Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

A Yorkshireman's take on life, death, and eternity

Month: February, 2015

The Kingdom of God

“do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

You’d assume that the Kingdom of God would be populated by better people than the Kingdoms of men. Not at all. The Kingdom of God is populated by people who used to be in the Kingdom of men. The difference isn’t that we got religious: the difference is that we were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.

All whose lives are defined by sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, theft, greed, alcoholism, revulsion, and/or fraud need God. Basically we all need Him. We all need Him to change us and bring us into His kingdom. And thankfully, that’s what He loves to do, and does. May we all know the work of the Father, Son and Spirit of God in our lives, to be brought out of a lost and decaying kingdom into an eternal kingdom of peace.

“Happy Valentine’s Day”

I remember a few years ago on mother’s day, weeping through a talk on Jeremiah 15:10- “Woe is me, my mother; that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land!”
On Valentine’s Day, a similarly contentious passage would be 16:1-2 “”The word of the LORD came to me, “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place””. This was a specific word to Jeremiah. It’s not for religious people to forbid (or redefine) marriage, but contrary to our culture’s worship of sex, God calls some of his people to singleness, for the sake of their service to Him.
Jeremiah’s response is much more positive here than in chapter 15: having heard of God’s promise of restoration to Israel he responds, “Oh LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to You shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit. Can a man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!” (16:19-20)
Jeremiah wasn’t rubbishing God ordained marriage. But the people he was ministering to had turned sex into a god to be worshipped, instead of a gift to be enjoyed by a man and woman, in an exclusively committed relationship for life. Our attitude to marriage reflects our attitude to God- if we do not worship Him exclusively then we do not worship Him at all; just as if a marriage isn’t exclusive commitment between a man and a woman, it isn’t genuine.
Of course, in our sinful world, our worship of God and commitment to people is never going to be perfect, but for Jeremiah, the Lord wanted his life as an example to a sex obsessed society that to give up his right to marry reveals that our love of God must come before any other loves. People who chose to abstain from marriage and sex are seen as deficient in our day, but the greatest man who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ, chose that path, and gave his life to redeem us from sin, such as sexual addiction or the worship of a false god.

The Potter’s House

Jeremiah 18:1-17

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

12 “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

13 “Therefore thus says the Lord:
Ask among the nations,
    Who has heard the like of this?
The virgin Israel
    has done a very horrible thing.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon leave
    the crags of Sirion?
Do the mountain waters run dry,
    the cold flowing streams?
15 But my people have forgotten me;
    they make offerings to false gods;
they made them stumble in their ways,
    in the ancient roads,
and to walk into side roads,
    not the highway,
16 making their land a horror,
    a thing to be hissed at forever.
Everyone who passes by it is horrified
    and shakes his head.
17 Like the east wind I will scatter them
    before the enemy.
I will show them my back, not my face,
    in the day of their calamity.”

This is a typically enigmatic passage from Jeremiah. At first reading it may seem to make out that God is a changeable, impulsive being who may say one thing and do the opposite. So if God speaks mercy to a nation, how can we trust He will be merciful? Or if He speaks judgement, do we really need to fear?

To understand what the Lord is teaching, we need to look at the context. Jeremiah is at the potter’s house, getting a tutorial in how to make a clay pot. Maybe his blundering questioning of the technicalities distract the potter, because the first attempt has to be remade into something that can be remade into a workable pot.

That was the illustration of God’s message to His people: mercy in remaking something useless, and judgement in making a pot that is only eventually going to break. For Judah in Jeremiah’s day, promises of mercy and warnings of judgement were to no avail, and they were exiled in Babylon for seventy years.

In the  New Testament, Paul tells us that Christians have the gospel in them, like treasure in jars of clay. When we share the gospel, we are revealing that even in broken vessels like us, there can be great spiritual riches. “Let God’s Word be true, and all the world a liar” seems a fitting summary of Jeremiah’s ministry: to believe in God’s Word is to go against the world, but even if it means being a Jeremiad, we must always go to a lost world with the truth in love, regardless of whether they listen.

Book Review

I’m rereading Michael Reeves’ book The Unquenchable Flame: Introducing The Reformation.

The way he describes Medieval Roman Catholicism reminds me of an old equivalent of the modern mental health system. People confess sins to a priest/admit delusions to a psychiatrist. These may be real or imagined, but the professional will question the quality of the testimony of the troubled soul. Then they prescribe the Mass- body and blood of Christ/drugs- pills and injections of medication. Anyone who disagrees with the system is branded a heretic/psychotic.

