Most of you would probably be familiar with the usual explanation of the meaning of the word gospel. It is commonly asserted that the Greek word translated gospel in English […]
What will the New Year bring? We don’t know what lies in the future. We may face this coming year with some trepidation. Many at St Paul’s are growing older and life is getting tougher, with various challenges of one sort or another. For some there is the hope that things might get better. Some are still healing from various trials and tribulations of the past. Whatever fears we may have, the one sure thing is that if we are Christians, then God is with us and we are not alone. Not ever. Our God is a “with us” God. On the heels of the celebration of the birth of our King, that reminder has the power to carry us right into a fresh new start. He is Immanuel, God with us, and though things around us shift and change, our God never changes.
A prayer to keep God first this year:
Our Gracious and Heavenly Father, we thank you that you have called us to Yourself and that You have watched over our lives in the past. We move forward this new year knowing that You have some good and wise purpose in all You do in our lives.
Remind us how much we need You and rely on Your Presence filling us each day. We pray for Your Spirit to lead us each step of this new year.
We ask that You will guide our decisions and turn our hearts to deeply desire You above all else. We ask that You will open doors that need to be opened and close those that need to be shut tight. We ask that You will help us to release our grip on the things to which You’ve said “no”, “not yet”, or “wait”.
We ask for help to pursue You first and foremost in our minds. We ask for greater faith, knowing that You have promised to be with us in every situation.
We pray that You would make us strong and courageous for the road ahead. Give us ability beyond what we feel able, let Your gifts flow freely through us so that You would be honoured by our lives and others would be drawn to You. We pray that You would keep us from the snares and traps of temptations. We pray for Your protection over our families and friends. We ask for Your hand to cover us and keep us distanced from the evil intent of the enemy; that You would be a barrier to surround us, and help us realise that we are safe in Your hands. We pray that You would give us discernment and insight beyond our years, to understand Your will, to hear Your voice and to know your ways. May we be lovers of truth. May the fruits of Your Spirit be evident in our lives- Your love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Shine Your light in us, through us and over us. May You use us for Your own eternal purposes.
Lord, may we know Your peace and hope, and may we live to Your glory and honour this new year and forever, Amen.
There are times in our lives when we ask ourselves the questions:
What’s the point of it all?
Is there any point to my existence?
It is common for many in our society today to say that there is no ultimate meaning to anything.
The atheistic journalist, Christopher Hitchens said, “It’s time to move beyond the mewling childhood of our species and deal with reality as it is,” and that is, in his opinion, a reality with no meaning.
According to the atheist, life in this world is pointless, because we live in a universe that just accidently came into being and has no point to its existence. That is a harsh reality for people to come to terms with and leads to a sense of hopelessness. Is it any wonder that multitudes of young people turn to drugs to find some pleasure in a meaningless world?
The Bible does not leave mankind with a sense of hopelessness. It leads us to faith in God who created this world and who has a purpose for His creation. What does the Bible say is the purpose of our lives?
The prophet Isaiah answers that question for us: “Everyone who is called by My name and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made,” ( Isaiah 43:7). According to the Bible, the purpose of our existence in this world is for God’s glory. In other words, our purpose is to praise God, to worship Him, to proclaim his greatness and to accomplish His will.
Therefore, in this we find that God has given us a reason for our existence. We were created by Him, according to His desire, and our lives are to be lived in Him so that we might accomplish what He has for us to do.
When we trust the One who has made us, who works all things after the counsel of His will ( Ephesians 1:11), then we are able to live a life of purpose.
SOLI DEO GLORIA – To the glory of God alone
The final of the Five Solas of the Reformation is Soli Deo Gloria, or “Glory to God alone.” Certainly there can be no argument that we are to have no other gods before the Lord but the doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria goes beyond that and holds that all of creation exists for the glory of God. He is The Sovereign Lord over everything He has made, and everything we do should be done for His honour and glory.
We see this in many passages of Scripture.
Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; show forth from day to day his salvation. Declare his glory among the heathen; his marvellous works among all nations. For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place. Give unto the LORD, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth. (1 Chronicles 16:23-31)
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The list could go on: Revelation 1:6, Ephesians 3:21, Revelation 7:12, Romans 11:36 ….
Of the Five Solas, this doctrine is perhaps the easiest to defend from Scripture yet is by far the hardest to live in practice. We are creatures of ego, vanity, pride, greed, covetousness, and selfishness. We often act with no other motive than our own self interest and for our own gratification. But the Bible is clear – whatever we do, we are to do it for the glory of God.
The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism says – What is the chief end of man? – and the answer is given – To glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Let us, then, glorify God. Let us glorify God for Scripture, for grace, for faith, for Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
BY CHRIST ALONE – SOLUS CHRISTUS
How many ways are there to God? According to Liberal Christianity there are many paths to God. According to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself there is only one path to God. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father apart from Me” (John 14:6). This was also the conviction of all of Christ’s disciples. Consider the words of the Apostle Peter,
Acts 4:13 For there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved.
