Bible Verse: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV
We’ve often heard phrases like “It’s not fair!” or “Life’s not fair”. They are often uttered by our children, and usually it has to do with how they are judging or evaluating what someone else has or does, according to their own views or desires. That’s not much different from how we too often behave. Just think of how we judge others for their actions or words, such as when they cut us off in traffic. Yet we tend to give ourselves a break when we do something we know is wrong, like speeding a little because we’re running late. The reason is because, of course, deep down, we know we could never live up to our own standards.
The implication of this for our lives is profound, because it demonstrates the essence of sin according to the Bible. If sin means breaking the law of God, that’s the expression of sin. But the essence of sin is when we put ourselves in place of God, when we do things in our own our power, when we rely on our own wisdom, and when we judge others by our own standards. We put ourselves in His rightful place.
As Christians, we know that God created and sustains all things, including you and me. And yet, every day we act as if we were our own master and in control our own lives. If we lived in a land that had a king who was the only master over everything, and then we declared ourselves to be our own master, that would called treason. Treason is the essence of our sin. We cannot breathe, or even exist without God’s express will and provision, and yet we puff up our chest and call ourselves masters of our own destiny.
It the introduction of his letter to the Romans 1:1-4, the Apostle Paul makes a profound statement. He declares that he was set apart for the good news of God, concerning his Son, “who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness.” And that is good news indeed for us, because in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God who created you and me and the whole of creation showed up to take our place. When God became a man, He put Himself in our rightful place to bring about an eternal reconciliation between our sinful nature and His holiness.
That was not a fair deal. He may be descended from the line of David, but He was God forever before that. He was not born God. He has always been God. So, when we look at the cross, we don’t simply see someone who paid the penalty for our sins, our treason towards the heavenly King. We see a man who felt the agony and pain and suffering caused by the unfairness, the injustice, and all the expressions of our sin, and we can empathize with Him. God, the legitimate King, responds to our treason by taking our place. Why would He do that? Because of His unfathomable love for us, He poured out His life-blood onto our lives.
If the essence of sin is us taking God’s place, the essence of salvation is God taking our place. That is the good news of the Gospel. Praise be to our Heavenly King!
A Royal Challenge by Pastor Dave
“I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Timothy 6: 13b -14
1 Timothy 6: 11-16 – Part 1
When we are given a task, direction or challenge by another person our response will often depend on the identity of that individual. If it is our boss or a loved one the challenge is likely to have more impact than if it were a stranger. If we were asked to do something by an individual we hold in high esteem how much more will our endeavor be. The two previous blogs focused on the virtue of godliness to which God calls His children. That section of the letter leads up to this climatic challenge for Timothy and indeed for all of us. Paul is laying down a direction, an edict if you will, that has come from the highest authority of all, a Royal one no less!
In the language of his writing there are two areas of power and authority that Paul directly confronts: one being the royalty of the day, the Roman Emperor; and the second being the philosophical beliefs of the day. The Greek word translated as ‘appearing’ in verse 14 is where we get our Christian understanding of the word Epiphany from. The hearers of that time would have understood that the word would have been used for Caesar who was worshipped as Divine. Paul uses it here for the Lord Jesus Christ. The philosophers of the day promoted a belief that all possessed an immortal soul for the ‘after-life,’ regardless of how they lived. Paul says very clearly that it is God alone who is immortal (vs. 16). The preceding words in this passage are the challenge we have before us (vs. 11-12) which we will unpack on Wednesday. Today we are looking at where the authority comes from for such a decree; why we should heed the direction.
The Scripture is basically telling us, LISTEN! This challenge comes from the ultimate authority. We may hear many voices of varying weight, authority and power but there is no greater authority than God Himself:
“…God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen.” (vs.15b-16)
When God Almighty speaks we should really listen and heed all He says. He will return in glory; are we ready for that day and ecstatic about meeting Him?
To Ponder: What words, beliefs and directions from authority hold sway in our lives? Are they directly or indirectly from God (do they conform to His truth)? What do you see of God in the descriptions of Him in this passage? Does this fill you with awe and motivate you to listen and obey?
