Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Month: March, 2019

Law

Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

Deuteronomy 4:40 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.4.40.ESV

Laws aren’t popular, but they’re there for a reason. Take speed limits for example. We may want to go faster than we’re allowed, but we know it’s illegal for a reason: it’s unsafe.

God’s law is similar to the law of the land. It’s there for the good of His people. We might protest that we’re under grace and not under law. But the summary of the law is that we love God and others: we can’t stop doing that just because we’re under grace.

Thankfully, our salvation doesn’t depend on our law keeping. But that doesn’t mean to say we don’t need to love God or other people. God still expects that of us, and gives us His Holy Spirit to help us to do so.

Think about it, which of the following is a better philosophy to build your life upon? Survival of the fittest, or loving others? One is an evolutionary worldview, the other is Christian. Which of those would you rather your neighbour’s life was defined by?

“Oh Lord our God, we acknowledge that Your law is good and ask that You would help us to keep it. We praise You that even though we often fail You, there is full salvation in Your Son, in whose name we pray, amen”

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Leader

God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Acts 5:31 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.5.31.ESV

Jesus is our Leader. If we follow Him where He has led, we can expect a crown of life. But first we must endure the cross of suffering, in the strength of His Spirit. Our hope is that as He defeated death, so shall we, in Him.

Our Leader is also our Saviour. He’s not just a good example to follow- He did what we never could by saving us. He endured God’s wrath at our sin so we don’t have to. We can’t save ourselves, and thankfully we don’t need to because He’s done everything necessary.

Jesus came to bring repentance to Israel. Where people had given up looking for a Saviour, He called them to follow Him. Where people were trusting in their own works, He called them to follow Him too.

Not only does Jesus call people to turn their lives around by following Him, but He also freely offers forgiveness of sins. It’s not that our forgiveness is dependant upon our repentance, it’s all about Him. But He causes repentant sinners to be saved, praise His holy name!

“Dear God, we praise Your holy name for giving us a Leader and Saviour in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for the gift of faith, and forgiveness of our sins, to Your honour and praise, amen”

Annoyance

greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Acts 4:2 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.4.2.ESV

The apostles Peter and John had been sent by the Lord to teach the people and to proclaim in Him the resurrection from the dead. This really annoyed the Jewish leaders, seeing as they’d been the ones who clamoured for Christ’s death. And some of them, the Sadducees, didn’t even believe in the resurrection.

Even those who believed in the resurrection of the dead didn’t want to admit that the great evidence for it is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. So it is with many religious people today. Many Jews, and Muslims believe in the resurrection of the dead, but don’t want to admit that Jesus rose again.

This verse got me thinking. Do we annoy people by our teaching and proclamation that in Jesus there is resurrection from the dead? I know we shouldn’t go out of our way to annoy people, and I know we’re not apostles.

But Peter and John were uneducated fishermen before Christ called them. They didn’t have theological degrees. They were educated in the school of life with Christ. Are we only teaching and proclaiming Christ to ourselves in the church, or to the world out there?

“Dear Lord, we pray for boldness to teach and proclaim Your good news to people we meet, not just in the church. Thank You for the example of Peter and John who were willing to suffer for You, for Your glory, amen”

Sonshine!

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalms 80:19 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.80.19.ESV

In the UK, we may feel humiliated by the Brexit uncertainty. We may feel like we need to be restored to become truly “Great” Britain again! Well God’s people were feeling similar in this Psalm. But this wasn’t a “Make Israel Great Again” campaign, it was just a desire for the Lord to favour them once again.

God is the Lord of hosts. He’s the boss, He’s the master, He’s not only our commander but also of a vast, innumerable army of angels. If the God of the angel armies is for us, who can be against us?

I think we’re sometimes tempted to think that God is a grudging Saviour. Yes, we know that Jesus died for us, but we fear He’ll have a frowning or disappointed face when He lets us into the heavenly city. He won’t, but it’s still a good prayer to pray for God to make His face to shine upon us, and for us to know and feel that!

God only saves us because His face shines upon us. God is love, and love keeps no record of wrongs. He’s not holding our sins against us. He doesn’t disapprove of us, He wholeheartedly accepts us in the well beloved Son.

“Oh Lord God of the angel armies, help us to know the sunshine of Your favour today. Help us to feel Your happiness with us in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whose name we pray, amen”

Saved

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Acts 2:21 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.2.21.ESV

This was a prophesy of Joel quoted by Peter hundreds of years later on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit of God descended on that day, and with Him the doors of heaven were opened wide. He is the one who stirs us to call on the name of the Lord for salvation.

In the old testament, the name of the Lord was hidden. He had lots of titles, but His name of Jesus (meaning “the Lord saves”) was only revealed in the new testament. It’s quite trendy nowadays to refer to Jesus by the Jewish pronunciation of Yeshua rather than the more Greek form of Jesus. But God isn’t limited by language, He understands all languages and translations of His name.

That was the whole point of Pentecost. You didn’t have to become Jewish to have a relationship to God anymore. Now Jews and Gentiles alike could worship the Lord in whatever their mother tongue was.

God didn’t attach any conditions upon our salvation, apart from faith in Christ, which itself is a gift of God. As one Christian song goes, “from every station and orientation… Come to the feast, there is room at the table, with the King of all kindness who welcomes us in, with the wonder of love and the power of grace”.

“King of all kindness, we call upon Your name, Lord, for salvation. We turn to You from whatever we were living for before. Thank You for Your Son and Spirit who make the way back to You possible, in Jesus’ name, amen”

Forgetfulness

They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,

Psalms 78:42 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.78.42.ESV

I think it’s all too easy to think how pesky those ancient Israelites were to the Lord (and by implication how much better we are!)! But to have that attitude is to have the attitude of the Pharisaical religious person who says, “God, I thank You that I’m not like…”. If we’re proud like that, God’s going to have to humble us.

