Knowing God or Knowing about God?

A song is playing: “Be still” (and know that I am God) – a song – a thought put into words by the song writer – such familiar words – but my desire is not only to know that “I am God” (ie about God) – but to know that God intimately, personally. My first thought is Romans 10:6 ff “who will ascend into heaven? (that is to bring God down) – what does it say? The Word is near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart”. While to know that Yahweh is God – I am overwhelmed with the vastness of His creation and power – Pictures of Suns crashing into each other and exploding 10 000 times the power of our sun, Tsunami’s, earthquakes, cyclones, massive thunderstorms tearing through the heavenly realms blasting off lightning like the sparks from a blacksmith’s forge, and waves towering into the air crashing onto the rocks that makes them quiver and so on go through my mind.

But I don’t have to fetch Him down from His throne – He is already near me, in Jesus. I can know God in Jesus without fetching Him – I can know Him as “the Word” that is as near as my mouth and my heart.

“Get to know Jesus better – let that reflect in your walk with Me – joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, purity, honesty, all put together in the package called love -walk in the Spirit and let My nearness provoke that sort of character in you”.

My reading is in Luke 7:41-50. But I need to see this passage as part of the whole message of Chapter 7. We said that salvation is one theme in ch 7. So the first two stories (the centurion and the widow)showed two sides of salvation: faith and the fact that it is a free gift (see my previous blog). The next story is about John and who he is, however it is really contributing to the third aspect of salvation which is mentioned in this chapter. I wonder if you can see it.

John came with a message which is billed as “preparing the way for Messiah”. How was he doing this? He was preaching about sin and the need for repentance and then ministering a baptism which symbolized that repentance. The Pharisees, however rejected that message as not applicable to them, their sin was minimal and dealt with through the law and sacrifices. One can deduce that the way to Jesus was NOT prepared in their hearts. So the last part of the chapter from vs 36 Luke shows a story and a parable which highlights what?

It highlights the seriousness of sin and the only way of having it dealt with, by forgiveness through Jesus. The Pharisees scorned the street woman who recognized her sinfulness and really appreciated Jesus’ forgiveness which opened a flood-gate of love for Him. The religious leaders did not even show common courtesy to Jesus, the King of the universe, because they had no appreciation for the fact that they too were sinners who desperately needed Him.

So this is the third aspect of salvation. First, receiving salvation by faith as a free gift and now the reality of what that gift entails, complete forgiveness of our sins, freely, we cannot earn it. That is the golden treasure of salvation. That opens vast vistas which are too much to talk about here. And notice in vs 50 what Jesus says, just to reinforce the importance of it – your faith has saved you. You must believe and trust Jesus for this forgiveness. Salvation, beginning and ending with faith in the very One who the whole chapter is about.

The other theme in this section is summarized in 7:49 “who is this who even forgives sins?”

John came preparing the way by making people conscious of their sinfulness, but only Messiah, God Himself can actually forgive sins. (Of course we understand that ultimately forgiveness would only be accomplished through the cross.) Fall in love again with this vastly exciting, mystical man-God.

There was plenty for me to meditate on, but here is where I felt Jesus was speaking to me. The very reason the world is in the mess it is in, can be summarized in the phrase: because of sin. That is what, after all, has caused God to place a curse on the world and that resulted in Him having to send His own Son to deal with the effects of that. Sin is extremely serious and the first step to recognizing our need for salvation is that we need to recognize why we need it – because of sin. However what I found Jesus saying to me was that the answer to dealing with sin and our separation from God because of it, is not to dwell on the sin as such. Yes we very definitely need to recognize it, but the way to deal with it is by fixing our eyes on Jesus and as through His Spirit He brings conviction of sin we are drawn to cast ourselves upon His compassion, demonstrated by His forgiveness, through confession and repentance. And we have a complete assurance that the sin is forgiven. The more mature in Christ I become The more I am aware that every thought and action I take is tainted and can only be purified the closer I am to Jesus.

Ultimately, like the street woman, the more we can appreciate how much we have been and are now being forgiven for, the more we will love the one who forgives. Isn’t that what you want? Its what I want. Is the lukewarmness of many in the church not due to the same attitude of the Pharisees?

