Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Month: April, 2019

Freedom

The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honour of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honour of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Romans 14:6 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.14.6.ESV

In this passage, the apostle Paul is writing about those who are strong and weak in faith. This manifested itself in a couple of ways- to do with “holy days” and vegetarianism. These were different to how we understand them today, so contextualisation is required.

For Jewish believers, they had a rich tradition of holy days and festivals to remind themselves of God’s goodness to them throughout their history. To continue observing them is in honour of the Lord. But there’s no requirement even for a Jewish believer to observe Jewish feast days any more than Gentiles have to.

Note that when Paul writes about holy days, he’s not on about Christmas and Easter, which Roman Catholics would invent many years later to syncretise pagan festivals to make their faith more attractive. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. We just need to make sure that we celebrate thankfully and to honour the Lord.

The other issue is vegetarianism. In Paul’s day, Gentile converts from paganism wanted to avoid food sacrificed to idols. It’s like a Muslim background believer avoiding halal food by being vegetarian. So it’s not like people today who are vegetarian because they think the world will end if we keep eating meat!

“Lord, we thank You that there’s room for weak and strong in Your kingdom. Thank You that there’s freedom to observe days or not; to be vegetarian or not. Please help us to respect one another and to honour and be thankful to You. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Is it a sin to be sad?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Philippians 4:4 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/php.4.4.ESV

I recently made a post that argued that it is a sin to be anxious.

Maybe you assumed that that means I think it is a sin to be sad. After all, Paul commands us to rejoice. So surely not to rejoice is a sin. Yes, but rejoicing and sadness, counterintuitively, aren’t antithetical.

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honour and dishonour, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as *sorrowful, yet always rejoicing*; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6:3‭-‬10 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/2co.6.3-10.ESV

I’ve posted a whole passage so you get Paul’s flow, but I’ve emphasised the fact that he and his partners in the gospel were sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Their lives, and those of the early church, didn’t look like health, wealth and happiness. Paul didn’t preach the prosperity gospel, but the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Man of sorrows.

If our Lord Himself wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus, why would we expect our Christian experience to be one of unremitting happiness?

In fact, if we aren’t sometimes sad, we betray the fact that we have no compassion in this lost, dying and sinful world. If sin, death and hell don’t make us sad, there’s something seriously wrong with us.

Furthermore, Jesus Himself said, “woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” and more famously, “Blessed (happy) are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”.

I could give numerous examples of sad Biblical believers who God didn’t condemn. But I think I’ve made my point: it’s not a sin to be sad. In fact, it is a sin sometimes not to be sad in the face of sin, death and hell.

Finally, how can we be sorrowful and rejoice at the same time? We’re sorrowful because life is hard; we rejoice because Christ has and will overcome every hardship.

Is it a sin to be anxious?

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/php.4.6.ESV

I write this as someone who hasn’t just had anxiety, but severe depression and full blown paranoia! So I don’t want anyone to be anxious that I’m getting at them any more than I write this for myself!

Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, and Paul in the verse I quoted above, command us not to be anxious.

Firstly, some definitions. I’m not a medical practitioner so for the purposes of this article, anxiety is synonymous with worry, which perhaps we understand more easily.

Sin is falling short of God’s standards. So, I would suggest, if Jesus commands us in the sermon on the mount not to be anxious, and we are, that is sin.

Before you start getting anxious about whether you’re anxious/sinning, look at how Jesus and Paul tackle anxiety.

Jesus in Matthew 6 points out how pointless anxiety is. By worrying we can’t make ourselves any taller (thankfully for someone as lanky as me!). We won’t live any longer if we worry.

It might be natural to be concerned about our daily needs of food and clothing. But Jesus assures us that we don’t need to worry about that because our heavenly Father looks after us.

Jesus’ antidote to worry about our daily needs is to concern ourselves with His kingdom. As His children, we should be longing that lost souls would come into His family; that people in the kingdom of darkness would come into God’s kingdom of light.

The reason God’s people aren’t just fast tracked to the new creation is because we need to call others to flee from the wrath to come and be part of paradise.

There’s always a positive alternative to God’s “do not” commands. Instead of committing adultery, we can either be celibate or have plenty of monogamous, heterosexual, marital sex. Instead of murdering, we can love our enemies.

