Saturday, May 28, 2011

THIS OLD HOUSE

Introduction


In Glasgow Scotland there once were rows and rows of old tenement buildings. These old brick buildings used to house the workers in the hay-day of Clydeside shipbuilding. As the shipbuilding industry died a death in Scotland so did these buildings. They became slums – good only for the wrecking ball! And so whole communities were disrupted as the demolition crews moved in.

Whole communities such as the Gorbals were demolished! The displaced people became known as the “Glasgow overspill.” There was social upheaval – social unrest. Then someone had a brainwave. Instead of destroying the community why don’t we renovate? And so rows and rows of old tenement buildings were spared. After renovation people flocked to these buildings wanting to live in these communities. It’s amazing what can be done with an old house.

If you were an old house, what do you think could be done with you? Do you think you should be condemned as unsafe? Or do you think you could be renovated to become a home fit for royalty? Well, in terms of the Bible, all mankind is standing like rows of condemned houses. We are like derelict and dilapidated buildings with broken windows and leaky roofs. We stand covered in grime and soot awaiting the wrecker’s ball. But God has decided to spare some of us. He has decided to renovate us! He has purchased us and He is forming a new community. So let’s consider some of the work the Lord is doing as He renovates us.



Walls Removed

There has been a solid brick wall built up between you and God. Of course this wall was demolished when you were converted. For when God began His renovation in you, He removed that wall. How did that wall get there? Well, sin built a wall between you and God. You inherited your house from your great, great… grandfather Adam. Adam was the master plan for every house that was to come after him. And he was the one that built the wall that separates each of us from God. His design was passed down from generation to generation. Therefore you live in a house with a wall separating you from God.

However, when God moved into you (ie, the Christian’s) house, the wall of the carnal mind which is enmity against God was torn down. Romans 8;7 says, “The carnal mind is enmity against God...” “Enmity” is something that separates. Enmity is a barrier, a wall. And as the walls of Jericho came a tumbling down, God levels that wall in you first off. Then He begins to patiently clear away the dust and rubble of that wall.

There’s another wall that needs to be torn down. The wall between you and your brother and sister in Christ. Scripture says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28. There may be racism, social distinction, sexism in the world outside, but there is to be none of it in Christ’s church. Each of us has our different roles to play in the church and in society, but we are not to despise others because of their station in life.

In New Testament times, the Jews despised the Gentiles and called them dogs! But when a Jew and a Gentile were converted they became as one. “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition...” Ephesians 2:14. However, the wall between you and your non-Christian neighbor stays in place. If you’ve ever renovated a house, you’ll know about “supporting” walls. A supporting wall cannot be removed unless you want the house to fall down. It’s kind of like our spine – we need it to keep us upright.

It was Adam who erected the wall between you and God. This wall is taken away by Jesus Christ. But it was God who put the wall in place between the Christian and the non-Christian. The Lord said to the serpent in the Garden after Adam fell, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:15.

The “Seed” of the women is of course Christ, Galatians 3:16. And since the “seed of the serpent” are all the non-elect, it means that there is a barrier between those who are of Christ and those who are of the world. Jesus says, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of this world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18, 19.

Therefore, the wall between the Christian and the world has to remain or Christianity crumbles. Christians need to be aware that it’s not a flimsy plasterboard partition. It is a load-bearing wall. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this where he says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.

So we’ve then seen a couple of walls removed in the “old house” which is the Christian’s body.



Wires Replaced

What we’re talking about here is the rewiring of the mind. You wouldn’t renovate an old house without rewiring it. If you’re going to think the thoughts God wants you to, you’ll need a new electrical system. Scripture says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2.

You used to be wired according to the system of this world. But now you’ve been rewired to accommodate a power way stronger than the power in the world. You can now do things that you couldn’t before. You now have the power to glorify God. Before your regeneration and subsequent conversion you didn’t have the power to do any spiritual good. Sin had tripped the breaker, blown the fuse. Sin had broken the connection with God. But now God has come into your house and is busy rewiring.

