Two sides of forgiveness

woman-578429_640Jeremiah 50:20: In those days and at that time,” declares Yahweh, “the guilt of Israel will be sought, but there is none, and the sins of Judah, but they will not be found, for I will forgive those I left behind.

Forgiveness is a matter for the will and not just the emotion. It is the will of God that we forgive others. It is a decision we can make, and how we feel will line up with it.

Forgiveness is given to others and received from God.

Giving forgiveness

Forgiving is good for both the giver and the receiver. Jesus said we should pray: forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12). Jesus was an example in this. Though he did not have any sin that he needed to be forgiven of, he asked that God will forgive those who nailed him to the cross (Luke 23:34).

When Stephen was being martyred, he asked God to forgive his assailants, to not put the sin in their account. He did not hold anything against them (Acts 7:58-60). Jesus promises torment for the people who will not forgive others. In a parable he spoke of a debt owed by two men, one owned the other small money who in turn owed the king a big amount (Matthew 18:21-35).

While the king forgave one servant, the one forgiven refused to forgive his fellow servant and when the king heard about it, he was angry and asked that the unforgiving servant be put in prison to be tormented till he paid all he owed that was previously forgiven him. He did not express forgiveness to others and it was withdrawn from him. Jesus gave that parable to illustrate how important it is to forgive others from our heart, not holding anything against them.

The unforgiving do not show the same kindness to others as God has shown him. Jesus said that no one is good except God (Matthew 19:17a). So if an infinitely perfect and good God forgives us our sins, the least we can do is to forgive others, since we have faults of ours. Therefore, offering forgiveness shows humility.

When we truly receive the forgiveness of God, it means we have embraced and received the love that he has for us. Then we should be able to extend the same love to others. As far as John was concerned, love for others is the litmus test to show if we know God or not (1John 2:9-11).

To be able to extend forgiveness is part of the love package of God in us (Romans 5:5). Paul said that the way to be filled with all the fullness of God is to comprehend the height, length, breadth and depth of the love of God which passes all understanding (Ephesians 3:14-21). His love for us equips us to extend love to others.

The Holy Spirit comes to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts, not only showing us that God accepts us but also helping us to accept others with their faults and frailties.

Paul said that those who are mature should bear with the failing of the weak and not to please ourselves (Romans 15:1). Not extending forgiveness is a sign of self-focus, it is focus on how much wrong has been done you and how the other party needs to pay. In a way, that shows your sense of bloated self-importance, and twisted need for validation. Choosing to be harsh and not extend love shows how dried up the soul of that servant was, of the water of love.

Receiving forgiveness

God cannot stand sin. Isaiah said that God is limited in what he can do the life of the people because of the problem of sin (Isaiah 59:1). But in another place in the bible we read that blessed is the man to whom God does not input iniquity (Psalm 32:2, Romans 4:6). That means in your record, sin is not recorded.

This happens in Jesus Christ, Jesus brings us under the cover of his blood and we are changed under it. His blood is active as it works in us, imparting the life of God in us because the life of a man is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). The blood cleanses us on the inside so that we can stand before God with no sense of condemnation.

The bible says in the book of Hebrews that the many sacrifices made in the Old Testament bring a consciousness of sin, but with the blood of Jesus we see that our sins are washed away, not for a time being but for all time (Hebrews 9:12, 10:12).

Paul therefore declared there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). But for the Israelites in the Old Testament, there was condemnation every time a sacrifice is made. And whether you like it or not, there are regular sacrifices made morning and evening, and special sacrifices made monthly and yearly.

Those sacrifices were loud statements of the continuous sinfulness of man, how unworthy we are. And the mighty veil covering the holy of holies (the place where the ark of God, the embodiment of the presence of God is), means there is limit in the association of man with God, in how close man can get to God because of his state of sinfulness (Hebrews 9:1-13, 10:19-20, Mark 15:58).

The veil indicates the distance between man and God that cannot be bridged, till a new covenant was brought to bear. Between God and man, there were layers and layers of sacrifices. This arrangement was really far from the ideal. But Jesus brings, into the human-God relationship arrangement, the perfect sacrifice, which is himself, to once and for all remove the veil, the limit in relationship of man with God, which was there because of sin, since a sinful man and an holy God will ordinarily not meet.

