Summary of Fellowship, Discipleship and Evangelism

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

Why are fellowship, discipleship and evangelism so important?

God’s truthful word to us teaches us that these three things are needed if His church is going to grow here on earth, therefore God expects all Christians to engage with them. I hope that over the last few weeks you have seen that all that I have said has its foundations in Scripture.  Without the truth of Scripture, we would not be here today, and Christianity would have died out with the first Disciples.

So what have I learnt about fellowship?

I was reminded of the New Testament Greek word for fellowship: koinonia (koy-no-nee-uh).  This expresses the idea of being together for mutual benefit.  So it’s all about relationships. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 shares this idea, saying,

And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The natural result of koinonia is that there is no fellowship without action.  Hence, we believe that RBR Connections will result in deeper practical pastoral support as well as greater spiritual support. 

Fellowship enables us to see that the local church is a community with real names, with real faces, with real joys and with real pain and sorrow.  This is another purpose of RBR Connections. Through this shared life as a community, we become a visible manifestation of the Gospel we are all called to proclaim.

Fellowship originates from the Holy Spirit, expressed succinctly by Paul; May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14) Thus fellowship results in a relationship with God the Trinity, and with one another.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John. 1:3).

Fellowship means living and sharing life together.  So it is to be a priority; one of the objectives for gathering together. 

Godly fellowship then is about sharing and communicating Gospel truths together, which in turn will build us up. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  (1 Thess 5:11; see also Rom. 1:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:2; Philem. 6)

What have I learnt about Discipleship?

Being a Christian is about willingly submitting the whole of yourself to God. 

The Greek word translated “disciple” means follower, someone who invests their life and time learning from someone else, and then spreading that person’s teachings to others. This is in-line with the great commission of Matthew 28 in which Jesus commands us to go and make disciples by telling others the way of Jesus.

Yes, some are gifted in teaching, but all believers are called to share with others what they know about Jesus, in accordance with the faith God has proportioned to them, (see Romans 12). 

Isn’t that great?  We act in proportion to the faith God has given us, and as our faith grows so does what we share.

To tell others about Jesus we need to get to know God and His Son in a deeper and personal way. This involves not only learning the truths of the Gospel, but showing them to others in a loving, caring and compassionate way.  Truths such as

  1. Jesus is God incarnate;
  2. His death and resurrection was a sacrifice that we could never make as an atonement for our sin;
  3. His sacrificial death abolishes the power of death to separate us from God. 

All of which means we are saved fromthe penalty of sin, the power of sin, and sin’s presence.

As a disciple of Jesus Christ we move from living under the power of sin, shifting instead to living in the hope of His coming, His second Advent.  All of which assures us of eternal salvation.

What have I learnt about evangelism?

This is the tricky one. In sharing Jesus, we must share the truth of Jesus, a truth based on the need for all people to repent. 

Matthew 4:17 tells us that Jesus challenged people with the words,v“Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near”.    This means explaining three realities:

  1. the inherent sinful nature of mankind,
  2. the holiness of God,
  3. the existence of heaven and hell. 

The only means to escape the punishment of sin is faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. While many Christians begin their evangelistic efforts with God’s love, that is really the second half the story, because the message of God’s love is lost on unbelievers unless they first come to grips with sin, judgement, and punishment.

There is no doubt that God is a loving God. But He is also holy and righteous, thus hating sin.  However, because God’s nature is full of love and mercy He provided the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin –  His Son! 

Ephesians 2:8–9 explains why.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

We’re saved not because we deserve it or can earn it, but by God’s grace!

Only those whose natures have been changed to be in line with God’s can escape His wrath, and thus experience His transforming nature expressed through His love and grace. If we believe these things, we will live eternally with Him in the joy of heaven.  If we do not, our eternal destiny is hell.

Jesus was God on earth.  We can say this with confidence because in John 5:19-20 Jesus, in His own words, tells us that He only did what He saw His Heavenly Father doing in heaven.  God, through the person of Jesus, was revealing His transforming power to the world.  This transforming power moves us from an earthy perspective to a supernatural heavenly one, so that we too can do what we see our heavenly Father doing in heaven. 

And Jesus unashamedly acknowledges that He “can do nothing by Himself”. 

This is the most radical statement to be found in the whole of Scripture as it indicates that any effort made to use God’s power for our own benefit will leave us feeling hollow and empty; it will never achieve anything and our life will be insipid and of no use to God. 

Because Jesus is confessing that as “the Son (he) can do nothing by Himself” we can have confidence in our core being that the words of Jesus are utterly dependable, truthful and worthy for all to hear.

So in sharing the Gospel we must have confidence that Jesus’ words have spoken powerfully to us personally, transforming us into His likeness, and that through us He can speak powerfully to others, transforming them too, because that is what He has done us!

Fellowship, Discipleship and Evangelism are things we need to work on in our daily lives if we want to see God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

Worry List

Reading: Matthew 6:25-34

How easy it is to worry about things.  We can be anywhere, sitting in our car, at home, doing the shopping, the gardening, talking with friends on the phone or over the fence, lying in bed as you try to get to sleep.  Worrying is one of those things that can be done anywhere, anytime and by anyone.  No training is required, we’re all experts!

I love having bird feeding stations in the garden as I enjoy watching how they dart about getting the seed that is in the feeders and on the bird table.  I also get blackbirds and thrushes looking for worms and there have been many occasions when I have seen them catch a worm, and quickly it is gone.

All of this reminds me vividly of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-26,

‘… do not worry about your life… Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

At this particular moment in time it is very easy to worry about our current situation and Covid-19.  I am very aware that many have been extremely cautious, not going out, having as much as possible hand delivered, not handling items delivered for 48 or even 72 hours, and sanitising everything that comes into their homes.

I am aware of many who are worried about their health, and that of their relatives, because they are more vulnerable, either because of their age, or because of underlying health issues.  Now with the new strain of coronavirus many are worried about younger people as they seem more vulnerable than before. And we can go on adding to our worries.

