42. Areas of Rule

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 42. Areas of Rule 

Dan 7:13,14 “there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power;

In a previous series, “Focus on Christ” in Study No.56, we noted the following about Christ and because it is so pertinent to our present series, we repeat it here. It flowed out of the prophetic picture that Daniel had about the Son of God referred to in our starting verses above, of Christ the ruler, and we will see the areas of his rule:

Reign’ is about exercising sovereignty, about being in control, not merely coping, not merely surviving, but being in control. When we come to the ruler over the Kingdom of God, the ruler is a benign controller who controls for the benefit of his subjects. That is the big difference between the kingdoms of the earth and the Kingdom of Heaven.  So, let’s see ‘Christ in Control’. It is so obvious we have probably never thought about it

Control over the material world: This is the most obvious thing in Jesus’ earthly ministry, and many of us struggle to believe that this is still true of his body today when we allow him to lead. In the pages of the Gospels we see Jesus in control of the elements – calming a storm, walking on water, turning water into wine, expanding bread and fishes to feed thousands; these are all examples of Jesus being in absolute control of material elements. If I had more space I could give modern day examples of the same sorts of thing.

Control over health and life itself: When we see Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons and even raising the dead, we see this power and authority over the material world being applied into flesh and blood human bodies. This is Jesus reigning in the most obvious ways. Again we could give many testimonies of the same things happening today.

Control over himself: Now here is an area we don’t tend to think about but when it is paralleled into our lives as part of his body today it becomes very pertinent. Let’s consider various ways we see this.

 i) In respect of Satan: The Gospels record Satan coming with three temptations before Jesus starts his ministry, seeking to bring him down, but in each case, Jesus remains firmly in control of his mind and his behaviour and gives right responses. This is significant because Satan questioned his very identity, but Jesus remained firmly in control of his own thinking about himself and so did not succumb to the enemy’s negatives; he knew who he was and what he was to do, right up to and including the Cross and never deviated from that, even in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was confronted with the awfulness of what was just about to happen

 ii) In respect of human prejudices: Jesus not succumb to prejudices or false religious expectations which we see in the way he met with and spoke to the Samaritan woman, the adulterous woman, the Greek woman, a leper who he touched, tax collectors etc. who he dined with, all of whom would have been rejected by respectable Judaism.

iii) In respect of his speech: But it goes beyond meeting with the unclean, the sinners and so on; it includes how he encountered and responded to the leaders and religious elite; he did not speak out of turn, he was in complete control of his tongue. He did not waver before ‘great people’; he knew who he was and therefore never felt defensive, as we so often do. He never felt uncomfortable in any situation because he knew who he was and knew the power and authority that he had.

 iv) In respect of his emotions: This is an area where we are so often stunted and so our emotions are oppressed by expectations or hardened and calloused by the hard knocks of life or the hard words of parents or teachers or other people of influence that shut us down. No, he was clearly saddened by the fact of his disciples’ little belief sometimes, he was saddened by the grief that he saw in those he loved (at Lazarus’s tomb), and he anguished over the thought of being separated from his Father on the Cross.

In each of these ways Jesus was in complete control. He knew people (Mt 12:25, 27:18, Jn 2:24) and was not fazed by them, whether they were the great and good and influential or whether they were prostitutes, demon possessed, sinners and crooks. In one sense we might say he was above them all and was therefore not controlled by what they thought, either of themselves or about him.

Application: Now that was what I wrote in that series about Christ, but now we have to take and apply this to all we have been saying about being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, ruling with him. He, we said, is the head of the body and so if that is how he exercised his rule, seen in the Gospels in one single body, it must also be how he reigns through us, his body today. So, let’s apply those things.

When we are led and empowered by his Holy Spirit, in the light of these things, we should expect the body to, at times:

  • have control over the elements, the material world,
  • have control over health and life itself, bringing healing
  • have control over ourselves with His enabling, so that
    • we do not let Satan put us down
    • we do not tolerate prejudice
    • we control our speech
    • we are not fazed by ‘big people’, the good, the bad, anyone.

Now our tendency may be to duck and dive and make excuses and say well, these things will only happen through ‘big ministries’, apostles etc., but Jesus did say, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.” (Jn 14:12). Admittedly the miraculous, whether in respect of the elements or in respect of human sickness, will only occur when needed, i.e. when we make ourselves available to Christ on the frontline, but why should that not include you and me?  This IS the way Christ ruled and still rules, so if we are seated with him exercising this rule……? Some areas for serious thought and prayer, and maybe reassessing of our ‘belief’.   “Whoever believes”?

40. Loving Life

Meditations in 1 Peter : 40 : Loving Life & Good Days

1 Pet 3:10,11 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.

There is a danger that arises in interpreting Scripture that we must face here before we make comment on these verses. It is the danger of taking verses out of context and building doctrine on them out of context. For instance, in our verses today there is a danger of seeing these things as the means to salvation. They are not; they are the outworking of salvation in a person’s life. Peter has already said plenty about a person coming to Christ and being born again. Everything he has been saying recently has been to Christians after they have been born again. We need to emphasise again; these things are to be the outworking of faith in a person’s life, not the means of bringing them to salvation. They are already saved; these are just ways that their salvation should now be worked out in daily practice.

