Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sunday Sermon 27 July @ 9am — Stand Up-Stand Up for Jesus

Stand Up-Stand up for Jesus

Sean Cloete — Elder

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight Lord – my rock and my redeemer. This is the day that the Lord has made. We shall rejoice and be glad in it.

During the week I ran into a friend of mine – whom I hadn’t seen at church for a month or so.It turned out that he had been away on holiday – so no cause for alarm. In conversation he told me that he was fighting with God because God had not answered his prayers.

I told him that I thought there was nothing wrong with fighting with God because in a close relationship there are often differences of opinion – and in healthy relationships we need to talk about things that bug us.

It reminded me of a sermon I preached a month ago in the 2nd Service about the Voice of God – and how we can hear Him. If you are waiting for Him to whisper in your ear ….. it may take while and this may not be the way He wants to speak to you.

Also, when you are going through something hard – and wonder where God is. Remember the Teacher is always quiet during a test. Maybe the time is not right for him to speak to you yet.

Winston Churchill once said – If you’re going through hell — Keep going.

These words could just have just as easily have been written by Paul as he battled along on one of his missionary journeys into the wild beyond.

God is never early – never late. He is always on time. He knows what we are all going through. And He knows when the time is right. Most often God speaks to us through His Word.

So this is why it is crucial for us to know the Word of God.

Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians – By knowing God through His written Word and His spoken Word; we can recognize the schemes of the enemy so that the devil is less likely to outwit us.The devil can imitate God but he is a created being – just like we are.

There is no reason to be afraid of him. He was defeated when Jesus Christ died on the Cross. Love is the antidote for what the world can throw at us – and Love is something that the Devil will never have.

The Reverend Dudley Tying was an American Pastor, who served in the Church of the Epiphany, in Philadelphia in the middle of the 19th century. He was an outspoken, powerful and uncompromising preacher, known for taking strong stands against evil, no matter what the cost. The members of his church were very unhappy about his forthright statements and his clear stance against slavery.

His sermon regarding the evils of slavery in America is still in print today.This sermon resulted in him being removed from the church he was preaching in at the time. On Tuesday, March 30, 1858, Tyng preached a sermon on Exodus 10:11 – go now you that are men, and serve the Lord – to a large congregation at a YMCA mass meeting. The good Reverend delivered his message to 5,000 men that day. More than 1,000 of those men responded to the altar call, to receive Jesus as their Savior. Just over a week later, the Reverend Tyng lay dying as a result of a tragic accident. His final statement, whispered to friends and family, was Let us all stand up for Jesus.

The Sunday following the Reverend’s death his friend the Presbyterian Pastor George Duffield preached a sermon on Ephesians 6:14 – Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, as a final tribute to the words of his friend the good Reverend. He finished up his sermon with a six-stanza poem. Copies of the poem were printed and distributed to the congregation. One of the pamphlets fell into the hands of the editor of a local Baptist Newspaper. The editor was so impressed with the verses that he printed them in his Newspaper.

The poem Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, has since become one of the most recognized hymns in all English-speaking Christendom.

There is a common thread that runs through this morning’s readings. The writers, David, Matthew, Paul and Peter have a common message – if you look carefully.

God’s Love for us. But His Love doesn’t come cheap.

God wants to save us.

  • From the world.
  • From Satan
  • From Death

Jesus did all the work for us on a cross 2000 years ago. All we have to do is believe. Jesus died for us. And because of his Resurrection – we are saved. And our reward is Eternal Life.

As Christians we need to make a Stand for our Faith. We can’t go on pretending that everything here on earth is fine and dandy. What are we going to do about it?

Why does the world we live in have such a blinkered view of Christians?

As a result of this the world believes that:

  • It’s not cool to be a Christian.
  • It’s boring being a Christian..
  • How on earth can you have any fun if you’re a Christian?
  • The world doesn’t know – and doesn’t care.
  • And because they don’t know – how can they believe

In its wisdom the world is moving away from Christianity – and many people are moving away without knowing it. Do we know what is happening in the world? Or maybe we’ve just let Stuff Get In the Way of Our Relationship with God!!

We let the world get the better of us – we become tired, stressed, overworked, afraid or just busy being busy. For most people Sunday has become just another day.The view that many people have is that there are other things we can spend our free time doing.

The word on the street is that other religions have become more popular because they are more interesting.But these other religions are all created by man – and not God.And man has convinced his fellow man that this is the way to go. If you walk down the road right now you will find more people at the market, out shopping – and there will be more people in the coffee shops right now that in Church.These are the people that need to be reached.

So – how should Christians stand up for their faith in such an anti-Christian world?

As Christians, the two things we can do to stand up for Christ are to live according to His Word and grow our own knowledge of Him. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus said – Let your light shine before me.

This means that we should live and act in a way that supports what we read in His Word.We should also arm ourselves with knowledge, both of the Gospel and of the world around us. Critics of Christianity are becoming more vocal – Bible in Schools story on the North Shore as documented in the press.This is partly because there are many people who do not believe in God or understand the truth about Him at all.

The vast majority of those who do not believe don’t care enough to bother believers. The few angry, vocal, bitter unbelievers make enough noise to seem more numerous than they are.

Most non-believers have no personal reason to see Christians negatively, but they pay too much attention to the loud anti-Christians so they just assume this to be true.This is something we have been warned to expect.

The best thing to do in this case is to fight back with a passage from the Bible that addresses the situation.True Christians are known by their actions. In Matthew 7 we read – by their fruit you will recognize them. And remind critics that absolutely no one lives without sinning at all – Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

An important thing to remember is that no one, no matter how persuasive, can force anyone to believe anything he doesn’t want to believe. No matter what the evidence, no matter what the argument, people will believe what they want to believe. Conviction is not a Christian’s job – the Holy Spirit will do that. What is really disappointing to me as a Christian – is that there are many atheists who have who have read the entire Bible looking for ammunition against Christians …. BUT ….. there are many Christians who have hardly read the Bible at all. Knowledge is the weapon, and we become bullet proof when we let Christ direct us in how to use it. So we need to know our Bibles.