Through these words from Matthew 6 Jesus is warning us of the ill effects of worrying.  We’re reminded of God’s promise that He will provide us with all our basic needs.

You see, worrying damages our health; worrying can end up consuming all our thoughts; it can disrupt our productivity, and impair our relationship with God.  Worrying can negatively affect the way we treat others causing us to snap at them and rebuff them.  Worrying can lead us to reduce our trust in the Lord.  You see, worry immobilises, whereas concern moves us to action!

There are many strategies out there for coping with our worries.  This is one that I have come across.  Perhaps we could use it….

START A WORRY LIST.

Write down what you’re worried about. The bills. Your job. Your children or grandchildren. Your health. The future.

THEN TURN YOUR WORRY INTO A PRAYER LIST.

Ask the Lord to show you how He wants you to let Him work in those situations you’re concerned about. Remember Jesus only ever did what He saw his Heavenly Father do in Heaven (John 5:19).  As you do this you allow Jesus to live through you, not just in you.  Jesus depended totally on His Father whilst He was here on earth.  As our model that is what we are to do also, and this will lead us to pray specifically for our needs and deepen our dependence and trust on Him.

NEXT TURN YOUR PRAYER LIST INTO AN ACTION LIST.

If you receive insight from the Lord on something you can do for your cares, do it. Through the graciousness of our Lord He can enable us to turn our worries into prayer and action.  The result of this is that our paralysing anxiety can be replaced by concern for the responsibilities of life as worries immobilise, whereas concern moves us to action!

Why not start right now?

As you start can I encourage you to mediate or reflect on these verses…?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

The words ‘We know’ here means that as Christians we already know that we have had this experience. God is already working in our lives. Undoubtedly we have in the past suffered pain and disappointment. At the worst of these times God was working for our benefit. After all He is our Father, who loves us, and so He promises to continue to look after the people who love him. 

For in the day of trouble

  he will keep me safe in his dwelling;

he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent

 and set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5)

As Christians, God not only lives with us but He also lives in us. We are the house of God.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

    all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

    for ever.  (Psalm 23:6)

As believers in Jesus we can say with confidence, “I will always live (dwell) in the house of the LORD.” The house of the LORD is in heaven.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  (Psalm 139:7-10)

Because God is omnipresent he is always with us, we cannot hide from Him, so He always knows our worries.  Give them to Him.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  (Colossians 3:1-3 NIV)

Christ came so that everyone could have a full life (John 10:10), and this full life comes when we concentrate on Christ, whereas concentrating on the world leads to worry.

The words from Psalm 40 are amazing.  They offer such hope!  They help us to put aside any worries we have.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

A Chinese Christian told this parable:

A man fell into a dark, dirty pit, and he tried to climb out but he couldn’t.  Confucius came along.  He saw the man in the pit and said ‘Poor fellow.  If he had listened to me, he would never have fallen in.’  And he left.  Buddha came along and he saw the man in the pit and said, ‘Poor fellow.  If he can climb up here, I’ll help him.’  And he too left.  Then Christ came along and said ‘Poor fellow!’ And he jumped into the pit and helped him out!

Isn’t that amazing? Our God is the only God prepared to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty to sort us out!  No other God does this. 

In Psalm 55:22 we are encouraged to cast all our cares on the Lord because he will sustain us; he will rescue us from the “pit”.  As He does this He will give us a new song to sing, a song to sing because we’ve experienced God’s deliverance from trouble through His Son. 

Know and live out this truth: God will never let the righteous be shaken. 

As we start this new year may we cast our cares on the Lord, for God is calling us to trust Him to meet all our needs, for when we trust in Him alone He will dispel all our worries and replace them with concerns that move us to actions that are in line with His Kingdom actions and thus reveal to us His divine righteousness living in us.

Stumbling block or cornerstone?

Sunday 4th October 2020

The parable of the tenants, Matthew 21:23 – 22:14

33‘Listen to another parable: there was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall round it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower.  Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35‘The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.  36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them in the same way.  37Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said. 38‘But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.”  39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40‘Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ 41‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.’ 42Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes”? 43‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.  44Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’ 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.  46They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

The context

Chapter 21 starts well for Jesus… He enters triumphantly into Jerusalem!  But immediately controversy is aroused.  He cleanses the temple (21:12-17) and curses an unfruitful fig tree (21:18-22). The chief priests and elders asked Jesus, “By what authority do you do these things?” Jesus countered by asking, “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” When His critics refused to answer Him, Jesus refused to answer them. He then responded with three parables of judgement:

  • The Parable of the Two Sons (21:28-32)
  • The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (21:33-46)
  • The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (22:1-14)

It’s accepted that the Parable of the Tenants is an allegory—a story in which each of the elements (people, things, and happenings) has a hidden or symbolic meaning:

  • The landowner/Lord is God.
  • The vineyard is the nation of Israel.
  • The tenants are the people of Israel or its religious leaders.
  • The servants/slaves are the prophets.
  • The son is Jesus.
  • The other tenants are most likely the church, although some scholars find other meanings for tenants.

Understanding the allegory this way shows us the meaning, that…

  • God established a covenant with Israel (planted a vineyard).
  • God sent the prophets (his servants/slaves) whom the tenants (the Israelites) killed (see 1 Kings 19:10, 14; 2 Chronicles 24:18-22; 36:15-16; Acts 7:51-53; Matthew 23:29-39).
  • God sent his Son (Jesus) whom the tenants (the Israelites) killed.
  • God put the original tenants to death (pronounced judgment upon Israel).
  • God leased the vineyard to other tenants (the church) who will “give him the fruit in its season” (v. 41).

The people to whom Jesus was speaking would recognise the vineyard imagery from Isaiah 5:1-2 where the landowner planted a vineyard, built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine vat.  These are the same elements that Jesus used, but with a subtle difference.  In Jesus’ story, the outcome is not the destruction of the vineyard but is instead its transfer to “other farmers, who will give him the fruit in its season” (v. 41).

