Category Archives: Preaching

Test #1: Are you pursuing fellowship with God and other believers?

Walking in the light and walking in the dark

3 Tests

We all understand the polemic of light and darkness. We understand that they exclude each other as a concept, and yet, when it comes to our spiritual walk, we seem to suggest that you can have both at the same time. To this, John has something to say.

I want to show, from 1 John 1, 3 tests for you to take, so that you can see whether you are walking in the light “as he is in the light”, or whether you are walking in darkness.

Often we define darkness over the absence of light. In 1 John 1:5 the Apostle John gives us a, somewhat surprising, summary of the message he heard from Jesus during his time on earth: “God is light, and in Him is darkness at all”. So, if God is light and you walk in darkness you are walking without God. That is a very serious issue. My concern is that many “christians” are walking without God, some permanently, others temporarily. I hope that you will take those three tests honestly and earnestly for yourself.

Today i will bring you the first of the 3 tests:

Test #1Are you pursuing fellowship with God and other believers?

Note with me how John in verse 6-7 shows two sides of this: in verse 6 he shows the person walking in darkness and in verse 7 the one walking in light.

The darkness walker:

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
(1Jo 1:6)

The darkness walker is lying with his life to others. If you are there, you are saying one thing (namely that you have fellowship with Jesus) but your life (your walk) disproves your words.

A recent poll revealed that about 80% of “unbelievers” (those that would term themselves as such) would summarize Christians with one word: hypocrites. A hypocrite is one that says one thing but does another. They are the “submarine Christians”, the one going under during the week just to surface again on Sunday. That’s walking in darkness. That’s lying to others about your life.

Some questions to expose such a walk:

  • Is your Sunday behaviour different from that during the week?
  • Do you tend to be a “lone ranger”, avoiding fellowship with unbelievers?
  • Do you hate and refuse accountability (“who are you to talk to me”)?
  • When speaking to other believers is your life always “fine”?
  • When you sinned, are you sharing it with someone else, or are you hiding it away?
  • Do you love the fellowship when the fellowship is there, but love your sin when the sin is there?

You cannot call yourself a child of God and remain walking in darkness. It is impossible, for the mere fact of verse 5, namely that God is light.

If you remain walking in this way you are like a Pharisee, and Jesus had much to say about them:

“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Mat 15:3-9)

Does this describe you? If it does then pull all the stops, call off your whole life, go down on your knees and beg God for forgiveness. Repent from it and turn away.

The light walker:

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1Jo 1:7)

Instead of running away from accountability and fellowship, this person is running towards it.

If you are such a person your Christianity is transparent and genuine. You are real and open, for everybody to read. You are walking your talk. Your lifestyle matches your doctrine. Your Sunday behaviour is nothing different from what the rest of the week is.

Some questions that speak of such a walk:

  • Do you love the fellowship and hate your sin so much that you would do anything just to get rid of it?
  • Do you love other believers and want to be around them all the time?
  • Do you pursue accountability?
  • Do you love the Word, the Bible, for its candor about you and it’s direction?
  • Are you being “cut to the bone” by it, or has it become bland?
  • Are you looking towards Christ for help and forgiveness in your sins?

The direction of the dark person was away from the light, away from accountability and fellowship. The light person has the opposite direction, namely:

“But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.”
(Joh 3:21)

You want to be “clearly seen”, you hate the masks and hypocrisies that come so easy for us. Do don’t walk in obscurity, somewhere in between chairs.

Remedies

Here are some practical ways how you can counter your darkness walking:

  • Pray: pray to God for light and a new desire. Ask Him to change your heart and open it up for correction. Only God can do such an operation.
  • Seek accountability: If you have strong Christian friends (or somebody you know) then ask them (or him/her) to hold you accountable. If you are a guy, choose a guy, it’s just a wiser way to do it because you will be able to share with inhibition or causing a sister to stumble. Girls should seek accountability with other girls, of course.
  • Pursue God: If you don’t have a quite time during your day, in which you spend time alone with God, make time for it. Don’t just make 5 minutes either, make it a time worth spending. You need a relationship with the one you proclaim again.
  • Spend much time in God’s Word, let it minister to your soul and seek Him in it.
  • Pursue fellow believers: if you are not in a discipleship relationship, find the most admirable believer and ask him if you can spend time with him/her. Think about becoming the person to disciple another, how must your life change for that be light and not darkness?

