Thursday, 18 September 2014

Search The Scriptures: Ezekiel

This is an updated version. I've added notes on Ezekiel 16 - 24. I will add more notes.

“Visions from God” (Ezekiel 1:1); “The power of the Lord came over Ezekiel” (Ezekiel 1:3); “A bright light” (Ezekiel 1:27); “A rainbow in the clouds” , “The Lord’s glory”, “Bowed down”, “I heard someone speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28). In these phrases, we have some suggestion of the kind of lines we must follow, as we think about the various elements of divine revelation.

In true ministry, there is both the Word of God and the Spirit of God. God’s Word is spoken to us in the power of the Spirit, so that we might speak His Word in the power of the Spirit (Ezekiel 2:1-4). Ezekiel is described as “a watchman over the people of Israel.” He was to speak the word of warning (Ezekiel 3:17). This is the kind of preaching which calls its hearers back from the wages of sin - death. The hearers are called to “change their wicked ways in order to save their lives” (Ezekiel 3:18).

God takes sin very seriously. He sends his judgment upon sin. The unleashing of His fury turns the sinful nation into a wasteland (Ezekiel 5:13-14). When we read of such things, we wonder, “Is there any hope?” When we are reading so much about sin and judgment, we must not lose sight of the love of God. In love, He calls men and women to return to Him.

In Ezekiel 6, we have a message concerning divine judgment. Note the emphasis - “you (they) will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 6:7,13-14). If we are to appreciate the greatness of God’s salvation, we must see the greatness of our sin and the greatness of the judgment from which we are delivered through God’s mighty work of salvation.

“The end is coming” - We read these words five times in Ezekiel 7:1-6. These are words of judgment. Ezekiel 6 ends with the words, “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7:27). In His judgment, the Lord is known as the holy God. If the people refuse to return to the Lord, there will be judgment. This is the word of warning. It comes as a call to repentance, a call to walk with God in obedience.

In Ezekiel 8, we have a description of sin - “very disgusting things”, even more disgusting things” (Ezekiel 8:6,9,13,17). When we read such “bad news”, we wonder, “Is there good news?” The answer of God’s Word is “Yes”! God does not leave us in our sin. He sends His Son to be our Saviour. This is the good news, for which the prophets paved the way. Their ministry exposed sin, so that sinners might see their need of the Saviour.

If holiness is to be preserved, there must be a divine judgment upon sin. We cannot grow in our love for God, if we continue to have love, in our hearts, for the ways of the world. “Abba, Father, let me be Yours and Yours alone” (Dave Bilbrough, Mission Praise, 3).

“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1 - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “he sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory. 

“Listen to the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:2). We must not “follow our own ideas” (Ezekiel 13:3). “Change the way you think and act” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are changed, as we pay attention to what the Lord has to say to us. What is the alternative to turning to the Lord, listening to Him and being changed by Him? We turn from Him, and our lives become a “wasteland” (Jeremiah 15:8). The message of the prophet, Ezekiel, comes as a call to choose - Turn to the Lord and be saved, or turn from Him and be lost.

Speaking through the prophet, God uses very colourful sexual imagery to describe Israel’s relationship with Himself and her revolt against Him. The last word, in Ezekiel 16, is not, however, a word concerning the revolt of Israel against the Lord. It is the message of redemption - the forgiveness of sins (Ezekiel 16:63).

“I am the Lord ... I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 17:24). In His Word, God tells us who He is and what He has done for us. He is the God who loves us. He has shown us His love in the death of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

What a contrast there is between God’s salvation and man’s sin. God brought His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. They rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him (Ezekiel 20:6-8). God had not given up on His people. He would draw them to Himself. He would make them His instrument of blessing to the nations (Ezekiel 20:40-44).

In Ezekiel 21 - 22, words concerning God’s holy judgment against sin are awesome. He does not take sin lightly. He takes sin very seriously. As we realize the seriousness with which He looks upon sin, we are called to repentance. We are called to return to the Lord, in sincerity and truth.

Samaria and Jerusalem behaved like prostitutes. In graphic language, the sin of turning from the Lord is compared to sexual immorality. Why does God expose their sin with such plainness of speech? He wants to show them the full extent of their rebellion, so that they may see the folly of continuing in sin and may be moved to return to the Lord - “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 23:49).

