The Spirit’s great goal

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 3:7-18  (NIVUK): “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?

If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Selwyn writes a good conclusion to this issue, of being ‘alive‘ with Christ.

He writes: “The goal and ultimate aim of spiritual maturity is to reflect the beauty and character of Jesus. … The Holy Spirit’s whole energy is directed towards making us more like Jesus every day, and that our goal should be the same as His. … God not only gives us an extremely high goal too aspire to, He also provides the power by which we can attain it.

When we keep our eyes on Jesus and aim to become more like Him. the Spirit, who delights to glorify Jesus, helps us achieve what we desire.”

I think one of the biggest dangers a Christian faces is to become comfortable with their current life-style; in that they settle into a routine of serving God in the same way, day after day. To follow Jesus is an active process where we are constantly moving towards the goal of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The process of being transformed implies change – we should be able to look back over the past year – and be able to see the progress we have made with the Holy Spirit’s help.

Take a moment to examine your life, are you getting closer to Jesus as you follow Him each day?

A profile of a growing Christian

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 6:1-13  (NIVUK): “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling-block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.”

In today’s study, Selwyn provides us with a useful list which describes the attributes of a Christian growing in spiritual maturity.

He says: “He or she is someone who (1) understands the design of God for their being; (2) is in touch with their deepest longings; (3) knows that they can find total security, worth and significance in God’ (4) has set a goal that determines all other goals – the goal of pleasing God; (5) manages their emotions; (6) drinks deeply of the living water that Jesus provides through a rich relationship with Him in prayer; (7) comprehends the importance of filling the mind with the wisdom that comes from God’s Word, the Bible; (8) is free of anger and resentment, anxiety and fear, guilt and shame; (9) loves others in the way that they themselves are loved by God; (10) ensures that they are taking the necessary steps to respect their physical being (body).”

It’s a good check list and one that is worth reviewing from time to time, to determine how we are going. As Selwyn goes on to say, there will be times when we veer off course. However, God has given us a clear chart and an accurate compass in the Scriptures and these provide us with all the information we need to return to the correct course.

One of the main points to remember is that as soon as we realise that we have failed to meet one of the above ten points that we immediately seek God’s help to help us identify the reason why, and the actions required to lead us back to where we should be.

Any comments?

 

No denial of reality

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 29:10-14  (NIVUK): “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place.

For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’”

Today’s reading contains one of the most popular verses in the Bible:For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It’s a great verse because it tells us that God has a plan for each one of us – no one is left out of God’s great plan.

In today’s study Selwyn covers some very important points and it will be worth your while to meditate on the main issues that he raises.

He writes: “There are three things in our lives of which we need to become aware and repent of, if necessary on a daily basis.

The first is our failure to trust God’s love.  Instead of basking in the security that His love brings us, we turn to others to seek a pale reflection of God’s love.

A second thing is our failure to believe God’s evaluation of our worth. In Jesus, God esteems us as brothers and sisters of His Son. (Hebrews 2:11-12). Sadly, far too often we fail to believe the worth we have in Jesus by God’s grace and through faith in Him.

The third thing we need to be ready to repent of is our failure to see any meaning or purpose in our lives. When we stop seeing our life from God’s point of view – an eternal perspective – then we begin to wonder how much purpose there is to our being in this world. … There is a point to you being here on this earth, and though your life might seem humdrum, there is something God wants to achieve through you.

You are a person of destiny no matter how things may appear to you. If you are a Christian – a follower of Jesus – the Spirit of God is at work in your life.

Not to believe these three things is a denial of reality. When we move away from accepting them, repentance is the only way back.”

I’ve posted a lot of what he wrote in today’s study because the points he has made are important to understand and to carefully consider each day.

The three points are inter-related, if we understand how much God loves us then we can appreciate His evaluation of our worth. Once we acknowledge that God values us as brothers and sisters of Christ then we can accept that He would give us a worthwhile purpose in advancing His kingdom here on earth.

All we need to do is to be open to the Spirit of God as He guides us to undertake those tasks which will achieve God’s purposes – tasks which God has prepared for us, to do. We all have a God-given purpose. It’s essential that we focus (with a lot of prayer) on this fact. Do you agree?

1 John 4:9 – “This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

‘Assyria cannot save us’

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:

Hosea 14:1-9  (NIVUK): “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall!

Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say “Our gods” to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.’

‘I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendour will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.

People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the corn, they will blossom like the vine – Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.’

