Encouragement From The Word

Dead to the law

In Romans 7.1 (NLT), the apostle Paul wrote something that might seem very strange on an initial, out-of-context reading:  “…don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living?

Seems fairly obvious, doesn’t it?  I mean, I’m not going to care whether a traffic light is green, amber or red when my funeral procession is winding its way to the cemetery.  But all the drivers in that procession should care, because they don’t want to risk injury.  The law only applies while a person is living.

But Paul goes on to say that everybody who has faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord has died to the law: they no longer live under its reign.

That changes the picture a bit, right?  So Paul is telling us that if we have died with Christ through our faith in him, we have died to sin (see Romans 6), and therefore have also died to the tyranny of the law.

Does that mean we should ignore the law of the land?  Well, if we all did that, the number of traffic fatalities would skyrocket (among other things).

Does that means we should ignore the law of God?  There’s the rub:  when we become followers of Jesus, the Old Testament doesn’t fade away, and the Ten Commandments don’t cease to be applicable to our lives.  So what does it mean that we have died to the law?

Just as Paul said in chapter 6 that sin will not be our master, so it is true that the law shall not be our master.  Our goal is not perfectly to keep the law; our goal is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us.

How do we glorify God?  Well, Jesus tells us in John 14.15 (NLT), “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Since we live under grace and not under law, we have come into relationship with Jesus by his favour alone, and in that relationship, we demonstrate our love by following what he tells us to do.  So while we are dead to sin and the law, we are alive to God in Jesus, and in that relationship, we follow the law without fear of being judged for our imperfect ability to keep the law.  We are respectful of the law, but not enslaved to it.

There are some great ways to apply this, and I’ll be talking about that this Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton.  You (and your face mask) are very welcome to join us at 10:00 a.m., or catch the service from the comfort of your home live, or on demand later.  The application may cause you to squirm a little!

Biblical Messages

Slaves No More

In this message, based on Jeremiah 17.5-10 and Romans 6.15-23, we learn how God does not want us to be slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness. How can we do that? Root ourselves deeply. How does that happen? Through engaging in spiritual disciplines. We learn three of them in this message. You can watch the whole (edited) broadcast below, or catch just the message just below that.

 

 

Encouragement From The Word

Masks

Where you live, this may have already been a reality, but where I live, today, a ‘mask rule’ has come into effect.  In all indoor public spaces, people are expected to wear some sort of face covering as a means of slowing or preventing the spread of Coronavirus.

My wife has kindly made me a mask that properly covers my fat, hairy face in a way that does the job and feels almost comfortable.  (The disposable ones made my face look like…well, never mind about that.)  Those who like to sew are getting very creative with patterns and materials, so that all of us, perhaps especially children, can try to have a little fun with what is otherwise not a very fun undertaking.

This got me thinking, though:  masks are really nothing new in our society.  It’s just that now, we can see them.

You know what I mean: people wear masks that cover up any number of things, even if it isn’t oral germs.  Maybe it’s uncanny, heavy makeup to avoid looking too young, or too old, or too vulnerable.  Maybe it’s a permanent smile to cover up the pain we feel inside.  Maybe it’s a face that betrays nothing, to keep people at a distance.  There are all kinds of scenarios that might exist, but make no mistake: most human beings are used to wearing masks.

Interestingly, these same masks are often placed between our true self and the God who made us.

This is a profoundly sad reality, because what we tend to forget is that God sees us as we are, knows us as we are, loves us as we are, and longs for us to be more like him.  Yet we tend to put our best ‘face’ forward with God, for any number of reasons.

Sometimes, we think God won’t accept us if we feel a certain way.  (Usually, this is because someone else won’t accept us that way, and we universalize the principle.)  Sometimes, we think we’re not allowed to ‘be real’ in God’s presence.  This tends to be a matter of culture or conditioning.

If we have an image of God as being like Santa Claus, for whom “you’d better not cry”, it gets stuck in our heads that God won’t accept any emotion except happiness, or, at best, ennui.  And that’s too bad, because if you take even a cursory glance through the Psalms, you’ll see every emotion known to the human race expressed before God.  What’s more, the people of Israel believed all these emotions to be so important, they enshrined these songs in their Scriptures!

In the Psalms, you’ll find joy, sadness, anger, lament, even a desire to see others die.  There are no masks in the Psalms.

And we don’t need them, either.  Except in cloth form, in indoor public spaces, for a season.  The good news is that we can still weep or laugh or gnash our teeth with that kind of mask on.