In Ezekiel 24, we learn about God’s holiness and His love. If we are to appreciate the wonderful love God has for sinners, we need to become more deeply aware of the awesome holiness of God’s hatred of sin. We look at our sin. We look at God’s holiness. We learn about ourselves. We see how far we have fallen short of God’s glory. We learn about God. We come to know that He is the Lord. Deeply aware of God’s holiness and our own sin, we are led, by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, to see Jesus, crucified for us. We hear about God’s holiness. This is the Word of His judgment upon our sin. This is not, however, the final Word that He speaks to us. He speaks His Word of love - His Word of forgiveness, peace and hope.   
           

Search The Scriptures: Isaiah

This is an updated version. I have added notes on Isaiah 22 - 27. I will add more notes.

The Word of God speaks to us of God, who is both holy and loving. This God calls for our response to His Word. In love, He calls us to come to Him and receive His forgiveness. In holiness, He warns us that rebellion leads to judgment (Isaiah 1:18-20). His Word gives us a glimpse of His love and His holiness. The God of perfect love and perfect holiness invites us to say, from the heart, “Let’s go to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3). God’s blessing is promised to those who will honour Him as their God - “Tell the righteous that blessings will come to them” (Isaiah 3:10). Alongside this promise, there is also the warning: “How horrible it will be for the wicked! Disaster will strike them” (Isaiah 3:11).

“The Lord will wash away the filth of Zion’s people ... His glory will cover everything” (Isaiah 4:4-5). The restoration of the divine glory is the goal of the divine cleansing. What God does for us and in us is the reversal of what sin does - “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God’s people are His “vineyard”, “the garden of His delight” (Isaiah 5:7). Our response to the Lord is to love Him and worship Him: “Let me sing a love song to my Beloved” (Isaiah 5:1). We rejoice in the Lord because He has forgiven our sin (Isaiah 6:7). We sing praise to Him because all glory belongs to Him (Isaiah 6:3). Our sin, which is great (Isaiah 6:5), has been forgiven - All glory to God! This is the Lord’s doing. It is marvellous in our eyes. “The King” is among us. He reveals Himself as the King of love. Out of love for the Lord, we make our response - Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). As we obey God’s command, “Go and tell the people” (Isaiah 6:9), we may find that there is much that causes us to be discouraged - “the cities lie in ruins ... The land is completely desolate ... A large area in the middle of the land will be abandoned” (Isaiah 6:11-12). We will also have some encouragement - “a stump is left - The holy seed will be the land’s stump” (Isaiah 6:13). When we are tempted to give up, when discouragement threatens to overwhelm us, we must remember that God is still on the throne. He is the King - and He still loves us. He is the King of love.

Isaiah speaks, prophetically, of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is also known as “Immanuel” (“God is with us”) (Isaiah 7:14).  “God is with us” - These words are spoken to God’s people in every situation of our life (Isaiah 8:10). Isaiah’s prophetic message concerns the transformation which brings “glory”, where there is “gloom”: “But there will be no more gloom ... But in the future He will bring glory” (Isaiah 9:1). This “glory” comes through our “Wonderful” Saviour, who is the “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). In Him, we have “peace”, “wise counsel” and “everlasting” life. Praise God! To Him be the glory! He has brought us to know Himself, as our Father, through Christ, His Beloved Son. What will it mean, for us , to know God? It will mean being changed by Him. He is teaching us to walk with Him. He is teaching us to follow Jesus. He is teaching us “to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15). Standing upon the promise - “God is with us” - does not mean that we will take God’s presence for granted. God is not only comforting us. He’s also challenging us. We’re not to be conformed to the world’s way of living (Isaiah 8:11). We’re to be transformed. We’re to live the Lord’s way (Isaiah 8:13).