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about Standing up for Jesus.

 1 Corinthians 16:13

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

1 Corinthians 15:1
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Ephesians 3:16

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

Ephesians 6:10
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

The Apostles

Have you ever thought back to what you read about Jesus’s Disciples in the Gospels – and the mistakes they made? These were the same men who became the Apostles and were prepared to die for the message they brought to the unbelievers and for their faith.

As Disciples they were unreliable, prone to falling asleep when they were keeping watch, they let Jesus down frequently, were guilty of not listening or not trusting Him. Peter denied Him, Thomas doubted Him and He had to handle the ambitions of James and John – amongst other things.

In fact – when Jesus was with them it was if they were just along for the ride. They didn’t have to think or do anything for themselves. So, how did they go from frightened, timid followers of Jesus before his death, to bold evangelists willing to die preaching his resurrection.

God transformed them from Disciples to Apostles – He changed them into different people to the ones they were before. It was only then that they woke up and realised why Jesus had chosen them and what they had to do. There were no more mistakes after this Transformation.

They took the Gospel to the known world and even beyond the confines of the Roman Empire – they went to :

  •  All of Roman occupied Europe – including Spain, Britain and Ireland.
  • Parts of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Armenia.
  • Egypt
  • Turkey
  • Libya
  • Iran
  • Ethiopia
  • Mauritania
  • China
  • India

There were 13 Apostles in total:

But what became of these Great Men of Faith?

  1. Simon Peter – Crucified in Rome
  2. Andrew – Crucified in Greece.
  3. James (son of Zebedee) – Beheaded in Jerusalem
  4. John – the only who lived to old age but the Romans did try and kill him by throwing him into a pot of burning oil. Died of natural causes on the island of Patmos.
  5. Phillip – Beaten, Crucified then Beheaded in Turkey.
  6. Bartholomew (also called Nathaniel) – Beaten then Crucified in Armenia.
  7. Thomas – Stabbed in India.
  8. Matthew – Beheaded in Ethiopia
  9. James (son of Alphaeus) – Beaten to death in Egypt.
  10. Jude (also called Thaddaeus) – Beaten to death in Syria.
  11. Simon(the Zealot) – Crucified in Persia
  12. Matthias (the Apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot) – Stoned to death in Jerusalem.
  13. Paul (also known as Saul of Tarsus) – Beheaded in Rome.

Even today people are still dying for their faith around the world.

It has been estimated that in 2012 approximately 146 000 Christians were put to death because of their faith.

Most of these deaths happened in:

  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Iran
  • Egypt
  • Sudan
  • China
  • Afghanistan
  • Indonesia
  • Somalia
  • Laos

No one – except Christians said anything. We are so fortunate to live in a country where there are no restrictions.We can worship what we want and where we want. But the majority of us choose to turn our backs on Christianity.

Why is this? What are you doing about this …… and how far are YOU prepared to go for your FAITH ??

May God Bless us all

Amen

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Sunday sermon 13 July – the parable of the Sower

READINGS:

Isaiah 55: 10-13; Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23

SERMON

So another of those parables – nice stories that Jesus told – here we go again, you may say. I’ve heard it all before.

Watch this VIDEO and you will remember I think:

We know all this. We preach the good news – share the story – and so many people just don’t stay the distance!

Here’s a scarier video which our kids watched in church:

When I asked them about the lesson from this version of the parable one bright lad said: “Don’t be a seed!” I love kids!

Either way, the interpretation provides an excellent sermon outline, of several points:

1) Seed that falls on the path — when the word is heard, but not really understood.

2) Seed that falls on rocky ground — when the word is received with initial enthusiasm, but without the putting-down of roots through regular devotional practice.

3) Seed that falls among weeds — when temptations choke out faith.

4) Seed that falls on good soil and thrives.

Isn’t this the parable of the sower? We know all this!

Can’t we learn a lesson about agriculture here? Or at least apply the principles to the Christian life or the church? In fact – if we see it as a parable about the success and failure of the church – then it can be a useful way of explaining why we are not always successful. The early church would have found it useful in understanding what was happening when people turned away.

  • The preacher is the sower
  • His sermons are good or bad seeds? Well one has to assume they are Kingdom seeds…
  • And if he fails – well is it not something to do with the people who listen. It must be their fault, surely?

You can see where that goes. It can be used to justify why people don’t believe. The modern world is very bad and “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it (the message or word of the preacher), making it unfruitful.” Of course all of that is partly true.

Parables are interesting though. Most parables are not simple stories – as if Jesus were speaking to poor illiterate Galileans or rural folk with stories because they’re easy. They’re actually quite challenging – most are not explained at all. The word “parable” literally means that which is thrown alongside other things – thus creating the possibility of a comparison. The listeners had to come to their own conclusions usually.

And that’s probably a good description about preaching generally – the individual takes something from it and hopefully takes it to heart. It’s not just the exchange of information. Its God speaking – amazingly even through me – into other lives. And like a hose pipe over a bunch of people – different people get wet from different drops of water.

SO WHAT ABOUT THIS ONE?

What’s it mean? What’s it really about? Is there something we are missing here?

  • It’s a story – a parable about soils! Yet it is still called the parable of the sower!
  • And of course it’s also a very funny story! It’s a classic TUI advert. A farmer would say at the end when Jesus says: “He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” – Yeah right! A good return would have been five fold. Or it could be a Specsavers ad – did he count right? – did he not mean 10, 6 or 3 times what was sown?
  • The story has a strange and almost unbelievable abundance thrown in to this account – when this works it really does work! Yay farmer! Yay sower! Yay soil!
  • But there is also a recklessness about the sower. If it is really about the sower – and the sower is actually God – then surely he lacks some insight into agriculture. He seems to chuck the seed in strange places – why the path for example? Why amongst thorns? Why waste precious seed?There is a strange risk-taking and almost wastage of the seed that perhaps speaks to us of the Sower’s character?

