Monday, 27 February 2017

First Sunday in Lent: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

Created by God and for God, we have sinned against Him.
We noted, in Genesis 1:1-3, the importance of getting our priorities right - God, God’s Word, God’s Spirit. Here, we emphasize the importance of these priorities.
We are under God. We must remember that He is God (Genesis 2:15). We are to obey God’s Word (Genesis 2:16-17).
Here, we learn that the act of obedience is an act of freedom. In Christ, we are set free to obey God.
God says, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden’. He does not then say, ‘You are free to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. He says, ‘You must not’.
The act of disobedience is not an act of freedom. By choosing the way of sin, we show that we are in bondage. We are not free. We are the captives of sin, and we need to be set free - by Christ (John 8:32, 36).
We come to know God, choosing good rather than evil, as we follow the way of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Hebrews 5:14).
The creation of woman is bound up with the creation of man. She is created from man’s ‘rib’ (Genesis 2:21-22).
The ‘rib’ is taken from his side, emphasizing that man and woman are to be together, side-by-side, not one in front of the other. The ‘rib’, rather than the head or the feet, emphasizes this togetherness rather than any superiority-inferiority relationship. The ‘rib’ is close to the heart. Woman is close to the heart of man. Both are close to the heart of God.
The contrast between humanity and the animals is again clear. Among the animals, there was ‘no suitable helper’ for the man (Genesis 2:20). The animals had been ‘formed out of the ground’ (Genesis 2:19). Humanity has come from ‘the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7). Like the animals, we come from ‘the dust of the ground’, but there is more: the Breath of God, created in His image to glorify Him!
We have read about the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:1). Now, in Genesis 3,  we come to the beginning of sin.
Sin begins with temptation. We must, however, note that temptation is not sin. It only becomes sin when we do what the tempter suggests (Genesis 3:6).
Temptation comes from ‘that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan’ (Revelation 12:9). Satan reverses the priorities of God, God’s Word and God’s Spirit.
God is ‘our Father’ (Matthew 6:9). Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).
Satan quotes and questions God’s Word (Genesis 3:1). He not only questions God’s Word. He contradicts it (Genesis 3:4).
Satan is spiritual, an evil spirit. We must be aware of his schemes, and, in Christ, we must take our stand against his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11).
When Satan says, ‘Did God really say?’ (Genesis 3:1), we must wage war for God, filled with His Word and Spirit (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Once we were innocent. Now we are guilty. The story of Adam and Eve is repeated over and over again. This is our story as well as Adam and Eve’s story.
Even in the face of sin, we see something else. We see the God of love, seeking to restore the fallen to Himself. In His words, ‘Where are you?’, we catch an early glimpse of the Gospel of salvation: ‘the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10).
Adam and Eve had lost their way. Now, God was looking for them to bring them back to Himself. In the question, ‘Where are you?’, there is the searching question, ‘What have you done?’, but there is also the passionate appeal, ‘Will you not return to me?’ This is the call of mercy: ‘Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, “O sinner, come home”’ (Sacred Songs & Solos, 414). Our loving Father is waiting patiently to welcome the returning prodigal (Luke 15:20).

Receiving God’s gift – the forgiveness of all our sins.
The forgiveness of sins - what a tremendous blessing this is (Psalm 32:1-2).
We receive God’s forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him.
This is the Psalmist’s testimony: ‘I made my sins known to You, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to You, O Lord. Then You forgave all my sins’ (Psalm 32:5).
This is the promise of God: ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’(1 John 1:9).
Knowing that our sins have been forgiven by God, we can face our many trying times with confidence in Him: ‘You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance whenever I am afraid. I will trust in You, I will trust in You. Let the weak say, “I am strong in the strength of my God”’ (Psalm 32:7; Mission Praise, 793).
The forgiveness of our sins: it’s just the beginning of all that God will do for us.