If you have more suggestions please make use of the comments section, i would live to hear more (as i am still learning here myself. I am still in need of this myself!)

Next time we will have a look at the second test: “Is your life marked by repentance?”

Keep walking in the light!

in Him.

t

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Musings on the N1, #1

This morning i read in John Piper’s devotional book “Taste and See” about the two sides of God, namely Love and … well Him being God. He speaks there about the problem that often we want one but leave the other, or, that we are out of balance, leaning towards one side.

It got me thinking about who God is, while driving to work.

I got stuck on Jesus being the creator of all things. I was musing the fact that this world seems nothing like what we would expect it to be. I was wondering about some doubts that are expressed by unbelievers (and us at times alike) when they say that “how can there be a God when the world looks like it is?” I used to scorn at this question.

Not that i have changed my basic position, but I see now the vast gap between what and who God is and what we and this world is. In this context this question is a vital one; or rather the answer to that question.

Let’s just think for a moment who God is:

God is perfect. That means everything He does, is and encompasses is flawless.

God is holy. That means He is absolutely different from us. He is not a man, but spirit. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways not our ways. His desires not our desires. He alone can make a claim to be worshipped. We worship Him because it is right.

God is good. That means that everything that happens under His control is for the good of everything (including you and me). It also means that nothing non-good can originate from Him. He is essentially good. We worship Him because it the best thing for us as well.

God is absolutely sovereign. That means that He is control of all things, at all times. Nothing in creation can stay His hand.

God is love. That means that God is longsuffering, out for the best of all of creation.

God is just. That means that no injustice exists with Him and His economy. It means that He can be forgiving as well as judging.

God is all-powerful (or omnipotent). That means that He can do everything He wants to do.

God is everywhere present (or omnipresent). That means that there is no place on this earth where God is not fully present in all His power and the rest of His attributes.

God is eternal. That means that for Him there is no past, present or future, everything happens at the same time.

God is also all-knowing (omniscient). That means there is nothing that evades his mind. He knows things before they happen (s.o).

God is a consuming fire. His holiness and perfection make Him unapproachable. He is fierce against ungodliness and His self proclaimed enemies.

God is righteous. That means He is not out there to trip people up. He is the defender of the helpless, the healer of the sick, the comforter of the lonely, the judge of the guilty, the avenger of the guiltless …

And many more things. Read your Bible.

Now. If we look at God how He picture Himself in Scripture, we see this amazing and pure God. The more we go one about His attributes the more awe struck we get (or should at least). He is everything that encompasses good, right, perfect and just.

Then the question this morning was: “why do I not see it in creation then?”.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Gen 1:31)

All things were created in accordance with His character. I look around me and is see the complete opposite of that. Car fumes hugging the city like a giant cheese lid. People driving as if they got bonuses from killing others. I live in a country where you can’t open the newspapers anymore because of all the crime and violence that is reported. People are dying around us because others just don’t care about life. Every day we read of rape, women in the 60s, women in their 40’s, women in their 20’s and yes, even babies. Every day you can get another story of a family wiped out house breaking thieves … just for the heck of it. You read of people getting shot 8 times just because they were cooperative.

You read and hear about failing marriages, globally. In some parts of the world you have a 50% divorce rate, steadily climbing. You have people stealing from friends, impregnating girlfriends, ruining campuses because the fees are too high, burning trains, leaving family behind, abandoning babies and children, cursing loved ones, hating each other and being hated, blowing themselves and 50 others to pieces because of a lie, selling women for pleasure, degrading the elderly because of “uselessness”. We have become so accustomed to throw everything away that we deem “useless” that our morality went as one of the first things. You have countries glory in the fact that they hate God, even though historically their very comfort zones bear witness to their foolishness. It truly is a global “and everybody did what was right in their own eyes” (like in the time of the Judges).