So, says Peter, Whoever would love life and see good days.” What a nice summary of the ‘good life’. This is a good objective in life – to love and (implied) enjoy the life that God has given us and which has now taken on a new dimension now we are Christians. What does it mean to see ‘good days’?  You sometimes hear people reminiscing and saying, “Those were good days.” The Lord wants us to know that all days are now ‘good days’ with Him in our lives. So how do we enjoy and experience such days?

Peter makes three suggestions. The first is in respect of speech. Such a person must “keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” Why might that be? Possibly the answer is because our speech is a reflection of our heart. Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mt 12:34). You inner motivation is now empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit and He is a Spirit of love. Love will never speak evil or say things that seek to deceive others and undermine truth. Moreover such speech brings disharmony and upset and those are two words guaranteed to ensure that you cannot love life and see good days! So, first of all, what now comes out of your mouth is important.

His second suggestion is in respect of general behaviour. He must turn from evil and do good.” For the person who has been born again, as we indicated above, they are now energized and motivated by the Holy Spirit who is the perfect expression of the Father who is encapsulated by the words love and goodness. The Father never does evil and He always purposes good for us. Thus as we let the Holy Spirit teach and guide and direct us we will never do anything that could be considered ‘evil’ and indeed everything we do should fit the description of ‘good’.

His third suggestion is in respect of general attitude:he must seek peace and pursue it.” The new believer is working on a completely different basis from that which he or she worked on before. Previously they had been working on the basis of self first. That had meant that sometimes they argued, sometimes they sought to get their way regardless of the wishes of others and this caused upset and disharmony. The person who has never died to self will always be pushing their own agenda and upset and disharmony will always accompany them. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Mt 5:9). Those of us who now have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ will always be working for peace: peace between us and God (putting right quickly our attitude or behaviour when we have moved into a wrong place), peace between us and others (ensuring right relationships),  and peace between others (seeking to bring peace and harmony into society.)

Now something we haven’t noted yet is that in these verses Peter is directly quoting from Psalm 34. Now the verse that goes before these three verses in Psalm 34 quoted by Peter (Psa 34:12-14) reads, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” (Psa 34:11) The phrase, ‘the fear of the Lord’ is often used to encapsulate a right attitude and relationship with the Lord. Above we noted that these instructions are to be an outworking of the new life that we have received. Another way of putting it could be, they are expressions of our attitude and relationship in respect of the Lord Himself. We do these things because of the relationship that we have entered into in respect of the Lord. We don’t do them as cold application of a new law, but simply because they all comply with the nature and character of God, who we love, which we too now have by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

So, by way of summary, can we look at our lives and be assured that our lips never say anything that is inappropriate in the light of the relationship with now have with the Lord? To reflect Him, do our lips speak that which is holy, loving and good? In our general behaviour, is the same true? Can we let the Holy Spirit shine into all corners of our life and ensure that there is only good coming out of our lives and that we are working for peace at all times and in every way? These are helpful checks to ensure we are living godly lives. May it be so!

45. Words

Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 45 :  Wisdom with Words

Eccles 5:2,3 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

If anyone has the temerity to say the Bible isn’t practical, they have obviously never read large parts of it. Solomon has just counselled listening in the presence of God and now, before he actually comes to the subject of vows that he has in his mind, he gives a general warning about the way we speak in God’s presence. It is very much a continuation from verse 1 where he counselled listening. If you listen you don’t speak!

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. An aspect or expression of sin, I believe, is stupidity, and a part of stupidity is thoughtlessness and therefore sometimes our rash statements before God as simply thoughtless and comes from remnants of the stupidity of sin left over in our lives from the past.  Probably the greatest example of a big mouth in the Bible is the apostle Peter. For example, remember the time when Jesus is explaining he will have to die, Peter launches out, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Mt 16:22) Or there was the time at the Last Supper when Jesus wanted to wash the feet of the disciples: “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” (Jn 13:8) You don’t say no to Jesus! He has a reason.

How easy it is to make surface or shallow commitments. It is one of the reasons that I am wary about commitment times at the end of a sermon. It is important to bring people to a place of decision but I wonder how often those decisions are shallow and the seed has fallen on ground that will not be long-term fruitful (See Mt 13:18 onwards).

Now having said this and having used Peter as an example, there is one instance where Peter’s rashness led him out into an experience no other human has ever had. It was in the midst of the wind on the lake and Jesus walked to them across the water and spoke to them. Observe Peter: “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (Mt 14:28) Do you ever have those times when God turns up and you find yourself saying crazy things? Sometimes it enables us to step out in faith like Peter did but sometimes it is something we later rue and don’t follow through on. Solomon’s warnings hold true.

