God, have mercy on me, a sinner

Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

Many people, even Christians, think that to be ‘righteous’ (effectively ‘right before God’) involves doing the right thing. Keeping the commandments. Obeying the Law.

But this completely misses the point.

It’s because we are unable do good all of the time that Jesus paid the price for us. Stood in our place. Received the punishment we so justly deserve.

We are all sinners. Each and every one of us. (Romans 3:10)

Acknowledging this and asking for God’s forgiveness is our only path.

Trying to earn His merit is a futile endeavour. No matter what we do we will never be good enough. At least, not without Jesus.

It’s such a simple, pure concept of substitution that we find it hard to grasp.

We are reluctant to accept such generosity. Such grace. Such mercy.

Perhaps it’s about time you stopped struggling to pay an insurmountable debt and instead accepted the gift on offer: eternal life.

Kim+

prayer : that friends & family would discover the joy of faith

action : share the hope I have in Christ with family & friends

How Christ Enables the Church to Upbuild Itself in Love

Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high
he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in *deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:4-16 (ESV)

Through the reading of scripture over the past week or two I have learned that God uses all His people to build up His church.

And this has become even clearer by listening to John Piper in his sermon, “How Christ Enables the Church to Upbuild Itself in Love“.

The main point I take away from this particular talk is the importance of small groups. Groups of believers meeting regularly to talk; to listen; to read God’s word; to pray for one another.

Essentially, they perform the invaluable function of support and encouragement to one another. And thereby enable the growth the church as their faith is strengthened.

These groups are meant to complement regular weekly meetings such as Sunday worship services. But they’re not supposed to replace them.

Ideally, we should attend both. And in so doing, find opportunities to love each other in practical ways.

Kim+

prayer : that small groups in our church would be a great source of learning and encouragement

action : attend a small group regularly – every week where possible

Manhood, Womanhood, and the Freedom to Minister

1Ti 2:8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

1 Timothy 2:8-15 (ESV)

How sad that Scripture, God’s Holy Word, can cause such strife and division within the church.

It pains me every time I hear Christians arguing over the meaning of this text.

Yet listening to John Piper in his sermon, “Manhood, Womanhood, and the Freedom to Minister“, my understanding of these verses is now much, much clearer.

And interestingly, my view has not changed from what it was before but simply clarified. A testament to the sound teaching I’ve received in the past.

The message I take from the sermon, and of course God’s Word, is that men and women both have important, valuable roles to perform.

The “silence” spoken of in this chapter is not so much a complete absence of voice but rather a respectful quietness.

There is a ministry role for every believer. And there are countless opportunities available to both men and women allowing them to exercise their God-given gifts.

But what women are excluded from doing is exercising “authority” over men, especially through “teaching”.

This doesn’t mean they cannot teach. But the form that “teaching” will take may well differ to that performed by men.

We would do well to read Scripture more carefully and prayerfully rather than jumping to conclusions, taking passages out of context, or worse still, applying our own cultural biases to influence our thinking.

Because “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Kim+

prayer : that I would be mindful when reading and interpreting Scripture, asking for godly wisdom to provide me with insight and understanding

action : seek God’s will for the ministry role He would have me do within my church

Christ Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners

1Ti 1:12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:12-17 (ESV)

Reading the sermon by John Piper, “Christ Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners“, I’m struck by the wonderful gift of life.

I think we all too often take for granted our health and the gracious gift of physical life God has given us.

Forgetting to thank Him who created us.

Yet we should be even more thankful for the gift of spiritual life that He offers us.

And all that comes with it.

Especially as it came at such a “price”. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

For our “ransom” (Mark 10:45) was paid for by “the blood of Christ Jesus”. (Romans 5:9)

Now, to be “born again” in Christ (John 3:3 and 1 Peter 1:23) is to enjoy all the “riches” that He has to offer. (Ephesians 1:18)

And before anyone can say that they’re beyond change, beyond saving, beyond redemption, they need only to look at the person of Paul who was “foremost amongst sinners”.

Yet he, even he, was not beyond salvation.

Wow!

Gods grace knows no bounds.

Kim+

prayer : thank you God for the gift of new life that can only come from you

action : pray that I will be given the opportunity to share this knowledge, this hope, my faith with another person today

the problem of false teaching

1Ti 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

1 Timothy 1:1-11 (ESV)

Written to the church in Ephesus, this letter or “pastoral epistle” to Timothy clearly addresses some false teaching that has sprung up in the church.

What’s interesting is that their “discussions” are pointless debates that are of no benefit.

It reminds me of the argument, within the church of the Middle Ages centuries ago, about whether or not Jesus ever laughed.

Nowhere does it actually say in the Bible that He did laugh. So who knows?

But more importantly, what does it matter? Debating it seems to me a useless waste of time that does nothing to build up the body of Christ.

The method of determining the worth of such “discussions” is whether or not they result in love.

This should be the ultimate test for the soundness of all doctrine.

Kim+

prayer : help me to not engage in “vain discussions” but seek to love others as Christ loved us

action : pray regularly that E may come to know Christ