speak in tongues.

Let’s look at the evidence.

After the resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples and, “Commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father”. He commanded that they remain in Jerusalem; not in a particular room. There is no mention of THE upper room where they ate together at Passover. Later it tells us, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place”. Where was that place? It does not tell us specifically. It was indeed a room somewhere in Jerusalem and it is even possible that it was the room where they gathered on Passover, but it does not expressly say so and it does not matter. So we cannot start building a house on that foundation.

Next it tells us, “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting. There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire and it sat upon each of them.” Again it is important to read what it actually says, not what we think it says or have been told it says. It says there was “a rushing mighty wind”, but it does not say that wind was the Spirit. It is entirely possible that it was, but that  is not stated and reading into a text things it does not say is a very dangerous habit to develop.

So we have the 120 gathered in a house in Jerusalem when a rushing, mighty wind is heard, cloven tongues of fire are seen and then they all speak in unknown tongues preaching the Gospel? Well, IS that what it says?
The very next verse, of Acts 2, tells us, “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”. It says “other tongues”; it does NOT say “unknown tongues” and this is clearly borne out by the fact that those who were gathered in Jerusalem heard them and understood them. “There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” Did you get that? “Every man heard them speak in his own language”.

They were clearly understood, because what they were speaking was other languages, other tongues of the men gathered in Jerusalem. These people were gathered for Shavuot, as required, and they would have come for near and far, they all spoke Aramaic, but they also each spoke their own language and this is what they were hearing now. I have friends whose first language is Afrikaans, Hindi, Bahasa Indonesia and French but they all speak English and that is the language in which we communicate. However, when I first met my Indonesian friend and spoke to him in Bahasa he nearly fell over. Not many people speak any Bahasa who are not Indonesian or Dutch, so he was very surprised that I could say anything in his own tongue. This is what happened in Acts 2. Many Jews, from all over the known world, were gathered in Jerusalem and were communicating with one another in Aramaic when they heard that there was a group of men who seemed to be speaking all sorts of languages. “They were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, “Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? How hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and the dwellers in Mesopotamia and in Judaea and Cappadocia in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God”.” They were hearing more than a dozen different languages being spoke and what they heard was the 120 ” speak(ing) in our tongues the wonderful works of God”. The group were not preaching the Gospel, they were praising God.

So where does the idea come from that these were unknown tongues?
Well, that is from Paul. He said, in 1 Corinthians, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels”, then, in the next chapter he talks about “unknown tongues” and ever since people have had the idea that there are unknown tongues, which are actually the language of angels and that is what they are speaking when they receive the gift of tongues. Let’s look again at this carefully.

Paul is writing a long and complex piece on the gifts of the Spirit and how they are to be used and he says, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit”. Many gift, one Spirit. He then lists the gifts and indicates how they are given to different people for different purposes, but they all come from the one Spirit. However, there has been infighting about why one had this and the other had that, so he goes not to say; “Are all apostles? All prophets? All teachers?  All workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” Clearly the answer is No. Then he says by all means desire the gifts listed here, but, “……yet shew I unto you a more excellent way”.

So some have one gift and some another, but there is a better way than these gifts. What could that be!? What could be better than speaking in tongues or healing the sick or raising the dead or moving mountains? At the beginning of chapter 13 Paul tells us.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

This piece of writing is called hyperbole (hi-per-bowl-y). Hyperbole is figures of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect. We might say “I could eat a horse I am so hungry”. We by no means mean that, we are just expressing the depth of our hunger in hyperbole. I’ll rewrite that quote to show you the hyperbole.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men AND OF angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand ALL mysteries and ALL knowledge and though I have ALL faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Though I bestow ALL my goods to feed the poor and though I give MY BODY TO BE BURNED, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing”.
Paul is saying that if he had every last gift of God and had it to the Nth degree he would be as nothing unless he had “charity”.  He is not saying that he has all these gifts; has all these gifts to that degree; nor even that anyone can have them, he is trying to get them to see that should you own the whole world and not have charity you are nothing.

