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The Holy Spirit and Evangelism!

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The way, the truth and the life!

To evangelize is to take the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to each and every lost soul. In order to accomplish such an enormous and difficult task, the presence and help of the Holy Spirit are essential. Without me, says the Lord, you can do nothing. Propaganda efforts, material investments, gifted preachers, stirring speeches, even the response of the masses, are nothing without the effective intervention of the Spirit of God.

Having entrusted the great commission to His disciples, Jesus tells them not to leave Jerusalem before receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, through whom they will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:4, 8). Had He not already told them in the upper room: “The Spirit of truth … will bear witness to me; and you, too, will be my witnesses” (Jn. 15:26-27)?

Let us see why the action of the Spirit is so necessary.

1. The Holy Spirit Convinces of Sin: God has promised to speak to each man’s heart and conscience. We work from without, while He works from within. Jesus promises that the Comforter will convict the world of sin because people do not believe in Him (Jn. 16:8-9). we can accuse a man in the name of the law and produce a feeling of terror in him, but this is not true repentance. Only the Comforter, without hardening a man’s heart, can make him aware of his faults, and of the sin, he has committed against the love of the Saviour whom he has rejected and grieved.

After his speech on the day of Pentecost, Peter’s listeners, being “cut to the heart,” repent and are saved (Acts 2:37-41). Lydia listens to Paul’s words because the Lord has “opened her heart” (Acts 16:14). This kind of response is the first thing we want to see in our evangelistic efforts.

2. Only the Spirit Can Regenerate: “The Spirit alone gives life; the flesh is of no avail” (Jn. 6:63). We can try to speak, to convince, to exhort, and to give the appearance of godliness, but we can never achieve the miracle of spiritual resurrection. There will perhaps be decisions and encouraging statistics, but if the Spirit does not bring each person to the new birth, without which no one can enter into the kingdom of God, there will also be much falling away. in keeping with the Lord’s command, we say like Ezekiel: “Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live” (37:9).

3. The Holy Spirit Baptises and Adds Believers to the Church: One of the greatest weaknesses in evangelism is that too many converts want to remain totally independent. Unable to find the perfect local church, they refuse to join any at all. We read that each day the Lord adds to the Church those who are saved (Acts 2:47). All believers have been “by one Spirit… baptized into one body (I Cor. 12:13). Formerly separated from God and man, they die with Christ in order to live again with Him. Being in Christ, they are united with the head, and at the same time, with all other members of the body, which is the Church. If converts go their own way, our evangelistic work will be lost. We must help to set them together on the same foundation as living stones, reborn by the Word, united one with another and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

4. The Gift of the Spirit is Given to Each Born-again Person: We have just mentioned the staggering mortality that hits the converts we claim at our evangelistic campaigns. This situation can be attributed only to the fact that these people had nothing more than a partial spiritual experience. Perhaps instead of giving them the whole counsel of God, and keeping back nothing (Acts 20:27), we gave them merely an elementary message. Immediately upon rebirth into the faith, a newborn soul, undergoes the terrible attacks of Satan and the world, which try to retain him. The new believer will never have the strength to resist them if he is not convinced that He who is in him is stronger than he who is in the world (I in. 4:4). How will he live the Christian life if he has not by faith received the gift of the Holy Spirit promised to all who repent and believe (Acts 2:38-39; 5:32; Gal. 3:14)? To omit these truths in the evangelistic message is to lead those who are ready to hear into a life of legalism and failure.

5. The Spirit Engages Each Believer in the Lord’s Service: The advance of the Gospel will follow a geometric progression if each new convert himself becomes a soul-winner. On the other hand, if this does not occur, we will continue to have Especial evangelists” who in the face of the gigantic task work themselves to death. The few people who are “won” will make no progress and will soon be lost to God’s work.

In actual fact, the Holy Spirit makes each and all of us witnesses of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). To set out without being clothed with power from on high would be senseless (Luke 24:49); not to open one’s mouth in witness after having claimed faith in Christ would raise questions about the truth of one’s salvation (Rom. 10:10).

If a country mobilizes all its men, none has the right to shirk his duty. Similarly, no Christian can neglect his contribution to the evangelization of the world. We are, in fact, a royal priesthood, God’s own people, entrusted and privileged to proclaim the wonderful deeds of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (I Pet. 2:9).

