Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

Light and Conscience

April 10th, 2018
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There are many images of the Christian Life.

One is the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Another image is light compared to darkness. Christians live in the light.(as we heard from 1 John)

These metaphors mean those born from above are new. They do not live as before. They have a new life that comes from above – where God is free from sin, dwelling in light.

In this message I want to describe a key insight into living this new life.

The key insight is conscience.

One of the most upsetting encounters we can have is to actually deal with a person who has no conscience – - they have no guilt and take no responsibility for their actions.

They can be serial liars, con men, people who see other people as objects to be used or hurt. We can have terms like psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists.

It is almost impossible for the ordinary person to even grasp that there are such people. And they can even be charming when they want to get you on side. But woe betide if you cross them.

And yet all of us to one degree or another reflected a world that Paul described as evil, disobedient and filled with darkness. A strange mixture of some awareness of the intent of God’s law and values opposed to God’s will.

Before the light of Christ shines fully into our lives, we can have some awareness of hurting others or of breaking the standards of the community we belong to. We hope that most people do.

Sometimes religion, a political cause, war, even business can dehumanize the other person into an object of no value. We can justify doing things to them that we would never want done to ourselves or those we love.

It is not easy to admit, as it wasn’t for the religious leader’s of Jesus day, that a lot of what the world thinks is OK is actually opposed to God and has as its source another spirit working in us.

Remember what Jesus said to them In John 5:

1. Verse 38: You don’t have God’s word in you. You don’t believe the one whom he has sent.
2. Verse 40: You don’t want to come to me.
3. Verse 42: You don’t have the love of God in you.
4. Verse 43: You don’t believe me.
5. Verse 44: You cannot believe.
6. Verse 45: You don’t believe Moses, and you don’t believe me.

It is hard to admit that spiritually that the human family is a dysfunctional consequence of one who is a liar and murderer from the beginning. The world thinks evil is normal. In fact goodness is seen as boring, and evil as exciting. Movies reflect this.

But we only have to look around us or even just study some history to be aware that something is seriously wrong with humanity – especially with those who rise to the top.

The Old Testament chronicles the sad human story using Israel as a major example of this – despite their privileges. It is a spiral into darkness. And ironically that darkness was its greatest when Israel was its most faithful in its eyes to the Torah. That was when it crucified Jesus.

That in itself is a warning about trusting our religious practices even when they seem to be biblical. Hypocrisy is a leaven that the Temple authorities were guilty of and which can easily enter the lives of those claiming to be doing the right thing as compared to others. We can justify anything by comparing to others. War is a primary example of this. Religion can be marshalled to support horrible atrocities.

Too often religion can be reduced to a straining at gnats to swallow camels. Whiten sepulchres with dead mens bones inside. This can make religious people very unpleasant to be around.

Human nature actually doesn’t like to see who we we really are.

As Jesus said in John 3:19-21

19 This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

So human nature lives a lie of believing I am OK or if am not it is because others are at fault.

Human nature can’t seem to face that we are not OK and what we think is OK is more often than not is contrary to God.

The NT gives us some various descriptions of consciences – defiled, weak, seared, evil. This is what comes in to the church. Upon all of us Jesus must shine his light.

And unless those consciences are put right even the good news can be quickly distorted or manipulated into something contrary to is meaning. More often than not it will become about us and how well we are doing. Not about God and his graciousness.

Everyone has been a partner with the fruitless deeds of darkness in some form or another. Think of how Christians collaborated with slavery and other forms of racism, until members of the church began to stop and allowed the Holy Spirit to actually have Christ shine on their conscience and expose the evil they were compromising with.

Jesus described another type of person

John 3:21

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
(0r done in God or done by God’s help.)

Notice where the focus is. Always on God: it is God centred and God dependent.

It would be wonderful if we could share Paul’s confidence in

Romans 9:1

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit

How does this happen?

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Message for the Day

Introduction to 1, 2, 3 John

April 7th, 2018
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An overview of 1,2, 3 John.

This is a wonderful reminder of the essentials of the Christian Faith. Jesus Christ and the love that God shows us in his sacrifice on the cross is at the centre of our understanding of who God is. This is the light we are to walk in.

As we will see at the heart of all this is a living Christ who is in our midst and leads us to eternal life.

This is strongly implied in

I John 1:3

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

You can only have fellowship with the living.