And instead of being anxious, we can pray. As Peter puts it, “cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you”. Care isn’t quite synonymous with worry/anxiety. To not care about our needs, or those of the world, would be pretty carelessly heartless of us.

But instead of letting anxiety and worry fester in us like a cancer, we should give our concerns to God in pray, and trust Him to work out His perfect will in our lives.

And having said that anxiety is a sin, and given positive alternatives, let me also emphasise how God relates to His anxious people. He doesn’t condemn them, He reassures them. Elijah was suicidal. David was depressed, some of the Psalms make that clear. Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet”. But God is so tender with His anxious people, providing for our needs and never letting us be tempted beyond what we can bear.

“Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer”

Daytime

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:13‭-‬14 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.13.13-14.ESV

In about the fourth century AD, upon reading these words, an African hedonist came to faith and became one of the greatest theologians the world has seen. That man was saint Augustine. He started out as an average young man, “living for the weekend” as it were. But he was transformed by the grace of God and came to live for Him.

The apostle Paul’s list in these verses could be used to describe stereotypical youth culture today, and it was true of Augustine as a young man. But his pleasure seeking left him dissatisfied and depressed. It was when he went into his garden that he found a copy of the book of Romans that perhaps his believing mum had planted there.

This is how Augustine described the moment he read these words: “No further would I read, nor was there cause why I should; for instantly with the end of this sentence, as by a clear and constant light infused into my heart, the darkness of all former doubts was driven away”. (From the Confessions, his autobiography/testimony)

A lot of bad stuff happens at night. People talk about “going on a night out” to engage in the kind of stuff listed in verse thirteen. But Paul says to live as in the daytime, to clothe ourselves with Christ, and to make no provision for our flesh, to gratify its desires. Our desire now should be to live holy for our Lord.

“God our Lord, we pray that You would shine the light of Your holiness upon us, and that we would come into it and not cringe away into the darkness. May we clothe ourselves in Christ, not shameful things, in His name, amen”

Children

This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Romans 9:8 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.9.8.ESV

I know people have different understandings of God’s purpose for Israel, but I’ll share my understanding of this verse within the context of Romans 9-11. There’s obviously a lot of love for Israel from Paul, who says he wishes he was cut off from God for the sake of his brothers.

But God doesn’t have grandchildren. He’s not a Jewish supremacist. He may have chosen Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but that’s no guarantee that all of their children will be chosen for salvation.

As Paul says in this verse, it is the children of the promise who are God’s children, not the children of the flesh. In other words, God’s children aren’t an ethnic group but a spiritually adopted family. The promise to Abraham was of his Descendant the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom those who believe in Him are credited as righteous.

We become children of God not by becoming citizens of the state of Israel, but by faith in the Jewish Messiah and Saviour of the world, the Lord Jesus. So when Paul says later that all Israel will be saved, he’s not saying an unbelieving Jew will be saved, but that Gentiles are grafted in to spiritual Israel. The people of God aren’t an ethnicity but a spiritual entity.

“Lord God of Israel, we praise You for grafting Gentiles like me into spiritual Israel through faith in the Lord Jesus the Messiah of all who believe. In His name, amen”

Inseparable

nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:39 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.8.39.ESV

The highest dictatorial tyrant cannot seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He might be determined to stamp out Christianity under his regime, but he will not succeed. He will have his moment strutting the world stage, but his moment with pass, and God’s kingdom will prevail.

The lowest of the low criminals can’t pluck us from God’s hands in the spiritual realms. We could have our physical lives snatched away from us. But nothing can snatch us from our heavenly destiny.

Some perverse person could try and curse us to hell, but if God is for us, who can be against us? If God has decided to lavish His love upon us, no one can make Him change His mind. God’s will prevails over all the wills of mankind.

How do we know that God loves us? It’s because of Christ Jesus our Lord. “He came from heaven to earth to show the way, from the earth to the cross our debt to pay, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky” so we lift His name on high!