So what is “charity”?
Charity is the word in English which the King James VI & I translators used to translate the Greek word agape. They had no word in English which would suffice and rejected ‘love’ because it was already used to express sentiments they felt were unbecoming of this setting and not accurate. They recognised that in the concept of love is an element of self-centeredness. Most times when we speak of love we are really speaking of how WE feel or how a certain person, thing or experience affects US. They wanted to convey, in their choice of word, the concept of giving, not receiving, because that is the focus of agape and so they  chose ‘charity’. Agape is a self sacrificial love, it give with no thought of return. It suffers long (not for a long time and then can’t take it any more, but eternally); it does not envy, or does it push itself forward, it never looks for acclaim, reward, praise or even notice; it has not one shred of arrogance about it. Agape is demure and constrained; it is not easily provoked; it at not time ever takes pleasure; in any shape or form; in that which is evil, but always take pleasure in the truth. It never focuses itself on ungodly things, but on God; it is full of the ability to bear suffering, it holds fast to faith and endurance, it never loses hope and it never, ever fails.

This, says Paul, is the more excellent way and this is what counts. Even if I had every language, known and unknown; every ability of God and even more besides, but I do not have agape, I am nothing. Nothing whatsoever, I am an empty pot banging on ground, making a din, but meaning absolutely nothing. Shakespeare borrowed this and put it in the mouth of MacBeth; one of Scotland’s greatest and longest reigning kings, slandered by that same Shakespeare; when he said, in Act 5 Scene 5 at a moment of utter despair,

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

Your life, my life, anyone’s life is, “….a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” if it does not feed on, pour out and show only agape.

THIS says Paul is the evidence of being filled with the Spirit. You may well speak in languages which you do not understand (which is what he means in chapter 14; not that they are unknown to anyone, but to you) until you turn blue; you may rearrange the whole geography of the earth; you may raise every person who have ever lived and died; you may heal every sick person on the entire globe, but if there is the slightest gain for you, you are nothing. It is only  when you have true agape, utterly self SACRIFICING love for God and others that you have anything at all.

Next time someone tells you that the evidence of being Spirit filled is speaking in tongues, remember, the Scripture does not teach that. The whole point of speaking in tongues to show you have the Spirit is entirely at dissonance with what the Scripture says is the only proof of being Spirit filled, a life overflowing with agape love. 
 

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 22/09/2020

Corporate responsibility.

Jesus said, that not one tiny stroke of the law would cease to be until heaven and earth were destroyed; yet the modern church would have us believe that the law has gone completely. This attitude has lead to so much wrong teaching that the church has careered off down a ravine instead of remaining on the narrow path. The very first law of God is that we are to have no other gods before his face. Firstly, this is a ruling to those who are his people, NOT to those who couldn’t give a monkey’s about him. Secondly, this is a primary ruling. It is among the first things he tells Moses and it is the basis upon which many other rules are laid. If you say you are one of God’s people, you had better be sure you have no gods besides or before him.

Most Christians would say that without a shadow of a doubt that is so; God is the first and only God in their lives and, almost to a man, they would be wrong. Not lying, perhaps, but wrong. The modern new age church encourages idolatry and this idolatry is no longer being tolerated.

You may say, “But what idols do we have in God’s face?” There can be so many. Your spouse, you family your job, your statue in the church or community. But there are SO many more which are hidden idols and the hidden ones are often the most treasured. Remember Rachael took the household gods from her father’s house and she lied and obstructed to keep him from finding them. These were treasured gods to her and they had to be kept hidden. One of the most favoured in today’s church is ‘my opinion of what Scripture says’. This has become a much worshipped god in the church, as they re-write Scripture to suite their needs and desires. Passages are picked at random, out of context to support the belief that we are already righteous, holy, perfect, saved and only to be blessed with every heavenly blessing. This twisted belief is then held inviolate and God’s word is ignored. He will not tolerate this. He is no longer tolerating this.