Because of Jesus we have the veil removed from the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). The throne represents the mercy seat was is part of the Ark of the Covenant located in the holy of holies in the Old Testament, with was made to represent the heavenly original.

To the spiritual throne of grace, we do not come fearfully, or self-effacing, but with unveiled faces we behold the glory which is manifested in the holy of holies (2Corinthians 8:13).

We come boldly to the throne of grace. We have not come to try to gain favour. We are already favoured. We are not coming bringing anything in our hands to appease God or any act of self-righteousness. God does not respect anything, but he responds to and respects the blood of Jesus.

God no longer has to be appeased by us. We come as his children, as people who have the right to be there, to be at the throne of grace, as those who are righteous, pleasing to him. We do not come hoping to be accepted, we come because we are already accepted, because we are part of the body of Christ.

The dynamics of spiritual warfare

snake-195917_640Jeremiah 47:6: Ho, sword of Jehovah, till when art thou not quiet? Be removed unto thy sheath, rest and cease. (YLT)

The Lord is called a mighty one (Psalm 50:1). He is the Lord of hosts (Jeremiah 5:14). Jesus came to the earth once as a Lamb, but he will return as Lion (Revelation 5:5). With the sword of his mouth, he will vanquish the opposition and set up a thousand-year kingdom of the earth (2Thessalonians 2:8, Revelation 19:11-21, 20:1-6).

God showed himself as a warrior in the deliverance of the children of Israel from the grip of their taskmasters in Egypt. Before then there was no hope of escape. They did not have any army, their overlords had emasculated them, and killed their males, to stem their population growth.

So daily there are weeping and gnashing of teeth. They face untold difficulty, loss, pain and were filled with the sense of hopelessness. And God wielded his sword for their deliverance, in an unforgettable display of power.

He told Moses: “I have come down. I am silent no more. I will at once bring deliverance.” The power bank of heaven was opened and Pharaoh could not stand it. By the time all was said and done, the army of Egypt was buried in the Red Sea, and everyone who is a firstborn was dead and buried.

Egypt was broken and the hold of slavery on the people of God was destroyed. At the end, they were free. Light filled their soul, rejoicing filled their heart, and their mouth was filled with music, songs of praise to God.

Signs and wonders marked the birth of that nation. Getting the people out of Egypt was the easy part, but the hard task begun after that, which was taking Egypt out of the people to bring them to the Promised Land. It is getting them to maintain their focus on God till the end.

None could resist God’s plan to bring the people out of bondage but to bring them to the place of their rest, the people resisted God, because the latter involved walking with God which needed the retraining of the mind.

Getting saved comes in a snap, you confess Jesus, and just like that you are saved (Romans 10:9-13). With that, we come into Christ, into his righteousness. But the challenge is to get Christ to manifest in you, have his righteousness expressed through you. It is a massive work, involving concerted and complex hard work.

It is in view of that Paul said: God is at work in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). He also said that he travails again that Christ might be formed in the Christians in Galatia (Galatians 4:19). To the church in Colossi, he wrote that one Epaphras was labouring fervently in prayer so that they will stand perfect in all the will of God (Colossians 4:12). That is pure hard work, it is laborious, intense and continuous.

After Jesus defeated the devil on the cross, Paul said another warfare ensues within us which has to do with casting down thoughts and imagination that are contrary to God (2Corinthians 10:1-5). Paul said that for that task the weapon of our warfare was not carnal but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds.

Jesus said that it does not profit a man to gain the world and lose his own soul (Mark 8:36). The world is complex at it is, and from what Jesus said, we can conclude that the soul is more complex.

Looking at this world, many things need reform, so the soul (our internal world) needs even more reform. Jeremiah said that the heart of man is desperately wicked who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9)? That hints at the unending complexity of the soul. With advances in knowledge, we have come to know the world but, the soul (which houses the personality) is a tougher landscape.

The content of the soul is expressed in the tongue. As it is written: out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). And James that the tongue is an unruly member, difficult to tame (James 3:8). As we come under the blood of Jesus, we are saved, we need to get our heart under the control of the word of God, which Paul calls the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).

We also read that the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the asunder of soul and spirit, which means it has the capability to change us on the inside, to liberate us (Hebrews 4:12). There is a war going on within us, it is the battle of the mind, it involves thoughts emotions and reactions.

