Reflection on Genesis 3:1-7

temptation3156

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+3.1-7

Scripture

The serpent said, “Did God really say…”

Observation

The serpent says to Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Eve replies that they were allowed to eat from any tree except the one in the middle of the garden.

The serpent then entices Eve with the prospect of knowledge of good and evil, and that this is something that God is trying to keep from them.

So Eve takes the fruit and eats it, and then offers some to her husband. Then their eyes are opened, and they know that they are naked.

Application

At the heart of every temptation that comes to the follower of Jesus is the question, “Did God really say…?”

When we are torn between what our fallen nature wants to do and what God wants us to do, then satan comes along wit the deadly question, “Did God really say?”

Sadly, there are too many christians who do not know what God has said in His word, and so they can’t accurately or confidently answer this simple question.

There are people who know the word of God intellectually but do not carry it in their hearts. These people perform the most amazing mental gymnastics to justify their own sins. When the devil says “Did God really say that homosexuality is an abomination?” they will twist the words, redefine terms and deny the plain meaning of the text to say “No, God didn’t really say that?”

We need to know the word of God. We need to understand the will of God for our lives.

In Ephesians 6, the word of God is described as the sword of the Holy Spirit, If we know the scriptures, we can quickly cut satan down with this powerful weapon.

Prayer

Help me, Lord, to know, understand and take into my heart your wonderful word. When I am tempted with the question, “Did God really say?”, may I always have the grace to say, “This is what God has said!” Amen.

Reflection on Matthew 17:1-9

transfiguration

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+17.1-9

Scripture

After six days, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

Observation

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain by themselves. There His appearance is changed so that His clothes and face shine like the sun. Then Moses and Elijah also appear with Him.

Peter babbles on about building shelters, but he is interrupted by a voice from the cloud which says, “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

The disciples are terrified, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid.

Application

Jesus led a small group up a mountain for a revelation of His true nature.

Our culture, including our church culture, is obsessed with big events. Bigger, it seems, is always better.

But here we have a small group of believers, Peter, James and John, on a small group retreat (a leadership retreat, perhaps) whose sole purpose is to receive a revelation of Jesus.

He leads. They follow. He reveals.

This is a model for discipleship everywhere:

  • Jesus leads us step by step

  • We follow the best way we know

  • He gives a new revelation of His nature and His purpose for us.

  • The cycle is repeated.

This cycle of discipleship applies also to cell groups. This passage shows that revelation comes most clearly in the presence of a small group of people who are determined to follow Jesus together.

We don’t know much about the journey up or back down the mountain. There would have been talking, banter, fellowship and teaching. They were on a journey together, and in the middle of the journey there is given a new insight into Jesus.

We need one another. The church is meant to be a community of people who encourage and build one another up along the way. That community building happens most effectively in small groups.

Big meetings are great for their own purpose, but we also need small groups of believers seeking God together.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you that in our walk with you there is always more to discover. Thank you for the people you have put in my life who help me to learn more of you and to see more of who you are. Amen.

 

Reflection on Matthew 5:38-48

fight

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5.38-48

Scripture

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evil-doer”

Observation

Jesus takes the principles of the Law and extend their application to lengths that seem (and actually are) impossible to fulfil.

An eye for an eye becomes do not resist an evil-doer.

If someone sues you, give them more than is their due.

Love you neighbour becomes love your enemy because to be like the Father we have to love those who hate us.

The people of this world can be kind to people they like. It takes the grace of God to love our enemies.

Application

How do I live my daily life in the context of the radical love of God?

Revenge, even in the limited version allowed in the Jewish Law seems appropriate to most people. The Law of Moses allowed that a person who was injured by another person could take a legally sanctioned retribution in which the perpetrator was injured to the same extent as the victim. So then you have two maimed people, and the injuries of the victim are still there.

Jesus says, “Do not resist an evil-doer.” How does this apply when your house is invaded by people who want to harm you and your family?

Many Americans, and I suppose many people from most cultures, whether christians or not, subscribe to the philosophy of “Do unto others before they do unto you.” In other words a loaded gun beside the bed is your best protection.

How does that tie in with “Do not resist evil doers”?

Jesus tells us not to meet violence with violence, but with a defiant form of non-violence. “Turn the other cheek.”

Most of us do not often face extreme violence such as robbery or assault. Our situation is more likely a daily slap in the face- contemptuous put-downs, mischievous harassment. In those situations, Jesus tells us to show kindness to those who show us hatred, to love those who do us wrong. Rather than retaliation we choose a higher path of peace and love.

When our physical safety is threatened the odds are higher. But the principle is the same- remove the threat without harming the person. I can’t imagine what it is like to be a christian in ISIS controlled territory, or to go through a violent home invasion. In those situations we need the grace of Jesus to follow Him even in great suffering or at the point of death.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you sometimes challenge our thinking on what is right and good. The standard “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” is too high for us. Help me to surrender myself to your grace in every situation. Amen.

Reflection on Matthew 5:13-20

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/search?%s=Matthew+5.13-20

Scripture

“In the same way , let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Observation

We are salt and light. Salt must keep its saltiness or else it is no good. In the same way a light must shine out to be of any use. Our light must shine as good deeds that people see and then glorify God.

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it. The Law will be present in all its fullness until the time of its completion. Therefore, anyone who teaches people to disobey it will be least in the Kingdom of God.

Application

Jesus tells us to let our light shine before others that in seeing our good deeds they will glorify God.

