Running to Win

As a new decade dawns, we can float along, sit back and comply or we can rise up, be Running to Win and stand and fight for what is right. What lies ahead for us in 2020, and how can we obtain it?

Our nation needs us.

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

 

Philippians 3:12-16 (ESV Strong’s)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

 

Paul was a guy who never felt like he had arrived… He never rested on his laurels. He kept run Nb, kept striving and kept reaching if more and more. I want o be that guy, don’t you?

 

RUNNING TO WIN IN 2020?

 

Looking back is easy because hindsight is 2020 vision. The 1920s were considered a roaring good time after the misery of World War 1 in the 1910s. The 30s were misery again with the Great Depression, the 40s were war, the 50s shaped up pretty well with prosperity back, and the 60s were about rebellion. The 70s were less than memorable, the 80s gave us awesome music, the 90s destroyed most of that, the 2000s were about security risks and the 10s were for many quite tough. But the roaring 20s are back!

 

We are like athletes running a race, and that’s what Paul picks up on in this passage. At the start of this decade, I want to explore how we can make this year and decade a winning decade!

 

Paul uses that athletic illustration to inspire us on in life. The past is gone, the future is yet to be, but God’s gift to us is life right now, that’s why it’s is called the present!

 

Philippians 3:13 (ESV Strong’s)

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

 

Right at the start, let me point out that Paul is not salvation he is running to win. He is not pressing on to win the prize of salvation, because this is written to those who are saved. You are saved by faith, not your works, lest any many should boast. Just a few verses later he says,

 

Philippians 3:20 (ESV Strong’s)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

 

What he is running for, striving for, is reward, not salvation. To compete in the Greek games, athletes had to be citizens already, and no one competed for the prize of gaining citizenship.

 

All of us want to be “winning Christians” and fulfil the purposes for which we have been saved.

 

What are the essentials for running to win the race and one day receiving the reward that is promised?

 

  1. DISSATISFACTION (3:12-13a)

 

Most people today are dissatisfied. We live in a country that offers so much, and still we whine? Facebook is full of people just venting, with little knowledge, limited intelligence and zero tact, and when I return from nations like India or the Philippines, it turns my stomach when I hear people whine about how hard life is, because they can only afford a 55 inch TV. Some people find a way to moan and criticise, no matter how good things are. Some people can find the cloud in every silver lining!

 

But here Paul is talking about a sanctified dissatisfaction, which is the first essential to progress in the Christian race.

 

So what do I mean by sanctified dissatisfaction? Paul is content with his God, but not his spiritual achievements.

 

1 Timothy 6:6 (ESV Strong’s)

godliness with contentment is great gain,

 

Philippians 3:12 (ESV Strong’s)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

 

This is the statement of a great Christian who never permitted himself to be satisfied with his spiritual attainments. There’s always more!

 

The Greek word for perfect is teleioō, which means to make perfect, to finish or to complete, and it carries a sense of being able to look back and know the job has been done well.

 

What Paul is saying is, I’m not done yet!

 

COMPARED TO WHAT?

 

Comparison is often the enemy of spiritual maturity.

 

Comparison can be a dangerous thing, because we can err in two directions: (1) thinking ourselves better than we are, or (2) thinking ourselves worse than we really are. Paul had no illusions about himself; he still had to keep “pressing forward” in order to “lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold” of him.

 

Many Christians are self-satisfied because they compare their “running” with that of other Christians, usually those who are not making much progress. I’m not in out and out sin, I’m not a drug addict or a criminal, I’m not an axe murdered, therefore I’m ok. They feel superior.

 

Others feed their insecurity by comparing. I’ll never be as good as her, I can’t sing like her, or fix cars like him.

 

No good ever comes from comparing yourself to others, it’s a lose, lose.

 

2 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV Strong’s)

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

 

As I look at my personal life, my professional life, my church, I can see many trials, but also see great victories and progress. But I want more. I refuse to be satisfied, because until I draw my last breath, I’m going to strive and strain towards the prize and serve with all my heart, with a sanctified discontent!

 

  1. DEVOTION (3:13b)

 

This one thing I do… boy do I need to hear those words. I don’t know about you, but I can do many, many things, and I often get distracted by the shiny object syndrome. We need to focus, to be devoted to one thing above all.

 

King David, who did many amazing things in his life, wrote this…

 

Psalm 27:4 (ESV Strong’s)

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

 

Too many Christians, too many churches, including this one, are too involved in “many things.” The secret of progress is to concentrate on “one thing.” D. L. Moody the great evangelist discovered this. Before the tragedy of the Chicago fire in 1871, Moody was involved in Sunday school promotion, YMCA work, evangelistic meetings, and many other activities. After that tragic event, he determined to devote himself exclusively to evangelism, and became the greatest evangelist of his day. “This one thing I do” became a reality to him. As a result, millions of people heard the gospel.

 

So what one thing do you devote yourself to or focus on? The believer must devote himself to running the Christian race. No athlete succeeds by doing everything; he succeeds by specialising. A few athletes are proficient in multiple sports, but most specialise. The winners are those who concentrate, who keep their eyes on the goal and let nothing distract them. They are devoted entirely to their calling.

 

For the devil to win, he doesn’t have to make you sin to destroy you, he just has to distract you. What you focus on is what you get. As Zig Ziglar said,

 

“When you focus on problems you will have more problems. When you focus on possibilities you will have more opportunities.”

 

Concentration is the secret of power. If a river is allowed to overflow its banks, the area around it becomes a swamp. But if that river is dammed and controlled and concentrated, it becomes a source of incredible power. It is wholly a matter of values and priorities, living for that which matters most.

 

James 1:8 (ESV Strong’s)

a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

So like Nehemiah, let’s not get distracted by the many voices, the TV, the bad news, the poor advice, everybody’s opinion, the computer games or Facebook or anything else. God is calling us to keep the main thing the main thing. This one thing I do, because I’m running to win!

 

  1. DIRECTION (3:13c)

 

The unsaved person is controlled by the past, but the Christian running the race must look toward the future. If you are running a race, looking back slows you down, but focussing on the finish line drives you on. You cannot drive looking only in the rear vision mirror can you?

 

Philippians 3:13 (ESV Strong’s)

one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind

 

In Bible terminology, “to forget” does not mean “to fail to remember.” Apart from senility, amnesia, or a brain dysfunction, no mature person actually forgets what has happened in the past. We may wish that we could erase certain bad memories, our sins, our failures, our lost opportunities, but we cannot.

 

“To forget” is epi/lantha/nomai in the Greek, and it implies “no longer to be influenced by or affected by.” When God promises, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17), He is not suggesting that He has amnesia! This is impossible with God. What God is saying is, “I will no longer hold their sins against them. Their sins can no longer affect their standing with Me or influence My attitude toward them.”

 

So, “forgetting those things which are behind” does not suggest an impossible feat of mental and psychological gymnastics by which we try to erase memories of the sins and mistakes of the past. It simply means that we break the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change how it affects us now and in the future.

 

IN 2020, IT’S TIME TO MAKE THE PAST PAST AT LAST AND START RUNNING TO WIN!

 

Paul had done things he was ashamed of, and I bet there things you’ve done you you regret or feel guilty about. You can’t change the past, but you can change how you see the past.

 

Joseph could have let what his brothers did to him affect his actions, but he chose to forgive and forget their sins. Joseph knew that God had a plan for his life–a race for him to run–and in fulfilling that plan and looking ahead, he broke the power of the past.

 

Genesis 50:20 (ESV Strong’s)

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

 

Too many Christians are shackled by regrets of the past instead of running to win. They hold grudges, they are controlled by regret, shame and Unforgiveness.

 

They are trying to run the race by looking backward. No wonder they stumble and fall and then trip up other Christians. Some Christian runners are being distracted by the successes of the past, not the failures, and this is just as bad. “The things which are behind” must be set aside and “the things which are before” must take their place.

 

  1. DETERMINATION (3:14)

 

It is possible to have dissatisfaction, devotion, and direction and still lose the race and the reward. There is a fourth essential: determination.

 

“I press on.” The Greeks for press on is diōkō, which means to follow, pursue vigorously or follow after.   The Greeks used it to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey. A man does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures, watching movies, reading books, or watching the event on TV. He becomes a winning athlete by getting into the game and being  determined to win!

 

There are 2 extremes to avoid here…

Doing it yourself and not

listening to God,

and doing nothing hoping God does everything. Both are wrong.

 

Determination is required to achieve anything in life. So what is it that you pursue more vigorously than God? I see people pursuing a business, or a hobby or even a ministry more than they pursue intimacy Him! The race, the one thing you should do, is your relationship with Jesus, the prize is intimacy with Him, and anything else you pursue more vigorously is sin!

 

Isaiah 26:9 (ESV Strong’s)

My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

 

What are you determinedly seeking? Are you running to win?

 

  1. DISCIPLINE (3:15-16)

 

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (ESV Strong’s)

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

 

Many of us fall down here… It is not enough to run hard, or be focused or determined; the runner must also obey the rules, and he must be disciplined if he is running to win.

 

In the Greek games, the judges were very strict about this. Any infringement of the rules disqualified the athlete. He did not lose his citizenship (though he disgraced it), but he did lose his privilege to participate and win a prize.

 

Cyclist Lance Armstrong was perhaps the most celebrated athlete of his time, but when it came out that he was guilty of doping and drug taking to performance enhance, he was stripped of all his medals from 1998 on, including 7 Tour De France titles. He was a cheat!

 

2 Timothy 2:5 (ESV Strong’s)

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

 

In Philippians 3:15-19 Paul reminds us that there are rules in this race, and some Christians don’t play by them, and so disqualify themselves instead of running to win.

 

The issue is not what a person thinks or what the spectators think, but what the judge says. The Bible says one day each Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12). The Greek word for “judgment seat” is bema, the very same word used to describe the place where the Olympic judges gave out the prizes. If we have disciplined ourselves to obey the rules, we can compete to receive a prize on that day. Don’t tolerate sin, confess it and break free of the shackles that hold you back or potentially disqualify you.