Who is wise? Let them realise these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

In today’s study Selwyn talks about how we can change when we realise some changes are needed in our life. Personally, I find it hard to change my ways if I try to rely on my own strength – I need to pray a lot and to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in bringing about any change.

Selwyn has this to say on the subject: “My view is that the greatest change in the personality takes place when we move into a deeper relationship with God. And before we can move deeper we must understand the dynamic of repentance, for if there has been movement away from God there can be no return without repentance.

The word repentance means a change of mind. What do we change our mind about? Where our life is found. … Repentance is returning to God, admitting we have depended more on ourselves than on Him, asking His forgiveness for that fact and accepting that ‘we cannot save ourselves’.”

As Selwyn says, in order to bring our personalities into line with the divine design, we first must admit that there are areas in our lives that need to be changed, then we seek God’s forgiveness and demonstrate our desire for change through repentance, that is, to actively change whatever it is, which is in conflict with Jesus’ teaching. To do this successfully, I believe, we need the Holy Spirit’s help – through persistent prayer.

Your thoughts?

***

[My wife’s birthday today, she is so pleased that I’m still alive to celebrate it with her. My cancer is still active yet my overall condition is reasonably stable. Praise God!]

The right attitude

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:

Proverbs 3:1-12  (NIVUK): “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

I liked Selwyn’s conclusion: “We need to learn to take care of ourselves emotionally, spiritually and physically. There are at least three things necessary to keep our bodies functioning in the way they were designed: we need to eat properly, exercise regularly and have the right attitudes. It’s not only what you eat, but what is eating you, that affects the body.”

Just as we are called to be good stewards of the material gifts which God gives us through the expression of His grace – we should also be good stewards of the main gift – our lives. Consequently, we should look after our bodies because in this way our heart and mind can functional efficiently. When we, as a living being, are functioning at our best then we are in a better position to faithfully serve our God. Do you agree?

 

Stop shouting!

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:

Ephesians 4:17-32  (NIVUK): “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

In this study, Selwyn talks about the need to learn how to manage our emotions.

He writes: “First, be willing to face them and feel them. Never attempt to block the awareness of an emotion. Second, consider how the emotion arose – problem emotions arise from the frustration we feel because a goal we have set for ourselves is not being reached. (Is it the right goal?)

Third, ensure that you express problem emotions in harmony with biblical principles. Don’t say, ‘I can’t help shouting when I’m angry.’ Remember that you can choose not to shout. Never forget that the mind and the will censor the emotions and they decide how those emotions are to be expressed.”

Today’s  reading from Ephesians provides a lot of good advice. First off, we should no longer live as non-Christians do. We must try to be like Jesus by pursuing a life of righteousness and holiness. We are to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. We should be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God forgave you.

Paul makes a special mention of controlling our anger and advises us to deal quickly with it because if we dwell on what has caused us to become angry for any length of time, we may provide a foothold for the devil, which could lead to sin.

Over the years I’ve made a conscious effort to deal with my anger before the ‘sun sets’, that is within a day of whatever has happened to cause the emotion of anger to rise up in me. I’ve found that with prayer, I’ve been able to successfully control my angry outbursts – they sometimes still happen – but I’ve found each case to be easier to control because I’ve consistently applied Paul’s advice.

I think that if we develop a habit of dealing with difficult emotions by following biblical principles then we grow in spiritual maturity and move closer to our goal of righteousness and holiness – that is, to be more like Jesus.

Your thoughts?

 

 

Establishing a godly goal

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 5:1-10  (NIVUK): “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

In today’s study, Selwyn talks about the matter of establishing right biblical goals.

He says: “How do we go about setting a right goal – a goal that can in no way be undermined, uncertain or unreachable? The apostle Paul tells us in the text before us today. He informs us that his overarching goal in life was to please God. …

When you set for yourself the goal of pleasing God then, when something unpleasant happens, such as being overlooked for promotion, being criticised by someone, receiving a financial setback, being betrayed by someone close to you, your response will be, ‘How can I please God in the way I handle this?”

This is good advice, and echoes a popular saying, ‘What would Jesus do?’ And to answer this question we need to have spent a lot of time in the gospels, getting to know (with the Holy Spirit’s help) how Jesus responded to the various challenges that He faced while here on earth.

I found that when something unpleasant happened to me, there was an initial desire to seek justice, however, after a lot of prayer I was often led to let the issue go and leave it in the hands of God. I was always amazed when a bad situation was often turned around in unexpected ways, which usually led to a good outcome. God works in mysterious ways that we just don’t foresee – we just need to trust in His amazing love.

Your view?