This landowner must be wealthy.  He spends money freely to make this an excellent vineyard even though it won’t produce fruit for at least four years.  It would be possible to plant a vineyard without a fence or wine press or watchtower, and that is what most landowners did.  This landowner, however, does everything right, – everything! He spares no expense in making this a first-class vineyard; a vineyard that lends itself to efficient operation; a vineyard that gives the tenants every advantage.

So looking at this parable as an allegory, we see that God has done everything possible to give Israel every advantage.  He has established an everlasting covenant with them.  He has led them through good times and bad.  He has given them the Promised Land as their inheritance, and He has given them the law and prophets to guide them.

In due course the vineyard bears fruit, yet the tenants do not fulfil their agreement – they refuse to hand over the owner’s fruit and they beat and kill those who he sent to collect what was rightfully his.  It’s important to know that this is a story of God’s grace, because in real life the landowner would send soldiers to punish his tenants.

Israel did not treat God’s prophets well.  They killed Zechariah by stoning him (2 Chronicles 24:21)They beat Jeremiah and placed him in the stocks (Jeremiah 20:2).  They killed the prophet Uriah (Jeremiah 26:21-23), and “killed your (God’s) prophets that testified against them to turn them again to you (God)” (Nehemiah 9:26).  (See also Matthew 5:12; 23:29-37).

So the landowner sends his son, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (v. 37). The son, as the father’s heir and official representative, acts with the father’s full authority and is entitled to the same respect as these tenants would show the father.  But they seize him, kill him, thus attempting to seize his inheritance.

The point Jesus is making is this… that He is God’s Son sent to redeem the world, and that the Jewish authorities are going to kill him.  Murdering the son outside the vineyard will correspond to Jesus’ death on Golgotha, outside Jerusalem (27:33, see also Hebrews 13:12).

When Jesus asks them what the landowner would do they respond as Jesus expected – “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” (v. 41).  In this verse, the chief priests and elders pronounce judgement on themselves as they tell Jesus how unfaithful tenants should be treated.  As Matthew wrote his Gospel after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., perhaps he associates this judgement with that event, as well as with the call of the Gentiles.

I think this parable is showing us what God is looking for, and what Jesus showed us…God is looking for people who will bring forth fruit.  What kind of fruit?  Holy lives, – lives lived in accord to God’s will.  God won’t judge me based on the number of sermons I have preached or the number of people I have baptised.  He will count me, as He will all of us, as fruitful if we have been faithful.

Don’t let the kingdom of God be taken away from you (v44).  This verse warns us that the cornerstone becomes a stumbling stone for the unfaithful.  Don’t stumble over Jesus the capstone.  Remember to live a righteous life, and as I said last week, you should live a life believing the Word of God, for in His word is power, the power of life! 

Someone once said, “You can’t break God’s laws; you can only break yourself on them.”  A practical illustration of this principle has to do with the law of gravity.  God in His grace has created gravity to anchor us to earth.  We can use other physical laws to counter gravity to permit flight, but the person who tries to ignore gravity or who miscalculates its force can find him/herself crushed by its power.  So also the person who fails to live according to God’s will can find him/herself crushed by God’s power.

This should serve as a warning for us.  The day will come when God will demand an account, and the stone, intended to provide a strong foundation, will crush those who have failed to position themselves in proper relationship to it.

Those who Jesus was addressing knew He was referring to them.  As with the previous parable about the two sons this too is about them and their disobedience.  But they couldn’t do anything because the crowds saw Jesus as a prophet, (v46).   The ordinary people in the crowd had little power as individuals, but together their influence was sufficient to block the actions of religious leaders who have considerable power.

More often than not throughout the Gospels, crowds are usually loyal to those like John the Baptist and Jesus.  Such lives reflect the presence of God.  So as a Christian how are you reflecting the presence of God?  But we know the end of this story.  Soon, and very soon, a crowd will turn on Jesus and shout, “Crucify Him, crucify Him” (27:22-23).  Will those be the same people who favour Jesus now?  We don’t know, but we do know that human nature is fickle and feckless.

Which crowd are you in?  The one that stays loyal to Jesus, living holy and righteous lives, or the one that denies who He is, and is prepared to deny Him and thus crucify Him? 

Living Thoughts

Digging into God’s word

First read Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:9-17 and Matthew 21:33-end

Perhaps with pen/paper or journal write down your thoughts as you consider the following questions….

  1. God spares no expense.  Where have you experienced God’s amazing generosity in your life?
  2. Someone said, “You can’t break God’s laws; you can only break yourself on them.”  Is God a just and fair God?
  3. How are you reflecting the presence of God? 
  4. Which crowd are you in?  The one that stays loyal to Jesus, living a holy and righteous life, or the one that denies who He is, and is prepared to deny Him and thus crucify Him? 
  5. Particularly at this moment in time many are concerned about their economic health.   How would you quantify the Godly health of your heart?

Digging deeper into God’s word

  1. Today’s readings from Isaiah, the Psalm and Matthew all refer to the vine as a metaphor for the Jewish people, with a common theme of fruitfulness.  Where in your life are you seeing God’s fruitfulness?
  2. The wicked tenants, acting out of selfish greed, saw people only in terms of what they represented for their own ends.  Jesus shows in word and deed that true fruitfulness and meaningful productivity lie in living out ideals of justice, kindness and humility.  To whom is Jesus asking you to show justice, kindness and humility?  How are you to achieve this?
  3. Living fruitfully means living and behaving in a way that supports and enables those around us to live more fruitful lives.  How can we as individuals and as a church, God’s worshipping community in this place, encourage and support those around us to live more fruitful lives?

A point of interest… “Listen to another parable(v. 33a). This is one of only three parables to be found in all three Synoptic Gospels (see also Mark 12:1-13; Luke 20:9-19)—the other two being the Parable of the Sower (13:1-23) and the Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32).

Be Still and Know that I am God – Going Deeper

20th September 2020

Last week Barbara and I attended a zoom Jesus Ministry Pastor’s Day and this verse from Psalm 46 was discussed;

Be still, and know that I am God.

And it got me thinking…. how do we discover how to be still and know that God is God? 