Now you have the ability, not only to understand the will of God, but to obey and do it. Where before, you were at best like a Pharisee able only to keep God’s Commandments outwardly. Now you can say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. This means that sin has no power over you. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never sin again. It does mean that sin has lost its dominion over you. Your sin used to rule in your old house like a tyrant. But now that the Lord has begun His renovations you are back in control.

Your mind that was once controlled by sinful impulses is now capable of resistance. Those sinful cravings can now be resisted by the power of God in you. If you were a glutton, for instance, the Lord has given you back control of your appetite. If you were a drunkard the Lord has empowered you to control your drinking. Paul says to the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you.” 1 Corinthians 6:10 & 11.

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The Lord is able to save even the vilest of sinners from their sins. He does so through regeneration and conversion whereby the power of Christ and His cross is, by the Holy Spirit, transferred to the Christian’s old house.

But this old house needs to be rewired to accommodate that power. You need to be converted from Alternating Current to Direct Current. The difference between AC and DC is this: Alternating Current means just that, that the current alternates back and forth, whereas Direct Current flows constantly in one direction only.

So then, before your conversion from AC to DC you would flip flop back and forward over things. You were like the children mentioned by Paul, who were “Tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men...” Ephesians 4:14. But the Holy Spirit has rewired the old house in which you live.

Conversion from AC to DC was complete when you were hooked up to the new power generator. The living, active and powerful Word of God is hidden in your heart like a battery in a watch. The Holy Spirit has flicked the switch and enabled you to welcome Christ into your home.

While running on this new power source you heard a knock at your door. You recognized the voice of the Lord and He came into your home to dine with you (Revelation 3:20). Things are still a bit of a mess in your house – what, with a couple of walls removed.

And when there are wires being replaced it can look like spaghetti for a while. In fact you’re embarrassed the Lord has come to visit and the place in such a mess. But don’t ever forget the reason why the Lord has come to your house. He has come to renovate and He will clean up the mess. And the Lord will keep on renovating and cleaning up the mess until the job is completed. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1.

But what about all those grime covered and broken windows?



Windows Repaired

An old building wouldn’t be an old building without its grime-covered windows smashed. The world has been throwing mud and stones at you all your life. But the Lord is repairing your windows.

What are windows for? Windows are for letting in air and light, and seeing out of. However, they also let out light, don’t they? When the Lord turns on the power in the Christian’s house the lights come on. If Christ the Light of the world comes, by His Spirit, to live in your home it stands to reason that the lights will come on. A Christian house with all the lights on is warm and inviting on a cold dark night.

Now, Australia is a strange place at Christmas time. The sun is splitting the concrete in the streets. Even though it’s the middle of summer the Christmas cards are covered in snow! Therefore no matter where you love you’ve all seen the little house with the warm glow emanating from it. The one with the snow-covered roof that looks all warm and cozy inside. It would be a lie to tell you that the Christian’s heart is always like the house in that picture. However, there is a peace that transcends all understanding in the Christian’s heart. And that peace comes across to those who are on the outside looking in.

Where there were once panes of glass that couldn’t be seen through, there is now a welcoming warmth emanating out into the surrounding world. It’s a place of rest and refreshment for weary travelers. Why? It’s because Jesus, the Light of the world, lives in that house by His Spirit. He is the One who is breaking down the walls. He is the One who is rewiring your home. He is the One who doesn’t want you hiding your light under a basket. He is the One who says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

If someone came to you with a heavy problem would you try to hide Jesus in the closet? Would you say, “Quick Jesus, in here! There’s someone at my door!”? No! It might very well be that the person has seen the light on in your home on a cold and dark night, when everyone else in the street had gone to bed so to speak.