God has great things in store for His people!
(a) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:9-10): ‘Justified by Christ’s blood’, ‘reconciled to God’, ‘We shall be saved by Christ from the wrath of God’, ‘saved by His life’.
(b) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:15, 17): ‘The grace of God’ has ‘abounded for many’. In Christ, we have ‘received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness’. Through Him, we shall ‘reign in life’.
(c) ‘More than that’ (Romans 5:3): Our pathway to eternal glory will not be easy. There will be ‘suffering’. God has given us a glimpse of our eternal destiny: ‘grace reigning through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:21). ‘We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God’ (Romans 5:2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our ‘suffering’ in a new light, the light of ‘God’s love’ (Romans 5:3-5).
When we are tempted, we must follow Christ, taking our stand on God’s Word.
God the Father has declared Jesus to be His Son (Matthew 3:17). Now, the devil challenges God’s Word: ‘If you are the Son of God…’ (Matthew 4:3).
The Spirit has descended upon Jesus (Matthew 3:16). Now, the devil uses his power in an attempt to defeat Jesus.
The devil sows seeds of doubt; the ‘if you are…’approach is just the same as his ‘Did God really say?’method used in Genesis 3:1.
The devil is ‘crafty’ (Genesis 3:1). He comes to Jesus, quoting from the Bible (Matthew 4:6; Psalm 91:11-12).
His real goal becomes clear in verse 9 - he wants Jesus to ‘bow down and worship’ him.
In Jesus’ victory over the devil, we see the importance of Scripture - ‘It is written’ (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
We learn that true life comes from God (Matthew 4:4), true safety is found in God (Matthew 4:7); and true worship is given to God (Matthew 4:10).
When the tempter comes, we must stand on God’s Word: ‘every Word that comes from… God’ ( Matthew 4:4).

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Ninth Sunday (or Last Sunday) after the Epiphany (Transfiguration of the Lord) – Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2 (or Psalm 99, suggested as an alternative for Ninth Sunday); 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

May our words point to Jesus Christ, the living Word of God.
Moses was alone with the Lord - receiving the Word of the Lord (Exodus 24:1-2). Moses went to the people - speaking the Word of the Lord (Exodus 24:3). There was also a written ministry of the Word (Exodus 24:4). At the heart of our worship, there is ‘the blood of the covenant’ (Exodus 24:8; 12:13; John 1:29; Hebrews 9:22; 10:4; 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). Moses worshipped on ‘the mountain of God’ (Exodus 24:12-18). We worship ‘in spirit and truth’ (John 4:19-24). We come to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). We come on the basis of Christ’s blood shed for us (Hebrews 10:19-22). We come as those to whom the Spirit has been given (John 1:33; 3:34). With ‘the Spirit of God’ living in us and helping us as we pray, let us feast on Christ, the Truth, the living Word, to whom the written and spoken words point us (Romans 8:9,26; John 14:6; 1:1,14; 17:17).

May our words point to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In the second Psalm, we read of a conflict. On the one side, there is ‘the Lord and His Anointed’ (Psalm 2:2). On the other there are those who ‘conspire and ...plot’ (Psalm 2:1). The conspiracies and plots of men will come to nothing. The saving purpose of God will be fulfilled. This purpose will be accomplished in Christ, the One to whom God says, ‘You are My Son’ (Psalm 2:7), the One to whom God says, ‘I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession’ (Psalm 2:8). God calls us to worship Christ - ‘Kiss the Son’ (Psalm 2:12). This call to worship Christ is accompanied by a warning against judgment and a promise of salvation. As sinners, we are under God’s judgment. Trusting in Christ, we are saved (Psalm 2:12; John 3:36). We are to take delight in Christ. This is the thought conveyed by the phrase, ‘Kiss the Son’. We delight in God’s Son, and we delight in God’s Word which leads us to Him.

May our words be full of joyful worship.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4,6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).