This can be hard when we look at the news headlines, about how nations rage against nations, about mental strife, the strain on marriages, strain on children, racial tensions and pandemics.  Storm clouds are looming.

I suspect we have trouble living it because we are rarely still, we rarely sleep without tossing and turning, our heads are on the fast spin cycle, and we hardly ever live sold out that God is God and we are not.

Well, then, what are we to do? How can we cease our striving and “be still”? How are we to accomplish such peace and trust?

The clues are back in verses 8 and 9 of Psalm 46.

Verse 8 tells us to “Come and see what the Lord has done,” and it is fascinating to consider what those works might have been. Psalm 46 was likely written after the defeat of one of Judah’s enemies, probably a time when God clearly did the defeating–for example, when an angel of God destroyed the Assyrians in their camp (as we read in 2 Chronicles 32:20-21). So verse 8 is a personal invitation to the people of Jerusalem to come look at the destruction of their enemies and witness God’s complete deliverance: He saved His people once again. It isn’t until verse 10 that God Himself tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Therefore, part of being still, or cease striving, is to “Come and see what the Lord has done.” When we notice His work and deliverance, this helps to assure us that we can be still and know that He is God.

I’m going to look at 4 ways we can Be Still and Know that God is God, but these are not the only ways!

First – Consider the Nations . . . and Turn Off the News

This psalm shows us that throughout time, people have been concerned about world events. Although the world situation as it comes to us through 24-hour news seems negative and out of control, this psalm reminds us that God is in charge of it all. In the midst of all of the turmoil, God is with us and will deliver His people.

Is there something you’ve noticed in world affairs in the past or at the current time that shows that God is in control–that He is with us?

Perhaps you have read the stories of Jesus appearing to people in many parts of the world in dreams and visions, and how their lives have been dramatically changed like Paul’s was on the road to Damascus, and this despite the persecution many face for turning to Christ.

Remember when the Berlin Wall came down? God proved the impossible possible.

Have you considered the consequences had the Allies not won World War II?

Yes, conflicts still rage and injustice requires voice and action, but when we get anxious, it is helpful to remind ourselves what God has done.

As part of this strategy, perhaps we could “fast” from social media, such as Facebook, twitter, Instagram (maybe you could delete them from your phones!).  As well as doing that let’s fast from the news. After all, it is man-made, because instead of helping us to consider the works of the Lord, it causes us to be anxious about temporary problems and angry at people who disagree with us. This is not from God!

Instead take captive the thoughts of God and think on more honourable and noble things as Philippians 4:8 says,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.  (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

So, the first way, make time to remind yourself what God has done for the nations, and focus on the Good News, not the fast spin cycle of the 24-hour news.

Second – look outdoors

One of my favourite ways to see what the Lord has done – which, in turn, helps me to be still and know that He is God – is to look around while I am outdoors. You can notice the colours of the sky in the early morning, midday, and sunset. Try to count the shades of green in the trees around you. Ponder the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly and all that the process involves. Take in the fresh air, supplied with perfect amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water.

Treasure words such as these written in Scripture, which are there for our nourishment and hope….

The heavens declare the glory of God;

  the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)

3 For the Lord is the great God,

    the great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,

    and the mountain peaks belong to him.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

    and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:3-5 NIV)

Third – Look at others

A third strategy is to look at the people around you and to consider how God has worked in the lives of your friends and loved ones. Has He healed a broken heart, turned a wayward soul, or changed a countenance, both in terms of you being able to see that they look different because they have experienced something of God, and in terms of them accepting that God is real and that He loves them?

These are wondrous works of the Lord. Behold them, and be still: let yourself be in awe of what God has done.

Fourth – Look at yourself

What works has God done inside of you? How has He delivered you? What peace has He brought to you?

These are some of God’s most phenomenal works, works to behold, works that help us to be still and know that He is God. So are you seeking to “Be still, and know that I am God”?

Each day we are to take time to consider the works of God in our own life; how He has redeemed us and called us by name. Has He changed our heart or our attitude? Has He lifted our chin to see His face more clearly? Has He helped us to forgive ourselves or others?

Are you seeing the works of the Lord, especially the deliverance He has accomplished for nations, for your friends and relatives, and for yourself? Are you noticing His handiwork in creation? Are you resting easy in the truth that He’s in control?

God is calling us to rise up in our spirit and to see things from the heavenly perspective.  We are to live out of our risen self, because as resurrection people we are alive in Christ and so can be still and know that God is God.


Digging into God’s Word: Be Still and Know that I am God

  1. Psalm 46 is both a challenging and comforting psalm! Read verses 8 to 11 again, but slowly, noticing the sureness of God, His control over the nations (a good reminder for these times), and the deliverance of His people.
  2. Of the ways spoken about in finding God’s stillness and peace which ones will you use to see the works of the Lord?

Digging a BIT Deeper: Be Still and Know that I am God

Take time to be quiet with the Lord, either now or throughout the week. If you like, you can journal about these questions and sing with the songs linked below.

  1. In what area of life do you need God’s peace today?  Over what do you need to cease striving?
  2. Practice beholding the works of the Lord. Choose one of these areas and journal about it reflecting on what you can learn from God’s faithfulness and deliverance?

Idea 1: Consider the nations . . . and turn off the news.

Idea 2: Look outdoors.

Idea 3: Look at the people around you.

Idea 4: Look inside yourself.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).  Where in your life have you agreed with the enemy’s schemes, thus allowing him to steal your stillness?  Confess them and rebuke the enemy’s schemes.  Then replace them with God’s peace and stillness.

God’s Word is meant for us to apply to our own lives. How does verse 11 of Psalm 46 help you today?

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Let these songs minister to your soul as you sing along or listen to them:

Be Still and Know (Hillsong)

I Lift My Hands (Let Faith Arise, Chris Tomlin)

One Thing Remains (Jesus Culture)           

Find them on YouTube.

A Prayer…

Be still and know…that God is near. (Ps 46:1-3)

Be still and know…that God is reliable. (Ps 46:4-7)

Be still and know…that God is in control. (Ps 46:8-9)

Be still and know…that God is to be worshipped. (Ps 46:10-11)

Be still and know…that God is.

