Turning to the Light – Job 33.28
‘God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’
I’ve got a cactus plant that just keeps growing and growing. It’s already been split into five different pots yet it just keeps on growing. Near the window there are three cuttings of the original cactus – one right next to the window, then the middle plant and the one that’s furthest away from the window.
The amazing thing is that the plant that is nearest to the window with its ‘arms’ hanging out have developed loads of incredible pink flowers on the ends of the ‘arms’ (during winter). The plant that is furthest away from the window hasn’t got any flowers. The middle one has a few flowers on but not as many. Even more significant is that when the middle plant was put nearest to the window, more flowers started growing.
The truth is that the plant nearest the window (and next to the light) has been the one that has grown the most and the one that has flowered the most. The one that has been more in the dark is the smallest plant and the only one without any flowers on. The spiritual lesson for us is that as Christians, we grow and we flourish (and ‘flower’) when we are near the light. The light is Jesus – so the closer we are to him, the more we grow and the more we display his character, love and colours! The more we are in the ‘dark’ (do wrong things or stay away from Jesus), the less we grow and the less vibrant our lives are! “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
New set of clothes – Zechariah 3.3-5
Jeshua’s clothing was filthy as he stood there before the angel. So the angel said to the others standing there, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And turning to Jeshua he said, “See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes.” Then I said, “They should also place a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean priestly turban on his head and dressed him in new clothes while the angel of the Lord stood by.
What does it look like when someone ‘becomes a Christian’? What is ‘sin’? What are Christians on about when they talk like this?! A good example is found in a book called Zechariah.
Imagine that you have one set of clothes and you’ve been wearing them for a few days. You’ve walked about, played football, gone to sleep, been out with mates, got caught in the rain etc. Now these clothes would begin to be really messy and smelly. Imagine someone came along and said ‘I’ve got you a whole new set of clothes that fit you, that suit you, that are in fashion and make you look better than ever before. And they’re free. And these clothes won’t stay the same – they’ll always be ‘in’ and will look better and better over time. To get them you need to believe that your old clothes are messy and dirty, that you need a new set of fresh clean clothes and that you don’t want to go back to being dirty and messy.’
The person offering this to you says they’ll help you to stay clean and provide what you need. Now that would be a good offer! And that is kind of what happened to a guy called Jeshua in the Bible. What happened to him was a good example for us of what happens when someone is changed by Jesus. The person making that offer to you, to me, to everyone is Jesus. And he means what he says and does what he says. Jesus doesn’t just clean you up on the outside, he cleans you up on the inside too. Want a new ‘set of clothes’? Just ask Jesus today!
Clear out the mess – Galatians 5.13
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
One day there was a puddle of water at the front of the fridge. Strange place for water – I usually find it in the sink. So opening up the fridge and investigating, I found it was running out from inside the fridge. In these situations, google can be your friend and a quick search revealed the problem – a clogged up ‘defrost drain’. This is where the condensation in the fridge runs down, into a hole and is evaporated out. But sometimes this drain becomes blocked up and as a result water can spill out of the front of the fridge as it’s got nowhere else to go!
The solution to this problem is to clear out the drain. To do this, I used kitchen roll, about 20 cotton buds (‘q-tips’ for our US readers…) I even tied some of them together to make a longer cotton bud (using cable ties). Things like ‘pipe cleaners’ can also help. The amount of horrible stuff that came out of that drain was amazing and pretty horrible – it took loads of time and many times of cleaning to get it sorted. The end result was no more leaking and a better and happier fridge!
There’s a spiritual meaning to this true tale! We’ve all got lots of ‘stuff’ and ‘mess’ on the inside of us – anger, frustration, wrong thinking, bad words, lust, unforgiveness and other things. Over time God deals with this and he cleans us up, removing the bad stuff. If we keep the bad stuff then all the water inside of us just spills all over the place causing more mess and problems for others to deal with. But if we work with God to clear out the mess then the end result will be no more leaky mess but a better and happier you!
Consequences – Acts 27.10-11 and 21-22
“Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship… After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.”
OK so Paul was in chains and on his way to Italy. Paul warned the Centurion looking after him and others on the ship that there would be a storm if they set out and they’d suffer loss. But they decided to set out anyway. Sure enough, a storm came up and battered the ship to the extent that the men on board gave up all hope of being saved. Into this crazy situation Paul then spoke up again and said, ‘look guys, I said we shouldn’t have done this. If you’d listened to me you wouldn’t have suffered all this loss and damage. But despite you doing this, God is going to spare all of our lives, so this is what we need to do… And what Paul said happened.
Here’s the lesson for us: when God says something to us through the Bible, when God speaks to us in that little voice prompting us to do or not do something – or even when someone gives us an accurate word from God, then we need to listen. It can be a big thing or a small thing. I once saw something on the floor and didn’t clear it up when I felt I should. Someone else then stood on the food and trampled it through the house. I then had to clean the carpets! If only I had listened to God speaking to me! This is also true in big things – like sexual sin, like not doing what is right and like being dishonest. Everything we does has a consequence. Don’t just think of doing something – think about whether you’d do something if Jesus was standing with you. Would he like it? And remember that we can say sorry to God. He will forgive us but the consequences may remain. If God says to do or not do something he’s not spoiling our fun, he’s giving us the best way that will bring life and not bad things. God will turn things around for good if we’re putting him first but you may suffer some ‘damage’ or ‘loss’. So saying yes to God’s way actually helps you and helps others avoid harm too. So when God speaks, just make a decision to do what his says!
Brexit? Mexit? Romans 3.23-25
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” (NLT version)
You’ve probably heard of ‘Brexit’ – the vote that British people made to leave the European Union. There are many opinions about this but this quiet-time isn’t about opinions. But starting near the beginning of time (and continuing ever since), there was another ‘exit’ that people decided about. It wasn’t a rejection of the European Union but a rejection of God. This ‘Mexit’ (Man’s exit from God) was when man and woman decided that their way was better than God’s way. They wanted to go it alone. They believed the slogans of the devil who said that they were better off ‘out’ of God’s presence than ‘in’ God’s presence. They were determined that man and woman could handle things and that God was only getting in their way of doing life the way they wanted to. But ever since, the world has shown that actually man and woman don’t make a good job of living life without God. In fact they’ve made a right mess of things and all the evil, wrong, disaster, sickness and every bad thing has happened because people have voted for ‘Mexit’.
Now funnily enough, there are a few differences between God and the European Union (just in case you weren’t sure…) For starters, God is completely perfect and completely good. He’s the creator of the entire universe and of every atom. He also keeps things going (our perfect world in perfect balance is one of many evidences that God is real). God sees the beginning and end and is more powerful than anything we could imagine but never abuses his power or any person. He made everyone unique and totally loves each person with a love that is good, kind, pure and full of life. So while there were many opinions about Brexit to leave or to stay, the truth about Mexit is that man and woman made a bad decision! The great thing about Mexit is that God hasn’t shut the door or penalised us. We may have made a mess but God has left the door open for you to have the life you were always meant to have. It’s called the ‘God Union’ and he sent his envoy called Jesus to offer you a way into the Union with God. All you have to do is ask Jesus to come into your heart and change you to make you right with God. You can’t earn it and you don’t even need to follow any rules. You just need to ask by saying something like ‘God I’ve messed up but want you at the centre of my life. I believe that Jesus is the way so change me and fill me with your love and your Holy Spirit. Amen.’