Pray: Almighty and merciful God, through your well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, you have willed to make all things new. Grant that we hear, understand and respond to your Word and so be renewed by your Holy Spirit. Grant us ears to hear, a heart to receive and a will to obey; to your glory and praise. We ask in and through the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.
Praise: Immortal invisible God only wise
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c59R-Ry8q50
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B0-ll_T7f8
“….But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
1 Timothy 6: 6
1 Timothy 6: 6-10
Within this passage is an often misquoted verse, verse 10. It can regularly be read as ‘money is the root of all kinds of evil,’ whereas what it actually says is, ‘the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.’ So we see that this is a matter of the heart, this is why Jesus warned, ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,’ Matt. 6: 21.
This love of money has some dangers and traits (vs. 9):
Real richness and gain is found in our relationship with God; this is the heart’s home for an attitude of godly contentment. Proverbs 30: 8-9 advises, ‘…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.’ Notice the connection of this Proverb with the Lord ’s Prayer, Jesus’ instructions not to worry (Matt 6) and verses 7-8 in 1 Timothy 6. The Lord promises to provide, encouraging contentment with the provision of our basics needs (Matt 6: 25-34 and 1 Tim. 6: 8). We are reminded that we can take nothing from this world; our soul and eternity are the crucial factors (Luke 12: 20). Money cannot provide justification before God (Proverbs 11: 4), only Jesus can provide the riches of righteousness.
The gap between the rich and poor keeps growing and it will be the poor and marginalized that get hurt most by the economic climate impacted by the pandemic. In this letter we read that there is another way and that the Church and individual Christians have a role to play. The final part of this letter is a charge to Timothy, to us all. Today’s preceding passage encourages us to find the source of true contentment before urging a godly pursuit that will benefit humankind. Before we consider that challenge let us first place our hearts in God’s hands, the location of true treasure, and the only real foundation for life.
To Ponder: Where does your heart tell you that your treasure is located: in Christ; in financial wealth; in another area? How can the teaching in this passage encourage you to know true contentment in God?
Pray: Loving Lord, I lay down at the foot of your cross all my desires, problems, distractions, worries and needs. I pray for your provision in accordance with your glorious riches in Christ Jesus. As I kneel in your presence I ask that in faith, I may move towards your contentment and place my heart in the treasured hands of my Saviour. Amen
Praise: In the presence of Jehovah
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgQX4lDzpWg
Draw me close to you
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d_oYr-P16M
Isaiah portrayed a God who is determined to overcome and overrule the stubborn rebellion of the people he loves:
“I was angry, so I punished these greedy people. I withdrew from them, but they kept going on their own stubborn way. I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the Lord, who heals them. (Isaiah 57: 17-19)
The people who read this prophecy mush have longed for the day when God would settle their chaos with peace, restore their health with healing, and soothe their mourning with the comfort that only He can provide.
When Jesus came, he didn’t seem quick to eliminate all mourning. In fact, he said, “God blesses those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). Jesus wasn’t denying the comfort God had promised; in fact he wanted to fulfill that very promise. But Jesus knew that lasting comfort for the sadness in this life begins with deep sadness over sin.
This blessed mourning begins when we stop blaming others and own up to what we are and what we’ve done. Only this redemptive anguish can make us happy forever because it can lead us to the Cross.
This is the comfort Isaiah spoke of, the comfort God provides in the person and work of Jesus. Just when we are convinced that we are hopelessly lost in our sin, we open our eyes to see Jesus. He alone is our hope. He has removed our offense. He comforts us with the assurance that he has taken care of our guilt.
He will hold us fast.
My Comforter, my heart has been broken in the best way as your Spirit has shown me my sinfulness and assured me of the sufficiency of your sacrifice. I’m comforted in knowing that my sin will not have the last word in my future. Your grace will have the final word when your wipe away my tears forever.