 

So we need dissatisfaction, devotion, direction, determination and discipline. So let’s get down to brass tacks… I want to suggest 4 things you can commit to right now so that this decade becomes the greatest decade of your life for Jesus…

 

1.      COMMIT TO LOVING

 

John 13:35 (ESV Strong’s)

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

We need to commit to loving one another, that’s how people recognise Christ in us. It’s our superpower. Not our judgement, not our knowledge, but by how we love each other. So at the start of this year and decade, let’s commit to loving one another.

 

Lord, I commit to loving my brothers and sisters, and running to win.

 

2.      COMMIT TO GIVING

 

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)

whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

Now this applies to money, but it also applies to time and devotion. What you sow you reap, usually more than you sow and later than you sow. If you sow discord, if you sow unforgiveness, anger, hurt, disunity, guess  what you reap.

 

Sow to the wind, reap a whirlwind.

 

If you sow love, if you give money, time or devotion, you will reap that. It’s a principle. So this year, let’s commit to giving of ourselves, our time, our money and our heart to the Lord and each other.

 

Lord, I commit to giving of my money, time and talent this year, and running to win.

 

3.      COMMIT TO SERVING

 

A practical extension of giving is to commit to serving. Why not put your hand up for something in church? Can you give some time to be a part of the catering team, carpark, kids, prayer, worship, pastoral care?

 

1 Peter 4:10 (ESV Strong’s)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

 

Every one of you has a gift, so this New Year, come on step up and join us serving Jesus here at Ignite and let’s start running to win.

 

Lord, I commit to serving You in this place.

 

4.      COMMIT TO SEEKING

 

You can commit to loving, giving and serving, but I challenge you to number one, this one thing I do, commit to seeking God! Everything else you desire in your life can happen when you put Jesus first.

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong’s)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

And here is a practical way to do it… Join us in the Bible Reading Plan right now.

 

Lord, I commit to reading Your Word daily, and running to win.

Australian Bushfires are raging in the south of our country!

Psalms 42:1-5 (ESV Strong’s)

 

As a deer pants for flowing streams,

so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.

When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food

day and night,

while they say to me all the day long,

“Where is your God?”

These things I remember,

as I pour out my soul:

how I would go with the throng

and lead them in procession to the house of God

with glad shouts and songs of praise,

a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.

Australian Bushfires… Our Chance to Shine for Jesus!

 

Right now our nation pants for streams of water to fall from the skies and douse the flames of these devastating fires. Whatever you think the cause might be, we know scores of them have been deliberately lit. God us not punishing us, this is life in Australia, but God can intervene, and I believe it’s time for God’s people to rise up and pray for our nation.

 

We have known for a long time our nation has struggled under drought and Australian Bushfires, and our people have similarly struggled in a spiritual drought.

 

Psalms 42:1-2 (ESV Strong’s)

As a deer pants for flowing streams,

so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.

When shall I come and appear before God?

 

For too long our people have dried up in their spirit. What happens in drought? You get a dry and crusty surface, and when the rain does arrive, it simply runs off and fails to penetrate.

 

The leaves of trees dry off and die off and become tinder on the ground, primed and ready for one spark to create an inferno. Our nation is dry, we are desperate for rain, for a life-giving flow of water, and Australian Bushfires are out of control, and this Psalm talks about that.

 

And they mock us. The media and social media attack mercilessly those who oppose them in their ideals, and that’s nothing new…

 

Psalms 42:3 (ESV Strong’s)

My tears have been my food

day and night,

while they say to me all the day long,

“Where is your God?”

 

It’s time we man up, folks, and stand for Jesus in our nation. Listen to this from a business owner in Mallacoota…

 

“I was praying. I was an atheist. I was praying to God, praying to Jesus, turn the wind. You wouldn’t believe it—but I’m going to tell you the honest-to-God truth. It pushed this thing back against itself.

 

“Literally we felt the wind come from off the beach, it shouldn’t have, but it did, but it went back at it. I don’t care if anyone else doesn’t recognise it. It was unbelievable… I believe [it was] God’s intervention, absolutely, through prayer…”

 

The Australian Bushfires are a moment for us to shine God’s love to our whole nation, no matter how they attack, and to lead our people to the living water they so desperately thirst for.

 

When you’re dry you thirst for water, and our nation thirsts this very day for the water of the Spirit of God.

 

Psalms 42:5-6 (ESV Strong’s)

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.

 

Our nation is cast down today. The Hebrew word for cast down is sahah, which means to bring down, stoop, be prostrate, laid low, weakened and depressed. But it also means to be humbled, and we need to humble ourselves today for our people.

 

The Hebrew for turmoil is hamar, which means a roar, a noise, a raging. If you get on Facebook you  will see hundreds of people ranting and raging against, God, Christians, the Prime Minister and anyone who doesn’t accept their version of environmentalism.

 

We cannot drown out the roar, the hate speech and rants, but we can pray and humbly accept the responsibility on behalf of our people and repent.

 

You see, it’s not about governments, lobbyists, greenies or laws, it’s never been about them. It’s not about this opinion or that opinion in the biased media, it has and always will depends on us. We, the people of God, need to pray now!

 

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV Strong’s)

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.

 

We are responsible for the souls of our people in our generation, and they are so confused and broken and without hope because we don’t care enough to make a stand for our people!

 

Ezekiel 22:30 (ESV Strong’s)

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

 

That word stand in the gap is amad, and it means not only to stand, but to stay there. This means we don’t walk through the gap, we stand, and we stand as long as is necessary to plug that gap and stop the disaster coming.

 

2 Chronicles 16:9 (ESV Strong’s)

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

 

God is looking for those who earnestly seek Him, who will pray and believe and stand in the gap for their people. Most Christians struggle to get to church on time, let alone lay their life down for their people!  The Australian Bushfires are our chance to reach our people.

 

Psalms 63:1 (ESV Strong’s)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

 

The time for casual Christianity is finished, we need to get serious and pray and believe God for our people, starting with these fires. Because we have not back-burned for so long, these fires have virtually unlimited fuel. My daughter and her husband and family are right in the centre and have been evacuated from their home in Nowra.

 

I can’t stop the flames. I can’t stop the devastation. The Prime Minister can’t, and not even the all powerful media, for all their ranting and rage, they cannot stop this disaster. They can complain and accuse, but can’t help.

 

Only God can pour His mercy upon us. Only God can do this. So today I’m going to ask us to intercede for our nation, for our people. We need specifically a change of wind direction, a dying down of the wind, and we also need rain.

 

Numbers 11:2 (ESV Strong’s)

Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down.

 

Our only weapon right now to fight the Australian Bushfires is to pray, to cry out to God for our people. I’m going to ask us all to pray right now, to believe for a breakthrough with the fires, a breakthrough with the drought and a breakthrough with the moral bankruptcy that afflicts our nation.

 

But before we pray, I want to you’ve you the opportunity to give in a practical sense.

 

Let me remind you of one story of such a miracle…

 

1 Kings 18:42-45 (ESV Strong’s)

And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.

 

Lord, even now start forming a raincloud over the sea, and let it grow by the power of God to save our nation from fire and drought!

Advance Australia Where

Advance Australia… that’s what we dream of for the new decade!  Welcome to the final few days of the second decade of the twentieth century after Christ. While you’ve been thinking about Boxing Day Sales and pondering New Years Resolutions, we are leaving one decade and beginning the next.

So where are we going? Advance Australia. where? What are you going as a person, in your family, in your job or business? Do you fear for your future, for your kids, for your nation?

 

20/20 VISION… SEEING CLEARLY

 

I’m praying that 2020 becomes the year of seeing clearly as we Advance Australia. As an Optometrist is can do that! 2020 is not perfect vision, it is what we call good vision or average vision. 20 feet is 6 metres, so in our country 20/20 VISION is 6/6 vision. It means that a person can see at a testing distance of 6 metres what the average person sees at 6 metres, or 20 feet.

 

Yet in our nation I think we are seeing things less clearly than ever before, because our vision is distorted by the incredible power of the media and social media. Like an amusement park mirror, they are convincing us we are something we are not.

 

2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV Strong’s)

the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

 

ADVANCE AUSTRALIA WHERE?

 

Proverbs 29:18 (ESV Strong’s)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,

 

We sing our national anthem with pride, Advance Australia. Fair, but it feels like we’ve done nothing towards advancing for the average Aussie over this last decade. The media has us focussing on things trivial and sensational rather than important, and the dissenting voices of a tiny minority instead of the real issues that face many of our people in a new decade. Our vision is distorted and cannot Advance Australia..

 

As evidence of that, why did the media spend hours of airtime criticising the prime minister for taking a family holiday at Christmas time when fires raged across the nation? Distorted vision, and we cannot Advance Australia..

 

They can attack Christianity and insult or joke about Jesus, but if we say anything in reply or try to defend ourselves, we are labeled the bigots and the hypocrites!

 

Figure this out. Around 2% of our population is homosexual, yet they appear in almost 100% of our TV shows and movies, always in a positive light. Talk about ceding control to a minority! Around 2% of our population are redheads, but rarely are they in TV shows, and wrangers do not control the media and movies! Distorted vision.

 

Contrast this with Christians. The 2016 census revealed that 52% of Australians identify as Christian, although only 16% attend a church at least once a month. But why is more than half the population so under-represented in TV, movies and the media, and when they are presented in a negative way. Again, distorted vision. If you don’t believe me, then the plan is working well!

 

ARE YOU READY TO TAKE ACTION?

 

Let me ask you, where are you going in this next decade personally as you try to Advance Australia.? Are you advancing? Will the world be a better place because you’ve passed through? Or will you be content to float along being told what to believe, or will you see clearly? Destiny, your destiny, depends not on governments or media or social media, your destiny is determined by the decisions you make.