Isaiah 10 speaks of a divine judgment, in which the only “survivors” will be those who “depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 10:20). Isaiah 11 contains a Messianic prophecy. These are words, which point forward to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. They are word of the coming Kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-10). Isaiah 12 contains a hymn of praise to God: “I will praise You, O Lord” (Isaiah 12:1), which is followed by a call to praise God - “Praise the Lord ...” (Isaiah 12:4-6). This is a short chapter. It only has six verses. Its words are very precious. We can come to these words, again and again, and experience the fulfilment of the Lord’s precious promise: “With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). This is the “living water”, which is Christ Himself.       

“The day of the Lord is near ... The day of the Lord is going to come. It will be a cruel day with fury and fierce anger. He will make the earth desolate. He will destroy its sinners. Its time has almost come. Its days will not be extended” (Isaiah 13:6,9,22) - what  solemn words of warning regarding divine judgment! Is there hope for anyone? Isaiah 14 speaks of the fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-17). Lucifer, also known as Satan or the devil, has fallen, and He’s determined to take us down with him. He has caused havoc on earth. In the face of his evil attacks,God’s people need this Word of encouragement: “The Lord has laid Zion’s foundation ... His humble people will find refuge in it” (Isaiah 14:32). This dual perspective - judgment and salvation - is also found in Isaiah 15. There will be “wailing”, but there will also be “survivors” (Isaiah 15:8-9).

Much of what we read in Isaiah 16 - 18 concerns divine judgment on the disobedient - Moab - chapter 16, Damascus and Israel - chapter 17, Sudan - chapter 18. In the face of God’s holy judgment upon sin, we must never forget that “He is the God of our salvation, our Rock, our Stronghold” (Isaiah 17:10). God does not wish to pass judgment upon us. He calls us to Himself, that He may be gracious to us (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:17). This is the love of God. His love is everlasting. He reaches out to us, in love, so that we, loving Him, might rejoice in the fact that we are His beloved - “loved with everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

In Isaiah 19-21, there are words of judgment and words of grace: “The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague. When He strikes them, He will also heal them. They will come back to the Lord. And He will respond to their prayers and heal them” (Isaiah 19:22). The question is asked, “How can we escape?” (Isaiah 20:6). To this question, the Lord gives His answer: “When the people cry to the Lord because of those who oppress them, He will send a Saviour and Defender to rescue them” (Isaiah 20:20). From the words of Isaiah 21:9 - “Babylon has fallen! It has fallen! All the idols they worship He shattered on the ground”, we look on to Revelation 18:18 - “Fallen! Babylon the  Great has fallen! She has become a home for demons” and Revelation 18:4 - “Come out of Babylon, My  people.” God is calling His people turn from worldly ways “Come out of Babylon, My people.” He’s calling His people to turn to Him - “When the people cry to the Lord ...” He’s calling us to trust Him. He’s calling us to obey Him. He’s calling us to sing the song of salvation: “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory and power belong to our God” (Revelation 19:11).

In Isaiah 22 - 23, we read about God’s judgment on Judah, Shebna and Tyre. We read of “a day of confusion and trampling” (Isaiah 22:5). We read the words of judgment on “Shebna, the man in charge of the palace” - “Look, mighty man! The Lord will throw you out” (Isaiah 22:15,17). There is judgment on Tyre “for seventy years” (Isaiah 23:14). There is also hope for the future - “At the end of seventy years, the Lord will come to help Tyre” (Isaiah 23:17). Sadly, His help was not appreciated - “Then she will go back to earning money as a prostitute for all the world’s kingdoms” (Isaiah 23:17). The message of God’s judgment continues in Isaiah 24. This is hard for us to hear. There is, however, something else that we must never overlook: “In all these things, it is said of the Lord, He will be glorious” (Isaiah 24:23).

“The Lord will save us” (Isaiah 25:9). This is our hope, as we await the “Day” of the Lord. This our cause for joy and gladness. Death shall not triumph over us. Our hope is in the Lord - “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isaiah 25:8). The message of the Gospel comes to us as a declaration of God’s saving power - “The Lord, the Lord alone, is an everlasting Rock.” It comes to us as a call to put our faith in the Lord - “Trust in the Lord always.” In the Lord, there is “everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4).In our “pain”, we receive strength from the Lord. It is the strength which comes from knowing that, beyond our present suffering, there is eternal life (Isaiah 26:18-19). As we consider how great our God is and how much He has loved us and done for us, we “will come and worship” Him, giving all the praise and glory to Him (Isaiah 27:13).  