IF IT’S JUST ABOUT SOIL Then we could all simply thank God for the seed and praise ourselves for being good soil. Reminds me of another story about a self-righteous man praying at the temple. But it’s more complicated than that too. Even if you have good soil – and the seed – there are other things required – water, nurture, provision of fertilizer and resilience in a storm. It’s not just about the soil.

You can see how a parable can cause you to wrestle with the possibilities. The LISTENERS would have only heard the story – and would be scratching their heads too. The disciples privately get the explanation or interpretation which gives us the broader view:

The path – if it does not take root the evil one snatches the seed away

Now another person is included – the Devil

Rocky ground – the ground is shallow and the plant doesn’t take root, and it fails when trouble and persecution come along

This would have made sense to the early church

The thorns – well that’s about the man who hears the message but worries of this life and particularly the deceitfulness of wealth make it unfruitful

This especially makes sense to us – but the desire for wealth is not new!

  • Jesus – speaking 2000 years ago – also told his listeners “you cannot love God and a wealth” (or mammon).
  • Paul – to Timothy –reminds him that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10)

The good soil. Well nothing is said about resisting the evil one, persevering in troubled times and when persecuted – and not worrying about life’s troubles or not being tempted by wealth. It simply says – the good soil is about this – well let me quote verse 23: But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.

He or she hears the word and understands it! The penny drops. Why?

Well it’s all to do with who the sower is.  Where your inner life comes from. And the sower is Jesus – or God. Because it’s a parable about the Kingdom. And that means a completely different understanding of the point of life altogether!

It’s not about the church. Like the pastors’ sermon title joke which goes like this: “Be good soil, and give us your money” and she’ll be right!

It’s about listening to the parable the way you should – without the interpretation in the second part. Remember that the disciples only got the details afterwards.

Michael Green in his book “Matthew for today” suggests that listening to the parable is like looking at yourself in a mirror and asking – what is happening in my life? Is God’s Word bouncing off me like the seeds on the path? And so on… You get the point.

If it is a mirror – then what are you seeing when you hear this – is the word of God been eaten by birds in your life? Or is it growing in you? How do you cope with what people say about this Kingdom word that is changing the way you see things? Has your life become too wordly? Have you compromised for the sake of reputation too?

And what about the temptation to obsess over the things of this life – and especially wealth? Remember it’s the deceitfulness of wealth that’s the issue? It tricks you into letting it grow in your heart?

Or do you get it? Do you understand?  Is the Kingdom of God coming alive in your life?

You’ll suddenly find a new appreciation for a different kind of fruitfulness.

And as I said to a colleague yesterday while we were mopping up water after our flood here –  and the meditation group was trying a new kind of bible meditation (while working) –

What if we are really all of those soils? That they represent different times of our lives? And that we are at risk of becoming hard ground – like a path, or shallow ground – like the rocky soil. I certainly know that we veer towards the soil with weeds that choke us – temptation for accumulating worldly wealth can come along at any stage in life.

Another friend and I were talking about this on Friday morning. You know you can set out in life with the wrong priorities – wanting to accumulate worldly wealth – or you can get obsessed with it later when you are running out of working years and the pressure to have a retirement plan builds.

“… but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it (the seed), making it unfruitful.”

Are you and I really fruitful in God’s Kingdom? Great question.

Let this parable challenge you too!

Amen!

 

Prayer For The Day 

Prepare our hearts, O God, to accept your word.
Fertilize the soil with your Spirit.
Cultivate it with your presence.
Water it with your love.
But, more than that, help us accept responsibility
to be active listeners,
opening our hearts before you. Amen.

 

 

Evening service at Fairview Lifestyle Village, 6 July 2014 – I will give you rest; you will find rest for your souls

Reading: Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:29  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“I will give you rest”

“You will find rest for your souls”

SERMON

At our two services this morning we looked at what it means to be yoked to Jesus. I promised that this evening we would explore the “rests” that are spoken of in this passage.

In short: we come to him because we are physically weary and heavy laden, because he offers physical rest. But then we find a deeper rest – for our souls.

C H Spurgeon and Michael Green both write about these rests – the first in a sermon  dated 24 May 1903, and the second in a commentarty “Matthew For Today” published in 1988.

Michael Green is a great preacher and writer from this century. He writes about evangelism at length. He also writes here in this commentary about the exclusive claims of Jesus. Not only does He say “I am the way, the truth and the life” in John 14, but in this amazing passage Jesus says this:

Mat 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Most prophets would point to God as the one to whom we are to come or go.

But no – Jesus says “Come to me”. I will give you what you need. (Add his other sayings – about the bread of life, living water, the gate, the door, the good shepherd, and you soon have a strong argument for a very exclusive claim).

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

What kind of tiredness is this? Who is he inviting?

This first invitation or directive is to those who need to come to faith in Christ! And through Christ to come to God.

This is the rest we find. We are tired from the struggles of life – weary from trying to make sense of it all (my words) – tired of travelling alone and fighting our battles alone.

We come to Jesus the Saviour – and find rest.

At the time Jesus spoke these words to the weary and the heavily burdened, especially inviting them in – there would have been something more worth noting here beyond the obvious rest for tiredness (according to Green). In those days there were Greeks and Jews that Jesus encountered.

Michael Green notes that the Greeks would have been exhausted by the search for truth which they had been engaged in for centuries without resolution. Greeks who if they discovered anything about God – still believed that you couldn’t really tell anything about that God. He was quite unknowable, and searches for truth could lead to despair.

As for the Jews of the day, says Green, they had a religion which they found to be a great burden. Matthew 23:4 makes it clear to us that the scribes and Pharisees were responsible for binding “heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay(ing) them on men’s shoulders.”