And when the Lord repairs our windows we begin to see the world through different eyes. We begin to see the enmity between the world and the kingdom of God. We begin to see the forces of darkness at work. We begin to see the battle between light and darkness.

We see it in the political arena. We see it in the state schools. We see it in the streets. We see it on the TV – on the radio – and in the newspapers. We see clearer and clearer the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman.

The world wants to engulf the light of the Lord in its darkness. So we see the abortionist demanding the right to murder little babies. We see the homosexual demand the right to practice sodomy. We see the homosexuals pushing to lower the age of consent as they eye up our children. And what are some Pedophiles? Simply homosexual men who also prey on little children!

But never forget that the Lord is more than able to save even the vilest of sinners. However, when the Lord repairs your windows you are able to see the vileness of sin in the world outside – the sin that at one time had overcome your heart. But thank the Lord that you are able also to see the kingdom of God. Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. To have the Lord renovating your old house is to be born again which is to be converted. And when, by the grace of God, you are converted you see the world in a different light.

I began by talking about the old derelict tenement buildings in Glasgow being renovated. And we used that as a picture of the individual Christian being renovated by God. But let’s not miss an important point – as we begin to tie things together.

Christians tend to be a bit too individualistically minded. In other words we tend to act as single people. But in Glasgow whole communities were renovated, not just individual houses. And so it is with us – we are part of a renovated community – a Christian community. We are a community within a hostile community. The world with all its false religions and philosophies setting themselves up against God.

Now, Jesus says that we are to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every nation. It seems to me that the local churches have been doing this in their communities. However, I believe a strange thing has been happening. Because the churches have been so busy out there campaigning, they’ve been neglecting the upkeep of their houses, even their own Christian community.

It’s good and Scriptural that we reach out to the lost and dying in the world. But what about the Christian home? Scripture says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10. So it’s right that we seek to do good to our non-Christian neighbour, but it is clearly wrong to neglect our own household. In fact it makes you worse than an unbeliever if you neglect your local church. Scripture says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8.

A neglected house becomes dilapidated. A row of neglected houses becomes a slum. And a slum becomes ready for the wrecking ball.

At present the Presbyterian Church of Australia, along with many other churches, is obsessed with outreach in the community. On the surface this looks good. It’s good to care about winning the lost – but what’s really happening? Well, like any army on a campaign overseas, the home front becomes weak and prone to attack. The enemy has been busy on the Home Front – busy swinging the wrecking ball. Whole Christian communities are being demolished rather than renovated.

And how does the enemy swing the wrecking ball? He does it by talking Christians into removing supporting walls. Do you remember that the Lord has put a wall between us and the world? Well, the enemy wants that load-bearing wall to come down. Remove that one and the building is liable to collapse and destroy everyone in it!

The enemy swings the ball by filling churches with people desiring to have their ears tickled. The Devil is filling the Lord’s Church with people who have no interest in sound Biblical preaching – as more and more churches become like the world to attract the world. Then the Christian community becomes a slum.

However, the Lord is in the business of renovating. He can even rebuilt run down Christian communities. He can remove walls. He can renew wires. He can replace windows.



Conclusion

I don’t want to live in a slum – do you? So let’s encourage our brothers and sisters in the faith. God has renovated you the individual along with others. He has renovated our whole church community. Your number one priority is to build up your brother and sister in the faith to the glory of God. Therefore live as God wants you to live at peace with your Christian neighbor in a God-glorifying community. The Lord will draw others into your community as He spares other houses from the wrecker’s ball.

If all the old houses the Lord has renovated were gathered into one place, what a picture that would be. Think of it, all those little lights making up one greater light – the church. Now picture this on the top of a hill on a cold and dark night. What a sight this would be to a traveler wearied by this world.

Look around, people are sick to the back teeth with crime in the community. They’re sick of people spray-painting slogans on their walls. They’re sick of break and enters. They’re sick and tired of criminals getting away with murder. They don’t want their neighbourhood to become a slum. The whole nation is becoming weary of it all.