“Lord, we lift Your name on high; Lord we love to sing Your praises; we’re so glad You’re in our lives; we’re so glad You came to save us. To the glory of Your name, amen”

“Lord, You have saved me”: a poem

I haven’t shared much of my poetry or indeed the tunes that I’ve written for some of it, but here’s one I wrote this afternoon. Maybe eventually I’ll sing it for youtube and share it here:

Lord, You have saved me, so how should I live?

A life transformed by the power You give.

To serve You gladly for all of my days;

To give now and always all of my praise.

I have Your Spirit to empower me

From the power of sin I have been set free

So now I offer You all of my life

Which I give to You as a sacrifice.

Forgive me Father for all of my sin

By Your grace over sin I can now win

And I’m thankful I’m covered by Christ’s blood

Though to live a holy life I now should

My sins, past, present and future as well

Would gave condemned me to the depths of hell

But now whatever I’ve done or will do

Is covered by the One who’s made me new.

God, forbid that I should grieve You at all,

But please pick me up whenever I fall.

Thank You that I am part of Your story

And that You’re preparing me for glory.

I know I deserve nothing from Your hand

But You’ve assured me of the promised land:

A new creation that is free from sin

And yet sinners like me are welcomed in.

Yes, the rhythm and rhymes are a very old fashioned style, but I hope you appreciate the spirit of what I’m communicating! 🙂

Law

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

Romans 7:13 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.7.13.ESV

Laws are unpopular. They are restrictive of our freedoms. We’re not free to speed in our cars for example, because there are speed limits. But those limits are put there for our good, for our safety, and the safety of others.

So it is with the law of God. The commandment not to covet for example is a good one. We should be content with what we have without being greedy for what others have. But the fact that we are naturally covetous doesn’t make the law bad, it makes us bad!

Without the law of God, we wouldn’t know we are sinners. Without knowing we’re sinners we wouldn’t know our need of a Saviour. And without the Saviour we’d be lost for eternity.

So the law condemns us to death. Paul concludes this passage by saying “wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of sin? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” There is hope for sinful law breakers like us in the sinless Saviour our substitute and sanctification.

“God, thank You for Your law which is good, and tells us we are bad. We’re grateful that when we come to that realisation we can come to You for salvation, in Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray, amen”

Life

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:17 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.5.17.ESV

Have you ever wondered how Jesus- one man- could save countless people? You might have thought He could only be a substitute for one of us. This verse and passage explains how He can.

Sin came into the world through one man- Adam. Therefore salvation is for all who will recieve through one man as well: the Lord Jesus. He is the “second, greater Adam”. Where Adam failed to live for God, Christ succeeded, and in Him, we too will prevail over all our sinful failures.

God offers us an abundance of grace in Jesus. It’s not that He simply forgives us our sins. It’s not that He even restores us to a new garden of Eden. Instead, He prepares a place for us within His house, not just a guestroom, but a home in heaven.

How can imperfect sinners like us enter the perfection of heaven without ruining it? It’s all because of the free gift of righteousness that God gives us in Christ. It’s like we were shamefully naked in our sins, but God came and washed us in Christ’s blood and clothed us in His robe of righteousness. So now we will reign with Him in life forevermore.

“Our Father God, how we worship You for the gift of Your Son, and the grace, righteousness and life that we find in Him. To the praise of Your glory, amen”

Gift

and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Romans 3:24 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.3.24.ESV

The previous verse to this one is very famous: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. In this verse here, the apostle Paul continues the sentence. We are justified (or made acceptable) by God’s grace.

We’re not justified by our works of attempting to observe the law of God, because we’re all sinful failures. Instead, God lavishes His undeserved kindness upon us as a gift. Gifts aren’t earned, they’re simply recieved with gratitude.

Sometimes the world talks about people redeeming themselves. An example would be a criminal who turns his life around and becomes a volunteer for some good cause. Biblically however, we cannot redeem ourselves, any more than a slave can afford to buy his freedom.

Thankfully, there is redemption for sinners like us, and it’s in Christ Jesus. He gave His perfect life for our imperfect ones, and rose again so that in Him we can have newness of life forevermore. Praise be to God for His indescribable gift!

“Father in heaven, how grateful we are that there is redemption in Your Son. Thank You for the free gift of grace by which we are accepted in Your sight. In Jesus’ name, amen”