God, Creator of time, we hurry from task to task, from crisis to crisis, carrying the weight of the world. Or in this current season, we let time pass without meaning. But the world is yours, and everything in it. Let us lay down both what keeps us too busy to be still and stillness that is void before you so that we may lift our eyes to your glory. Lord, we come into your presence. Make us still in you.  Amen

God’s harvest

35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV)

I love seeing combine harvesters at work I stop and watch… I find it such an idyllic sight!  Despite living in the countryside I am often disappointed at not seeing that many fields in the process of being harvested.  One day a field looks white for harvest, the next it is all cut and baled.  How did I miss it… again?  As always, farmers don’t hang around.  All has to be gathered before the weather turns against them.  For the last few years I have endeavoured to spend a day with a local farmer during harvest.  Graciously he has welcomed me aboard his combine.  I’m like a boy with a new toy!

But what is the season of harvest all about?  Well, it’s a season of hope.  Seeds planted the previous year, or earlier in the year, are bearing their fruit.  It is a time to gather in the fruit of the labour spent preparing the land, planting the seed and caring for the first sights of tender shoots.

As Christians, we are to know that God IS the Gardener supreme, and He is looking for a spiritual harvest from us!  That is what Jesus is talking about in our reading from Matthew.  This type of harvest does not depend on a particular time for harvest.  We are the fields, and our prayers and lives are the seed.  So we can plant seeds of faith, eternal hope, love, joy and peace in and out of every season. 

As we plant such seeds we can gather in the lost, bring back a wandering soul, for it doesn’t have to be a fixed harvest time, because God controls His spiritual harvest.  So a harvest for Jesus is available anytime because to God it’s always harvest time.

God, as Gardener supreme, has placed us at the centre of the world He created.  He has fed us, and equipped us with what we need to survive physically.  Having provided for us physically, He looks to a different harvest from us.  A fruitfulness of lives, in service to Him and others.

For us to live fruitful lives in service to Him we need to let the God of harvest, feed us, prune us, harvest us so that our lives bring glory to Him.  You see, God doesn’t have to plant, water, and wait for a harvest.  Yet, He chooses to be the Gardener supreme – with us as His fields and our prayers as seeds.

This is a picture of us co-labouring with God to bring Him glory – what an honour (1 Corinthians 3:9) to work with Him.  As we co-labour with God He encourages and urges us, to plant our faith firmly in His Holy Living Word and in His supernatural power.  As we do this He bottles up every tear of fear and disappointment (Psalm 56:8-11) to water the harvest of His glory.

This leads us to become His fruit, a fruit ripe with testimonies that feeds the faith of others to know that they, too, can and will overcome all the evil schemes of the enemy (Revelation 12:11) and fulfil God’s plans by reaping His harvest.

Here’s what we know about God: He is a finisher.  When He begins the good work of planting you, He is faithful to bring you, His field, to a flourishing finish!  Because God plants with the FULL expectation of a vibrant, glorious bloom.

Be encouraged today. Don’t give up before you see the fruit of your prayer labour.  Right now, you may be sowing seeds of tears and prayers with no sign of a bloom in sight.  Trust that the Gardener supreme sees your tears, that He hears your cry, and has every intention to bring your purposed bloom to fruition for His glory.

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.  He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:5-6)

Based on a sermon first delivered on 13th September 2020

Getting to know Him

Mark 4:35-41

What’s our biggest problem as Christians? I suggest it is this: that we don’t know God enough, we don’t trust him enough, we don’t love him enough and that we don’t pray to him enough.  But this is not a new problem and in a strange way, we should find that encouraging.  For another group of Christians had the same problem – Jesus’s disciples.  Remember they were with the Lord himself for three years and their general slowness should encourage us that God is patient and loving and always seeking to draw us nearer to Himself. 

Jesus knew exactly what was coming.

Why do I say He knew what was coming, what was going to happen?  Well, first of all He only ever did what He saw His Heavenly Father do in Heaven.  Secondly He just knew what was going to happen next, he knew what people were thinking and going to say next.  Thirdly – A few weeks ago I spoke about “The Just in Time God” – He turned up at the appointed time for His birth, and at the appointed time He meet the widow of Nain.

So Jesus knew exactly what was coming – He knew there was going to be a storm. He deliberately placed His followers in harm’s way.  Being close to the Lord is no guarantee of a trouble-free life – rather the reverse!

Perhaps we should look at this time of Covid-19 in terms of trusting that God knows what He is doing, despite the suffering and disruption we are seeing and experiencing personally.  My life experience has clearly shown me that God does lead us into suffering so that He may show us more of Himself.  Twice I was made redundant when I had a young family, our son died at 11 months old, our older daughter put us through the ringer due to her mental health issues, I had a prolonged illness that meant I was off work for a year.  And I could go on!  Such things are often seen as situations sent to cause harm, but I believe God has meant them for good.  The uncertainty, the difficulties for my family, the pain, the frustrations, and fear, were all there, but it was a joy to know that God was utterly with me.  It was wonderful to know the joy of being involved in the Lord’s work, of seeing Him at work in and through those situations. In fact, these circumstances have given me many opportunities to share my faith.

Where is the ultimate place we see evil turned to good?  When we stand at the foot of the cross. The devil and all the forces of hell meant it for evil, but God used it for our good.

I am sure the disciples did all the things that experienced sailors would do when the “furious squall came up” – turn the boat into the wind, trim the sails, head for shore, bail out the water. But they didn’t do the one blindingly obvious thing that we as readers with hindsight should have done – ask the incarnate God who was right at hand for help.  Even when they did ask,  they did it in desperation and used rough words: they said, “Don’t you care?” (v38).

How hard it was for them to pray!  How small was their faith!  How hard it is for us to pray and how small is our faith!

Corrie Ten Boom said, “When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.”

And Charles Stanley said, “If satan can get you off your knees, nothing else matters. He doesn’t care what happens then.”