May our words be full of heartfelt thanksgiving.
God ‘has given us His very great and precious promises’ (2 Peter 1:4). God has a great purpose for us. He is preparing for us ‘a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:11). The pathway to heavenly and eternal glory is not an easy one. Often, we will be tempted to settle for being ‘ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’. There will be many distractions, drawing our attention away from Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him if we are not to become ‘blind and short-sighted’. We can so easily forget the most important thing - we have been ‘cleansed from our old sins’. It is so important that we keep looking to Christ, remembering what He has done for us and giving thanks to Him (2 Peter 1:8-9). ‘The Lord’ will not fail us in our ‘trials’ (2 Peter 2:9). Let’s not fail Him!

May our words be full of divine glory.
There will come a time when the glory of God will be fully revealed - ‘the Son of man is going to come in His Father's glory’ (Matthew 16:27). Here on earth, there are ‘foretastes of glory divine’: Matthew 16:28 may be understood in connection with the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2) - the divine glory of heaven breaking through into our human life on earth. Revelations of glory prepared these men for discipleship. They turned their eyes upon Jesus (Matthew 17:8). They looked full in His wonderful face (Matthew 17:2). The things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace (Mission Praise, 59,712) - ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here’ (Matthew 17:4). The ‘mountain top’ experience could not be preserved - no ‘three shelters’ (Matthew 17:4)! We can continue to worship, hear Jesus’ words and look to Him (Matthew 17:6-8), rejoicing in His suffering for us (Matthew 17:12) and awaiting His return to ‘restore all things’ (Matthew 17:11).

Monday, 20 February 2017

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 49:8-16a; Psalm 131; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

Good News for everyone: Jesus Christ is our Redeemer.
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’. We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’ (Isaiah 49:26). ‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves. We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’ (Mission Praise, 385). ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).

Good News for everyone: In Jesus Christ, there is “full redemption.”
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’- ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’- ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’ ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

Let’s share the Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As ‘servants of Christ’, we must concern ourselves with one thing - being ‘found faithful’. This is not a matter of pleasing people - ‘it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you...’. Pleasing God - this is the most important thing (1 Corinthians 4:1-4). Serving Christ is not easy. There are always those who are quick to pass judgment on the Lord’s servants. What does God say about this? - ‘Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes’ (1 Corinthians 4:9-13, 5). Being ‘found faithful’ is not just a matter of ‘saying the right words’. We must be the right people. This is what Paul means when he says, ‘The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20). ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses’(Acts 1:8; Romans 12:11).

Let’s share the Good News by living for Christ.
On the one side of Christ’s disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are ‘the Gentiles’ (Matthew 6\;32). The hypocrites represent religion without reality. The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously. We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles. Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men. We are to live for God’s eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (Matthew 6:19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany – Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Psalm 119:33-40; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

Holiness and love

Holiness and love - the two belong together (Leviticus 19:1, 18, 34).
God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love.
Through His Spirit - the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love - , He enables us to live this life.
We need His promises. We need His commands. Take them both together - not one without the other! Promises without commands - We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing. Commands without promises - Our 'obedience' becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace.
We are to 'be holy... before Him in love' (Ephesians 1:4). 'The holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the 'love' without which we are 'nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall 'be holy... in love' (Leviticus 19:34, 36).

Through the Scriptures of truth, we are led on the pathway of holiness and love.

‘Revive me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:25).
How does God revive us according to His Word?
- He gives us His salvation: ‘Let Your unfailing love come to me, O Lord - Your salvation according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:41).
- He gives us His strength: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:28).
- He gives us a change of heart: ‘I have chosen the way of truth; I have set
my heart on Your laws... I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free... Give me understanding, and I will keep Your law and obey it with my whole heart... Turn my heart to Your testimonies...’ (Psalm 119:30, 32, 34, 36).
- He gives us ‘new life’: ‘When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!’(40; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Through the Spirit of grace, we are led on the pathway of holiness and love.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14).
The Pharisees lived by law. Jesus lived by love.
The law of God - ‘holy and just and good’ (Romans 7:12) - had been distorted by the religious hypocrites. They were saying, ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’(Matthew 5:43). ‘Love your neighbour’ is found in Leviticus 19:18. ‘Hate your enemy’ is not found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, ‘neighbour’ meant their own kind. They wrongly concluded that Gentiles were to be hated.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we are to love our enemies as well as our friends (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus’ disagreement is not with the law of God. It is with man’s misuse of it. Jesus’ teaching is simple - Love is not to be limited. It is demanding - love is all-embracing. We dare not bring love within our reach. We always fall short. We can only come to Christ. Confessing our lack of love and trusting in His perfect love, we learn to love.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany – Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37


