Posts for June 2010
5 Posts found

Philipians 2.12-13 – A Great Paradox
Posted: 24 June 2010 in Philippians

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Here is one of the great paradoxes of religion. Personal responsibility and divine predestination are set side by side, without either of them being watered down or compromised. In fact, at the same time as Paul’s readers are being exhorted to act responsibly, and cooperate with God’s grace, it is also said that their responsible behaviour is the direct result of God’s gracious working within them!

The message here is that we are both to revere God as the absolute Lord of creation, and at the same time to aware that we are fully responsible for acting in a way which is consistent with his will.

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Jeremiah 11.12-14, 17 – God’s wrath
Posted: 22 June 2010 in Jeremiah

Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble. For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble….. For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.

The first half of the last century has a reputation for being (at least in Britain) the age of the fire and brimstone sermon. I wasn’t around at the time, so I can’t speak for the accuracy of the caricature; although there must be something in it, because a reaction subsequently set in. Perhaps people were wondering where the love of God fitted into the picture. Like all reactions, however, it seems to have gone too far, and today it is almost impolite to mention God’s wrath – even though the entire Bible assures us of its reality.

It is probably inevitable that, sometime during the next few decades, the pendulum is going to swing right back the other way. But what is really needed is for us to take the whole of God’s self revelation seriously.

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Jeremiah 10.12-14, 23-24
God as sole Creator & Lord
Posted: 21 June 2010 in Jeremiah

He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.

O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.

There is not much to say here, except that it is a great hymn of praise to God’s role as the One who is the ongoing Creator and sustainer of the universe. The last two verses quoted speak of Jeremiah’s awareness that he is not master of his own destiny, but that his whole life is spent in the hands of his Creator. He prays that God may correct him, and direct his steps in such a manner that he does not eventually incur God’s wrath.

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Luke 24.25-27 – Unity of the Bible
in Luke

Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

From this passage it is perfectly clear that Jesus regarded the Old Testament as being a collection of texts which foretold his coming. That being the case it is incumbent upon us to do likewise, even though it is perfectly true that the prophets were self consciously writing for their own day. There are many paradoxes in religion, so that is just one more. Which brings me onto a personal hobby horse of mine, and that is the doubtful wisdom of labeling three quarters of the Bible “old”. Although for Christians the New Testament represents the high point of God’s revelation to man, it is nevertheless one and the same God who speaks to us throughout the Bible’s 1,500 or so pages.

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John 15.1-5, 16 – The True Vine
Posted: 17 June 2010 in John

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Just as the famous verse in John 14.6 makes it clear that nobody can come to God except through Jesus, so chapter 15 goes on to make it clear that we can achieve nothing except through Jesus. We are here to be God’s hands and feet, but it must be Christ’s indwelling Spirit who directs our actions. It is needless to say that emptying ourselves of ourselves, so that God can take over, is easier said than done. It is nevertheless what we must pray for. A large part of dwelling in Christ will require us to immerse ourselves in his word, as that is revealed in the Bible.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

Verse 16 is a useful reminder of God’s preeminent role in all of this. As ever he is the sovereign Lord, and he chose us to be his servants. We did not choose him.

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