Prayer: Thank you for the ministry you have entrusted to me Lord. May it never become a chore in my eyes.
1 Chronicles 9: 1b – 13
I was travelling in the car with a man who worked for a certain electricity company. He picked up his friend, a much older and a wise man, who had been a works manager himself for many years. The older guy picked up some glossy materials left lying on a seat, and with a glint in his eye said, ‘Fobbing materials!’ It strikes me that the devil has a line in that area. See how:
Sin brings captivity (1b): Jesus said: I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). But the illusion the devil sells you is that you’re free. ‘This will actually enhance your freedom’ he says. While you swallow the lie that you are free, the reality is that you’re a marionette having your strings tugged. But that is his great (lying) sales pitch. It’s ‘fobbing material’ of the cleverest sort. While you think you are buying freedom, you’re actually being handed slavery over the counter. He is very good at marketing strategy and he will love to do you a deal over sin. Passing off horse meat as beef is nothing when compared with what he does! If the devil wasn’t such a brilliant con artist, and if there wasn’t an innate desire in us for what he’s out to sell (James 1:13-16) he would never succeed. But sin is an ‘inside job.’ Our adversary has an ally on the inside of our lives in the form of the sinful nature. When he wants to go fishing in that particular ‘river’ called ‘me’ he knows he just has to put ‘the world’ on the hook, and my flesh life will want to nibble. It’s relatively easy for him to catch sinners. We have this triple enemy of the world, the flesh and the devil; and the devil uses the world to get after the flesh. Even seeing clearly how it all works, it is nevertheless hard to resist the juicy morsel dangling from the end of his rod!
Years ago, I found these words from David H. Wheaton whilst reading an older version of the ‘New Bible Commentary.’ His words were based on 2 Peter 2:13, and he wrote: Sin attracts with its offer of pleasure, but in the end he who indulges finds that he has no pleasure at all.
(Notice, by the way, that not all the people of Judah were unfaithful to God. But the sins of the many can adversely affect the few.)
Beyond captivity there can be a fresh start (4-12): Here is a long list of people who came home from Babylon, each one with a testimony that exiles can be restored. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and God is the God of new beginnings. No fall need be final. Prodigals in the far country can come home. They can come to their senses amid the filth of the pig sty and set their faces towards Father and home. Jesus came into the world to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed… (Luke 1:18). The stories of miraculous escapes from prison recorded in Acts 5:19, 20 and 12:1-19 picture what the gospel is all about. These remarkable events did happen, but they also illustrate just what is possible in individual lives. Jesus comes to those in the ‘prison’ of sin and opens the heavy door. They can walk out into the freedom He has bought if they choose to. They can also opt to stay where they are. But why would you? In John 8, where Jesus speaks about the slavery of sin, He also declares: So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). This is the great hope held out in the gospel.
Logically, this list, showing returnees from both northern and southern kingdoms, belongs at the end of 2 Chronicles. It’s a list that continues for more verses, but we’re going to pause here and pick it up tomorrow, God-willing. What better thing to do with the pause than to fill it with prayer.
Prayer: Thank you for your Word Lord. Thank you for such great freedom purchased at such cost by your Son Jesus. Help me to walk in all that you have bought for me.
Psalm 89: 38-45
See three very important things:
God keeps His Word: It looked as though God had broken His Covenant to the psalmist. But let’s not jump to hasty conclusions. Study hard to know exactly what God has said in His Word. Don’t settle for a superficial knowledge of the Bible. God did exactly as He said (30-32). The Psalmist, and the people of his day, just didn’t fully appreciate all that God had said. This shows how godly people can have major blind spots. We know now that God’s covenant with David did not fail and never will. But the psalmist lived before Jesus’ time, and he had probably lived through the siege of Jerusalem and what looked like the final and irreversible destruction of David’s throne. The big question was what had gone wrong? Had God renounced His covenant with David (39), the very covenant He had declared He would not violate (34)? It seems the psalmist had forgotten the warning God gave to Solomon (1 Kings 9:4-9) as well as not understanding the full import of his own words (30-32). We can read God’s Word selectively. It may not be deliberate, but people have the knack of subconsciously editing out what they don’t want to see.
Privilege brings responsibility: If God has made us His covenant people, then He expects us to keep within its terms. Disobedience has consequences, and this holds true for believing people. We don’t have an exemption clause. God’s anger (38) is a real thing. He is not an over-indulgent granddaddy figure in the skies, saying, ‘There, there now; boys will be boys.’ If it’s okay for us to be angry over sin in our children, why would we have a problem with God’s anger? He is a moral God; a holy God. He cares about wrongdoing. He cannot be indifferent to it. Our God is an awesome God. Beware of the ‘God All matey’ syndrome! Hebrews 12 talks about God disciplining His children. He chastens us. This is not because He doesn’t love us, but because He does. God’s anger is to be seen as a facet of His true love. Real love will become very angry over that which spoils and mars and defaces the life of the one so loved. God loves us; we’re His children; and because of that deep, deep love he will discipline us. God’s grace brings forgiveness into our lives. But His free grace must not be turned into cheap grace in our thinking. There are warnings as well as promises in the New Testament. Let us heed them.
Be careful where your security lies (40): Things we trust in that are not God will fail us. They are flimsy. There is no ultimate security in anything man-made. Be careful that you are not attempting to lean on a spider’s web. It will not hold you.