Paul exclaimed: “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel!” (I Cor. 9:16). This pressing compulsion we must instil into all whom we lead to Christ. With them, let us be filled to overflowing with the wonderful and glorious joy that comes in serving the King of kings. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of practical wisdom (II Tim. 1:7).

6. The Spirit Singles Out Each Member of Christ’s Body for a Particular Task: Even if the call to service is general, yet each person is entrusted with a particular task. That task the Holy Spirit clearly reveals to the individual and to the Church. At Antioch, He declared: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). At Ephesus, Paul himself tells the elders: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians” (Acts 20:28).

The work of God is extremely difficult and formidable. in ourselves we have not the slightest ability to accomplish it. But, says Paul, our ability comes from God. It is He who equips us to be ministers of the new covenant of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives a spiritual gift to each one whom He was baptized into the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:7-11). As far as our subject of discussion is concerned, the most precious gift is obviously that of an evangelist, a gift which God gives not only to an individual but also to His Church (Eph. 4:11). “He gave some…evangelists.” How rare that gift is; yet how necessary Religious groups have their leaders and their preachers, but often they die because they lack men able to lead souls to rebirth. For every Moody, Spurgeon or Billy Graham, how countless many we have who are not gifted, speaking not so much from a human as from a spiritual point of view! There are few, very few workers able to evangelize. Let us, therefore, beseech the Master to raise up such people, to qualify them by His Spirit, and to grant them a rich harvest of souls. As for us, let us humbly make up the team that will back them up, and let us resolve to play our part — perhaps a hidden one — in this wonderful work. “One sow, and another reaps” (Jn. 4:37). “He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive wages according to his labour. For we are workers together with God” (I Cor. 3:8-9). It goes without saying that to share in any way in such a work is possible only through the spiritual gift granted to each one.

Let us add, too, that whatever our particular part in the work, the supreme gift which gives all others their value is that of love. We do not evangelize enough, we win few souls, we hardly reach our generation, because we do not know how to love. All the great evangelists were possessed by a burning love for lost souls. Listen to what the apostle Paul has to say: “The love of Christ constrains us … I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears … to let you know that abundant love that I have for you. I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (11 Cor. 5:14, 2:4; 12:15)

This is the supreme way! For us who are so far from it, the only solution is that the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:5).

7. The Holy Spirit Directs All Missionary Strategy: The Comforter who guides us into all the truth does so not only where doctrine is concerned; He wants to direct us in everything according to the divine will. He reveals His plans of attack to the Church and holds His submissive servants firmly in His hand. First of all, as we have seen, it is the Spirit who sets aside chosen people, like Barnabas and Saul, calls them and causes the Church to recognize their calling (Acts 13:2-3). When masses of Gentiles begin to be converted, it is necessary to know on what conditions they will be admitted into the Church: will they become Jews and keep the law of Moses, or will they simply receive the grace of God by faith? After some discussion, the Church says to these converted Gentiles: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (15:28). Then, guided step by step by the Lord, Paul and his companions go off on their second missionary journey: the Holy Spirit forbids them to announce the Word in Asia, for example, and the Spirit of Jesus does not allow them to go into Bithynia (16:6-7). We cannot quote in detail all the references to God’s direct intervention in sending Paul to Europe, in encouraging him at Corinth, confirming His will to send him to Rome, promising him escape from shipwreck and appearance before Caesar. Paul sums everything up by saying that he goes bound in the Spirit (20:22), and also warned by the Spirit of what will happen to him in each place (v. 23).

What a lesson for us! We are shortsighted in our vision, we mark time, we fall short of strategic objectives, we lack long-term policies, we are thwarted by the first obstacle that comes our way: and all because we fail to let the Holy Spirit be our one and only strategist and instructor. If henceforth we would only let Him bind us and lead us to complete victory wherever He wishes in the pathways of the Cross!

8. The Spirit Helps the Evangelist Give his Message: Speaking not of preaching, but of witness in time of persecution, our Lord said to His disciples, “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say: for what you are to say will be given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt. 10:19-20). Certain groups have misquoted this verse and imply that the preacher has no need to prepare his sermon in advance, but should count entirely on the instantaneous help of the Spirit, Nevertheless, let us not forget that the Lord will and does indeed give his faithful servants the help of His Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. The men who disputed with Stephen “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke” (Acts 6:9-10).