With Jesus in the Garden.

A garden – “Come walk with me through My garden so I can show you where my thoughts and commands to you are rooted and grow into the beautiful flowers of obedience”. As I listen, I am aware of the TREE – that tree that caused all the trouble – ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’, and there is Satan beckoning me to come and try some of the fruit – promising me “freedom” (actually the illusion of freedom) from the constraints of a fearful and angry God. My answer is a clear NO – I will deny myself and take up my cross – give up the notion of independence, even in a small way, from my Eternal Father – to walk close to Him – hand in hand as He guides me. “Come with Me and I will show you some delights in My garden – more beautiful than you could ever believe is possible. I have given you a companion to live with you in the garden – but the ultimate Companion will be Myself when you are finally joined to me at the ‘Marriage Supper of the Lamb'”

My reading Luke 7:11-18, is linked closely to yesterday’s reading of 7:1-10. This is the beginning of a new section which lasts to 8:56 , a series of stories with the main theme of “salvation” intermingled with a few parables. In the background, of course the main melody line of Luke – “who is this Man”? and “what has He come to do”? Why don’t you read through these two stories and see what you can glean from them, what Jesus wants to say to you to-day. Noting firstly how Luke uses contrasts to teach. See if you can spot the clue to the main theme.

OK so here’s the clue: 7:19 “Are you the One who was to come [Messiah], or should we expect someone else?” So what does this passage say that gives us the insight to know the answer? And what do the two stories reveal about Jesus’ purpose?

Firstly the contrast: First story; the main figure (except Jesus) is a gentile (outside of the Covenant race), an important and good man, interceding on behalf of his slave (doulos) who is severely ill. So humble he doesn’t feel worthy of speaking to Jesus himself. In the other a widow, weak, losing her one source of security in the future, her son. She has no standing and doesn’t even say anything to Jesus. In the first story Jesus “saves” the doulos, at a distance, and commends the Centurion for his faith, which can be seen as the vehicle which brought Jesus’ response. In the other story there is nothing said about faith, Jesus, out of compassion raises the son from the dead. But there is a key word – vs 15b “Jesus gave the son back his mother.

Are these two healings contradictory? I suggest absolutely not – these are two aspects of Jesus’ great mission of salvation, which for instance is so beautifully described in Ephesians 2:1-8: “We were all dead in our trespasses and sins v 1, and Jesus, because of His great mercy made us alive” vs 5 and then in vs 8 “For it is by grace we have been saved, (the Greek word for saved and healed is the same sozo) through faith and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God”. Do you see that both are true – by faith and – it is a gift, totally free?

So who is this man who walks through these stories today? Do you know how important it is that we see who this Man really is? That is what transforms us. That is what settles our anxious hearts. It is the true and growing knowledge and understanding of who this Man really is This Man who, in my mind, walked with me in His garden this morning. Who do you say He is? Truly, deep down in your heart, where only He can see and where only He can go to change and heal you and raise you from the dead.

“Be still and know that I am – Who? Who is your God?

Fruit from a Giving God.

Receive, is the word that comes to mind as I listen. “Receive from Me! I am a giving God – I want to give to you – You must just be open to receive from Me – I have given you so much over the years, you are aware of some of it – but I have given you so much more than you are aware of – not a wallet full of money, but a wallet of love, of companionship and fellowship and friendships with so many people – every day I have been giving – freely of My love and grace – just become more sensitive to me and My gifts and you will see so much more of Me and yes, I do desire communion with you, like with every other brother or sister – walk with me, like Adam walked with Me in the garden, draw near to Me and I will draw near to you!”

My reading in Luke 6:39-49. covers 2 sections.

Having laid down the true characteristics of a Christian and given direction on a number of interpersonal issues, so far in this sermon, Christ covers a whole section with a warning against being judgemental, not to focusing on another’s ability to follow and be obedient to what He has taught so far, which it is so easy to dol. As much as we must be generous in all other aspects of life, so much should we be generous towards the behaviour and actions of others, remembering that we are often more guilty than they of the very misdemeanors we accuse them of. The hyperbolic parable on judgement in vss 41,42 is well-known, but may I suggest, needs to be meditated well on.

