‘Great gain’

Selwyn says, in today’s study: ” … Let us remind ourselves of what we have studied over the past few weeks. We have looked at ten of what theologians call the classic disciplines: (1) regular reading of the Scriptures, (2) prayer, (3) worship, (4) seeking solitude, (5) stewardship, (6) sharing the faith, (7) simplicity, (8) fasting, (9) confession and forgiveness, and (10) perseverance. … The central issue to keep in mind as we close is this: development of the soul does not just happen. The soul has to be trained (through the power of the Holy Spirit) to be godly.”

A final point that I would like you to keep in mind is this: Jesus loves you so much – that He is not going to leave you, as He found you. His love desires you to develop your spiritual life – He desires a deeper relationship with you; and He will continue His transforming work in you. You may not have the energy or perseverance to undertake these ten disciplines each day – but He does have the energy and perseverance – and, He will intrude into you life – to motivate and strengthen you. Trust, in His love.

Your view?

 

In training for eternity

I guess that my concern regarding yesterday’s study is covered, in this study.

Selwyn states: “Just as the spokes of a wheel hang loose without a hub. so do the powers of life unless they are fastened to the central hub – Jesus, the Christ. He and He alone gives total meaning to life. This is why we are to keep God and eternity in view – our focus point – while practising spiritual disciplines.”

The Bible verses, selected by Selwyn for reading and meditation are very good, Ephesians 3:4:12 (NIV): ” In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

The first point which stands out for me is that as a non-Jew, I am an heir to God’s kingdom, together with Israel. The second point is so fantastic, it’s hard to really comprehend its full significance – and the point is that you and I can approach God with freedom and confidence. It does not matter what our status (wealth, race, education level, health or occupation) is on earth – we have the freedom to approach the eternal King of Kings, with the confidence that He will allow us to approach His throne, and seek His loving guidance. Now, that’s pretty amazing – don’t you think?

‘Practice makes perfect’

I thought that today’s study was nice but I couldn’t find a lot to say about it.

Selwyn introduces the study, as follows: “Do you want to be a godly person? Then settle the issue once and for all: the path that leads to godliness is the practice of spiritual disciplines.”

An important and essential aspect, has not been explicitly mentioned in the study. The aspect that I’m talking about is God’s role in making us to be more like Him.

We can try and practice spiritual disciples but if we do this practice based solely on our own strength – we will just tire ourselves out.

You can say that you want to be a godly person but it’s only the Holy Spirit, who knows what truly goes on in your heart; and, God alone knows what areas need to be addressed and changed, at a specific point in time. It all starts with prayer – seeking Jesus’ help in moulding you into His likeness.

Your thoughts?

The Christian struggle

Selwyn talks about life’s struggles in today’s study – in the context that Christians face the same; summer days as well as stormy days , as everyone else does. We are on the same broken world and we all experience the sunshine and the hail – in that regard, we are no different to anyone else. It’s how we live through these times, which demonstrates our trust in Jesus.

He writes: “Storms and high seas are as much the lot for Christians as they are of those who are not. Giving our lives to Jesus means that He is with us in life’s storms, not that storms will never buffet us.”

In Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV), we read: “Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ An enemy did this,’ he replied.

The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ “

If, I can take this parable a step further – the weeds and the wheat grow together – they both face the same weather, the same storms. The external forces are the same; it’s the way we respond internally – either, trying to do everything based on our own strength and ability; or, looking towards the one, true God for His mercy and grace.

I also like the quote from Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:29 – that Selwyn uses: “I labour, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  We seek His guidance through prayer and He provides His energy to follow His way – and that’s pretty amazing, don’t you think?

Together

The text set for today’s study is very good, in that it provides a lot of material for meditation.

Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians 5:12-24 (NIV): “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Here’s what Selwyn has to say about this text: ” … God is faithful in keeping us. Oh how grateful we should be for this. He will always be faithful to His children and will help them persevere to the end. Our task, I say once again, is to yield ourselves to Him, to make sure our hearts are not hardened and that we stay alert and responsive to His promptings. We will make it – together.”

It’s important, that we constantly seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our relationship with God. Too often, ministers and others, refer – in very brief terms – to the first commandment (to love God) and provide little assistance in what this actually means in regard to how we should live. It appears to be far easier, to preach on the second commandment (to love others), and I’ve heard a number of sermons on the many different ways we can love our family, friends and neighbours. However, if we are not standing on the firm foundation of the first and greatest commandment – then a lot of what we do, may have little value in a spiritual sense. We need to experience God’s love and reciprocate with our love for Him, before we can be effective in the way we express our love for others.

Do you agree?

Last but not least

It’s a great conclusion to today’s study – because it’s a good reflection of the way that God works in our world.

Selwyn writes: ‘The Christian message is that the Holy Spirit’s direction produces a self-controlled person. But note: we do not gain the Holy Spirit through self-control; we gain self-control through the Holy Spirit. We begin with love – love for Christ and love for others – and end up with self-control.’

We begin our journey with our love for God: nothing – absolutely nothing can be done in any meaningful way – if we don’t first start, with our 100% gift, that is – our love for Jesus.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV): “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Any comments?

The Helper

Selwyn continues to discuss the need for perseverance in our Christian walk – as we follow Jesus along the narrow path.

What he writes in the last half of today’s study is extremely important and I’ll repeat a lot of it here – so that the context is not lost.

“If you are a Christian then the Holy Spirit dwells within you to help you to become more Christlike. You may not be a disciplined or persistent person, but the Holy Spirit is.

Listen to this: ‘ … be confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6 NIV). The Holy Spirit’s task is to produce within you the desire and power to train yourself to be godly. Your task is to co-operate with the Spirit. As you do, your natural temperament will want to come under His control. He will help you persevere. … He helps by providing the power. All you have to do is to provide the willingness.”

Our God provides the power because He intensely loves us; we provide the willingness because we love God with all our heart, mind and strength. You see, our desire to change, is tightly coupled to the degree that we follow, the first and greatest commandment; that is – to love our God.

Any comments?