In a text which applies more to the compiling of the written revelation, the apostle Paul declares, concerning the deep things of the Lord: “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual language” (I Cor. 2:13). But is not the wisdom and personal help of the Spirit also needed if the spoken word is to be proclaimed with the right words, understanding love and inward fire? We read that Peter and John, uneducated, common men, speak with boldness because they are filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:8,13). For this reason, too, they exclaim: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (v. 20). After the first persecution, the disciples met together and prayed; says Luke, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (v. 31). In a Church where the deacons had to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3), what was expected of evangelists and apostles, as well as of simple believers? Here no doubt we touch upon the early Christians’ secret of an overflowing life and boundless growth and advance.

Furthermore, the one weapon of Jesus’ witness is none other than “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). This sword he will learn to wield as the apostle’s prayer, “That God … may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him… ” (Eph. 1:17-18), becomes a reality in him. May the Lord fill, first our souls, then our message, with the infinite riches of His grace and power, and thus make that message irresistible!

Like every other witness for Christ, the evangelist must be at the Spirit’s disposal and ever ready to let Him take charge of and give content to the message. We can easily fall into a routine, in which we become men of one message and always repeat the same things. Or, lest we appear negative” or antagonize the masses we want to win, we may be afraid to broach certain unpopular subjects. Jesus did just the opposite; perhaps to sift out would-be true followers from mere listeners, He sometimes pronounced His most extreme demands just when great crowds followed Him (e.g. in Luke 14: 25-27).

Likewise, the Spirit expressly warns the Church and its preachers against the apostasy of the last times (I Tim. 4:1-3). In Second Timothy Paul develops this theme again (4:1-5), and announces the time when men will no longer endure sound doctrine and will turn to myths. Is it not striking that immediately afterwards the apostle should say to his young friend, “As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” (II Tim. 4:3-5)?

This would indicate that in order to know how to emphasize the different truths of his message, the man of God has great need of a discerning spirit and knowledge of the needs of his day. It is clear that, if every witness and evangelistic message is thus inspired, underscored and completed by the Spirit, it will indeed spread abroad that Word of the Lord which never returns unto Him void.

9. Prayer in the Spirit is the Driving Power of Evangelism: We constantly forget that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). While it is our desire to proclaim the Gospel message and to convince unbelievers, we do not know how first of all to bind the strong man in order to snatch away and rescue his victims (Matt. 12:29). After exhorting us to “take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Paul adds. “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication … also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:17-20). This is what we need to learn more and more: to intercede on behalf of those front-line warriors, the evangelists. Carefully preparing the ground by prayer, upholding the evangelistic efforts made, watering the sown seed of the Word will make the enemy shrink back and will produce an abundance of spiritual fruit.

10. There Will be a Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power: “We come therefore as Christ’s ambassadors. It is as if God were appealing to you through us: in Christ’s name, we implore you, be reconciled to God!” (11 Cor. 5:20-21). To bear such a responsibility means that one dare not utter platitudes, mere human words bereft of the unction that comes from on high. Although Paul came to Corinth in a state of weakness, fear, and great trembling, he could nevertheless say: “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Cor. 2:4-5). @To the Thessalonians he writes: “We know, brethren beloved of God, that He has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (I Thess. 1:4,5).

This is what we ardently desire for all our preaching and evangelizing efforts, as well as for this Congress. May God restrain us from empty, inflated words; may He keep us from trying to win the world through “plausible words of wisdom” or by meaningless evangelical terminology. Let us examine ourselves; let us see what may be hindering the Spirit from working mightily in us and through us. Let us acknowledge the things whereby we have grieved Him. We have used earthly means and have been moved by carnal aims in what we have dared to call evangelism; we have expended our talents and our material resources to increase the size of our constituencies, to draw attention to ourselves. God has entrusted His treasure to us in earthen vessels. So long as we bear about in our bodies the death of the Lord Jesus, so long will His life be powerfully manifested and communicated. We desire to experience like Paul: “So death is at work in us, but life in you” (11 Cor. 4:12). It is then, indeed, through faith in the Lord and through the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that rivers of living water will flow forth from each of us.

When this is a reality, we will have not only a Congress or an evangelistic campaign but also a revival in the Church of the living God and resurrection of souls lost in sin. This will come, says the Lord of hosts, not by might, nor by power (of men), but by my Spirit… (Zech. 4:6).

by Rene Pache

(James R Hamilton, May 2018)

Who Wrote Mark’s Gospel?