Throughout history the church has repeatedly lost focus upon Christ. This happened in the Middle Ages, during which time the Church lost its way and became distracted by many human traditions. The Reformation was a movement back to the centrality of Jesus Christ. The bedrock belief of the Reformation was Solus Christus, which is Latin for CHRIST ALONE. The Reformers taught that the Lord Jesus did 100% of what was necessary to secure our salvation. According to the Reformers there is only one thing necessary to bring a person into a right relationship with God – FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. We live in days when the church is again drifting away from Jesus Christ.
Why did the Reformers believe this? Because they believed the Bible! According to the plain teaching of Scripture it is FAITH ALONE THAT JUSTIFIES US. So where does repentance fit in? Where do good works fit in? Repentance and good works are the fruit of God’s Spirit working in us. There is no merit attached to either repentance of good works. These are gifts which God gives all His children.
Is there any possibility that a sincere Muslim or Buddhist, who is faithful to the teaching of his own religion, will inherit eternal life? No! Jesus said that anyone who does not believe in Him is condemned: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)
The plain teaching of Scripture demonstrates that Christ and Christ alone is the way of salvation. If you are not trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation then you have been deceived by the devil and are on the way to eternal damnation in hell.
SOLA SCRIPTURA – The Bible
What is the Reformation all about? Some have suggested that it was primarily a political movement. Others have suggested that it was primarily an intellectual movement. Undoubtedly the Protestant Reformation was both a political movement and an intellectual movement. However, it was much more it was primarily a spiritual movement. It was a movement that brought the bible back to central place in the Christian church. Just about all church historians are agreed that the Protestant Reformation really started when Martin Luther pinned his 95 theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg.
Why did he do this? He was protesting against the Roman Catholic practice of selling of indulgences. The pope at the time was very concerned to build up church funds and he was doing this by means of selling indulgences. Why were people interested in buying indulgences? If they gave money to the Roman Church they could get one of their relatives out of Purgatory. Martin Luther was horrified at this practice and so wrote his 95 theses hoping that the authorities in the Roman Church would stop this wicked practice. Instead Martin Luther was told to retract his teaching. As time went by Martin Luther continued to study the Bible intently since he was a professor in the Wittenberg University teaching the Bible. Increasingly Martin Luther came to see that the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church was inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible. He did not intend to break away from the Roman Church but he was forced out of the Roman Church because he was not willing to accept the unbiblical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther was utterly committed to the final authority of the word of God.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.”- Rom 8:37.
CAN ANYTHING separate me from the love of Christ? was the only question that St. Paul felt worth consideration. In this paragraph he takes the extreme conditions of being, and carefully investigates them, knowing that they include all between.
First, he interrogates Existence -‘death and life”; next, created Intelligences – “Angels, principalities, and powers”; next, of Space – “height and depth”; lastly the created Universe – “any other creature.”
Each of these extremes is passed in review. He is like a man proving every link of the chain in which he is going to swing over the abyss. Carefully and fervently he has tested all, and is satisfied that none of them can cut him off from the love of God.
We strangely misjudge and mistrust the Love of God our Father, and think that our distresses and sufferings, our sins and failures, may make Him love us less. But in the home, it is not the troop of sturdy children that engross the mother’s care so much as the puny feeble life, that lies in the cot, unable to help itself and reciprocate her love.
And in the world, death and pain, disease and sorrow, sin and failure, so far from separating us from God’s love, bind us closer.
Oh blessed Love! that comes down to us from the heart of Jesus, the essence of the eternal love of God – nothing can ever staunch, exhaust, intercept it. lt is not our love to Him, but His to us, and since nothing can separate us from the love of God, He will go on loving us forever, and pouring into us the entire fullness of His and glory.
Whatever our difficulties, whatever our weakness and infirmity, we shall be kept steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in in the work of the Lord; gaining by our losses, succeeding by our failures, triumphing in our defeats, and ever more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
For if by one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:17)
The Lord wants us to grow in the magnificent blessing of living victoriously through Him. Having a triumphant Christian walk can only be realized from a developing acquaintanceship with the Lord, because we are only able to ‘reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Significant spiritual issues are set against a victorious life: “By the one man’s offense death reigned through the one. “Because of Adam’s sin, spiritual deadness rules over the family of man. The enemy of men’s souls uses this deadness to dominate and destroy lives. Elsewhere, Jesus likened him to a thief. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10)
This is why lives, households, and nations experience such deadly defeats and crushing failure. A tyrant dictator, “death” dominates all lives that are only born once in Adam. They can only draw upon Adam’s fallen, sinful, inadequate life source.
A new and greater resource is needed and is found in Christ. “Much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” These heavenly provisions are ‘much more’ than is needed to replace the defeats of Adam with the victories of Christ. The resources are two-fold: “abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness.”
One of these two is possessed by every believer in Christ: ‘the gift of righteousness.”
This is the righteousness o the Lord Jesus, given to us by faith. That allows us to stand accepted before a holy God: ‘found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” Phil 3:9). Every believer has this gift, but not every believer is victorious.
Thus, the key is to be receiving “abundance of grace”. Every Christian has this grace. Yet, many of God’s people do not live day by day by grace. They walk according to the flesh, thereby drawing upon Adam’s natural bankrupt resources. Remember, living by grace involves humility and faith.
From Day by Day by Grace – by Bob Hoekstra
How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master! Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest […]