17 February 2019

Revealing God's Wisdom

In many aspects of our Christian walk before God we bear a degree of responsibility.  Knowing this, it is possible we might begin to place more emphasis on our efforts or knowledge and create a subtle shift from simple faith in God.  It is true knowledge of God and His Word is intrinsic to faith and obedience, yet we are compared to one currently seeing a dim reflection of reality.  Even when we are able to view a picture or video in High Definition it could only portray a fraction of the details which could be known:  what led to the scene, the people involved, the outcome, and the future.

I am blessed God has plans, purposes, and the miraculous ability to perform them all in His way and time.  God declared through the prophet in Isaiah 46:9-11, "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,' 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it."  This is encouraging stuff for those overwhelmed with their own inadequacy and failure.  We serve an awesome God who reigns on high and is not reliant upon us to do anything - but He delights to employ us in His service, and it is He who makes our labours fruitful.

My eyes were opened this week to one purpose of the church I hadn't considered before mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 3.  Despite viewing himself as the least of all the saints, Paul was delighted to be a prisoner of Christ and bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, to share the mystery of the creation of the church made of both Jew and Gentile which God revealed.  He continued concerning God's purpose in Ephesians 3:10-11:  "...to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord..."  It seemed a wild enough thing Paul would be chosen by God to share the Gospel to Gentiles, but even more shocking that God purposed to use the church to make known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers, to angelic and demonic spiritual hosts.  Through Paul's life and all who have been redeemed and atoned for by the blood of Jesus, our lives are a living testimony of the power of God - not only to our fellow men - but to angels forever.

The salvation of a sinner and the subsequent transformation by God's grace must be amazing from an angel's-eye view.  We marvel over the metamorphosis of a tadpole to a frog or a caterpillar to a moth because of their physical changes, but demons and angels alike marvel how fallen people can be adopted as sons and made co-heirs with Christ, granted eternal salvation, and filled with all the fullness of God.  Looking at the wondrous examples of God's design and wisdom in nature does not grow old for us, and seeing God's majesty and glory in the salvation of souls is a constant source of wonder for spiritual hosts.  I am so glad God's to fulfil this eternal purpose in my life didn't start with me knowing or understanding it.  How many more things, I wonder, has God planned and is accomplishing right now in the lives of His people who comprise the Body of Christ, the church?  Trust God, believing His plans are greater than what you can see or know, and rejoice in Him.

16 February 2019

Forgiveness in Christ

Following Jesus Christ as LORD and Saviour totally transforms our perspective.  Faith in God is not intended to be an isolated part of our lives but practically impact everything.  This goes far beyond our beliefs or thoughts but plays out daily in the way we respond.

Last night I turned on the rugby all-star clash between the New Zealand and Indigenous Australian teams.  After seeing the Kiwis belt out their national anthem with gusto as one, I was saddened to see the Indigenous players strangely silent whilst "Advance Australia Fair" was played.  It seems I was not the only one who noticed, as it was addressed in an opinion piece on the NRL website and an article on 9 News.  According to the article, the Australian captain responded when asked about the silence, saying "...he didn’t believe the song represented himself or his family and the lyrics embodied a different message to Indigenous people. It just brings back so many memories from what's happened, and it's something everyone as a group and everyone in Australia needs to, I suppose, get together and work something out.”  This isn't the first time people have been hurt, offended, or at odds with one another, but I was sad nonetheless.  Based on his comments it doesn't seem Walker is against the song, per se, but has unresolved conflict over the past.

I'm relatively new to these fair shores, and do not presume to be an authority on the terrible tragedies suffered by Indigenous Australians.  I do know there is a "National Sorry Day" celebrated annually on 26 May, and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008 issued an apology on behalf of the Federal government.  It may be common sentiment among hurting people that "Sorry isn't enough," yet being genuinely sorry is of little benefit when there is no forgiveness.  That is when healing can begin.  I have seen people, though faith in Jesus Christ, forgive and pray for those who have hurt them when the perpetrator isn't sorry - and perhaps still denies all wrongdoing.

Without Jesus, this freedom and capacity for forgiveness is impossible.  Having freely been forgiven by the grace of God, how fitting is it for followers of Jesus to forgive others too.  Matthew 18:21-22 says, "Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."  That's a lot of forgiveness!  God has forgiven us beyond measure, more than anyone could ever do us wrong.  Forgiveness is never easy, but is righteous, good, and a clear step towards healing wounds new and old.  Time does not heal all wounds; the past cannot be undone:  but by God's grace we can forgive and discover abundant life in Christ.