He then reaches the closing section of His sermon in vss 43-49 which can be summarized as follows: the basic characteristic of a true Christian is that his/her heart has been changed cf vs 45. The measure of that is the fruit of a changed life, as I suggested last time a supernatural fruit, only possible from a changed heart. And the way to find that and maintain it comes from our attitude towards God’s word (vv 46-49). It is not sufficient to just read His word, or even study it. It must bring about a changed heart which is shown by the obedience of the person reading it and the work of the Spirit in empowering one.

So the real key to the Christian life is truly “Listening to Jesus”! Hearing what He is saying to you and then taking that to heart, asking Him to change your heart. Our hearts are so hard that we need all the power, on an ongoing basis, of God’s Spirit to change them. However He will not and cannot change them unless we desire to have them changed. A desire which must be matched by our ongoing seeking Him and His Spiritual power. In other words to “walk by the Spirit” as in Galatians.

So for me today, as I meditated on the instructions of not to judge, I became so convicted as to how shallowly I have viewed this command previously. How easy it is for me to slot people into categories and to see their faults, while forgetting mine completely. And of course dealing with that requires further Spiritual heart-surgery. I am so grateful to a God who is patient and prepared to give me renewed hope and strength every day. Thank you my dear Lord, for being such a giving God. I worship at the foot of Your throne.

True Gospel Life is Supernatural

Closing my eyes I allow my mind to take me into a picture of the heavenly vision that John had, which he recorded in Revelation 4. The multitude of worshipers, the cherubim, but most of all the figure dominating everything, The Lamb that was slain, the Lion of Judah. Shining so brightly that no-one could look at it, a figure so beautiful no-one can describe it.

“Let your life be influenced by that and fill your mind with what is good, admirable, of good repute etc and overflow in rejoicing in WHO I AM – Elohim, Jehovah, Jesus, The Holy Spirit! Focus on that and not on the “what if’s” of your everyday uncertainty – so that you can rejoice in Me and be filled with thanksgiving. So live your life in that light – moment by moment, making your decisions, led by the Spirit – with the underlying sense of joy because of my relationship with you”.

I am reminded again of the joy of my conversion at Noordhoek, where my eyes, my mouth and my heart were filled with the word Jesus. Its been a journey, with many deviations, obstacles and joys, which I would not have missed for anything.

Reading Luke 6: 30 -39. I have come to the middle of the “sermon on the plain” which is Luke’s parallel to Matthew’s “sermon on the mount.” These verses have a common theme which is summarized in vs 31 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In other words live your life in an “other people centered way”. the section is bracketed by the vv 29,30 on the one side and 38 on the other and shows us that the basic attitude of the Christian life towards others is one of ultimate generosity which governs how we treat them, whether brothers or sisters, or even our enemies.

I know that the immediate thought that goes through every person’s mind is “that is impossible, a bar too high to be leaped”. In ordinary terms that is oh so true, that is why we must understand that this can only be achieved supernaturally and that is why it is such a good witness as the true fruit of one who is really converted. I have so often seen the change in people who are converted when they become gentle and generous. So it has led me to say on numerous occasions the first sign of true Christianity is when a person’s wallet is also converted. But you know what? The promise in vs 38 is “Give and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured unto you”

This is the motivation behind the instruction, yet not the reason for one’s generosity. The reason for generosity is because of Jesus’ huge generosity through His grace to us. I can testify that I have been the recipient of many other’s generosity, especially now when I am vulnerable and weak, which proves to me that promise to be true. Friends, no-one can pretend this. This comes out of a heart that has been truly softened, by Jesus and His gospel and can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When I attended the camp at Noordhoek where I was converted, one of the first words that struck me was the word for “power”. The speaker started his talk with a comment on the passage in Acts where Jesus says; “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”. I remember Him saying the word for power in Greek is “dunamis”, from which comes the word dynamite. That really made me sit up. Well, the gist of his teaching was to do with being able to do miracles. While I now believe that miracles still happen today, the much more common need for power by the ordinary Christian is simply to live the gospel life effectively. When we think that Jesus’ instructions are impossible, we know that we need that gospel power to live it fully, from the heart.