Song: He will Hold Me Fast by Keith & Kristyn Getty
Godliness with Contentment Part 1
“….But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
1 Timothy 6: 6
1 Timothy 6: 3-6
Nature abhors a vacuum and will instinctively seek to fill it. We humans have that trait within us; when we have an absence of knowledge we try desperately to fill it. In this short passage Paul returns to the issue of false teachers and in this instance links it to the focus of the following text, the love of money. In the time of the early Church there were travelling prophets who were, along with others, allowed just to share their view or message in the Church. Outside of the Church there were travelling wise men (sophists) who would ‘sell’ philosophy, either teaching others to argue well or giving demonstrations of public speaking. Paul allocated characteristics to some of these men, they: promoted themselves in conceit; enjoyed speculation; disrupted the peace; and sought to make financial gain from religion (vs. 4-5). There was a thirst for knowledge, a vacuum and often the less scrupulous manipulated the situation to their advantage.
The countermeasure to such a situation was and is godliness with contentment, this is indeed great gain (vs. 6). The Greek word used to describe contentment in this passage was the same word the philosophers used; it literally means a type of self-sufficiency that is independent of circumstances. Godliness is the quality of being devoutly religious, pious. True contentment can only be found in God through faith in Christ. A child of God finds their sufficiency in Him regardless of their circumstances, their ‘godly’ character comes as they become more Christlike through their devotion to God. This relationship and position fills the vacuum with the knowledge of God and satisfies the yearning for wealth by providing the riches of Christ.
This short passage also provides us with tests to evaluate the truth of the ‘teaching’ and ‘doctrines’ we hear. Truth will be compatible with Christ’s teaching (the Gospel and New Testament), it will unite the Church and it will promote godliness (or Christlikeness). Falsehoods will do the opposite speaking against Christ, dividing the Church and promoting covertness and conceit. In our current context where control of circumstances has been lost to a good degree, theories and conspiracies abound and the desire for personal wealth and security grows what a wonderful antidote and solution there is in godliness with contentment; this is indeed true gain.
To Ponder: In Philippians 4: 6-8, 19 we read of how we receive this contentment and how God provides our needs. Can you connect your understanding with this passage and today’s reading and then apply the truth into a particular situation through prayer and action?
Pray: Lord, you have given us so many gifts in Jesus Christ your Son our Saviour. We thank you for watching over us and guiding us despite our circumstances. Thank you for your faithfulness and for promising never to leave us. May we know the gift of godliness with contentment in our lives and so help others to know the same in and through Jesus. Amen.
Praise: All I Once Held Dear
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxpPIa-BskY
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls01XGV7oA0
Signet Ring (By Les Kovacs)
Bible Verse: 20. “The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21. “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. 22. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother. 23. “‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:20-23
For the second time on the same day, the twenty-fourth day of the month, Haggai gets a word from the Lord. The first time, it was a word the whole people as a community. The second time, it was a word for Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah.
The Lord tells him that the earth, her kingdoms and nations, are about to be shaken and erupt in chaos. The accepted order of things, the way the world is understood, is about to change and God gives the governor of the most unlikely, small, and beaten down people a heads up. Zerubbabel had demonstrated a capacity to respond faithfully to the word of the Lord, and to lead his people against all odds, and despite their own desires, in the ways of God. In a world that was about to be shaken, Zerubbabel, had proven himself to be a faithful and courageous servant, and God told him that He would be make him like His signet ring.
In ancient times, a signet ring belonged to someone with authority and land. It was essentially the electronic signature of the ancient world. Its mark guaranteed authenticity and ownership. It conveyed the authority of the one who wore it. This is what Zerubbabel was in the hands of the Lord. The world might shake, the nations may tremble, but Zerubbabel would both be secure in the Lord as a person, and those he served, the people of God, would be secure when marked by his faithful leadership.
And God did shake the world as He had promised. The world shook in the days following the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Babylon gave way to Persia. Persia gave way to Greece. Greece gave way to Rome. And Rome, in its time, fell too, and the shaking of the world continues to this today. We live in a world that is reeling from a pandemic, economic uncertainty, political upheaval and civil unrest. A time when we are re-evaluating whom we honor, what we prize, and how we live. We face a murky future, much like the people of Haggai’s day. We might wish for a return to the old familiar “normal”, or that we could find some new normal that would allow us to settle back into a comfortable and predictable routine. Something that helps us to feel like we’re in control again.