Chemical Clean Up – Isaiah 64.6
“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”
One of the many terrible things about war in its various forms is that military commanders with no morals do some really evil things to other people. Some of the things that Islamic State have done to women are beyond anything that could be imagined. One of the sickening things that has happened in the Syrian civil war (although it’s more a war of Islamic ideologies than anything) is that there have been allegations of the use of chemical weapons. Chemical weapons get into the body’s system and destroy it from the inside and outside. People die horrible deaths. It has been banned internationally but it hasn’t stopped various dictators and militaries from using it. In April 2018 it was alleged that Syrian government forces once again used chemical weapons on their own civilian population. Pictures showed people being hosed down with water and having their eyes and faces washed out with water to clean the chemicals from their bodies. Many people died, including children.
When people talk about ‘sin’ it often seems like it’s not that serious. We live in a world where people think if they stop people saying what they think are ‘nasty’ things then we’ll all be happier. So some Christians have even lost their jobs and been arrested in Britain simply for using the word ‘sin.’ Other times people use another word that sounds nice and fluffy but really isn’t. So when talking about people sleeping with other people’s wives or husbands it’s called ‘having an affair.’ Soaps make it seem glamorous. Other types of sin are actively promoted and seen as being colourful, fun or the thing to do. But sin is a dirty word. It is bad. It has terrible consequences. It destroys lives and breaks families apart. Sin causes crime, high taxes, murder, theft, robbery, fraud, gangs, drugs, domestic abuse, sexual violence, disease, high medical costs, fear, distrust, hatred, war. But there is an answer and it’s found solely in Jesus. He is the only one who can take a broken life or situation or nation and turn it around. How? Because he changes us from the inside. In one sense, Jesus cleans of the bad chemicals that are all over us (‘sin’). He washes us clean inside and outside. He then gives us new clothes and a new life. The stains are washed away because of what Jesus has done. But we have to ask him to do this for us. The good news is that Jesus has already defeated sin and paid the price for it. When we sin there will still be consequences quite often but when we ask Jesus to step in, he will and he will turn things around for good for you and everyone around you. That is why it’s called good news.
Washing machine for the soul – Titus 3.5
“…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
A few years ago, the washing machine broke. It just wasn’t washing things. Solution: a new washing machine. After a good look around and reading reviews online, the day came when the new Bosch washing machine arrived and it’s been very reliable. There have been a couple of issues though. On one occasion the water was getting blocked so the pipe that carries the water from the machine had to be unblocked. The clothes were smelly, so some very hot washes and some specialist cleaner did the trick. Another time, the ‘drum’ stopped spinning. The reason was a small bit of plastic had got into the machine and stopped it from working!
God does something very similar for us. The Bible tells us that when we become a Christian, what’s happened is that God cleans us up. Just like the washing machine couldn’t clean itself, so we can’t make ourselves clean. Only Jesus could do that and he did when he paid for all our sins on the cross. We can try hard, do good, be nice. But our washing standards and abilities can never deal with the root issue of the dirtiness in our lives – we can only ever clean the surface. But what God does is that he washes us not just with a 90 degree hot wash – he actually makes us new in our spirits. The way Jesus dealt with sin on the cross is that he had to die and then rise again. The same happens to us spiritually – our old sinful self goes and God puts his Spirit in us and makes us new on the inside. It’s a mystery but it’s a true mystery. God gives us a new ‘washing machine’ but one that doesn’t break down or go wrong. Yes, we sometimes can block the wash working on the outside, but all we need to do is say sorry to God and things start working. What’s more, as we grow with God, our lives become cleaner and purer and fresher and better as God keeps us washed, conditioned and smelling good!
No condemnation but grace – John 8.6-11
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’
We should pray, determine beforehand and then fight to stay pure in our bodies, especially when it comes to sex. It is well worth it. I have determined to stay pure and always want to with God’s help! But this isn’t about pointing the finger. If you do wrong then know that there is always a way back with God.
In the case with Jesus and the woman, we find something very interesting… As Joseph Prince says, the one person who could condemn the woman didn’t. Those who wanted to condemn the woman couldn’t after Jesus spoke to them! Instead of pointing his finger, Jesus showed the woman a better way. Jewish law demanded that she be stoned to death (interestingly the man involved wasn’t brought along). But Jesus confronted everyone else with their sin. Then he said something interesting to the woman – ‘neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.’ Let’s get the order right. First he told the woman he didn’t condemn her. Second he told her to go and sin no more. The lack of condemnation led to a change. Once she was forgiven and shown grace by Jesus she turned from her wrong lifestyle! What an amazing lesson for us and for the church which often shouts at people inside and outside the church saying, ‘Go and sin no more and then we won’t condemn you’. (The wrong way round).
Romans 8.1-2 tells us that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” If you have done wrong, confess your sin to Jesus and turn from it (whatever the sin). But know that he will forgive you and that you are not condemned by him! Be free to live for him!
The Three Lies – Genesis 3.1-4
Now the snake was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the snake, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’ ‘You will not certainly die,’ the snake said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
In his series, ‘The Way Up Is Down’, Derek Prince mentions the three lies that the devil told Adam and Eve. He points out that the devil’s tactics have not changed. So what are these tactics and how can we fight against them?
FIRST, the devil challenged God’s Word. God had spoken to Adam and Eve but the devil went against what God said. He didn’t say, ‘God’s Word isn’t true’ but was more crafty. He said, ‘did God really say that?’ He got Adam and Eve questioning the Word of God. But he was lying. The devil knows the power of God’s Word so he tries to get Christians to question it. We see it happening today, so stand strong against this. The Bible is God’s truth and yes, he really did say it! SECOND, the devil told Adam and Eve that they would be more wise. He was saying ‘God is holding you back, he’s keeping you down, you’re more than this…’ That is his second lie which we see today. Around us we see people saying evil things about God, saying he’s evil or made up or he kills people, hates people etc. It’s just not true (just look at Jesus!) Instead it is the world that hates God and tries to twist things round to say it’s God who’s wrong. Not true! God is good! THIRD, the devil lied by saying ‘you will be like God’. This isn’t true. God is the creator and we are the created! Across the world people try to reject God saying ‘we humans know best’ (called ‘atheism’ or ‘humanism’) but it’s clearly not true!! This was about pride, which we have to stay away from. Pride means thinking you’re bigger and better than you are, promoting yourself. But Jesus was very different. He humbled himself and came ‘down’ to earth. We don’t put ourselves down, we don’t get all fake about who we are. But just stay grounded, level-headed and never arrogant. The Bible says – submit to God, resist the devil and he will leg it from you!!
