God’s purpose throughout all of time has been to redeem for Himself a people that are His very own. – Alistair Begg

Posts from 2009

This is eternal life… (John 17:3)

Throughout this year our attention has been on another of the Reformers, the Genevan Reformer John Calvin, it being the 500th anniversary of his birth. And so it is appropriate we give some highlights to him today being reformation Sunday.

Calvin has been described as ‘the reluctant but willing Reformer’. Though Calvin’s contributions to the Reformation are many, he is perhaps best known as the theologian of the Reformation, for it is Calvin, probably more than anyone else since the Apostles, who articulated in a systematic way biblical truth, and gave the robust undergirding to the faith of God’s people not only in that age but even to today. But don’t be fooled, he was no dry theologian. He was a Pastor and he taught theology with a view to the daily life of God’s people. Above all else Calvin was a passionate and compassionate pastor to the people of God whom he served throughout his life.

500th anniversary of the birth of the Genevan Reformer, John Calvin

This year of 2009ad marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Genevan Reformer, John Calvin. So it makes perfect sense to remember with thanksgiving the life and ministry of John Calvin, pastor and theologian of the Reformation, whose work continues to be influential in the church and world today.

The legacy he left behind included hundreds of sermons, commentaries on almost the whole Bible, a theology text book that is still referred to today, and countless tracts and letters. But even more than this he left behind lives which through his teaching have been brought to Christ and built up in Christ through the Word he expounded.

James (18) Our Greatest Privilege (James 4:8a)

What is the greatest privilege that you have as a Christian?

Is it forgiveness? Help? Heaven?…

As genuine and as great as all these are, what good are they without communion with God? This is the greatest gift that we have, and is the very essence of what it is to have eternal life as Jesus notes in John 17:3. A relationship with God. John calls it “fellowship” in 1 John 1:3. It is the rightful portion of all true believers. It is surely a wondrous and amazing gift of grace!

Elijah (20) …with encouragement (1 Kings 19:15-18)

In v.19 we read that Elijah comes out from the cave and reengages in God’s work. What a contrast! From dejection, defeat and crippling even deadly despair he comes out with resolve and purpose. Is that a spring in his step that we can see as he comes down from Horeb? I believe that is how we are to take it. He is moving out, but he is moving out with encouragement. There is no hint of reluctance, for we see that God does not need to continue to minter to him in terms of his despair.

Last week we saw that Elijah, having been refreshed and rested physically and nurtured and revitalised spiritually, was called by God to move on.

Encouragement

I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul’s place. I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you; but I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.” (Job 16:4-5)

Encouragement – how sweet it is when we receive it – especially if we are facing great pressures or overwhelming trials that threaten to overwhelm us.

James (17) Disturbing Trends (James 4:1-10)

Sometimes we have an idealised and romanticised view of life in the early church, with the result that it stands out against what we see in our day.

We tend to think that church life was less complicated in that it was easy to see the difference between the church and the world. As Earl Kelly describes this view: ‘They were a new people who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and sought to avoid the idolatry and immorality of the pagan world around them. For them the world was the world of sinful men whose rulers and put Jesus to death, and they naturally shunned worldly behaviour.’

The differences between the church and world may have been apparent shortly after Pentecost, but this awareness does not seem to have lasted for long. By the time James wrote Christians seem to have begun flirting with the world and needed to be warned against this disturbing trend.

Here James addresses disturbing trends within the early church, and the fact that God has contained them in the NT highlights that this would be a perennial problem for the church. To quote Kelly again, ‘If those who had had personal experiences with Christ needed such a warning, how much more do we who have had only faith experiences with Him need it.’

Elijah (19) MOVING ON (1 Kings 19:15-18)

It must have really been something in the days of the old sailing ships to be circumnavigating the globe, despite all the dangers and storms of such a journey, in what today seem such small ships. And yet for all the exhilaration one can only imagine the relief and joy that greeted such intrepid seamen when they returned to the safe harbour of home.

Upon returning from one of his globe‑encircling voyages, Sir Francis Drake, the great explorer, anchored his ship in the little Thames River. A dangerous storm arose and it seemed that his ship would flounder. Someone standing nearby heard him say through gritted teeth, ‘Must I who have escaped the rage of the ocean be drowned in a ditch?’ Such was the shock of having weathered the dangers of life at sea, to suddenly find their ship faltering in a place of considered safety.

Elijah (18) Spiritual Reality (1 Kings 19:9-18)

The Lord comes to Elijah who was not where he should be, was not doing what he should’ve been doing, but lay beneath the broom tree crippled by spiritual depression, seeking to be released from his burden by death.

The Lord’s response to Elijah in the depth of his despair was not one of disgust, aggression nor of rebuke. As Charles Swindol says, ‘There was no sermon. No rebuke. No blame. No shame. No lightning bolt from heaven, “Look at you! Get up, you worthless ingrate! Get on your feet! Quickly back on the job!”’

James (16) Wisdom’s Garden (James 3:18)

Like the rest of James, chapter 3 has proved to be a very challenging chapter.

Who among us does not have trouble with the tongue? Who among us has not been affected by the wisdom of our age so that we find ourselves sometimes expressing a ‘wisdom’ that is not from above?

It is a chapter that looks deeply at our motives, and one which calls us to respond to the grace and love of God in a more consistent godly manner. James has been calling us to ‘Make your choice!’

This week we come to what James sees as the key to wisdom’s effectiveness. James is saying that you can know you have wisdom by the way in which you use it. That key is “peace”.

Spritual Cataracts

It’s as if Elijah had spiritual cataracts rapidly develop across his heart so that his spiritual sight had become cloudy.

Previously he did not doubt the presence and activity of God in the quiet, in the small and even hidden ways. But now, having experienced a public display in which even the ungodly were constrained to shout “Behold the Lord He is God!’ that perception seems lost to him.