Prayer: Lord, I know I am no longer under law but under grace. I now also recognise that this fact does not mean that I can live carelessly. Help me to pursue holiness with single-minded passion, knowing that I can look to you for all necessary help and strength.
Romans 13: 8-14
Here is another example of how practical Second coming teaching is as we find it in the pages of the New Testament.
There is a story told how, in a certain village, the church clock went haywire. One particular day it struck 12, but didn’t stop: 13, 14, 15…on it went! A little boy went racing home, burst into the kitchen and exclaimed, ‘Mummy, mummy it’s later today than it’s ever been!’
Well, it is just that (11b, 12a), and Paul, therefore has some important (and earthy) applications to make. If we truly believe that Jesus is coming back:
It will affect our finances (8a): Many professing Christians remain undifferentiated from the rest of the world in terms of their money management. They live beyond their means and stack up debt. But God calls us to a different standard. (Anyone reading this who has got caught in a downward whirlpool of debt may want to check out the organisation ‘Christians against poverty.’ They offer practical help and hope to get people out of such circumstances.)
It will affect our interpersonal relationships (8b – 10, 13b): Outside a church in Guildford, Surrey, I saw a sign which read: ‘Love won another.’ There is something winsome about love. If we love, we will automatically fulfill the man ward aspects of the law. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The Message. We won’t commit adultery; steal etc. because we love this person. We won’t want to wrong them in any way. (We won’t have anything to do with dissension or give ourselves up to jealousy either. See 13b). Here are some of the deeds of darkness we need to put aside. These things need to become our ‘old cast-offs.’
It will affect our morals (13): A boy, writing home from boarding school said to his parents, ‘The previous vicar used to tell lots of moral stories; but this new vicar: he’s got no morals!’ The world of Paul’s day was as corrupt as ours, if not more so. It was a moral sewer and its stench reached the sky. The Christians then were not to be conformed to it; nor are we. You will see that we have to put effort into growing in holiness. There are things we must do and they will not (cannot) be done for us by anyone else. (You will note, for example, the place of the mind in holy living: 14b. In order to be a winner and not a loser you have to submit your mind to Christ. This is particularly so in sexual temptation. If you lose the battle in your head you will have problems, for as we think in our hearts so are we. There are places you can’t afford to let your mind go. You have to be like a parent lovingly but firmly holding the eager child back from potential dangers.) But we do these things in total dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ (14). It’s about trusting Him to let His life shine through ours; relying on Him to become like Him.
So, if we believe Jesus is coming back, there are filthy garments to take off (our ‘night clothes’ you might say). According to Paul’s words here, they are financial mismanagement, lack of love and sexual immorality. But not only do you have a negative exhortation; there is the all-important positive one to be Christ-like; to be clothed with Jesus Himself (14a). We are called to live as befits the daylight, for that is where Christians are going to be forever. Hallelujah!
Get out of bed and get dressed…Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about! The Message.
Prayer: Lord, may the hope of seeing you as you are have the effect of making me more like you.
Romans 13: 1-7
Here are some key points to take away from this passage:
The institution of government is God’s idea: In my Bible I have highlighted the following words: God has established…established by God (1)…what God has instituted (2)…God’s servant (2 x in 4)…God’s servants (6). So government is part of God’s order for society, and therefore there is a must (1) about our submission. It is a matter of conscience (5b). Look also at all the references to authorities and authority (1, 2, 3, 5 and 6). (Warren Wiersbe has pointed out that God has established government because people are sinners and need control. As all governmental authority comes from God, we must respect the office, even when we can’t respect the conduct of an individual officer. Fear of punishment, he says, is not the highest motivation for obedience, but it beats chaos!)
God has raised up the current government in my country at this time: (In particular note Daniel 2:21) Here in the UK in 2013, this means that God, and not the democratic process, is ultimately responsible for putting the coalition in to power. That is not to say that He is a Conservative or Lib Dem Himself, but He is in overall control of the universe and has a purpose in this particular government being in office at this moment in history. (Consider John 19:11)
We are called to be good citizens: As someone has said, being citizens of heaven must not minimise our sense of responsibility on earth. It is our Christian duty to be fine citizens. Indeed, I would say we are to be exemplary members of society. Whatever makes men good Christians makes them good citizens. Daniel Webster. We are to submit (1) and not rebel (2). Part of this submission involves the payment of taxes (6/7). It will also mean being law abiding. In particular God has instituted government for the preservation of law and order (3-5). The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order and he uses them to do it. The Message. It will also entail praying for our leaders, including interceding for their conversion. (1 Tim.2:1- 8)This submission doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t disagree where we believe the government is wrong, or criticise bad policy. (This wasn’t an option open to Paul’s readers living, as they did, under a dictatorship, but it is to us in our democracy.) The important thing is to do so respectfully. We show respect to all people because we have profound respect (reverence more so) for the God who made them and instituted the structures of governance in the first place.
There has been a long tradition in the church of interpreting this teaching in the following way: We will obey men as far as we can and for as long as we can, until there comes a clash (if there does) with the Law of God. There may come a point (as there did for the first Christians) where we have to say that we must obey God rather than men.
Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. The Message.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, I pray for all who carry the burden and responsibility of government on their shoulders, whether at local or national level. Please give them wisdom, courage and integrity to lead us with righteousness and maintain an orderly society. Above all, may those who are not yet Christians come to know you personally.