The Butterfly – Romans 6.6-14
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. (New Living Translation)
OK so a whole load of Bible verses there and Paul (who wrote Romans) was a very intelligent guy so it can sometimes be hard to understand what he’s saying! But here’s this in a nutshell… We’re like a butterfly (to explain…) We were once a ‘caterpillar’ but now we have been radically changed. Sin is represented by the caterpillar. But we are no longer ‘caterpillars’, we are butterflies! Our very nature has been changed to a God-nature. A butterfly with its beautiful wings doesn’t look back and wonder what it was like as a hairy caterpillar! Instead it flies, reveals the beauty of its creator and doesn’t look back to what it was or what it did – but lives its new and more amazing life. This is what Paul is encouraging us to be like. Choose to live like a butterfly!
Judgement – Matthew 7.1-3
‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’
When you ask people what they think of Christians, you’ll get all kinds of replies! One of the most common things is that Christians are judgmental. This means that people feel like Christians are always pointing the finger and saying people are wrong. Sometimes this is because people don’t want to hear from Jesus and they shut themselves off from God. Then say to Christians – ‘you’re judgemental’ when what’s actually going on is that God is speaking to them and they are resisting God’s voice!
But other times Christians say some horrible things to people who don’t believe in God and to each other. But Jesus told us not to judge others. Sometimes we have the right to ‘judge’, for example if you are a parent, you have to make calls about what’s right and wrong. But we are not called by Jesus to disrespect other Christians, other churches and other people. It’s something we all do and I confess I have done it and was wrong to do this. We need to say sorry to God when we do this. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that without love we are like a loud noisy cymbal banging in people’s heads. Too often this is what the church is like – saying critical things but without any love.
You even see it on Youtube with Christian videos. I know of one person who goes round slagging off anything to do with Bethel Church in Redding, California. But God has not called us to do this (and they are abusive in what they say, proving that what they say is not from God!) It’s much easier to point out people’s faults. It’s much harder to let love cover wrongs done to us (1 Corinthians 13) but it’s what God calls us to do. It’s much harder to state what we’re against than to stand what we are for. But it is much more Godly to live and love this way and not judge. Just think if we really lived in love not in judgement and what an impact it makes on people when we do this! Decide to live in love not judgement!
Wrong way round – Genesis 1.27
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
I read this Bible verse one day and felt like God spoke something important to me. The Bible is clear that it was God who created mankind and the whole earth. It wasn’t an alien invasion and it certainly wasn’t through some cosmic accident! We learn that God created mankind (man and woman) in his image, not as gods but as male and female to reflect his nature. He didn’t create mankind as some kind of blob or fish but in the image of God himself (did you know that DNA has a code and another code which decodes the first code – neither is possible without the other!)
The important point is that it was God who created man. The thing that God revealed to me is that ever since, mankind has been doing the exact opposite. Mankind has been trying to create God (and ‘gods’) in mankind’s own image. Some religions make mini statues and call them gods. Other people who say they don’t have a religion like to think they or science can explain everything, so mankind itself becomes their god. Even sometimes as Christians we talk about God like we can explain him or create an image of God in our mind that we can cope with. But God is beyond our understanding because he created mankind, created DNA and the whole universe! If we ‘worship’ an idol like a statue (or a football team or movies etc!) then we worship something that we created and that is sin. But when we worship God, we worship the one who created us and the only one worthy of worship!
Steeped in sin? John 9.31-34, 40-41
‘We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out... Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.‘
Jesus had healed a blind man. As usual the religious people were unhappy. (A sign of religious people is they are often unhappy or complaining). They demanded to know from the man who healed him and how it happened because they wanted to see how many of their daft ‘laws’ had been ‘broken’. They weren’t even happy that he was healed. (Another sign of religious people is they make laws more important than what God is doing). Instead they were mad, called the man a sinner (‘you were steeped in sin from birth’ – unlike themselves of course..!) and threw him out of the ‘church’! They didn’t believe the healing was from God because (Jesus) ‘did not keep the Sabbath’ and because ‘sinners don’t perform such signs’. This is often what happens with religious people – everyone else is wrong and a ‘sinner’ except them!
When Jesus heard about what had happened he put things back in the right perspective. Jesus takes us as we are, reaches out to us, touches our lives and changes us. Jesus didn’t focus on the man’s past, he changed his future. The Pharisees were so full of pride and arrogance. Those who thought they were right were wrong because they trusted in themselves. The blind man was made right because of Jesus. All around us are people who know about Jesus but reject him. Jesus says their guilt remains. Don’t reject Jesus. He is the healer, the way, the life, the truth. Say yes to Jesus today!
The tempter – Matthew 4.1-4
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’
Let’s take a look at the tactics of the devil and reveal them so we can all be helped to stand against his temptations. Remember it is not God who tempts you (James 1.13) but the evil one. If we understand the tactics of the enemy, we can guard ourselves more easily with God’s help.
1. Jesus was hungry and would’ve been in a weakened state. When you are tired, hungry, fed up, upset, exhausted or even after a huge victory or amazing Christian event, be careful. The devil knows when we are at our weakest and it’s often then that he strikes.
2. The devil doesn’t ask us to do something really wrong. Like in the Garden of Eden it’s often a question that plants doubts in our minds, or a request to do something pretty normal even. But we need to know where thoughts and ideas come from. Time after time Jesus said he only did what he saw his Father (God) doing. We need to be people who only do what God says – maybe not even good ideas or thoughts in our head. So we need to know God (through his Word and experience in life). You will get to know what is God and what isn’t.
3. Finally, Jesus spoke the Word of God properly to the devil. The devil and people who hate God often know the Bible and will quote it to you (some Muslims are even taught the Bible to use against Christians, as do many atheists). But they don’t use the Bible correctly, don’t interpret it right and misuse the Bible. So learn the Bible and use it rightly – within its context and within the framework of the whole Bible. Learn the Bible and speak it out. We should live on every word of God like it’s food.
The original terrorist – John 10.9-11
“(Jesus said) ‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ “
On September 11, 2001, a group of terrorists hijacked three planes in the United States. They forced two of them to fly into the World Trade Center in New York City. As we now know, this caused the loss of life of almost 3000 people. The planes were hijacked by Islamist terrorists and even today, this evil act is actually celebrated across parts of the Islamic world. The terrorists thought they were freedom fighters, saying that America was the ‘great satan’ and that America had waged war against Islam. (Actually, Islamic and Arab wars between Islamic / Arab nations have killed hundreds of times more people than anyone else). Whatever the ‘human’ facts, there is a greater spiritual fact below the surface that Jesus revealed in John 10.10…
Jesus explained that he (Jesus) came to give us life and life to the maximum – this is the bit of the verse people often quote. But the first half tells us about the true nature of the real satan (and it’s not about America). Jesus said that satan’s work in this world is killing, stealing and destroying. What he does is the exact opposite of Jesus. Where Jesus brings life, satan brings death. Where Jesus brings full life, satan brings an empty life of nothing-ness ultimately. Where Jesus brings us to ‘green pastures’ (good places), satan brings people to destruction and bad places. Jesus freely gave his life – the work of satan sees people take other people’s lives and their own lives. This is what happened on 9/11 – it was the work of satan. We live in a world where people don’t like words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘good’ and ‘evil’ (unless it’s in a movie!) But that is what history is really about – good vs evil – God’s story of how he longs to liberate us from slavery and the evil satan brings – back to God. The world wants you to think satan somehow frees people from a controlling God. But this is a lie. The work of satan is death, murder, hate, killing, sickness, disease, lies, taking, stealing. Jesus came to give us life, to show us the way, the truth and to do good, to set people free by bringing us back to God.