Hearing and Obeying God’s Word
For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with ‘all the heart and soul’ involved obedience to ‘His commandments... written in this book of the law’ (Deuteronomy 30:10).
We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - ‘...the Word is very near you...’ (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Through His Word, God ‘sets before’ us a choice. He calls us to ‘choose life’ (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Joshua was to succeed Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-2, 7-8). Conflict lay ahead. God’s people needed His Word of encouragement: ‘Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them’.
Beyond the conflict, there would be triumph. God gave His Word of promise: ‘It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (Deuteronomy 31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).

Following Christ
The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1, 9, 11, 17).
Many will choose the way of disobedience - ‘influential people sit together and slander me’. We must choose the way of obedience - ‘Your servant will meditate on Your teachings’ (Psalm 119:23).
Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us - ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20) - and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus... The world behind me, the Cross before me... Though none go with me, I still will follow... No turning back, no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
The teaching of Jesus here may be summed up thus: The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Jesus’ teaching was much more penetrating than the pronouncements made by the scribes and Pharisees. Not content to scratch the surface, Jesus asked the deeper question, ‘What's going on in your heart?’. Jesus’ teaching has real spiritual depth. He takes seriously the Biblical teaching that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt’(Jeremiah 17:9). He knows that we need a ‘new heart’(Ezekiel 36:26). The Pharisees were bogged down in intricate details - Do this. Do that. Do the other. All the emphasis was on what we do. Christ was much more direct - Get the heart right.
Ask God for a heart of love (Matthew 5:21-26), purity (Matthew 5:27-32), and truthfulness (Matthew 5:33-37). Do not say, ‘Look what I've done’(7:22).
Let Christ live in your heart; let Him change you. Never think too highly of yourself. Always remember this - ‘only God ... gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

Monday, 6 February 2017

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12); Psalm 112:1-9, (10); 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16); Matthew 5:13-20


Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we receive peace and joy.
‘To the far and to the near’, God speaks His Word of ‘peace’ (Isaiah 57:19). Christ is God’s Word of ‘peace’ (Ephesians 2:13-14). Christ is for ‘the Jews’. Christ is for ‘the Gentiles’.
There is one way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. We must put our ‘faith’ in Him. Through Him, we have ‘peace with God’ (Romans 3:29-30; 5:1).
God’s Word invites us to ‘call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved’ (Isaiah 58:9; Acts 2:21). In Christ, there is true ‘joy’- ‘I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation...’ (Isaiah 58:14; 61:10).
We rejoice in Jesus Christ. He is ‘the High and Exalted One’. He has come from His ‘high and holy place’. He has become ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’. He is our peace and joy, our Saviour and our God’ (Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 1:21, 23; John 20:28).

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we offer to God our triumphant praise.
‘Praise the Lord... To Him belongs eternal praise... Blessed is the man who fears the Lord... His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes...’ (Psalms 111:1, 10; 112:1, 8).
Those who ‘fear the Lord’ have no need to live in fear of man. Those who know that ‘eternal praise belongs to the Lord’ can face their enemies with confidence. Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord.
We know how good the Lord has been to us - ‘He provided redemption for His people’. We have heard and believed the Good News of Christ. We need not ‘fear’ any ‘bad news’ which the devil sends our way. We ‘trust in the Lord’, confident that the ‘light ‘will triumph over the ‘darkness’. The Good News of Christ will triumph over the devil’s bad news (Psalms 111:9; 112:4, 7).

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we serve God and we pray for His blessing.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14).
We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants...’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’- ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).
Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ‘’Tis all my business... to cry Behold the Lamb!’(Mission Praise, 378,385) - Let’s say it and mean it!