 

Matthew 14:25-33 (ESV Strong’s)

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

You can criticise Peter for sinking, but he was the only disciple outside of the boat that day. Peter was the only one to take action, to actually have a go! If you are to achieve anything of note in this decade, it will take action! So what is action, or rather, what is it not?

 

1.      ACTION IS NOT OBSERVATION

 

Matthew 14:26 (ESV Strong’s)

But when the disciples saw him (Jesus) walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.

 

Fear relegates us to being involved as just spectators. We see what’s happening, but we take no action for fear of perceived consequences. That doesn’t Advance Australia.

 

Greek word for fear is phobos, from which we get the English word phobia. 21st century mankind is riddled with phobias, fear and anxiety, statistics suggesting over 30% of our society has at least one phobia (debilitating fear). You might know claustrophobia, or agoraphobia, and you might think some phobias like Acrophobia: fear of heights, or Trypanophobia: fear of needles quite reasonable. But what about these…

 

Coulrophobia, fear of clowns

Omphalophobia, fear of belly buttons or the naval.

Pogonophobia, fear of beards

Globophobia: fear of balloons

Hippo/poto/monstro/ses/quip/pedalio/phobia: Fear of Long Words

Pentheraphobia, fear of your mother in law

Nomophobia, fear of being without mobile phone coverage

 

People suffering from anxieties and phobias are paralysed by their fear. Fear so affects them that they cannot take action, and they rarely move ahead in their life. But fear is most often false evidence appearing real. It’s fake, it’s false, and most of what we fear never actually happens.

 

If fear is controlling you right now and relegating you to the bench, then 2020 is the time to get back in the game! Other people’s opinions won’t destroy you, what Facebook friends think of you won’t kill you.

 

Matthew 10:28 (ESV Strong’s)

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

Serve God, not the opinions of others. Don’t let fears relegate action to mere observation.

 

2.      ACTION IS NOT OPINION

 

In the 21st century people think they have a divine, God given right to state their opinion at any price.

 

In times past, most of us would temper our words if we thought they would hurt or disrespect another. But with social media today people voicing their opinion will hurt another, or disrespect another, not even checking if it’s true… they voice their opinion at any cost.

 

Opinions are like noses… everyone has one, and most of them smell! And none of them Advance Australia..

 

Proverbs 16:2 (ESV Strong’s)

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.

 

You have an opinion, you can think you’re right, but that doesn’t make it truth!

 

You might say, well, I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in God or heaven or hell. That’s your opinion, but it doesn’t make it a fact. You’ll know the truth 1 second after you die. If you’re right, we all suffer the same fate, but if you’re wrong, you’ll suffer for eternity separated from God. Why not take a chance on God today, instead of letting your opinion condemn you for eternity.

 

Everyone has an opinion about everything these days, and voices it on Facebook, but most fail to do actually anything. We all have the opinion that poverty is bad, that single mums should be given a chance to become great mums and productive members of society. Fiona and I had the chance to convert a long held opinion into action and so we started Lily House.

 

James 2:15-16 (ESV Strong’s)

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

 

Actions speak louder than words.

 

3.      ACTION IS NOT INTENTION

 

James 2:17-18 (ESV Strong’s)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

 

All good intentions are worth exactly zip of they are not accompanied by action. The road to hell is paved with good intentions!

 

Charles Blondin was the world’s greatest tightrope walker, and on September 14, 1860, he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched a quarter of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls. Thousands came from miles around to see this great feat.

 

He did this many times over the years, on stilts, on a bicycle, blindfolded and once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!

 

On one occasion he pushed a wheelbarrow holding a sack of potatoes. Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?”

 

The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!”

 

“Okay,” said Blondin, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow.” No one did! Intentions are not action.

 

DOING NOTHING IS ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING

 

In our nation, and in our lives, we need to understand that doing nothing is doing something. If we sit idly by watching the dissenter be the deciders in our country, we won’t Advance Australia. and we reap what we sow.

 

Edmund Burton, all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!

 

All that is required for your family to fall apart, for your kids to fail in life, for your marriage to fail is for you to do nothing, because doing nothing is actually doing something, right?

 

Christians don’t speak out for truth any more because we are too frightened by the social media backlash. In our country, you’re not allowed to have an opinion different to everybody else. Israel Falau, agree with him or not, was demonised for having an opinion. If I fired one of my staff because I disagreed with their opinion, the wage tribunal would take me to the cleaners. But a footballer expresses an opinion on society and loses a $4m contract? Any wonder that just settled out of court in his favour!

 

Romans 1:32 (ESV Strong’s)

Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

 

Christians are so scared of the media and social media, they just go silent with of all this PC stuff, but silence is giving approval, and doing nothing is doing something. This year I’m praying for Christian leaders to have backbone instead of wishbone to Advance Australia!

 

2020… THE YEAR TO STEP OUT OF THE BOAT AND ADVANCE AUSTRALIA

 

It’s a new decade, and where are you going? Are you going to sit in the boat and play it safe, or is it time to take a chance and step out of the boat? Any dead fish can float along with the tide, but we need live fish to swim against it!

 

Matthew 14:28-29 (ESV Strong’s)

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

 

Jesus said come, in Greek erchomai, which means to come, to arise, to make an appearance or to find your place of influence. This was a Peter’s moment to take his place of influence as a man of faith, and he stepped out of that boat and into his destiny. Stepping out of our comfort zone in 2020 takes the same qualities Peter needed…

 

1.      FORTITUDE

 

Fortitude is courage when a facing pain, adversity or challenges. It’s having the courage to step out of the boat and walk on water. It’s making a stand…

 

Ephesians 6:13 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

 

Peter needed fortitude because this was something he had never done before, because he didn’t quite know what the outcome would be and because he was stepping outside his comfort zone.

 

It’s time for believers in this country to stand up and say enough! We will not stand idly by why our children’s futures evaporate in a sea of political correctness! It’s time for us as men and women of faith to stand for what’s right, pray for our families and believe for our future! Country club Christianity is finished, in 2020 it’s time for fortitude! New decade, new vision, new steel!

 

2.      FOCUS

 

Matthew 14:30 (ESV Strong’s)

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

 

Peter began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus, and he saw the wind and the storm around him.

 

To destroy our home and families, the enemy doesn’t have to attack us, cause us to sin or ruin our lives, he just has to distract us! The more trivia he throws at us, the more he gets us interested in TV, or our businesses or jobs or sicknesses or anything else, the more he wins. Keep the main thing the main thing!

 

Colossians 3:2 (ESV Strong’s)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

Hebrews 12:2 (ESV Strong’s)

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

 

The Greek word for looking is aphoreo, which means to fix your eyes on. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus in 2020, not the opinions and dictates of a vocal minority!

 

3.      FAILURE

 

Peter stepped out of the boat, then failed.  In later years, Peter followed his Lord to a martyrs death, but on the sea that day he failed. You know what, failure is ok, it’s a necessary part of learning and growing. Paul wrote,

 

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV Strong’s)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 

So don’t let fear of failure stop you getting out of the boat. You’re going to fail in 2020, as am I, but failure is not final, it’s formative!

 

Don Bradman scored 18 and 1 in hist first test in 1928, and England won by 675 runs, inflicting Australia’s heaviest defeat in history. He was dropped to 12th man in the second test, recalled for test 3 where he scored 79 and 112, then he became the greatest batsman of all time, averaging 99.94 in tests.

 

When a reporter asked Thomas Edison , “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

 

Most Biblical greats failed… Moses, David, Noah,Elijah, Joshua. When Joshua failed to take the city of Ai,

 

Joshua 7:10 (ESV Strong’s)

The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?

 

If you’ve failed in your life, in your family, in your Christian walk. 2020 is the year to stand up and try again!

 

4.      FAITH

 

Peter was to determine to do what Christ wanted him to do (get out of the boat). He stepped into the unknown, he stepped out in faith and trusted his safety and future to God.

 

You know what… God loves it when we step out in faith!

 

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV Strong’s)

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

 

It takes faith to trust God, it takes faith to step out of the boat, but hey, look at the prize!

 

COUNT THE COST OF NOT!

 

The devil never asks you to weigh the cost, he is like Nike… Just do it! Buy now pay later is his motto. If it feels good do it, says the devil, and don’t worry about the consequences, we’ll figure that out later.

 

People don’t think of the outcome, they just think of the moment. Have an affair, but it costs you your marriage, half you assets, the respect and love of your family, your friends, your reputation. I met a so called Christian lady, leaving her husband, signing over her child and moving to another country with someone she met on the internet. I predict pain, guilt and heartache!

 

God never says, just do it. He says, count the cost.

 

Luke 14:28 (ESV Strong’s)

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

 

Weigh it up. And don’t just think of the cost, because for anything worthwhile, there’s a cost. Think also of the cost of not doing it. Think of the cost for our nation if no one steps up, if you and I remain silent. Silence is complicity, but I for one am prepared to step out of the boat in 2020.

 

How can you say you don’t want to be a Christian when you’ve never really checked it out? God is not asking for blind faith, He is challenging you to step out of the boat and fix your eyes on Him.

 

Isaiah 1:18 (ESV Strong’s)

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:

 

Christianity is not a crutch, it’s a crucible within which character I’d created, and faith is refined and purified. And I aim to start this next decade stepping out of the boat, fixing my eyes on Jesus and standing for what is right and true, for my family, for my nation and for my God!

 

2020 is a Year of Vision, but 20/20 VISION TAKES LIGHT

 

In a cave, when you turn the light off is the darkest darkness you can imagine. No matter how good your eyes are, not matter how close an object is, you can see absolutely nothing. To see anything you need at least some light, and the darker it is the brighter light seems to be.

 

My challenge to you is will you join me in shining the light of Christ to this nation, in your family and in your workplace. I’m praying for you to ignite your faith in 2020, to do more than just have an opinion, and to do more than fade silently into the political correctness of our social climate.