Clearout – Matthew 21.12-13
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”
In Matthew 21, Jesus went into the temple in Jerusalem and found people messing up the place and doing things in the temple that God had told the people not to do. They were disrespecting God and Jesus got angry with a good kind of anger (the kind of anger that you feel when you see bad things happening and want to see justice done!) So Jesus drove out all kinds of people who were selling and buying and changing money. Some Christians used to use things like this to oppose Sunday shopping, but it’s really about something much deeper. One way to see things is to think of the ‘temple’ as your body. 1 Corinthians 6.9 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”
If we think about our bodies, we need to consider the things we do so that we don’t disrespect God and mess with his ‘Holy Temple’. Are there things in your life that you need to ask Jesus to help you with? Are there things that need to be driven out of your life – things that don’t honour God or things that get in the way of your ‘temple’ being really used properly for God? In Matthew 21, Jesus quoted the prophecy from Isaiah 56.7. In Isaiah 56 we see the kind of people that God made us to be and wants to help us to be – people who live for God alone, serve him, do things for him and love his name; people who obey his Word and who live their lives for him. The great thing is that we don’t have to ‘make’ this happen. When we choose to put God first and ask for his help, God puts these right desires in our hearts so we don’t obey God because it’s a rule, we obey God because we love him! Good news that means the score is God’s love 1 Religion 0.
The world’s way of thinking, Part One – Mark 3.1-6
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
The religious people were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus. Here was Jesus, going around doing good, healing people and setting the captives free, just as Isaiah 53 had prophecied. But the authorities didn’t like it one bit. Across the world, the spirit of antichrist (the demonic forces who hate God) are at work in authorities and leaders in religious and secular nations and tribes. Time after time, those who follow Jesus are persecuted, imprisoned, have their rights taken away, are tortured and killed.
The Pharisees were the original ‘political correctness’ freaks. They had created all kinds of rules that God had never told them to introduce, so these were man-made, unhelpful and pointless rules. But you were in trouble if you didn’t follow the rules or were caught breaking them. Of course, Jesus knew their schemes and was sharper than any of them, so they watched him trying to find fault. They eventually went away plotting how to kill him. They were more interested in the rules than they were in people. Jesus put people (and God!) above their rules. We see this around us today, even in the West. Rules are brought in that actually stop Christians from following God and helping people. We must obey rules but we must obey God first. Jesus healed the man, despite the ridiculous rule of not healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees didn’t care about the man’s life at all. Again, we see this in society where decisions are made that actually don’t care about life, but kill. As Christians we need to continue to obey God and do good.
The world’s way of thinking, Part Two – John 11.45-48
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
The Pharisees are typical of the way the world thinks about Jesus. At other times the Pharisees were more concerned about what Jesus did against their rules, more than helping people. On this occasion, the motivation was jealousy and fear of their own positions being threatened. Many people today are more concerned about their position and their reputation than they are about doing good, or doing what is right. They are just like the pharisees were because often this is the way the world is. Often people aren’t even humble enough to admit their mistakes. So often in school a student does something wrong (and they know it) but they won’t admit it ! It’s rare to find students who will admit they’ve done wrong. But they are only following the example of others, such as the traders on the stock market who run up huge debts and try to get out of it by lying and other means!
Back to the Pharisees… They had these same two concerns: first they didn’t like what Jesus was doing and second they were worried about Jesus taking their place and their nation. They weren’t slightly concerned about the people of Israel, they were only concerned with their place in it. Like too many politicians, their motivation was pride and staying in power. But Jesus came in a totally different spirit. He came to serve not to be served (Philippians 2) and he humbled himself, the Creator becoming the created. He didn’t try and hold on to his position or be arrogant and boss other people around. Instead he came with a different spirit and helps us to do the same 🙂
Blame – Genesis 3.11-13
And God said to Adam, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
This is an incredibly tragic truth from the Garden of Eden. God was very clear that Adam and Eve (man and woman) had complete freedom but there was one thing he told them not to do – eat from the tree. God is not a God who gives us restrictions and tries to tie us up in religious rules. Too many churches do this but the truth is that God gives us real freedom. The only things he tells us not to do are for our own benefit – so he’s not trying to stop us, he’s trying to liberate us and help us be free from bad consequences. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve became a pattern for the human race when they disobeyed and rejected God’s ideas, being too easily tricked by the devil.
God realised something was different and asked Adam (and then Eve) about what had happened. (Note – don’t go jumping to conclusions, always go to people and ask about what they said, you’ll save yourself so much hassle!) Back to Genesis… Adam and Eve didn’t exactly lie to God but they didn’t admit that the fault for eating the fruit off the tree was with themselves. Instead they blamed others. Adam’s reaction is comical and sad. In Genesis 2.23, God brought Eve to Adam. His reaction was “Wow! At last! Amazing”. She was who he’d been looking for. But after the ‘Tree Incident’, Eve is no longer ‘his wife’. Instead she’s conveniently become, ‘the woman you (God) put here with me.’ She’s been relegated to ‘the woman’ and Adam blames God for putting her ‘here with me’. Unbelievable! Imagine how Eve must have felt when Adam disowned her! (Guys – when you meet the woman of your dreams and get married, remember not to disown her or reject her – and ladies the same is true for your husband! Always love one another – love is a choice!). Eve blamed the serpent but was a bit more honest saying he’d deceived her.
Listen – when we mess up, all God asks us to do is admit it, turn away from the wrong and invite God to make things right. God is HOLY and GOOD, his ways are true, just and perfect and there is no evil in him so don’t ever blame God. Take responsibility and get things right. God will help you.
Undercover Boss – Genesis 18.17, 20-21
Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? … Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
There is an amazing programme on Channel 4 called ‘Undercover Boss’. In this series, a boss of a major company or corporation goes undercover to see what it’s like working for the company. The boss disguises himself or herself a little bit and then works lots of manual jobs on the front line. The lessons learned are taken back to the management. Then the boss calls in the workers, who are usually amazing, and rewards them for their work.