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we walk in the way of holiness and happiness.
Holiness is to be seen. Happiness is to be shared. We are not to be secret disciples.
It will not be easy to live the life of Christ’s disciples.
In a world of much corruption, we are to be ‘the salt of the earth’ (Matthew 5:13). In a world of much darkness we are to be ‘the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14).
If we are to bring the refreshing light of Christ into our world, we ourselves must receive spiritual refreshment as we let the light of God’s Word shine on our lives.
Reading God’s Word can never be a purely personal thing. Being ‘the salt of the earth’and ‘the light of the world’- this is what Jesus says we are- , we read Scripture with a view to learning how we are to live in the world. Don’t lose your saltiness. Be salty enough to create a thirst for God in other people. Don’t let your light grow dim. Let it shine brightly. Remember - all the glory belongs to God (Matthew 5:16; Psalm 115:1).
In Matthew 5:20, Jesus refers to ‘the scribes and Pharisees’. He warns us against the shallow superficiality of these men who were more concerned with outward appearances than inner reality.
This conflict with the Jewish religious leaders lies close to the surface in the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus says, ‘This is their way. This is My way’, He is not calling in question the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures: ‘Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them’ (Matthew 5:17). He is in conflict with ‘the hypocrites’ (Matthew 6:2 5,16). He is warning us against the ‘false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves’ (Matthew 7:15).
What a difference there was between Jesus’ teaching and those who ‘preach, but do not practise’ (Matthew 23:3) - He spoke with ‘authority’, they did not (Matthew 7:29).
May we be like Jesus!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

From Genesis to Revelation in a Year: 1st-7th February - Leviticus 1-19

These notes are also being posted, day-by,day, at From Genesis to Revelation in a Year.

1st February - Leviticus 1-4

1:1-2:16 -  Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb without blemish’, has ‘made atonement’ for sin through the shedding of His ‘precious blood’ (1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:18-19). This offering of Christ – He ‘loved us and gave Himself up for us’ – is ‘a pleasing odour to the Lord’, ‘a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (1:9,13,17; Ephesians 5:2). Read of the ‘cereal offering’ in which there was to be ‘no leaven’ (2:11). Think of Christ – ‘Our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed’: ‘Let us celebrate the festival (the Lord’s Supper)… with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). May our worship – ‘frankincense’: an expression of worship (Matthew 2:11) – be filled with ‘the oil of gladness’, ‘with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ (Psalm 45:7; Luke 3:16). Such worship is ‘most holy… to the Lord’ (2:3,10).
3:1-4:35 -  Christ is the real thing. Israel’s sacrifices are only ‘copies of the heavenly things’, ‘a shadow of the good things to come’ (Hebrews 9:23-24; 10:1,5-10). As you read of the ‘peace offering’, rejoice in this: ‘we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1). We look to Christ, and we say, ‘He is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14). Christ is ‘our sin offering’ – ‘offered… to bear the sins of many (4:3; Hebrews 9:28). The ‘blood’ has been shed – We have been ‘washed… in the blood of the Lamb’ (4:5-7; Revelation 7:14). Christ went ‘outside the camp’ for us: He ‘suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood’ (4:12; Hebrews 13:11-12). For Christ, there was suffering. For us, there is forgiveness – ‘he shall be forgiven’ (26,31,35).

2nd February - Leviticus 5-6

5:1-6:30 -  Christ’s sacrifice covers every sin. No matter what your sin may be, you can bring it to Him for forgiveness. ‘If any man sins’ – Take your sin to Christ: He has ‘made atonement for sin’ (5:1,6,10,13-14,16; 6:2,7). ‘Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’ (Mark 3:28-30) does not refer to some specific, identifiable sin, which lies beyond God’s power to forgive. It refers to your persistent refusal to bring your sins to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and leads to the Saviour (John 16:8-9,14). Let Him show you your sin. Let Him lead you to your Saviour. ‘It is a thing most holy’ (6:17) – Never forget God’s holiness. Christ’s death speaks of both holiness and love. In holiness, God pronounces His judgment on sin. In love, He provides forgiveness for sinners.

