‘Yield not to temptation’

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Romans 6:15-23 (NIV): ‘What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!  Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Selwyn provides us with some excellent advice in today’s study – the main point is to avoid those situations (places or people), where we know that our will to avoid temptation is at its lowest level.

He writes: ‘Yesterday I said that Jesus is able to help us curb the desires that come from our corrupt nature, but there are things we must do as well. We will only make progress in overcoming our own nature when we realise that we cannot trust it.

It is tremendously important to keep a safe distance whenever you sense the temptation to become involved in something unhelpful to you. … We sin because we want to – never forget that.

As I have mentioned on previous occasions – the love, our Lord has for each one of us – is a very active love. His Spirit is always with us – guiding us, on our journey. Selwyn’s advice (above) is to avoid those situations, which we know will appeal to our sinful nature; and, we don’t have to guess what those situations are – God has not left us to struggle with these issues – like orphans without family – He will help us to recognise dangerous situations. It’s our responsibility to keep a safe distance from areas of temptation.

Always hold firm to the truth – if you love Jesus, you will demonstrate your love by obeying His teaching. Remember, that through His love (as seen, by His death for you, on the cross) – you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life’.

As Selwyn mentions, in today’s world, God’s original design is being compromised, in many different areas – you will stand out from the crowd if you follow His footsteps to holiness – and, for many in my Western culture, that’s now a very challenging lifestyle.

Your view?

To Follow Jesus, Shayne McCusker, 2013

More effects of corruption

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Galatians 5:16-26 (NIV): ‘So I say, live 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.’

I think the above verses are very clear about our new way of living, with Jesus. Please let me emphasise some of the obvious points: We are able to live by the Spirit, and those who do – will not gratify the desires of the flesh; our old sinful nature is still lurking in the depths of our being but as we are now sons and daughters of God we are able to crucify our flesh with its passions and desires. Living by the Spirit does not allow us to do, whatever we want.

It’s obvious from what Paul has written that we have a clear choice: to keep in step with God’s guidance, sacrifice our sinful desires; or, to follow the desires of the flesh. The important truth is that we are now able to overcome temptation and to do the will of Jesus. Yet, it requires action on our part to keep in step with the Spirit. Perhaps, I’m stating the obvious too many times – but I’ve come across many people who appear to be confused about this issue.

So, let’s look at what Selwyn has written for today’s study: ‘Another outcome of our fallen nature is pride. … Fallen human nature is shot through with pride, and the real germ of this disease is that it puts self in the centre. Pride can even propagate itself in the soil of virtue. For instance, we can give generously to good causes and be proud of our giving.

If Christ is to live in us then pride has to die in us.

There are many other effects of our fallen nature but let me mention just one more – jealousy. Jealousy doe not leap a chasm it gets into the cracks. By that I mean we are rarely jealous of those who far outshine us. Rather, we are jealous of those we regard as being our equal, who move in our circle but have outstripped us.

Can Jesus help us overcome this corruption in our nature, this depravity in our soul? Yes, but again He can do so only if we bring all we are to Him, ask His forgiveness for our wrongdoing, and drink deeply of His grace and strength.

In summary, there are many effects of our fallen human nature; and we can easily recognise them: selfish pride, sexual immorality, anger, hatred, fits of rage, discord, jealousy and envy, drunkenness, and the like. Yet, we can overcome these effects if we keep in step with God’s Spirit – and, keeping in step means that we actively watch the direction and stride of Jesus, as we follow Him. We must be active in overcoming our sinful nature it is not an autonomous process. (God’s Spirit gives us new birth, and provides guidance on the truth of His word, but we must play our part in our transformation.)

It’s not a simple process to follow Jesus, but it is extremely rewarding!

To Follow Jesus, Shayne McCusker, 2013

A congenital disease

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

James 1:9-18 (NIV): ‘Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.  But the rich should take pride in their humiliation – since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.’