You know what? God isn’t a distant boss. He doesn’t go undercover. He doesn’t even hide everything that he’s going to do from us. Most of the workers in ‘Undercover Boss’ don’t know who their boss is. Many teachers in schools say the same thing about their head teacher! But God is completely different God came down to see what was going on in Sodom. He also spoke to Abraham about it. Abraham was also able to ‘intercede’ (to pray on behalf of the people) with God. God has revealed himself to us through the Bible, through the world and creation around us and through the church. He isn’t undercover and he doesn’t want us to be either because people need to know and be given the chance to accept Jesus. God is just and evil will have to be punished. On the Cross, Jesus dealt with all our sins but we have to accept him in our lives. People that don’t will be punished, just as the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were punished (God destroyed them with fire). Today let’s make sure we respond to God and help to bring his hope and life to others.
Humility – John 12.24
Are you a humble Christian? “Yes!” you shout very un-humbly, “I’m the most humble person who ever lived!” Aha, by your answer, you’ve just shown that you’re not very humble LOL! Besides, we read this in Numbers 12.3 about Moses, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” So God’s view in his Word was that Moses was a very humble man. But so often, we’re not very humble are we? Being humble means not being proud or arrogant / being unpretending or unpretentious / lowering the importance of yourself. Basically, people who think they know it all and are ‘it’, are not humble! But we’re all often arrogant and full of pride. And it’s a sin we need to say sorry to God for!
1 Peter 5 says, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Peter was quoting Proverbs 3.34). Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”. The Bible also tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Romans 3.12 says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” The Bible tells us that we should submit to other people; that we should put humility ‘on’, like putting on clothes, because God opposes people who are proud but lifts up those who humble themselves. What does this mean in practice? It means not boasting, listening to people rather than talking, associating with people who others don’t like, not pretending you’re the big man or wonderful woman. And it means giving God first place and crediting him for all the good in your life, not yourself.
The amazing truth about Jesus is that he left a place of perfect unity where he’d been for eternity and chose to be obedient and come to earth as a man, live a selfless life, be persecuted and killed. All so he could give us life. So in a very real sense, Jesus died our death (the death we deserve and the death that is the ‘wages of sin’) so we could share in his life. In John 12.24, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of what falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Jesus showed this in action – through his one death, he produced life for many. Philippians 2 tells us how Jesus humbled himself and was obedient to God, even though it meant his death on a cross. This is our example. Someone has said that humility is a Christian’s secret weapon. So go use it!
Saul and sin – 1 Chronicles 10.13-14
It is so easy to under-estimate what sin does. When we do something wrong, God will forgive us if we confess it, say sorry and turn away. But there is often a consequence. For example, David changed and turned from his sin after he lusted after Bathsheba and had her husband killed. God heard David’s plea when David said sorry (see Psalm 51), but from that day, David’ family started to cause problems which eventually led to the destruction of Israel. You may lie about someone, then say sorry to them and God. You may be forgiven, but the person you lied about may take some time to recover from the lies and trust you fully.
When we read 1 Chronicles 10.13-14, we find a sad summary of the life of Saul. This is what the Bible says, “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.”
So here are some clues as to how to avoid doing wrong from this Bible passage: (a) Saul was unfaithful to God. Let’s stay strong in our relationship with God and not do things that mean turning our backs on God. This means doing what God says, obeying his Bible and obeying our parents! (b) Saul did not keep the Word of God. Get to know the Bible and learn it, memorise it. It may not be the thing to do today, but without it you’re powerless. Then it’s no use knowing the Bible, we have to do what it says! (c) Saul consulted a medium. Never touch or go anywhere near the occult or even think about it. It will destroy you. (d) Saul did not ask God. Look for answers to life’s questions from God alone. This means the Bible, other Christian advice especially from those wiser than you not just your mates, Christian books and prayer.
Samuel, Saul and the Witch of Endor – 1 Samuel 28
Saul had already been ‘replaced’ by David as King (although it hadn’t happened yet). In 1 Samuel 15, Saul didn’t do what God said and therefore God rejected him as King. Then in 1 Samuel 16.14, the Bible says that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul (the Spirit of God had ‘gone’ to David). After David killed Goliath it says that Saul was jealous of David and was his enemy, trying to kill him. So Saul was in a place of real disobedience to God. Therefore God wouldn’t / couldn’t speak to Saul. The application is that we only really get God’s blessing when we obey God and only then!! So, Saul turned to mediums to ‘speak’ to him. The occult is powerful and the evil one and demons can mimic and represent dead people. (They cannot see what is going on in the future, God alone can). The evil one only has the authority that we give him – but we need the blood of Jesus covering us (eg the Passover and the angel of death flying past only doors with the blood on them). God had forbidden Israel to consult the occult and we learn Saul himself had banned it. He also set God against him by doing this, bringing a curse on himself (Leviticus 20.6). Saul most likely wanted to bring back the good old days when him and Samuel hung out. But he also deceived the woman and then – all of a sudden up pops Samuel (as you do!) The medium was totally shocked, and got a glimpse of God’s power over the occult! This was no premonition, but was actually Samuel and God allowed this to happen. Samuel re-iterated that what was happening to Saul was God’s will. We can be sure this was Samuel because he re-said God’s Word(s). Saul then recognised that God had rejected him. He was desperate. He could have repented and turned back to God, but didn’t. It is likely that Samuel only appeared because God appointed it to happen for His purposes, it was not through the witch’s incantations that Samuel appeared. God’s Word stays the same and what God says will happen – God is not a man that he should lie, and he is faithful and true! Finally, Galatians 5 warns against the occult and we should never go near it, so be warned and stay clear. Seriously. God is ‘bigger than the boogeyman’ but don’t open yourselves up to evil influences. Only let your heart and mind be exposed to God, and be obedient to him.
S e x – Ezekiel 23.35 – Health warning, for over 18s only!
I was recently in schools talking about the Bible. The students commonly used words to describe the Bible, such as ‘boring’ or ‘irrelevant’. In Ezekiel 23, the Bible shows that both descriptions are untrue. We have ‘prostitutes’ and some graphic language to describe their activities. However, this is not about prostitution, this is God’s description of Samaria and Jerusalem. In God’s eyes, these places had become like prostitutes. They had become perverted, immoral and defiled. They had turned away from God to other nations and turned their back on purity and God’s standards. So God likened them to 2 sisters who were prostitutes. God’s message was, ‘Since you have forgotten me and thrust me behind your back, you must bear the consequences of your lewdness and prostitution.‘ Very strong stuff and God was faithful to his word, with the Babylonians the key to his judgement.
We can learn 3 major lessons from this Bible chapter. Firstly, God wants a people set apart to him. This is called ‘holiness’. Holiness is our life, dedicated to God, his word, obeying him, keeping ourselves pure for him. God values this so much, he puts a great price on it. He has made us holy, so we need to stay holy and set apart from the world’s standards, living by God’s standards instead. Secondly, God does not like sexual immorality. He likens the godlessness of Jerusalem and Samaria to a prostitute sleeping around. God is not condemning those who don’t know him in this chapter. He is condemning those who know him, who say they are ‘Christians’ but still sleep around and ‘defile’ (dirty) themselves. God has given the gift of s e x to man and woman to enjoy, within the security of marriage alone. If you’ve messed up here, it’s OK, God will forgive you. But you must ask him for forgiveness and turn from this lifestyle and seek God’s healing. Finally, there are consequences to our sin. We’d do well to remember that.
