Monday, 10 July 2017

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 22:1-12; Psalm 13 or Jeremiah 28:5-9; Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42

Let us look to Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

In Genesis 21:22-34, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world.
In Genesis 22:1-14, we see Abraham in his relationship with the Lord.
Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham's closeness to God - ‘God is with you in all that you do’ (Genesis 21:22).
We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God.
In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (Genesis 22:8). In Genesis 22:14, we read, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ On Calvary’s hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).

Through Christ our Saviour, “God is able to make all grace abound to us.”

'The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven': We 'take refuge' in Him (Psalm 11:4, 1).
We are to seek His face, confident that 'when He appears...we shall see Him as He is' (Psalm 11:7; 27:8; 1 John 3:2). Seeking God's face, we learn to rest in His promises, we are protected, we are kept (Psalm 12:6-7).
We may face difficult circumstances (Psalm 13:1-4). We can still trust in the Lord's 'steadfast love'. We can still 'rejoice' in His 'salvation'. We can still say with the Psalmist, 'I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me' – ‘God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work’ (Psalm 13:5-6; 2 Corinthians 9:8).

Let us exchange our weakness for the strength of our Saviour.
‘Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie’ (Jeremiah 28:15).
What a difference there is between those who wait on the Lord for His strength and those who rush ahead in their own strength!
The Word of God warns us against trying to serve God in our own strength: ‘Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted’.
If we are to be true servants of the Lord, we must learn to wait upon the Lord and receive His strength: ‘Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength’. What a difference the strength of the Lord makes - ‘They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:30-31)!

Let us exchange our weakness for God’s strength - then we will truly be ‘sent’ by the Lord and will speak His truth.
Christ has died for us. Christ has risen for us. Let us sing of His great love for us.
‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’ (Psalm 89:1).
Many years have passed since these words were written by the Psalmist. Many generations have come and gone since Jesus Christ came to our world. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time.
There is something which must never change. The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever’. He is to be praised ‘through all generations’.
We must look back and remember. Jesus Christ was crucified for us. Jesus Christ has risen for us.
This is the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever...’

With Christ as our Saviour, let us walk in newness of life.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done! He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
(b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it. This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11).
(c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’. ‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new.
(d) We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.

Let us learn from our Saviour. Let us walk with Him in the way of the Cross.
Jesus tells us that ‘a student is not above his teacher nor a servant above his master’ (Matthew 10:24). Our Teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Master. Jesus emphasizes that ‘it is enough for the student to be like his teacher and the servant like his master’ (Matthew 10:25). This is the goal of the Christian life - we are to be like Jesus.
This will not be an easy life. There will be persecution (Matthew 10:22; 2 Timothy 3:12).
In this situation - going the way of the Cross with Jesus (Matthew 10:38) - we need to hear and heed the Word of the Lord: Do not fear man. Fear God (Matthew 10:28). The fear of men is to be avoided. The fear of God is to be treasured greatly.
There will be conflict with those who do not honour God (Matthew 10:34-37). We must remember: pleasing God is more important than pleasing people. Our prayer is that our hearers will receive Christ as well as ourselves (Matthew 10:40).

Monday, 3 July 2017

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 or Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 19:24-30


Let us rejoice in God’s greatest gift – Jesus.

We have here the contrast between Isaac, the child of promise, and Ishmael, the fruit of unbelief.
Ishmael was born as a result of impatience, the failure to wait upon the Lord. In the birth of Isaac, the initiative belonged with God, and the glory belonged to Him.
In Christ, we are the children of promise - ‘children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:13).
God did not forget Ishmael. There were blessings for him (Genesis 21:17-21).
The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between common grace and saving grace.
Many people know much of the grace of God in ‘the common things of life’ (Church Hymnary, 457). There are so many blessings for them to count.
Sadly, they fail to appreciate God’s greatest gift - His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thank God for this and that and... Jesus!

Let the God of love fill your heart with His joy.
‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you... Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth... I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart... For great is Your love towards me’ (Psalm 86:5, 11-13).
God loves us. He forgives our sins.
We receive His love. We want to love Him more.
His love inspires our praise - ‘I will praise You...’
His love inspires our prayer - ‘Teach me Your way...’
Our whole life is to be a celebration of His love - ‘Great is Your love towards me’. We are to celebrate His love with ‘joy’ (Psalm 86:4).
We rejoice in the Lord because of who He is - ‘You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’- and what He has done for us - ‘You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me’ (Psalm 86:15, 17).

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to keep on serving Him.
Jeremiah is deeply depressed - ‘Cursed be the day I was born! ... Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?’ (Jeremiah 20:14-18).
He has been preaching God’s Word.
He’s getting nothing but abuse in return: ‘The Word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ (Jeremiah 20:8).
Does he stop preaching? No! He keeps on going.
He feels like giving up: ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name”’.
There is, however, a greater Power which drives him on - ‘His Word is in my heart like a fire.’
No matter how much Jeremiah tries to keep silent, he ‘cannot’ do it (Jeremiah 20:9). He moves forward in triumphant faith: ‘The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior’ (Jeremiah 20:11).
He calls on the people to worship the Lord: ‘Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord!’ (Jeremiah 20:13).

The joy of the Lord gives us strength when we are suffering.
David is going through ‘the deep waters’ of suffering. He prays to the Lord for deliverance from ‘the flood’ and ‘the deep’ (Psalm 69:14-15).
He had sinned against the Lord. He does not try to hide this. He confesses his sin and guilt - ‘the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You, my guilt is not hidden from You’ (Psalm 69:5).
He looks to the Lord, remembering that He is the God of ‘steadfast love’ and ‘abundant mercy’ (Psalm 69:16).
When you come to God in prayer, do not try to hide your sins from Him.
Remember - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’
In Christ, there is ‘mercy’ - God doesn’t send the judgment we deserve - and ‘grace’ - God sends the blessing we don’t deserve.
Come to Christ and receive His ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ (1 Timothy 1:13-16; Hebrews 4:14-16).

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to walk in the way of Gospel obedience.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done!
He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (Romans 6:2 Corinthians 5:17).
(b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it.
This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11).
(c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’.
‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new.
We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to look to Jesus Christ for salvation.
Even though ‘large crowds followed Him’, still ‘the Pharisees’ opposed Jesus (Matthew 19:2-3).
Jesus’ teaching regarding marriage has perfect balance.
Marriage is God’s purpose for ‘male and female’ (Matthew 19:4-5).
‘Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 19:12). There is no compulsion in these matters. Each one must seek God’s will. Celibacy should not be viewed with suspicion. This way can also be chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. It must not be suggested that celibacy is the only truly ‘spiritual’ way.
Jesus calls for humility (Matthew19:14, 30).
What we cannot do for ourselves, God does for us (Matthew 19:23-26). The Gospel humbles us and exalts God. Before we can be exalted by God and with Him, we must be humbled by God and before Him.
‘Eternal life’ (Matthew 19:16) begins when, conscious of our sin - ‘Who then can be saved?’ (Matthew 19:25) - we look to Christ alone for salvation.

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...