 

Take action, take a positive step today. Why not join me reading the Bible every day. Why not join a connect group, join our prayer team, our kids team, our car park team. You can make a difference, but not by sitting on the sideline criticising, or muttering quietly with your friends or turning up every month or so to church. Get engaged, get involve and get committed in 2020, and let’s make this year the year of vision for a brighter future for us all.

 

At the start of this decade, it all comes down to you making a decision. Yes I have decided to follow Jesus, yes I will step out of the boat, yes I will get committed…  or not. Your choice, but with every choice comes consequences, but for you and those you love.

 

Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV Strong’s)

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

 

The Christmas Truce

On this day I want to speak about the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Luke 2:10-14 (ESV Strong’s)

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Ever since those words were spoken, and also long before, mankind has searched for peace. At Christmas, people always speak about peace, yet according to the NY Times, in the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for only 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history. Today, as people around the world speak of peace, 828 armed conflicts are currently raging in 69 countries around the world, almost all of them driven by a religion calling itself peace!

 

So this Christmas Day, I want to remind you that real peace, forever peace, peace that passes all understanding is possible, but you will never find it in mankind’s government, or the media’s latest philosophy, or the good intentions of men. We need a Christmas Truce.

 

That first Christmas the angel promised peace on earth, not to all men, but to all men with whom God is pleased, that is those who know Him and honour Him.

 

Yet sometimes, in an ocean of conflict, madness and destruction God shines a tiny candle of peace that speaks of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. So today I want to share the story with you of one such ray of hope in the midst of a world of nan made death and destruction.

 

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE

It’s December 1914, and the Great War has been raging for 8 months. In that time the German army swept through Belgium, and drove on towards Paris, but were repelled by a combined French army and British Expeditionary Force in the battle of Aisne. At that point in northern France and Belgium the war deteriorated into a static war, with trenches stretching from Belgium to Switzerland.

 

The men from both sides who had earlier joined up and marched to war so  confident of victory and being home by Christmas now faced a Christmas in the waterlogged, freezing trenches, gazing fearfully across no man’s land at the enemy.

 

They were shelled, machine gunned and fought not only the enemy, but also the cold and the lice and rats. They were lonely, afraid, freezing, miserable… what kind of Christmas is this? But the Christmas Truce was coming!

 

In the Ypres sector of the Western front in Belgium, British forces from the Northumberland Hussars 7th Division stood guard on the parapet overlooking no man’s land. And as the sound of guns and artillery faded away that Christmas Day, it was replaced by this sound coming from the German lines beyond the wire ….

 

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht

Alles schläft; einsam wacht

Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.

Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh

 

A few British soldiers raised their heads above the parapet, listening to a language they did not understand but a tune they did recognise, hearing an enemy they had been told were devils intent on conquering the world, sing praises to the same Saviour they worshipped.  They noticed that the Germans had set candles on the top of their trenches, and in a few makeshift Christmas trees they had fashioned from a few battered branches left after shelling.

 

And something broke in their spirit. A longing rose up in their hearts that on this of all days, they might find a moment of peace in a mad world of carnage. Both sides began to shout Christmas greeting to each other, and they stood at their posts, cold, wet and tense, wondering what would come next. In the Christmas Truce.

 

Further down the line in the French sector the experience was similar.

 

As the guns and shelling began to fall silent, as the French soldiers stood damp and miserable in their trenches, they too heard the sound of Christmas carols and hymns drifting across no man’s land from the German trenches.

 

Then one lone French voice began its refrain…

 

Douce nuit, sainte nuit !

Dans les cieux ! L’astre luit.

 

Then one by one others took up the refrain…

 

Le mystère / annoncé / s’accomplit

Cet enfant sur la paille/ endormi,

C’est l’amour infini !

C’est l’amour infini !

 

Then a German soldier quietly, fearfully, climbed to the top of the trench, waving is arms to show he had no weapon, and he called out to the French men.

 

Others join him on the top of the trench, and French soldiers climbed from their trench, and both sides began to take terrifying steps into no man’s land, calling

 

Frohe Weihnachten Franzose

And Joyeux Noël, Fritz!

The Christmas Truce had begun.

Back in Ypres, the British soldiers also cautiously made their way to the middle of the shell torn, blood soaked quagmire between the trenches. The Germans got out of their trenches, both sides fearful that the magic of this fragile moment would be shattered by the sound of a bullet or shell. They met met in the middle. They began to speak to each other, although they could not understand properly. But with hand gestures and impromptu presents of cigarettes and chocolate and alcohol, they laughed and sang hymns together.

 

As some soldiers buried the many dead, others talked quietly and smoked, and then one produced a football, and they started to play. Reports suggest that the Germans beat the British 3-2.

 

All along the line, men swapped stories, showed photographs of their families, and shared cigarettes and Christmas cheer. The men, as the Generals later described it, “fraternised with the enemy”.

 

But for a moment or two in the midst of horror, death and war, a ray of hope and peace shone through as together enemies celebrated the birth of the Saviour in the Christmas Truce.

 

And the British soldiers, having heard their enemy sing glory to God in the highest, began to lift their voices and sing too…

 

Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright

‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace.

 

The following year this scene would not be repeated. The generals did not want the soldiers seeing each other as human beings, with families and children and a sense of humour. They issued orders against such friendliness, and tried to demonise the enemy.

 

But for that first year of war, peace reigned for a few moments.  Then, as that most extraordinary day drew to a close, the men reluctantly returned to their trenches, and the mud, and the lice and the wet and the war.

 

In the midst of the hatred of the Great War, the significance of that tiny baby born in Bethlehem, of that wonderful gift so freely given by God to win back the souls of men and women, was truly felt in that Christmas Truce.

 

Those men experienced peace for a day, and this Christmas 105 years later Jesus is offering you true, inner peace, a peace that lasts not only for a day but for eternity. That little baby was God Almighty, come to earth, humbling Himself and opening the door for you to experience peace with God, with each other and peace in every area of your life.

 

And that’s His gift to you this Christmas. Our world is a mess, standards and behaviour in our society are falling apart, your family might be tense or self destructing, but today God is offering you the peace that passes all understanding.

 

Remember the verse we started with, where the angel says,

 

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

That’s the formula for peace. It starts with giving glory to God in the highest. You may have ignored Him, neglected Him, even been angry at Him all year, or even years, but on this day of all days, maybe you need to start giving Him the glory and honour He deserves.

 

Then the next step towards that peace the angels promised is to become one of those, with whom He is well pleased.

 

And what would please Him most is you for to accept Jesus right now as your Lord and Saviour. Your sin has you destined for hell, but Jesus came as a baby that first Christmas, He grew into a man, and then chose to lay His life down for you, to die in your place and give you the peace you’ve dreamed of.

 

I don’t want you to leave this place without the peace God offers you. It’s time for the Christmas Truce again!

 

The Bible says,

 

John 3:16-17 (ESV Strong’s)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

He loves you so much, so what’s stopping you opening your heart and receiving His Christmas gift to you this morning?

 

It’s time to trust in Jesus.

 

Jesus loves me

 

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace

 

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born

 

Silent night, holy night!

Son of God love’s pure light.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Christmas Lights

Christmas lights are everywhere! If you haven’t seen it already. I want to commend to you a visit to the West’s  Christmas light spectacular, over 110,000 lights. People love seeing the lights every Christmas, because Christmas is considered a time of joy and happiness, and lights.

Christmas, as you know, is not just about family, presents, tinsel, trees or the fat guy in the red suit, who has only been with us since being invented for a 1931 Coca Cola commercial. It’s about Jesus, God’s greatest gift, the One who died for our sins to win us back to God again.

We have 4 gospels, and each takes a different perspective to the introduction of Jesus. Matthew’ gospel, aimed primarily at Jewish believers, introduces Jesus as a descendent of line of King David. Luke the doctor describes the birth of baby Jesus. Mark, written primarily for gentiles, skips the birth altogether and dives straight into Jesus’ ministry, but John steps back and looks at the totality of Jesus…, starting this way…

 

John 1:1-5 (ESV Strong’s)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING

 

Christmas lights are beautiful, but it is How we see things is important… As Paul says, things are not always what they look like…

 

2 Corinthians 4:18 (ESV Strong’s)

as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

The Washington Post in 2007 ran a social experiment when a young white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a baseball cap, emerged from the busy Metro. From a small case, he removed a violin and placed the open case at his feet and began to play. For 45 minutes, the man played Mozart and Schubert as more than 1,000 people streamed by, most barely taking notice.

 

If they had paid attention, they might have recognized the young man for the world-renowned violinist Jason Bell, and they may have even noted that the violin he played was a rare Stradivarius worth, more than $3 million.

 

Just three days earlier, Bell sold out the Boston Symphony Hall, at $100 a seat, but in the subway, he drew just under $32 from the few who bothered to stop and listen.

 

Should it surprise us that many people didn’t recognise the Son of God when he came to earth in “blue jeans” and a “baseball cap”? As a baby, Jesus flew under the radar to complete His mission of saving the world, but John tips his hand in the opening chapter of his account…

 

Perspective is important, as are Christmas lights, so in his gospel John introduces Jesus using 2 powerful descriptions. Jesus is described as the Word and as light.

 

1.      JESUS IS THE WORD

 

John 1:1-3 (ESV Strong’s)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

 

For we humans, our words reveal out hearts and minds. As Jesus said,

 

Luke 6:45 (ESV Strong’s)

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

 

When Jesus was revealed as “The Word,” He was showing the heart and mind of God to us. And John states pretty categorically that Jesus wasn’t just a baby, He wasn’t simply a man, but He was and is and is to come God, King or Kings and mighty ruler, the creator and sustainer of all things!