1 John 1.8-10: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” Thank you Jesus.
People pleasing – Mark 12.12
Time and time again, we find the Pharisees (religious leaders) trying to trip up Jesus by their words and questions that they thought were very clever. Reading through Mark’s Gospel recently, God showed me the amount of times that the Pharisees didn’t or did do something because they feared people or the reactions of people. In Mark 12.12, Jesus had just spoken a parable against the pharisees and they knew it. However, the Bible says that ‘.. they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.’ We know the motivation of the pharisees as we find this in Mark 12.12 and in Mark 11.18, where we learn that the pharisees wanted to kill Jesus because ‘they feared him’. They feared for their own ‘positions’ if Jesus turned out to be who he said he was. So they wanted to get rid of him.
On more than one occasion we find similar scenarios playing out through Mark. However, time and time again they didn’t act because of fear of people. The question to us is whether we are doing similar things or not acting – because of our fear of man, our fear of people. For the pharisees, their self-righteous pride and arrogance was such that they didn’t want to lose their power and authority. Jesus easily revealed their true motivations and their sinful pride. Jesus has a way of doing that. But this is a challenge to you and me. Are we living in fear of people? The pharisees were lost because of their fear. Don’t let this be true for you as a disciple of Jesus. Don’t let the sins of being proud, or fearful – get in the way of doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord. It’s hard, but Jesus will lead you, step by step. And that’s a promise from God.
Mark 11.27-33 – Sinful motivation
The Bible warns us that the days are evil and that there are bad men and women out there, ready to corrupt, deceive and (like the devil), destroy. The Bible tells us to be protected and be on our guard at all times. Some people love to trick others and to try and point out their failings and cleverly turn people’s witness against them. These are the intelligent students at schools who try to undermine the faith of Christian students, these are the cynical and arrogant work colleagues who think that their clever logic will make you seem foolish. As ever, Jesus had an answer for these types of people.
Here in Mark, we find a situation where the Pharisees wanted to know by what authority Jesus was doing all the things he did. This was no question motivated by a search for truth. This had a hidden motivation – to undermine and criticise Jesus, because he was undermining their false ‘authority’. He knew that. What he did was to turn the question back onto the Pharisees. He asked them, ‘John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!’ The Pharisees discussed this in their little huddle. If they replied, ‘from heaven’ Jesus would ask them why they then didn’t believe him. If they answered ‘from men’ they would be in trouble with the people who all thought John was a prophet. So they answered, ‘we don’t know’ (ie. they copped out). Jesus replied, ‘in that case I won’t tell you by whose authority I do what I do.’ So what did Jesus do? Well, he uncovered the motivation behind what the Pharisees were asking by questioning them indirectly.
Be wary of some people’s motivation in asking you questions. Sometimes it is wise to turn a question back to someone or to ask a rhetorical question (a question that people think about, rather than answer). On one occasion, Jesus told people that ‘whoever hasn’t sinned, go ahead and throw the first stone.’ He turned the argument back onto people, saying, ‘you can’t judge, as you have many faults as well.’ So when people come to you, accusing, take the model of Jesus and ask them a penetrating question back. ‘So why are you a Christian then?’ You could reply, ‘so why are you asking when you don’t want to hear the answer’ or ‘how come you’re not a Christian then?’ or ‘you tell me what you believe, and I’ll tell you what I believe.’ It’s hard, so ask God for the words. However, sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth so it’s best to walk away.
Rehoboam makes Israel turn against him – 1 Kings 12.1-17
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon. He was paying for the sins of his father, Solomon. In fact, we see more evidence of God’s Word being fulfilled. In 1 Kings 11.9-13, the Lord appeared to Solomon because he was angry with him. He told Solomon that He would take away Solomon’s kingdom, but would do this when Solomon’s son was in charge. God would leave Solomon’s son with just 1 of the 12 tribes of Israel. In 1 Kings 12.17, we see that Rehoboam was left with just the tribe of Judah, as God has promised. God is completely faithful. Believe.
But what of Rehoboam’s sin? Well, we find that people came to see him to ask if he’d make things easier for the people. Under Solomon, they had been worked extremely hard. The people came to tell him to ease back a bit. That way they would be happy to serve him. He said he’d consider this. Rehoboam went to 2 sets of people for advice. Firstly he consulted the elders that his father, Solomon, had got counsel from. They advised – ‘don’t make the people work as hard as your father did.’ But Rehoboam rejected this advice. Instead he asked his friends who told him, ‘make the people work even harder.’ As a direct result, 11 tribes of Israel rebelled and the whole of the kingdom of Israel was split. Incredibly serious stuff.
Recently I worked with someone who had fallen out with their dad big time (they were not to blame). Their friends advised leaving home for a few days and not speaking. I advised going home and at least trying to sort things. The person took my advice. Although things weren’t sorted straight away, a couple days later the situation was resolved and now they are closer than before. Older people often advise wisely as they have seen things. But Rehoboam was proud, young, arrogant and greedy. All these things will lead you away from God and into trouble. See, Solomon was the wisest king ever, so his advisers must have been pretty wise. But Rehoboam ignored this. Proverbs 15.22 says, ‘Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.’ Just make sure you surround yourself with Godly people, young and old, and line up your decisions with the Word of God.
Don’t mess with evil – 1 Chronicles 10.13-14
In this brief bit of the Bible, we learn God’s reason that Saul died when he did. The Bible states that, ‘Saul died because he was not faithful to the Lord and did not obey the Lord. He even went to a medium and asked her for advice, instead of asking the Lord. This is why the Lord put Saul to death and gave the kingdom to Jesse’s son, David.’ Pretty serious stuff. Let’s quickly look at these 3 elements:
1. Saul’s sin was that he did not completely obey the Lord. We find this in 1 Samuel 14 where Saul’s lack of common sense in battle meant the men were refused food and ended up eating, but having killed the sheep in the wrong way. Plus Saul’s son Jonathan was nearly killed as a result of a stupid decision Saul made. A far greater mistake was made in 1 Samuel 15. In verses 2-3 we find that the prophet Samuel brought the Word of God to Saul to kill all the Amalekites and destroy everything. But in verse 9 we see Saul did not kill everyone or everything. God’s response was an instant rejection of Saul as King (verse 26), something that God took time to work out in practice. We find in 1 Samuel 16.14 that ‘the Lord’s Spirit had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.’ (Bet that messes with some of your views about God doesn’t it!)
2. Saul went to a medium/witch for advice. Reading horoscopes, consulting palm readers, crystal balls, tarot cards, witches and even reading your ‘stars’ is extremely dangerous. You are messing with forces you cannot understand or control. Let’s look at 1 Samuel 28 where Saul visited the Witch of Endor. Interestingly, we learn in verse 9 that Saul had forced all the mediums out of the land. But here he was consulting one who’d secretly stayed behind. We see the manifestation of the dead Samuel who repeated God’s message that Saul had been rejected by God. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of this but we see that the force of evil is not one to be taken lightly. And it is evil. There is no such thing as a good witch, unlike the TV programmes that would have you believe otherwise. Stay away. If you have got involved in this kind of thing, please say sorry to God, ask him to take any evil away from you. Then go talk to a wise Christian you respect as soon as possible who will help you.