We have an economy of people that disregard, hate, malign, swear at, make fun, curse and flat out ignore their very maker. We have a society that reckons themselves to be “ok” just because they sit in a building with a guy sharing his twisted thoughts on world peace, or reading from the guestbook (as witnessed in a church in Germany).

We all believe that we are good people doing bad things, that good trees can produce bad fruit in its entirety.

We live in a world that reckons evil to be good and good to be evil, white to be black and black to be white. The trend today is to self-deification, i.e. ‘i make the rules’. We esteem intellectualism over mercy and in the process become fools, because we have become “wise in our own eyes”. Today, as super intellectuals, we have even “grown out of” the idea that things are mutually exclusive. In our “intellectual society” we glory in the fact that everybody can have their own absolute truth … or better yet, that there is no absolute truth at all (except that statement, of course). It is a world and society that lifts up its hands in sheer glee on its way to self-destruction.

Do get how that is SO different from who God is? Do you see how the question to “where is God” is really not that silly? I actually think it to be good sign, if somebody asks me that after i showed them God, because that means they understood what God is saying about Himself.

Yes, He is HOLY!

But why does God not interfere? Why does He not come down and rain hell on all this unrighteousness, selfishness, godlessness, murder and crime? Is He blind? Can he not see? Is He distant? Or maybe He is just “opium for the people”, a rationalisation of the desperate?

I will submit to you that God is doing something about it. In fact He is doing it right now. What He does is actually in complete accordance with His character. He remains just , He remains love. He is both God and love.

God is patient because He loves: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ” (2Pe 3:9)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. ” (Rom 1:18)

The wrath of God is already being revealed. He is busy judging people already by letting them do what they want to do (Rom 1:24). But His final judgment is still outstanding (c.f. Col 3:5-6, Rom 12:19).

So, God is being God and he shows His love by not just clean sweeping the whole place.

But what is He doing about this evil that we so easily cling to?

Instead of doing the just thing, by destroying all ungodliness, He chose to have Himself pay for our evil. He died, in His Son, on the cross for you and me, so we can go free and have a new life (a second chance, if you will). He makes us new creatures.

And it is in this that He does something about this place. What is that? Well, it’s the changing of the world by the changing of hearts; one by one. This changing is the faith in Jesus Christ, the exact image of God, the righteous creator and finisher of all things.

The question is, will you trust in this message, or do you keep on searching for “signs and wonders” that could show that God is really in control? He is in control, you know? But He works in ways we don’t expect it … in the microcosm.

Be encouraged to hang on to this in a time where hope seems a withering word, wiser and more happy generations once new.

In the supremacy of Christ in all things!

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looney tunes

I think as a believer one should at times listen to the many voices of unbelief and see how they mount their attacks on God, faith and us. Even better than that is to read the responses of serious believers that take things at their merit and don’t respond only emotionally.

If you have not yet heard of Hitchens here is a short intro to him.

After that read this response to his book. It’s great (Frank Turk thought so too).

As humans we are so easily sold for clever sounding arguments by people with British accents. We look at a guy that has a higher IQ and conclude that everything he says must be coated in gold.

Interestingly enough, in God’s economy it is not the wise or intellectual that receive His grace, but the foolish and lowly. Why? Because you are only created. You are not God, you do not deserve glory!

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1Co 1:26-29)

Ultimately, it is pride that gets the better of you, because HAVE BEEN GIVEN much BY GOD (…). You did not get your intelligence, it was given to you.

But you choose to waste your briliant mind on the things of this world, trying to find people to stroke your inflated ego like granny’s favourite kitten.

Watch this guy not getting it either. Apparently he managed to get about 23.000 people to ‘blaspheme the Holy Spirit’, in an attempt to reserve front row seats for the train to hell (www.blasphemychallenge.com). I just want to add this: your words do not mean anything!