Eve in the Garden of Eden was in a thought warfare with the devil that she was not aware of (Genesis 3). And because he was not on guard she became a victim.

The devil had her under him. He caused her to agree with him. She thought that the devil was right and God was wrong. And when Eve was conquered on the inside, conquered in her thoughts, he committed sin in her action, showing she was conquered. Jesus made it plain that the lust and other evils that take place in the heart are validly sins (Matthew 5:28).

The sword of the Lord empowers us to wage spiritual wars successfully. Spiritual battles are going on all around us. Paul said: we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:10-18).

We do not confront them on our own, by our own strength, rather we take on the whole armour of God, i.e. things that must line up together in our lives to give us the edge over Satan’s operation in the heart.

The word of God affirmed that we have all the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions (Luke 10:19). In another place, we read that the force of unity enhances our effectiveness in spiritual battle. Five will chase one thousand and one hundred will chase ten thousand (Leviticus 26:8).

Conclusion

God did not leave us defenceless against the forces of darkness, we are encouraged to take hold of the sword of the Spirit ourselves. It is effective both in the realm of the spirit and in correcting things in our heart.

The anatomy of spiritual movement

wave-629377_640Jeremiah 44:12: And I will take away the remnant of Judah who are determined to come to the land of Egypt to dwell as aliens there, and everyone will perish. They will fall in the land of Egypt by the sword; they will perish by the famine, from the smallest to the greatest. By the sword and by the famine they will die and become as a curse, as a horror, and as a curse, and as a disgrace. (LEB)

The people of Judah were moving in the wrong direction, in a direction they thought was going to give them succour, but it actually was going to lead to bad things happening to them. Jesus taught us to pray to God with these words: led us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (Luke 11:4).

At a time in Israel Prophet Elisha gave guidance to the king to avoid the traps that the enemy has set for him, as they planned to crush their military (2Kings 6:8-12). Supernaturally, Elisha knew the plans of the enemy and told the king who then takes appropriate adjustment to stay one step ahead of the enemy. With special insight, his movement was guided aright into success and away from failure. Jesus is the one called to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79).

The bible speaks of the men of Issachar who knows what Israel should do because they have the understanding of the times. Issachar means reward, i.e. as someone who represents benefit (1Chronicles 12:32). There is no greater benefit than being helped to move in the right direction. It can be the difference between life and death, between a trap and great freedom, between empowerment and defeat.

When Judas moved in the direction of betraying Jesus, he was moved by greed (Matthew 26:15, John 18:5). Stirred in the wrong direction, he landed into perdition.

But, we are meant to pursue righteousness. That was the charge that Paul gave Timothy, telling him to be an example to the believers (1Timothy 4:12). Paul said his own movement, his pursuit, is in the direction of knowing Christ and also to move in the direction the crown that he will get at the end of his life (2Timothy 4:7-8).

He described the direction of the “farmer,” the “athlete” and the “soldier,” when writing to Timothy, while hinting at the things that guide the direction he goes (2Timothy 2:1-7). And there are things we can learn from what he wrote.

The farmer

Paul said the farmer, the husbandman, who labours in the vineyard is the first to partake of the fruit. The operative word is labour. The husbandman has a focus, which is for the vine to do well. He pours his energy in that direction. Every day and night, the thoughts of his vineyard fill him up.

He is there in the field, tending to the vines, noticing different signs, pruning, preventing any kind of animal invasion. He sees that the vines are protected. He has his eyes on the harvest, on the vineyard, doing well on the long run. He will not allow anything to distract him from his labour.

And Paul talked about labouring more than other apostles (1Corinthians 15:9-10) and that the people of God are the field in which he works (1Corinthians 3:9). In another place, he said that he labour so that Christ be formed in the people (Galatians 4:19). The mission was to cultivate Christ in the people, cause him to flourish in them and achieve spiritual fruits for the benefit of the kingdom of God.

The athlete

What Paul highlighted in the athlete is not just the effort put into winning against the commission, but the observance of the rules. It is not enough to have brute force, long legs, be physically capable, to have practised for a long time, or otherwise been prepared. We must learn the rule of the game and abide by it. That will either make our efforts or mar them.

Spiritual service without compliance with the word of God should be avoided at all cost. The word of God helps us to keep our priority right, keep our focus on him, to keep on the straight and narrow road which leads to life (Matthew 7:14).