13 February 2019

Democratic Musings of C.S. Lewis

I've been reading a compilation of quotes by C.S. Lewis lately and have been enjoying it.  I was especially intrigued by the section on Democracy, and his insights focused through a God-honouring lens are worthy of consideration today.  This is one of my favourites, quoted from an essay written in 1943 titled "Equality":
"I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man.  I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason.  A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government.  The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true...I find that they're not true without looking further than myself.  I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation...The real reason for democracy is...Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.  Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves.  I do not contradict him.  But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters." (Lewis, C. S., et al. The Quotable Lewis. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990. #326; pages 152-153)
Another notable quote on the subject was gleaned from The Screwtape Letters penned in 1959:
Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose...The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say "I'm as good as you."
The first and most obvious advantage is that you thus induce him to enthrone at the centre of his life a good, solid resounding lie.  I don't mean merely that his statement is false in fact, that he is not more equal to everyone he meets in kindness, honesty, and good sense than in height or waist-measurement.  I mean that he does not believe it himself.  No man who says, "I'm as good as you" believes it.  He would not say it if he did.  The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain.  The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior.  What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept...
Now this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new.  Under the name of Envy it has been known to the humans for thousands of years.  But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices.  Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others.  The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it - make it respectable and even laudable - by the incantatory use of the word democratic." (Lewis, C. S., et al. The Quotable Lewis. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990. #332; pages 154-155)
I encourage you to find books of believing writers which make you think, for often they arrive at sublime conclusions we would not discover by ourselves.  It is good to read books which dive deeper into subjects than your thoughts natural range which stretch and challenge you to run at breakneck speed to keep up - whilst the author walks at a casual, conversational pace.  The best book of all is the Holy Bible which goes to a supernatural depth no great thinker can adequately plumb, but the truth and applications are revealed by the Holy Spirit to the humble heart and willing mind at all levels of learning.  It is a satisfying feeling to use our brains to consider and weigh concepts as God intended, realising there is much more to thinking than we previously imagined.

12 February 2019

Sorrow without Regret

"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death."
2 Corinthians 7:9-10

Sorrow is common in our human condition.  Grief, heaviness, and even guilt can be beneficial for us and others when godly sorrow leads us to repentance.  The context of the quoted passage is Paul was sad to see the Corinthians sorrowful over their sin, but he was pleased that it provoked a healthy and positive response in them to humbly repent before God.  It is one thing to acknowledge we have done wrong, but another thing entirely to put off the sin moving forward - and actually be joyful to move on in faith.  The lives of Judas and Peter provide illustrations of sorrow in a worldly and godly manner.  Both Judas and Peter fell into sin as do we all, and the way we deal with it will determine the fruit which remains.

There are many similarities between Judas and Peter:  they were both called by Jesus as disciples, followed Him for years, and were both informed they would respectively betray and deny Jesus. After Judas made a covenant with the Jewish rulers to betray Jesus away from the crowds for 30 pieces of silver, he was overcome with guilt for his sin.  Matthew 27:3-5 says, "Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!"5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself."  Judas knew he had done wrong, but the sorrow produced by his sin was not handled in a godly manner:  without repentance before God it produced death.  Instead of humbling himself before God, Judas determined swift justice was what he deserved.  He transgressed further by taking vengeance upon himself without care of God's grace or mercy.

Peter strongly opposed the suggestion he would deny Jesus, yet later that same night he did so three times.  It was only after he did deny Jesus it hit home in Matthew 26:75:  "And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." So he went out and wept bitterly."  Peter experienced great sorrow due to his sin, and rightly so.  He had denied Jesus the Son of God who was crucified on Calvary.  Clearly Peter had the same opportunity to tie a rope around his neck and leap to his death, but his life revealed a response to sorrow in a godly manner.  After Jesus was risen from the dead, He called out to Peter and his fellow fishermen.  When they brought in a sizeable catch, it dawned on Peter who spoke with them in John 21:7:  "Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea."  Peter did not jump into the sea to swim away from Jesus, but raced to be close to Jesus.  Peter's friendship and fellowship was restored with Jesus that day, and he went on to lead others to salvation through faith in Christ.

Judas and Peter both sorrowed for their own sin, but their responses were totally different.  I am sure they both "beat themselves up" as we also are prone to do when we have done wrong, but followers of Jesus are called to repentance leading to salvation which is not to be regretted.  There is nothing to regret about restoration to friendship with God.  The sorrow of the world, however, always produces death even when a rope is not employed to end it all:  death of fruitfulness, death of a solid witness, death of viable ministry, the death of relationship.  Worldly sorrow is a slow, painful death leading to death we can be delivered from when we rush to Christ in faith and repentance.  Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and the fact Peter jumped and swam to Jesus was evidence of godly sorrow coupled with genuine love.  May the LORD produce in us this godly sorrow which leads to salvation, not only for us but leading to the salvation of others.