Selwyn writes: ‘We are seeing that the devastating results of the Fall have spread throughout the whole human race. … Corruption is in you and me. The disease is there from birth. And it is disfiguring: it mars the image of God in us so that the Father cannot see His reflection in us.

How does our depraved nature reveal itself? Greed and lust is one outcome. … Another effect, is a bad or short temper. When tempted, where are men and women able to find the strength to resist these fierce drives? Only in Jesus.

Jesus has given us a new nature, a nature that overcomes our old sinful nature and provides us with new purity, power and grace. You can trust God to allow His new nature to overcome your old nature.’ You can trust God – because, He intensely loves you – just look towards the cross!

I find that too many people who call themselves Christians just don’t allow their new nature to take the lead in how they live; it’s as if – they don’t fully believe that they have been totally set free from bondage to their sinful nature – I’ve heard some say: ‘Oh, I try to do good – but, like Paul says in Romans, I often find that – I do – what I don’t want to do. Of course, Paul does not say that this is the case with those in-Christ; rather, he says that the wretched person (us) can be saved from this terrible bondage, by Jesus.

As we grow in our Christian maturity – we should notice that we tend to sin less frequently; there is a serious problem if this is not the case. As we follow Jesus we should become more like Him and less like our old, sinful (pre-Jesus) self. This process, that theologians call sanctification, is not something that may or may not happen – it always happens with those who follow Jesus with all their heart, mind and spirit.

The fantastic aspect of growing ‘into’ our new nature; is that God helps us in this journey – He does so – because it’s His nature to love you and me.

To Follow Jesus, Shayne McCusker, 2013

 

Murder in our heart?

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Genesis 5:1-5 (NIV): ‘This is the written account of Adam’s family line.

When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them ‘Mankind’ when they were created.

When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died. … ‘

I found the above to be a very interesting text – before this, I had never noticed the subtle wording of verse 3; ‘Adam – had a son in his own likeness, in his own image.’

Selwyn writes: ‘Yesterday, we said that every one of us has within a legacy passed on to us by the first human pair. Human corruption is one of the unfortunate and devastating effects of the Fall – a corruption that has been passed onto all humans (except One).

Look again at these words: ‘When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God’ (v1). Now listen to this: ‘When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.’ Can you see what is being said here? Every person who has ever lived and will ever live has within them this bias towards ungodliness.’ [Jesus is the exception.]

Selwyn goes on to describe how all of us have the same murderous nature as Cain; while we may not actually kill someone; we do, in anger, cut into others with our thoughts, or words.

In Matthew 5:20-22, we hear Jesus say: ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” (an Aramaic term of contempt)  is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.’

Sometimes, you hear people say about a person who has recently died: ‘Oh, he was a good man – surely, he would be in heaven.’ But, there is on one who is ‘good’, when compared to the standard required by Jesus – if that person was ever angry – then they are subject to judgment. Or, if that person lustfully looked at another – just once, then they are subject to judgment. Or, if the person has not forgiven another – then they are subject to judgment. We are born, with the nature of Adam and Eve, and have the tendency to want to make our own, independent decisions.

In Luke 18:19, we hear Jesus say; ‘No one is good – except God alone.‘ The great news for us – is that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can be re-born with a new nature; while it was previously impossible for us to be good – to please God, with God’s Spirit it is now possible.

Any comments?

To Follow Jesus, Shayne McCusker, 2013

An internal disease

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Romans 7:7-25 (NIV): ‘What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognised as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.’

This is a difficult text, and I think many people are unable to grasp the full message – mainly, because they fail to see that while we were once slaves to our sinful nature – we are given the power – through God’s Spirit – to be free from the bondage of sin, in Christ. If this wasn’t the case then we could never be transformed (an active and on-going process that starts in this life but reaches its conclusion, in heaven), into the image of Jesus.