3rd February - Leviticus 7-8

7:1-38 -  As we read about the sacrifices, rejoicing in Christ – the perfect Sacrifice for sin – , let us bring our sacrifice of ‘thanksgiving’ (12-13,15). ‘Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God’ (Hebrews 13:15). Let it be ‘a living sacrifice’, the sacrifice of our lives – this is ‘our spiritual worship’ (Romans 12:1). God’s salvation is ‘to the praise of His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6). ‘We bring the sacrifice of praise… We offer up to You the sacrifices of thanksgiving… the sacrifices of joy’. ‘Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God, In every part with praise… Not for the lip of praise alone nor e’en the praising heart, I ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part’ (Mission Praise, 722; Church Hymnary, 457). Still ‘in the wilderness’ (38), let us learn to worship as we travel to ‘the promised land’!
8:1-36 -  ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded to be done’ (5): For us, it must be ‘as the Lord commanded’ (4,9,13,17,21,29,36). God calls us to serve Him (Hebrews 5:4-5). Obedience to God, love for God – These are to be our priorities (1 Samuel 15:22; 1 Corinthians 13:3). Christ is to be our ‘first love’ (Revelation 2:4).  Washed, robed, anointed (6-7,12): Our robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, we have this anointing – ‘to preach the Gospel…’ (Revelation 7:14; Luke 4:18-19).   Ears, hands and feet: Consecrated by the blood of Christ to hear the Word of the Lord, do the work of the Lord and walk in the way of the Lord  (24), we must pray for a change of heart – ‘O for a heart to praise my God, a heart from sin set free; a heart that always feels Thy blood so freely shed for me’ (Church Hymnary, 85).

4th February - Leviticus 9-10
9:1-10:20 -  Aaron had to make atonement for himself and for the people (9:7). Christ did not need to make atonement for Himself – He was ‘without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15). In Christ, we are ‘accepted’. In Him there is blessing, glory and joy (9:22-24; Ephesians 1:6,3; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 1:8). God has given us ‘holy fire’. Let us not try to do His work with ‘unholy fire’ (10:1-2; Acts 2:3-4). To those who seek to live ‘as the Lord has commanded’ (9:7; 10:15), God promises to reveal His holiness, nearness and glory (10:3). Do you want to draw near to God, to become ‘mature’ in Christ? – Learn ‘to distinguish between the holy and the common… the unclean and the clean… good and evil’ (10:10; Hebrews 5:14). God reveals the glory of His holiness. Let us confess our sins, be forgiven and be obedient. (Isaiah 6:3-8).

5th February - 11:1-14:32

11:1-47 -  God sees only two types of people: ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’. All of us are ‘in Adam’ (sinners). Not all are ‘in Christ’ (saved) (Romans 5:12-21). How about you? – Are you cleansed, forgiven, born again, saved, committed (1 John 1:7,9; John 3:7; Acts 16:31; 2 Timothy 1:12)? Or, are you still in your sins, guilty of neglecting God’s great salvation, not far from – yet still outside of – God’s Kingdom, almost persuaded but still uncommitted (John 8:24; 9:41; Hebrews 2:3; Acts 26:28)? Before the call to holiness (45), there is the call to salvation. Give your heart to Christ. This is where holiness begins (Mark 7:14-23). Holiness is not our own achievement – ‘God is at work in you’ (Philippians 2:13). Remember: Our holiness is grounded in His redemption (45). Feed on His Word – and let holiness grow (Psalm 119:9-11).
12:1-13:46 -  How can I be made clean (12:8)? – This is the vital question to which the Gospel gives its emphatic answer. We ask, ‘What can wash away my stain?’. The answer is given, ‘Nothing but the blood of Jesus’. We ask, ‘Has atonement been made for my sin’ (12:8)?’. The answer is clear: ‘Christ has for sin atonement made’. You can be ‘washed in the blood of the Lamb’. What water cannot do, Christ does for us. The water used in baptism – ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’! – cannot wash away our sin. It can only point beyond itself to Christ’s Cross, where we hear the Good News: ‘There is wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb’ (Redemption Hymnal, 333,615,309,288). Confess your sin – ‘Unclean, unclean’ (13:45). Christ will change you – beginning with your ‘heart’ (12:3; Romans 2:28-29).
13:47-14:32 -  We read about skin disease.  Remember: there is also the sin disease – and we’re all suffering from that!.  Sin is a deadly ‘cancer’ for which there is only one treatment: ‘Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus’ (Redemption Hymnal, 333).  The new birth – like physical birth – is a unique, once-for-all, experience: it is the beginning of the Christian life (John 3:3-6).  Many times over, we will need to be ‘washed a second time’ (58).  Justification (Romans 5:1) happens in a moment: ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. Sanctification (Romans 6:13,19). lasts a lifetime: ‘Take time to be holy…(Mission Praise, 708,625). God loves us: He will help us to ‘be holy’ (1 Peter 1:16).