 

This Jesus wasn’t just a baby, He wasn’t just a nice guy or a great teacher, John clearly states that He is God. The Word was with God and the Word was God. There is no word “a” in there, and JWs and other might have you believe. Jesus is not a God, He is THE God. The Greek word for was is eimi; the first person singular present indicative, which means to exist, to be, to always be.

 

MAY I HAVE A WORD?

 

When John describes Jesus as the Word, he is seeing in Jesus the perfect revelation, expression and representation of the Father’s nature and character…

 

Colossians 2:9 (ESV Strong’s)

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

 

The Greek word for the word here is the word logos, which is a living word spoken by a real person which reveals the heart, precepts, ideas and concepts of that person. There’s a history to this Greek word, logos.

 

A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus first used the term Logos around 600 B.C. to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe. This word was well suited to John’s purpose in John 1. Jesus is God’s Word, and as words reveal people’s hearts, so Jesus reveals God’s heart.

 

And in case you didn’t fully get the concept, in case you’re confused as to who this Word might be, John removes all doubt about Jesus’ origin…

 

John 1:14 (ESV Strong’s)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

This baby in the manger is the living, breathing and full expression of the heart of the God who loves you, and gave Jesus His only Son to win your heart! He is the Christmas lights to the world.

 

2.      JESUS IS LIGHT LIKE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

 

But what about the second expression, Jesus is light. We have here in our community whole streets devoted to Christmas lights, and people love the wonder of those lights. I personally think the West’s is the bests, because you’ll find an absence of certain dodgy aspects of the world’s view of Christmas.

 

John 1:4-5 (ESV Strong’s)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

As an Optometrist I deal in light and darkness, in fact I live in a room without windows! Even at Christmas lights are important to me.

 

1.      LIGHT IS A MYSTERY

 

Light itself is interesting because science tells us that though it’s is energy, not matter, it can behave both like waves and particles. It seems to be like photons or parcels of energy and waveform at the same time, just as God can be God the Father, Jesus the Son and The Holy Spirit at the same time.

 

1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV Strong’s)

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

 

2.      DARKNESS IS THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT

 

John 1:4-5 (ESV Strong’s)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

In Jesus is life, Gk Zoe, which means not just the presence of life but the fullness of life. Most of us want life, not death, we’re afraid of death, so we fight for life. However, most people fight only for the existence of life, not the fullness of life.  But Jesus promised,

 

John 10:10 (ESV Strong’s)

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

 

John then says that this abundant life was the light of men, shining in darkness, that doesn’t overcome it.

 

The Greek word for light is phos, from which we get phosphorescence, and it means to emit light from within. So the sun is phos, but the moon is not because it only reflects the light. Recently Fiona and I went on a trip and under a dark ledge we could move our hand through water and see tiny creatures emit tiny lights when agitated. They called it phosphorescence.

 

Skotia is the Greek for darkness, and it simply means the absence of light, or by extension the absence of understanding. Darkness isn’t a thing in and of itself, it’s the absence of light. We’ve adopted this in our language, where if everybody knows something you don’t you are being “kept in the dark.”

 

As Edmund Burton  said,

All that us required for evil to triumph is for God men to do nothing… The absence of light.

 

3.      LIGHT AND DARKNESS REPRESENT GOOD AND EVIL

 

This is true in the Bible and in our culture. What colour is Darth Vader? Think of the darkness over the land of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. What colour hat does the good or bad guy wear in Westerns?

 

The Word phos or light is used 23 times in John’s gospel, more than in any other NT book. He states that Jesus’ life was light to everyone, and he contrasts this with darkness.

 

John 12:35-36 (ESV Strong’s)

So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

 

Think about darkness. When do prostitutes ply their trade, day or night? When do clubs do most of their business, day or night? When do most crimes happen? There’s something about darkness that brings out sin isn’t there?

 

A major blackout occurred in an American city some years ago. By the second night of blackness, the people started looting. Smashing shop windows, walking away with TV sets and toasters and stereo systems. Whatever they could lay their hands on.

 

In the dark, businesses and homes were vulnerable, some practically destroyed, not by hardened criminals, but by ordinary people, neighbours and friends, normally law abiding people. In the dark, sin and greed took over.

 

4.      MEN LOVE DARKNESS

 

John 3:19-21 (ESV Strong’s)

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

Men love darkness… Look at Halloween! Horror movies. Haunted houses. I remember as a teenager staying up late watching the Night Stalker with my cousin, going to bed and being terrified of some vampire or zombie that would attack me. Things were not helped when, it total darkness, my dad pranked us by throwing a tissue box and hitting my cousin on the head. Cue Screams!

 

People love horror, ghosts stories, demons, etc. And most young people set out a couple of nights a week to do things they know are not right. Under the cover of darkness we hide our evil, and most illicit sex, drug taking, pornography and drunkenness happen at night.

 

Mankind loves that stuff! The Bible talks about the pleasures of sin, and there is physical pleasure in a lot of that stuff. Like most sin, it feels good at the time, but the next day, in the light, you’re full of regret, sometimes for the rest of your life. How many of you have done things at night you’re not proud of the next day?

 

Interestingly, with 7 words for love available, the Greek word used in “men love darkness” is the word agape, the same word used for God’s unconditional love for you. It means to love unconditionally, dearly, to entertain and to be content with.

 

And that sums it up… People are content in their sin. They love it unconditionally, no matter the cost, despite the havoc sin and darkness visits upon their lives, and they’re comfortable and content with it.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:5 (ESV Strong’s)

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

 

What about you… Do you love, tolerate and even become content with your sin?  People say they don’t want to become a Christian because they don’t want to give up their lifestyle. If you think sin is fun, try holiness. There’s no regret, no guilt and God builds an incredible life of light if you would give up darkness. In the end you’ll see those deeds are destructive and while they might feel go d St the time, they will kill you. I don’t give up my garbage, I throw it away!

 

5.      IGNORANCE IS BLISS, BUT IT’S NOT BLESS!

 

There is an old story about a desert nomad who woke up in the middle of the night feeling very hungry. He lit a candle and began eating dates from a bowl beside his bed. He took a bite from one and saw a worm in it; so he threw it out of the tent. He bit into the second date, found another worm, and threw it away also. Reasoning that he wouldn’t have any dates left to eat if he continued, he blew out the candle and quickly ate the rest of the dates.

 

The fact is some people prefer the darkness, because in the light they see too much, and they don’t want to confront it. They continue in their old ways, because they don’t like having a light shine on them that will show that their relationship with God is in a terrible state and they are in serious trouble.

 

John 3:19-21 (ESV Strong’s)

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

All across our nation this Christmas people are celebrating with Christmas lights while they live in darkness. They put lights on their tree, but they choose to ignore the light of the world. The wise men saw a light in the sky that first Christmas and followed it, but our nation chooses darkness again and again because they see no light, because we the church don’t shine bright enough!

 

6.      JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

 

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness”(John 8:12).

 

Jesus is the Light. This light exposes those dark private corners of our lives that we prefer to keep hidden. Everything is not as neat and tidy as we thought.

 

There is a mess that needs to be cleaned up, and even though we have tried to hide the mess in the darkest and most private corner of our lives, the light of Jesus has shown us that there is dirt piled up there that needs cleaning out.

 

  • Our temptations and secret sins,
  • those faults that we would prefer not to admit to,
  • the poor way we have treated the people we love,
  • the selfish attitude that we have nurtured,
  • the times we have preferred to look the other way than offer a helping hand.

 

These are darkness, and try as we might, we cannot discretely hide them away so God doesn’t find them. Yes, light exposes darkness. Yes light sometimes startles us in its glare, and makes us uncomfortable.

 

But as Christmas lights twinkle and shine, as they bring joy and happiness, so the Lord of light brings joy and happiness in the end when He shines into our lives. Jesus said,

 

The Light, Jesus, has come into the world:

  • not to bring condemnation, but to bring salvation,
  • not to rub our noses in the dirt of those dark corners, but to sweep them out, to bring healing and reconciliation.

Jesus brings strength and hope and joy and freedom from sin and it’s consequences this Christmas. He is the light of the world.

 

He didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it.

 

7.      IT’S TIME TO SHINE YOUR LIGHT

 

John 1:5 (ESV Strong’s)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

When the light shines the darkness is dispelled. It can’t win. Sometimes it looks like darkness is winning in our nation, but it’s not. Light always beats darkness.

 

John 12:46 (ESV Strong’s)

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

 

I believe that 2020 is the year of vision, and for your vision to work properly, you need light. In a cave, you can experience intense, unbelievable darkness, not because your eyes don’t work,  it because there is no light … zero light!

 

They can promote darkness, legislate it, talk about it in the media, have Mardi gras about it, but as long as we decide to shine, they cannot ultimately win. The great darkness of a cave is instantly defeated by the tiniest candle!

 

And Christmas is a great time to shine.

 

1 John 1:5-7 (ESV Strong’s)

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

 

So how you can shine?

 

1.      Decide to Devote your heart to the Lord.

 

Honour Him at Christmas as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. How? Meet with Him daily, read His Word, and above all, obey His Word.

 

I challenge you to Start the New Year committed to reading His Word. When we do what He commands we honour Him, when we disobey we dishonour Him. I hear some believers say, I know it’s wrong but I want to do it anyway, and this does not honour God.

2.      Decide to Shine Your Christmas Lights Today, Don’t Hide

 

In the current moral climate, it’s us do easy to hide, but Jesus says,

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV Strong’s)

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 

Today we see so many Christians even leaders bending to what society tells them is the new normal, then twisting Scripture to justify it.  What we need are Christians with backbone instead of wishbone, and at Christmas you have a perfect opportunity to shine because people are more open to the gospel.

 

But note it says they see your good works, not what you say. We need to be examples of godliness and love to a hurting nation. Most Aussies won’t listen to a religious zealot, but they will listen to someone who loves and shows them honour.

 

So this Christmas, before your friends and family, stop and think about how they are seeing you, and whether you, your actions and your words are shining for Jesus.

 

I challenge you to tell someone about Jesus this Christmas.