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The Human Author (Chapter 1 Verse 1)

The first mention we have of the author, Mark, is in the book of Acts, he is the son of the woman Mary (Acts 12.12). It was to her house Peter went after the angel released him from prison (Act 12:7-12). The last we hear of Mark is when he wrote this, his version of the good news while in Rome, in close association with Peter again. His ministerial career always seems to have been in an assistant’s capacity. With Paul and Barnabas (Acts 11.29-30), then on their first missionary tour (Acts 13.5). When it came to the second missionary journey Paul and Barnabas disagreed sharply with regards to Mark’s usefulness. Paul’s concern was due to Mark’s display of inconstancy at Pamphylia, he seemed to lack determination, courage, enthusiasm, or if you like, hang-on-in-there-ness (Acts 15.36-41). It’s not unusual to see this attitude in Christian service today. How the Church needs people who are dependable, who will hang-on-in-there despite the discouragements and setbacks. It’s amazing how much work we can achieve if only we’re determined to plod on in the Lord’s work come what may. Maybe it was because of a proneness to discouragement that left Mark an assistant all through his Christian life?
He appears again on the scene during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Paul in writing his letters mentions Mark in his greetings (Colossians 4.10, Philemon v24). There had obviously been a reconciliation between the two men by this time. Is it not a tragedy when Christians fall out, and sometimes it seems they are determined they will never speak to one another again? We need to take the Lord’s words seriously (Matthew 6.14-15), he means what he says. A working relationship was developed and maintained to the end of Paul’s life. We find Paul asking Timothy to join him, and he requests that the useful Mark should come too (2Timothy 4.11). Is it not so important for us all to keep up with people and not just give up on them? Even though they make mistakes and fail in their lives? Perhaps with some encouragement or even a gentle shove, it would help a fellow Christian in the Church to find their place of usefulness, of restoration to God’s service. One failure doesn’t mean the end. I mean we wouldn’t want folk to give up on us, would we? Every member of the Church is bought and loved at infinite cost by the Lord. And each has a useful role, a place, from the least to the greatest, the public to the more private gifts, the ministry of the word to the cup of tea given in Jesus’ name (1Corinthians 12.1ff, Matthew 25.37-40).

The Divine Author (Chapter 1 Verse 1)
The close association Mark had, not only with Peter but with the Lord too, makes him the suitable author of this Gospel. And of course, these witnesses had the promise of the Holy Spirit’s help (John 14.26; 16.14). In all our handling of Scripture, we must never lose sight of the Divine authorship, guidance and control (2Timothy 3.16). It’s because the Person of the Holy Spirit is behind Holy Scripture we can have supreme confidence in every single word. It is God’s word, the voice of the Spirit. Mark’s Gospel was written for us Gentile readers and is probably the simplest of all four. His theme is the glad news of salvation, presented in a fast-moving and exciting way. But like the rest of Scripture, it is produced ultimately to create faith, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.31), “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10.17). The word of God must always be handled thus, or else we read it or listen to without any profit at all (Hebrews 2.1-4; 4.1-2). How are we to read the Scriptures? “The Holy Scriptures are to be read with a high and respectful estimation of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial and prayer” (Westminster Larger Catechism Q & A:157).
The opening phrase (v1) must surely be considered as a title, the essence of salvation truth, the glad news. That’s what the word gospel means. But of course it is only good news to those who have seen themselves as God sees them, who have looked into the mirror of God’s word, who have seen that they are sinful, miserable, wretched creatures (Psalm 51.5; Jeremiah 17.9; Isaiah 64.6), who are in need of the good news of God’s forgiveness (Isaiah 1.18; 1John 1.8-10). For such, there is good news indeed. For it is about Jesus, the personal Saviour (Matthew 1.21), whom Mark records for us. That beautiful, that dynamic life, free from the blight of sin, full of compassion and mercy, showing the likeness and the glory and the kindness of God to us (2Corinthians 4.6; Hebrews 1.1-3). Mark does not finish there, he adds, “God’s Son.” The eternal, co-equal, essential Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. This Saviour, whom Mark draws our attention to, is nothing less than the Son of God, perfect and adequate in every way, able to start and finish the job he came do (Hebrews 7.25; Philippians 1.6). Trust him with all your heart.

