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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Old Way

Way“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in me also. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. If this were not true, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. If I go and do that, I will come back. And I will take you to be with me. Then you will also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” 
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. So how can we know the way?” 
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father also. From now on, you do know him. And you have seen him.” John 14:1-7

Where Are We Going? 
Jesus told the disciples they were going to His Father's house to be with Him, and that they knew the way there. But this concept of the Father's "house" is a little enigmatic. Thomas certainly didn't understand what Jesus meant.

From the context it's pretty clear that Jesus didn't mean the home of Joseph. But, the first thought of the disciples might have been that Jesus was going to the Temple, commonly referred to as the House of God. There were certainly plenty of rooms in the Temple. Thomas seems to have realised that was not Jesus' meaning but Jesus doesn't clarify the details of the destination, simply the route.

Jesus The Way 
There are two overriding views in our world today. The first is that there is no way to God because there is no God. The self-styled New Atheists preach an aggressive anti-gospel which is really just an angry version of the old atheistic arguments. But the quality of the new apologists, such as William Lane Craig and John Lennox, have pushed them into positions of absurdity (such as something coming from nothing).

The second popular view is that all roads lead to God. This again is clearly nonsensical if we think about it. If all religions have equal access to God, He must be the same God in all religions and a cursory review of a handful of faiths will show us there are significant differences. The god who demands, under Sharia law for example, that a thief has his hand cut off, is certainly not the God of the Old and New Testaments.

No, there is only one way, the old way, and Jesus is it. We must put our faith in Him and trust Him to bring us home to the Father. The Bible gives no special words to pray, no catechism to learn, no penance to perform. It is outrageously simple:

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Eph 2:8 

Jesus The Truth
But Jesus doesn't simply claim to be the way. He also calls Himself the truth and this would seem to be an even stranger saying.

In our generation, many would echo the words of Pilate, "what is truth?" The idea of absolute truth seems on the verge of extinction.But Jesus said, "Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37). If you want to know what truth is, study the words of Jesus.

The truth of Jesus is what infuses us when we have accepted Him as the way. Once we are on our journey we should be following his teachings. We can only do this as we read the gospels and take heed of His words.

red letter bibleWhen Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble," you can be sure trouble will come.

When He says, "Anyone who is angry with a brother will be subject to judgment," He means it.

When He says, "Do not swear an oath at all," you would be advised to take Him seriously.

None of the teachings of Jesus are optional.

But it is not only His teaching which is truth. everything about Him is truth. When He told Philip, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father," He declared that we could know the truth about God by looking at Him.

Paul explained it this way in Colossians:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him.

To know the truth about God, study Jesus.

Jesus The Life 
Jesus is the way and the truth. He is also the life.

Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, think that the life of the Christian is boring and full of self-denial. While it is true that Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me," He also said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full," (John 10:10).

The best way to reconcile this apparent paradox is, again, to look at the life of Jesus. He Himself said, "For the works that the Father has given me to finish - the very works that I am doing - testify that the Father has sent me," (John 5:36).

In the gospels we see Jesus at parties and barbecues, in the bustle of the city and the quiet of the wilderness. We see Him drinking wine and fasting, teaching the crowds and spending time with children. He heals the sick with compassion and turns over the tables of the money changers in anger. He shares the glory of God on the mount of transfiguration and washes the dirt from His disciples' feet at the Last Supper. All of this in just three years of ministry. The previous thirty had been spent growing up with His brothers and sisters, obedient to His mother and learning the trade of His father in an obscure village in an unpromising corner of the Roman empire.

Most of the life of Jesus was ordinary, some of it involved the miraculous and a small part was consumed with extraordinary suffering on behalf of others.

This was a full and abundant life with eternal consequences. Ours is unlikely to be as dramatic but as we walk in His way and learn His truth we can expect that we will share something of His challenges and His joy.

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Matt 12:50

Friday, July 12, 2013

What Revival Looks Like

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thes 1:5-6

The word revival has become devalued in the church today.

Perhaps that is not surprising given that it has been so long since we experienced a genuine revival. However there do seem to be some stirrings in Wales at the moment. At Ffald-y-Brenin remarkable things are happening as people learn the meaning of God's blessing and His grace. And at Victory Church in Cwmbran the Holy Spirit seems to be moving.

What's happening in these places is very far from the self-styled revival, artificially planned and hyped-up meetings that have become popular in some places where prominent individuals are glorified before God.

What is happening in Wales seems more like the events when Paul visited Thessalonica - the true gospel of sin and repentance was preached, the Holy Spirit worked on people and they experienced deep conviction. Consequently souls were saved. This was not just a worship party for Christians to enjoy.

Please don't settle for rock-concert-style church. Seek the face of God, ask Him to raise up preachers empowered by the Holy Spirit who will declare the true gospel of Jesus.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Day of Destruction

western_wall_jerusalem_7You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place.

Rev 2:4-5

Tisha b'Av 
This evening, Sunday 7th July, sees the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av. Jews are in the middle of a traditional three weeks of mourning which began with the fast of Tammuz and will culminate on Tisha b'Av (9th Av), 15th and 16th July.

Why is Tisha b'Av so important?

It is because so many destructive things have happened to God's chosen people on that date. Here are some which relate specifically to the Temple:
  • 586 BC Solomon's Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
  • AD 70 The Second Temple where Jesus had taught was destroyed by the Romans
  • AD 136 Roman Emperor Hadrian built a temple to Jupiter on the site
The day has also been associated with the Crusades, the expulsion of Jews from Spain and the deportation from the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka in 1942.

No wonder modern day Jews still mourn.

Heed The Warning 
Why then, given the evidence of God's dealings with His special people, do we not head the words of Jesus to the church at Ephesus?

The casual attitude that says, "oh well, if we do get it wrong, Jesus will forgive us," denies the righteous anger of the Lord. The threat to remove the lamp stand is not an idle one. Judgement on God's people did not end with the Jews. He is serious about His reputation and the honour due to His name. We ignore the repeated references to God's jealousy at our peril.

Our Lord wants our undivided devotion and, as our Creator, He has every right to demand it. If we treat Jesus and His sacrifice for us lightly we should not be surprised if He disciplines us. But there is always a way back for the individual Christian:

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Rev 3:19:20

For a congregation of His people, willful disobedience may lead to the removal of the church, as it did at Ephesus.