Search The Scriptures: Proverbs

This is an updated version. I've added notes on Proverbs 6 - 12. I will add more notes.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). The Lord calls to us as the voice of wisdom, ‘Turn to Me when I warn you. I will generously pour out My Spirit for you. I will make My words known to you” (Proverbs 1:23). “The Lord gives wisdom ... Wisdom will come into your heart ... Wisdom will save you  from the way of evil ... So walk in the way of good people and stay on the paths of righteous people” (Proverbs 2:6,10,12,20). Trusting the Lord and fearing the Lord belong together: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart ... Fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3;5,7). Wisdom brings great blessing into our lives: “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who obtains understanding. The profit gained from wisdom is greater than the profit gained from silver. Its yield is better than fine gold. Wisdom is more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 3:13-14). 
The call to “acquire wisdom” (Proverbs 4:5) is a call to”walk away from evil” (Proverbs 4:27). The importance of walking away from evil is grounded in the fact that “Each person’s ways are clearly seen by the Lord” (Proverbs 5:21). We are not to give the appearance of living a godly life while remaining far from God in our hearts. There is to be a true commitment to living to please God in all things - in the places which are seen only by Him as well as the places that are seen by other people. Living to please will involve clearly identifying the ways that do not please God, so that we can avoid such ways and seek the better way of doing the Lord’s will.

In Proverbs 7, we are warned against the foolishness of going the way of the world. In Proverbs 8, we hear the voice of wisdom, calling to us; “Now, sons, listen to Me. Blessed are those who follow My ways” (Proverbs 8:32). The call of wisdom continues in Proverbs 9. The call of wisdom comes to us as the call of the Lord, who, from His Table, calls us to His Supper: “Come, eat My bread, and drink the wine I have mixed” (Proverbs 9:5).

The contrast between wisdom and foolishness corresponds to the contrast between righteousness and wickedness (Proverbs 10:1,7). God calls us to be “the wise in heart.” He calls us to show forth “the fruit of a righteous person.” He calls us to be “a winner of souls” (Proverbs 11:19-30). If there are to be the fruits of righteousness, there needs to be the roots of righteousness. In words of warning and promise, we hear of the contrast between a life based on wickedness and a life based on righteousness: “A person cannot stand firm on a foundation of wickedness, and the roots of righteous people cannot be moved” (Proverbs 12:3). The connection between righteous roots and righteous fruits is emphasized in Proverbs 12:12 - “The roots of righteous people produce fruit.” The final outcome of righteousness is stated in Proverbs 12:28 - “Everlasting life is on the way of righteousness.” The Gospel brings hope for the future as well as guidance for the present. We look beyond our present life to the glorious blessing of everlasting life. We move in the direction of this great future, as, in our present life, we reaffirm our choice to walk “on the way of righteousness” with Christ, our great Saviour and Lord, leading us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. As we walk with the Lord, we look forward to our ultimate goal - We will “dwell in the House of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
   

Search The Scriptures: Psalms

This is an updated version. I've added notes on Psalms 16 - 22. I will add more notes.

God calls us to follow “the way of righteous people” (Psalm 1:6). He directs our attention to His “Son”, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:7). He promises blessing to those who “take refuge ... In Him” (Psalm 2:12). There is much opposition: “O Lord, look how my enemies have increased! Many are attacking me. Many are saying about me, ‘Even with God on his side, he won’t be victorious’” (Psalm 3:1-2). We need not be afraid of these enemies - “Victory belongs to the Lord! ... You, O Lord, are a shield that surrounds me” (Psalm 3:8,3).

The Psalmist is experiencing great pain. His honour is being insulted; his enemies are spying on him; he is being harassed by troublemakers (Psalm 4:2; Psalm 5:8; Psalm 6:8). As well as pain, there is prayer, protection and peace. He prays with confidence in God - “The Lord has heard my plea for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9). He stands upon God’s promise - “The Lord protects those who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 5:11). He rests in the peace of God (Psalm 4:8).

