Misplaced dependence

To Follow Jesus

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

January/February 2016 Issue –  Alive‘… because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ’  Ephesians 2:4-5

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Galatians 3:1-14  (NIVUK): “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh (human effort)? Have you experienced so much in vain – if it really was in vain?

So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’

The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

I like the last verse of today’s reading, especially – ‘by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.‘ It’s a gift from God, we don’t need to do a thing to be given this blessing. We hear the same thing in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Today, Selwyn says: “What happened to the believers in Galatia can easily happen to us. Although we start off in the Christian life believing we cannot bring about our own satisfaction, and that fullness of life comes from drawing on God’s resources, we can, without even realising it, begin to move away from dependence on Jesus to dependence on ourselves.”

Even if we lose our way and start to depend on our own resources and strengths – Jesus’ love for us is so great – that He will come looking for us and He will carry us back to His flock. He is the good and faithful Shepherd.

We, in response, show our love for God by following His teaching, which involves the complete submission of our will to His purposes. That is, we follow our Shepherd, and no one else (including the path we may set for ourselves without consulting God first).

Any comments?

Misplaced dependence

To Follow Jesus

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

January/February 2016 Issue –  Alive‘… because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ’  Ephesians 2:4-5

Part of the text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Galatians 3:1-14 (NIVUK): “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh (human effort)? Have you experienced so much in vain – if it really was in vain?

So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

Selwyn starts by saying: “Will it surprise you to be told that the thinking of Christians can be as misguided as that of non-Christians? The apostle Paul in the passage we have read today reprimands the believers in the church in Galatia for their foolish thinking regarding the matter of faith versus the law” (salvation through works).

Further on, Selwyn tells us how easy it is to move away from completer dependence on Jesus to dependence on our own strength and resourcefulness.

The gospel of faith given to us through the grace of God has always been hard for human nature to accept; and it’s a spiritual truth which we need to continuously focus on. Otherwise it can fade from view and we may again start to live (in varying degrees) an independent lifestyle.

Our faith, is a fantastic gift, and we should praise Jesus every day for what He has done for us – so that we never forget His amazing sacrifice – and to show our gratitude by trying to live a holy life. Any thoughts on this?

Determinative thinking

To Follow Jesus

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

January/February 2016 Issue –  Alive‘… because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ’  Ephesians 2:4-5

Part of the text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIVUK): “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

The key verse is one worth remembering – it has proven to be a very useful verse for me.

I thought that Selwyn made some interesting comments in today’s study, such as: “How and what we think determines the direction in which we will go to have our deep inner thirst satisfied. … If, as we are seeing, our thinking determines the way in which we attempt to find life for our souls, then how important it is to reflect on the words in today’s reading.”

The thoughts that we dwell on – especially in those reflective moments – or those times when we daydream about life, really do indicate the main things and issues, which motivate our desires.

Over the next twenty four hours, do a rough survey of your thoughts; how many hours do you spend thinking about things that are true and pure – that is – thoughts that would be approved of, by Jesus. Compared to the hours, when you allow impure thoughts, to take control of your heart. I think many people would be surprised by this analysis – if they are honest with themselves.

Any views on this?

‘On the verge of crying out’

To Follow Jesus

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

January/February 2016 Issue –  Alive‘… because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ’  Ephesians 2:4-5

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Isaiah 55:1-5 (NIVUK): “‘Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendour.’”

I liked this part of today’s study: “We know that everyone is thirsty for God, and we know too, that most will not admit it. Thus the thirst is masked – masked, but always there.

Eugene Peterson in his book, Under the Unpredictable Plant, says, Everyone is on the verge of crying out “My Lord and my God” but the cry is drowned out by doubts or defiance,’

Remember it was God who built that thirst for Himself into the human soul when He established the human creation. So the fact that we are thirsty is not something of which He disapproves. God is not against our thirst; what is disappointing is our own attempt to satisfy the ache in our soul in anything other than in Him.”

I think that unless you come into a relationship with Jesus and take in the water of eternal life, then you never can know just how thirsty you are.