But, our calling as the people of God is not to rely on our own wisdom and power, living in a self-absorbed struggle for control. No, our calling, like the people of Haggai’s day, is to live in faithfulness to God in this moment. We who know the God that revealed himself in Jesus Christ are called to live as the Zerubbabel-like signet ring, a life lived with God at the center, and remaining sure and strong in our faith when all things rattle and shake. We are to be an example to the world of the authority and might of a life that bears the mark of our Everlasting King.
We were chosen to be God’s own people. We need to claim it, own it, and live it. Let no one ever doubt whose mark you wear. Praise be to our heavenly Father forever!
“….but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”
Titus 2: 10
1 Timothy 6: 1-2
Slavery is abhorrent; simple fact. We are however born in God’s image (Gen. 1 :27) to be free (Gal. 5: 1). God speaks out against violence (Ex. 21: 26-27, Matt. 5: 21-22) and human trafficking (Ex. 21: 16). He worked in miraculous ways to free His people from slavery (Ex. 5-12). The fact though is that in our fallen state we often treat each other in evil ways. Slavery has existed and still does (it is one of the reasons why we support the International Justice Mission and why we celebrated Freedom Sunday yesterday -see the videos online). As evil exists in this way in the world what can we learn from the advice that Paul offers to the early Church against the backdrop of a society occupied by the Roman Empire?
Understanding the context will again assist us. At that time in the Roman Empire it is estimated one third of the population were slaves (50-60 million people!). A lot of families ‘owned’ slaves, some slaves ‘owned’ slaves and some sold themselves into slavery to enable themselves to obtain Roman citizenship. For some, often the poor or marginalized members of society, this provided security in different ways. This does not detract from the evil that slavery is but may help us understand the situation a little more. Into these circumstances Paul writes, encouraging members of the Church who were slaves to respect their ‘masters’ and give double respect to those who were fellow believers. In Titus 2: 9-10 we see Paul’s motive behind this advice. Once again, the aim is to share the Gospel and glorify God. Members of the Church who were slaves were to live in a way that ‘adorned the doctrine (Gospel) of Jesus Christ.’ Wow! In a position of bondage, they were to overcome evil with good (Roms. 12: 21) living in the way that showed God's love and truth. This is the counter-cultural teaching and power of the Gospel. We are to love our enemies, not just those who love us, in a very real way (Matt. 5: 43-48).
Our example, as always, is the Lord Jesus. He gave up His majesty and power, humbling Himself to be a servant, saving us by His self sacrifice (Phil. 2: 6-11). The purpose of His sacrifice was and is to free us from our own slavery, a slavery to sin and death (Roms. 6: 17-18). In this freedom we are to imitate Christ giving ourselves to Him. Then working against the evils and injustices in this world in the power of His love we are to share the Gospel so that all may truly be free.
To Ponder: What forms of slavery exist in our society today; what can we as the Church and individuals do to combat such evil? When you as an individual are wronged, what is your natural reaction? How might you overcome this wrong, this evil, with the ‘good’ of Jesus Christ?
Pray: Eternal God, in whose perfect realm no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, and no strength known but the strength of love: so guide and inspire the work of those who seek your kingdom that all your people may find their security in that love which casts out fear and in the fellowship revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Praise: No Longer Slaves - Jonathan David and Melissa Helser
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TkUMJtK5k
Lord I lift your name on high - Mercy Me
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6I6orjM3NI
`…you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. `
1 Timothy 3: 15
1 Timothy 5: 16-25
When democratic countries around the world are considered a general observation is often made; the government and (or) leader reflects the people of that country. This is not surprising really when you consider that as voters, we probably vote for the people we think reflect our values and desires most. In the Church we also see this principal at play. The higher aim though is that the leader reflects the Gospel and Jesus Christ; they then work to help the Church do the same. This links directly to the earlier chapters in this letter on Leadership that we have already covered. In this section Paul is describing how the Church can care for their Leaders and in so doing show their love for the Lord and His Word. This is a cycle of blessing as in acting in this way the Church herself is blessed and grows.
Five words of guidance are given that show a Church how to care for their Leaders. The Church is to be:
To Ponder: How does a good relationship between the Leader and members of the Church bring glory to God; how does the Gospel empower and assist in this relationship? What can you do to bless this relationship and help the Church grow?
To Pray: Almighty God, you have built your church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.