Instead of thinking “It’s too hard to pray” let us be encouraged to pray.  Do you see how kind the Lord is towards the disciples, how patient; yes, He reproves them, but He is always doing so out of a love so deep that it has no end.  God is so kind and patient towards us despite all our serious shortcomings.  Psalm 103 v13 says “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those that fear him.”  God sees all the things that are wrong with us – our laziness, our weak faith, our lack of love, our secret sins, our cold hearts and our prayerlessness, and what does he do?  He is full of what the Bible calls in Hebrew Ches-ed (Chesed) which the Reformers of the sixteenth century translated as a “loving-kindness full of the attributes of grace, benevolence, and compassion”.

Out of this loving-kindness comes amazing divine power!  Billions and billions of molecules are rearranged and suddenly there is a dead calm.  Winds may drop but a storm-tossed body of water takes a long time to drop.  In a second all is quiet, all is still.  Such is the power of the divine word.  It utterly transforms their circumstances.

What is the disciples’ reaction?  They are even more afraid!  What’s the answer to fear? More fear!  Psalm 111:10 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“.  In Mark’s gospel this is early on in Jesus’ ministry.  The disciples have seen Jesus teach with an authority they have not experienced and heard before.  They have seen Jesus heal people, again things they have not seen before.  You would have thought that they would have fully realised that they were in the presence of an awesome person.  But through this incident in their life it begins to dawn on them who this ordinary-looking man asleep in the boat is.  When they left the boat they knew him more than when they got in.  Isn’t that what we need?  To know the Lord more, to love him more, and to pray to him more.  For as the Puritan preacher Thomas Goodwin says, “The person who knows Christ best is the person who will pray best.”

So how are you going to get to know God better?

Prayer:

Lord God, you know that we are in the midst of such dangers and that we cannot always stand upright because of the frailty of our nature: grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations so we get to know you better, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Based on a sermon first delivered on 9th August 2020

Understanding suffering

Suffering, – what is that all about? Many ask “Why does God allow it?  After all, isn’t He a God of love?”

Well, in my life, which is no different to many others, I have experienced suffering on numerous occasions.  Often self-inflicted through my own wilful nature, many other times simply because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time or I was caught up in circumstances beyond my control.

I remember when we told some friends that our unborn child was going to be born with a major heart defect, they quickly said “How could God let this happen to you, especially as you are training for ordained ministry?”  My response was, “Why not us?  Why should I expect God to treat me any differently from the next person?”

It is not to say that I haven’t asked those questions, but there is no easy answer.  Even though the situation ended in the death of our son John I can truthfully say I’ve never felt angry with God, but I’ve often wondered “why me?”. I think we all feel this in suffering and fear.

The Bible does not shy away from suffering and I think that the story of Joseph in the Old Testament can be of real help here.  It shows us very clearly that God’s ways in suffering are mysterious and far, far, beyond our understanding.  I have found personally that the more I see of God’s plans the more mysterious they are.  And I shouldn’t be surprised about that because in the Bible God says “my thoughts are not your thoughts and nor are my ways your ways” (Isaiah 55:8).  God doesn’t tell us to try and understand what’s going to happen to us:  He just asks us to trust Him.  We are the clay and He is the Potter.

One important truth that the story of Joseph reveals is that Christians should expect life to bring them thorns as well as roses.  While Joseph wasn’t perfect (he boasted to his brothers) in general he tried to live the virtuous life.  It would have been easy to succumb to temptation when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him.  He rightly resists – and is promptly “rewarded” by being slung into jail.  The irony of it!  Jesus invites us to take up our cross daily and follow him.  Don’t forget the cross was a symbol of torture.  The Prosperity Gospel message that Christians should always expect good health, wealth and happiness is no gospel: it’s a lie from the enemy.

Another truth is that God’s timing is perfect.  God is always teaching me things about His character.  Something I’m not always that good at is patience.  This tends to be around the things I selfishly want to do for myself.  I want to get out there and go for a ride on my motorbike… but things can get in the way.  Joseph had to wait 24 years between being sold into slavery before he could reveal himself to his brothers.  Oh, there must have been many times when he yearned to be free.  Whilst in jail he helped Pharaoh’s cupbearer interpret his dream – only to be promptly forgotten by the man who had promised to put a good word in for him to the King.  The cupbearer promised to help so Joseph was most probably eagerly expecting to hear the key in the door of his cell for his release.  For two long years nothing happened because the cupbearer had forgotten him. But, GOD hadn’t forgotten him, and nor will God ever forget us, even when we are in a dungeon of suffering.

A third truth is that we can see how God turns evil for good.  When, after their father’s death, Joseph’s brothers plead with him for mercy he reassures them: “you meant selling me into slavery for evil against me, but God used it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Where else do we ultimately see God using evil for good?  At the cross.  Joseph can be seen as a “type” of Christ, like a signpost to Jesus.  Like Christ, Joseph is betrayed by his brothers, sold for 20 pieces of silver, unjustly sentenced for something he didn’t do and he is “resurrected” from prison to be the saviour of multitudes.  I find this so helpful.

Yet Satan wanted the death of our son to stir up angry emotions in me that would be vented towards God in a destructive way.  He wanted me to lose faith and turn from the vocation God had placed on me.  But I believe that God has used our son John’s death for good.  By sharing our story, comfort, encouragement and hope have been received by the listeners.  For throughout John’s short life he was an amazing witness for God.  Barbara and I have a certainty that John gave His all for God which we saw in countless different ways; in a variety of ways he touched the heart of all who met him with joy. 

One thing suffering does is it makes us vulnerable, and vulnerability can open people up to hear about the man we have found so helpful – Jesus Christ.  I am sure that this is true for many of you.  However, if you feel this isn’t true for you, look for Jesus in your suffering.  You will find Him, and you can put your hand into His hand.  We simply don’t understand all that has happened to us, but of this Christians can be sure: that ultimately we are all part of God’s plan, and I believe that you and I will only know the true extent of the part we’ve played in that plan when we meet Him face to face in heaven.  So we have to seek God’s face on a regular basis to ensure that we are on the right path, continuing to walk in the plans God has for us.  Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?  I think that we will only get a full answer to that question when we are in heaven, for when we are there everything will suddenly drop into place and we will fall to our knees in love, amazement and praise to the one Triune God.  As we are on our knees, we won’t need to ask any questions – we will just know!

