Unchangeable Happiness

Having spoken at length in the great salvation chapter, Romans 8, about the wonders of God’s salvation, it is as if Paul is compelled in verse 31 to ask the question, “What shall we then say to these to these things?” He begins to answer with another question in the second part of the verse: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Who indeed! There are in fact in this world, many against us. Some of these burn with hatred against God and the Bible, and all that pertains to Him, including His people. So what Paul is saying is not that there will be no one against us, but he is highlighting the utter folly of being against God. Indeed it is more than just folly, it is utterly illogical; it makes no sense. It is the position of those whom Paul describes in Romans 1:22, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”. However, it is not our place to condemn them, but to pity them and  to pray for them, because we ourselves were by nature enemies of God, before God graciously opened our understanding and our hearts to receive the truth.

However, Paul in this passage in Romans 8, is not majoring on the opponents of the christian, he just mentions the futility of being an enemy of the people of God: futile because God is ‘for’ them. That is our unchangeably happy state. We are RightWithGod, and He is on our side. When opposition comes, rather than feel sorry for ourselves, we should feel sorry for those who oppose, and even persecute us. Pity and prayer should be our reaction: prayer that they would experience for themselves the love of God as it shines forth in Jesus Christ.

In verse 32 that love is brilliantly expressed. God’s love for His people surpasses understanding. It was such that He did not hold back His own beloved and only-begotten Son in order to save us from an eternal hell. Note, ‘He spared not His own Son’. When that Son was on the cross, God did not say, ‘seeing this is my Son whom I greatly love, I will not demand the full punishment for the sins of my people, I will be satisfied with less’. If He had done that we could never be justified in God’s own sight. Our sins would be only partially paid for. God’s own justice would not be satisfied. His own perfect righteousness would not be upheld. Heaven would not be a possibility (Revelation 21:27 “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination, or makes a lie.).

God’s love for us is such that, far from sparing Him, He “delivered Him up for us all”. He poured His wrath upon Him until His wrath was spent. There was no more wrath remaining for us. That was when, on the cross, Christ uttered the words “it is finished”, and freely surrendered His life.

Our situation now is that God’s love continues from day to day in His goodness towards us. It is as if Paul is suggesting in the last part of verse 32 that it is unthinkable that God’s love for us in Christ would not continue beyond our salvation: “how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things”. The important words are the small phrase, “with Him”. This says so much. God in His love for us freely gives us all things from day to day, only if we have Christ; and for us who have trusted in Christ as Saviour and Lord, God will give all things and give them freely. There is no other channel of blessing for us from God except through Christ.

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Holiday Thoughts

“Although my house be not so with God; yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow”. (2 Samuel 23: 5).                                                                                   How wonderful that even the imperfect can be accepted into this amazing relationship with God. This is possible only through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary.

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The Lord as our Security.

Psalm 18 opens with the words, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength”. David is full of praise to God for his deliverance from all his enemies, especially Saul who was out to kill him. He is eager to give all the glory to God. Indeed, he could not have been preserved, were it not for the Lord’s special help. It is as if David is making a vow for the future, that God would be everything to him. He does not just say, ‘I love thee, O Lord my strength’, but ‘I will love thee, O Lord my strength’. He is determining for the future, because the Lord has been his strength.

David continues in verse 2 to pile on eight things which the Lord is to  him, and it is as if he cannot praise and thank the Lord enough for all that He has been to him:                                                                     “The Lord is my rock”, meaning ‘my security’. Man as a sinner feels insecure, and piles up security for himself, hoping that all mishaps will be covered. David’s security is simple, and all-covering. It is simply, the Lord. He goes on to expound some of the aspects of that security: the Lord is “my fortress and my deliverer”(my stronghold and one who rescues from danger). Then he adds, “my God, my strength, in whom I will trust”. Why ‘my God’, rather than ‘the Lord’ as before? Many have a different god or gods from David’s God, but David wants to emphasise that his God is the Lord. He adds, that this God is his strength, and the One in whom he trusts. Finally three further things that the Lord is to him: “my buckler” (something which protects the body in battle; like a shield), “the horn of my salvation”,(the One from whom my salvation radiates), and my high tower (another word for stronghold). All these things surely add up to more security than money could buy. This leads us to say something about the christian’s security.