In reality there’s nothing physical we can take to medicate an oppressed soul or a troubled conscience. As a wise man said, “The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14). His dad answered the question in a song: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

However well meaning people may be, they cannot deal with our woes. But if we have trials, temptations or troubles we can take it to the Lord in prayer. There’s nowhere else effective to go. People often fail to see the point of prayer: if life is hard, surely God is either powerless or unwilling to save?

Thankfully, the truth is that God is mighty to save and he loves to do so. This reality has been revealed to us in the Lord Jesus Christ: God became a man mighty over sin, sickness and death; and compassionate to forgive, heal and give eternal life. He is sufficient. And although believers share bread and wine in remembrance of him, and the physically unwell may take medication, ultimately the great physician is the one in whom we find perfect healing and restoration to a healthy eternity to come.

Have you heard the good news?

“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”

Romans 10:9

This should have been my first post because it’s the best and most important: it’s good news!

The good news isn’t ten commandments or five pillars. It isn’t a threefold movement, manifold idolatry, or twofold fatalism. There is good news- it’s not that there isn’t- but there’s only one gospel, because there’s only one God who is good news for all mankind. There is good news for our lost and dying world. God sent the Lord Jesus to find us and give us life. The Holy Spirit empowered Him to live, die and rise again so that we might be reconciled to God and to be adopted by Him, to know Him as our heavenly Father.

So as long as you can say that Jesus is Lord, and know the heartfelt truth that God raised him from the dead, you’ll be saved. This is Really Good News! Hallelujah, Praise The Lord!

The Irresponsibility of Man…

The Irresponsibility of Man and the Absolution of Postmodernity: Clothing the Emperor.

If I was to write a philosophical paper: this would be the title!

I’ve just got a first draft of an abstract here:

From the time that Adam blamed Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit, mankind has been irresponsible. The Bible is littered with countless other examples, including PIlate’s infamous attempt to absolve himself of Jesus’ blood by washing his hands. Jesus himself warned of a day when anyone who kills his followers think they’re doing a service to God.

So if God’s True Word is full of cases of man’s irresponsibility, surely that absolves us of accountability? Not so, from the very outset, man is called to answer for himself: from the Garden of Eden to the City of Jerusalem. Man’s sin in the garden lead to his death; man’s sin in the city lead to His death, Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, taking our punishment upon Himself, that all who trust in Him might be clothed in His righteousness. The alternative is the filthy rags of our own self righteousness; the figleaves of our own attempt to cover up our sin.

Postmodernity- the spirit of the age- says that we can’t be held responsible for our actions, therefore we are absolved. We can face God on our own terms, or deny him altogether. The reality is that we must wake up to the fact that we must accept responsibility for ourselves and look to Christ’s sacrifice to cover us, otherwise we’re laid bare before the judge of all the earth. Until we humble ourselves and admit our sins- our pride and wrongdoing- we will not know the forgiveness of the Lord.

So don’t let the devil’s delusion inibriate you to the reality of sin and judgment to come: repent and trust the Lord for salvation, because he’s merciful to all who cry out to Him.

Psalm 97:10

“O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”

Psalm 97:10

Call me a Jeremiad, but I’ve been thinking of the life of the prophet Jeremiah a lot recently. This verse, which happens to be biblegateway.com’s verse for the day, summarises his life really well. He was known as the weeping prophet, and was certainly on what we would today call the manic depressive spectrum. When God initially called him to be a prophet to the nations, he protested that he was too young. When it turned out he would spend most of his life in his own nation of Judah, he moaned how much he wished he had a quiet place to get away to. He was forbidden to marry, or even attend marriages.

One of his more manic episodes was breaking a false prophet’s wooden yoke and replacing it with an iron one: illustrating the fact that life was going to be a lot harder for the Jews than they had hoped. He was constantly calling the people to trust in the Lord and not in political alliances with Egypt and Babylon (the superpowers of the day). He was pretty eccentric and unpredictable. Understandably, as God’s people suffered, and Jeremiah declared that it was the Lord’s doing, he was very unpopular with them, and often complained to God of the hard life he had to endure.

But through his life, we see very clearly the providential hand of God in the perseverance of his saints. He and his trusty scribe Baruch spent many years calling the people back to the Lord their God, with very little evident fruit. But as Jeremiah’s life was pruned in adversity, so his evergreen witness to the faithfulness of God flourished in the face of war, disease, famine and death.
May God continue to preserve the lives of his chosen people, and deliver them from the hand of the wicked, into the glory of his presence, to the praise of his great name, Amen