Ps Matt Prater- The Main Thing

Join us for a wonderful morning as Ps Matt Prater from Vision radio and Historymakers fame shares a special message for us on evangelism.

Ps Matt Prater has a Word in Season for Us

As senior pastor of New Hope Church in Brisbane, Matt has a real heart for evangelism.  His church provides counseling groups, soup kitchens and a whole host of services all designed for outreach to the community.

But as you will hear, Matt’s heart is for every believer to become a light to shine in the darkness to our nation.

So check out this great message and be challenged to reach our nation for Jesus

 

 

 

Immanuel- God With Us

As Christmas approaches excitement builds, as does the commercial hype. This world seems intent on sucking the bits it wants out of Christmas, and spitting out the rest with contempt, like cardamon pods in a curry.

So the world replaced Christ in Christmas with an X, it wants a holiday, but not a holy day, it wants a decorated tree not not a man hanging in a cursed tree and above all, it wants lots of presents, but not God’s presence.

People who refuse to teach their children about God instead teach them about Santa.

 

The red Santa Claus as we know him was created by Haddon Sundblom for a Coke advertisement in 1931.

 

I could share a message on wise men or angels or a  baby in a manger, you’ve probably heard hundreds for them, but today I want to take you right back to an OT Messianic prophecy written some 700 years before the events of that first Christmas. Today we focus on the main person, not Mary, Shepherds or wise men… Jesus. Isaiah 9. Enter Immanuel!

 

A RAY OF HOPE

 

Let me give some background here. Isaiah was prophesying doom and gloom to his nation, Judah, which faced the threat of the mighty, all conquering and evil Assyrian Empire. People were rebelling against God from their leaders down, they were tolerating and even performing all kinds of evil, and they thought, because they were God’s chosen ones, they could get away with it.

 

I watched a storm a little while ago over the mountains. Lightning flashed, thunder rolled, all around was thick darkness, and then there was a small break in the dark clouds, and an exceptionally bright light shone through the gloom. That’s what Isaiah is seeing here…

 

Isaiah prophesied doom and gloom, defeat and exile for a wayward, unrepentant people. But in the middle he gives us a ray of hope, Immanuel…

 

Isaiah 9:2 (ESV Strong’s)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

 

The Hebrew for “great light” is “or”, and it refers to the sun. What he is saying is that it’s darkest before the dawn, but that dawn will surely come. If your world is dark today, open your heart and let the great light dawn within you.

 

GOD’S GREAT GIFT

 

Isaiah then goes on to describe this great light, God’s greatest gift…

 

Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

 

This is clearly a Messianic prophecy, and this morning I want to pull this passage apart, or unpack it if you will, to discover Immanuel.

 

IMMANUEL

 

This prophetic Word starts with a child being born, but as we shall see it goes way beyond the baby in a manger.

 

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

 

Immanuel means God with us in Hebrew, and it was given as a prophetic word, quoted in Matthew 1:23 as directly referring to Jesus.

 

But I want to know why Isaiah’s prophecies don’t just refer to a baby in a manger, or even the mission of the cross Jesus came to fulfil, but they seem to head a different direction.

 

JESUS, GOD, MAN, AND IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US

 

Isaiah is not just revealing a Christmas prophecy, he is giving us a glimpse of God Himself, and not just the first but also the second coming of Jesus. This prophecy is double barrelled!

 

Prophecy is often like this. It’s like a great mountain hidden by a small hill. The immediate prophecy sometimes hides a greater and more awesome fulfilment.

 

Firstly, to us a child us born. This is the good news of Christmas, that while we were dead in our sins, destined for hell, God provided a solution which involved Jesus becoming a man to save us.

 

Philippians 2:6-8 (ESV Strong’s)

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

For to us a child is born speaks of the humanness of Jesus, that though He is actually  God, He became a man, a perfect man, starting as we all do, as a babe in the arms of His mother.

 

But the next phrase of Isaiah’s prophecy reveals more… To us a son is given. This speaks of the deity of Jesus.

 

Jesus became a man to get the job done and save us, but He was and always will be God Himself. It’s a mystery, that God can be 3 in one, but just because it is beyond our understanding doesn’t mean it’s not true. Jesus is fully God and fully man.

 

AWAY IN A MANGER?

 

Everyone loves babies, and so Christmas is a time of joy and love. A baby came to earth that first Christmas, and He grew into a man who laid His life down for all of us to reconcile wayward man with holy God. If the story stopped here it would still be wonderful, but as they say, wait, there’s more!

 

Jesus rose from the dead, and though Isaiah started with the baby in a manger, but in his prophecy he saw saw far beyond the baby, and he describes the Son is given by using a series of names.

 

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV Strong’s)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Government is not in a baby’s shoulders. A baby makes a lousy counsellor. Clearly he is not talking about a Jesus coming as a baby, but he’s seeing ahead to when Jesus returns as a King.

 

THE COMING KING

 

Jesus was a baby for a few years, He was a man for 33 years, but He is God and the King of Kings from before time until forever!

 

That’s why Isaiah uses these incredible names for Jesus. That’s why Paul flips from the humility of Christ straight to the triumph and deity of Christ…

 

Philippians 2:6-11 (ESV Strong’s)

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

So let’s look at the names Isaiah has for Jesus, the returning King…

 

WONDERFUL

 

“Wonderful”—this is not an adjective; this is actually His name. The term doesn’t just describe Jesus, it is Him! He is wonderful. In the Hebrew the word is Pele, meaning a miracle, something beyond understanding, something marvellous.

 

Interestingly, a derivative of this word, also translated as wonderful is used to describe the pre incarnate Jesus as the Captain of the hosts of the Lord, when Samson’s dad asks the name of who he thinks is an angel…

 

Judges 13:18 (ESV Strong’s)

And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”

 

The Hebrew this case it also means secret. The Son of God is wonderful, but it is a secret hidden from most people today. Paul writes,

 

Colossians 1:26-27 (ESV Strong’s)

the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 

There are Christians who have trusted Him as Savior but really don’t know how wonderful He is, and they don’t live in His wonderful power even though He is Immanuel. I hope that this Christmas you discover afresh the wonder, the glory and the miracles of Jesus, the coming King.

 

COUNSELLOR

 

Jesus is a counsellor, in Hebrew ya-as. There’s no record of Him seeking counsel. The Lord Jesus Christ never called His disciples together and said, “Now, guys, what do you think I ought to do?” You don’t read anything like that in Scripture. The Lord called them together and said, “This is what I am going to do, because this is My Father’s will.” He was the counsellor.

 

If you face fears or decisions today, Jesus longs to be your wonderful Counsellor, your Immanuel. When you ask Jesus into your life, His Spirit lives within you and will reveal truth and guide you in all you do…

 

John 16:13 (ESV Strong’s)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

 

If you are burdened today, He is your counsellor. This same Jesus says,

 

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV Strong’s)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Some of you here have a heavy yoke upon your shoulder, and it is ill fitting. It rubs, it hurts, it causes pain and travail and even scars, but Jesus is the true counsellor who can share the burden and make it light. Give Him your fear and pain today, for He’s no longer a babe, He’s a King and a conqueror, He is Immanuel.

 

MIGHTY GOD

 

“The mighty God”—The Hebrew word for this name is El Gibbor. He is the one to whom “all power is given.” He is the omnipotent God, creator, sustainer of life.

 

That little baby lying helpless in Mary’s arms is Immanuel, and He held the universe together. He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” He is the Mighty God! As the writer to the Hebrews puts it,

 

Hebrews 1:3 (ESV Strong’s)

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

 

He knows everything, every thought you have, every scrap of knowledge, He sees everything, He is everywhere and He is in control of all things. He became a man for 33 years, but Jesus describes Himself as…

 

Revelation 1:8 (ESV Strong’s)

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 

EVERLASTING FATHER

 

Isaiah calls Him the everlasting father, from before time to beyond time, in the Greek, apó aiónia se aiónia… From everlasting to everlasting.

 

“The everlasting Father”—Avi-ad in Hebrew, means Father of eternity. This simply means that He is the Creator of all things, even time, the ages, and the far-off purpose of all things.

 

John 1:3 (ESV Strong’s)

All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

 

Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV Strong’s)

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

 

Try and comprehend the immensity of Jesus, Immanuel. We can picture Him as a baby, and as a man hanging on a cross,  but we cannot comprehend Him as the creator.

 

PRINCE OF PEACE

 

“The Prince of Peace”—In Hebrew, Sar-Shalohim. I spoke a few weeks back about peace, and said that man for all is efforts will never find peace apart for Christ. You will never know peace in your life without knowing the Prince of Peace.

 

Luke 2:14 (ESV Strong’s)

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

But Isaiah here is not specifically talking about you having peace in your heart, although God through His Holy Spirit can achieve this for you. No, Isaiah is looking ahead to the hope we who love Jesus all share, the return of the King.

 

And when Jesus returns again, He will take His place in the throne of David in Jerusalem and usher peace for a millennium, peace beyond human comprehension!

 

The great news for us is that we do not need to wait until His return to experience supernatural peace, we can have it right now as we yield our lives to the Holy Spirit. He’s the same God.

 

Jesus could return as King at any moment, Immanuel is returning soon! So we should live everyday like this. I feel like time us short, like there is still much to do and so I choose to maximise what I’m doing for Jesus.

 

GOD IS THE GREAT MYSTERY

 

There are many great mysteries in the world…

 

I don’t know the average 4 year old asks more than 400 questions per day. Or why we yawn, or get goosebumps. I don’t know why the planets stay in their places, why we have seasons, why snowflakes are so intricate or why our belly buttons have special hairs that attract and retain lint. I’ve never understood why boys’ bikes have the bar across them.

