Word and Spirit

Ephesians 5:1-20 (NIV):Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

One of the issues that we face today; is to recognise the role of God’s Spirit, in a balanced and Scriptural manner.

Selwyn writes: “The deeper we go into the subject of what constitutes Christian worship the more we realise how dependent we are on the work of the Holy Spirit. … Paul is clear (in the verses, above): the Spirit’s presence is again the needed ingredient for worship and praise. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones [a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor], suggested that; ‘as the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon us, worshipping God is no longer a matter of duty, it is a desire’. …

How much richer and more varied might our worship be when we open ourselves to the Word and the Spirit through ‘psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs’.”

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we find the clear and unambiguous instruction, ‘be filled with God’s Spirit’; he does not qualify this advice with any clarification along the lines, ‘while you still can, because the activity of the Spirit will soon cease’. In fact, I don’t think there is any such qualification in any part of the New Testament, but there are some people today who hold such an erroneous view.

We need God’s Spirit to fill our hearts with an overwhelming desire to worship God, in truth.

Any comments?

 

Worship – repentant praise

Luke 17:11-19 (NIV): ‘Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy ( the Greek word used, has a broad meaning and refers to skin disease in general, including leprosy) met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked himand he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Then Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”’

I loved today’s study! Selwyn has given us a lot to think about, for example,: ‘Being cleansed from our sins is the basic ingredient in order to connect to God, but we must never forget the purpose for which we are cleansed – to give Him worship and praise. … At the risk of overstating the point, the goal of salvation is not that we are cleansed or healed but that we return to God in humble service and heartfelt worship.’

His conclusion is a wonderful summary, perhaps you could go over these words a few times during this day – to help your heart take in this fantastic message: ‘Follow the pattern presented in these verses and you will not go far wrong: keep coming back to God with passionate and exuberant praise (‘a loud voice’, v13), with deep submission (‘threw himself at Jesus’ feet’, v16), and joyful thanks.

We can be cleansed, healed, restored, forgiven but it is not until we return all the way back home in praising and glorifying God that we are made whole.’

These verses from Luke’s gospel, give us an insight into the spiritual aspects of following Jesus. The person who loves God is always coming back to the throne of Jesus with passionate, exuberant praise and complete submission to express joyful thanks for what God has done for them.

It would have been expected that God’s our people (Israelites) would recognise the great gift of healing given to them and be the first to go back and thank Him; but no – it was the foreigner (a Samaritan) who came back – as he alone, out of the ten lepers, recognised Jesus, for who He was. So, very sad.

I think it’s the same today, God provides many good spiritual gifts to large numbers of people, but few passionately thank Him.

The great message that we can take with us, is this: this is always ‘more‘ to God’s love. This lone Samaritan was told by God: ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” How fantastic was that – not only was his disease healed but his spirit as well.

How would you respond to Jesus?  If He said to you, as you joyfully thanked Him for all that He has done for you, ‘Rise and be a witness for Me while your journey, your faith has made you spiritually well.‘  His love never stops giving!

Any comments?

‘To enjoy Him for ever’

Isaiah 43:14-21 (NIV): ‘This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians,  in the ships in which they took pride. I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.”

This is what the Lord says – he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.’

Selwyn, in his introduction, provides a good summary of today’s study:
“Early on in our meditations we asked the question ‘Why should we worship?’ One answer we said, is that we worship because of who God is. A further answer is this: because we were created to worship.”

He expands on this last point in his concluding remarks: “To return to the point we made yesterday, the less self-absorbed we are, and the more we worship, the more we become the people we are meant to be.

William Temple put it like this: ‘To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.'”

I really like the last verse from today’s reading: ‘To give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.’ It reminds we of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well.

John 4:10-14 (NIV): ‘ … Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”’

We, who follow Jesus with all our heart, mind, spirit and strength – His chosen people – have been given this life-giving water. We have been formed into a holy nation, so that in all of eternity we can proclaim His praise – starting, from the time we first turned away from our sinful nature, to answer His call – to follow Him!

Any thoughts?

‘The feel-God factor’

Isaiah 6:1-13 (NIV): ‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” ‘

I thought that Selwyn’s introduction was excellent: True worship connects us with reality – the ultimate reality of God’s supreme sovereignty. When we worship we approach the throne occupied by the One who made and controls the universe. This is why worship can be a world-shattering, world-changing event. When we worship we are symbolically and spiritually reordering our disordered lives around God, re-centring them on His true authority.

