Posts for July 2011
5 Posts found

Acts 11.17-18, 16.13-14 – Conversion, the work of the Holy Spirit.
Posted: 25 July 2011 in Acts

“Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”

“And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”

Although Christians have been given a commission to preach the Gospel, as the above to passages make clear, conversion is exclusively the work of God. He alone is able to give both the readiness, and the ability, to hear what is being said, and respond accordingly.

About thirty years ago, before I became a Christian, whenever an evangelical Christian approached me, I had the feeling that I would be one more notch on their gun belt if they managed to convert me. I felt more like a prize to be won than a person. Probably they had forgotten, if they ever knew, that if I was to be a notch on anybody’s gun belt, I would be the Holy Spirit’s, and not on theirs.

Self evidently I did eventually find my way into Christianity, but it was without the help of somebody trying to win me as a prize.

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Ezra 4.23-5.2 – Faithfulness to God.
Posted: 21 July 2011 in Ezra

Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.

I suppose few of us in the West have ever experienced a situation in which a command of God brings us into direct conflict with the civil authorities, and nowadays the same is probably true of the ex-communist bloc countries. But what if it did happen? Imagine a hypothetical situation in which some super-militant new atheists had managed to get Christianity outlawed – some of them are certainly intolerant enough. What then?

In the passage quoted above, the Jews opted for obedience to the voice of God, as that was spoken to them through his appointed prophets, and that, of course, is how it should be. But with the prospect of a nice warm prison cell awaiting us, where we would most likely be deprived of even a Bible, or any other way of communing with the Lord apart from prayer, how many of us would opt for obedience to God?

Just a thought.

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Ezekiel 14.7-10 – God’s purposes in predestination.
Posted: 20 July 2011 in Ezekiel

For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself: And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;

God’s dealing with the prophet in the above passage reminds me of his activity in hardening Pharoah’s heart in the Exodus story. There he acts to ensure that Pharoah will refuse the Hebrews permission to leave Egypt, and here he acts to ensure that a false prophesy is given. But in both cases Pharoah and the prophet are subsequently punished for their actions.  God’s action is not merely gratuitous, but are intended to bring about some end he has in view – ultimately the establishment of his everlasting kingdom.

In the New Testament the crucifixion of Jesus is an integral part of God’s plan in bringing those he has chosen to salvation. But in preordaining the crucifixion of Jesus, God necessarily also ordained the means by which this was to be effected – namely the treachery of Judas Iscariot. Nevertheless, at the Last Supper Jesus makes it clear that the person who betrays him will be held morally accountable for his actions and judged accordingly. Evil remains evil, even when it is serving God’s purposes.

We are all here to serve and glorify God. For some that will involve eventual salvation, but the Bible bears clear testimony to the fact that others will not.

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Matthew 7.13-14, Acts 4.10-12 – Salvation
Posted: 19 July 2011 in Acts, Matthew

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Recently I have had an email correspondence with somebody who insisted that it was not “logical” that the majority of the people who ever lived would not be saved. And yet that is exactly what the passage from Matthew appears to assert. We need not like the truths the Bile reveals to us, or at least not all the time, but we do have to accept it – especially when it comes directly from the lips of Jesus himself.

The verses form Acts are, I suppose, even more disturbing, because they invite the question, “What about people who have never heard of Jesus?” Well, it is evident, from what is said elsewhere in the New Testament, that Jesus was expecting at least Abraham and some of the Old Testament prophets, to be present in heaven, but beyond that we must again allow ourselves to be bound by what God has revealed to us in the Bible. At least for those living in the post resurrection era, Jesus must have regarded faith in himself to be an absolute prerequisite for salvation, otherwise he would not have commanded his disciples to go out and preach in all the world. (If people who have never heard of him can be saved anyway, why bother?)

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Ezekiel 15.1-6 – Self idolatry.
Posted: 18 July 2011 in Ezekiel

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it meet for any work? Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned? Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

A day or so ago I read somebody asking what the theme of the Old Testament was. The obvious answer, and the one that I gave, was that the books of the Old Testament were too many and varied for there to be any one theme. However, there is one theme which does seem to run through the entire Old Testament, which is  God’s intolerance of all idolatry, and here it is again.

The branches of the vine have no intrinsic strength of their own, and to be of any use to either man or beast, they would, in terms of the metaphor, have to rely upon God’s strength. And yet here they are, indulging a self idolatry where they want to be gods themselves, and wholly sufficient unto themselves. There awaits them the punishment which will finally strip them of any pretensions to self sufficiency. I am reminded of Jesus’ warning to his disciples in John 15 that, without him, they can do nothing. Who knows – this passage might even have been the inspiration for Jesus’ parable.

Another name for this type of idolatry is, needless to say, the sin of pride. It can be heard in the mouths of the new atheists with almost every sentence they utter.

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