The bible says there is need to drop every weight and the sin that easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1-3). Ability without obedience is nothing. Every athlete has to submit himself to the rule of the game. No matter how great you are or how much you have achieved in the sport. It does not matter if you obeyed the rules yesterday, you still have to line up with them today and also tomorrow. There is no doing away with them.

That is why the bible says that we should follow those who through faith and patience obtained the promised (Hebrews 6:12). If we do what they did yesterday to get the right result, we will get the same. The bible says that the things that were written were for our learning, so that we might gain a heart of wisdom (1Corinthians 10:11). God has not changed. What was written hundreds of years ago, is still relevant today. And we do not have to repeat the mistake those before us made. If we do not learn well we will not do well. That is the fact of the matter.

The soldier

What Paul wants us to learn from the soldier is the commitment to a person. The farmer is shown to be committed to the work, the athlete is committed to the rule, knowing it like the back of his hands, but for the soldier, it is about the hierarchy, the leadership.

Paul impresses it on us that the soldier endures hardness if he is to be regarded as a good one. He goes through pain, not for himself but for the one who chose him to be a soldier and in the case of Christian that person is Jesus, to whom we should give our loyalty, to whom we are intimately identified with. Because of the commitment to the person of Jesus, we should avoid being entangled with worldly affair in order to please the one who calls us to be soldiers. He went through hell for us, and we need to “pay him back” (Isaiah 53:11, Hebrews 12:1-4, 1Peter 2:21, 4:1).

Endpoint

Everyone has an end in the direction of which we should move. The farmer has the harvest, and the soldier has to contribute his part to win the war while the athlete needs to win the race.

Movement has three components, they are “decision, desire and determination.” Everything starts with a decision to make the journey; that you chose to go in a particular direction means you have rejected others. Desire starts you on the path of decision, and determination helps you overcome the difficulties on the way.

Our determination can be strengthened when we associate with people going in the same direction people we can learn from, who will be our model, who will challenge us. It is not enough to want to go somewhere, we need to have the depth of determination to see through the process, to get to the desired haven.

The meaning of freedom

horse-430441_640Jeremiah 40:4: Now, behold, I release you today from the chains on your hands. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you well, but if it seems wrong to you to come with me to Babylon, do not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go.

The love of God frees us to be all we can be. It is empowering because he believes in us, he tells us to go on, as he backs us with all he has.

He breaks a chain from us, the chain of sin, and we are free to serve him without any limitation. We can serve God with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28).

Jesus was clear about what true freedom really is. When certain Jews thought that because they were from Abraham, they thought they were free, Jesus told them if you a sinner you are in bondage (John 8:30-38). Period. If you constantly act against the direction of your conscience, you are in bondage, and Jesus brings us freedom.

To show the clear picture of what bondage to sin means, let us see the story of Peter and how he denied Jesus, just a few hours after he had vowed he will die for him (Matthew 26:31-35, Luke 22:33).

Was he lying when he made that promise, was he being hypocritical? He was not. But he overestimated his ability to be altruistic, to do the right thing, to be right. Paul, knowing that we are prone to overestimating ourselves, said, we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but should think soberly (Romans 12:3).

Man left that ability behind in the Garden of Eden and that is the Holy Spirit (Genesis 2:7). He is the one who can stir us in the right direction, the heavenly ability in us.

Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit is the fight against the wrong impulse within us. Paul said that the flesh desires is against the Spirit and the Spirit’s desire is against the flesh so that we do not do what we want to do (Galatians 5:17).

The Spirit empowers us to not be tied to the aprons of the flesh. Jesus says the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:36-50), it cannot help against the onslaught of demonic influence seeking to rule man with evil thoughts.

And Jesus recommended prayer as a means of freedom from the weakness of the flesh so that we would not fall into temptation and do the wrong thing, pulled away from the will of God.

Jesus, when he said that we need to pray to not fall under temptation, was involved in a long period of prayer in the Garden of Eden as his flesh wanted to shirk away from the will of God which was about him going to the cross.