To watch this overview click here.

Message for the Day

The Hidden God

June 11th, 2014
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Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity.

It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.”

But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.

Joe Tkach:

In Psalm 113:5-6, the psalmist asks: Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

We still are asking that question.

Given our limited minds, we humans are unable to fully comprehend all there is to know about God. Paul put it this way: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

Though God lives in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16), he has not left us completely in the dark. 

Note Jesus’ remarkable statement in Matthew 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.”

I love how the second-century Christian teacher Irenaeus explained this verse in Against Heresies:

No one can know the Father apart from God’s Word, that is, unless the Son reveals him, and no one can know the Son unless the Father so wills. Now the Son fulfills the Father’s good pleasure: the Father sends, the Son is sent, and he comes. The Father is beyond our sight and comprehension; but he is known by his Word, who tells us of him who surpasses all telling.

In turn, the Father alone has knowledge of his Word. And the Lord has revealed both truths. Therefore, the Son reveals the knowledge of the Father by his revelation of himself. Knowledge of the Father consists in the self-revelation of the Son, for all is revealed through the Word.

This means that no one can know God unless and until God reveals himself. And he has chosen to reveal himself through Jesus. The word reveal comes from the Greek word apokalupto meaning to take off the cover—to disclose or reveal. It is the opposite of kalupto, which means to cover up; hide.

The Old Testament speaks of the Shekinah glory of God, present within the innermost part of the Tabernacle behind the veil. No one was allowed beyond that veil except the high priest, and then only once a year. For most of the time, God remained hidden behind the veil. So when Jesus said he had come to reveal the Father, his followers were understandably intrigued.

When Philip asked Jesus to show the disciples the Father, Jesus replied: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).

God sent his Son to “pull back the covers” and reveal who he is through his Son. We must be careful not to let preconceptions of what God is like determine our thinking and behavior toward God. Only Jesus has perfect and complete knowledge of God. And he shares that knowledge with us.

Through the life and ministry of Jesus, we get the best look at what God is like this side of our resurrection in glory. Jesus alone is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He alone brings “insider knowledge” of the whole of God as the eternal Son of God. He alone is God’s self-revelation in time and space, flesh and blood. In Jesus, God has come to us in person, meeting us face-to-face so that we may know him truly and personally.

Jesus shared himself and what he knew with his disciples, whom he called his friends. And he commissioned them, and those who follow them, to go into the world and make that knowledge known—not through books and programs offering esoteric, “hidden knowledge” or esoteric, private experiences. And certainly not through a complex web of philosophical arguments and counter-arguments.

Jesus told his followers that they could come to know God through relationships, including relationships with each other and with those outside the Christian community. He said that the clearest sign that would point others to him would be the love that his followers have for each other—a love reflecting God’s own love for all people.

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

I have to say that the more one studies the Gospels, the more astonishing Jesus becomes.

When Luke describes Jesus’ ministry people were in awe, amazed, astonished and were given to rejoice and praise God.

A while back in Bible Study I was asked if I was looking forward to meeting God after death. I remembered Paul’s response.

2 Timothy 4:8

 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

It seems an obvious sort of question, except when you realize that hidden in Christianity is a great doubt about the real character and personality of the Father and how he judges us. Is the Father really like Jesus? Is there something hidden we don’t know about?

Though people seem to forget at times that all judgment has been handed over to the Son.

It affects how we approach death – do we feel safe in our Father’s arms, already having crossed from death to life. Jesus wanted us to have this type of peace.

But our lives are not always just a peaceful, tranquil existence filled with certainty, able to answer all the questions about our fragile lives with the unexpected suffering and even disappointments.

Our growing to know God may require periods of struggle, doubt which we will see in the sermon has occurred for many in the OT and in the church down through the centuries.

Joe Tkach wrote:

Though the Trinity doctrine doesn’t answer all questions about God’s nature, it helps us focus on who God is without wandering away from sound doctrine.

One metaphor says Jesus and the Spirit are God the Father’s two arms embracing us in this world.

Another insight is to say that Jesus is the centre who leads us to the Father and from the Father sends forth the Holy Spirit.

However way we describe the relationship is inadequate in explaining how the Holy God is fully involved with our life.

Sometimes we are best just to worship as we hear in this C of England hymn from 1826.

Holy, Holy, Holy: to watch please click here.

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Message for the Day