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not uttering the words, but it is the willful rejection of the Gospel, over and over and over and over and over again … until your dead heart has grown accustomed to the taste of its foulness.

If you want to know what gets you, finally and ultimately away from God’s grace, read Hebrews 5:11-6:8. But then you have to taste first, something you don’t want to do … at least until God gets hold of you.

grace and peace

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From Gibeath-haaraloth to Jericho

Or, for all you English guys out there:

“From the hill of foreskins to the falling walls of Jericho”

Today we had David Beakley fill in for our usual Preaching Lab lecturer, who is struck down but not destroyed (sick). There is always great expectation in the air when Dave comes because he has the neck to turn a 1 hour class into a 2 hour sermon. He did not disappoint us ….

His aim was to show us how to principle-ize a passage. The passage we looked at was Joshua 5, the time when Israel had just miraculously crossed the Jordan and now every man needed to circumcised.

What came out in the observation section where questions like: “Why were the Canaanites so scared that they looked themselves up in Jericho?”, “why did God command all 605 000 men to be circumcised when they were supposed to fight the ‘giants’ in the land of promise?” and “why did the Canaanites not take this opportunity to slay Israel when they were at their weakest?”.

We looked at Genesis 17 (the Covenant of Circumcision) and observed how Abraham had to exercise faith by circumcising himself, at the age of 99, before he could receive the promise of an offspring (which happened a year later – i.e. Sarah had to be pregnant within the next 3 months).

We then went back to Joshua and noted that something similar was going on there. Israel stood at the entrance of God’s promise of land and nationhood. The new generation was not yet circumcised, as the previous 605 000 families had all died in the wilderness.

We drew the principle of “faith before possession of promise” out of this. But there is more to this.

Why did God literally cripple Israel’s army before they needed to fight? Don’t you want to have your men go into the battle when they are the strongest, fittest and most rested? Not with God. God wants us to be dependent and trusting in Him alone before we can make walls tumble.

This is , by the way, not the only time that God had done this. Just a book onwards (Judges 7), God told Gideon that his 32.000 strong army was too much to fight the Midianite Alliance (who were “like locusts in abundance, and their camels without number” – for illustration’s sake, let’s call it 1 million people). Eventually God sent 300 (!) men, armed with trumpets and pots (? – you just have to appreciate the humour in this!) to destroy the great army of the Medianites; well actually, God destroyed them in the end “lest they [Israel] should boast over me [God]”.

God needs us to be pure first before we get peace. He needs us to be like Him first before can receive His promises. That is now applicable to anything in life. This principle relates to my job, my marriage, my friendships, my ministry, my choices I make, my possessions, my health and sickness … fill in the blanks.

But what is that faith of both Abraham and Joshua (together with Israel)? It is expressed through obedience! Obedience keeps on walking and doing what God wants you to do. What does he want you to do? First, to trust Him alone (which is faith) and then to walk as he has walked (obedience). It’s all so closely connected.

Yes, obedience is hard. Yes it is painful. Yes it seems at times not to make sense. It is trusting in and looking to God at all times. You do not have any idea what is around the corner. Just as the circumcised Israelites did not know that the Canaanite’s hearts had melted and they had locked themselves up. I am sure that they, after being circumcised, must have battled with doubts over this action. They knew that they were prey ready for picking.

But, with God, we are always the strongest when we are the weakest, because then we absolutely have to trust in Him alone. All our strength is gone.

So, the principle we learned today is that if you want to stand on the gravel of Jericho you first have to stop at the hill of foreskins. Put simpler: the road to Jericho goes past Gilgal. Still simpler: before you will receive His many promises you have to be pure and obedient (note how that does not require any intellectualism or academic bling-bling).

Praise the Lord! I am so glad right now that this is His way of doing things, because currently I don’t know any more what to do next. But He says “stop here at Gilgal first before you receive my promises”.

Let us put our trust in Him alone and be obedient to His Word!

God is truly amazing and far greater than what we can fathom!

t

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