Jesus was quite direct in his critique of the religious leaders who made the ordinary people’s lives a burden. The rabbinical teachings at the time suggested that Jews were to be yoked to the law – and that was a burden in the sense that you could not keep so many laws. And some of the interpretations were very picky! They did become quite untenable and unbearable.

Green suggests that Jesus comes to lift the burdens of the aching backs of the people of the day – offering them rest – the end of the striving for a philosphically unknowable God or an unreachable obedience of or compliance  with the Law.

Jesus offers Greeks and Jews alike peace and fulfilment, and the sense of being put right with God – ending their respective search for truth and righteousness.

Both Green and Spurgeon speak of the second rest however.

Spurgeon says this: “There are two rests for a Christian to enjoy. The first is the rest Christ gives him when he believes. The next is the rest that he finds when he takes Christ’s yoke upon him. These two rests will be distinctly enjoyed by anyone who comes to Christ and learns of Him…

Spurgeon suggests that If we are bound to Christ (like an apprentice used to be bound to his master in those days) we will find a newer and yet deeper and fuller rest for our souls.

There is a sweetness – a satisfaction – in learning from Jesus. In being coupled to him like two animals yoked together. In sharing the load with Him if you like.

John Ortberg, a current preacher and writer, suggests that being yoked to Christ is really what we used to call in the old days being IN COMMUNION WITH GOD – in a relationship with Him. We spoke about this at our morning services today.

In that close proximity with Jesus and through him with God a number of things are real for us

  • He has promised never to leave us for forsake us. (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5 following Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:5).
  • We are in step with Him – our lives, our relationships and attitudes are surely affected by being so close. (See John 15:4 and Galatians 5:25)
  • And being close – as Spurgeon suggests – we observe his grace and love in suffering and pain (in the garden wrestling with pain and death ahead – on the cross carrying the burden of our sins and the sins of the whole world). (See Matthew 26:39-39; Luke 23:34)

Michael Green’s view of the deeper rest (for our souls) is therefore our training as disciples – as we figure out how to be like Jesus and respond to our challenges in life like Jesus.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEED FOR THESE RESTS IN THIS GENERATION?

This is a restless generation. Unlike many before us, we are more connected and networked through media, internet, mobile offices and wireless connections than ever before. Information is freely available on the information super highway. We have all the modern contraptions – and the most developed technology, science, and medical progress of any generation.

But people are still restless. The quest for pleasure, or the will to pleasure (following Sigmund Freud’s psychotherapy) the desire for power, or the will to power (following Alfred Adler’s individual psychology) still motivate many in our society. But it was Viktor Frankl from the same Viennese tradition of psychotherapy who spoke the will to purpose or meaning (known as logotherapy). He was well qualified to speak of this powerful influence, writing his book “Man’s search for Meaning ” in just nine days after being released from the concentration camps. He knew that you could live through anything if you had something to live for.

Jesus gives us that kind of purpose when we are yoked to Him. Someone to live for, and even for many in this generation where the persecuted church proliferates – for many someone whose name they may die for.

What us the key difference between the rabbis’ calling people to be yoked to the law – and our being yoked to Jesus?

Green says that it is the yoke of love – not of duty.

We bear the yoke of the liberated – not the obligated.

And that makes all the difference.

One of the greatest stories in many years is the story of the man who escaped an English rest home recently when the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-day were happening. His carers thought he had caught the bus to town and a search began when he didn’t come home.

What they didn’t know is that he had jumped on a ferry to join his old unit in Normandy to celebrate that liberation again!

And that’ s the key! Liberation is worth celebrating!

That’s the yoke of the liberated which binds us to the Liberator – the Redeemer Jesus who by His conquest sets us free from our enemies – Sin, Satan and Death itself!

Rest for our souls incorporates all these rich concepts!

Thanks be to God!

Amen!

Sunday sermon @ 10.30am, 6 July 2014 – Come unto me, take my yoke upon you

Readings: Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30;

Message.

Our eldest – at pre-school – had to deal with being a pastor’s kid living next door to the church. So he saw me going off for funerals and weddings. On one occasion I asked him “what happens when people die?”. He responded: “they get married” (as opposed to buried!).

In the Gospel reading today Jesus proves again to be a good observer of human beings – in this case children.  We read his words in Matthew 11, verse 16 and 17:They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:  “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’”

It’s a game of weddings and funerals – like my son’s mix up between marriage and dying (and they are very close actually) – the kids must have had a game in which they pretended. I’m sure you did this as a child. Playing house, or in my sister’s case “teacher and schools” – the crayons were sorted into their different sizes and you have an instant school with different year groups! She is still loving being a teacher!

Imagine children saying – “we played a flute for you and you did not dance” is like saying – “it’s not fair! (when playing cowboys). “I shot you and you didn’t die”. It’s a wedding and you’re supposed to be happy! We’re playing funerals – and you’re not crying! Typical kids. In fact in those days the kids did play weddings and funerals. Those were the public rituals they would have seen and acted out. Except in Jesus’ illustration they were surly and unresponsive to the one calling them – “come and play”

One commentator on this passage says that for pastors – it all sounds horrible familiar! You can’t please people!!! Good point – pleasing God is what really counts.

Of course Jesus was really talking about the adults of his day and not the children! They complained about John the Baptist and Jesus! Couldn’t please them all! The complained because of Johns ascetic lifestyle (withdrawing from the world and living in a desert) – and muttered because Jesus was too friendly with sinners (he made friends with everyone! Tut Tut!) Or to put it differently: John is too holy; Jesus is not holy enough. John was too strong on repentance! Jesus to strong on acceptance! Sounds familiar to me.

The passage ends with this statement: “But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” This really is the same as “by their fruits you will know them”. In short – the people who complained only had to see what was happening – Matthew 11:5, a little earlier in the passage, tells us; “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

If you want to see whether Jesus was the one (despite his association with the outcasts of the day) then you have to bear witness to his miracles AND listen to his teachings of course.

