Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The True Blessing is GOD Himself

1 Kings 8:54-61

Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. And he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, "Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day." 

What if in heaven there was loads of money, and comfort and happiness but without God, will that be heaven? Heaven would only be heaven because of the presence of God. It is God Himself who is the blessing. There is a strong delusion of the devil today for the world to embrace materialism as the greatest blessing. Christians are made to believe that what they need is things that they can see, touch and handle. But the true blessing is God.

  1. God gives the true blessing of rest (v.56)
Because God is blessed, Solomon began by blessing the people. He told them that they already had blessing from God of rest from battles but also in the Son of David, the Prince of Peace. Solomon was only a type of Christ as his name suggests ‘shalom’.
Solomon recognizes that the peace and rest they had in the Promised Land was a direct action of God. In giving them rest from their enemies the Lord was only showing in a picture form the token that He has for His people in glory. When you become a Christian you are granted a measure of rest from the condemnation and misery of sin. But it is not until it will be provided for you that rich entrance into the eternal kingdom in glory that you will finally enjoy the full realization of rest, peace and joy in the Beloved.
It is in glory that we will be absolutely free from sin and its misery. Then there will be no sin, no tear, no pain, no sickness, no scorching heat of the sun, or coldness of winter to bring discomfort to us. This is what the Lord has for those who are in Christ – rest from sin, rest from misery, rest from death, and rest from all weary.
The rest that is true rest is not inactivity and inertia. It is not promotion of laziness. Rather it is the state of laying every human activity and effort to fully capitulate oneself to God. It is the absolute surrender and worship offered to God. This is why the Sabbath rest is for private and public worship. This is why the Sabbath rest that remains is to offer acceptable and pleasing worship to God in all eternity with all heavenly hosts. The eternity will be spent in rest that involves worship!
I believe that there is no better rest on this earth than communion with God in prayer. We should look at the time of prayer as a time when we enjoy rest that God gives us in Christ. That there is no enmity between us and God because Christ has destroyed the wall of hostility and has made us acceptable before God.
  1. God keeps all His promises faithfully (v.56)
God is faithful and so fully dependable and trustworthy. Just as He promised the patriarchs and Moses, He had given rest to Israelites. He does everything “according to all that He promised. Not one word has failed of all His good promise.”  This is the most comforting thing on earth – in a broken and fallen world, the Lord has given promises that He will keep faithfully. It is most reassuring that the Lord will not be unfaithful. His faithfulness does not depend on any factors outside of Himself. His faithfulness is unchanging because He is the one who was and is and is to be. He is the same yesterday and today and forever more. He is God who is immutably faithful so that He will remain faithful even when we are faithless – for He cannot deny Himself (2Tim. :13). Christ is the anchor upon which the promises of God rests and the Spirit is the tray upon which these promises are appropriated.
Solomon makes reference to the promises given by the hand of Moses just as he had earlier on (cf. v.15, 24), reminded them of the promises made to David. You must not just think that God gave Moses only commandments. Clearly He gave him promises too.
Those who put their faith in God enjoy the blessings promised by God. The Lord never makes an idle or empty promise. When He promised that the seed of a woman who will crush the head of the serpent, He delivered and sent His Son who triumphed over the devil and made a public spectacle of the devil and principalities, delivering the seed of Adam from the curse and misery of sin.
This then shows that the Lord will fulfil all His promises which we should know so that our prayers are informed by them. Unless your prayers are an appropriation of the promises of God, you can know that they are not in accordance to the will of God. If your prayers be not according to the will of God, then will not be answered.

  1. God’s presence is what we must always desire (vv.57-58)
Solomon’s plea then is just like our plea today. He felt like their forefathers had enjoyed a closer fellowship with God than they had. And so He prayed here saying, The Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His rules, which He commanded our fathers.
There is no question that God has not set a machine that will automatically work outside of Him. God is a very personable Person so that He designed a way of salvation that brought Him to His people so that He became Immanuel, God with us. In this we see a display of His grace and glory. We would be wise if our greatest need becomes the presence of God. I don’t hear enough of, Lord please make me more aware of your presence in my life in this church.
However, we are not often conscious of God’s presence because of our sinfulness as well as our finiteness. This is the reason why the author of Psalm 139 is so deliberate in reminding himself that the Lord is everywhere – where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
Would it not be terrible if we prayed to a god who is away, or sleeping or dead? God who cannot hear is no god at all, he no more than man’s folly and depravity. The Lord that we have trusted has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us and we can confidently say that the Lord is my helper I will not be afraid – for what can man do to us? His presence has been the blessing of men for all time. But this relationship was so impaired by the fall into sin – God is light and there is no shadow of turning with Him  - too holy to behold evil. Therefore, though He has revealed Himself to those who have found favour in Him, yet He has particularly made Himself known to men by His Son. It is by being in Christ that we will enjoy the full benefits of this wonderful promise of God’s presence. All eternity await those who are in Christ.
That God is near or rather that God has brought us near to Himself, is the greatest encouragement to prayer.