As the time to die drew near, something he was had long been aware of, the human need for self-preservation kicked in, which is the default setting of the flesh, screaming to have its needs met, which is against the will of God. But the Holy Spirit helped Jesus as a result of his prayer and he was able to offer himself as sacrifice. The bible says that Jesus offered himself by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). You cannot get people to make sacrifice by appealing to their flesh, which is programmed to self-preserve, self-focused and selfish. People make sacrifices only under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Whatever you can do, to get the people under greater influence of the Holy Spirit, do. That is better than trying to beat them on the head by stirring up the emotion of guilt or pity.

There are two sides of freedom, which are freedom from sin and freedom to move into the fullness of the will of God for us. Jesus told the disciples that apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5), we cannot make real progress. We arrive at “fulfilment” through the path of freedom.

In Christ all our possibilities are unleashed, we cut the picture of ability and greatness, realising the full intent in the mind of God for creating us.

We are God’s product. We cannot use ourselves, and the greatest sense of fulfilment we get is from used by God. Moses was used by God and the bible says that he was faithful in all of God’s house (Hebrews 3-5).

Before he was called to serve, he was just your average herdsman. He herded his father-in-law’s sheep. Any ambition he had while he was younger was dead. As an old man and a family man, he probably was not particularly excited about life. He had excitement in Egypt, by that was decades before, but God told him at the age of eighty: go and deliver my people Israel and I will be with you (Exodus 3).

Gideon was another man who became freed to be all he can be by serving the purpose of God. When God called him, Israel was really in a poor place, they were a people oppressed (Judges 6-7).

Gideon was just trying to survive when God said to him: man of valour, go in this thy might and deliver Israel. He could not believe his ears. But when he stepped out ever so gingerly in the direction of the will of God, he got the victory for Israel.

But first God asked him to do away with the idol made by his father’s. He knew how attached the people were to that and was only able to destroy the image at night. But that was necessary so that there will be no confusion about the source of the victory, when God delivers Israel through Gideon. And Gideon’s name was etched in gold in Israel.

Both Moses and Gideon were servants of God who led the people from oppression into freedom. They did not do it from their own initiative but as they shared the love of God for the people they were able to deliver on their mandate.

In the freedom of these two people to walk in the mandate of God, was the freedom of multitudes of people. In the same way, when you walk in the full freedom of the will of God for you, it will lead to many other gaining freedom, conversely, your being in bondage, has the potential of putting many other people into bondage.

When Adam and Eve fell into sin and entered the bondage of sin and death, it led multitudes in the same direction (Romans 5:12-21). His bondage led to more and more bondage and the freedom of Jesus in alignment with the will of God resulted in many people becoming righteous, gaining freedom of relationship with God, marked by the experience of his Spirit within us, who propels us into more and more wisdom.

The Spirit is empowering. When Jesus was about to depart in the physical sense from the disciples he promised them the Holy Spirit. He said: you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses everywhere (Acts 1:8).

A word from the Lord

king-306448_640Jeremiah 37:17: Now King Zedekiah sent and took him out; and in his palace the king secretly asked him and said, “Is there a word from the Lord?” And Jeremiah said, “There is!” Then he said, “You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon!” (NASB)

A word from the Lord saved a nation in a time of famine. The nation was Israel, the prophet was Elisha. The famine had been biting hard after Samaria, the capital, had been under a siege for a long time (2Kings 6:25). Nothing was moving. No one was moving in or out of the gated city.

It was a hard time like never before as things became so expensive and at least one woman killed her son, cooked the corpse and ate. If a situation was dire, that was it.

The king, who should normally have the solution, was helpless and perplexed and at a time tore his cloth in dejection.

But a word from God changed all that. Elisha said: by this time tomorrow, there will be abundance. That prophetic word, that word from God. That was preposterous and one of the advisers of the king publicly declared that it cannot happen. He was walking by sight and not by faith (2Corinthians 5:7). He was so sure of himself, in his spiritual blindness. He died soon after while other enjoyed the benefit of having the word come to pass.

We need to agree with the word and take action in alignment with that belief. The word will not benefit us if it is not mixed with faith in us. That is why the children of Israel who did not believe that God could bring them to the Promised Land did not get there.

From the fear-filled report of ten spies out of the twelve sent by Moses to check out the land, they concluded that God cannot possibly conquer the Promised Land for them because of how powerful the inhabitants were (Numbers 13-14). They heard of the giants in the land. Because of that the whole generation perished in the wilderness. Their carcasses were scattered in the wilderness. It did not have to happen like that if only they are taken God at his word.