It’s the teaching that really interests me in this passage:

Mat 11:25  At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Mat 11:26  Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. Mat 11:27  “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Mat 11:28  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:29  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Mat 11:30  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Firstly Matthew 11:25-26: “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

If you want to know what people believe – listen to their prayers.  “At that time” refers to the verses before – which are left out in the reading today. Like the comparison between weddings and funerals, between John and Jesus, people choose their responses. The cities that Jesus referred to are judged by whether they believe or not! In fact the three cities that failed to believe – says Jesus – will be judged more severely than Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, which will be judged because of their evil ways!

In the context of this pronouncement Jesus prays: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

I spent five years in a school – where the focus was on learning rather than wisdom. The truth is that people do set themselves up as wise and learned. And since being back in pastoral ministry for over three years (and in the 19 years in parishes before) – I have found the same thing in churches. There are always those who set them up as knowledgeable and superior.

Jesus in his prayer reflects a clear understanding that the Lord of Heaven and Earth hides these things from the wise and learned.

It is because he doesn’t want them to know the truth?

Or is it rather that their way of going at things is counter-productive. One can only guess that Jesus is referring to religious leaders of his day. I don’t think Jesus minded people using their brains. He probably had issues with people who allowed their thinking to be distorted. And more than ever – he had issues with people who were given the truth – like the Torah – and missed the point of it all.

Isn’t it amazing and lovely that it was for the Father’s good pleasure that little children receive the truth! The children of this church are a delight – not just because they are smart, which they are – but because they believe what we tell them.

The children at Messy church are also a delight. I got a big hug from one on Friday – I only see him once a month. I’m sure the hug represents the acceptance and love he finds among our team of creative people there.

Children  have open hearts. And it helps when parents believe and model faith. It used to break my heart when I worked with 5 years-olds some of whom were cynical and said “there is no God”.  I guess they were imitating their parents.

And now verse 27:

Mat 11:27  “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Verse 27 is a fascinating verse. It’s been described as a “bolt from the Johannine heaven” because its sounds more like John! It’s a great Presbyterian verse!

It places all the emphasis on God’s choosing – the sovereignty of God! We’ve seen already in our conversation at a young adults focussed sermon (they chose the theme) that the conversation about free will and election is complicated and challenging!

What is lovely here is that the relationship between Father and Son is quite unique and special. And think of it this way – we have a glimpse of the amazing love of God through Jesus.

In what way do you think Jesus knew the Father? I should think that the extent of the amazing profound redeeming love of the Father was known to Him. Think of how Isaac trusted Abraham on that altar. Multiply that by an infinite number of times and you get a glimpse of the Father’s love – the Father who commits “all things” to the Son! This “knowledge” that they have of each other is quite exceptional. And we are invited into that relationship.

Think again of another prayer of Jesus: Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

And after this comes the amazing invitation and directive:

Mat 11:28  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:29  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Mat 11:30  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Here’s the real treat in the passage. If this were a meal (and it is because we should eat these words!) – here’s the main course!

The one that they accused of being a drunkard – the one which the wise and learned still reject – the one whose words cities that had seen miracles would not believe – plays his cards!

He issues the invitation above all other invitations! Yes “follow me”, “believe also in me” are all good and essential. “Come to me” is gold!

Come to me all! All who are WEARY AND BURDENED” AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST!

There are a number of ideas that come to mind when you think of rest! A siesta. RIP – which is long term! A snooze. Collapsing in a  heap…

The word is quite interesting – it’s really close to “respite” which is almost like recovery time.

This is not a laid back kind of Christian holiday camp.

The rest prepares you for the journey – for the yoke that Jesus has for you. The concept of a yoke was not unknown to them as a symbol of burden – even Peter uses the term at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. He says:

Act 15:10  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?

Take my yoke upon you is Jesus’ directive. And his reason for this is quite amazing, considering who He is:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (v29)

“Learn from me” says the best teacher in the world.  Why?

  1. “I am gentle and humble in heart”. Few teachers would claim that as their credentials. This is the Son of God giving us a reason to be yoked to Him – connected closely in a trusting relationship – by faith.
  2. You will find rest for your souls.

The prophet Jeremiah said this many years before: Jer 6:16  This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Sound familiar? “We will not walk in it” was their response to an invitation to go on the ancient path, the good way – where there would be rest for their souls! Tragic and still true of so many.

Here are some ideas I found which expand the concept of the yoke. I think they are quite useful.

The Yoke  (LMP)

Of love                                 L

If you think about it, the one we are yoked to has walked this way before! He is not unsympathetic. In fact he has been tested just like us! His temptations were real temptations. Jesus was fully human! So his empathy is real! It is a yoke of love as he helps carry and directs! It’s not a burden laid upon us like the Pharisees did – cold and harsh.

Of meek obedience       M

You can’t pull in the opposite direction! When you’re on Jesus’ road – obedience is not a chore either because there is wisdom in the one who has done this before! Like an ox – the older wiser ones teach the younger headstrong ones!

Of personal allegiance  P

It is “his” yoke – not a general impersonal journey with Jesus! In fact the first series I preached some 27 years ago when they finally let me loose as a preacher was “Journeys with Jesus” – “Journey with Jesus the one who satisfies! The bread of life! The living water!”

Of faith                                                F

The Yoke is a yoke of faith. It involves faith in the simplest yet deepest sense – TRUST! You have to be committed in faith to Jesus and trust Him when you choose to journey with Him in this way.

It’s risky too – who knows where he may lead you. Often on a Sunday we look at that challenge – what could the Lord be saying to you about your life and the world that needs the Gospel?

It speaks to our young people too – maybe God will call some to reach the ends of the earth with Good News! And Kiwis have great opportunities to work in interesting places – as this country has credibility that opens doors.

Of conscience                   C

And it’s the yoke of conscience! Imagine this – being yoked with Jesus means that HE goes where you go. That’s a bit limiting really. Or is it?

