Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Where the paths cross

“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand;”
Proverbs 8:1-2 NIV

Every day, many times over, we will reach points where the paths meet. These are places where a decision is required from us: go left, go right, say this, say that, do this, do the other. 

At each of these points the decisions we make can be informed by wisdom or folly. We never have any excuse for choosing folly because the bible tells us that wisdom is always found where the paths meet. 

We also read in the bible that Christ is our wisdom and that folly represents our own best attempts or worse, decisions influenced by the enemy. The thing with folly is that it all too easily masquerades as right, plays to our weaknesses and feeds our self delusions.  It always seeks disruption or harm for us or those close to us. 

There is a way which seems right to us, but in the end it leads to death. So, stand at those places where the paths meet and choose wisdom and life.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Wesley on marks of the new birth

I am re-reading 'The Holy Spirit and Power' (Wesley) and it is very challenging......... In the chapter dealing with marks of the new birth he lists a number of points with scripture references and they are certainly worth reading in a devotional sense, asking the Holy Spirit to lead us through them and be aware of areas where He still needs to bring (closer) to completion the work He has begun in us.

It's not as easy read, but probably worth it.........


The true, living Christian faith is that which works in those who are born of God. The necessary faith is not only an assent through understanding, but a disposition which God brings about to give the believer a confidence in God. It is a conviction arising from that confidence that our sins are forgiven through the merits of Jesus. We know that we are now reconciled to God. This implies first that a person lost in sin must renounce himself in order to be found in Christ. To be accepted through Him, he must totally reject all confidence he has in himself and his own works. He has nothing to pay, and has no trust in his own works or righteousness of any kind. He comes to God as a lost, miserable, self-destroyed, self-condemned, undone, and helpless sinner. At last his mouth is utterly closed. He knows he is altogether guilty before God. Such a sense of sin is commonly called despair by those who criticize the faith they do not understand. This sense of sin must be coupled with a full conviction that no words can express. It is the conviction that our salvation comes only through Jesus. There is also an awareness that a real desire for salvation must precede a living, trusting faith in Jesus. His life and His death were the fulfillment of the law for all of us. 


Faith then, by which we are born of God, is not simply a belief in all of the articles of our faith. It is more than that. It is a true confidence in the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is an immediate and constant fruit of this faith, whereby we are born of God. It is a fruit that cannot be separated from it at any time. This fruit is power over sin. It is power over outward sin of every kind. It is power over every evil word and work. It is power through the blood of Christ when applied. 

This power purges the conscience from dead works and from inward sin. The power over inward sin purifies the heart from every unholy desire and temper. Paul describes this fruit of faith in the sixth chapter of his letter to the Romans. There he wrote, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Our old personality is crucified with Christ, so that the body of the sin in us might be destroyed. Now we no longer have to serve sin. We are now dead to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Sin no longer reigns in the mortal body. We yield ourselves to God as those who are now alive from the dead. Sin has no dominion over us, thanks be to God. Once we were servants of sin, but now we have been made free through the work of Jesus. 

Plainly, we simply thank God. We were in the past servants of sin. Now we are free from sin and have become servants of righteousness. This same priceless privilege of the sons of God was also confirmed by the Apostle John. He was particularly sure of the power over outward sin. He wrote, Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.... Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.


Then John wrote, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”[6] Being unable to understand this, some men will say, True, whoever is born of God does not commit sin, habitually. The conditioning of the Scripture with the word “habitually” would allow occasional sin. This is a deception which alters God’s promise given by John. Adding this condition brings the promise of God to no effect. Beware that you do not add the word “habitually” to condition this Scripture in your mind, if not in your words. John interprets his own words: “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”[7] From this comes the inference in the following verse: “No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.”[8] John knew that men would try to persuade Christians that they could commit sin and still be the children of God. The Apostle John cautions us: “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does light is righteous, as he is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.... No one born of God commits sin, for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil.”[9]  

By this plain mark of committing or not committing sins, men are distinguished one from the other. The same meaning is in the fifth chapter. “We know that anyone born of God does not sin, but he who was born of God keeps himself, and the evil one does not touch him.”[10]”


Another fruit of the living faith is peace. In being saved by faith, we have all our sins blotted out. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[11] This is what Jesus himself promised all His followers the night before His death. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let them be afraid.[12] And again He said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.”[13] This is that peace of God which passes all understanding. It is a peace of God which passes all understanding. It is a peace which is impossible for even the spiritual man to describe. It is a peace which all of the powers of the earth and hell are unable to shake. Waves and storms can beat upon living faith but they cannot shake it, for it is founded upon a rock. It keeps the hearts and minds of the children of God at all times and in all places. Whether they are in comfort or in pain, in sickness or health, in abundance or need, they are happy in God. In every state they have learned to be content and to give thanks to God through Jesus Christ. They are completely assured that whatever is best for them will happen to them. The result is that through all the hardships of life, they stand fast in peace, believing in the Lord. 