There is power in the word of God. Remember that was the tool for God to create the earth. The prophetic word is when people speak the word of God forth (1Corinthians 14:3). And that carries the divine energy.

One woman experienced provision in a difficult situation. She was a widow and he had no source of income. Famine was biting in the land and she was set to eat her last meal (prepared with a little oil and flour) and then wait for death (1Kings 17:8-15). But Elijah came with a word of God for her that the oil will not stop flowing and the flour will not end. That was what happened and she was fed together with her son and Elijah to the end of the famine. She fed on God’s faithfulness.

If you are experienced famine get ready for a word from God, get ready to have the siege broken and your situation radically changed almost overnight.

When God said let there be light in the first chapter of the bible (Genesis 1:1-3), darkness was everywhere, but the word of God changes things and it is that word that will create a reality of light out of the darkness that you are presently experiencing. Get ready for radical and sudden change.

When God speaks what he says gets created. His words carries the divine energy, his creative essence. Of Jesus (the word) the bible says, through him everything was made and without him was nothing made that was made (John 1:1-6). That means everything you see emanates from the word.

A word from God makes dream come true, brings solution to long standing problem. When Jesus healed the daughter of a gentile woman who was grievously oppressed, it was with a word. Almost a non-word. He only told the woman: let what you desire be done. He just agreed with her spoken desire and it was done (Matthew 15:21-28).

A man came to Jesus asking him to heal his servant. And because of his compassion, he wanted to make the trip to his house, but the man stopped him. He told Jesus that he only has to say the word and it will be done (Matthew 8:6-13).

He recognised the spiritual authority that Jesus wields, which is no respecter of time and space. It is virtually unlimited. Jesus then praised his faith, saying that he has not seen a greater faith in Israel. Jesus has the word and the man has the faith and the mixture of the two leads to a miracle.

Jesus said that everything is possible for those who believe. It’s not enough for the word to come, your attitude to it is also important. If you will see a change, you must be an active believer in the word of God. Not just a hearer, but a doer (James 1:22-25), otherwise you will be deceiving yourself, it will be all motion and no progress.

The word only delivers for the believer. The bible spoke of some people who heard the word but since it did not mix with faith in them it did not deliver the reality it contains to them (Hebrews 4:2).

The bible also says that the Lord will do nothing expect he tells his servant the prophets (Amos 3:7) who will in turn declare it on the earth. That activates things in the realm of the unseen to determine what is seen, because what is visible comes from the unseen in the declared word of God (Hebrews 11:3). The declared word bears the divine authority on earth and angels are released to bring it to pass, going all the way giving it everything it takes.

And remember that they excel in strength and nothing can oppose them (Psalm 103:20). As we declare the word of God they carry it out because they have been programmed to act on the word of God. That is their duty.

It was also the duty of man to do the will of God as revealed in his word. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes puts it this way: it is the whole duty of man to fear God and do his will (Ecclesiastes 12:13). When we do not do his will, we get hardened and his word takes away from our being able to listen to him and hear his word and declare it for it to happen.

Therefore, obedience is key. Jesus said that if we will obey him he and the father will come to dwell in us (John 14:23). He said that if we abide in his word, we will ask whatever we want and it will be done for us (John 15:7). That means we will decree a thing and it will be established for us (Job 22:28).

Defining REST

gulls-654046_640Jeremiah 36:31: And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.'”

It is not God’s first strike to bring calamity. Peter said God does not want us anyone to perish but that all should come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). We need to go on the path to the mercy of God. Judgement is not predetermined, we can do something to avoid the path that leads to it.

God sent prophet Isaiah to inform King Hezekiah that his time was up, that he should set up a succession plan (Isaiah 38:1-8). But it came from God, Hezekiah sought to have his day in court and marshalled arguments with tears and prayer for God to change his mind. And he did.

It does not have to end badly, we can turn to Jesus, who said when we come to him and learn from him, we will find rest for our soul (Matthew 11:28-30). Rest means Resources, Embrace, Salvation and Transformation.

Resources

Jesus has resources for us. We were depleted by sin, especially, of the Spirit of God. When God made man he put his Spirit in him (Genesis 2:7). That was what made man to be in God’s image, that was the light in man- the power and purpose and passion all rolled into one.