3. Saul put his own opinions, advice and the advice of the witch before the Lord. He made a god of himself and others through his own pride and inquisitiveness. This is the breaking of the 1st Commandment – not having any other gods before God. Listen, we’ve all got stuff to deal with – me, you, everyone. But let’s commit to put God first in everything from this day through the rest of our lives, 24/7. It’s the only way.
Don’t look back! – Genesis 19.15-29
Are there things in your life that you know you need to change from, get rid of, throw away, turn from? Are there things that God has spoken to you about asking you to change, move on and not look back? It’s a real and important but hard part of being a disciple of Jesus – turning away from things we think we enjoy and want to do. Yet if God has spoken to you and asked you to do something, move on, change – then it’s essential we do! Why? Cos God knows best.
In these Bible verses we head back to Sodom and Gomorrah again. This time, we find that God is going to destroy these 2 towns cos of all the evil in them. (We know these places were real centres of craziness and evil as Abraham wasn’t even able to find 10 good people in the whole city! Genesis 18.32-33).
Lot was a good bloke and a couple of angels came to tell him and his family to leave their home in Sodom as the city was going to be destroyed by God. In verse 17 we find the angels warn the family to keep running and not to look back. Unfortunately in verse 26 we find that curiosity got the better of Lot’s wife who decided that she knew a bit better than God’s words spoken by the angels. She looked back. Because she did this she was killed and turned into a pillar of salt.
What do we learn? We find that if God speaks we should obey. We find that God is faithful (see verse 29). For our lives, we see that if we look back to the life that God has told us to turn away from their can be disaster. God won’t turn us into a pillar of salt but sin (doing wrong) always brings destruction in one way or another. Think of the hurt that Lot and his daughters must have felt. Think of the fear of God that must have hit him and his cousin Abraham. When God speaks we need to obey him! Believe!
Sins God hates – Proverbs 6.16-19
Proverbs 6.16-19 in The Message says this: Here are six things GOD hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family.’
So let’s take a closer look in modern language:
People who are full of themselves, all puffed up like they know it all – someone always disrespecting others and spreading lies and abuse like a virus – people who kill others, abuse others, take advantage of those who can’t defend themselves – people who always think of evil stuff, start up bad stuff on others, those guys whose minds are full of sick, perverted trash – people who commit violence, rob, abuse, kill, rape, attack, always doing evil – someone who is a witness to something but who lies and tells false stories – someone who causes problems within families, who’s like a little rat sneaking around full of malice and stirring up troubles among families.
Now take a look at yourself – ‘God, I need you to help me change’. Now believe God can do it. In time and as God speaks, pray and challenge other Christian friends with love.
The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 18, 19 and Ezekiel 49.49-58
Some of you may have heard of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah Basically it was when God destroyed 2 evil cities in the Old Testament time by hail and rocks of fire because they were so evil. Ever wondered what the people of Sodom and Gomorrah did wrong?
Here’s some clues. The story is in Genesis 18.20 – Genesis 19, see chapter 19 verses 23 to 29 for the destruction of the cities. If you read through the passage you’ll see that Abraham argued the case for God not to destroy these places (intercession) and God did respond (he does today too).
However, we see that God had heard the cities were very evil. One of the sins was active sexual homosexuality which is a sin, despite what some so-called ‘liberal’ (I call them ‘non-Biblical’) scholars say!
But.. let’s take a look at Ezekiel 16.49. God is speaking against Jerusalem through his prophet Ezekiel. ‘This was the sin.. of Sodom.. she was proud and had plenty of food and lived in comfort, but she did not help the poor and needy.’ So God was also angry with Sodom because of her injustice, pride, selfishness in not helping the poor and the needy. What about you?
Dealing with all your sin – Read 2 Kings 12.1-3
Joash was now King over Judah. If we read through Chapter 12 we learn that Joash did many great things for God. Let’s take a look.. he started work on repairing the Lord’s Temple; then when he found the Priests weren’t doing the work, he made them do it; he made sure all the workers were fairly paid; as a result of this we find that both workers and priests acted honestly; he protected Israel from attack by paying off the aggressor.
Thing is, we read in verse 3 that ‘the places where gods were worshipped weren’t removed, nor were the people stopped from making sacrifices and burning incense in these places.’ So there was a problem..
The Old Testament makes it clear that God is a jealous God. The thing is, God in his grace, will actually allow us to be lukewarm towards him and have areas of our life that don’t obey his Word. He won’t always, but often it takes an act of will on our part to submit every area of our life to Christ. I recently felt I wanted to re-say this to God and he has constantly stretched me in new ways ever since, shaking me out of my comfort zone. You want to be mad for God? Let God rule over every area of your life today and on-going
Communion (1 Corinthians 11.23-34)
Every time they said it I would laugh. ‘We will now come around the table’ the vicar would say. ‘Get round the table, what all 200 of us? There’s only room for 5’ I used to think. ‘Let us now break the bread and drink the cup’ the vicar would continue ‘Drink the cup? It’s made of glass, I might drink what’s in the cup but there ain’t no way I’m a drink that cup..’
Jesus died on the cross for you and for me. He was mocked, tortured, beaten, spat at, teased, flogged and had to carry a heavy wooden cross. He was nailed to the cross, put on display to all, right at the end even his Father God in heaven had to turn his face from his Son because God cannot look at sin. When Jesus died he ‘became sin’ so that through Jesus we can have access to the holy God in heaven. Don’t forget it. Thank God for Jesus. Thank Jesus for his blood.
The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6.23)
Daniel was an amazing Bible character. There are many things that you can learn from his life if you read through the Bible and ask God’s Holy Spirit to help you. Today, we’re looking at just one area – sin. Read Daniel 9.1-19.
a. Like Daniel, we need to confess our sin (the wrong we have done). That means admitting we’ve done wrong, saying sorry to God and stopping it.
b. God is faithful to his promises. 1 John 1.9 says if you confess your sin, God is faithful and you’ll be forgiven if you mean it.
c. Us doing wrong can, and often will, have bad consequences. Even when you say sorry to God, it can often mean things happening we won’t like.
d. We have to take the blame for our sin, blaming someone else is not on.
e. We should remind ourselves of what God has done for us. Take time to think of what God’s done for you – saved you, given life, health..?
f. God rescues his people. Especially when they say sorry and turn their backs on sin!
g. God should be given the credit for all that happens. Your life should be something you willingly use for God, giving God all the glory.
Remember that sin has consequences. It won’t break what Jesus has done for you on the Cross (making you right with God if you believe in Jesus) as this was one complete permanent act. But sin brings death in the sense that it does nothing to bring life, to honour God and causes serious problems. But remember that even when we sin, God doesn’t reject us. He loves us! Sin leads to death but turning and following God leads to life.