One day we will bless completely, through praise and adoration, the hand that has blessed us throughout our lives.  In the meantime, we must like a small child place our hand by faith in the hand of Almighty God, trusting that He has everything under control even when all seems lost and desperate.

Let us pray:

Lord God, the unfailing helper and guide of those whom you bring up in your unmovable fear and love, keep us, we pray, under the protection of your good providence and give us a continual reverence and love for your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Based on a sermon delivered on Sunday 21st June 2020

Living Faith

Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

Many people blame God for the bad things they read, see and hear about in the world and in their life.  And today is no exception.  I’m sure that you could find many naysayers blaming God for our present lockdown.  But should we do this, blame God, especially for things we don’t fully understand? 

It seems we are quick to blame God when things don’t turn out the way we think they should.  But if we haven’t included God in our plans, if we’ve left no room for Him in our lives, and gone our own sweet way, why should we expect God to help us?  Should we not be surprised when unexpected and painful things happen?

This got me thinking about the role of faith in God. Hebrews 11:6 says this about faith…

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Taken by itself, this verse tells us that God’s first and foremost concern for us is with our personal faith.  God can be described with one word – relationship.  He knows us and He wants us to get to know Him.  In the same way, we only get to know others by entering into a relationship with them.

So this verse from Hebrews 11 is about our attitude towards God and our trust in Him.  No relationship works or lasts long without these two ingredients; a healthy attitude based on God’s generous character, and our trust in God’s generous character.

But know this: faith is so much more than our actions.  Yes, our behaviour is important, because what we do reflects what we truly believe (James 2:14–17), but God is not looking for people who merely “go through the motions”.  God is not looking for simple agreement, and definitely He is not looking for reluctant cooperation.

Let’s take a quick look at what James 2:14–17 says.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Some might say that this is at odds with Paul’s teaching on faith and works, because at first glance, James’s statements concerning faith and works seem to contradict Paul’s message.

Later in 2:24, James declares that “a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”  But in Romans 8, Paul wrote that “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” This raises a critical question: Are Christians saved by faith in Jesus alone or by faith combined with their own efforts?  It is important to note that these men were not as far apart as the above quotes seem.  James and Paul knew each other.  They were both major contributors at the first church council in Jerusalem, which assembled specifically to address the relationship between faith and works.  Acts 15, tells us that they arrived at a consensus.

It’s all about understanding how Paul and James use the word “justification”; they use it in different ways. The word can mean “declared to be in right standing” or “displayed to be right standing.” Paul used the first sense.  God declares an individual to be in right standing with Him upon the basis of faith alone, as occurred with Abraham in Genesis 15:6.  James used the second sense.  The implication of this is that a person’s faith is shown to be legitimate when their outward works display the inward change that has taken place as a result of their conversion.  The upshot is this: faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone, it should lead one on into good works and so lead you to display a godly lifestyle that brings glory to God.

Therefore, for our faith to be real God is looking for us to simply place our faith in who He is, believing that He exists, believing that He sent his Son to die to save us from our sin, believing that He has plans and purposes for us as individuals, as His church and as a nation.  When we begin the journey to live our faith in God in this way it will reveal to others the glory of God.

So how are we to act and live in faith?  We are to act in faith on the basis of the knowledge of God that we profess.  The implications of this is that for all those who have heard the Gospel are responsible for the way they respond to it.  You see, relationships only work when you put your own personal effort in to it.  So, as you work at seeking God, through His Son Jesus, and follow Jesus’ example, your faith will grow, and as it does it will please God.  It will be like a sweet and pleasant smelling fragrance to Him. 

At this time, be bold, deepen your relationship with God.  Even dare I say, enter into a new relationship with God, because when you come to Him in belief that He exists you will find that He is always there for you, and He will reward you with many blessings of life, with wholesome attitudes, and a peace to your heart and soul that passes all understanding.  Then you will start to live a prosperous life for God as you both know His will for you and fulfil His will for the beautiful life He has given you.

So “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (including faith shown through your loving actions towards others) will be given to you as well.”  (Matthew 6:33).

Based on a sermon from 10th May 2020

Jesus – The Messiah

Matthew’s Gospel demonstrates over and over again that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Over and over again He points out all the prophecies that He fulfilled.  His genealogy tracing back to David, being born of a virgin, being born in Bethlehem, going to Egypt and then to Nazareth.  Being confirmed by the Father and the Holy Spirit at His baptism and His later transfiguration.

He had the correct supernatural message and proved His deity over and over again by demonstrating complete power over all disease, sickness and other physical afflictions, including death. He had absolute authority over both the natural and supernatural. He even had authority to forgive sins. Jesus fulfilled all of the Mosaic Law and taught the true meaning of that Law with an authority that they had not seen before. 

So when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, described in Matthew chapter 21, the crowds shout,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Did the people really understand what they were saying?  No doubt what they were shouting was true, but I don’t think that they really fully understood it or believed it.  They were still looking for a king who would save them from Roman oppression, not someone who would bring them salvation from the oppression of satan and sin.

What an opportunity for those present that day to say something about Jesus to those who were looking on. You see, those in the crowd praising Jesus and shouting, “Hosanna,” were either from Galilee where Jesus had done the majority of His miracles, or they were the ones present when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  These people had seen so much evidence demonstrating who Jesus was, they had heard Him teach in a way no mere man could teach. Yet, instead of boldly proclaiming Him the Son of David, the Messiah, the promised one, this was reduced to “the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).

True, Jesus was a prophet, but He was so much more than that, and they failed to recognise it. The King of Kings was there.  The prophecies were fulfilled.  The Messiah had come and… they had even shouted that out themselves, yet they still failed to truly discern who He was.

There is not much difference today. People say all sorts of true things about Jesus, but many, including those who call themselves Christian, do not really believe it.