Without that man was empty. He was a walking dead (Ephesians 2:1-8). But in Jesus we got the resources back. We become part of his body and we share his Spirit (Romans 8:9), and hence his purpose, passion and power.

Without the Holy Spirit we were empty, we were puppets in the hand of the devil, with spirit of the power of the air having a field day in us, as we ran errands for the devil. We were in bondage and we could not save ourselves.

The first Adam was full of the Spirit but because of his sin, he had no spirit to bequeath to us, but Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on us after he ascended to heaven (Acts 2:33). Jesus is heaven coming to us, filling our empty pots with the divine presence.

Paul puts it this way: the treasure is in earthen vessels so that the greatness of the glory will be of God and not of us (2Corinthians 4:7). We need him in an absolute sense. And it is great if we have that sense. Christ is our power and wisdom (1Corinthians 1:24), he is everything, the one who baptises us with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16).

Embrace

We rest is in the embrace of Jesus Christ, embrace of God. Being chased from the Garden of Eden was a deep humiliation (Genesis 3). We were pushed from the best of God, the presence of God, cut off from the life of God. But in Jesus we got accepted in the beloved. We now can move around with a strong sense of acceptance. We can come as we are, we are no longer outside, we are inside, citizens of heaven.

Salvation

Another component of rest is salvation that is Jesus, and exclusively in him. He was named Jesus because he was going to save us from our sins. We needed saving, from the repercussion of our sin, from a damning destination.

The bible says if we believe in Jesus we have come from death to life (John 5:24). It is as simple and as serious as that. There is no name given under heaven by which we might be saved expect the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).

But how can a name save us?

It is because it is more than just a name. The name of Jesus is imbibed with his power and person. A name in the spirit realm conveys the manifestation of the essence of that person, just as mentioning the name of somebody you know invokes the pictures, and your feelings about the person, in your mind.

In the realm of the spirit, what gets evoked is infinitely more than that. The bible says Jesus has been given a name above every other name (Philippians 2:5-11).  And based on the convention in Israel, it is the father that gives the child a name and God was the one who named Jesus (Matthew 1:21).

He gave him a name and Gabriel was the postal angel who delivered the message to his parents. God gave Jesus a name and hence a personality, a name above every other name so that at the name of Jesus every bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. His name conveys his Lordship.

He has a dominating name and that name saves because it dominates over death for those who believe. The name of Jesus works. To believe in him means we believe in his name, we believe in what he stands for, who he is, what he has, his identity (as one who saves us from sin) his prestige in the realm of the unseen, and his coming revelation on the earth for judgment.

Coming to him gives us rest from the works of the law as a means of salvation. As the bible says that no one by the works of the law can be saved (Titus 3:5, Romans 3:20, 28). It is just futile, labouring without benefits labouring and failing.

Transformation

“Resources” means we have rest from what we do not have; “Embrace” means we have rest from rejection by God; “Salvation” means we have rest from a future doom; “Transformation” mean we have rest from who were. Jesus does not leave us the way he met us. If truly we are learning from him we will be changing into his image from glory to glory (2Corinthians 3:18). He infused his ability into us. He shapes us into him. As we experienced him, focus on him, the transformation work goes on and on in us until we see him face to face.

We are transformed inside out, we are transformed as we serve and know him. The transformation is not apart from him, it is because of him. It is energised by him, directed to him, enabled by him. We are for his glory, to express his holiness, and for his praise (Isaiah 53).

Teaching

curtain-165488_640Jeremiah 32:33: And they turn unto Me the neck, and not the face, and teaching them, rising early and teaching, and they are not hearkening to accept instruction. (YLT)

Teaching is to retrain the mind. There is the need for instruction in righteousness, as the bible says (2Timothy 3:16). Without such instruction, the life of righteousness can hardly be lived. What the devil did in the Garden of Eden was to redirect the focus of Eve from the word of God, in the first of “doctrine of demons” that the devil will introduce on the earth (Genesis 3).

Teachings that take root in you are like codes within you that get you to function in a certain way when the right buttons are pressed, with the right environmental stimuli, so to speak. With the right coding, you get to act in a certain way.

