Friday, 22 March 2013

The Rock

"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my Rock." Psalm 18:2
It would be so easy to attach a picture now, one of a man climbing up a sheer rock face, so very inspiring. Yet I'm not going there. This morning I read Matthew 16:15-18 from a different angle.

Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was, they answered.  Then Jesus asked them who they thought he was, Simon Peter answered "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.".  Good answer!  And Jesus acknowledged that for Peter to understand this, it was divine.  Jesus then renamed Simon, Peter. Peter means rock.  "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

I always thought Jesus was talking about Peter as 'this rock', but I actually wonder if Jesus was pointing to himself when he said "on this (points to himself) rock I will build My church"  Can a church be built on a man?  Peter was a great servant of God, but he was not the rock upon which the church was built.

Peter was a significant man of God, and I am in no way diminishing how the Lord used him in the early church and through his writings since then.  I just wonder if I have misread this passage of scripture in the past.

Peter was a rock for his generation and they were the generation that started the church. Yet, Jesus is the cornerstone, he was prophesied  in the Old Testament and Peter himself reiterated this (1 Peter 2:6), quoting Isaiah 28:16:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who trusts will never be dismayed."
I don't think you can pose the question; if Peter hadn't followed...? He had divine power to rise up and be the man God lead him to be.  He was filled with the Spirit and lead by the Spirit and subject to the work of the Spirit. But - hypothetically speaking, if he wasn't the man for the job in serving the early church, then another would have been - how can I be confident of this, because it is Jesus, that is the power, when Jesus ascended  he told the disciples to wait for HIS Spirit, the Holy Spirit. When that power came, all were changed from frightened, doors locks to peaching to the masses - in a moment.  That's power, that building the church, that wasn't the beginning and it certainly isn't the end.

I want to be part of the church that grows, sure in the foundations (faith). I want to constantly be building my faith, and His church.

2 Chronicles 7:14-16  If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

If we thought for a moment that our Rock is hard and cold, we have only to look at the last verse above, "My eyes and my heart will be there for all time".  This was spoken of the temple King Solomon built under instruction of the Lord. Since Jesus tore the temple curtain in two upon his death, making the holy of holies approachable to us, Jesus has become our high priest, residing in us upon our belief in Him. So ... If God was talking of the Temple, and we are now called the Temple, as the Spirit of God resides in us, then our Rock, our Fortress, our Deliverer says His eyes and heart will be there (on us) for all time.

He is dependable, as a rock.
He is tested, as a stone.
He is sure, as a foundation.
He is precious, as a cornerstone.
He is heroic, as a deliverer.
He is secure, as a fortress.
He is with you, for all time, eyes and heart on you.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Secret Sin

Psalm 51 was the topic of a study group I attended some time ago.  Knowing it was coming up, my prayer partner and I opened it up to have a look.  There is so much in this wonderfully honest psalm. We enjoyed reading and talking it through. Would you bear with me as I give you a tiny bit of background. David wrote it after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan had called him on it. David had sent Bathsheba's husband Uriah on to the front line of battle, causing his death.  When reading it through I came upon v4 and it took me by surprise "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight."  “You’ve got a nerve David” I wanted to scream. “What about Uriah. Did you not sin against him too, sleeping with his wife, then killing him”?  But then it hit me. God views all sin as sin and equally wrong, whether it is a lie or murder?  After thinking on this a while, it dawned on me, that the key to sin is not so much the sin itself but the attitude behind the sin and that is why David had sinned against God first and foremost.  

As a Christian of a number of years standing, it is easy for me, maybe you too, to rank sins according to how detestable they are to me.  This subtly leaves a scary amount of space for me to catalogue sin on my own ‘Richter Scale” of seriousness. Some sins really shake the ground under and around me and some barely cause a stir. Do you get what I mean?  Let’s take gossip for example. It’s a sin alright. We concede that much. Yet compared to murder, it’s not that bad, yet we can very easily assassinate a person’s character by our gossiping. The same applies to pornography. It’s not as bad as rape, so a person can rationalise it by saying it’s really it’s not hurting anyone and its enjoyable enough, so I’ll give it a rank in the not too serious section, a bit lower than some others sins. Hear that noise… it’s me opening a can of worms, but here goes … Homosexuality. Well for some this is the most detestable of all sins, but is it really? God definitely calls it sin, as He does call  gossiping, lying, cheating and lusting sins as well. Is this making you uncomfortable?  All sin is sin because firstly it’s against God. It’s motivated by our heart attitude and then shows itself in our actions.

Some of us, including myself, base our ideas of sin on a subjective system.  I guess this is where David, who was a man after God’s heart, got it right.  Verse 3 says “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”  It’s so easy to look at others who are sinning publically and feel quite good about ourselves.  If this is the case we have missed the point. The purpose of the Bible is to teach us about a loving, compassionate, just, fair, powerful, merciful God, yet we’re playing with fire if we think we can be the ones who judge what is and isn’t sin and where that particular sin falls on sins “Richter Scale”.

I love how David was pouring his heart out to God in repentance. He wasn’t saying “Lord I’ve done wrong in my life, can’t exactly remember right now what it was, but forgive me for that which I can’t remember, but Lord at least I’m not as bad as ‘so-and-so’ down the road.”  How many of us are guilty of blanket confession for things we can’t remember because we don’t want to?  How many of us try not to remember, or think we really don’t have a very ‘exciting’ life and therefore there’s not too much sin to actually repent of. Sin is not so much the act, but rather it’s the heart of selfishness.  Sin is choosing myself over God or you, no matter what the consequences.  When you think about sin, couldn’t we all fill a few pages of our selfish acts?  We can take huge lessons from David in this psalm.

Confession and repentance are about the heart attitude that has lead to the deed.  . This repentance thing is big. It’s not only vital for our salvation, as Jesus says in Mark 1:15 “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” It is also vital for daily walk and the daily infilling of the Holy Spirit Acts 2:38. After Pentecost, Paul and Barnabas were again filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:52. We need to be daily, moment by moment, open to the filling of the Holy Spirit in our lives Ephesians 5:18. Part of our transparency in relationship with our Saviour and King is repentance. See what I mean when I say it’s a big deal?

“Create in me a pure heart oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. It does not say create in me a pure life, but a pure heart. God wants your heart right now, in its current state, whether that is ashamed, self-righteous, broken, proud, wounded, healed, betrayed or dismayed. He is the ultimate re Creator. He will take your brokenness, your pride, your weakness and turn it into purity and spotlessness. Let’s get this straight. I’m not just talking about a renovation job but a complete re-do down to the foundations.  All it takes is the humility to repent and a willingness to open your heart to the work and filling of the Holy Spirit. This is between you and God so let’s leave others out of it. 

This is why sin is never secret. That’s the part of omniscience that can actually be so reassuring. I mean if He knows all, then he knows about that secret sin.  And if He knows about that and He’s still pursuing you, then He really loves you and He’s not going to give up on you anytime soon. Let’s make that forever!!