 

Our knowledge is limited, and our ability to comprehend or even describe God is also limited. Paul describes this great mystery…

 

1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV Strong’s)

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

 

This Christmas, join Isaiah in seeing beyond the baby, the manger, the tinsel and the presents. Use prophetic eyes and see ahead to who Jesus really is… Immanuel! He was a baby for a year or two, He was a man for 33 years but He was and is and is to come the returning King!

 

Normally I would call you to make a stand for Jesus in some way, but today, as Christmas approaches, I’m going to ask you to join me in worshipping the King, Immanuel.

 

Our nation needs godly men and women who honour and serve God, who know He is returning soon and who are prepared to both praise and fight for what is true and right…

 

Psalms 149:5-6 (ESV Strong’s)

Let the godly exult in glory;

let them sing for joy on their beds.

Let the high praises of God be in their throats

and two-edged swords in their hands,

 

So while we remember and honour the baby Jesus, we rejoice in what the man Jesus did, but we look forward with hope and expectation to the return of the King. Let’s praise Him now!

A Chance to Draw Near

It’s time to draw near to God this Christmas. I mentioned last week in my message the stress and pressure most of us face at the end of the year. 2019 has been a difficult year for many of us, and I feel like I’m heading towards flopping into Christmas rather than celebrating it.

But in my devotions, the Lord has been challenging me not to draw a blank, not to withdraw, not to draw the wrong conclusions but to draw near to Him.

Hebrews 10:22-25 (ESV Strong’s)

let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

THE END OF YEAR BLUES

 

As the end of the year approaches, it’s tempting to grow tired, to give up, to withdraw from church and deal with life’s pressures alone. But God has challenged me to flip this around and see the approaching time off over Christmas as the start of the 2020, the year of vision.

 

God is about to do something remarkable at Ignite in 2020, and the best preparation we can undergo is at the start of the passage I just read…

 

Hebrews 10:22 declares, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

 

Today I want to dive deep into a word study of the phrase “draw near.”

 

IT IS TIME TO DRAW NEAR

 

Draw near is proserchomai in Greek, which means to approach, accede to. It is usually used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew qerab, and in both Hebrew and Greek it pictures the idea of closeness to the object being approached.

 

Proserchomai is used in several places in the NT, for example in Matthew 5:1 where the disciples draw close to Jesus, denoting a closeness and level of intimacy, and also in…

 

Matthew 4:11 (ESV Strong’s)

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came (drew near) and were ministering to him.

 

What, then, does it mean biblically to draw near to God, and his can we do this in the hustle and bustle of life in the 21st century?

 

1.      WE MUST HAVE A PURE HEART

 

Hebrews 10:22 declares, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. What does this actually mean?

 

Drawing near to God means having a sincere desire for truth.

 

We live in a world where the truth is what you make it, and where google is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. We live in a world where anyone and everyone believes it’s their God given right to voice their opinions at any cost.

 

People no longer search for truth, they create their own and call it an absolute. Actions and lifestyles that just a decade ago were considered abnormal and even abhorrent are now not only tolerated they are championed under our new, self constructed version of truth.

 

The Greek words rendered “true heart” are alethines kardias. The Greek word aletheia speaks of a truth that is absolute, irrefutable, incontestable, unarguable, and unchanging. The specific form of the Greek used here also refers to “sincerity.” The  Greek is telling us that a true heart is honest, absolute and doesn’t change every 5 minutes.

 

Kardia, which means heart, doesn’t just refer to an emotion, “an affair of the heart”.  In Greek, it refers also to the reason and to the faculty of intelligence. So in Greek, it implies you are ruled by both your heart and your head.

 

A true heart doesn’t say, throw away your brain, it says engage your mind and see the truth for what it really is. And it sets you free…

 

John 8:32 (ESV Strong’s)

and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

GOD ON MY OWN TERMS?

 

While many people today say such things as, “I want to be near God,” or “I want to get close to God,” when confronted with the absolutes of God’s Word, they rebel. That’s a staggering contradiction!

 

In truth, they don’t want to draw near to God at all. They are like the Israelites, of whom Isaiah wrote…

 

Isaiah 29:13 (ESV Strong’s)

Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,

 

Yes, they say the words, but when it comes down to real truth, they reject it and live according to their own ways. The most important thing that drawing near to God requires is that we sincerely want to hear, receive, and obey God’s truth.

 

So many in church are like this today. They want God, yes, but on their own terms. They want a God who meets their needs, or wants. They want a celestal

Santa Clause, and they believe if they are not naughty but nice, He will shower the, with everything they want. They want to negotiate with God and get as much as they can from Him for the minimum outlay.  For some, drawing near to God is about obeying rules instead of longing, thirsting for and paying any cost to connect with God.

 

Psalms 63:1 (ESV Strong’s)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

 

Australia is in the grip of severe drought. But that is nothing compared to the drought in the souls of our people. This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls, and we will fail in our God given calling and just play church week after week in our little church clubs if we do not draw near to Him with a true heart.

 

2.      WE MUST HAVE ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE TO DRAW NEAR

 

Hebrews 10:22 (ESV Strong’s)

let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,

 

Drawing near to God means having absolute confidence in God. The Greek for “full assurance” is plerophoria, which means “entire confidence, full assurance.” To be near to God, then, means that we must have total confidence in His promises, absolute assurance of His provision, and full and complete trust in His sovereignty.

 

What does this look like? It means we trust Him whether He does what we want or not. Absolute confidence is absolute faith in and absolutely faithful God.

 

When Kaileigh was born, and did not breathe for 7 minutes, by God’s grace to us she survived. I remember praying and thanking God for His goodness, and then He spoke this to our hearts… if I’d have taken her home, would I still be a good God?

 

You see, the more we doubt Him, the more we question Him, the farther away from Him we drift. The more we trust Him, the closer we can draw to Him.

 

And of course in the modern world, questioning and doubting are considered desirable when it comes to God. The media will despise and attack you if you question their morality or what they consider truth, but they implore the young to throw away the antiquated, draconian faith of their parents and question everything.

 

Church is seen as at best irrelevant and at worst holding back the new order of truth.

 

But what they don’t count on is the absolute infallibility of Scripture, that

 

Hebrews 13:8 (ESV Strong’s)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

 

Hebrews 4:16 (ESV Strong’s)

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

God loves you, He has plans for you, He has a hope and a future, and He has opened the way for you to draw near to Him. Do it today with the confidence that He will never change, and will never, never let you down!

 

3.      WE MUST HAVE HOLINESS

 

It may not be fashionable to say it, but the third requirement for drawing near to God is holiness.

 

Hebrews 12:14 (ESV Strong’s)

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 

Hebrews 10:22 declares, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

 

The imagery in the words “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” is distinctly OT, referring to the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice for the cleansing of sin.

 

Jesus was that sacrifice for us, because He came as a perfect sacrifice and laid His life willingly down for us.

 

Hebrews 9:12 (ESV Strong’s)

he (Jesus) entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

 

But not only are we saved by this blood, but we are constantly brought back to it for daily cleansing.

 

Hebrews 9:14 (ESV Strong’s)

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

 

We are saved by the shed blood of Jesus, but we are also constantly purified by kneeling at the cross daily, drawing near to Him and allowing His blood to purify our hearts and minds.

 

We are forever coming back to the Cross, for it is there that our sin was dealt with and our conscience was cleared. You cannot play or stay with sin and draw near to God, because God is holy. But, as the apostle John declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

 

I fear for the church in this nation. We keep quiet when we should speak, we live in fear of the media, we cocoon ourselves in our churches, surrounded by religious rules, religious rituals and religious language, while our nation marches proud of their tolerance on to hell!

 

Saw a FB post recently that as an old rocker quite liked… It’s a stairway to heaven, but a highway to hell, and that says something about expected traffic flows.

 

To draw near to God, we must be holy in all we say and do, because partial holiness is unholiness!

 

As Edmund Burton said, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for God men to do nothing.” This week in my quiet times God challenged me from Ezekiel 22 to be that one who stands in the gap for his people and his nation. Will you join me and be the one standing in the gap between sinful man and holy God?

 

4.      WE MUST HAVE A DESIRE FOR HIS WORD

 

Lastly, drawing near to God means having a desire for His Word. While the first principle was one of attitude, we see here the action to match the attitude.  If you tell me you want to draw near to God, but you don’t want to read His Word, then we have a mismatch.

 

Some interpreters view the words “our bodies washed with pure water” as a reference to baptism, but most see that view as incorrect because baptism is not a washing away of sin, but rather a symbol of identification, a public testimony of what has occurred in the heart.

 

The phrase “washed with pure water” means that God’s Word is the means of being washed, and that we are kept clean by our constant “bathing” in His Word.

 

Ephesians 5:25-26 (ESV Strong’s)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

 

The final step, the practical outworking and expression of the other steps, is to constantly immerse ourselves in the Word of God. Read it daily, study it, memorise it, obey it, and live it!

 

2019 has been a tough year for most of us, and even for this church. We’ve tried to buy property, sell property, cope with the numbers, and nothing seems to have worked. That’s why we are staying here, modifying this property, and going back to a single morning service.

 

But my greatest regret and failure as a leader is that I did not implore you to read your Bible enough this year. That’s why I’ve just put the Bible reading plan on the church app. With 3 touches you can be in today’s reading, and with 4 you can have it read to you, for those who cannot or won’t read.

 

IT’S TIME TO DRAW NEAR

 

I’m so serious about us desiring God’s Word, because without that desire we cannot draw near to God.

 

Hebrews 10:22 declares, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

 

Drawing near to God involves a true heart, complete confidence, holiness and constant washing in the purity of His Word. And it all starts right now. Right now we can decide to bow the knee and draw near to God, or not. In the business of this time, I’m choosing to draw near, and I’m asking you to do the same. You will never know God’s destiny for your life until you decide you want Him badly enough to draw near to Him.

 

It’s like 2 magnets, coming closer together, when the magnetic field takes over and draws you in.