‘When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day’ (Ephesians 4.26, YB)
The Bible is your practical handbook to life. Throughout the Bible, we see all kinds of people, displaying all kinds of different emotions. God knows that there are times when we feel angry. OK so it’s not always right but there are times that we do get angry. Jesus got angry on one occasion when he saw people making money inside the Temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus was angry in a way people call ‘righteous anger’. For example, you might be angry because people are starving in Africa or because children are left as orphans in Eastern Europe and no-one seems to care. It’s not a hostile anger, it’s a sense of injustice that wells up inside you.
God wants you to deal with uncontrolled anger and with hate. The Bible tells us to go and calm down (Psalm 4.4) and to try not to be angry (Ephesians 4.29-32). We need to ask God to take away our anger and ask God for forgiveness. We need to avoid things that make us angry.
The Blood, Hebrews 10.10-14
When you see blood or something disgusting you feel a bit ill. Be glad you weren’t around at the time of Moses! A quick flick through Leviticus shows all the things the Israelites had to do to make themselves clean as well as what to do if they sinned. Believe me, the list is long, the rules complicated and some of the things they did, well…
In Exodus 12, we read of how God spared his people in slavery in Egypt from the plague of the death of the first-born. They had to smear blood from a year-old sheep or goat over the door. Then the Lord would pass over. That night, the Lord passed over them but not over the the Egyptians.
Ephesians 2.13 says, ”But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away from God are brought near through the blood of Christ’s death.’ Be very thankful for Jesus. We don’t have to follow loads of rules, we don’t have to sacrifice animals but most importantly, we are brought near to God.
Throw off your sins (Hebrews 12.1). Read Romans 7.14-25
Throw off your sins (Hebrews 12.1). Read Romans 7.14-25 … I can really relate to what Paul writes here in Romans – can you? He talks about the spiritual life being a ‘war’ that goes on inside us. Like a good movie it’s good vs evil.
There are times where we sin even though we know that it is wrong, even though we hurt God. We try not to but we often do things we don’t want to. Do you know what I mean? You don’t want to do something but you still do it. It could be anger or impatience or lust; bitterness, hate or swearing. Is there something in your life that God is saying you need to deal with? Dealing with something means admitting to God you need his help in an area of your life that he points out to you. Ask him to help you with it to change.
Life is a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6.10-18). Knowing this, Jesus pointed out to his followers there would be a price to following him (Luke 14.25-33). This is the place of ‘taking up your cross’. As Derek Prince says the cross is where your will and God’s will meet, and God’s will is done. But there is also a promise: doing God’s will is always the best thing! Jesus will be with us, right until the end of this age (Matthew 28.20) and he is able to help keep us from temptation (Hebrews 2.18), deliver us from evil and help us from falling away from him (see Jude), helps us get back up and so much more. Praise God for Jesus!
Deal with your sin
God hates sin (evil, wrong stuff we do). Not saying sorry to God about the sin in our lives puts up a barrier between us and God and damages our relationship with him. “Surely the Lord’s power is enough to save you. He can hear when you ask him for help. It is your evil that has separated you from your God. Your sins cause him to turn away from you, so he does not hear you.” (Isaiah 59.1-2, YB)
If we don’t forgive, it comes between us and God and our relationships with others. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4.32, NIV). We must admit our sins to God if our relationship with Him is to be restored completely. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9, NIV)
The Bible promises certain things if we forgive…
– Happiness. (Psalm 32.1-2)
– God chooses not to hold our sins against us. (Isaiah 43.25)
– God removes our sin from us. (Psalm 103.12)
– We can forgive ourselves and go on with our lives.
Read Romans 12.1-3, especially verse 2
It’s only when you let God change you and start to turn away from those things that are bad that God really starts to work in your life. Sometimes God will change you anyway but very often it needs us to let God help.
God has loads he wants to do for you but we need to clear out the dirt before he can use us. Think of it like this. There’s a well and it’s got loads of fresh water in it. Trouble is, around the edges of the well, there’s mud and dirt. So much so that you can only use a small bucket to get the water out. However, if you were to lean over into the well and carefully start to remove the muck, you’d be able to get out more and more water. It would take time, risk and constant effort to keep it clean but it would be worth it.
That’s what needs to happen in our lives. We need to actively get rid of all the muck and then we can access God’s well of life (see Revelation 21.6). It’s hard, takes time and will be an ongoing process but the rewards are great! ‘God, clear out the muck from my life so I can do great things for you.’
Man and woman mess up – Genesis 3.1-7
Someone once asked me in school: ‘why did Eve eat the fruit off the tree if God told her not to.’ I said, ‘If you walked in the room and saw a button on the wall and it had a sign above it saying, ‘Don’t press the button’, what would you do? ‘I’d press it’ he replied. Exactly! Man and woman messed up and turned their backs on God. They said to God, ‘We want to go our own way, do our own thing. It’s not good enough here in paradise with you – we want something more.’ So they had to leave…
Do you know what God said to man first of all? Genesis 2.15 says, ‘The Lord God put the man in the Garden of Eden to care for it and work it.’ (YB) In Genesis 1.28, God told man and woman to have kids, be the master of the earth and rule over every living thing. What happened? A snake got in the garden and tempted Eve. How did it get in? Man failed in his responsibility to look after the garden. Too many lads are turning away from God and the church. God is calling you back – to obey him – to live for him and to start taking responsibility for what you do.
Jesus was tempted but never sinned – Hebrews 4.15
Jesus was perfect. The work that he did was perfect, so were the things he said, the way he lived, his thoughts and actions. Even when he died on the cross to die so that we could be forgiven, the whole thing was perfect.
Read Luke 4.1-13. In this we read about 3 ways in which the devil tempted Jesus but in every case, Jesus resisted. In verse 13, the Youth Bible says, ‘After the devil had tested Jesus in every way, he left him to wait until a better time.’ He’ll be waiting a very long time! Well, Jesus has never and will never be tempted. He is without sin.
So what can we learn from this? First of all, when you struggle and are tempted, take comfort from the fact that Jesus understands. Secondly, you are able to resist temptation when it strikes. The Bible says that when (that’s when, not if) you are tempted, God will not let you be tempted more than you can stand, and he will give you a way out.
Sin means defeat – Read Joshua 7.1-7
Things were looking good – the Israelites had defeated the city of Jericho with God’s help. But there was a problem. If you read chapter 6 verses 18 & 19, you’ll see that the Israelites were commanded not to take anything for themselves from Jericho otherwise it would being problems for them and Israel. So what happens? Achan ignores God’s command and takes some things he should have given to the Lord. Then Israel lost the next battle which they should have won easily.
The consequences of this disobedience to God was severe. God made all the tribes come before him and he used Joshua to discover that it was Achan who had sinned. He was publicly shamed, so was his family, he lost everything he owned (not just what he had taken) and then both him and his entire family was stoned to death in a valley. Romans 6.23 says the result of sin is death. For Achan this meant immediate death. Makes you think…