In Psalms 7 - 10, there is a real sense of the greatness of God. He is “majestic” (Psalm 8:1). He is “enthroned forever” (Psalm 9:7,11). He is “King forever and ever” (Psalm 10:16). He is our “Judge” (Psalm 7:8). The Psalmist teaches us to see our life in the light of God. His light shines brightly upon us. His light exposes our darkness. He’s calling us to walk in His light. He calls us to take refuge in Him: “O Lord my God, I have taken refuge in You” (Psalm 7:1). He calls us to rejoice in Him: “I will be glad and rejoice in You” (Psalm 9:2). He calls us to seek His help: “Those who know Your Name trust You, O Lord, because You have never deserted those who seek your help” (Psalm 9:10). If we are to answer God’s call - take refuge in Him, rejoice in Him and seek His help, we must leave behind the way of the wicked: “In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all His thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4). When we answer God’s call, He starts changing us - our way of thinking and our way of living. He is the caring and sharing God: “You have heard the desire of oppressed people, O Lord. You encourage them. You pay close attention to them in order to provide justice for orphans, and oppressed people, so that no mere mortal terrify them again” (Psalm 10:17-18). He’s calling us to be like Him. Let’s not keep His love and His blessing to ourselves. Let’s show His love. Let’s share His love.

The Lord is the sovereign God - “The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). The Lord is the God of salvation - “But I trust Your mercy. My heart finds joy in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6). The sovereign God, the God of salvation is our Helper - when we feel alone, forgotten and oppressed (Psalm 12:1; Psalm 13:1; Psalm 14:3-4). His salvation is not to be kept to ourselves. His joy is not only for ourselves. We are to pray that others will receive His salvation and His joy: “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (Psalm 14:7). In the face of all that opposes God, exalting itself against Him, God is calling us to keep close to Him and to walk with Him: “O Lord, who may stay in Your tent? Who may live on Your holy mountain? The one who walks with integrity, does what is righteous, and speaks the truth within his heart, the one who does not slander with his tongue, do evil to friend, or bring disgrace on his neighbour ... He who does these things will never be shaken” (Psalm 15).

Our complete joy, pleasure and satisfaction is found in the Lord. We say, with the Psalmist, “Complete joy is in Your presence. Pleasures are by Your side forever ... I will be satisfied with seeing You” (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 17:15). We join, with the hymnwriter, in singing praise to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: “O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found, And found in Thee alone, The peace, the joy I sought so long, the bliss till now unknown. Now none but Christ can satisfy, None other Name for me. There’s love and life, and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”

In Psalm 18, the Psalmist praises God, who delivered him from his enemies. It begins and ends with the thought of God as the Rock upon which our faith is built. He is the rock of our salvation: “I love you, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Saviour, my God in whom I take refuge, my Shield and the Strength of my Salvation, my Stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2). “The Lord lives! Thanks be to my Rock! May God, my Saviour, be honoured!” (Psalm 18:46).

“The heavens declare the glory of God ...” (Psalm 19:1). In God’s creation, we see His glory. “The teachings of the Lord are perfect. They renew the soul” (Psalm 19:7). He reveals Himself to us through His Word. We make our response to Him, as we worship Him - “We will joyfully sing about Your victory ... The Lord will give victory to His anointed king ...We will boast in the Name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:5-7). “Arise, O Lord, in Your strength. We will sing and make music to praise Your power” (Psalm 21:13). “Through the mercy of the Most High, we will not be moved” (Psalm 22:7).         

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Let Us Pray For More Of God's Blessing.

What God did for His people, Israel, was very great. There is a striking contrast between their slavery in Egypt and their abundance in the promised land. God had multiplied His blessing upon them, just as Jesus did when He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). If the blessing is to be maintained and increased, we must honour the Lord. We must cry to Him for blessing: "Hear my prayer, O God, listen to the words of my mouth." We must call upon Him with faith: "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me" (Psalm 54:2,4).

When Christ Returns, There Will Be Salvation - And Judgment.

Each of the tribes had their part in the promised land. Each of Jesus' disciples, whom He called to Himself at the outset of His ministry, had his part in the work of the Lord. What God did with Israel and with Jesus' first disciples will be surpassed when Christ comes in glory: "You shall see greater things ... You shall see the heavens open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (John 1:50-51). On that Day, there will be both salvation and judgment: "The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead" (Proverbs 11:8).