 

So, in the busyness of this time of year, I’m asking you to draw near with me…

 

James 4:8 (ESV Strong’s)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

 

True Peace on Earth

Where do you find true peace at Christmas? The silly season is in full swing isn’t it? I always find the lead up to Christmas one of the most exhausting, stressful and overwhelming times of the year. School is wrapping up, shops are ramping up and I’m barely holding up under the incessant pressure. Our time is stretched, our budgets are stretched and our patience is stretched to the limit, and there’s still 31 sleeps till Christmas.

That’s 744 hours, 44,640 minutes or 2,678,400 seconds, don’t get stressed! And in the middle of this silly season where we rush too much, we spend too much and we eat too much, you can buy a Christmas card that says, “Peace on earth.” Is that some kind of sad joke? I find it hard to get 2 minutes peace, let alone experiencing peace on earth.

We live in a world crying out for peace, yet unable to attain it, even at Christmas.

 

Luke 2:9-14 (ESV Strong’s)

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

TRUE PEACE ON EARTH?

 

Peace on earth? According to the NY Times, in the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history. In the US, they have had only 17 years of peace in their history, meaning 93% of the time it has existed the US has been at war.

 

Peace is something often spoken of but rarely if ever achieved.  The peace we wish for one another at Christmas is almost entirely absent from human history. Thus phrase “Peace on earth” bears looking at. Let’s look at the text.

 

GLORY TO GOD

 

Luke 2:14 starts with the phrase, glory to God in the highest, and this is the first step towards peace… Give glory to God! The Greek word for glory is doxa, which means to give dignity, honour, glory or praise that is due. It means to hold in high praise or estimation of, and this is where so many today go wrong.

 

You can have pesos, prestige, power, possessions, but no peace, because you didn’t start with the Prince of peace! If you want peace in your life this Christmas, you need to start by putting God in His rightful place.

 

God created the universe, the stars, the galaxies and this planet, and He created you. He has a plan and a destiny for your life, and He opened the way for you to be reconciled to Him, but the last thing the world wants for you this Christmas is to put God in the place He deserves and give Him the glory and honour that is due to Him.

 

PEACE AMONG THOSE WITH WHOM HE IS PLEASED

 

The Bible never promised peace on earth to all men. We conveniently overlook the end phrase, among those with whom He is pleased. And who is He well pleased with? Those who trust Him, that’s who!

 

This Christmas more than ever we need to totally yield our lives to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, because then, and only then, will we know true peace.

 

PEACE IN OUR TIME

 

In 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was much celebrated for brokering a peace agreement with Adolf Hitler, appeasing the dictator by giving in to his territorial demands. He produced a signed agreement, called it peace in our time, but while the world celebrated his effort, this same Adolf Hitler shortly after plunged the world into its darkest and most evil conflict ever.

 

Mankind speaks much about peace, governments claim they will bring it, people wish it for each other, but none of them can produce it! It’s even an integral part of many languages… Jews greet one another with the word “shalom”, Arabs with “Salam” and in Malaysia they say “Salamat”. These phrases mean peace be with you, but it never happens.

 

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all in the 21st century is that a religion calling itself peace is responsible for almost all of the 828 armed conflicts currently raging in 69 countries around the world. I could call myself His royal highness the king of Nambour, but the reality doesn’t match the words.  Don’t be fooled by the media, Islam has nothing to do with peace in our modern world.

 

But true peace actually transcends circumstances. If your peace is dependent on you having money, or success, or anything else, it in not true peace, it’s a fragile substitute. True peace should be independent of whatever is happening around you, because it is deep within you, if you are among those with whom God is pleased.

 

2 Thessalonians 3:16 (ESV Strong’s)

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

 

THE MISSING TRUE PEACE OF THE PUZZLE

 

The missing piece in true, lasting peace is the presence of God. Isaiah says

 

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV Strong’s)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 

The  Hebrew word for peace is of course shalom, which means peace, prosperity, security, completeness, soundness, health, tranquillity. The Hebrew word for stayed is samak, and it means to lean upon. So Isaiah is telling us that this Christmas, peace is not about gifts or family or pudding, it is about leaning on the very presence fo God. That’s why Jesus could say,

John 16:33 (ESV Strong’s)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

TRUE PEACE

 

What is this true peace? It is an inner sense of contentment and quietness, regardless of life’s circumstances. It is steadfast confidence in our ever-faithful, immutable heavenly Father. It is the presence of faith in the midst of faithlessness, a smile in the midst of pain, and joy in the midst of unhappiness.

 

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV Strong’s)

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

 

True peace does not merely dull our pain. A person who has genuine, godly peace can endure an avalanche of hardship and difficulty and still enjoy an inner peace that surpasses all human understanding. When we pray with Paul,

Philippians 4:7 (ESV Strong’s)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Why is this true peace so powerful? Because this peace does not come from pleasant circumstances, nice events, or good things others may do for us. Instead, it is based on the fact that the Spirit of our holy, omnipotent, and never-changing God lives within us.

 

Does enjoying God’s perfect peace mean that you’ll never feel the effects of the storms raging around you? Hardly. But His peace is complete, adequate, and sufficient for anything you face.

 

Lets look at three keys to experiencing sustained, true peace in your life:

 

1.      FOCUS ON GOD

 

Perfect peace comes when you fix your mind on God, or as we saw before, lean on Him. You must discipline yourself to concentrate on or meditate on God’s presence and work in your life, not the problems you face. When you spend time concentrating on a problem, doesn’t it seem to grow bigger? In the same way, you will have a bigger sense of God’s presence and provision as you fix your mind on Him.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

 

The Greek word for looking to Jesus is aphoreo, which means to turn your eyes away from other things and fix them, focus them on one thing… Jesus. And when we turnout eyes upon Jesus, when we look full in His wonderful face, the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and Grace.

 

DEMONSTRATION

 

2.      TRUST IN GOD

 

You never have to worry about God acting too late or providing insufficient help. His timing and purposes are perfect; In fact, He uses your tribulations to reveal more of Himself to you.

 

Can you trust Him, no matter how hard it is, however huge the mountain you seem to face right now, can you trust Him to come through?

 

I remember facing a vicious and very public attack from another person. A letter, full of lies and venom had been sent about me, and forwarded to me. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t even accurate, but I was angry, deeply distressed and fearful. But I faced a choice…

 

I couldn’t reply, I couldn’t defend myself without looking guilty, I just had to keep quiet and trust God. I remember laying the letter out before the Lord  one night, (like Hezekiah did) praying over it and giving it totally to God. And over time He vindicated me. I had no choice, I couldn’t fix it, or control what people thought, I just had to trust God, but He is faithful!

 

His Word is full of rock-solid promises, many of which involve granting you peace in the midst of trials. Know that He will always honor His promises!

 

Romans 15:13 (NIV-WS)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

3.      HIDE GOD’S WORD IN YOUR HEART

 

New Age gurus will tell you that peace comes from meditating, and I have to admit, they’re onto something.

 

Thinking about, dwelling on, chewing over truths can drive them deep into your spirit, but while New Agers are contemplating their naval or a single syllable, we have the greatest tool of all upon which to meditate…the Word of God!

 

Psalms 119:165 (ESV Strong’s)

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

 

So, if you’re in a fix, remember Philippians 4:6, and 7.

 

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

The Greek for the word for surpasses is hyperecho, which means to transcend, to be superior to, to rise up and overcome all understanding or knowledge.

 

All the knowledge in the world can’t give you true inner peace this Christmas. All the wisdom of the ages, all governments, all media, all presents or family times cannot help you find peace. You don’t need more Christmas hype, you need hyperecho, you need the peace that transcends all understanding, and you can only find this peace in Jesus Christ!

 

WE WILL HAVE TRUE PEACE ONE DAY

 

And this same Jesus is coming again! But He’s not coming as a baby in a manger this time, He’s coming back for His beloved people as a king, as he King of kings and Lord of Lords, and when He come He will usher in 1,000 years of incredible peace such as the world has never known…

 

You can learn more about this in Revelation 20 and Isaiah 65. At that time men will be at peace and dwell together in harmony, the Wolf and the lamb will graze together, and God will be near to His people…

 

Isaiah 65:24 (ESV Strong’s)

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.

 

(Isaiah 9:6)

 

But God us with us now, we don’t have to wait until He returns!

 

This world is crying out for peace, but it will never know peace until it knows the prince of peace … and neither will you!

 

ACCEPT THE PRINCE OF PEACE

 

In the hustle and bustle and insane pressure at the end of the year, the enemy wants to bring up your past, he wants to fill you with fear for the future, he wants to see you in conflict with people around you this Christmas… in short, he wants you to never truly know peace.

 

Some of you here are lonely, some are stressed, some of you are angry at your family, some are facing Christmas not with joy but with dread. It’s because you lack true peace, because remember peace can be in your life and your heart, no matter what others are saying or doing, and no matter what pressure you face.

 

Romans 5:1 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

We can have peace with God and in our lives. It’s not about your situation, it’s not about your circumstances, it’s about your heart. So, as we face this Christmas silly season, if you are stressed right now, I want to ask you to open your heart to the Holy Spirit right now.

 

No Jesus, No Peace… Know Jesus, Know Peace

 

You can know peace by allowing the peace of God to flood your soul in the person of the Holy Spirit.

 

In the OT, the shekinah glory of God was seen as a cloud  filling the temple, as a pillar of fire, in a vision of a prophecy, but today you can have the glory of God manifest in your life all the time because the Holy Spirit, the presence of God lives in you.

 

Dr Bill Newman- The Final Exam

Join us for a super message from Dr Bill Newman, evangelist and teacher, as he brings to us an exciting message about our final exam.

The Final Exam is Not Far Away says Bill Newman!


The final examination we face as believers is not far away, and we have the opportunity to produce the right results, or completely drop the ball in our relationship with the Lord.

I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure that, when the Lord comes again, or if I go to meet Him earlier, that I will be able to see His beautiful face with confidence of knowing that

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 
No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.