Just recently I told the story here about Tony Campolo – a great American preacher and sociologist – who describes how as a minister he used to pop into the pub – and someone would notice things and say loudly ‘HELLO PASTOR!”. Just so that the people would tone down the jokes.

It makes you think – doesn’t it – about wrong decisions – when Jesus is right alongside. It also makes you think about the things people share on-line – one has to ask whether they are a good Christian witness.

I think we need to pray more for our friends -and especially our children and grandchildren to be yoked with Jesus – to save them from being yoked to their peers or to society’s dodgy standards!

“You will find rest for your souls”

There is something deeply attractive about rest for your souls – not unlike that favourite Psalm – Psalm 23 in which David says HE RESTORES MY SOUL.

We come to him because we are physically weary and heavy laden, because he offers physical rest. But then we find a deeper rest – for our souls.

The deepest needs we have are met when yoked to Jesus.

We have to respond! Come unto me (all you who all you who are weary and burdened – “all ye that labour and are heavy laden” (KJV)) and I WILL GIVE YOU REST.

Will you come? When you do a new adventure begins:

 Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The easy and light bit has to be in comparison to other heavier loads placed on God’s people before Jesus. And of course still placed on people today by unscrupulous leaders.

It certainly keeps us on track. And the burden is symbolically halved by the image of the yoke.

In reality it’s the grace of  God that enables us to put our hand up and say “yoke me” – “strap me into the chair – wherever this machine goes I’m in”.

Amen.

Sunday message @ 9.00am 6 July – Yoked to Jesus, an easy yoke, a light burden?

Reading: Matt 11:16-19, 25-30

SERMON

So how’s it going being yoked to Jesus?

An easy yoke? A light burden?

One has to wonder what we’ve done with this. (I’ll talk about the rest later – maybe tonight if you come along. Or perhaps the rests – following that great preacher Spurgeon who indicates more than one kind of rest.) For now – here – today – what about the light and easy stuff? This burden and yolk Jesus offers.

Have we missed it? I think we may have.

I suspect that the Jesus we think we know is a tad different from that warm attractive witty compassionate person who hung out with the fringe members of society – and found them repenting and being transformed – without the frills of our theological systems.

Oh and children were there too. Drawn to Jesus. As were sinners of all kinds and shapes.

They had the freedom there to totally be themselves. And I reckon they had a lot of fun. And they clearly were changed people.

What does an easy yoke actually look like?

Well rabbis would use a yoke to describe a way of life. The whole life. Most would have said they were to be yoked to the Law. That in itself would have been challenging –  there were so many laws! We barely remember the big ten by heart!

The trouble is we sometimes see the yoke as a burden in a spiritual compartment – or as service of God – doing his stuff – when many people (as I do) think it’s more to do with our relationship with God – what we used to call communion with God. We are to be closely connected with Jesus.

Listen to this man writing about his ministry: His name is John Ortberg – you would have heard from him in home groups last year. (Remember – it all ends up in the box). A Presbyterian pastor.

I trained originally to be a therapist—a clinician, but discovered I wasn’t as good at it as I hoped and found the work quite draining. I discovered, instead, that I really loved the church. But after a few years in ministry, I began to become frustrated. I found myself asking, “What does it mean to be human? How do people change? Why is change so hard? Why doesn’t it happen more often in the church?” I found that we’re pretty good at helping newer Christian deal with surface bad habits. But after a while, people feel like the change process kind of stalls out. (As a second language teacher I would have used a different phrase from language learning – it plateaus! Levels out!)

People attend, volunteer, tithe, serve, avoid scandalous sins, but most don’t seem to be transformed more and more into joyful, loving, winsome persons. What is more disturbing than that is that no one really seems to expect such transformation. No one says we need a consultant to deal with this terrible problem. We rarely see the kind of renewal described in Romans 12:1-2, and we don’t seem to see this as a big problem.

Romans 12:1-2 says this of course:  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

It’s about transformation! (Paul in 2 Corinthians talks about us looking to the Lord with unveiled faces – and transformation follows:  2 Cor 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.) 

Ortberg says we settle for second best – by using what he calls boundary markers. We set up boundary markers. These are visible signs of our belonging to the organisation – for the rabbis back on that day it was keeping the Sabbath and circumcision – today it could be something else in which we measure who is in and who is out the club – whether it be clubs for hippies, yuppies or bikers. Or churches. Like Christians carrying big bibles and wearing big smiles to church. We all have visible boundary markers -signs of belonging.

They’re no measure or sign of actual transformation. But they help us placate our consciences as we tick the boxes we regard as important. And we do it too. Trying to measure church’s success by numbers or style rather than obedience. Measuring spiritual growth by activities – how many things we attend. Or who is here each week (again we tick boxes, although the intention is look out for the missing ones!)

Ortberg suggests that the easy yoke offered by Jesus –  for ministers at least – begins with joy! Our whole life is meant to be lived “in Christ”. The most important thing we ought to do as minsters or pastors, he suggests – is to live a real Christian life – with deep contentment and confidence and joy – confidence in our everyday lives (Ortberg follows the thinking of Dallas Willard here). For me this is about a life that is characterised by integrity, reality, a genuineness (and not being fake).

And should think that this kind of congruence should apply to all Christians. What we say on Sunday should add up on Monday – wherever we find ourselves.

For pastors and those in ministry – success is not measured by impressive buildings and statistics.

It’s about sharing a life that is as attractive as Jesus’ one. And being able to laugh is one of the keys! It’s actually infectious. (I am blessed with a fairly healthy sense of humour – through which I have to laugh at myself a lot too!) Joy is a sign of a real life that is yoked to Jesus.

But in case you think I am trivialising this – behind the ability to laugh (which is not measured or rated by training and skill) – is the real Jesus stuff which oils and lubricates and fuels real Christian joy.

It’s called grace.

And – we are reminded – grace existed in God before sin came into the world.

Grace is not just about celebrating forgiveness of sins.