Join us together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may become a holy temple, acceptable to you, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Praise: Broken Vessels
Water of Life (By Chris Barnes)
God covenanted with David, “Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever” (Samuel 7:16). God’s covenant with David is also an invitation to us from God himself. The God who assured David of an eternal Kingdom also assures us of his eternal kindness to us as a part of that Kingdom. Isaiah saw this Kingdom and described it this way:
Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free! ........ Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. (Isaiah 55: 1-3)
God is saying that if we will come to him empty-handed, hungry, and thirsty, willing to receive what he gives, than he will bind himself with an oath to treat us forever with the same mercy and faithfulness that he demonstrated in his covenant with David.
The Jewish people undoubtedly had this promise from this passage from Isaiah in their minds when they came to the final day of the Festival of Shelters. On that day, jars of water were poured over the altar so that water streamed onto the pavement and down the steps. Jesus chose this dramatic moment to stand up and shout to the gathered crowd, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink!” (John 7: 37-38). His invitation is repeated in Revelation 22:17, “Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires, drink freely from the water of life,” Jesus is the source of the living water that is offered freely to everyone.
Praise the Lord of Living Waters!
Prayer – Water of life, I am thirsty and I have nothing of value to offer you to purchase what only you can provide. What a relief and a joy to know that you offer yourself generously and freely to anyone who believes in you. I believe in you. I’m coming to you to satisfy my thirst forever.
Let’s sing together.
Song: Living Waters by Keith & Kristyn Getty
“….you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
1 Timothy 3: 15
1 Timothy 5: 9-16
Visions and reality. How many times in history, and indeed in our lives, has a vision been unsuccessful because the reality of its fulfilment has failed in the delivery of its detail? There are great ideas and ideals that never succeed because as the saying goes, ‘the devil is in the detail.’ The Gospel was and is the absolute ideal. It is the truth of God that provides genuine freedom, real equality and eternal life all wrapped up in a relationship with God to be lived out in His community, the Church. As this truth hit home in the immediate aftermath of Christ’s death and resurrection the early Church ballooned in growth. As new Churches were established and began to grow they each encountered their own peculiar problems in their context. A lot of the content in the letters of the New Testament is about how to live out the truth of the Gospel in the reality of the recipient's situations. This passage today is all about that type of detail. The Vision of the Gospel has been laid out (1 Tim. 2: 3-6) and now Paul is having to get into the detail of how the Church in Ephesus is to live the Gospel in their circumstance.
The life of a widow was a huge challenge because of the social structures and culture. The focus is there because there were obviously difficulties and challenges for the Church. Three key principles arise from the detailed directives though which we can consider for the Church of today. Firstly those seeking provision from the Church must be in genuine need (vs. 9-10). As Tom Wright puts it, “Converts of convenience are not to be tolerated when it comes to social practical support.” Secondly, and linking to the first point if people are able to help themselves or be helped by their family, this should be the first course of action rather than looking to the Church whose resources will be limited. Thirdly there is a warning against idleness (vs. 11-16). Restlessness can result which can lead to interference in other people’s lives and gossip.
It strikes me that Paul had clearly received the ‘Vision’ of the Gospel. He worked very hard to proclaim God’s Good News but equally hard on the details to ensure the growth of God’s Kingdom in the reality of people’s lives. The Church community today needs to base all on God’s truth but must also work hard on the details of relationships within. Many a division, hurt and difficulty arises because we do not deal with the ‘small’ matters; we can also over focus on the minutiae. In a different interpretation of the saying, ‘the devil can indeed be in the detail,’ the neglected detail. A balance of attention to both the big picture and small detail is required for a healthy church.
To Ponder: In your Church what details need to be focused upon to progress the Vision of God’s Kingdom, His Gospel?
What are the different ways widows (and indeed widowers) need the support of family, others and Church today? Are you being called to help?
Pray: Bless your church throughout the world by your Holy Spirit, draw the scattered flock of Christ into a visible unity, and make your church a sign of hope to our divided world. Grant that we who bear your Son’s name may be instruments of your peace, bringing peace to our homes, our communities,
our nation, and our world. Amen.
Praise: Here O Lord your servants gather
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuBs1ukENIE
Make me a channel of your peace
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT8bybL_DqY
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.