Don’t hide your light. People need to recognise the light of God’s Spirit in out lives. It is too easy to conform to the values and the deeds of the world in our daily life. We must enable the values of God’s kingdom to flow through every aspect of life. This is not just moral values but the power of the Holy Spirit, the light that has come into the world which darkness cannot overcome, the person of Jesus.

Our good deeds are deeds of love and grace which change the environment around us. When people are puling others down, we build up. When people mock Christ we praise Him. We shine forth the gospel in our love for God and for our neighbours.

The goal is for people to glorify God. Everything I do should draw people closer to a revelation of the living God. A light does not exist to shine for itself; it shines so that people can see something else. My good deeds do not serve to make people like me; they serve to make people like God.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ let your light shine through me that people will glorify our Father. Please show me how to let the light out. Amen.

Reflection on 1 Corinthians 2:1-6

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/search?%25s=1+Corinthians+1.2-16

Scripture

What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Observation

When Paul came to Corinth, he didn’t come with fancy words. He resolved to know nothing but Christ crucified. He came in fear and trembling, not using persuasive words but allowing the power of the Spirit to demonstrate the truth.

The wisdom that Paul teaches amongst the mature in faith is not the world’s wisdom, but God’s wisdom. This wisdom is a mystery that is only now being revealed. The powers of the world did not understand this or else they would not have had Christ crucified.

We have received the Spirit of God, not the spirit of the age. Therefore Paul is able to explain spiritual truths with spiritual words. The person without the Spirit is not able to understand the things that come from the Spirit, but the person with the Spirit makes all kinds of judgements by the Spirit.

Application

We have the Spirit of God. Later Paul says the same thing in different words; we have the mind of Christ.

The difference between mature christians and baby christians is that the former have learned to listen to the Spirit of God and to obey Him. The Spirit of God is available to every born-again Christian, and the Spirit leads us into all of God’s wisdom.

That is not to say that we are all independent believers. We need the body. We need correction and encouragement from others. We need the means of grace- Scripture, worship, sacraments.

The Spirit of God is able to lead us into deeper revelations through the various prophetic gifts.

The Spirit of God is able to give us deeper understanding of the word than we might get from studying at Bible College.

The Spirit of God can give us deeper insight into ourselves and the people to whom we are ministering.

The Spirit of God is like a river powerfully surging through our soul.

But we must listen to the voice of the Spirit. We must obey the voice of the Spirit. We must allow our conscience to be enlivened by the Spirit.

When we do this, God can use us mightily,

Prayer

What a mystery it is, Lord, to think that I have your Spirit, your mind, in me. Please let me hear the voice of the Spirit in every minute of my day. Teach me to hear, to listen and to obey. Amen.

Reflection on Isaiah 58:1-12

Passage: https://www.biblegatesway.com/search?%s=Isaiah+58.1-12

Scripture

“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chain of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

Observation

The Lord calls for a proclamation against His people for their rebellion and sins. They seek the Lord for answers and seem eager for God to come near. They fast and humble themselves but the Lord seems to not notice.

The Lord tells them that even on their fast days, they exploit their workers. Their fasts end in quarrels and fights. The Lord says they can’t expect their prayers to be heard when they fast like that. He isn’t interested in that kind of fast. The fast he honours is the one that results in oppression being lifted and yokes of bondage being removed.

Application

God is opposed to religion. He hates practices which we use in order to avoid Him getting under our skin and changing our hearts. Religion seeks to change God’s mind; true faith is when God changes our heart.

In the passage, the Lord through Isaiah is taking Israel to task for going through religious fasting but still exploiting others and engaging in quarrels. They were claiming to love God, but failed to love their neighbour who is made in the image of God.

We can think that this is a matter for Government. If we vote for the right party , then the right regulations get passed and social justice will reign. This isn’t true of course- daily we hear of employers who rip off their workers even though they know what the mandated pay rates and superannuation requirements are.

The Lord does not want us to contract our consciences out to the political leaders. We are required to love our neighbour where we are. This passage is about my attitude to my neighbour, to the oppressed people in my town.

When I fast, when I pray, when I worship, it is not just me and Jesus. It is allowing the grace of God to fill me, set me free and empower me to pass on that same grace to others.

Prayer

Lord I confess that I am often unaware of the problems and sufferings of the people around me. I too easily accept the way things are as being the natural order. Help me to see my neighbour as you see them and to let your love flow through me to them. Amen.

Reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1corinthians

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+1.18-31

Scripture

For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Observation

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.

God makes foolish the wisdom of men. We don’t come to know God through wisdom, so He gives us a cross. Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but all God offers is the folly of Christ crucified.

We were not wise by human standards nor powerful. But God chose the lowly and insignificant to challenge the standards of this world.

Application

God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and His weakness is stronger than human strength. Even on His worst day, God is smarter and stronger than any human being- and God doesn’t have bad days!

Some people, even some Christians have problems with considering Jesus as a baby. Often the same people have problems with imagining the Son of God on the cross. They want God to be seen to be all-powerful, stomping on His enemies.

This “stomping” approach is how human beings, fallen and led by the flesh, deal with conflict.

God is bigger, smarter and stronger than that. He shows His power in becoming weak and inviting us to worship Him and to receive His love.

What is the greater victory- to defeat your enemy with weapons or with love? To make your enemy your friend is the greater victory.

When Jesus laid down His life on the cross, He turned many enemies into friends and disciples. The cross is still drawing people into God’s kingdom.

God’s folly is smarter than our wisdom.

Prayer

Father, you have shown your great power and might by laying it down on the cross. Help me Lord to live my life in your wisdom not my own. Amen.