Reflection on Matthew 10:37-42

65e65-img_6560_thumb

Scripture

Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Observation

Jesus demands a dedication stronger than love for our parents or children. We must take up a cross and follow Him. To find your life is to lose it, and to lose your life in him is to find it.

To welcome a disciple is to welcome Jesus. Even a cup of water to His disciples brings a reward.

Application

When our relationships get in the way of eternal life with Christ, we have to be prepared to let them go for His sake. Love for Jesus must be even greater than our love for family.

We even have to give up our life for Christ. To take up a cross is to walk towards certain death.

Everything- my possessions, my dreams, my family, my life- has to come under the lordship of Christ. He, and He alone, must determine all that I do. Anything that gets in the way of my total surrender to Christ must go.

Does that mean I stop loving my family? Of course not! It does mean that there is a higher love, a higher calling, that must take precedence.

Prayer

Lord your love for me means everything. Help me to put you first today. Amen.

Christians, Drugs, Alcohol and Coffee

I was shocked to get this answer from a guy on a mission team when I asked him how he had slept: “Not too well. I normally smoke some weed at night to help me calm down.” His pastor assured me that he is receiving prayer and help to deal with this addiction, so, like all of us, he is a work in progress.

Apart from the fact that marijuana is illegal here, this raises all sorts of questions for me about our attitude to drugs. By drugs I mean any chemical other than food or prescription drugs used to change our state of mind. There are a whole lot of grey areas here, such as anti-depressants which are a boon to people struggling with chemical imbalances but can become over-prescribed to medicate sadness.

Let’s look at some common examples:

  • the use of weed to help with sleep
  • needing a glass of wine or beer (or two or three glasses) after work to relax
  • taking “uppers” to help with long work hours
  • needing the cup of coffee to get started in the morning
  • smoking

Caffeine, for most of us, is harmless. It stimulates the body a little bit and doesn’t have any long term effects on the body. However it is being used in larger quantities in so-called energy drinks and in many soft drinks. If you regularly “need” caffeine to keep going then there is a problem. If you need coffee before you can face humanity in the morning there is an addiction issue.

Christ came to set us free from every bondage. I like tea and coffee, and I used to drink wine some times. I have never been addicted to any of these things. If I were to start to depend on them to make me feel good, then I would no longer be free. When we depend on anything other than Christ, we are in captivity.

Paul writes in Galatians 5:1:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

To say that I need anything other than Christ is idolatry. We are saying that God doesn’t really meet our needs, and we will only be happy if we have something in addition to what He gives us in Christ. This of course is the original temptation in the Garden of Eden. Eve didn’t really believe that God had given her all that she needed and much more. We often don’t really believe God’s word either.

Modern idolatry takes all kinds of forms- sex, possessions, sports, entertainment, drugs. In each from there is an element of placing something at the centre of our desires (that’s what worship really means) that is not God. To be dependent on drugs is to bow down to an idol.

Addiction, particularly to drugs which alter our state of mind, is a gateway for spiritual bondage. There is a spirit of addiction which keeps us dependent. If you open your spirit to an evil spirit, there is no room for the Holy Spirit. We are each meant to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, so no unclean thing should be allowed access.

Relying on chemicals, whether legal or not, inhaled, injected, eaten or drunk, holds us back from maturity. We are looking to them and not to Christ for our fulfilment.

If you are struggling with any addiction  and you are a follower of Jesus, then you need to repent, ask for grace to overcome and seek help from trusted people. The Lord has the strength to overcome this in you.

Reflection on Romans 6:12-23

Scripture

No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

Observation
We have died in Christ and therefore sin no longer has dominion. We must not make our bodies instruments of sin.
We were once slaves of sin, but in Christ we are now slaves to righteousness. When we were slaves to sin, there was no advantage or benefit, but now we are slaves to righteousness we gain holiness.
Sin pays its wages in the form of death, but God’s free gift in Christ is eternal life.

Application
We have freedom in Christ to sin or not sin. Previously we had no choice at all, but now we have the grace to live holy lives.
Sin holds its false rewards. It tantalises us to draw us in. But the real payment with sin is death and separation from God.
Why would we choose sin when there is so much to lose? Knowing that we have the choice and the help of the Holy Spirit to choose life makes it possible to escape sin’s clutches.

Prayer
Father you know the sins that continue to entangle me. Please give me the grace to break free and to walk in your righteousness. Amen.

Reflection on Genesis 21:1-21

Image

Scripture

Come lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand for I will make a great nation of him.”

Observation

Sarah bears a son for Abraham in their old age. Isaac grows and Sarah becomes jealous of Hagar and Ishmael. She demands that Abraham sends them away. Abraham is reluctant to do this, but God tells him not to be worried. Although Isaac is the child of promise, Ishmael will also father a nation.

Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away with some food and water. They wander in the wilderness near Beersheba. When the water is gone, Hagar places Ishmael under a bush and goes some distance away. God opens her eyes to see a well.

God is with the boy and he grows up in the wilderness.

Application

Sometimes we act outside of God’s perfect will. Abraham had tried to make God’s promises come true by sleeping with his wife’s servant. Trouble arose later but it didn’t mean that God would wash his hands of Ishmael.

God keeps His promises to us despite our sinfulness.

He also brings unexpected blessings out of our mistakes. That’s not to say that there are no consequences- Ishmael’s descendants continue to fight against Isaac’s to this day.

God takes our high points of faith and our monumental catastrophic failings and weaves them together to achieve His purposes.

Our sins don’t have the last word.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the story of Ishmael and your provision for him in the desert. Please help me to be faithful to you all the time, and when I fall redeem my mistakes and forgive my sin. Amen.

Today’s Sermon

 

Pentecost-of-many-tongues

The sermon for June 15th 2014 is now available on the New Life web-site.

In this sermon, which is based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, I talk about the unity in the Body of Christ.

Click here to listen.

Margaret Baxter’s sermon from the 8th June is also available here.