Sabbath: an OT law now past or a 21st C principle to embrace?

26 02 2010

The matter of ‘the Sabbath Day’ has been part of my general knowledge base since I was a child.  My parents made some endeavour to ensure that the Lord’s Day had some characteristic that set it apart from the rest of the week.  Key markers of course would be church attendance but even in the afternoon or evening, TV or playing football were frowned upon because they tended to make the day look and feel like any other day.  It was always a little beyond me as a child understanding where they were coming from…  In the years of youthful rebellion we tried to be smart by quoting Jesus’ words, The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, as a justification to do what we needed to do on the Sabbath and especially if we could get away with categorising it as ‘rest’!

The fallout from a lack of commitment to the distinctiveness of the Sabbath day was highlighted for me in Tanzania, where Christians were moving for an early morning service on a Sunday, around 8am so that they could get it over and get on with the rest of the day in dealing with their own business matters.  Britain has long since abandoned any restraint on ‘business as usual’, even on a Sunday – a matter that at the time I didn’t see as being such a big deal.  The resultant shift in the cultural perspective of our society today now makes it decidedly ‘old-fashioned’ and even ‘legalistic’ to mention the subject, I fear, but a recent house group event with some of the guys from Greenview brought home the reality that a Sabbath rest lost in the workaholic culture of today is taking its toll on individuals, families, churches and society at large.

God’s design for us has always been that we should rest.  Our house group were indebted to Tim Keller for his teaching on the matter from Luke 6:1-11.  This was an excellent message – an exemplary expositional sermon that taught Christ in all the Scriptures as well as making the main point of the passage abundantly clear.  Our need for rest, where we find rest, and how do we do it were Keller’s main headings.  Make time to listen to this sermon – it’s a message we need to re-learn in the 21st Century hubbub of activity.

The Briefing Library: What is the gospel?

25 02 2010

The Briefing Library: What is the gospel?

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The Trellis and the Vine

22 02 2010

Finally got my hands on a copy of this book from Matthias Press courtesy of GLO Bookshop, Motherwell.  A highly rated review of Christian ministry with a back cover full of positive reviews.  Mark Dever says it is the BEST book he has read on the nature of Christian ministry!  That’s not hyperbole he says!  Here’s a great quote from the opening chapter/pages of the book:

“And that’s the thing about trellis work: it tends to take over from vine work. Perhaps its because trellis work is easier and less personally threatening.  Vine work is personal and requires much prayer.  It requires us to depend on God, and to open our mouths and speak God’s word in some way to another person.  By nature (by sinful nature, that is) we shy away from this.  What would you rather do: go to a church working bee and sweep up some leaves, or share the gospel with your neighbour over the back fence?  Which is easier: to have a business meeting about the state of the carpet, or to have a difficult personal meeting where you need to rebuke a friend about his sinful behavior?” p. 9.

The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, Matthias Media, 2009.

The Word of Faith

18 02 2010

The title of my blog is drawn from Romans 10:8. 

“‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ – that is the word of faith that we proclaim”.

The Apostle Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 30:14 where Moses recorded his bringing of the commandments of God to the attention of the people Israel for (at least) a second time (that’s the idead behind the title of the book, deutero – second, nomy – law).  The commandment of God required of them one of two possible responses – ‘to obey his voice’ or ‘to turn your heart away’ – and Moses was urging them to obedience.  Moses anticipated a day when the people of God will be scattered throughout the nations of the world and He addressed their likely excuses concerning the Lord’s commandment to them one by one.  Don’t say it’s too hard; don’t suggest it’s too far away or somehow removed from you; don’t say it’s too heavenly to be of any earthly use; and don’t be lazy by your demands that someone bring it to you.  He was stressing the value of God’s purposes for those who will accept them.

Moses strongly urges them to accept God’s Word to them in willing obedience. They are being called to open their mouths and pledge allegiance to God (to renew the covenant) as an outward expression of a heartfelt desire to follow God’s ways.

The consequences of their obedience or turning away were also clearly laid out for them by Moses as the servant of God. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before your life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20).

Paul, in the first century world of the Roman empire, like us, has the advantage of looking back over history and recognising that although these people did renew the covenant with their mouths, their hearts were flawed and their actions showed it. They could not keep that covenant to save themselves!  Paul, enabled by the Spirit of God, saw that the commandments drive us to the need for a Saviour, they point us to Christ.  They continually remind us of our own sinfulness and failure and the need for righteousness in order to please God; something we cannot attain to alone.

This is Paul’s point in Romans 10: Moses wrote about the righteousness that is based on the law, but the righteousness that is based on faith is even nearer to us yet.  God, who revealed himself in the law of Moses, has now spoken a final word to us in the person of his Son, Jesus, the eternal Word of God.  He requires our pledge of allegiance and a commitment of faith in our hearts to him as the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.  The Word of the Gospel is the word that Paul proclaimed and which I believe and want to proclaim too…”because if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified (counted righteous) and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9, 10). 

This Word is our foundation and guiding principle for this life and the life to come.  The Word is certain, clear, unambiguous. It offers forgiveness, grace and peace.  It enlightens our minds, arrests us in our wilful disobedience and moves our hearts to respond to God’s great mercy by loving him and living to please him.

Keep the word near you… in your heart and in your mouth.

I hope that some of the posts here will help you do that…

Hello world!

17 02 2010

Here I am breaking into the world of blogging with a personal blog, uncertain of all that surrounds me technologically and wondering if I will be able to find the time and quality materials needed to sustain the site.  Here goes… welcome to my world!