Beyond all telling

Selwyn summarises the lessons covered over the last two months: ‘We have seen that the kingdom of God – is the rule of God – anywhere. Once we have accepted Jesus, as Lord, we are joined with that part of His kingdom, known as the Church. God’s purpose for the Church is to make Jesus known and to extend the kingdom on earth by submitting to His will.’

On the last day, the King will return triumphantly on the clouds of heaven – His kingdom will be seen by all people. ‘For those who belong to the Church, the future is beyond all telling’.

In the first letter of Peter (2:9-10, NIV) we read: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

It’s a fantastic thing – don’t you think – that we are God’s special possession? We can be confident that being special in God’s eyes, we are never far from His mind – He is always watching over – all of us!

In the same letter, 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV), we have this great summary: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Are you sometimes overwhelmed with awe, when you consider that we are shielded by God’s power, and that an eternal inheritance is waiting for each one of us?

Reactionaries?

Selwyn starts today’s study with the following: “We have one more question to consider: how can we who are members of the unshakable kingdom interpret to the world the claims of Christ our King? … We can make His claims known now, by our lips, by our lives and by our liberality – and, apart from the obvious need to be a witness for Jesus – we must also take a stance on the many issues affecting today’s society.”

He continues with this topic and writes that we should not become reactionaries, and only speak out when a social issues becomes a problem. Rather, the Church should be speaking out on issues ‘before the world gets around to thinking about them’. Which issues, should we be addressing? You may ask. It is thought prayer, that God’s Spirit will lead us to raise the right issues at the right time. To live by faith is to be open to the Holy Spirit’s direction.

In Romans 1:16-17 (NIV), we read Paul’s words: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the non-Jew. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” ‘

Consequently, I think the best way to inform people of God’s view on all  sorts of issues, is to tell them the good news about Jesus. In this way we make God known to the world.

In summary, we can’t be silent about important issues, and we should not be standing in the shadows, only making ourselves known when a moral issue receives a lot of media attention. As Matthew 5:14, states: ‘We are to be a light to the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.’ So too, our light should be seen at all times – people should know, that we follow Jesus; and, our words and actions should inform them of our views on all aspects of life.

What do you think?

A time for concern

To me – the Church is made up of those people who follow Jesus.

On the other hand, there are many people, who attend church services and who are involved in church activities but they are not followers of Jesus – their religious practices are cultural. That is, they identify themselves as Christian because of cultural influences, for example, their parents might be Christians and they have been taken to church, as something – ‘they do’. Or, they go to church to enjoy the social interactions that church-life brings. Consequently, there are some people who put themselves forward as representatives of God’s Church; but who have no relationship with Jesus – what so ever.

Now, let us go, to what Selwyn has written: “God’s kingdom has come (into this world) wherever His rule is being acknowledged. The Church’s commission is to extend the kingdom, and it should be demonstrating to the world something of the nature of the kingdom as it daily carries out the will of God in its affairs. …

Let us ask God to give us a spiritual revival that will make its impact felt throughout every branch of the Church and into the world.”

One area, where the devil’s influence can be easily seen, is the division of God’s Church into a number of denominations.

In Romans 16:17-18 (NIV), we read: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

There are some core beliefs which we can’t compromise on, and we are to keep away from those who cause division over these basic truths. Indeed, Jesus talks about the division that will occur between those who follow Him, and those who don’t.  [Luke 12:51 (NIV): “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. … “. Therefore, we can see that there will be a real division between those who follow Jesus and those who don’t.

Selwyn, in today’s study, is talking about the divisions between those who truly follow Jesus; divisions over minor issues, which should not cause permanent separation, but do so because of pride and useless traditions.  I agree with Selwyn that this situation grieves God and causes sorrow in the heart of Jesus.

The prayer for today is good, in that it’s through prayer that we can plead with Jesus to send His Spirit, to generate a great revival to sweep across the world, to unite all His followers into the one, identifiable body of believers.

Your view?

Jesus shall reign

Selwyn comes back to the issue of; how is it, that Jesus is King over all, yet sinful people appear to run rampant and out of control? The related question is how can a God of love and mercy allow suffering – especially in regard to the very young?

I don’t think we can find an intellectual answer to these questions because we simply don’t have enough information. It’s by faith, that we believe that Jesus is King of kings and that He is on His throne and He does have total authority over all creation. I believe with everything that is me; mind, heart and spirit that this is true.

I also believe that God does place limits on the actions of evil people/spirits – to what extent, we may never know. (We find some clues about this, in the Books of Job and Revelation.)