For me today: The passage was a fresh reminder of the all encompassing other-person centered lifestyle that is expected of me. But wow, praise the Lord He has made it possible through the life-giving power of His Holy Spirit! I must just do it.

To God be all the glory.

The Good Bridegroom.

This morning another song called “Goodness”, is ringing through my mind – God is the ONLY One who is truly good. “Search my heart Lord and show me my wicked ways that I may take responsibility and confess” as I am eager to hear my Lord. I see my heart – cloudy streaks in the so-called pure water – cloudy streaks of selfishness – building something to make a name for myself = Babel? Wanting to do things my way = Adam? Forgive me Lord and give me new impetus to deal with this so that my life will indeed, glorify you and not try and shine light on myself

Then God gives me a picture where I can see Goodness. The sky completely dark. Dimly on the horizon a figure on a cross, wracked with pain. I hear clearly in the distance “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” – Suddenly the word GOODNESS is emblazoned across the sky in the brightest light. This is where He showed more than anywhere else His Goodness – Here His goodness comes face to face with our need. There is nothing intrinsically good in ourselves – everything good comes from God and Jesus’ cross is the great means through which we receive it. We must receive it continually through the bread of life which is God’s word.

My reading today is Luke 5:27-39. (Just a reminder. The idea of this blog is that you read this passage and ask Jesus to speak to you through it personally first, then you can listen to what I heard Him say to me. Remember – this is not a commentary). Here we have two more of the 5 stories Luke uses to show Jesus’ demonstrating who He is through His public ministry which began at His prophetic reading in the synagogue, Luke 4:18-19).

The first story is of Matthew’s conversion and the banquet to which he invites all his tax gatherer friends and others to, to share his joy. Two things speak to me: 1.The immediate reaction of a true conversion is to want to spread this amazingly Good news and what better way than through fellowship, like a meal with those you know. 2. A repeated reminder (cf also Luke 5:12) that, to be helped by Jesus, we need first to recognize our need. The biggest stumbling block in our Western, affluent culture is our inability to recognize our need, therefore we see ourselves as “righteous” in other words we see ourselves as OK. So we pass up His help or seek worldly solutions. Jesus has come to help those who perceive their need (the sick).

The next story starts with a reminder of Jesus’ true identity. He is THE Bridegroom. Throughout the OT God has pictured Himself as the “Bridegroom” and where the people turned to other gods He frequently accused them of adultery. At the same time this passage looks forward to the ultimate conclusion and tumultuous consummation of God’s story at the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”. What a glorious day that day is going to be! Jesus is truly God in human flesh.

But the passage also reminds the reader that Jesus has come to introduce the New Covenant. The real emphasis is that this New Covenant is completely New and should not be polluted by the ideas of the Old Covenant. Does that make the Old Covenant irrelevant? Of course not! We would not be able to understand or appreciate the New C if the whole of the Old C didn’t point forward to the New.

As a new Christian I was involved with the Charismatic Renewal. At that time there was a magazine, published in East London called “New Wineskins”. The proposition was that the “Renewal”, as it was known, was bringing a completely new vision and word for the church, a suggestion that this was the “New Wine”. This whole movement of the Spirit was reviving and shaking the old denominations where this Renewal originated. In retrospect, I do think that it did shake up and cause many people to awaken spiritually, but it wasn’t the true New Wine of this passage.

So what did this whole reading say to me? 1. A continual reminder of the revelation of who Jesus is – “The Bridegroom”, brings waves of delight and anticipation of that great celebration of the “marriage supper of the Lamb”. 2. Following that, there is a continual compulsion to tell, with joy of the real healing that Jesus brings. With a reminder of how the first step in response is recognizing our need. 3. Warning how easy it is for the Old Testament ideas to cloud the wonderful Gospel of the New. So many people are living, by the law, they are missing the real gospel. I am in danger of that every day! At the same time it is precious to reflect on how rich the Old T teaching makes our understanding of the New.

To God be all the glory and majesty of the great Bridegroom