Your actions will follow your internal programming, the teachings you have imbibed. That is why Paul warned that evil communication corrupt good manners (1Corinthians 15:33). Because we learn from those who we associate with, they encode us with their character flaws by passive osmosis and we get to act like they do. In another place in the bible we read that we need to make going to church important so that we can be stirred up to love and good works, they activate to act the way we should in an atmosphere of love, and right instruction (Hebrews 10:25-26).

Just as the wrong teaching is important to the devil and he is hard at work flooding the world with his wrong teaching, to get them to act untoward to God, towards Jesus, God is also sending his word out through all available avenue. He psalmist wrote: the lord gave the word, great was the multitude of they who proclaim it (Psalm 68:11).

Paul is interested in a teaching network to blanket the world with truth. He told Timothy to commit to others who can teach others what he had taught him (2Timothy 2:2).

The whole bible is a giant teaching textbook on the ways of God, which we ignore to our own peril. The teaching of the bible is spiritual encoding in which prime us to think like God and shine as lights since God is light.

The importance of the thinking on the word of God is brought poignantly home by the first psalm where the flourishing life of a man was linked to the fact that he meditates day and night on the word of God, because from the word comes the life of God, and creates the reality of heaven around and inside us.

But God cannot force truth on you. That is the point the focus verse is about. The people referred to were constantly confronted with the truth, with the right teaching but they decided to turn their back on it, they were called to come to the knowledge of the truth but they said they have other things on their mind.

Jesus gave a parable of the king who invited people to feast in his house, but those who were first invited said that they have some other things to do with their time. They were busy and in their mind it was not a priority to heed to the word of the king, to fellowship with him, to be in his presence (Matthew 22:1-12).

And the word of God is like spiritual food. And we are called upon to feast. Jesus said when we eat his flesh then we will have life in us (John 6:53). We are called to feast on the words of God for spiritual nourishment. Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). In the wilderness, the children of Israel had to pick the manna every day for their physical sustenance and it was an indication of the fact that we need to feed on the word of God daily. No wonder Peter said we need to take in the word of God so that we can grow, otherwise we will be spiritually malnourished and may not even know it (1Peter 2:2).

What we need is to focus on Jesus and we get his passion for God, for the word, for his work. He has it in full. Jesus rebuked a church for losing their first love, they lost focus on Jesus and started to seek for other things, pursue their own agenda (Revelation 2:4-5).

When we stop being encumbered, with sincerity of devotion to Christ, we can run with passion after him.

We would not get into the word as we should if we are not in pursuit of Jesus as our primary aim. If reading the bible for you is about strengthening your relationship with Jesus through your knowledge of him, then you are set up for a lifetime of discovery and the more you know the more you want to know (John 5:39-40). You will not get enough.

There are things he wants to tell you today that you did not know yesterday, that you were not taught in bible school, if you went to one. The discovery of truth is about looking into the face of Jesus, it is a discovery of Jesus, who is truth (John 14:6).

The bible says in his light we see light (Psalm 36:9), and light means knowledge. In him, in his knowledge, we experience liberty (2Corinthians 3:16-18), and more love because knowing God means flowing in more love (1John 1:5, 2:8-10).

Paul said that the goal of the teaching is love from a pure heart, sincere faith and good conscience (1Timothy 1:5). We should look for us expressing more and more love, express more and more of the character of God, the more divine truth we know. This is how Paul puts it: put on the Christ (Romans 13:14), learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20), be imitators of God as little children (Ephesians 5:1).

Sincere faith is another goal of teaching. Paul said that faith comes by hearing he word of God, but doubts come by hearing the words of the devil (Romans 10:17), but the more we make ourselves focus on the word of God, by whatever means possible and consistently we drown out the doubts and stand as people of faith.

Good conscience: there is no conscience without the knowledge of right and wrong. And the stronger truth is rooted in us the more we can differentiate between right and wrong decision and direction. The more filled we are in truth the more we can separate it from lies, the less we will be tossed to and from by any wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-15), the less we will susceptible to deception, which is the devil’s forte. The more convinced we are about the truth, the deeper we are in the word and in the truth. We need to have the stronghold of truth built in us.

There is no magic about it. While the devil is marshalling his lies which come with darkness, we need to be armed with the truth to be able to resist. That was the example that Jesus gave us. When the enemy came to trip him with temptation Jesus was able to rise up against him using the word of God as the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). He told the devil: “it is written…,” and so was not deceived.