Listen To The Lord - And Live For Him.

In our day, there are many who say, "Let us follow other gods." God says, "You must not listen" to such people (Deuteronomy 13:2-3). To follow the Lord's instruction is not popular. Nevertheless, this is what we must do: "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door" (Luke 13:24). Whatever the world may say, we must stand by the truth of God's Word: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).

When the Holy Spirit comes on you ...

‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you… you will be My witnesses… to the ends of the earth’(Acts 1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’(Acts 10:45; Acts 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’(Acts 11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’(John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’ should be preached to ‘everyone’(Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save… Here am I, send me’(Youth Praise,128). ‘Go forth and tell!’(Mission Praise, 178).

The Importance Of Prayer In The Advance Of The Gospel

Notice the importance of prayer in the advance of the Gospel. They were looking for a prayer meeting when Lydia was saved (Acts 16:13-14). They were going to a prayer meeting when the girl was saved (Acts 16:16-18). They were having a prayer meeting when the jailer was saved (Acts 16:25-34). They had gone to Philippi ‘to preach the Gospel to them’(Acts 16:10). Even when they were ‘in chains’, the Gospel proved itself to be ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’(Ephesians 6:20; Romans 1:16). ‘The Word of God is not bound’. It is ‘living and active’. ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword’, it is ‘the sword of the Spirit’(2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (Acts 16:30-31)? ‘Pray at all times in the Spirit… with all perseverance’(Ephesians 6:18).

Devote Yourselves To Prayer.

God calls us to pray - ‘Devote yourselves to prayer’. We are to pray with concern - ‘watchful’. We are to pray with gratitude - ‘thankful’ (Colossians 4:2). We are to pray for those who preach God’s Word. Thank God for the past. Trust Him for the future. Remember - the important thing is the ‘message’ (Colossians 4:3). The messengers are just ‘jars of clay’. The message is the ‘treasure’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). The messengers must not draw attention to themselves. They must direct attention away from themselves to Jesus Christ - ‘We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). We are to pray that the message will be ‘clear’ (Colossians 4:4). Pray for good preaching - preaching which does you good, giving you good cause to say in your heart, ‘For me it is good to be near God’ (Psalm 73:28). Pray for preaching which glorifies God.

3 John

Some people do a lot of good. Others do a great deal of harm. Diotrephes thought he was a big ‘star’. He ‘loves to be first’. He ‘likes to put himself first’. He wasn’t a star. He was a disaster! He took ‘nothing to do with’ God’s servants. He did ‘not acknowledge’ the authority’ of Christ’s apostle. He was ‘gossiping maliciously about’ God’s servants. He did not make people feel ‘welcome’. He drove people ‘out of the church’(9-10). Demetrius was very different. He was ‘well spoken of by everyone - and even by the truth itself’. He wasn’t just popular. He was real, genuine, true. There was a ring of truth about him. These were no empty words of flattery. God’s ‘true’ servants said, ‘We also speak well of him’(12). What kind of person are you?

2 Peter

1:1-2:10a - God ‘has given us His very great and precious promises’ (1:4). God has a great purpose for us. He is preparing for us ‘a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (11). The pathway to heavenly and eternal glory is not an easy one. Often, we will be tempted to settle for being ‘ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’. There will be many distractions, drawing our attention away from Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him if we are not to become ‘blind and short-sighted’. We can so easily forget the most important thing - we have been ‘cleansed from our old sins’. It is so important that we keep looking to Christ, remembering what He has done for us and giving thanks to Him (1:8-9). ‘The Lord’ will not fail us in our ‘trials’ (2:9). Let’s not fail Him!
2:10b-3:18 - ‘Grow’ in Christ and give ‘glory’ to Him. Centred on ‘our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, our life is filled with ‘grace’ and ‘glory’. From Him, we receive ‘grace’ - ‘From the fulness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another’. From Him, we receive ‘glory’ - ‘I have given them the glory that You gave Me’ (3:18; John 1:16; 17:22). Where does this life of grace and glory begin? It begins with God. In ourselves, there is sin. In Him, there is salvation. ‘He is patient with us’. He waits for us to ‘come to repentance’. He shows us our sin so that we might learn to look to our Saviour - ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation’ (3:9; 2 Corinthians 7:10). Turn to the Lord. Let it be real. Let Him lead you in His pathway - the pathway of grace and glory.