We have the answers! Can’t you see? The harvest is white so shine the light. But make sure there are walls where there should be walls. But also make sure there are no walls where they shouldn’t be. Make sure the wires are able to handle the power of the Lord. And finally, make sure the windows are clean. Make sure you can see the world outside. But make sure that the world can see the lights on in your home.

Isn’t it amazing what the Lord can do with an old house?

Monday, May 16, 2011

WEDDINGS FIRST & LAST

Excerpted from my e-book "Disembark the Ark"

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006WTDLRC/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

I've now had the privilege of walking my three daughters down the aisle and presenting them to their husbands to be. I also had the privilege of marrying each of them to their respective husbands. I don’t know which wedding number the final one was on the long list of weddings that have taken place since the beginning. The very first wedding took place on day six of ‘Creation Week.’ Of course, like every other wedding, this wedding was special. But unlike every other wedding since then, this wedding was even more special. For God had first to build the woman He was going to give to the man!

It was no problem for the eternal God to bring into being the whole of creation out of nothing. He simply spoke and things that were not became things that are. He formed Adam from the dust of the ground, and showed Adam all the birds and animals. Adam named them all. Thus Adam could see that not even a chimpanzee was comparable to him. As Scripture says, ‘But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.’ Genesis 2:20b. Chimps, cats, dogs, and budgies might be good company, but who wants to marry one? Each according to its kind! The very first wedding is prefaced with the following: ‘And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”’ Genesis 2:18. Marriage is very good because God instituted it because it was ‘not good that man should be alone,’ and also because at the end of that very first wedding-day we read these words, ‘Then God saw everything He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.’ Genesis 1:31.

‘And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.’ Genesis 2:21. Back in the 60s and 70s cloning was the stuff of science fiction. Then in the 90s some son of Adam named a Scottish sheep ‘Dolly.’ This sheep was special. It was the first cloned animal to survive – for a wee while. Why then should anyone think it strange that the first woman was ‘built’ from a man’s rib? ‘Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made [lit. built] into a woman, and He brought her to the man.’ Genesis 2:22. Then the LORD God - as her heavenly Father - walked Eve down the aisle and presented her to Adam. Then He married the two. And just as there are wedding speeches today, so the very first wedding speech was uttered by Adam who waxed poetic and said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Genesis 2:24. Adam knew exactly what the woman was. And they both knew that they could now lawfully also reproduce themselves, for Scripture says, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’ Genesis 2:24. ‘Leave and cleave’ is how we put it nowadays. And so we see that marriage was instituted in the beginning by the LORD God Himself.

It is interesting to note that Jesus performed His very first miracle – attesting to the fact that He was the Son of God in the flesh – at a wedding. As the LORD God transformed the dust of the ground into a man, and the rib of the man into a woman, so Jesus transformed into wine the water in six large water-pots (of over twenty gallons each) filled to the brim (John 2:6-10). Why so much wine, especially since the wedding guests had polished off whatever wine there was till that point? That great Reformer, John Calvin, offers the following answer: ‘But it is wonderful that a large quantity of wine, and of the very best wine, is supplied by Christ, who is a teacher of sobriety. I reply, when God daily gives us a large supply of wine, it is our own fault if His kindness is an excitement to luxury; but, on the other hand, it is an undoubted trial of our sobriety, if we are sparing and moderate in the midst of abundance; as Paul boasts that he had learned to know both how to be full and to be hungry, Philippians 4:12.’

Nothing to everything, the dust of the ground to man, a man’s rib to a woman, and water wine, nothing is too hard for God. He can even transform a multitude innumerable, dead in its trespasses and sins, into the living Bride of Christ ‘that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.’ Ephesians 5:27. O to have our heavenly Father walk us down that aisle on the last day and present us to His Son! I love weddings! Such joyous occasions!