As only attitudes which this god invokes in his people is arrogance and pride. It is redolent in the new age church to the degree that is seen, not just suspected. The people of this god are puffed up, full of pride in their elevated statue before all men and the Almighty himself. There is no humility, there is no sacrifice. There is self seeking at every turn, as they seek wealth, comfort, health, prestige and superiority, all the while claiming to serve the only true God. This is no longer being tolerated. The church has brought God’s name into disrepute for decades and he is moving to redeem it. He is judging his people, whom he always judges first, and he is finding them wanting. He warned that he would destroy the proud, but they have not listened; he said he would pour out plagues upon the earth and he is, but it is because of the sins of HIS people that he is doing this, not because of the sins of sinners. Does the church care? We shall see. We shall see just how much attention they pay to his own word. Note well to whom he is speaking. Note who is doing what.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Is your land being ravaged by pestilence and plague? Here is the reason and here is the solution. If you are one of his people; if you are called by his name; humble yourself and pray; seek his face; turn from your wicked ways and then he will hear from heaven and heal your land.

Now that is a nice and easy sermon to preach to others and it may well be that it is others who need to hear it, but the Bible sets us an interesting example in Daniel and Ezra’s attitudes and approach. Neither of these men were responsible for the sins Israel was committing in their respective days. They were both profoundly committed to God and to his ways; they were law abiding God fearing man; yet they both humbled themselves and prayed as though they were the greatest of sinners and the reason is because they understood the principle of corporate responsibility.

The body of Christ is the New Testament version of corporate responsibility. Christ taught the principle of wholeness, of unity, of being one. He understood this principle from his Jewish upbringing in the law. The whole principle of Yom Kippur is corporate responsibility. On that day the sins of the PEOPLE, plural, were atoned for; it is one reason why Yom Kippur is called Yom Kippur….the Day of Atonements (plural). God understood, it was taught to the Israelites and we need to understand that what happens to one part of the whole affects the whole; what happens to one part of the body affects the whole body. We are all, like it or not, tarred with the same brush and we will all rise or fall together. If we have brothers and sisters who are idolatrous we will suffer along with them for their idolatry. Daniel and Ezra were both in exile for things they had not done. They were both upright before the Lord, yet they were both suffering the fate of the people who were not upright. When they came to pray for the salvation of their people they prayed thus:-

 “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, WE have sinned and done wrong. WE have been wicked and have rebelled; WE have turned away from your commands and laws.  WE have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9 emphasis mine)

“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because OUR sins are higher than OUR heads and OUR guilt has reached to the heavens…………..What has happened to us is a result of OUR evil deeds and OUR great guilt and yet, our God, you have punished us less than OUR sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this.” (Ezra 9 emphasis mine)

Both prophets saw themselves as part of the problem as much as part of the solution. They did not stand aloof and say, “Well, it was THEM!” they humbled themselves and prayed and turned from their wicked ways and sought the Lord.

WE, ALL OF US, who claim the Lord’s name are responsible for what is happening now because WE, ALL OF US, are one body and the body is rotten and cancerous. God is cutting out the cancer. Where will you be as he does, will you be on your knees repenting of corporate sins, or will you be looking down your nose as others are removed? Will you see yourself as part of the whole, or will you see yourself as unique? Will you see the problem at all or will you deceive yourself into thinking that the new age American church and its idolatry is just a figment of my imagination?

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 09/09/2020

Know your enemy.

I was asked, yesterday, to help a young lady in her struggle against sin. She had iterated a list of things to her Pastor and he was at a lost to help her. Finally, stumped, he asked me, “How do we help such people, overcome sin? They have to be able to fight it and win or there is no value in the Cross.”

I am sure if you are honest with yourself, you may think like the Pastor. After all, isn’t that the reason Jesus died; to give us the victory over sin?

In a word, no. HE won the victory over sin, we now have to win the victory over US. The fact that sin, per se, is defeated means that we can now wage war on our fleshly desires and win, but we are NOT warring against sin per se. If we think that we are, we will be shadow boxing, fighting an enemy who does not exist and constantly losing because there is no way to win.