The most wonderful thing about worship, as Isaiah realised, is that through it we are connected to the heartfelt concerns of God. … And here’s the remarkable thing: the more we enter into the concerns of God the less significant and problematic our own concerns become.’

The challenge that I have, when reading Selwyn’s words, is that I don’t think my worship (particularly on Sundays) matches the intensity of what’s described in the above verses of Isaiah. Perhaps, the routine of church services and the worship songs which are often sung, have become tired, or lost some of the heart’s energy; maybe, because some of us see God, as more of a friend, and less as the Creator King?

Do we still relate to Jesus as the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne – exercising His authority over all creation? Do we sense His awesome majesty? Do we fall down in worship when we experience His infinite glory? Or, do we – in fact –  just relate to Him as a carpenter’s son from Nazareth?

How do you answer these questions?

Offering our whole selves

Romans 12:1-8 (NIV): ‘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.’

In today’s study, Selwyn provides for us, his definition of the scope of worship: ‘The term ‘worship’ is being used in its broadest sense to describe our heartfelt response to God and His goodness. That response may be praise, thanksgiving, blessing, service, or even, as we shall see, lament.’

He says .later in the study; Worship relates not only to the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, and the thanks we give, but to everything we do when we gather together as people of God.

The way we worship God is based on our attitude to God (this is an obvious statement, but it’s important for each one of us to examine how we see God – perhaps some see Him as a patient and forgiving friend who they visit on a Sunday – often, just out of habit; or do they see Him as King of Kings, commanding the entire universe and more) , Paul in the above verses from Romans, rightly points out that we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice – it’s all of our life, not just a part of it. We follow God’s will for our life not just for a few hours on a Sunday, but all the days of our life.

The verse before 12:1 above (which starts with the word ‘therefore‘), is this: ’11:36 For from God and through God and for God are all things. To God be the glory forever! Clearly, we exist because of God – and we live for Him; consequently, if we accept Jesus as our Creator and Saviour then the only response can be total worship – with all that we have, and at all times.

However, if your attitude to God reflects a view that you’re just a chance outcome resulting from your parent’s relationship, then you probably have a totally different view of worship!

All though my journey with Jesus, I’ve always been overwhelmed by His majesty and authority- fortunately, I’ve been blessed and I see Him as depicted in Revelation – as King of Kings, and there will come a time when everyone – including His enemies – will bend their knee before His throne.

Any comments?

A just God

Revelation 15:5 – 16:7 (NIV): ‘After this I looked, and I saw in heaven the temple – that is, the tabernacle of the covenant law – and it was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests.

Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”

The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.

Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, O Holy One, you who are and who were; for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”

And I heard the altar respond: “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” ‘

Not much more needs to be said, the words may be symbolic but it’s easy to understand what has been written. Selwyn says; “Our imagination is being stirred to show us that God’s judgments are directed against anything or anyone who prevents His people worshipping Him. … A longing for justice has been placed inside us all. … This is crunch time; the final judgments are at hand. Soon all that is wrong will be put right.”

Do you help and encourage people to worship Jesus, or do you hinder them – by your actions and words? The judgment of God is close to us all!

It’s all about You, Lord

In today’s study, Selwyn continues to stress the importance of putting God first in our prayer life.  I could be wrong, but over the last twenty years, it appears to me that we don’t demonstrate an attitude of awe and reverence for God, as much as once was the case. I’m not just talking about the ritual seen in churches, it has more to do with the way people behave in a church service. I guess it can be expressed this way; people only approach Jesus as a friend (which He is); and, appear to forget that He is also sitting on a throne, as King of Kings.

Selwyn writes: “Earlier I made the point that life is not about us but about God and His glory. This is something that we need to emphasise more and more in today’s climate of self-centredness. … It is very challenging and humbling to face the fact that life is not about us but about God and His glory.”

I think that this an extremely important point which Selwyn is making: that we must worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness – and, our worship must come from ‘a fire of love burning on the altar of your heart.’ One of my main memories of my encounter with the risen Lord back in 1991 was His obvious, overwhelming splendour – His majesty is so blindingly great that falling down in worship is the only natural response. If, that is how we will see Jesus on the last day, then perh we should prepare for that meeting and practice what our heart already knows.

Your view?