Some call Jesus a great teacher, yet they do not study what He taught nor follow His teachings.

He was a great example, but they do not follow it.

Many people claim Jesus as their Saviour, yet are still busy striving to save themselves through whatever means by which they think they can earn it.

We cannot earn His favour; it comes by His grace:

“Not by works which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:5-6)

Some people, convicted of a need for Jesus, claim to love Him, yet they refuse to give up their sin and really follow Him 24/7. Such people are liars because Jesus Himself said in John chapter 14:

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’

There are others that may even really believe Jesus is who He claims to be, but out of fear, they will not share this belief with others.

I am sure there were those in the crowd that did think Jesus was the Messiah, but were afraid to say so for fear of the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees.

Do not let that fear control you, if you do, it says a lot about what your really do believe, namely that Jesus is not worthy of your being possibly persecuted and ridiculed.

Jesus gives us a stern warning,

“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:33).

Particularly at this time don’t be like the fickle crowd that surrounded Jesus that day, proclaiming one thing but not acting in accordance with what you say. If you know Jesus, then boldly proclaim Him to everyone.  Don’t forget you are called to be a living Bible.

(Based on a sermon from Palm Sunday, 5th April 2020)

Godliness

Godliness

Week 6 of a series examining Christian virtues

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This week we examine the virtue of Godliness, in our walk through the Christian virtues identified by Peter, (2 Peter 1:5-11).

Peter begins this brief letter to Christians by reminding us that we are fully equipped to lead the life to which God has called us.  However, we must work to add to our faith Christ’s goodness and His other powerful positive supernatural qualities to our lives. This requires effort, unlike eternal salvation which is not based on our work. If we lack these positive attributes of God, we will live as unproductive and ineffective servants of God.  Thus, we will be nearly as blind as unbelievers, and likely to forget that our confessed sins are forgiven.

This means that as Christians we have by faith become participants in God’s divine supernatural nature.  Therefore, as we see in verse 5, we must “make every effort” to add a list of Christ-like qualities to our faith. And these Christ-like qualities need to be taken together, for they fully describe the life of a Christian who is participating in God’s supernatural divine nature. I believe that there is a logical order to these characteristics, because each one is a necessary requirement for the quality which follows.  

First, since we have been equipped to live like Jesus, we must work to add goodness, (or “moral excellence”)to our faith. This means that we will work to do good, by God’s power, in the world now, as Jesus would if He were in our place. This goodness becomes the foundation for the rest of these qualities.

We are also to add knowledge. This is a deeper understanding of our God, through His Word, and prayer, which informs our goodness. Merely wanting to do good is not enough; we learn to know what good is by knowing God.

Next, we must add self–control. Without the ability to control ourselves, our knowledge of good, and the desire to do it, are both worthless. Self-control is the moment-by-moment restraint of our fleshly urges. This is the ability to make the right choice, in those moments when temptation strikes us.

Then we must add perseverance. Perseverance is the ability to practice self–control over time. Our sprints of doing good are to turn into marathons. Our moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-day choices are eventually to transform us to live supernatural divine lifestyles. Perseverance, therefore, is the ability to maintain self-control, even when the pressure of temptation continues to attack us.

Next, we add godliness. This keeps our goodness from being merely human goodness, for we are to chase after a moral excellence which reflects the supernatural divine nature of God Himself, and not the temporary, earth–bound “goodness” of the flesh. 

According to my Young’s concordance, the word “godliness” occurs 14 times in the New Testament, (in the Pastoral Letters of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and 2 Peter), with most occurring in 1 Timothy.  Like Peter, Paul sees that godliness is no static, stained-glass word. It is active.  It is a kinetic obedience that springs from a reverent awe of God. It is the Isaiah-like action that has a person, so awestruck by God that they rise from their face saying, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Awe — THEN action! So Godliness is not piety as is often thought — upturned eyes and folded hands. It cannot be cloistered in church buildings because the godly among us are those people whose reverent worship of God flows into obedience throughout the week as they complete the good works that God has prepared for them to walk in.  Remember, God only has good plans and purposes for us.

How do we know if we’re walking in these Godly plans and purposes?  One way is to look at what we believe God is calling us to do and to ask our self, “Do these things come into line with God’s truth?”, “Are these the sort of things Jesus would do if He were here now?”  If the answer is “No”, then it’s best not to do them and seek God’s counsel for clarification.  Often such counsel is best done in fellowship with other Christians through worship, bible study, discernment and most importantly prayer.

One thing that will increase our desire for godliness is our diet.  And I don’t mean eating our 5 portions of fruit and veg a day!  What I mean is our spiritual diet.  Paul in 1 Timothy 4:6-7 writes that to be a good servant of Christ Jesus you will have to be trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that comes from such words.  This means we are not to have anything to do with irreverent and distracting false ideologies that twist God’s Word, and so twist His character into something He is not in order to suit the ears of the listener.

As Paul encourages Timothy and us, and as Peter encourages us, we are to be continually fed with the content of the gospel and apostolic teaching, because nourishment in the Word is essential to us being “a good servant.” The most effective Disciples of Jesus Christ are those who persevere as students of the Word and in fellowship with other believers, for their whole life. All the Apostles were repeatedly adamant about this too.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

So to conclude:

Godliness has as its central meaning a life of active obedience through the individual’s faith in God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  (1 Tim. 3:16;  Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory). 

The secret, therefore, of the godly life is letting God reveal Himself to us through Jesus Christ.  Therefore, godliness is basically following Jesus in this life (Titus 2:12; It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age).

Scripture presents godliness as a Christian goal to be earnestly sought after (1 Tim. 2:2; that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Tim. 4:7-8; Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come), even if it leads to persecution, (2 Tim. 3:12; In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted).

And we need to understand that godliness and sound doctrine are closely related, so godliness is about knowing the truth of who God is as revealed to us through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.  The blessing of this is that as we grow in godliness we will experience and know better the supernatural divine power of God in us, both individually and corporately, for in Christ we have all we need to live the life God calls us to live.