(©️James R Hamilton, May 2018)

Notes on the Exodus (123)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Confirmed Redemption  (Chapter 13 Verses 1-22)

The regulations and rituals may seem strange to us but for Israel, they confirmed the start of salvation’s journey, they were important. They were constant reminders of God’s grace, power, and deliverance from Egypt’s bondage. The costly dedication of the firstborn would remind them that they were God’s by sovereign right. They, like we ourselves today, needed constant reminders of God’s grace. We are so wont to forget. The ass was to be destroyed if not redeemed (v13). Israel would have faced the same fate if they had not been redeemed by the slain lamb’s blood. The ass was an unclean animal, stupid, intractable. So you have two pictures there. The latter the donkey’s a picture of mankind in sin, unclean, stupid, intractable, full of his own pride and conceit (Job 11:12). And fit only for destruction, eternal destruction. If it were not for the Lamb’s blood, the real one, the one to whom the Passover lamb pointed, Jesus, God’s lamb (John 1:29). If it were not for God’s sovereign, free grace in Jesus we’d be fit only for our necks to be broken (v13). The regulations and rituals pointed to and confirmed that the redemption price had been paid. They were no longer in slavery, they had been bought back, delivered by a strong, a mighty hand (v14). The rituals would serve as a reminder of the praise and thanks that they owed to God for their deliverance. To praise him for his matchless grace and redemption, that their deliverance was all due to God and nothing of themselves. We too are reminded of the same in the Lord’s ordinances today. It is needful lest we slip into a self-righteous and Pharisaical mindset. This is ever a danger. Remember Jesus’s illustration? Two men, two attitudes. The Pharisee, he wasn’t like other men, he didn’t do the dirty, he wasn’t in the place of a sinner in need of a Saviour. The other, undone, guilty, corrupt before God. Beloved, however far on the redemptions road we are, whether we have just left Egypt or it was long ago, we are still undone, guilty, corrupt sinners before God. In need constantly of his grace. All thought and Pharisaical pretence of merit must be abandoned. Our only merit before God are the merits of the Son of God. His blood and his righteousness. And that’s how it will be through all eternity.

They would serve as a confirmation of their freedom also, in spite of Pharaoh’s efforts to keep them in bondage (v15-16). Their redemption had become a reality, they had entered into a new found freedom from the fears of the past. Theirs to enjoy in the assurance of faith, in Christ (1John 4:18). But there was and is still a danger in the regulations and the rituals, the frontlets too (v16). The latter became a badge of spiritual pride and superiority amongst the Pharisees later on. Throughout the Old Testament history, Israel falsely comforted themselves with these externals. If they had them all was well with them and God, or so they thought. As long as they had the temple, the prophets, the law, the sacrifices, the rituals, the frontlets we’re okay. But they were not. God was sick and tired of their religious practices (Isaiah 1). We can get into the same mindset today. I read my Bible (and of course the superior version), I go to church, I attend the prayer meeting. All good and proper things in themselves. But they are all external. The question is how is it with your heart. Is it still hot with love for God and for your neighbour? Do the means of grace still have and effect upon your heart? And do our hearts move us to serve God in whatever way he has called to us, out of heart love for God? Do we have a concern for the lost? Are we engaged either physically or prayerfully as we are able to reach out to lost souls for Christ? If our hearts are not right all the externals mean nothing at all. God still wants your heart.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (23)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Devil’s Designs  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

With the shield of faith, you are equipped to deal with, to quench each and every flaming dart the devil throws at you. Not just some, all of them. You do well to remember also that in the noise and heat of the battle, no matter how fierce it becomes you are never out of the sight of the commander in Chief. And he is not just watching you but praying for you unceasingly (Luke 22:31-32). He is dynamically present with you at all times. To utilise the shield of faith is to believe that with all your heart. One of the attacks of the enemy is to get you to not believe that. To believe because he is attacking you that God has left you, doesn’t care. But this is not true, even if you do not feel it. It is the objective truth of God’s written word, he had it written in case you would forget. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). And, If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:31-34). The devilish insinuation that God is not with you is a fierce lie from the very pit of hell. And, especially so when you are in trouble of your own making when you have sinned, blundered, failed in some way. He will more than suggest that God has now cast you off. No, this is where your shield comes in, must be employed. In faith you affirm, shout it out from the rooftops if needs be, God is good! God is loving! God is caring! God is compassionate! And his call is always that you turn to him in faith and find refuge in him from the storm whatever the cause of it may be.