Friday, May 6, 2011

POLITICS & RELIGION

As in Scotland and Canada, so in Australia: a general rule of thumb is that politics and religion should be avoided in general conversation lest an argument ensue! What is a minister (whether political or religious) supposed to do? These are two of my favourite subjects! In the Christian-influenced West politics focuses mainly on State affairs and religion focuses mainly on Church affairs. Some refer to this as the ‘separation of Church and State’ by which term is meant that Church and State are sovereign spheres and operate as such.

Church and State are but two aspects of any one nation, i.e., one nation under God. These apply both tables of God’s Moral Law, but each in their respective sphere. The first four of the Ten Commandments focus on love for God and the last six deal with love for neighbour. Thus the summary of God’s Law is: Love God and your neighbour as yourself.

The nation that works best is one in which the Church and State are kept distinct but not separate. A nation is a family. It is also a political and a religious entity. It is one as the Triune God is one and it is many as God, the Triune God, is many. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct (not separate), so the spheres of Family, Church, and State are distinct (not separate). As in the Trinity, each sphere compliments and penetrates the others.

There are aspects of God’s Law that specifically apply to each of these three spheres, e.g., in the sphere of the Family it can be seen that the 5th, Honour thy father and thy mother, and the 7th, Thou shalt not commit adultery, have special application. In the sphere of the Church, e.g., the 2nd, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, the 3rd, Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain, and the 4th, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, have particular application. And in the sphere of the State, e.g., the 6th, Thou shalt not kill, the 8th, Thou shalt not steal, and the 9th, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour, have direct application. However, if a nation is to remain united (i.e., one as God is one), then it would do well in each sphere to encourage the keeping of the 1st, Thou shalt have no other gods before me, and the 10th, Thou shalt not covet.

To be sure, no one is saved by their keeping God’s Moral Law. Jesus Christ is our only Saviour. However, about nations Scripture says, ‘The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God’ Psalm 9:17; ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people’ Proverbs 14:34. It is the role of the State to reward good (righteousness) and punish evil (sin/crime). Whereas the Church holds keys, the State bears the sword. The former opens and closes Heaven to the nation’s citizens by the proclamation of the Gospel and the latter rewards good and punishes evil by upholding and enforcing the law.

Consider the 4th Commandment as an example of where the Commandments overlap at a national level. The State could ensure that its citizens are given opportunity to have quality family time as well as time to gather as the Church to worship God, simply by applying and enforcing Sunday as the national day of rest. Of course, essential services would need to remain open, fire, police, ambulance, hospitals, not to mention the cows needing to be milked and the chickens fed etc. Duties of necessity and mercy still need to be performed.

The 10th Commandment clearly demonstrates the need for the distinction between Church and State under God. The mere thought of the State trying to enforce this Commandment conjures up images of ‘thought police’ as illustrated by the present ‘Political Correctness’ movement’s stifling ‘free speech.’ This happens when a State forgets or rejects its Christian mandate. The Reformation, to lesser and greater extents, set the law-abiding citizens of Western nations free from interference from Church and State. Citizens of nations that turn their back on God’s Law and Gospel are destined to return to the type bondage the pre-Reformation people experienced.

A nation has many aspects, three of which are Family, Church, and State. The Church has many aspects, three of which are the governing bodies of the board of elders (or Session), Presbytery, and Assembly. The State has many aspects, three of which are local government, state government, federal government. The more these spheres, Family, Church, and State, work in harmony with God’s Law as their basis, the greater the freedom for that nation’s citizens. For then everyone learns and knows the difference between good and evil, because each sphere is operating from the same manual. And when everyone knows the difference between good and evil, then the Church can do its job more effectively, pointing sinners to the only Saviour of sinners, Jesus Christ. By far the most obedient citizens in any God-honouring nation are those that have been reconciled to God in Christ.

If we are to honour God at a national as well as an individual level we will need to think nationally and talk more about politics and religion, not less! ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you’ Matthew 28:19-20.