Grace made possible the amazing GIFT of creation – the very breath of life being breathed into the first human  (Genesis 2:7) – the CONVERSATIONS in the cool of the day in Eden when they walked and talked together (implied in Genesis 3:8-9 where God walks and is wondering where they were hiding).

Our first waking moment – and every day we live and breathe – is a celebration of grace. Our Messy church celebration of WINTER on Friday included a reference in our story time to the celebration of the fact that we as people of dust received the breath of life from God! All of this is part of our prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude.

And you do hear it in people’s prayers don’t you – that sense of gratitude for the gift of life and salvation, creation AND redemption. (Or for some redemption AND creation!)

If you only thank God for sending Jesus to die for us each week – what’s up with the rest of the gift He’s given? Where are we hiding that? It pops out in our open times of prayer, especially when children pray, thanking God for the daily blessings of life, family, fun and holidays etc.)

How about the celebrations that we should enjoy? The recognition of the gift of life to us all and our responsibility to care for that life (in the broadest sense including the environment and the world of resources). There should be much more laughter and fun here! Christians together should be experts at celebrating EVERYTHING!

We have an amazing time sharing our lives at our home group – as an illustration. We read and pray and learn together. But there’s more. I think our curry nights as a home group are spiritual things too – not because of the potential for cleansing – but because of the intricacies of the tastes and flavours – the variety – the detail – and the people we share it with.

They too are gold! Choice, bro! It’s all a celebration of worship!

My sister in law – who lives in Brisbane now – once gave me a poster that said: don’t worry, don’t hurry, and don’t forget to smell the flowers!

It’s a deeply spiritual statement – of trust – restfulness – and thanksgiving along the way.

Jesus died for our relationship – not just a clean slate – he died for us to live in a new network, if you like. Full access. Network Trinity. And the network of his international and local family on a shared journey of faith. In a created world that despite its brokenness is still worth celebrating each day.

A theological aside

In the midst of these words from Jesus today – about people expecting the wrong stuff especially from religious leaders (neither John nor Jesus satisfied them, One too ascetic. One too happy really.)

In the midst of this,  the relationship thing creeps in:  Mat 11:27  “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  No one knows that Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him!

There’s a separate challenge. It’s not even up to us who comes into this network. In an amazing way not understood by us he includes those whom He chooses. That to is an example of sheer grace.

It’s not our job to understand this aspect of His will. It is our job to share the vision He has given us.

THE VISION AND THE YOKE

People sometimes ask me for a vision – which usually means they want a business strategy for ministry. For a successful church. And I understand the reason for this. If a church dies off – then what about the next generation? I understand this desire for a vision and a strategy – I used to be a church development consultant helping churches to plan to be effective.

In fact the best analytical question for church growth and future thinking is this: If all of us (as a local church) disappeared overnight (say we were beamed up somewhere like on Star trek) and were nowhere to be found. would we be missed? (You can ask that of any local church). Do we make that much of a difference (say as salt an light) that people would mourn?

When it comes to local churches –  God brings the life generally where He chooses too. And some of the big growing machines in the mega church families can look like something quite foreign in my view. That’s my view anyway. The vast majority of Christian churches and communities around the world are fairly small (probably under 80 in active numbers).

Here’s the vision I offer today. This is what makes the difference in all those communities.

The yoke of Jesus.

Yoke up! Jump on the eternal life bandwagon – which means getting to know Jesus and the One called FATHER who sent Him. Remember another of Jesus’ prayers in John 17?

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:1-3)

It’s a vision of God – and how glorious and generous he is – and how wonderful his grace is – and what a difference it makes to be yoked to him!

Simple really. Knowing Him. In fellowship – communion with God.

The church theological police (the wise ones from Matthew 11:25)  will scratch their heads and bang their pointing fingers to the text and say – “what about this and that!” –  (all those conditions that they lay down for people to come to Jesus…)

What about them?

Show me your life that is full of grace across it all – and I’ll say it’s the yoke of Jesus that’s doing it. It’s being connected to Him that changes us. You and me.

You have to be connected (yoked) with God to be beautiful for God to do beautiful things for Him!

And quite often what the world deems to be success (image, wealth, fashion, modern goodies and the latest cars) is a world away from the life Christ calls us to.

  • We look upon His beauty on the cross. We see the grace in His praying – “father forgive them”. We see His suffering, and often will share in that suffering. (Read Colossians 1:24-29 as a Bible study this week).
  • We gaze upon His majesty at the resurrection. We look at death and suffering in the light of this ultimate transformation beyond this life. (1 Corinthians 15 is worth reading as another study this week).
  • We cast our eyes heavenward for His return. (1 Corinthians 15:42 onwards. And also Acts 1:4-11). This is our eternal perspective.

But in the meantime.

We are to be Him in the in-between years – Christ in us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) – showing His grace and love without a dour disposition and miserable load of old rubbish that we carry around and want others to carry like the Pharisees used to. (See Matthew 23:4:  They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.)

In the midst of these verses Jesus speaks about how we need to de-clutter it all and de-complicate things:

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Mat 11:25-26 

Later in Matthew we read this:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child and had him stand among them.
And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-3)

There is something simple in being yoked to Jesus in a close relationship.

Yay! Yea and Amen!

Sunday sermon 29 June 2014 – Listening to God……and how to hear Him?

Sermon: 29th June 2014 @ 10:30am

Listening to God ……… and how to hear Him?
Preacher : Sean Cloete – Elder

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight Lord – my rock and my redeemer.
This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it..
Good morning everyone and welcome to our service this morning.