Our war is to stop living as sin-controlled people and start living as Spirit-controlled people. We are to put to death our earthly desires and live by the desires of God. We are to turn our physical life into a spiritual one. This is done, not by waving a magic wand, or fighting past battles, but by a series of moral choices, hour by hour, day by day. We want this change to be instant and easy, but God does not desire any such thing. He knows that it is only when it is hard and constant that we will be truly sanctified. It is the daily slog up the hill of self denial that strengthens us and moulds us into the image of Jesus.

When we focus on sin as our enemy we are always fighting an outside enemy; our enemy is within. When we focus on sin as our enemy we are always fighting some one or thing else; our enemy is us.
Fighting sin takes away the responsibility for the choices we make, it moves the spotlight from our self to another and so we are constantly powerless to win. We are, quite simply fighting a battle already won, but not the battle in which we find ourselves.

If Bruce has attempted to fight the Battle of Stirling Bridge as he gathered his army on Bannockburn’s field he would not have had a hope of victory. He needed to know the enemy he was fighting at that moment and lay out a strategy to win that battle, not one won by Wallace long before.

We need to know our enemy in the battle for our souls; the enemy is us, but we can win this battle because the power which kept us bound has been defeated and we can now fight for and win the freedom of our souls one moral choice at a time.
 

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 04/09/2020

Two dirty words.

A few weeks ago I was speaking to a young man who had recently joined a new church. When I say I was “speaking” to him, I use the term in its loosest possibly application, as speaking, nowadays, seems to require rather a lot of typing in order to maintain proper social distancing. Anyway, he was telling me that what he liked about his last church was that the pastor was very encouraging. He always had something to say which made one feel buoyed up and good about oneself, but that of late this young man was no longer getting the same feelings from the service.

In talking to him it seemed that he had changed churches quite often for much the same reason as he was changing now; the ‘feel good’ factor has ceased to be quite as good as it was. He also mentioned that there were four different organisations from whom he received a daily word, which was meant to encourage and build up. He sent me a selection of them and, indeed, they were designed to buoy up and make one feel that one could tackle anything and that one was special.

However, despite all this ‘encouragement’ he was really struggling with life and his inner growth. Things just weren’t going as he felt they should for him and he was having a hard time staying encouraged and positive.

I asked him a very direct question, as is my wont, which, initially made him think I was angry with him. Indirect communicators usually think that direct communicators are angry, because they would only ask direct questions if they were incandescent with rage! But once we had sorted that out, my direct question really shook him. He said, that no one had ever asked him that before and he really didn’t know what to say.

I asked him, “Have you ever gone before God and repented of your sinful state and any specific sins which lodge themselves in your mind?”

He said he had prayed “The Sinners’ Prayer” (whatever that is) when he was ‘saved’ but other than that , no. His last but one pastor said that that was all the repentance a Christian required. So I asked him what he did when he sinned. He said he was a Christian, so he doesn’t sin. Clearly he was very confused.

Christians sin just like everyone else. What they cannot do and be a Christian, is to return to a sin filled life. Those two are VERY different. Everyone sins and those who say they do not are liars and the Spirit of God is not in them. Those who return to a life of sin cannot have the life of God because they have returned to the death of sin. But even those who are walking with God will sin from time to time and it is by no means equated with falling from grace or being apostate. However, to be restored to the life of God, fully, that person needs to repent. They need to stop, recognise they are going the wrong way, turn around and go in the right direction. Recognising that they were going the wrong way because they were drawn down that path by the lusts in them, which they chose to follow rather than the instruction of God, should cause them to confess this to God and apologise to him. For some reason, this is harder for many than having a limb amputated. Why would this be? Pride.