It is wrong for us not to provide a measure of security for ouselves, our loved ones and our homes. God has made us morally responsible creatures. In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul writes, “If any provide not for His own, and specially those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (unbeliever)”. But how does this relate to ‘living by faith’? It is not an easy question to answer, but it is a very important one. Like many questions that the christian faces in his or her life, there is no easy answer. Why has God left it like that? Because He requires us to live responsibly: using a combination of wisdom, discernment, judgement and experience to cover those areas for which the bible does not give us hard and fast rules. Yet there is a way to live in which we exercise responsibility, and at the same time, give God His place. It involves doing the responsible thing in any situation, and at the same time praying to God for protection. A simple example of this, and one I am much aware of is locking the door as we leave the house. As we turn the key, it would be wrong for us not to bring God into it. Our home is to each of us a sanctuary, which we do not wish to see invaded and defiled. Therefore we must develop the habit of turning our thoughts heavenward, thanking God for giving us a home and asking Him to watch over it in our absence; and this, as we carefully  and conscientiously turn the key in the door. Thus we acknowledge that God is our ultimate security, and when we get back home we must remember to give thanks and determine, “I will love thee, O Lord my strength”.

(I will be on holiday next week.)

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Goals for 2017

2017 is already nearly a week old. It is time for us to set our goals for the year, otherwise we will slip into the empty mindset that 2017 is ‘just another year’. This may do for the unbeliever, but such a view is hardly compatible with the christian faith. The christian life should be a life of continual progress, always going forward, always “pressing towards the goal”, as Paul says in Philippians 3:14. Paul, of course, was an apostle and as such we would expect him to have a special commitment to laying the foundations of the christian church in its infancy, and to keep himself from being hindered with the duties and responsibilities that we have. However, that does not mean that we cannot use much of what Paul says about his ambitions, and apply the principles to our own situations. What we must avoid is to have nothing more than a general aim to ‘improve’, and not focus on any part of our lives in particular. We must have specific goals.

Having said that, we must recognise that spiritual ambitions are different from worldly ambitions. Worldly ambitions usually have an end point in this life at which one aims. The ambitions of the christian life are fundamentally different. There is no spiritual end point in this life. In Philippians 3:14, Paul’s goal towards which he pressed was, “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”, in other words, ‘heaven’. That is also our ultimate goal. That is not to say that we do not have goals in this life. We do, but they are of a different nature from those of the world: not so much reaching the end of certain roads, as a getting on certain roads. I would like to make two suggestions regarding these ‘roads’.

First of all there is the road of contentment. Is this a high ambition? It certainly is. Is it an easy ambition to have?   No, it is not, but Paul writes to Timothy, saying, “godliness with contentment is great gain”. The two do not often go together, especially today when there is so much discontent among christians, causing them to live very like the world. Yet this is one way in which we could easily distinguish ourselves from the world. The key note of contentment is thankfulness. Let us aim to really get on this ‘road’ and stay on it until the end.

Then there is the road of ‘switching’ to good thoughts when bad thoughts come into our minds. If we are christians we will hate bad thoughts, and sometimes get angry with ourselves for having them. We resolve to keep them out, but this strategy rarely works. However Paul has given us a strategy for dealing with bad thoughts, namely, switching  to good thoughts. In Philippians 4:8, He tells us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and it there be any praise, think on these things.” The last clause is the crucially important one, “think on these things”, In other words, focus your thoughts on these good things. My earnest exhortation to you is that you would determine to get on the road of switching to good thoughts when bad thoughts come. It is essential that you learn this whole verse by heart, carry it with you, and get yourself on the road of ‘switching’, whenever bad thoughts come, as they will do till the end.

May 2017 be a good year for you and yours, both materially and spiritually, and may you add many more ‘roads’ to your spiritual goals.

 

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