Paul answers his question – who can set me free? By saying – Jesus Christ, can deliver the sinner from eternal death and enables all His children to live as ‘slaves to righteousness’.  That is, as Christians we can – with God’s help – do what is right. Paul is not saying here, that we can’t do what is right, although some ‘learned’ people suggest that’s what he is saying. (Such people don’t appear to understand the rabbinic teaching technique, that I think, Paul is employing in his letter to the Romans.)

Selwyn writes: ‘As we continue looking at some of the hard things we are called to bear, we come to the issue of our fallen human nature. … The truth is that every one of us has a bias towards ungodliness and independence – a legacy passed on to us by the first human pair.

Generally people don’t appear to be depraved or corrupt because most of us to a masterful job at covering it up. But never doubt that underneath, deep down inside, there is this corruption that eats away at us, polluting our thoughts, our words, our actions, our relationships and even our will.

We hear he same cry from the apostle Paul in the passage before us today. He knew that is he was going to have control over the inner corruption then the answer lay in part outside of himself.’ The answer, as I stated in my earlier comments – is Jesus!

Let us look at another area of Scripture, John 14:15-24a (NIV): ‘‘If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bein you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. …

Clearly, with the help of God’s Spirit – we (those who love God) can keep His commands because we have been set free from the bondage of sin and we have God living in us. Before, we gave ourselves over to Christ – it was impossible to please God – it was impossible for us to break free from sin’s bondage through our own efforts. Yet, it is now possible – with God within! [Our sinful nature will still cause problems, but we can overcome its corruption on our will – through Jesus.]

I hope this aspect is clear – it’s an extremely important truth to get right – if, you are still perplexed by what Paul has written in his letter to the Romans – please, persistently pray to Jesus for  a clear insight into this issue.

To Follow Jesus, Shayne McCusker, 2013

‘Tossed to His breast’

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

John 6:25-40 (NIV): ‘When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’

Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’

‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’

Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’

I think that Selwyn makes an excellent point, when he writes: ‘We spend another day reflecting on the thought that one of the issues we have to deal with as a result of the Fall is that of inner unrest when actually it is a blessing in disguise. If earth could satisfy us then we would not seek God.’

Paul, when talking to the Athenians (Acts 17:24-28), said this: ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.” ‘

It is a natural part of being human – to seek our Creator. But, we can negate this aspect of our nature by giving ourselves over to the things of this world; those who look towards the world for their comfort are driven by a self-interested desire to be independent, a desire that arises out of the depths of a proud heart. In Psalm 10:4, we read: ‘In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.’

What’s the status of your heart?

Jesus speaks up

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

 

John 7:37-44 (NIV): ‘On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’

By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

On hearing his words, some of the people said, ‘Surely this man is the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘He is the Messiah.’

Still others asked, ‘How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?’ Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.’

Selwyn has the following to say about the above verses: “Our passage for today tells how, centuries ago, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him or her come to me and drink.’ Notice the words in a loud voice? Why such passion and concern?

While Jesus watched the pageantry of the Feast of Tabernacles His soul would have been moved within Him as He contemplated the fact that rituals could never satisfy the deep thirsts and longings of the soul.

He alone is the answer to the soul’s greatest need. Jesus is crying out still. How sad that many cannot hear and respond to His voice.”

I heard His voice over twenty two years ago; and, I can still clearly remember the fantastic sensation of finding; the purpose to my life, the reason for my existence, and especially my loving God who fully satisfied the thirst for real life that my spirit had been searching for, in vain, for so many years.

There is something amazing that happens when we, the created, come into a relationship with Jesus, our Creator. I’ll go back to the quote of St. Augustine, which Selwyn used a few days ago: ‘You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.’ I can testify to the truth of Augustine’s words.

I believe that there is placed in the hearts, of all His people, a yearning to be reconciled with Him and to enjoy a restore relationship with Him. We can never be satisfied with the things of this world because we have a sense that we are foreigners passing through a ‘broken’ place, on our way to our real home – where everything is perfect. How great is that?

Any comments?

To Follow Jesus, Shayne McCusker, 2013