2 Kings 1 - 3

'He took up the mantle of Elijah'(2:13). Elijah’s ministry had ended. Elisha’s ministry was about to begin. It was the beginning of a new era. This may have been a new ministry. It was not, however, a new message. Both men preached the Word of the Lord. Elisha continued Elijah’s work. He took up where Elijah had left off. He brough the Word of the Lord to the people. Elisha was not exactly the same as Elijah. He was Elisha - not Elijah! There was, however, continuity. The second ministry built on the work done during the first ministry. The laying of the foundations - this was what Elijah’s ministry had been all about. Now, Elisha would build on this good foundation. He would take the work of God forward. Into the future, on to the second stage - this is what Elisha’s ministry was all about!
‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ (2:14). Elijah was no longer there - but God was still there! Don’t imagine that God goes away when there’s a change of ministry. While Elijah had been serving the Lord, Elisha was being prepared for his time. God is always one step ahead of us. We are living in the present day. He is planning for the future. With each succeeding generation, the question is asked, ‘Where is the Lord?’ In every generation, God is looking for those who will serve Him - ‘testifying of the Gospel of the grace of God, testifying of repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, declaring the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:24, 21, 27). This is ‘the mantle of Elijah’ (2:14) - the mantle of prophetic ministry. Will you ‘take up the mantle’ for God and the next generation?

2 Kings 4 - 5

Chapter 4
The situation seemed hopeless - ‘The child was lying dead on his bed’ (32). What did Elisha do? He ‘prayed to the Lord’ (33). What are we to do when everything seems hopeless? Pray: ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation … Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Psalm 85:4, 6). When we are at our lowest ebb, God is waiting to hear from us. Our prayer may not be eloquent - but it must come from the heart! Perhaps, we can hardly put our prayer into words. God looks beyond our inadequate words. He looks into our hearts. If, in our hearts, we are saying to Him, ‘Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience’, He will hear and He will answer (Romans 8:26-27; Psalm 51:12). You can make a new beginning with God - right now!
Chapter 5
How are we to receive God’s blessing? Are we to ‘do some great thing’? Are we to prove ourselves worthy of His blessing? No! The Word of God gives this simple instruction: ‘Wash and be clean’ (13). Salvation is not something to be paid for or earned. It’s ‘the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23). We don’t come to God, saying, ‘Look at me. Look at how good I am. Look at my religion. Look at my morality. You’ve got to bless me. I deserve it’. We come to Him, believing His Word - ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’ - confessing our sins and trusting in His promise of forgiveness - ‘If we confess our sins, He forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong’ (1 John 1:7, 9). Forget about ‘doing some great thing’. Obey the command that really matters: ‘Wash and be clean’.

2 Kings 6 - 7

Chapter 6
Elisha was ‘the man of God’ (6, 9, 15). This was the most important thing about him. More than anything else, he was ‘the man of God’. We find the same phrase in 1 Timothy 6:11 - ‘But as for you, man of God, … aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’. We are to be people who put first things first. There is nothing more important than this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.’ Does this seem too heavenly-minded? Jesus also says, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Luke 10:27). We are not to be super-spiritual. We are to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. Let there be no conflict between loving God and loving our neighbour. Christ is our Lord. We serve others for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Chapter 7
We read in verse 2, of ‘windows in heaven’. Malachi 3:10 also speaks of ‘the windows in heaven’. Calling us to ‘bring the whole tithe(tenth)’ to Him, God invites us to look to Him to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down an overflowing blessing’. In verse 9, we read of ‘a day of good news’. What ‘a day of good news’ it will be when God ‘opens the windows of heaven and pours down an overflowing blessing’. All of our days of good news come from the day of good news: ‘I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day … a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11). ‘In Christ’, there is ‘every spiritual blessing’. God has given us so much. Let us give ourselves to Him: ‘Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called’ (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1).