Pride and its younger brother Shame keep people from confessing their sins to God. It seems to go right past their understanding that he already knows what they did and is waiting for THEM to admit it, so he can forgive them. Their refusal, or ignorance of the need to, confess and repent keep them barrelling down the wrong road. This is where this young man was. He had a particular sin weighing on him, like a Sarsen Stone, but he had been told he had been forgiven of all his sins, that he could not sin and that repentance was only for sinners, of which he was no longer one. This bundle of lies had and was continuing to keep him in bondage to the thing from which he thought encouragement would free him. If he just heard one more uplifting sermon or read one more ‘thought for the day’ he would finally break through into the sunny uplands. It did not and never would happen.

When we finished talking I told him he needed to confess. But he needed to confess TO GOD. NOT to his church or pastor or any other person. Go, quietly and humbly, before GOD and confess your sin. Go with the shame and self loathing this sin is producing in you; this self loathing NO encouragement will ever erase; and admit to all that you have done. Then examine your heart and, if it is in your heart NEVER to do that again, repent. You have to be fully determined never to go that path again before you can repent, but if you are, tell God that is your intent. Then ask him to forgive you; not because you deserve it, because you do not, but because he is so merciful he provided an atonement sacrifice for you, so he could forgive you. You will know when you have been forgiven and when you are, give thanks; because now you are free of your massive burden.

Sin is meant to be a burden to your soul. It is meant to make you feel wretched and broken. This is how it tells you it is there and how it drives you to God. No amount of encouraging messages will lift that burden from your soul; only the merciful forgiveness of God will do that and that only comes though confession and repentance. Confession and repentance have become dirty words in today’s church, they have been robbed of all their power by those who have misused them and the next generation who have dismissed them; but it is time to reinstate them. The ONLY way to God’s merciful forgiveness is through confession and repentance. They are the keys to freedom of the soul and the first step is to honestly face your sin.
 

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 23/08/2020

Taking to heart.

Sh’ma, as we have seen in the previous post, means to “hear, understand, take to heart and act upon”, but it is very obvious, when you look around you, or (worse) look within you, that we all, from time to time, or by habit, “hear and understand…..”, but we do not “….take to heart and act upon”. At other times we, “hear, understand and take to heart…”, but we do not, “….act upon”.

When it comes to God’s words to us, the lack of full application is very detrimental; when it comes to the world’s words to us, it is highly advantageous.

The words of those who would offend, hurt or demean us can be heard and understood with no real damage at all, but when we take them to heart they start to fester and destroy us, when we then act upon them we can start to destroy others too. Letting the words of hurt stop at our necks is a VERY GOOD idea.

God’s words, however, heard and understood, but never taken to heart have no life for us. They need to get into our hearts and grow there, bringing healing, life, peace, joy and much more which our Father has for us. When we go the next step and act upon them, we bring the same to others.

The process of taking to heart and acting brings healing to them and to us. When we are 100% in the right and are abused by others our ‘natural’ tendency is to put them in their place, to respond in kind, to be vindictive, just like them and when we do, but when we do we have gone over to the enemy’s camp and are fighting on his terms. We have not taken the words of God to heart and then acted upon them, we have taken the words of the world to heart and acted upon them. God’s words, taken to heart actually protect us. They protect us from attacks and from fighting for the wrong side. They are our armour, but only when they have passed the tight narrows called, Our Neck. Those narrows can be very stiff and unyielding to the words of God. Stiff necked people will never surrender their control over what is accepted into the heart and what is not, they will always do things their way and suffer the consequences. Those who are willing to take to heart God’s words will find life will spring up from them as they grow there.

No words, from God or the world, will bear fruit if we do not take them to heart and then act upon them. If we are reading the Scripture with our heads there will be no fruit; if we are hearing words of council, correction, instruction or teaching and never take them to heart and act upon them they will not have the slightest degree of value to us; we will continue on the wrong path. If we never take the words of the world to heart we will not be hurt and offended, if we do not act upon them we will not hurt and offend others.