Your views?

You have been charged!

To Follow Jesus

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

January/February 2016 Issue –  Alive‘… because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ’  Ephesians 2:4-5

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 2:4-13 (NIVUK): “Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob, all you clans of Israel.

This is what the Lord says: ‘What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, “Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, a land of drought and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?”

I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.

The priests did not ask, “Where is the Lord?” Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.

‘Therefore I bring charges against you again,’ declares the Lord.‘ And I will bring charges against your children’s children. Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar (in the desert) and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.

Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the Lord. ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’

The reading for today is indeed powerful, and all the more so, because of its relevance for us.

Selwyn writes (I think this is the best bit.): “Why would people walk past a ‘spring of living water’, go into the desert and try to satisfy their thirst by drinking from a cistern containing dirty, lukewarm water? It doesn’t make sense.

The only answer is that human thinking, left to itself, is so misguided, foolish and independent that it is sure it can find satisfaction for the thirst in the soul by some means other than God. It can’t, but it believes it can – hence it is foolish.”

In Jeremiah’s day, the people ceased looking at God and turn their eyes towards idols, a detestable action in the eyes of God. It’s even worse today; we now have the situation where people, in general, have turned away from the one, true God and look to themselves for guidance – we have a world full of little, human gods – the worst type of ‘idols’.

You would have to ask yourself the question: ‘Is heaven shuddering in horror’ at what the world is doing? Your views?

Renewing the mind

To Follow Jesus

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

January/February 2016 Issue –  Alive‘… because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ’  Ephesians 2:4-5

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Romans 12:1-8 (NIVUK): “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Today’s key verse is the first one I thought of when Selwyn first started his discussion on our ability – to think. Our thinking has been damaged by the Fall, as discussed yesterday, and we need to seek the renewing of our mind through prayer.

Selwyn starts by saying (slightly modified): “Fact No. 3: to function correctly our minds must be renewed. … The desire (that created through deceptive thoughts) to have one’s own way needs adjusting as we grow. The whole purpose of self-discipline is to drive out foolishness and build in wisdom. … In our un-regenerated minds we think erroneously about where life is found. Sadly, for Christians, even though redeemed; we sometimes think erroneously about where life is found.”

My main comment is that the renewing of our mind is an on-going process and we need the self-discipline to persistently seek the Holy Spirit’s assistance to progress this amazing process. It’s one of the reasons why we should read God’s Word on a regular basis, because we are constantly exposed to the wrong and deceptive thinking that has infiltrated our daily lives, especially the ideas that are promulgated by mainstream media.

Your thoughts?

The light of the gospel

To Follow Jesus

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

January/February 2016 Issue –  Alive‘… because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ’  Ephesians 2:4-5

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIVUK): “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.

On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

Today, Selwyn looks at the second aspect of our thinking. He writes: “Our minds have been greatly affected by the Fall. The text before us today makes clear that there is a dense darkness in the mind because of sin.

Our mind is one of Satan’s greatest strongholds. He rejoices in his power to fill the mind with darkness, but thankfully he is no match for the One who at creation said, ‘”Let there be light,” and there was light’ (Genesis 1:3).”

The topic Selwyn talks about in today’s study is often neglected, but it is one of the main reasons why people cannot clearly think through spiritual issues – our intellect, in general, is flawed because of the affect of sin.

As well as Satan blinding the minds of unbelievers, we should also keep in mind that God Himself prevents people, who do not belong to His Kingdom, from fully understanding His message of salvation.

In Mark 4:9-12, we read: “Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’ When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ‘“they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”’

Consequently, we should not be too harsh with people who argue with us about the truth of Scripture – it could be that at that point in time – they are blind to the truth; all we can do is pray for them that one day, God may open their eyes so that they can truly see who Jesus is.

Any thoughts on this?

Today, I like the verse of the day, found on www.biblegateway.com, Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” If we practise this advice then it helps us dwell on God’s goodness and we are shielded from the negativity in the world that we are often exposed to, which can be sometimes depressing.