In Matthew 5:45, we read: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Further on, in Matthew’s Gospel, we have the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13: 24-30, NIV): “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.’ “

I think it is thought the suffering we experience, and the grief we feel – when we see the affects of sin especially when it comes to babies and children – that we start to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. We begin to appreciate just what God has done for us; and we commence our transformation by His Spirit, into His people.

It is knowing that Jesus does reign in full authority that we can pray to Him, in faith, knowing that our prayers will be heard; and, He will respond in the best possible (spiritual) way.

Selwyn concludes, today’s study, as follows: “Grasp this reassuring truth and let it hold you as you move forward on these dark days: Jesus does reign in His Church and shall reign  at the predetermined time of God’s appointment over all the kingdoms of the universe. Let there be no doubt about it: the consequences of His conquest at Calvary will spread like ripples in a pond until He has put every enemy under feet.”

Pause for a moment, after you have read the prayer for today; and, if you have any doubts about the truth that Jesus is in total control – ask Him to remove these doubts, because they will slow you down if you can’t let go of them.

“Gracious God, however things may seem, may I never forget that You are truly the Lord of this universe and that Satan is a defeated foe. In Jesus’ name I ask this. Amen’

Our apprenticeship

Selwyn states in today’s study: ” … While waiting for Jesus to return we are passing through a period of apprenticeship during which we are being prepared for the time when we ‘will reign for ever and ever’ [Revelation 22:5] in company with the crowned King of heaven – our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

God is bent on showing us something of the tremendous power and authority we have in prayer which, according to Paul, is mighty to the pulling down of the strongholds of Satan.”

While I agree, in part, with Selwyn – I think the time we have on earth, is used by the Holy Spirit to transform us into the likeness of Jesus, which I guess is a bit like an apprenticeship.

What are your thoughts?

The Father’s crown

To a certain extent – today’s study covers a lot of the same ground that has been touched on, over the past few days.

We are waiting for the return of Jesus when He will exercise total authority over all of His creation and all resistance to His sovereignty will end.

In the meantime, we have the situation, where (as Selwyn says): “Jesus has returned to heaven and wears the crown of universal authority. However, He has not dramatically intervened in human affairs to sweep away all resistance to His will and force men and women to capitulate to His demands.”

Yet, in a very real way – God has  gloriously intervened in the life of His people – by saying to each one: ‘Come, follow me.’

Our Lord and God, Jesus is patient – full of compassion and mercy; and He is waiting until the ‘full’ number of His people have been reached and saved by His Word.

Eventually, the last day will arrive – then He will dramatically intervene in human affairs. In Romans 14:11-12 (NIV) we read: “It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”

It will be an amazing scene – where all the enemies of God – even the most ardent atheist – will bend their knee and acknowledge Jesus – as Lord.

Your thoughts?

The people’s crown

Selwyn starts this study, as follows: “The second time Jesus was offered a crown while He was here on earth, it was the people who tried to give it to Him. … Jesus had become enormously popular and everywhere He went adoring crowds followed Him.”

In John 6:1-15 (NIV) we read about Jesus feeding the five thousand men with five small barley loaves and two small fish

“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. … 

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king  by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

The reaction of the people was to be expected – the Israelites were looking forward to the time when a Prophet would appear – a Messiah who would lead them to freedom and rebuild the Jewish nation – in the same way that King David had done.

It would take a lot of teaching of the disciples to move the disciples from a narrow, nationalistic view of the restoration of Israel; to – a wider, eternal view of ‘Israel’.

As Selwyn says: “ … the kingdom Christ intended to establish was not to be an earthly kingdom bounded by frontiers and peopled only by members of the Jewish race; it was to be a universal kingdom reaching to the four corners of the earth and encompassing the whole of the human race. …

This is why centuries after the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome have passed away, the kingdom of God stands as secure as ever. It is founded on the imperishable love of God, and as such it is as shakeable as God’s eternal throne.” 

In Acts 1:6-9, we hear one, of the disciples last questions, to Jesus, before He returned to heaven: “Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

After he said this, he was taken up  before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

The disciples ask this question after hearing Jesus teach on the nature of His kingdom for forty days, prior to His ascension – they have also heard the parables concerning the kingdom ; and, they know it’s not the same as an earthly kingdom [Jesus’ answer to Pilate, John 18,36 – ‘Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”]

Even today, there are some who are a bit confused about the nature of His Kingdom.

What are your thoughts on today’s study?