We cannot take to heart the words of both God and the world at the same time, so we need to chose which get in and which do not. We need to guard our hearts from the words which will bear pain and suffering, which will fester and damage and, ultimately, damage others. The concepts of “hearing, understanding, taking to heart and acting upon” and “guard your heart” go very much hand in glove.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 20/08/2020

True Sacrifice.

Under the Law there were to be two daily sacrifices offered to God, the morning and the evening sacrifice of a lamb. It was to be a continual sacrifice. The word continual in Hebrew means “continually” and so it is arguable that the sacrifice was to burn continually, or that its offering was never to stop. As with so many ambiguous word in Scripture I am inclined to go for both. This sacrifice is called, the burnt offering. In Hebrew this means “ascent, stairway or steps,” and its root word means “to go up, climb or ascend.” The smoke of it was said, by God, to be a sweet aroma to him. This offering was placed upon the altar at sunrise and in the evening, so that there was a continual sweet aroma going up to God. The altar of incense was a place from where it was said the prayers of the priests ascended to God in the form of the smoke from the burning of incense. Prayer and praise as continuous.

The prophets foresaw a time when there would be nowhere from which to offer the sacrifices and incense. Hosea talks of the sacrifices of our lips. Paul admonished the saints to become as “living sacrifices…unto God”. Jerimiah said “There shall be heard….the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:
“Praise the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His mercy endures forever”—
and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,’ says the Lord”

David says, “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” God said he did not want dead animals, but the praise of our lips from pure hearts.

Jesus and Paul were of one mind in saying that the Law was good and perfect and holy and would not pass away until heaven and earth passed away. But, due to a change in the Priesthood, the Law has also changed. This means that the continual sacrifice which was to be before the Lord is now praise and not dead animals. With that in mind, ask yourself, when and how often do I praise God? The point of the question is not to find ways of beating yourself up or becoming legalistic, but to ascertain just how much to do you praise him.

Praise is the antidote to all sorts of trouble; God, himself said that when he received it he would return the exiles. This praise was NOT in response to being returned but in response to the privilege of knowing God at all and would result in return. Many will praise God when a great thing happens in their life, but they will not praise him when things are going awry. If God is God and worthy of praise then he is worthy of praise continually, not matter what, no matter where.

The priests were to sacrifice in the morning and in the evening not in response to happenings or emotions, but in response to God’s command; in response to God’s very being. Empty law keeping brings no pleasure to God, but when we turn our hearts towards him it is expected that they would sing with praise. Personally, I cannot understand how they would not! If you find that you complain more than you praise, or you just barrel through life with no thought of praise, this might be a good time to reconsider and to take time to praise him. Even if you can find no good thing in your life, if you say you belong to him you should have that alone for which to praise.

As Habakkuk said, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” The Psalmist echoed, three times, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” Let us, with them, offer CONTINUAL, sacrifices of praise to our God, NO MATTER WHAT.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 20/08/2020

Be careful how you hear.

Jesus said, “Be careful how you hear”. Have you ever thought about that statement? How can you be careful HOW you hear? You hear or you do not hear but the mechanism of hearing is not something with which you are be careful or otherwise, it just happens. Doesn’t it?

If we were to quote Jesus in a sort of half Hebrew/half English sort of way we would quote him as saying, “Be careful how you Sh’ma” and instantly everything becomes crystal clear.

Sh’ma is usually translated as ‘hear’ or ‘listen’ but it doesn’t mean that in the way we would mean it in English. To Sh’ma means “to hear, understand, take to heart and act upon”. It requires the full gamut of its meaning before you have understood it at all. This is why Solomon, after a lifetime of ignoring his own advice, said, ” Guard your heart above all else”. Guard, he was saying, what you take to heart, because what you have taken into your heart you will act upon and, if what you have taken to heart is wrong, you will act wrongly.

If you have heard something which supports your already erroneous belief, you will store up in your heart that confirmation and then act upon it as though it were truth, when it is, in fact, lies. You will be lead astray and possibly into danger.

Be very careful how you hear. You will find that all the issues of life flow out of your heart and what is in there began with what you listened to. Be very careful how you hear.

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