4.       God’s listens to the prayers of His people (vv.59-61)
The greatest encouragement to prayer is that God will listen. Why should a holy God listen to the prayers of sinful men? First because it is upon His own invitation that we pray. Secondly because He has provided us with the confidence based on:
1)      His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ who has provided us with the access by His death and His perpetual high priestly work on the right hand of God where He intercedes for us,
2)      His Spirit, who helps us in our weaknesses so that although we do not know what to pray for, yet He aids us by searching the mind of God and indwelling us and giving us the mode of prayer
3)      His word, that gives us not only the will of God but also the content of prayer, and
4)      His help in the time past. He heard the Christians of the last centuries and we would be wise to go to Him as well.
Solomon is very thankful that God listens to people – His own people Israelites as well as the Gentiles. God has His people in all generations from every nation, every language, every race and every people. And our delight is that our God is not deaf, nor mute, nor incapacitated like the idols of men. He is God who hears, and answers our prayers.
Solomon’s petition was, Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may He maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.
Solomon’s petition is for the Lord to bless His people and to keep the flow of the blessings be in constant supply. His petition is not just for the Israelites, it is also for all the peoples of the earth – Gentiles. He well understood that the blessing promised to Abraham was to make him a father of many nations. The Lord God reigns on all the earth and His gospel commission to His disciples is to go to the end of the world. Many times you will notice, your prayers are just too confined to the to the people that you know, the circumstances that you know, so that you fail to acknowledge the purposes of God in all the earth and time – God is not under the limitations of space and time.

Unless you are committed to being wholly true to the Lord our God, by walking in His statutes and keeping all His commandments, you cannot enjoy and realize the blessings that the Lord has promised. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Praise be to the Lord our Creator!

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who wast and art to come; eternal, without beginning or end; immense, without all bounds or measure; the infinite Spirit, Father, Word, and Holy Ghost. The infinite Life, Understanding, and Will, infinitely powerful, wise, and good. Of thee, and through thee, and to thee, are all things. To thee be glory for evermore. All thy works declare thy glory, for thy glorious perfections appear on all; and for thy glory, and the pleasure of thy holy will, didst thou create them. The heavens, and all the hosts thereof; the sun, and all the glorious stars; the fire, with its motion, light, and heat; the earth, and all that dwell thereon, with all its sweet and beauteous ornaments; the air, and all the meteors; the great deeps, and all that swim therein: all are the preachers of thy praise, and show forth the great Creator's glory. How great is that power which made so great a world of nothing; which, with wonderful swiftness, moveth those great and glorious luminaries which in a moment send forth the influences of their motion, light and heat, through all the air, to sea and earth. Thy powerful life giveth life to all; and preserveth this frame of nature, which thou hast made. How glorious is that wisdom which ordereth all things, and assigneth to all their place and office, and by its perfect laws maintaineth the beauty and harmony of all! How glorious is that goodness and love which made all good, and very good! We praise and glorify thee, our Lord and Owner; for we, and all things, are thine own.

Richard Baxter (1615–1691).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What is Christian Marriage?

Scripture reading of Genesis 2:18-25; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Mark 10:6-9; 1Cor. 7; Ephesians 5:22ff

Marriage was ordained by God at creation, and it was God Himself who brought the first woman to the first man. By God’s own assessment of His creation, He said that it was not good for man to be alone and so He made Him a helper fit for him.  Therefore, marriage is a normal, honourable and holy state before God (Heb.13:4).  For this reason, it must be entered into with serious consideration, remembering the chief reasons why God ordained marriage.
1.      It was ordained, firstly, for the companionship, help and comfort which a husband and wife need from each other – for we read that God made “a helper fit for” the man.
2.      It was ordained, secondly, for the continuation and multiplication of the human race – for God blessed the first couple and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”.
3.      It was ordained, thirdly, to enable the natural affection and desire between a man and a woman to have a holy fulfilment – for the Bible says, “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband”. (1Cor. 7:2)
4.      It was ordained, fourthly, for the welfare of human society, which can only be strong and happy where marriage is held in honour – for the family is the foundational unit of society and God says that it is in the family that children are to be brought up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”. (Eph._6:4). This outward outlook of marriage for social good is so downplayed in our day because it is the cornerstone of society.

How does a Christian marriage look like?
Complimentarian aspect of marriage – each person has a definite role to play: The husband must realize that there are things that he simply can’t do because of the manner in which God created Him – he cannot give birth, nor nurse the baby (for he does not have breast milk). His specific role is provide leadership, spiritually, financially, and socially and offer such protection to His family. This leadership is offered in love. In love the husband appreciates his wife and offers such affection that displays the love of Christ to the church. This is practically involves living with her in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life (1Peter 3:7)
On the other hand the wife is to appreciate that man was made first then woman, that she was made out of Adam so us to submit in everything, as the church submits to Christ. This involves showing such respect, honor and obedience as to the Lord. Sarah is the great example here who called Abraham ‘lord’.

a)      There is love on the part of the husband. What love are we talking about?
Love must be a
1)      Realistic love, for you soon discover things in the wife that seem to be unlovable. Yet a Christian must always remember that Christ loves you though He knows all your sins.
2)      Self-Sacrificial love, as Christ gave Himself for you, for true Biblical love gives.
3)      Purposeful love, just as He gave Himself to make the church perfectly holy, so you purposely get married to make your wife holy. Gary Thomas in His book Sacred Marriage says that God intended for marriage to make us holy not happy!
4)      Exclusive love, as Christ loved the church.
About love we read from God’s Word that: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1Cor. 13: 4-8)

b)      There is absolute submission on the wife’s part. For to the wife the Word of God says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…  As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands”. (Eph 5:22) 
·         The nature of submission is to trust him gratefully and joyfully as to receive his leadership as the husband is the head of the wife. It involves not only deferring to him but respecting and promoting this leadership always
·         The extent of this submission is in everything, covering every area of their lives – spiritually, socially, ambitions, manner of talking, financially and in all aspects of your lives as one who is before the presence of God, our Eternal Father who gave us this instruction.
·         The goal of this love is so that those who look on this marriage see something of that loving and trustful submission that the church gives to her sovereign, the Lord Jesus Christ.

About Submission we read from God’s Word:
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1Peter 3:1-7).