FIFA World Cup Story – Rio – Maracana Stadium & the Statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Let us Pray ..
Lord Jesus, we thank you for this wonderful day and that you have brought us together to worship you here today.
Thank You Lord for your gift to us – of the Holy Spirit.
We feel Your presence Lord – and acknowledge the huge debt we owe you that we can never repay.
We acknowledge that we have fallen short of Your glory and ask for forgiveness.
Forgive our sins Lord we pray – please take these sins and drown them in the deepest, darkest ocean, and look upon them no more. We pray for our Pastor and his wife who are taking a well-earned break this week-end. Lord, we pray You will be with them, guide them, look after them – and bring them back to us refreshed.
Help us to serve one another as you taught us Lord – and grant us You peace.
Amen

Let’s try something – but I’ll need your help…

Here we go…….
Knock – Knock
Congregation: Who’s there?
God !!!
……………………………………. ?????
See what I mean
What goes through your mind when God speaks to you?
Who? …… Why ………….
Is this for real……..?
Are You sure you want to speak to me Lord …….. ?
Are You sure You haven’t made a mistake……?
Is that really You…..
But the truth is we’re really not sure what to do – are we?
But here is some good advice from His Word:

John 8:47

Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Romans 10:17

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

In today’s readings:
In Genesis – God wants to see how obedient Jacob was to Him.
In Romans – Paul sends a warning to Christians about sin – but where do you think he gets the message from?
And in Matthew – Jesus tells Peter that he will build the Christian Church.
Can you imagine if Jacob, Paul and Peter never heard God speaking to them ………. How differently things could have turned out.
Reach for the Bible ….
This would be a very short Book ….

In our prayers we ask God to speak to us – but what happens when He does?
And do we know when He does…….??
Have you ever heard people say about someone who is lucky – “he or she must have God on their side” ??
We can ALL have God on our side ………
ALL we have to do is to ask HIM to come in.
When you turn to God ……..He comes running towards you.
Pretty simple …….
Then if it’s so simple ….. Why does the world find it so hard?

For those of you whom were in the 2nd Service last week Robin asked a few questions in closing:
Do we acknowledge Christ in the rest of our life (outside our Church life)?
We know that we worship our Lord on Sunday (because we are all here this morning).
But … what about the rest of the week?
Are we living a Double Life – are we Secret Christians?

How are things in your world?

Story
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were great friends…..
Our world would be poorer without two other worlds: Narnia and Middle-Earth.
Yet if two young professors had not met at an otherwise ordinary Oxford faculty meeting in 1926, those wondrous lands would still be unknown to us.
Many people are not aware that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were good friends.
Tolkien helped convert Lewis to Christianity, whereas Lewis encouraged Tolkien to expand his fictional writing.
Both taught at Oxford, both were interested in literature, and both wrote fictional books which promoted basic Christian themes and principles.
At the same time, though, they also had serious disagreements – and in particular about Christianity.
The truth was that …….. Although both men were committed Christians ‘’’ they looked at things quite differently.
But, rest assured when Lewis was writing the “Narnia” stories and Tolkien was writing the “Lord of the Rings” ……… God was talking to them
God speaks to us in different ways – not only through the Holy Spirit.
He speaks to us in dreams, visions, through other people, He sends us signs, confirms things through readings in His Word ……….. And so on.
But how can we be sure God is speaking to us – and how can we recognise His voice?
If the truth be known ….….

There are actually 4 types of “voices” which we hear speaking to us.
So, it’s important that we learn to distinguish each one so that we are able to recognise the true voice of God:

The 1st Voice

  • The voice that is the most obvious – your own voice.
  • This is not God speaking to you.

The 2nd Voice

  • Another voice which demands for our attention is the “voice” of other people.
  • This also is not the voice of God.

The 3rd Voice

  • The third type of voice is the “voice” of the devil.
  • The devil has crafty ways of speaking to us which he has perfected over 1000’s of years.
  • It is often indistinguishable from our own thoughts and feelings.
  • Remember ….. The battlefield where the devil wages his warfare is in our minds.
  • Don’t be confused – this is not the voice of God.

The 4th Voice

  • The fourth and final type of voice is the most important, but it is also the most subtle. It is the voice of God.
  • He speaks to our conscious mind and to our conscience – this is why when we do something we shouldn’t have – or  conscience lets us know.
  • Don’t expect God to speak to you in a sensational, spectacular or supernatural way.
  • If God were to speak out loud to us all the time then we wouldn’t need Faith to hear him.
  • On the other hand, if God speaks so softly to us that we need to draw closer to God in order to hear Him better then there is a lot of faith involved and it requires cultivating and more  intimate relationship with the Lord.
  • This exactly what God is after…?

This is why it is crucial for us to know the Word of God – by reading it every day.
And …. to be able to hear the voice of God within us so that we can recognize when our enemy is planting thoughts and feelings in us.

Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians ……By knowing God through His written Word and His spoken Word; we can recognize the schemes of the enemy so that the devil is less likely to outwit us.
The devil can imitate God but he is a created being – just like we are.
There is no reason to be afraid of him.
So, resist the devil – don’t fear him.
He was defeated when Jesus Christ died on the Cross.

We are living in a war zone – here on planet earth. Be on your guard…..
But remember that Love is the antidote for what the world can throw at us – and Love is something that the Devil will never have.
As Christians, we don’t belong to the world – we are citizens of heaven serving as ambassadors here on earth.
In Galatians Paul writes ….. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
He goes on to say ……”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

In Corinthians he writes …… “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
Love never fails.”

The closer your walk with God is the better you will be able to hear Him.
But we say I’m not worthy or I can’t because I’ve done all these bad things.
God will forgive what you have done.
Your past is no accident …….. It prepares you for what God has planned for your life.
We all excel at something. There are some things that just come easier to us than others.
What are they?
Don’t you think He might be telling you something?

And Remember …….
•   Live one day at a time – and live for God.
•   Leave yesterday alone – its run its course. Its pointless getting hung up about it.
•   And there is nothing you can do about tomorrow – it hasn’t happened yet.
God will take your sins away …if you ask him.
And if you believe He is speaking to you …… Don’t leave it too long.

Let us Pray…….

Dear Lord,
You have given us so much by providing our salvation,
Help us to make the Gospel attractive to others,
By the way we shine Jesus’ light on those we encounter each day.
May God Bless us all.
Amen.