Freedom (2)

2018-05-22
Psalm 107:14 NCV

Throughout the Bible, we see people being set free. When the Israelites were in captivity, ‘they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress’ (v.13 NIV). When people were trapped in their sin, Jesus forgave them and set them free. Jesus can free us today, and ‘if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through’ (John 8:36 MSG). So how do we access that freedom? Firstly, we have to want freedom, and we have to realise we need God’s help to get it. We can’t do it in our own strength. Freedom starts by recognising our total dependence on Him. Instead of trying to handle it all on your own, the Bible says, ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). We can get so caught up in trying to find freedom on our own, trying to fix ourselves, we forget to turn to God. But it’s not about fixing ourselves, it’s about devoting ourselves. And devoting ourselves leads on to the second point. We need to be feeding our souls. Jesus said, ‘I am the living bread…If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever’ (John 6:51 NIV). As we feed on God’s Word and share our feelings in prayer, He’ll lighten our burdens and nourish our souls. He came to declare ‘freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed’ (Luke 4:18 NIV). So let’s take time to meditate on God’s Word. And to reflect on it until we understand how to apply it to our lives. Knowledge without application is useless. Freedom requires feeding daily on the Bible, and applying what we learn to our circumstances.

Judg 4-6; Mark 10:13-22; Ps 88:9b-18; Prov 13:4-6

Barabbas

2018-05-15
Luke 23:18 NIV

The Bible says: ‘With one voice they cried out, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’ (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder)’ (vv.18-19 NIV). Barabbas was a ‘notorious prisoner’ (Matthew 27:16 ESV) but still the people chose for Him to be released. Imagine how he must have felt, sat in that prison having been found guilty, and now about to face his punishment. We may not be notorious criminals, but we all make mistakes and we all fall short of God’s best. We’re all tempted and we can all sin. Just like Barabbas, we don’t deserve freedom. But we have it. And that’s all because of the grace of God. The devil wants to make us think that our sin means we’re imprisoned and trapped. But God’s already overcome. We’ve been released, just like Barabbas, because Jesus took our place. He died instead of us. Christ took away all our sins. All of them. He took them to the top of a hill called Calvary. He died on the cross, and our sins died with Him. The Bible says: ‘Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear’ (Romans 3:24-25 MSG). So let’s never forget the incredible gift of freedom from God. Because of Jesus, we too have been released.

Deut 30:1-32:28; Mark 8:27-38; Ps 57; Prov 12:15-17

Trust your advocate, not your accuser (2)

2018-05-08
Romans 8:33 NCV

Paul writes: “Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one, because God is the One who makes them right. Who can say God’s people are guilty? No one, because Christ Jesus died, but he was also raised from the dead, and now he is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us” (vv. 33-34 NCV). The accusations of Satan splutter and fall like a deflated balloon. Then why, pray tell, do we still hear them? Why do we, as Christians, still feel guilt? Not all guilt is bad. God uses appropriate doses of guilt to awaken us to sin. We know guilt is God-given when it causes “indignation…alarm…longing…concern…readiness to see justice done” (2 Corinthians 7:11 NIV). God’s guilt brings enough regret to change us. Satan’s guilt, on the other hand, brings enough regret to enslave us. Don’t let him lock his shackles on you! Remember: “Your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). When God looks at you, He sees Jesus first. In the Chinese language the word for righteousness is a combination of two characters: the figure of a lamb and a person. The lamb is on top, covering the person. Whenever God looks down at you, this is what He sees: the perfect Lamb of God covering you. Only once in Scripture is it recorded that Jesus wrote something. And He wrote it on the ground, saying to an accused sinner He’d just forgiven, “You are free from condemnation. Go, and sin no more” (See John 8:10-11). So the word for you today is: Trust your advocate, and not your accuser!

Soul food: Deut 14-17; Mark 7:1-13; Ps 37:25-31; Prov 12:1-3

Love your church (3)

2018-03-28
2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

Christians aren’t perfect. Here’s why: 1) Because they’re human. But even with full knowledge of our highest potential and our lowest sins, God loves us unconditionally. The Bible says, ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ Every time we look for treasure, we come up against the clay jar. That shouldn’t discourage us, though. It should give us hope, because God looks beyond the imperfect outward appearance and sees the hidden potential inside us. 2) Because they get distracted. In the Old Testament, a soldier was commanded to take a prisoner to a certain destination. His orders were clear: ‘Lose the prisoner and you’ll lose your life.’ So what happened? The soldier said, ‘While I was busy doing something else, the prisoner disappeared’ (1 Kings 20:40 NLT). The soldier lost his prisoner and paid with his life. The same thing can happen to us if we get distracted by worldly things and take our focus off God. So we need to pay attention to our spiritual life and refuse to let other things get in the way. 3) Because they’re asleep spiritually. It was while Samson slept that Delilah cut his hair and handed him over to his enemies (see Judges 16:19-21). And it was while the servants slept that an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat and the harvest was lost (see Matthew 13:25). Two things we must always stay alert for are sin and righteousness. ‘Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning’ (1 Corinthians 15:34 NLT). Be on the lookout for them today.

Jer 7-9; Matt 27:20-26; Ps 38:1-12; Prov 8:22-23

Love your church (3)


2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV

Christians aren’t perfect! Here’s why: (1) Because they’re human. Yet with full knowledge of our highest potential and our lowest proclivities, God loves us unconditionally. The Bible says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” And guess what? Every time you meet treasure, you bump into the earthen vessel. An earthen vessel is just a clay pot, and when it’s cracked – it’s a cracked pot! That shouldn’t discourage you; it should give you hope and cause you to say, “If God can use that old cracked pot, He can use me too!” (2) Because they’re spiritually depleted. The saying goes, “When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep becomes your downfall.” It happens to the best-intentioned among us. In the Old Testament a soldier was commanded to deliver a prisoner to a certain destination. His orders were clear: “Lose the prisoner and you’ll lose your life.” The soldier lost his prisoner and paid with his life. What happened? “While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone” (1 Kings 20:40 NKJV). So pay attention to your spiritual life and don’t let it get depleted. (3) Because they’re asleep spiritually. It was while Samson slept that Delilah shaved the locks of power off his head and delivered him to his enemies. And it was while the servants slept that an enemy sowed tares among the wheat and the harvest was lost. Two things you must stay alert to are – sin and righteousness. “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin” (1 Corinthians 15:34 NKJV).

Soul food: Jer 7-9; Matt 27:20-26; Ps 38:1-12; Prov 8:22-23