Having said that, the Israelites were frustrating to the Lord their Redeemer. They quickly forgot His power that delivered them from Egypt and grumbled that they were stuck in the wilderness, without faith in Him to get them to the promised land. Aren’t we the same though when we remember our initial salvation but also realise we’re not yet in the heavenly city?

That’s why we need communion, the Lord’s Supper, to take regularly, to remind us of what He’s done for us in powerfully redeeming us from satan’s power. Having saved us, He’s not about to let us go, back into satan’s power. He who began a good work in us will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.

Remembering God’s power in redeeming us from satan helps us in the here and now. Looking to the past helps us in the present. Not only so, but being mindful of what has gone before gives us hope for the future, that we will make it to the other side, by His mighty power.

“Oh Lord our God, we want to praise You for redeeming us from satan by Your power. Please forgive us for so often being forgetful of Your goodness. We entrust our futures to You, in the name of Jesus, amen”

Teach

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children,

Psalms 78:5 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.78.5.ESV

We might not associate fathers with the teaching of children so much. I was home educated, but with my dad out at work, mum did most of the teaching. But dad would read the Bible and pray with us, as well as helping us with our wider education.

This verse isn’t saying we should all be full time home educators. But it is saying that believing fathers have a special responsibility to teach their family what faith in God looks like. Lots of this will simply be by example, but there needs to be words as well.

But does the law of Israel apply to us in this new covenant age? It’s a debatable subject in Christian circles. As far as I can see, we’re not bound to keep the law for our salvation, because Christ has fulfilled it for us.

Having said that, Jesus affirmed the law as good. After all, it is in summary to love God wholeheartedly, and to love others as we love ourselves. We can’t say we don’t need to do that. In fact, Jesus put a deeper application to it by saying that we should love one another as He has loved us!

“Dear Lord, we’re so thankful that You don’t just tell us what to do, but You forgive us our failures and empower us by Your Holy Spirit to live for You. Please help us to teach following generations to trust in You as well, for Your glory, amen”

Accomplished

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/jhn.19.30.ESV

Jesus was dehydrated on the cross so that our spiritual thirst could be quenched. He drank the bitter cup of God’s wrath so that we could drink the sweet cup of God’s new covenant in His blood. He was fulfilling the will of God to redeem for Himself a people for His own possession.

When Jesus said “it is finished” in the English translation, we can assume He was talking about His life, which was about to end. But the original word has the sense of accomplishment, like you might say “it’s finished” when you complete a job. Our salvation was accomplished when Jesus gave His life for us.

Jesus wasn’t finished when He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit. He rose again, victorious over death, on the third day. But the door to heaven was flung open, and all who trust in Him can confidently enter. Our salvation is 100% of Christ and 0% of our own effort.

Note that Jesus gave up His Spirit. Anyone else who ever died had no authority to give up their spirits- God demanded them of them. But Jesus had authority as God’s eternal Son to lay down His life for us, only to take it up again.

“Our Father in heaven, we exalt Your holy name for giving to us Your beloved Son, so that we could be called sons and daughters of the Most High God. We’re so grateful for all He went through for us. Help us to devote our lives to You, in Christ’s name, amen

Poison

So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

John 18:11 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/jhn.18.11.ESV

Peter had just chopped the ear off of one of the mob who came to arrest Jesus. But Jesus healed the man and rebuked Peter. In one fell swoop Jesus ruled out holy war as an option for Christians. The kingdom of heaven isn’t established by earthly tactics.

Elsewhere, Jesus recommended His followers to carry swords, but if you read in the context of this verse, you can conclude that the purpose was to be a deterrent rather than an aggressor. Jesus’ kingdom is a heavenly kingdom. So it is established in people’s hearts, not at the point of a sword.

In the old testament, God’s wrath is illustrated as a poisonous cup. That’s what Jesus is referring to here. He drank the cup of God’s wrath so that we don’t have to. In fact, because He bore God’s anger, we can know the smile of God’s favour.

So we are entrusted with this ministry of reconciliation, to tell people how they can know God as their loving heavenly Father. Jesus did say He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. But He was talking about the persecution that Christians face, and the divisiveness of our message to those who reject it.

“Loving heavenly Father, we’re so grateful for the peace we have with You because Your Son took Your wrath at us upon the cross. Please help us to share Your message of peace to a hostile world, and may many come to know You as Saviour and Lord in our day, for Your glory, amen”

Humiliation

but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

Psalms 75:7

According to a poll, 90% of Brits think Brexit has been a national humiliation. People variously blame Parliament, the UK government, and to a lesser extent, the EU. I would argue that whatever God’s ultimate purpose in Brexit is, at the moment He’s humbling a proud, self declared “United” Kingdom of “Great” Britain and Northern Ireland.

No poll would return these results, but I believe God is judging the UK for rejecting Him. He’s “putting us down a peg or two” as it were. So how are we going to get uplifted from our humiliation?

Well it’s certainly not by politics. Politics is divisive. No one can agree on the way forward on Brexit- deal or no deal, hard or soft, or not at all! There are good Christians on either side of the debate, so how do we avoid division among ourselves, and how can we help our nation?

It’s God who humbles and uplifts nations, not us. So we’re not to berate our country, or on the other extreme to flatter it. Instead we are to preach the gospel, which is both humbling (because we’re sinners before a holy God) and uplifting (because God has come to restore us to Himself).

“Lord God Almighty, please have mercy upon the UK! Even as You humble us, cause us to cry out to You for our greatest need, which is revival. Only by an outpouring of Your Spirit can we be uplifted again, for Your honour and praise, amen”