Solomon obviously had this sort of thing in mind when he was writing his proverbs: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Prov 10:19). The more we speak the more likely we are to get it wrong!  But Solomon now gives another reason: “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” What does he mean? God is not human like us; His home is in heaven because He is the Lord and from there (implied) He sees all things and therefore He knows all things. So, you’d better be careful what you say because God sees and knows and knows the truth. To be on the safe side you’d do better to keep your words few (just like he says in Proverbs).

To conclude these particular thoughts, Solomon uses a comparison: As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.” First the comparison: dreams. Dreams, he says, naturally flow when we are worried. Similarly words naturally flow from a fool. Remember in this sort of writing, a fool is someone who is morally limited, and who lacks wisdom. Sit on a bus and listen to chattering conversations, go on Facebook and note the shallow chattering there, and go on chat rooms and see the multitude of words poured out there. I have given up writing in such places because I am aware that it is so easy to just pour out shallow words that really don’t touch the truth which is often far more complex than chat rooms allow. I used to write a weekly blog commenting upon the affairs of the world. I gave it up for two reasons. First, because it is so depressing commenting on the many negative things in the world and, second, because I came to realise that to make any meaningful comment that really touched on the truth meant that you had to cover so many points that you couldn’t do that with a limited length blog.

So Solomon’s warning comes to us: check out your speech – especially before God. Be careful not to just pour out meaningless words, words which we sometimes utter because we feel we will achieve something by them. Yet the truth is that they need to come out of the heart and need to be truthful, for that is what the Lord looks for.

1. Jesus – the Word

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 1 : Jesus, the Word

Jn 1:1,14In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We used to have a film-strip for children called The Green Bear, a delightful story of a bear who wanted a friend. At one point there is another creature who hires himself out to be a friend for short periods of time. The Green Bear didn’t really feel this was enough and the other animal turns to him with irritable words that became indelibly printed on the minds of our family, “Well, I’m talking to you aren’t I!” Talking wasn’t enough. It is a start, but it’s not enough; we want something more.

What is a word? It is a building block of communication; it is an expression of speech, the means we humans use to convey our thoughts to one another. The Greeks, two thousand years ago, used the word in respect of all of creation to mean the rational principle that governs all things, the Logos. In daily life it meant both the thought and the speech expressing the thought. Thus John when he was writing wrote not only to the Jews but to the wider world, for whom the main international language was Greek.

He says that in the beginning of all things – because as human beings we have difficulty imagining eternity with no beginning – there was this Word, this expression of God, this something behind everything that holds everything together, and this something, this expression of God was God, just as we might say my speech is me perhaps. But there is something different here, because words are separate sounds that disappear, and are no longer heard, except in the memory. This Word, this expression of God, remains as an entity, an ongoing expression that is part of God. In heaven, as this Gospel tells us later, there was God the Father and His expression, the Son, the Word. But again, unlike us and speech, the Father and the Word can communicate backwards and forwards between each other, there is a living, loving relationship between them that is real.

We struggle with these concepts because we’re told God is Spirit and we can’t really grasp what God and His Son, the Word are, what being Spirit that had always existed, really means. These days I think of ‘spirit’ as ‘living personal energy’, or ‘energy with personality’ if you like. So God is the Supreme Being who is living, personal energy who thinks, acts and moves.

But then the Word became flesh. How? I haven’t a clue! How can Spirit turn into flesh? I don’t know. All I know is that when God made man He breathed spirit (breath) into him (Gen 2:7), so part of us is spirit anyway. How they interact is a mystery which we struggle to explain. But the Word who is God becomes flesh. He does it to communicate with us in the fullest way possible. The writer to the Hebrews wrote: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:1,2)

This is the staggering truth, that God has spoken to the human race, not just by words into our minds (which I think He does all the time), not just through Hebrew prophets (who were incredible in themselves as to their openness to ‘hear’ God), not just with a one-off call from heaven, but by coming and living in human form on the earth for some thirty three years.

Communication, it seems, is an essential part of personality and God is a Being with personality and so He communicates. He communicates with Himself (we talk to ourselves, think thoughts to ourselves) but that is not enough. He expresses Himself outwards by creating living creatures who are capable of communicating, and having done that He communicates with them. That’s what the Old Testament record is.  And then He communicates in the fullest way possible – He comes in human form! Wow!

 

But one more thought before we move on in this series. Many words have different meanings. So for example, take the word ‘palm’. That word can mean a tropical tree, or one side of the hand, or the act of concealing something slight of hand. It has those three meanings. When we come to this “Word” that John speaks about, it also has many meanings and it will be those we will be examining in this series. Jesus as we will see is Creator of this world with the Father, he is also sustainer of this world, he is also redeemer of this world, so this “Word” has a multitude of meanings or functions or roles. Yes, above all else he is the Son of God, but having said that we see that he is so much more. Watch for these things as we consider them in John’s Gospel.