Posts Tagged With: religion

Be Holy – Be Set Apart

Leviticus 20:26 You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

John 17: 6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

Romans 12:2  “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

DSC_1051cropIt has always been difficult for Christians to be ‘in the world but not of it’ simply because holiness is such foreign concept for a broken heart and mind to grasp. And as we have been reminded with the recent 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the medieval church like the rest of us also struggled with undeserved grace – the undeserved love of God which becomes the motivation to  inspire us to grow in holiness. The Christian knows that this too is only possible because the Spirit of God empowers us, and the Word of God guides us, towards an ideal that will not be achieved in our lifetimes.

But this challenge to holiness has clearly been in decline in the church in recent generations. The sexual abuse of children and its concealment by leaders in churches, poor ethical relations towards women, financial impropriety … and sadly the list goes on, has meant that the standing of the church in the Australian community is at an all time low ebb.

One of the consequences has been that many in the community have not even wanted hear any of the positions that Christians may hold on same sex marriage, gender and euthanasia. Our voice has been sullied in the minds of many. So what should Christians do? Shout louder? Demand certain legislation? Put ads in the media?

I passionately believe there are two things that are required. One is a genuine attitude of repentance for having failed our calling – over and over again. We have failed the community in which we live. The people who should have been pointing our neighbours to God have been more interested in protecting their own doubtful reputations and we done the name of God no favours.  The second is that we need to reclaim for ourselves an understanding  and commitment to holiness. This is not spiritual snobbery, or spiritual condescension but in simple terms a reminder that God has  set his people apart to be witness to Him – His holiness, his compassion for broken people and his claims over the hearts and minds of men and women.  If a Christian thinks of him or herself as a vessel for God’s use and purpose in the world, then life takes on a different perspective. It is not about me, but about God. It is not about my reputation but God’s.

Now this many not make us any more popular than we are at present, but it will mean we are becoming the people that God wants us to be. It will also mean that when lives are broken and people are looking for answers they won’t be turned off by the stench of the church. Rather they will come to know there are other broken people who have been discovered by the love God and there is hope and that there are answers – not just for moment, a  day or a life time but for eternity.

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Our Little Coves

The Mousehole Haven

Along the coast of Cornwall there are a myriad of little harbours worn out of the coastline by wind, wave and flood. They are little oases from the turbulent sea. Each cove has its own characteristics. Some are more protective than others and some are easier to access, but each is a haven.

What havens do you have? A good book or TV show, a hobby or craft – something in which you escape from the harsh or busy realities of the day? Or is it a relationship, your family, wife, husband? Some of us seek coves that turn out to be more dangerous than the seas: drink, drugs, sex, gambling – addictions that start as an escape but end up turning into raging internal battles.

In Matthew 11:28 we read: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Here we read of the haven that God sent us – Jesus. Our God knows what our lives are like – He himself lived one in Christ. God is aware of the human condition. It is not as though His divinity inures Him from it. Jesus is the God-Man, the divine and human and He knows our need for sanctuary, from the brokenness of the world, each other and ourselves.

Have you taken up this offer? Have you sought protection from the haven that Jesus offers – that Jesus is?

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The Fickleness of the Human Heart

At an unearthly hour this morning I was awoken from my precious slumber by screaming and caterwauling as a domestic dispute turned the air blue a few houses away. This was a very unusual experience in our quiet neighbourhood. What makes two people who must have had some attraction towards each other descend into such an undignified and vicious state?

But even “respectable” people have disputes, that may not be so public, but are just as deeply broken.

In Dutch church history there was an ongoing debate about “presumptive regeneration” that continued through church synods in World War 2 even as the Germans occupied Holland and people starved and died through the “hunger winter” of 1944. It caused the church to divide.

The human heart, created for relationships, struggles to maintain them. Pride, greed, envy ( add your own special weakness) weasel their way in to destroy marriages, friendships, churches, businesses and so on.

Yet the triune God is a being of relationship. Relationship is at the very heart of our creator. The understanding of the trinity is one of the key factors that differentiates the Christian understanding of God to that of Muslim and Jew. It is an important understanding because it is in our God’s very nature to restore and heal broken relationships – with Him and with each other.

Christ’s sacrifice, God’s amazing love,  reveals to us  just how important restored relationships are to Him.

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The Rise of Scoffing

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 2 Peter 3:3

Is it just my imagination, or are we living in age in which scoffers of God and His Word are in the ascendancy? Frankly, no, I don’t think it is just my imagination. The increase in miltant atheism, the admission by the head of the BBC that satirizing Christ is more acceptable than doing the same to Mohammed, the humanistic trends in education and the collapse of Christian values and ethics in the West are just glimpses of a far wider derision of the Christian faith.

The church, because of its foolish behaviour at times, may have deserved this ridicule but Christ, the gospel and Scripture, never. So we need to distinguish, is society mocking us or God? More precisely, is it mocking us for our foolishness and hypocrisy, or because we are dauntless in our faith? The former we deserve, the latter is an attack upon God himself.

Peter alerts us that this issue will increase in the last days. In other words the problem has been with us for 2000 years and it is not going to go away. So where does the challenge lie for people of faith? I believe the challenge lies in “walking the talk” – Christians need to live out the impact of the gospel on their lives. We need to be the aroma of Christ so that the scoffing and ridicule is shown to be empty and baseless.

Most importantly, our lives are to be a living witness revealing that we are convinced that the day will come, like a thief in the night, when Christ will return. Not only should we live in this expectation for our own spiritual health, but it is also a light to those who are searching. When they see that there are people living with hope in the truth, it is an encouragement to eschew the world and come to Christ.

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