The thing we so often forget that God is ever seeking us. Back in the garden of Eden, it was God who went seeking our parents. They were frightened, terrified, in hiding, but he still wanted them and went in search of them in love. So tell me who is it that makes you feel rejected, useless, finished, or casts us into depression? Yes, the devil, the enemy of your soul. The one who hates your Saviour and hates you because you love him. Some of his flaming darts are slow-burners they’re not all fierce blazers. The devil’s design is to cause long-term dis-ease. But however long, in faith, we pray, we wait on the Lord, he will come, he will deliver. This dis-ease, is designed to cause dis-peace. You’ve lost the sense of peace, but remember losing the sense of something and losing the thing itself is two different things. But you flay yourself in rebuke, in shame, in agony. But this is not from God, this is not how he deals with his children. If something is wrong he may tell us firmly, but he show us, to correct us, “and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Philippians 3:15). He will by his grace enable you to put it right. Be at peace child of God, for his thoughts towards you are thoughts of peace, “for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). But Satan doesn’t like peace, he is the disturber of such and that’s why you and I need the shield of faith. This is why we need to go on as we started, in faith, believing. The enemy would have you to believe he is strong, he is not. But God is, and he is our strength and our lives are hidden in him, they are untouchable (Colossians 3:3). When we begin to grasp what God has provided for us this provision of his complete armour we begin to understand what king David meant when he spoke of God providing a table of refreshment in the presence of his enemies. He has so provided for us also.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (122)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The way, the truth and the life!

Release and Redemption  (Chapter 13 Verses 1-22)

For now, the narrative is suspended and consequences and responsibilities that come as a result of their redemption. God acts in grace and then establishes his rightful claims up our beings. This is the doctrine of redemption. The exodus clearly teaches us the theology of salvation. And brings to us today the appreciation we ought to both feel and express as a result of our own salvation. The consecrating of the firstborn was already a practice amongst the patriarchs. But it is redemption that gives it a historical motivation, a rationale for it. The firstborn is to set apart, for the Lord. We are in total a consecrated people, simply because we have been liberated by the Lord (12:51). And now Israel begin their momentous journey towards the promised land. Why the consecration of the firstborn? For the firstborn whether man or beast is alive but only as a result of the Passover lamb slain in their places. They are debtors (v1-3), as we today are to grace. God has ordained our freedom, he has appointed and provided us with a substitute, the One the Passover pointed to, Jesus. Therefore we are reminded that we are not our own (1Corinthians 6:19). The firstborn is a symbol of all Isreal, the spiritual, the Israel of God. We all of us owe our existence to God, our identity to God. And so we are indebted to live for God, to please him in all of our lives. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1Peter 2:9-10). When we survey the cross as the hymn writer suggests we are reminded that once we were enslaved to sin. We were captives, under oppression and bondage but just like as with Israel of old, God acted, he delivered us, set us free. So we are his, all we are and have is his.

Now a liberated Israel is bound for glory (v4-5), the land of promise. The journey has begun. But they are not left to their devices or to find their own way there. They are to be accompanied each step of the way. But it is a beginning, it is not the end. And we too constantly need to be reminded of this. We have begun and God has promised to finish the job (Philippians 1:6). Alas, it so easy to settle down where we are, in the wilderness, the world. To get anchored to it, fall in love with it, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1John 2:15-17). We are pilgrims just passing through, this is not our home (Hebrews 12:1-2). Our focus ought to be on eternal things, not the things of this world, to stand upon the promise of God (v5), to bring us to the journey’s end. We make plain where we are at by the way we live, the things we value most, the spiritual exercises we engage in, or don’t. There is always the danger of hypocrisy (v6-10). Our children can smell hypocrisy ten miles away, they know what motivates us, our lives (v8). What is the driving force in your life today, not just the word of God in your mouth (v9), but burning in your heart and motivating you in appreciation for redeeming grace, to live for God first. The wearing of the word of God on the Pharisees became more and more enlarged in order to draw attention to their spirituality. Instead of God’s grace and goodness adorning and beautifying their hearts and lives for all to see.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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