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem” (Psalm 137.1, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Your Master

In this worship gathering, we learn about how God worked through our Bible Fun Camp this past week, and we hear a message from Romans 6.1-14 about the importance of intent and why sin is not God’s plan for followers of Jesus. We also learn a little bit about pocket knives! You can watch the whole service below, or just the message at the link below that.

 

 

Encouragement From The Word

Irregardless…

In case you weren’t sure the world is a different place these days, I learned this week that Merriam-Webster, an American dictionary, is now including the word “irregardless” as a legitimate word.  Even as I type this, my word processor has underlined that term in red as an error.

As one friend pointed out, lexicographers simply accommodate terms in regular use; they don’t see themselves as “Grammar Nazis”.  That’s a pity, because the word simply makes no sense as it tends to be used.  People will say, “I’m going to drive at 120 km/h irregardless of the fact that the speed limit is 100 km/h.”  But the “ir-“ and the “-less” actually cancel each other out!  So what they’re literally saying is, “I’m going to drive at 120 km/h regarding the fact that the speed limit is 100 km/h,” which makes no sense whatsoever.  What they mean is, “I’m going to drive at 120 km/h regardless of the fact that the speed limit is 100 km/h.”

This is just one sign of the generally accepted principle that there are no objective standards anymore.

Here’s another:  on a flight last year with WestJet, I was saddened to see that a curtain had been added to the aircraft, separating the “plus” seats from the ordinary seats.  One of the policies that attracted me to WestJet when it first started was that everybody flew in the same class.  That started to slip some years ago when the first few rows were given special menus and drink preferences – for a price.  Then, it slipped further when the middle seat in the first few rows became an armrest and drink holder for the occupants in the aisle and window seats.  Now, at least on some flights, it has slipped even further to the point that a curtain is drawn, and the front washroom is reserved for those in the first few rows, making it little different from its main competitor.

I lamented this fact to a flight attendant, whose reply was, “The company is simply doing what the customers want.”

With businesses, I get that “the customer is always right.”  Yet WestJet seems to have fallen from its guiding principles, set out at its founding as a company, that everyone should be treated the same way.

These seem like fairly harmless phenomena, for most of us.  A lot of people can overlook the use of the term “irregardless”, and the majority of people don’t fly enough to care whether they have to traipse all the way to the back of the aircraft to use the washroom.  But when applied universally, these things are symptomatic of a more troubling trend, and we see it happening in the church.

Let’s just give people what they want.

If people want to use “irregardless”, regardless of the fact that it is not a sensible word, let’s legitimate it by putting it in the dictionary.

If people want to separate extra service and private washrooms from the masses in steerage, let’s make it happen.

If people want to do something the Bible says is wrong, let’s overlook it.

Not such a big leap, is it?

While there are some advantages to our emergence from Christendom, one of the things society has lost is the value of objective truth, and now, in some cases, it’s even being lost in the church.

If you’re in church leadership, don’t ignore the objective truth of God’s Word.

If you’re not in church leadership, hold your leaders to account, and pray for them to uphold the objective truth of God’s Word.

To keep the world from chaos, we need objective truth.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4.12-13, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Everything we need

Today’s Encouragement is a guest post from my friend, Adelle Lauchlan, who serves on staff at Uxbridge Baptist Church.  Enjoy! – Jeff+

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3a, NLT).

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that most people want to be useful, want to live a productive life, and that Christians want to live a life worthy of Christ’s call. So I find these words of Paul’s very reassuring.

But what are these things that we have been given that allow us to live a godly life?

Well, I think this is what they are:

  • We have the love of Christ, a love so great that he willingly died that we would be saved – it is a love that drew us to him, and it remains with us always.
  • We have the power of the Holy Spirit – we received it, as promised, when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
  • We have the gifts of the Spirit – those attributes that we share with other believers and which mark us as Christians.
  • We have the Word of God – left to us so that we would know his will for us.
  • We have the model of Christ and how he lived so that we would know how to live out God’s will.
  • We have the company of each other to encourage us in our walk and to help us when we stray.

And we have all these things because God is glory and excellence, and in his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. We live under the new covenant, sealed on the cross. Grace, God’s love and forgiveness, freely given.

Truly, everything we need! A precious promise!

And what are we asked to do in return? Respond in faith. Respond with faith. Faith is the foundation of this great promise. It is everything we need!

Thanks, Adelle!