Another scriptural mark of those who are born of God is hope. Peter wrote about this. He said, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope.[14] Peter described this hope as a living hope, because there is a dead hope just as there is a dead faith. There is a hope which is not from God, but from Satan. Dead hope is evidenced by its fruits. Dead hope is the offspring of pride and is the parent of every evil word and work. Everyone with living hope is holy, as God who called him to be holy. Every man who can truly say, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God ... for we shall see him as he is,” has a living hope. He believes that he can be purified even as God himself is pure. This is his hope.
This hope implies the testimony of our own spirit or conscience, that we walk in simplicity and godly sincerity. It also implies that we receive the testimony of the Spirit of God bearing witness to our spirit that we are His children. In knowing that we are His children, we know that we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. God himself teaches us about this great privilege of His children. Who is it that is said to bear the witness? Not our spirit only, but the Spirit of God. God himself is He who bears witness to our spirit. What is it to which He gives witness? That we are His children. That we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” It is in all of the children of God that the Spirit of God bears this witness. So Paul can say in the preceding verses, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Additionally, he expresses this hope as, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”[15] You have received the spirit of adoption whereby you can cry, “Abba, Father!” Who is it that received this spirit of adoption? You, as many as are the sons of God, have, in virtue of your sonship, received that spirit of adoption. Now you can cry out, “Abba, Father.”
You are now ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. You have one Lord, so you have one Spirit. You have one faith, so you have one hope, also. You are sealed with one spirit of promise. The proof of your inheritance is that same Holy Spirit bearing witness with your own spirit that you are the children of God. Through this, the great beatitude is fulfilled: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”[16] It is easy to see that some sorrow may precede this witness of God’s Spirit with our spirit. In fact, some sorrow must precede it, because we suffer from fear while in separation from God. In that separation we have a sense of the judgment of God abiding on us. As soon as this fruit of hope, through the gift of the Holy Spirit comes upon us, our sorrow and fear is turned to joy. Anguish is no more, because joy belongs to those born of God. It may be many of you now have sorrow because you are aliens from this great promise.

Sorrow comes from an awareness within ourselves that we do not have the Holy Spirit. Sorrow is the fruit of those who are without hope and without God in this world. It is only when the Holy Spirit comes that your heart can rejoice. Then your joy will be full.[17] Then you will understand and be able to say, “We join God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” We will be able to agree with Paul on this state of grace, of reconciliation with God, “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”[18] You have been born again to a lively hope and are kept there by the power of God. You can greatly rejoice in your salvation, even though there may be heaviness through many temptations in this world. There is always praise, honor, and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ even in hours of trial.


Through the rebirth and its hope we rejoice with inexpressible joy, being filled with the glory of Jesus Christ even though we do not see him.[19] How inexpressible His glory is! Man cannot find words to describe this joy in the Holy Spirit. It is the hidden bread of life which no man can know until he receives it from God. But this we do know, this joy remains in all things and overflows in the very depths of afflictions. Large consolations come from God for His children after all earthly comforts fail. When sufferings most abound, the consolation of His Holy Spirit abounds even more. With this grace, the sons of God can laugh at destruction when it comes. In need, pain, hell, and the grave, they know He has overcome. He has the keys to death and hell. He has ended both for His children. Now the great Holy Spirit comes as though out of heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.”[20] 


Love is the next scriptural mark of those who are born of God. It is the greatest of all the marks of the new birth. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”[21] This is because we are sons of God and God has sent forth His Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we can now cry out, “Abba, Father!”[22]  

Loving God. 
By the Holy Spirit, we continually look to God as our forgiving and loving Father. We call to Him for our daily bread, for all things needed, for both our souls or bodies. We continually pour out our hearts before Him, knowing that He hears our petitions and will give us our requests.[23] Our delight is in Him. He is the joy of our heart. He is our shield and our exceeding great reward.
“The desire of our soul is for God. Our whole purpose is to do His will. We are satisfied with whatever He gives, and we speak our praises to Him. In this same sense we not only love God but we love His Son, Jesus Christ.[24] We rejoice in our Savior. We love the Lord Jesus Christ with sincerity. We are also joined to the Lord in one spirit, the Holy Spirit.

Loving Others. 
Love of our neighbor necessarily flows out of our love of God. We love every soul that God has made, even our enemies. Now we can love every man as we love ourselves, as we love our own souls. Jesus commanded this, teaching us to love one another even as He loves us. The result is that this commandment is written on the hearts of all of those who love God. Now we understand this to be the love of God which He expressed for us. He laid down His life that we might be saved. We must then be willing to lay down our lives for our brethren. When we know that we are ready to do this we truly love our neighbor. By this mark of love, we know that we have passed from death into life.[27] By this we know that we are born of God and that we dwell in Him, and He in us. We know this because He has given us His loving Spirit. Love is of God. Everyone who loves in this manner is born of God and knows God.[28]
The Apostle John also says, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”[29] His commandment is that we love our neighbor in the same way that we love God. This is the sign or proof of the love of God. It is the keeping of the first and great commandment. True love, once poured into our hearts, will cause us to do so. Whoever loves God with all of his heart will serve Him with all of his strength in all of His commandments.

Who did what now?

“You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.”
2 Samuel 12:9 NIV

This is the episode after David had arranged to have Uriah killed - and Nathan, who was first and foremost  a real friend of God but also a true friend of David, told David what he did not want to hear, but what he had to accept if he was ever going to fully step into the calling of God on His life. 

How David responded to the 'prophetic' truth telling would define his whole future and the future of a nation ......

We then come to the other truth - we do not have to do the deed to be guilty of doing the deed! 
( 2 Sam 12:9 )

David did not personally kill Uriah - but he was the murderer. "YOU KILLED HIM - even though it was the sword of another that actually ended his life.

Some sobering points to reflect on:

1. How to we respond to truths that we may not want to hear or perhaps that we are hiding from or in denial about? These will be moments that define us and our relationship with God our future character and fruitfulness.

2. Do we have people who are sufficiently close to God and true enough friends to us to speak 'prophetic' truth?

3. Are we such people?

4. Are there things in our lives that although we did not personally or actually 'do the deed' we are nonetheless guilty of before God?

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 
2 Samuel 12:13 NIV