6th February - Leviticus 14:33- 15:33
14:33-15:33 -  You can get ‘dry rot’ in people – as well as houses (14:34; Hebrews 12:15)!  Sin is like ‘a wasting disease’ (Psalm 106:13-15).  It will only get worse – unless something is done about it!  Sin spreads. and spreads, and…  Can anything be done about this sad situation?  Look into yourself, and you will find that the situation is hopeless (Romans 7:14-20).  Look to Christ, and there is hope: ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Romans 5:20).  Sin is not to be taken lightly.  Don’t underestimate the power of sin.  Little by little, it will lure you away from Christ.  Keep close to Jesus, rejoicing in this: ‘He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4).  God calls for holiness: ‘your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit’;  ‘present your bodies…to God’ (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 12:1).

7th February - Leviticus 16-19

16:1-34 -  God is ‘holy‘. We cannot ‘draw near’ and ‘come’ to Him without a ‘sin offering’ (1-3).  We cannot bring ‘a sin offering’ to Him.  We can only bring our sin:  Our righteousness is ‘like filthy rags’ (Isaiah  64:6).  There is a ‘way’ for sinners to ‘draw near’ to God:  Christ is the true and living Way (John 14:6; Hebrews 10:19-22).  In verses 20-22, we have a great picture of Christ bearing the sin of the world: ‘Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood… Full atonement, – Yes it is! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’ (Church Hymnary, 380).  Atonement has been made for us…We have been cleansed from all our sins (30):  What a perfect atonement!  What a perfect Saviour! – ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14).
17:1-18:23 -  We are to be devoted ‘to the Lord’ (17:4-6,9):  ‘You are not your own; you were bought with a price’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Underlying Christ’s atoning death, there is this principle: ‘the life… is in the blood… I have given it for you… to make atonement…’ (17:11).  Christ has shed His blood:  He has given His life that we might have life.  God looks upon His Son, crucified for us: He ‘has commanded the blessing, life for evermore’ (Psalm 133:3).  We confess our sin, acknowledging that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins’ (Hebrews 9:22).  With grateful thanksgiving, we rejoice in our Saviour, ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).  ‘Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power…’ (Mission Praise, 671).
18:24-19:37 -  Holiness and love – the two belong together (1,18,34).  God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love.  Through His Spirit – the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love – , He enables us to live this life.  We need His promises.  We need His commands.  Take them both together – not one without the other!  Promises without commands – We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing.  Commands without promises – Our ‘obedience’ becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace.  We are to ‘be holy… before Him in love‘ (Ephesians 1:4).  ‘The holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the ‘love’ without which we are ‘nothing’ (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall ‘be holy… in love’ (34,36).

Lord, You’re calling us to choose the life of fruitful service.

1 Kings 7:13-8:13 Lord, You’re calling us to choose the life of fruitful service – “gold, silver, precious stones”. You’re calling us t...